Councils clash over 1000 homes development plan for South Woodham Ferrers

Traffic documents are “inaccurate, out of date and have no bearing on the local reality of the traffic flows” a town council has said in response to plans for more than 1,000 homes in Chelmsford.

Chelmsford City Council officers have recommended that plans for 1,020 homes on land north of Burnham Road in South Woodham Ferrers should be approved when the planning committee meets next week.

The plans from Countryside Properties are in two applications – an outline application for the actual homes and a full application for the principal means of vehicular access to the site and the initial phase of on‐site highway works.

A separate planning application for 200 homes on neighbouring land submitted by Bellway Homes is currently pending consideration and will be heard at a future planning committee.

One of the main concerns of local residents is the impact of the development on the existing local highway network. The application proposes junction improvements and an improved bus service as well as pedestrian and cycle routes and connections to the existing town.

Essex County Council Highways Authority are content that, subject to the provision of a package of mitigation, the development would not result in harm to highway safety or have a severe impact on the existing network.

The full part of the planning application seeks permission for highways works to include the construction of a new roundabout on the B1418 to allow access into both the eastern and western parcels either side of the road, including the first sections of these access roads into the site.

The works also include two new accesses from the B1012 east of Hamberts Farm and a new access and estate road from the B1418 just north of the existing roundabout.

As part of the proposed highway works, the development would create three new signalised crossings over the B1012 and three new signalised crossings over the B1418.

South Woodham Town Council says in its submissions that it has “significant concern” over road plans – including rat runs that may emerge because of the new proposed road layouts, junction alterations and the increase in light controlled pedestrian crossings.

It adds: “The traffic documents supplied by the applicant contains several inaccuracies, poor references, invalid data sets, and traffic surveys carried out five years ago.

“The theoretical schemes have no bearing on the local reality of traffic flow using the current infrastructure and how this would be affected by the road schemes proposed in this application.

“As, such we do not feel these documents are valid or contain valid data sets , local awareness modelling or understanding of local traffic flows, without up to date data the council are limited in their response.”

A bus strategy will provide up to one year’s free bus travel on local and proposed bus services for up to four people in each household. The development will eventually see a bus every 20 minutes in peak hours and every 30 minutes Sundays and off peak. It is also proposed to provide a car club on site, for use by residents and employees. However the town council said these measures will not provide enough mitigation.

The town council said: “The council cannot support a planning application that significantly relies on a bus strategy and car sharing as mitigation to alleviate highway issues which could be caused by the proposed development.”

Essex Highways said: “It is acknowledged that the application has raised a lot of concern, in terms of highway impact, from local residents and interested parties, and that South Woodham Ferrers Infrastructure Group commissioned their own transport assessment review.

“The highway authority has undertaken its own independent review of the highway and transportation aspects but has taken the third‐party comments into consideration in making this recommendation.

“From a highway and transportation perspective the impact of the proposal is acceptable to the highway authority subject to the provision of a package of mitigation measures for capacity enhancements and sustainable transport measures set out within the recommendation.”

A statement from Chelmsford City Council planning officers said: “The proposed development would provide a range of house types and sizes and would meet the city council’s identified growth needs.

“The development would provide affordable homes, first homes, shared ownership, self or custom build, wheelchair user homes and accessible or adaptable homes.

“It would also provide plots for travelling showpeople and units or contributions towards specialist residential accommodation. The scheme includes facilities that would encourage social interactions and the growth of the community.

“The facilities include sports pitches, community woodland, allotments, community centre and play spaces. The development would also be providing education facilities through the provision of a new primary school and two early years/childcare nurseries.

“The scheme has been designed to connect pedestrian and cycle links to the existing town centre and provide a network of walking and cycling routes throughout the site. This not only provides health benefits to the residents, in that active and sustainable modes of transport are a realistic prospect but also aids in social cohesion with existing residents in the town centre.

“Even with the provision of sustainable transport measures, it is recognised that the development will result in additional private motor vehicles on the existing highway network. The applicant has sought to mitigate the impacts of the additional traffic through junction improvements in the vicinity of the site. The proposal provides social benefits, which weighs in favour of the development.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter