County council housing policy to be launched

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A consultation for a new Essex County Council housing policy setting out its vision for long term growth in the county is to be launched.

The council says a new strategy is needed for it to be part of the wider housing process ensuring the right numbers, types, affordability and quality of housing is provided across Essex to avoid problems in years to come.

The process is to tie in with local authorities’ work in preparing local plans.

Approximately 144,000 additional homes are being planned in Essex up to 2036.

These latest plans represent a higher rate of housing site delivery than previous plans, with a potential countywide requirement of around 8,800 homes per year to meet the demands of the housing delivery test – the government’s assessment of whether councils are overseeing development of enough homes for their area.

In a reflection of Essex’s high growth rate, roughly 50 per cent of the government’s housing infrastructure funding – equivalent to more than £300million – has come to Essex.

Councils have responsibility for housing and local plan making, ensuring land is identified for housing in the right places.

Housing associations and private developers then build homes across the county, while Homes England invests funding, land and expertise to support delivery on behalf of government.

But Essex County Council (ECC) plays an important role as part of the housing system in Essex, delivering and maintaining much of the large-scale infrastructure that businesses and residents require including transport, waste facilities and schools.

ECC’s proposed strategy aims to help improve links with its partners focusing on prioritising localities of greatest importance and identifying opportunities for people to live well and independently of social care.

Its commitment to garden communities is also placed at the core of its strategy, with increased investment to deliver supporting infrastructure that enables sustainable development of new communities and meets wider aims such as a zero-carbon economy.

Steve Evison, director of strategic commissioning and policy, said at a place services and economic growth policy and scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 23: “So the county needs a strategy and rightly a number of the local planning authorities are looking at that and saying that to be able to deal with that over the longer term we need to start to plan for large settlements because the alternative is growth on existing towns and villages.

“There is only so far you can go with that because then it starts to encroach on other settlements and starts to put pressure on services that are there because the scale isn’t there and we can’t therefore bring in the infrastructure.

“Half of the total housing infrastructure fund came to Essex because Essex has shown its willingness to plan for the long term.

“There are twin pressures. It’s the longer term consequences. If we don’t keep up with those longer term delivery rates it will enable private developers to push through developments.

“The whole strategy is part of that response. ECC needs to be in that space because if we are not as a council we will be dealing with the consequences in 30, 40 or 50 years’ time.”

The council wants the consultation to go out before the local elections in May, with early summer as a date for a final draft action plan.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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