New developments are strong, resilient communities – not just a collection of buildings

March 23, 2017   By Cllr David Finch

At Essex County Council we are passionate about making a positive contribution to the lives of Essex residents and businesses. It is what we exist for.

The qualities of the places around us play an important role in our lives. The NLGN Building Homes, Growing Communities report distils the existing evidence about the impact of the built environment on transport choices, peoples’ health, crime reduction and the strength of local communities.

The report concludes that local government is the difference between housebuilders providing excellent, affordable and well-designed housing and what the report describes as “much worse”. We’ve understood this for some time, which is why the ‘Essex Design Guide’, first published in 1973 and evolving ever since, continues to be such an influential document in ensuring the quality of any development in Essex.

In Greater Essex, we must build 180,000 new homes in the next 20 years and our population is set to grow by 20% in the next 25 years, from 1.4 million to 1.7 million.

That’s why it’s vital that we, and the rest of local government nationwide, view any new development as strong, resilient communities – rather than a collection of buildings. We must build the right homes in the right places for the right people. We must also strive to help our young people get a foot on the property ladder in the future.

Essex County Council has already agreed a £42m capital budget over the next five years for Essex Housing, our in-house team that works in collaboration with public sector organisations countywide, to identify unwanted buildings and land to build more open-market, affordable and specialist housing.
Land owned by the public sector is ultimately owned by the taxpayer, therefore it is incredibly important that we, as custodians, are making the most of these assets.

Proposals for new Garden Village communities offer a long-term solution to the housing crisis, which is why we are working with local government colleagues in north Essex to deliver three exciting garden settlements that have the potential to deliver up to 40,000 new homes.

By building new settlements to garden village principles – green technologies, a focus on green spaces, sustainable transport systems and most importantly an infrastructure first approach, with roads, schools, doctors, broadband – we can look to provide an exemplar for housing development nationwide.

We will take the lessons of this report to heart as we see our existing towns grow over the next 20 years. And as we embark on a ground-breaking and long-term journey with local government colleagues across Essex to facilitate the delivery of three new and unique garden communities across the north of the county, this report will provide us with a sound evidence base on which to develop our plans.

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