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2 A Spatial Portrait of Braintree District

2.1 Braintree District is a rural district in the north of Essex and is the second largest district (by area) in the county. Just over half of the residents live in the three main towns of Braintree, Witham and Halstead, with the remainder living in the attractive rural areas, where there are about 60 villages, including six larger villages. The District lies between the regional growth centres of Chelmsford, Colchester and Cambridge and is close to Stansted Airport and the M11, the Haven Ports and is about 45 minutes journey time by rail from London. Braintree is the main market town in the District and provides employment, town centre retail provision and community services. In addition, on the edge of the town, the Freeport Factory Outlet Centre provides retail and leisure facilities, which serve an area that extends outside the District. Witham and Halstead are smaller market towns which provide employment, retail and community services. All three of the settlements contain town centres with some areas in need of regeneration. There are also two large areas in need of regeneration at former factory sites in Silver End and Sible Hedingham. Witham is situated on the main London to Norwich railway line, as are the adjoining villages of Hatfield Peverel and Kelvedon and there are significant levels of commuting from these stations, particularly to London and Chelmsford. The towns of Haverhill and Sudbury adjoin the district and provide services for residents in the northern, more isolated, rural areas of the District.

Population and Housing

2.2 The District has experienced high levels of population growth over the past ten years; growing from 132,179 in 2001 to 142,100 in 2008. There has been an average annual population growth of 1,200 persons over this period. There has been an average of 623 dwellings completed per year in the District between 2001 to 2009, a large proportion of which have been on previously developed land. House price levels in Braintree District are slightly higher than the average for England and Wales and East Anglia, but lower than the average for Essex and Chelmsford. (SHMA). There is a concentration of terraced and flatted accommodation in the south-east of the District in and around Witham and in parts of Braintree and Halstead.

2001 All People Census

District Total 132,179 100%
Braintree 36,310 27%
Witham 22,470 17%
Halstead 11,053 8%

Braintree District - Civil Parish Population Figures (29/04/01) Source ONS

Village All people
Coggeshall 4,327
Earls Colne 3,389
Hatfield Peverel 4,384
Kelvedon 3,485
Sible Hedingham 3,665
Silver End 3,741

2008 Age Profile (ONS Population Estimate)

District Total All ages 142,100 100%
0-15 years children 28,200 20%
16-64Males/16-59Females working age 86,600 61%
65+Males/60+Females older people 27,300 19%

Resident population in Ethnic Groups 2001 Census

White 129,797 98%
Mixed White and Asian 308 0.2%

Health District Total 2001 Census

Total population 132,179
Limiting long-term illness 20,437
General health ‘not good’ 9278

Life Expectancy Braintree District 2008 ONS

All people 80.6 years
Males 78.6 years
Females 82.6 years

Households in 2001 Census

Continued increase in number of vacant dwellings with 2,378 dws empty in 2008, an increase of 438 over the 2007 figure.
One person households
Owner Occupied
Social rented
Privately rented or living rent free
Average household size
Number net dwelling completions 8 years
2001- 2009
Average number per year 623
57% of dwellings built on previously developed land 2001-9
77% of dwellings built on previously developed land 2008-9


2.3 The Economic Development Strategy summarises the economy of the District as characterised by its diversity, with a high proportion of small and micro businesses, a traditionally strong manufacturing base, large modern agricultural holdings, a high proportion of residents who commute out of the District for service sector jobs, (particularly in the financial service sector) and several small/medium sized towns that require investment to develop their retail and commercial potential.

Total jobs Braintree District 2001 53,900
Total jobs Braintree District 2009 61,400
Total jobs change 2001-2009 7,500
Source East of England Annual Monitoring Report 2009
(Average annual net increase in jobs 937)

2.4 In 2008 14% of employees in the District worked in manufacturing, with 8% in construction and 76% in services. Braintree District had above the national average percentage in manufacturing and construction and below the national average in services. (Source NOMIS) Although tourism only amounts to about 4% of jobs, it contributes almost £40m to the local economy. There has been a recent increase in unemployment in the District rising to 5.8% in 2008/9.

2.5 There is a significant outflow (43%) of Braintree District residents to work in other areas. The greatest being to Chelmsford (10%) and Greater London (10%). The next most popular destinations are to the adjoining authorities of Uttlesford (5%) and Colchester (4%).

2.6 25% of employees in the District live outside the District, with 6% of employees travelling from Colchester Borough, 4% from the Borough of Chelmsford, 3% from Maldon District and 2% from Babergh District.

Total of all people aged 16-74 2001 95,330
% of 16-74 year olds who are:
Employed 67.5%
Unemployed 2.8%
Students 4.2%
Retired 12.5%
Permanently sick or disabled 3.7%
Others 9.3%

All people Economically Active 2008/9 71,700 (Nomis)
Unemployment increased in the District to 4,200 in 2008/9 5.8% (Nomis)

2.7 13.8% of the persons of working age in Braintree District 2008 had no qualifications. This is higher than the national percentage of 12.4 % and for the East of England of 11.8%. Improvements are needed to educational attainment levels to improve life prospects of school leavers and to help the local economy with a better qualified workforce.

2.8 The rural economy is changing, as agricultural and manufacturing jobs have contracted. Rural communities now rely more heavily on commuting outside the rural areas for most job opportunities, includingto business locations at the towns of Haverhill and Sudbury, which adjoin the north of the District. Tourism and leisure contribute to the rural economy, but jobs tend to be seasonal and lower paid. Small business centres have recently been developed, catering for businesses based on modern technology, and working from home is also becoming much more common for the same reasons. There has also been a significant trend of persons seeking a better quality of life moving to the rural areas and working in nearby towns, or London and either commuting, or working from home.


2.9 Braintree District is generally affluent and deprivation levels are around the average for Essex as a whole. However there are quite large inequalities between different areas of the District. Pockets of deprivation are located around the District's three urban centres including parts of north and east Braintree, northwest Witham and south Halstead. Although these areas are not seriously deprived in national terms, they experience greater deprivation than the majority of areas in the District. Some rural areas also suffer deprivation due to their isolated position, which leads to a lack of access to services.


2.10 The London to Norwich, East Coast mainline railway crosses the southern part of the District, with a high frequency passenger service at Witham. There are also mainline stations at Hatfield Peverel and Kelvedon. A single track branch line connects Witham to Braintree, with stations at White Notley, Cressing and Braintree Freeport. The single track limits the frequency of service and the provision of a passing loop, with the aim of increasing the frequency of services is being investigated. There is also a branch line to Sudbury which crosses the east of the District, with a station at Bures.

2.11 The District is crossed by the A12 and A120 trunk roads. The western section of the A120 has been upgraded to a dual carriageway between Braintree and the M11, but the Braintree-Marks Tey stretch remains congested and unimproved, leading to significant congestion particularly in Braintree near to the Galleys Corner Roundabout. Thelevel of traffic using the A12 in Braintree District is above its capacity, with resulting serious peak hour congestion and there are substandard A12 slip roads within the District, including those at Rivenhall.

2.12 Bus services in and between the main towns are adequate during the day on weekdays, but conventional services are limited or non-existent over much of the rural areas. Only a limited number of services operate in the evenings and on Sundays. However the District Council works with Essex County Council and voluntary groups to support a number of rural Community Transport and bus schemes for the more remote parts of the District and for those whose circumstances make it difficult for them to access conventional public transport. The availability of public transport has impacted on the spatial strategy, with development focussed towards areas where public transport is available.

2.13 There is a fragmented network of cycleways in Witham and Braintree, including a route through Witham following the River Brain and routes along former railway lines in Braintree and Witham, which need to be added to, in order to provide a co-ordinated alternative to car transport.

Method of Travel to Work Braintree Residents 2001 Census

42% drive a car or van, (national average of 35%.)
5.68 % travel by train (national average 2.67%)
1.61% travel by bus (national average 4.74%)
Households without a car or van 9,543 18% (national average of 27%)

Communities and Services

2.14 The District Council and its partners have been working to improve the community facilities and services offered to the residents, in particular relating to leisure, health and education. Some improvements are already underway with others planned. Educational facilities include a range of primary and secondary schools with proposals for new school buildings at the two academies in Witham. Braintree College has stated that it would like to move to a new campus with space for expansion. Health facilities include the new Braintree Community Hospital, which will be fully operational in 2010. Recreational facilities include Braintree Leisure Centre, new swimming pools which have recently been provided in Halstead and Braintree, a Country Park at Great Notley and other parks and open spaces throughout the District. A replacement pool is also proposed for Witham. Braintree Town Football Club wish to move to a new stadium. The Council will continue to work with partners and the community to identify and address the needs of the existing and new communities.


2.15 Many of the towns and villages in the District have historic centres which are protected as conservation areas, and some historic villages and towns, including Finchingfield, Castle Hedingham and Coggeshall are visitor attractions. There are 39 conservation areas in the District, including Silver End garden village, based on the former Crittall Window Factory. There are also 41 scheduled monuments, over 3250 archaeological records and 3190 listed buildings, including medieval churches.

2.16 Braintree's extensive tracts of countryside are some of the most attractive and highest quality landscape in the region. A landscape capacity assessment has been carried out for the District which identifies 3 main types of landscapes that make up the District. These are:-

  • Farmland plateaux - these extensive areas make up the bulk of the rural area and lie mainly in the north and south of the District. They are characterised by broad views and large fields giving an open, yet rather isolated feel.
  • River valleys - The valleys of the Brain, Pant, Stour, Colne, Pods Brook and Blackwater divide the higher farmland area and provide very attractive and more enclosed landscapes. Most of the towns and villages lie in or near these valleys, so they are under more pressure from development.
  • Wooded farmland area - This lies across the centre of the District between Braintree and Halstead. Whilst it still retains the overall farmland character, it has significantly more woodland cover and hedgerows, giving it a more enclosed, unspoilt feel.

2.17 This attractive rural landscape includes 4 areas protected for their special scientific interest, as well as 7 local nature reserves, areas of ancient woodland and 8 registered parks and gardens of historic value.

2.18 The quality of the environment in Braintree District, both natural and historic, creates opportunities for the tourist and leisure and recreation industries. Whilst this can help to support the rural economy, a careful balance must be achieved between development and economic pressures and preservation and enhancement of the historic and natural environment.

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