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Chapter 2 - Development Strategy and Overall Vision

2.1 During the period covered by the previous Local Plan, the District has changed significantly. Braintree in particular has experienced substantial change, including the development of new neighbourhoods at Great Notley and Kings Park Village, the regeneration of East Braintree, and numerous smaller developments. There has also been continued development in Halstead and Witham, and some villages. Generally speaking, the provision of roads and other infrastructure, and employment, has lagged behind the provision of housing.

2.2 Stansted Airport is located approximately 15 miles to the west of Braintree District and is an increasing influence on the development of the area. In association with the first phase of the expansion of the airport, of up to 15 million passengers per annum (mppa), 2000 Stansted-related houses were built in the District. There are no additional urbanisation requirements arising from the second phase of expansion, of up to 25mppa. Braintree currently supplies 10% of the workforce of the airport. The completion of the new A120 dual carriageway, between Braintree and the airport, will strengthen the links between the two.

2.3 Although the District has experienced high levels of development in the last ten to fifteen years, the quality of the environment remains high. The area includes 37 conservation areas and over 3,000 listed buildings, and extensive areas of high quality natural and built environment. There will be a need to continue to ensure that high standards of new development are achieved in the right locations, and that development is accommodated in such a way as to maintain, protect, and enhance the built and natural environment. Sustainability principles will underpin the development strategy for the District.

The Government’s wider strategy for achieving sustainable development is set out in “A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the U.K.” (1999). It sets out four main aims for sustainable development:

- Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;

- Effective protection of the environment;

- Prudent use of natural resources; and

- Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and development.

Following these aims, the sustainability principles on which this Plan is based are as follows:

- Managing the pattern of development and urban growth to make the fullest use of public transport, walking and cycling

- Minimising the loss of countryside and protecting environmental assets

- Accommodating development principally within existing urban areas, with increased densities, for both housing and other uses at locations accessible by public transport, cycling and walking

- Minimising the need to travel, especially by private vehicles, and promoting more sustainable transport choices

- Reducing the impact of transport on the environment

- Reducing the demands of development on non-renewable resources

- Minimising waste and maximising recycling

- Promoting biodiversity

The Plan also reflects the proposals of the Government’s Urban White Paper published in November 2000, particularly in respect of maximising the use of land in the existing towns and easing pressure on the countryside, improving the quality of the urban environment, and encouraging high standards of design and layout in new developments.

2.4 The vision for the District is one where its residents enjoy a high quality of life in a high quality environment. A District which is safe, prosperous, and clean; where the needs of the community for affordable housing and a range of housing choice, employment, health and welfare services, and personal mobility are met. A District where innovation and new initiatives are encouraged in developments to promote sustainability; where people have an opportunity to live nearer to their work and leisure and community facilities. A District within which people have a choice of means of transport, wherever possible; where new development is of a high quality and contributes to meeting community needs; where the countryside is protected and enhanced, where rural communities have the facilities they need and where local people have a pride and respect for their surroundings. Where possible the Plan takes forward the priorities identified by the Council’s Community Strategy under seven themes, as follows:

- Getting around

- Things to do

- Feeling safe and well

- Being part of the community

- Taking pride in where we live

- Access to services and opportunities

- Caring for the environment

2.5 In the previous plan period, the provision of employment and infrastructure did not keep up with the pace of housing growth. This has led to increased out-commuting from the District, particularly by car, and has led to congestion on the road network and environmental problems for the communities through which those roads pass. Furthermore, much of the new development that has taken place has been on greenfield sites, particularly around Braintree, with limited access to public transport. The strategy for the new plan period is to achieve a slowing down in the rate of housing growth, particularly after 2006 when previous commitments will be completed, and a catching up in the provision of infrastructure and employment.

2.6 In the longer term, the District will be affected by a number of emerging Government and Regional Studies, such as the Sustainable Communities Plan, London-Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough Growth Area Study, the Aviation White Paper, the London- Ipswich Multi-Modal Study, the East of England Plan and A Shared Vision

- The Regional Economic Strategy for the East of England. These studies will affect a much larger area than Braintree District, and will extend beyond 2011. These issues will be reflected in the Local Development Framework that the Council will prepare under the new planning system, introduced by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Key Elements of the Strategy

2.7 General Development Principles

- New development to be based on sustainability principles.

- New development to be concentrated on Braintree, Witham and to a lesser extent Halstead.

- Maximum use to be made of land within urban areas and previously developed land that meets sustainability criteria.

- A sequential approach to be applied to proposals for new housing, employment, retail, leisure and community facilities, with a preference firstly for sites within existing urban areas, secondly for sites on the periphery of existing large urban areas, and finally other locations accessible by all modes of transport.

- Better balance to be secured between housing and employment growth, and the provision of social and community facilities and infrastructure.

- Protection of the character of rural areas.

2.8 Housing

- Provision for 10,300 net dwelling completions in the District between 1996 and 2011.

- A target of 40% of housing completions to be on previously developed land between 1996 and 2011, with 50% to be achieved between 2001 and 2011.

- On sites of 15 dwellings or more, to secure up to 30% of the new units for affordable housing.

- To achieve a minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare.

- Provision for rural affordable housing on exception sites, to meet local needs.

2.9 Employment

- New allocations of employment land at Braintree, Halstead and Feering.

- A policy to permit the expansion of local businesses onto unallocated land if certain criteria are met.

2.10 Transport

- Improved bus and rail services and community transport, and better facilities for cycling and walking.

- Improvements to the Braintree branch line

- Completion of major road schemes including the Witham to Hatfield Peverel link road.

2.11 Town Centres and Retail

- Consolidation, environmental improvement, and management of Braintree, Halstead, and Witham town centres

- Modest new retail provision in Halstead and Witham

- Additional off-street car parking in Halstead town centre

2.12 Rural Areas

- Encourage appropriate business development and agricultural diversification

- Promote affordable housing for local needs

- Promote local distinctiveness and identity in development patterns and design

- Retain local services and facilities

2.13 Environmental Resources and Protection

- Protection, conservation, and enhancement of the natural and built environment

- High quality design and layout of new development incorporating sustainability principles, which include preserving and enhancing the biodiversity of the area; strong emphasis on nature conservation; and innovative and leading edge ideas for energy and water efficiency, sustainable drainage, recycling and waste minimisation

- The development of renewable sources of energy

2.14 Community Facilities

- New swimming pools at Braintree and Halstead

- A site for a cemetery extension at Braintree

- Support for the continuance of rural services and facilities

2.15 This general strategy is translated into detailed policies and proposals in the Chapters that follow.

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