As news emerged that the MoD had decided to sell of land at Middlewick Ranges to make way for 2000 new homes with their Colchester Middlewick Ranges new homes plan, it’s fair to say that local people quickly voiced their concerns over the plans, and understandably so.
Middlewick Ranges has, for decades, been a large open area which the MoD has ‘shared’ with local people for walking, which the MoD has used it as a live firing range for training soldiers. Many people are concerned to see yet another green space swallowed up by housing. People are nervous that there are already a shortage of local school places, it can be difficult to get an appointment to see a GP, and none of these fears are relieved by the almost weekly news emerging about problems at Colchester General Hospital.
Commenting on the story in the Evening Gazette, some people have branded the proposal as “madness”, some have pointed out that there will be an affect on wildlife, and another commenter branded the proposal “yet another Colchester concrete jungle”. In addition, people have raised concerns about the houses being affordable for local people (at a time when the price for a family size semi-detached property at the time of writing averaging £247,000 in Colchester – see Rightmove).
But we do need more homes
The fact remains that with an ageing population, as well as an element of migration and people being forced out of London due to the bedroom tax and cost of living, we need more affordable homes. It’s an unpopular argument but there’s just no getting away from it: there aren’t enough affordable homes. It’s a problem in almost every town and city in England and we have to face facts.
The problem for the people of Colchester is that the infrastructure never seems to follow. Areas such as North Station have been congested for decades yet Essex County Council still earmarked land and then approved more houses. Traffic around the town is often very heavy, even outside of rush hour. GP surgeries are struggling to find enough doctors to deal with the influx of new people and there have been very few new schools built to cope (Alderman Blaxhill school needs to be restored and reopened without further delay but that’s a rant for another day).
People are fed up
Talk to local people, and the majority will say that they feel Colchester has had more that it’s fair share of new housing, and most will say that it’s time something was done about it. The problem that Colchester Borough Council has is that to appeal against the new development would probably be met with a legal challenge from the Government or Essex County Council; which could become expensive and probably result in CBC losing. People are mainly against the Colchester Middlewick Ranges new homes plans and they’ve made that clear in comments on various news sources.
What needs to be done
It’s fair to assume that this development with go ahead, regardless of local appeals. If this is the case then all isn’t lost. However, the developers must not be allowed to build this new estate as cheaply as possible – they must be forced to build an area which is sympathetic to the land it will be built on – not a concrete jungle.
First of all, the Planning Officers for Colchester Borough Council need to ensure that every single detail of this development is scrutinised. The Officers need to ensure that as many of the trees are saved as possible as well on insisting on green space and a playpark. Consideration must be given for local wildlife.
The Officers need to ensure that they follow rules in regard to parking spaces to ensure that the development doesn’t end up with cars parked on pavements (i.e. each new house should have space for at least 2 cars to be parked in the property, not on the road).
I would want to see the new homes go beyond the “standard” guidelines for efficiency, with them being a ecologically friendly as possible. I would also like to see some cast iron plans from Essex County Council for the long-term infrastructure of our Town.
And while I’m dreaming, a new Primary School would be nice, also. If we’re going to have these developments forced upon us, the least we should expect are some benefits.
It’s just not acceptable to sell of the land to the highest bidder anymore. Make the developers work for their money. Make the Colchester Middlewick Ranges new homes plan a great one.