West Mersea Neighbourhood Plan

Ended on the 3rd September 2021
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5 Housing

Housing Objectives

  1. To ensure that new housing meets the need of West Mersea
  2. To ensure new housing is available, appropriate and accessible to people of all ages and circumstances in order to maintain a balanced and diverse population
     

Housing Growth

5.1 The Neighbourhood Plan makes provision for new housing in accordance with the content of the emerging Local Plan provision for at least 14,720 new homes across the whole borough between 2017 and 2033. Approximately half of this provision were already in the pipeline at the time the emerging Local Plan was prepared. Policy SG2 and its associated table identifies that allocations for 200 additional homes are made for West Mersea. These allocations were determined by the Borough Council following a careful consideration of sites in their Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment.

5.2 The Neighbourhood Plan does not seek to undermine the level of housing growth proposed in the emerging Local Plan, rather it adds greater certainty as to what matters to the local community when considering the type and location of new homes. These allocations were determined by the Borough Council following a careful consideration of sites in their Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment.

5.3 Of particular relevance is emerging Local Plan Policy SS12a, as reproduced below, which identifies two large sites for housing development, at Dawes Lane and at Brierley Paddocks.
 

Emerging Local Plan - Policy SS12a: West Mersea

In addition to the infrastructure and mitigation requirements identified in policy PP1, development will be supported on land within the areas identified on the policies map which contributes towards expanding Mersea Island Primary School, provides suitable landscaping to screen the development to minimise any negative impact on the surrounding landscape and protect the open rural character of land within the Coastal Protection Belt, and meets the requirements for each site indicated below. Housing on both sites should address local needs which will be detailed in the Neighbourhood Plan but are likely to include starter homes and single storey dwellings.

Dawes Lane

Development will be supported which provides:

  1. 100 new dwellings of a mix and type of housing to be compatible with surrounding development;
  2. Public Open Space, including sports pitches;
  3. Children's play area/land for a sports pavilion if identified in the Neighbourhood Plan;
  4. A single site access off Dawes Lane.

Brierley Paddocks

Development will be supported which provides:

  1. 100 new dwellings of a mix and type of housing to be compatible with surrounding development; A satisfactory vehicular access;(iii) New public open space; and
  2. Community facilities if identified in the Neighbourhood Plan.

There are three existing designated Local Economic Areas in Mersea as shown on the policies map that will continue to be safeguarded for this use. Any future development proposals at these sites will be required to comply with policies SG4.

This policy should be read in conjunction with the generic Neighbourhood Planning Policy SG8 and the West Mersea Neighbourhood Plan, once adopted.


5.4 Having regard to both the content and the advanced stage of the emerging Local Plan, the Neighbourhood Plan acknowledges that the housing growth in West Mersea to 2033 will amount to around 200 new homes by 2033. It also recognises that the Borough Council undertook a robust and appropriate assessment of potential sites before coming to the decision to allocate the sites at Dawes Lane and Brierley Paddocks for development.

5.5 Planning permission was granted for a net increase of 100 dwellings at Brierley Paddocks in May 2020 and in February 2021 construction commenced on site. The site is therefore not allocated in the Neighbourhood Plan and the housing requirement subsequently reduced to around 100 dwellings. While Policy SS12a of the emerging Local Plan identifies two sites to deliver this growth, the Neighbourhood Plan does not rule out additional housing being developed as long as the site is located within the defined Settlement Boundary and can be satisfactorily accommodated on the site without having a detrimental impact on:

  • the amenity of nearby residents,
  • existing infrastructure including highways,
    and
  • the natural and historic environment.

Such sites might take the form of infill plots between existing properties or the redevelopment of sites as long as they're located within the Settlement Boundary. Due to the unplanned nature of such sites, it is not possible to identify how many additional homes might come forward through this approach. At 1 April 2019 there were 20 dwellings with planning permission but yet to be completed in West Mersea according to the Borough Council Housing Land Supply report. All of these dwellings were on sites with a maximum of three house per site. It is not unreasonable to expect such a trend to continue over the lifetime of this Plan, albeit that the number could diminish as opportunities for infill and windfall sites are depleted.

5.6 The emerging Local Plan recognises that the Neighbourhood Plan has the opportunity to add more detail to the planning policies for the Dawes Lane and Brierley Paddocks sites to reflect locally identified needs and circumstances. However, given the advanced status of the Brierley Paddocks site, the Neighbourhood Plan has focused on the local characteristics and location of the Dawes Lane site as well as the wishes of the community in identifying more detailed requirements, as set out in the following paragraphs and Policy WM 3.

 

Policy WM 2 - Housing Development

This Plan provides for approximately 100 additional dwellings to be developed in the Neighbourhood Plan area between 2020 and 2033, as identified in paragraph 14.195 of the emerging Local Plan. This growth will be met through the site allocation in Policy WM3.

In addition, brownfield "windfall" sites and infill plots within the Settlement Boundary that come forward during the plan period and are not identified in the Plan will be supported where they comply with the relevant policies in the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan.

 

Land at Dawes Lane

5.7 The site, totalling 10.2 hectares of which 5.2 hectares is open space to the north of the development, together with a small amenity area to the south, is illustrated on Map 3, and located on the north-eastern edge of the town adjoining recent development at Barrow Mews and Stable Mews. To the west are the town's main sports facilities while there is no defined northern boundary meaning that any development is going to create a hard, urban edge abutting the surrounding open countryside.

5.8 In June 2020 Colchester Borough Council resolved to approve an outline planning application for 100 dwellings and land for community uses, public open space and landscaping in accordance with the allocation in the emerging Local Plan. The resolution to approve was subject to the applicants entering into a Section 106 Planning Agreement and, at the time of the publication of this Draft Neighbourhood Plan, the decision had yet to be issued.

 

5.9 Given the resolution to approve the planning application, the Neighbourhood Plan cannot go against this decision. However, as the details of the development have yet to be approved, the Neighbourhood Plan does provide additional guidance as to the nature and form that the development should take.
 

Image of Map 3 - Land at Dawes Lane with boundaries marked

Map 3 - Land at Dawes Lane

5.10 The following potential impacts have been identified that will need to be addressed in considering how the site will be developed:

  1. visual impact of development on longer range views towards West Mersea from the north.
  2. reducing impact of new housing on existing properties to the south.
  3. providing safe and convenient pedestrian and cycle links to services and facilities in the town.
  4. ensuring that the housing is of a size and form to meet the identified needs of current and future residents.

5.11 The Borough Council's Urban Design Consultant, in commenting on the planning application, noted that:

  • Placemaking: the Design & Access Statement and the Indicative Layout provide little indication of how the development would build-in a sense of place, with character. This could in part be addressed by attention being paid to the more specific issues below.
  • SuDS strategy: a more integrated approach, in line with the Essex SuDS Design Guide and the SuDS Manual C753. These both point to the need to provide a management train and keep water on the surface as close as possible to where it falls. A single large retention basin at the edge of the site is generally considered to be poor practice.
  • Connectivity: The elongated retention basin on the southern boundary serves to disconnect the site from existing residential areas to the south
  • Manual for Streets: highways design should seek to benefit from the flexibility allowed for in Manual for Streets which has been adopted by Essex County Highways Authority. Strict reliance on DB32 geometry with fixed junction radii and carriageway/ footpath widths is anathema to character.
  • Mixed Use: the site is designated for residential use however dwellings could facilitate home-working with minor design modifications.

5.12 With the above in mind, the following development principles will need to be addressed by development proposals for the site:

  1. A new woodland barrier is required to form the northern boundary of the site and to form a meaningful screen of the site from the open countryside to the north.
  2. Bungalows should be built along the northern extent of the developable area to help mitigate the impact of the residential element of the development on the open countryside and long-range views from the north.
  3. Across the whole southern boundary of the site a natural bund/green barrier, reflecting that of the Wellhouse Green development to the west, is to be provided to minimise impact on residential amenity to the south and, if required, to incorporate sustainable drainage facilities.
  4. Vehicular access should only be provided from Dawes Lane and there should be no vehicle access from the existing housing to the south.
  5. There will be a need to ensure that safe and convenient pedestrian and cycle links are provided between the site and East Road, without requiring pedestrians to walk in the road, and to the children’s play area on Wellhouse Estate.
  6. A footpath link, which is not on the public highway, connecting to the bridleway to the north of the site should be provided in order to facilitate recreational trips into the countryside and mitigate potential recreational disturbance on designated habitats elsewhere on the island.

Policy WM 3 - Land at Dawes Lane

Development of land at Dawes Lane, including the provision of 5.2 hectares of open space and as identified in Map 3 and on the Policies Map, should be undertaken in accordance with the conditions attached to outline planning consent (ref 200351), unless that consent is superseded by a later approval.

In considering the detail of how the site will be developed, the matters below should be taken into account:

Development Principles:

  1. Developers should demonstrate, via a Landscape Character Assessment, that mitigation measures will be put in place to protect the rural and coastal landscape and ensure that highly valued views and vistas, as identified on the Policies Map, are maintained.
  2. A woodland strip sufficient to provide a natural screen to mitigate the visual impact of the development and provide a windbreak shall be provided across the whole northern boundary of the site. Bungalows should be built along the northern extent of the developable area to help mitigate the impact of the development on the open countryside and long-range views from the north.
  3. Across the whole southern boundary of the site a natural bund/green barrier, reflecting that of the Wellhouse Green development to the west, is to be provided to minimise impact on residential amenity to the south and, if required, to incorporate sustainable drainage facilities.

    Housing:
  4. The development should provide for a mixture of two and three bedroom houses and bungalows, as identified in the WMNHP Housing Needs Survey, unless it can be demonstrated that the latest publicly available housing needs information for the Plan area identify a need for a different mix.

    Access:
  5. A single site vehicular access shall be provided from Dawes Lane.
  6. Direct pedestrian and cycle access shall be provided between the development and East Road, without requiring pedestrians to walk in the road, and to the children's play area on Wellhouse Estate.
  7. Provision should be made to provide an off-site link, without requiring pedestrians to walk in the road, between the site to the bridleway to the north in order to offset and mitigate any potential recreational disturbance on protected habitats elsewhere.

 

Affordable Housing

5.13 The policies in the emerging Local Plan provide an up-to-date policy approach to the delivery of affordable housing in West Mersea and have been informed by the Strategic Housing Market Assessment. As such, 30% of new dwellings (including conversions) on housing developments of more than 10 dwellings should be provided as affordable housing (normally on site). At a local level, the West Mersea Housing Survey, undertaken as part of the Neighbourhood Plan preparation, identified that of those people likely to move in the future, 50% were looking for two-bedroomed dwellings.
 

Policy WM 4 - Affordable Housing in Housing Developments


In line with Policy DM8 of the emerging Colchester Local Plan, 30% of new dwellings (including conversions) on housing developments of more than 10 dwellings should be provided as affordable housing (normally on site) in accordance with the definition in the NPPF. Around 10% of the affordable housing provision shall meet the government definition of "starter homes".

For sites where an alternative level of affordable housing is proposed below the target, proposals will need to be supported by evidence in the form of a viability appraisal.

In exceptional circumstances, where high development costs undermine the viability of housing delivery, developers will be expected to demonstrate an alternative affordable housing provision.

The Local Planning Authority will require developments to integrate affordable housing and market housing, with a consistent standard of quality design and public spaces, to create mixed and sustainable communities. The affordable housing provision should proportionately reflect the mix of market units unless otherwise specified by the Local Planning Authority. In schemes over 15 units the affordable housing should be provided in more than one single parcel. Elsewhere the affordable housing mix on any site should normally be "pepper potted" throughout the scheme in groups, the size and location of which should be discussed and agreed with the Local Planning Authority.

 

5.14 The West Mersea Housing Needs Assessment identified a need for affordable home ownership. The NPPF definition for affordable homes includes starter homes, which are currently defined in the Housing and Planning act 2016. They are homes that are:

  • available for purchase by ‘qualifying first-time buyers’ only, defined as people who don’t already own a home and who are aged 23-40;
  • to be sold at a discount of at least 20% of their market value, and always for less than the price cap (£250,000 outside London).

5.15 At the time of the preparation of the Neighbourhood Plan, the Government were consulting on the "First Homes" initiative. The consultation stated that "First Homes will be sold with a minimum discount of 30 per cent off the market price, but local areas will be able to set a larger discount to ensure the homes are affordable to local people." Should the First Homes initiative translate into Government planning policy before planning consent is granted at Dawes Lane and Brierley Paddocks, the development would need to conform to such policy.

5.16 The development at Dawes Lane (Policy WM3) makes provision for starter homes and it is expected that other qualifying proposals should also provide around 10% of the affordable housing as starter homes in accordance with the Government definition.

5.17 Granting planning permission on an exceptional basis for affordable housing on land next to but outside the defined Settlement Boundary, is one way to provide affordable housing which will continue to meet local needs, through small-scale schemes, including entry level homes for purchase on "rural exception sites" outside the Settlement Boundary where housing would not normally be permitted. In order to deliver affordable housing through "exception sites" the following are required:

  • a need for affordable housing has to be established,
    and
  • a willing landowner has to come forward who is prepared to sell land at a price significantly below the market value for housing land, and
  • a registered social landlord (housing association) needs to come forward, which is willing to work with the Town Council and Borough Council to fund and manage a scheme.

5.18 Where a "rural exception" site is proposed for development, it must be demonstrated that there is an identified local need, and that the site is suitable to meet that local need. In exceptional circumstances, it may be appropriate to permit an element of open market housing to facilitate the delivery of the affordable housing. This is in accordance with paragraph 77 of the NPPF which states that local authorities should consider whether this approach would help to provide additional affordable housing. The exceptional circumstances, where a small number of market homes will be permitted could include, for example, where there is insufficient government grant available, and it is demonstrated, through financial appraisal, that the open market housing is essential to enable the delivery of the affordable housing. In these cases, the applicant would need to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Borough Council, that the inclusion of open market housing is the minimum necessary to enable the delivery of the affordable housing and is not being developed to generate uplift in land values for the landowner. This could be demonstrated through the provision of affordability/profitability modelling data. Where an element of open market housing is proposed as part of an affordable housing exception site, it should be sympathetic to the form and character of the settlement and in accordance with local needs. Local needs can vary, and it could be that smaller market homes are required to meet the needs of first-time buyers or people wishing to downsize to a smaller home. This would need to be established at the time in consultation with the Borough Council's Housing Service.
 

Policy WM 5 - Affordable Housing on Exception Sites


Proposals for the development of small-scale affordable housing schemes on rural exception sites outside but adjoining the Settlement Boundary, where housing would not normally be permitted by other policies, will be supported where there is a proven local need and provided that the housing:

  1. remains affordable in perpetuity; and
  2. is for people that are in housing need because they are unable to buy or rent properties in West Mersea at open-market prices; and
  3. is offered, in the first instance, to people with a demonstrated local connection, as defined by the Colchester Choice Based Lettings Scheme. Where there is no need, a property should then be offered to those with a demonstrated need for affordable housing in neighbouring villages.

These restrictions should be delivered through a legal agreement attached to the planning consent for the housing. Applications for such development will be considered in relation to the appearance and character of the surrounding area, the potential impact on residential amenity and highway safety.

To be acceptable, proposals should demonstrate that a local need exists which cannot be met by applying normal planning policy for the provision of affordable homes in association with market housing.

Any application for affordable housing in respect of this policy should be accompanied by a detailed assessment of need and the accommodation proposed should contribute to meeting this proven need.

In exceptional circumstances, a small number of market homes will be permitted where it can be demonstrated:

  1. that no other means of funding the construction of the affordable homes is available; and
  2. the market housing is subsidiary to the affordable housing element of the proposal and the amount of market housing required is, as demonstrated through a viability assessment, the minimum required to deliver the affordable housing.

Where sites for affordable housing outside the settlement boundary are brought forward with an element of market housing, both housing tenures should be built to the same design standards and contribute towards the character of the area.

 

House Sizes

5.19 The Housing Needs Survey identified a need for one and two bedroomed properties in West Mersea. The most recent reliable data about house sizes is contained in the 2011 Census. It identifies that the town has a good proportion of smaller homes when compared with other parishes across Colchester Borough (not including Colchester itself). However, as average household sizes continue to fall so the demand for smaller properties will increase. The 2011 Census identified that over 50% of houses with four or more bedrooms were only occupied by two people. The construction of additional smaller properties, where room sizes meet modern needs for those downsizing, might help to free up larger properties for those families that wish to remain on the island but are faced with a lack of available properties.
 

Policy WM 6 - Housing Mix

In all housing developments of ten or more homes, there shall be an emphasis on providing a higher proportion of one and two bedroomed houses and bungalows within the scheme, unless it can be demonstrated that the particular circumstances relating to the tenure of the housing dictate otherwise or where such provision is demonstrated to not be in accordance with the latest available housing needs information for the Plan Area.


5.20 A distinct characteristic of the town is the number of bungalows and chalet dwellings. However, over recent years the stock of this type of dwelling has gradually been eroded as permissions have been granted to extend the dwellings upwards. The impact of this is two-fold, firstly by eroding the highly sort after stock of bungalows, in particular and, secondly, the detrimental impact on the character of the area within which the plot sits. The town has a significantly higher proportion of elderly residents when compared with the Borough as a whole, as illustrated in the figure. With this statistic in mind, it is essential to retain accessible dwellings, such as bungalows, to meet the need of an ageing population.

5.21 Proposals for the conversion of bungalows or 1½ storey dwellings to two or more storey will generally be resisted unless it can be demonstrated by the applicant that the proposal would not have a detrimental impact on the character of the area by resulting in a taller dwelling in area that is otherwise predominantly single or 1½ storey dwellings.

Three graphs showing House sizes, Dwelling size and household size comparison, and age compairson of residents: West Mersea and Colchester Borough (source: 2011 census and Office for national statistics 2014 estimates)

 

Policy WM 7 - Loss of bungalows and chalet dwellings

Planning applications that would result in the conversion of single storey or 1½ storey dwellings to two or more storey dwellings will not be supported unless it can be demonstrated that the proposal would not have a detrimental impact on the character of the vicinity and the amenity of nearby residents by way of overlooking and loss of light.

 

Housing Space Standards

5.22 In March 2015, the government introduced a 'Nationally Described Space Standard', which sets out detailed minimum standards for the design of housing.

The current standard requires that:

  1. the dwelling provides at least the gross internal floor area and built-in storage area set out in the table below;
  2. a dwelling with two or more bedspaces has at least one double (or twin) bedroom;
  3. in order to provide one bedspace, a single bedroom has a floor area of at least 7.5m2 and is at least 2.15m wide;
  4. in order to provide two bedspaces, a double (or twin bedroom) has a floor area of at least 11.5m2;
  5. one double (or twin bedroom) is at least 2.75m wide and every other double (or twin) bedroom is at least 2.55m wide;
  6. any area with a headroom of less than 1.5m is not counted within the Gross Internal Area unless used solely for storage (if the area under the stairs is to be used for storage, assume a general floor area of 1m2 within the Gross Internal Area);
  7. any other area that is used solely for storage and has a headroom of 900- 1500mm (such as under eaves) is counted at 50% of its floor area, and any area lower than 900mm is not counted at all;
  8. a built-in wardrobe counts towards the Gross Internal Area and bedroom floor area requirements, but should not reduce the effective width of the room below the minimum widths set out above. The built-in area in excess of 0.72m2 in a double bedroom and 0.36m2 in a single bedroom counts towards the built-in storage requirement; and
  9. the minimum floor to ceiling height is 2.3m for at least 75% of the Gross Internal Area.

5.23 Externally, it is also important that homes meet modern day requirements for the storage of wheelie bins and cycles. Without sufficient and appropriate space reserved for these uses, the consequence can be added clutter and a deterrent in the use of cycles as a mode of travel.

A summary table is provided below.

Number of bedrooms (b)

Number of bed spaces (persons)

1 storey dwellings

2 storey dwellings

3 storey dwellings

Built-in storage

Square metres

1b

1p

39 (37)

   

1.0

2p

50

58

 

1.5

2b

3p

61

70

 

2.0

4p

70

79

 

3b

4p

74

84

90

2.5

5p

86

93

99

6p

95

102

108

4b

5p

90

97

103

3.0

6p

99

106

112

7p

108

115

121

8p

117

124

130

5b

6p

103

110

116

3.5

7p

112

119

125

8p

121

128

134

6b

7p

116

123

129

4.0

8p

125

132

138

Where a one bedroom, one person dwelling has a shower room instead of a bathroom, the floor area may be reduced from 39 square metres to 37 square meters, as shown bracketed

 

Policy WM 8 - Measures for New Housing Development

All new dwellings shall achieve appropriate internal space through adherence to the latest Nationally Described Space Standards. Dwellings should also make adequate provision for the covered storage of wheelie bins and cycles and should meet the current adopted car parking standards.

 

Houseboats

5.24 A distinct characteristic of the shoreline along Coast Road is the presence of houseboats. Such dwellings are only suitable for the needs and housing expectations of a small sector of the population, but they contribute to the diversity of the town and a different style of living. The area where the houseboats are currently located is within the West Mersea Conservation Area and wholly within the Essex Estuaries Special Area of Conservation and Blackwater Estuary Special Protection Area. Development proposals on the seaward side of Coast Road will need to have regard to the need to protect and enhance the protected habitats and traditional maritime character of the designated areas.

5.25 The West Mersea Neighbourhood Plan definition of a houseboat is:

A house 'boat' by definition is a seagoing vessel or boat that was designed to go to sea under its own propulsion using sail or power or both. The design, function and form should be of an original seagoing vessel or boat having a decked structure. Subsequent sympathetic modifications or conversion to a suitable residential 'house' boat use may follow. Thereby preserving the existing traditional and historical maritime use of the West Mersea foreshore of existing houseboats berths situated only in channels running within the unique habitat of the restricted and highly protected salt marsh areas.
Maximum Length of vessel 30 metres, maximum width 7 metres and maximum of two levels/storeys in height including one level below deck.

5.26 The provision of new moorings for houseboats in coastal areas of West Mersea would have a detrimental impact on the landscape and internationally important habitats and will, therefore, not be supported. There may, however, be instances where sites last used as a houseboat mooring might be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that the re-instatement of an existing houseboat would avoid impact on the character and setting of the conservation area and, most importantly, would not have an unacceptable impact on the internationally protected areas and protected species therein. A Habitats Regulations Assessment and, where appropriate, an Appropriate Assessment will be required to be submitted alongside all proposals within these areas as the installation of new boats could potentially physically damage the salt-marsh and also reduce water quality if they do not have adequate on-site sewage/pump out systems in place.

5.27 Map 4 illustrates the area where, subject to the criteria in Policy WM 9, proposals for new houseboats may be supported. The general character of the houseboat area should be maintained since this adds to the vibrancy of the community. However, the houseboats should not have a negative impact upon the natural environment and should respect the unique habitat within which they are situated. The area should be kept clear of waste materials and storage solutions should be found to make the area tidier and more sympathetic towards the nature conservation requirements. Proposals will need to maintain the open feel of a foreshore community and continue to allow excellent views across the marshes for, not only, houseboat owners but also the nearby residents and visitors to the water.

Image of Map 4 illustrating the area where, subject to the criteria in Policy WM 9, proposals for new houseboats may be supported.

Map 4 – Houseboats

 

Policy WM 9 - Houseboats


Proposals for new moorings for permanent residential houseboats will not be permitted in coastal areas including Coast Road because of their landscape and environmental impact on the internationally designated habitats.

Proposals to replace an existing houseboat or fill a vacant site that is identified on Map 4 as being a recently used site maybe supported, subject to an installation method statement being submitted which avoids impacts to saltmarsh habitats and which satisfy all other policy criteria.

In considering proposals for houseboats and associated development, the following matters will be taken into account:

  1. the proposal should maintain the general character of the houseboat area;
  2. houseboat proposals should not have a detrimental impact upon the natural environment but should respect the unique habitat within which they are situated;
  3. the storage of waste and any associated domestic paraphernalia would not have harmful effect on the character or setting of the surrounding area.
  4. the open views across the marshes are not significantly harmed as a result of the proposal

Proposals for houseboat projects (replacement boats, ancillary jetties and any structures) will be required include sufficient information to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment and, where necessary, an Appropriate Assessment. Proposals should demonstrate that they have, or are capable of providing, adequate on-site sewage/pump-out systems in order to mitigate potential damage to the salt marsh and a reduction of water quality.

Applications for infrastructure to support existing houseboats including jetties, sheds, platforms and fences and for replacement houseboats or houseboat alterations considered to result in material alterations will be considered on the basis of their scale and impact on surrounding amenity, environment and landscape.

 

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