Section 1 - Publication Draft Local Plan

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6. Infrastructure and Connectivity

6.1 A coordinated and integrated approach to infrastructure planning and delivery is required to implement the vision for North Essex. Provision of appropriate and timely infrastructure to support growth will be central to the area's continuing prosperity, attractiveness and sustainability. Plan-led growth that includes proposed large scale garden community infrastructure with a particular focus will be on transport, education, healthcare, and telecommunications (including broadband). The Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) provides more detail about the phasing and costing of infrastructure requirements.

A. Transport

6.2 North Essex is well placed in the context of connections by road, rail, air and sea to the wider region and beyond, and these connections will need to be strengthened as part of developing sustainable transport networks. The A12 and A120 trunk road network form part of the Trans-European Network carrying international vehicular traffic. The Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) and branch lines, link the major towns and cities via a high capacity, high frequency rail line radiating from London. The strategically important London Stansted Airport lies to the west within a 60km radius of key urban centres in North Essex. Access via sea is provided by the port at Harwich.

6.3 The challenge is to provide North Essex with a sustainable transport system that provides good access to jobs and services, to support economic growth. Growth promoted through the new Local Plans, particularly via large scale new developments where delivery will extend beyond the plan period, provides an opportunity to prioritise, facilitate and deliver larger scale transport infrastructure projects that can significantly improve connectivity across and within the area, and positively alter travel patterns and behaviour to reduce reliance on the private car. 

6.4 The Local Plans seek to improve transport infrastructure and ensure that new development is accessible by sustainable forms of transport. Measures designed to encourage people to make other sustainable travel choices such as better public transport provision, car clubs, electric vehicle charging points and provision of cycle links and walk ways will also be required to achieve such a change. It will also help to enhance air quality and improve health and well-being.

6.5 Braintree, Colchester and Tendring will continue to work closely with government departments, Highways England, Essex County Council, Network Rail, rail operators and other partners to better integrate all forms of transport and improve roads and public transport and to promote cycling and walking. Key projects during the plan period will see improvements to the A12, A120, Great Eastern Main Line including rail services, and provision of rapid transit connections in and around urban areas and the Garden Communities. An integrated and sustainable transport system will be delivered that supports economic growth and helps deliver the best quality of life.  Although the funding for some of these improvements is not guaranteed the authorities will work with providers to ensure that investment will be made at the appropriate time to support the proposed growth.

The inter-urban road network

6.6 On the inter-urban road network, traffic levels have increased significantly in recent years with parts of the A12 around Colchester and Marks Tey carrying up to 90,000 vehicles per day, which is high for an A class trunk road.

6.7 Most of the inter-urban road network, particularly the capacity of the A12, is constrained by the operation of the junctions and sub-standard slips, and periods of congestion. The East of England Route Based Strategy (March 2017) provides a review of the state of the network in the East of England (including A120 Harwich to the A12 and A12 from the M25 to A14), and will inform a Strategic Road Network Initial Report (late 2017), which will outline the ambitions for the network across 2020 – 2025 (ie RIS2 period) and beyond. Consultation on plans to improve both the A12 and A120 has taken place, and the decisions made on these proposals should be informed by the planned growth, identified in Local Plans given the connection between new planned growth and the infrastructure needed to support it.

6.8 The A12 is set to have major improvements as part of the Government's Roads Investment Strategy (2015-2020) (RIS), with the aim of improving capacity and relieving congestion. The plans were announced in December 2014 and will represent the largest investment in road infrastructure received by Essex. The RIS confirmed

  • investment in a technology package for the length of the A12 from the M25 to the junction with the A14;
  • phased improvement of the road to a consistent dual 3 lane standard; and
  • improvement to the A12/M25 junction.

Consultation on route improvement options between 19 and junction 25 of the A12 concluded in March 2017. A decision by the Planning Inspectorate on the preferred improvement option is expected in 2019.             

6.9 The A120 is a key east-west corridor across Essex providing access to London Stansted Airport in the west to the Harwich ports in the east and serving the economies of Braintree, Colchester and Tendring, with links to Chelmsford via the A130. Upgrading the strategically important road will   unlock greater economic potential for not only North Essex, but also the county and wider South East. It will provide tangible benefits to road users, businesses and local neighbourhoods.

6.10 Consultation on A120 route improvement options between Braintree & the A12 ended in March 2017 and ECC will make a recommendation for a preferred option to the Secretary of State for Transport and Highways England in Autumn 2017. ECC will recommend the preferred route to Government for inclusion in the next RIS, which will run from 2020 to 2025. In addition a series of short term interventions will be delivered along the route to improve safety and relieve congestion.  The final alignment may influence the final boundaries and scale of the proposed Garden Community on the Colchester Braintree border. The A120 from the A12 to Harwich is subject to a Highways England Route Based Strategy and improvements to this section of road are expected over the plan period.

Essex County Council Route-Based Strategies

6.11 Route-based strategies are prepared and delivered by the County Council for strategic road corridors, in consultation with local authorities. The following strategies relevant to North Essex are currently being prepared for delivery post 2018/19: A131 - Chelmsford to Braintree; A131 Braintree to Sudbury; Colchester to Manningtree and A133 Colchester to Clacton. The key objective is to identify options that will support economic growth.

Rail

6.12 The Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) runs between London Liverpool Street and Norwich and carries a mixture of intercity services and commuter services serving the major urban settlements; and freight from the Haven Ports (Harwich and Felixstowe). Further branch lines provide connections to Braintree, Sudbury, Harwich, Clacton and Walton.

6.13 The Anglia Route Study prepared by Network Rail (March 2016) shows that while capacity varies along the line, capacity to accommodate growth is limited and is particularly constrained in peak times from Chelmsford to London. Improvements are required along the line to accommodate growth and provide a faster more competitive service across the region.

6.14 The Study identifies a package of improvements necessary to respond to the need for increased capacity, which are seen as priorities to enable growth, improve services and journey reliability

6.15 A new franchise has been awarded to Greater Anglia for passenger services in the region. New services will be provided commencing 2018 and the entire fleet of trains will be replaced and in service by 2020 adding capacity.

Bus, walking and cycling

6.16 Alternative forms of transport to the private car (walking, cycling and public transport) to travel to work and other trips are essential in managing congestion and to accommodate sustainable growth. The levels of growth proposed in the Local Plans will require that the consequent need to travel is managed. Travel planning and smarter choices initiatives will be promoted to ensure that all residents have good access to local jobs, services and facilities, preferably by either walking or cycling. For longer trips and in rural areas where there are fewer local services and employment opportunities, public transport will be promoted. By promoting travel by sustainable modes there are wider benefits to local people such as improved health and air quality.

6.17 Within the urban areas, bus networks are available although currently underutilised. Essex County Council will address this through a new passenger transport strategy that places emphasis on improving sustainable travel modes, i.e. creating viable public transport routes that operate smoothly and potentially have priority over private car travel, thus making public transport a more appealing method of travel.

6.18 Through implementation of the Essex Cycling Strategy (2016), Cycling Action Plans will be prepared to increase cycle levels; identify safety issues; identify gaps on key routes; identify ways of closing gaps; and create better cycle connectivity to key employment areas, development zones and schools. The provision of continuous cycle routes and a coherent cycle network will encourage people to make short trips by bicycle rather than by car.

Achieving Sustainable Transport

6.19 Creating development that is accessible by different modes of transport, especially walking and cycling and the use of public transport is essential to promoting sustainable development as it reduces car dependency. An important policy tool to achieve this is a people orientated  transport hierarchy i.e. prioritising walking and providing access for people with mobility impairment; cycling; public transport; cars (for occupiers on site and visitors); powered two wheelers; and commercial vehicles). The modal hierarchy will be used to ensure that if not all modes can be satisfactorily accommodated, those towards the top of the hierarchy are considered first and given greater priority.

6.20 Sustainable transport management will be based on promoting modes which minimise environmental impact and promote social inclusion. It is important that developments are well located in relation to existing walking, cycling and public transport networks, and where appropriate provide enhanced facilities, as this will ensure that there is the maximum potential to use these modes as attractive alternatives to cars.

Sustainable travel & major new developments

6.21 Proposals for major new development set out in this plan provide an opportunity to create a step change in establishing sustainable travel modes, particularly in the case of the proposed new garden communities. Management of travel demand will occur through providing retailing, jobs, services and facilities within the new communities to help reduce the need to travel, and the communities will be integrated and connected with the rest of North Essex and beyond through excellent public transport links providing a step change in sustainable travel patterns and will also reduce any adverse impact they might have on the highway network. Provision for car travel will include an emphasis on the use of new technology such as electric and ultra-low emission vehicles. Strategies for car usage will include car sharing, car clubs and appropriate car parking strategies.

6.22 To maximise the use of public transport new forms of high quality rapid transit networks will be provided to connect the proposed garden communities to existing urban centres such as Colchester and Braintree; key destinations such as the University of Essex; and key transport interchanges in North Essex. To achieve the desired step change in sustainable transport this infrastructure will be identified in subsequent development plan documents and need to be funded and provided early in the development phase.

Garden Communities

6.23 The challenge in the Garden Communities will be to create a community in which people move in around in a different way to which most of the existing towns in North Essex currently do. Networks need to give priority to people for short everyday trips to link people to work, education, retail, leisure, creating an independent safe environment.

6.24 The new garden communities will seek to manage travel demand, providing retailing, jobs, services and facilities within the site to help reduce the need to travel, and integrate and connect with the rest of North Essex and beyond through public transport to promote sustainable travel patterns and reduce adverse impacts on the highway network. The North Essex Garden Communities Charter seeks to ensure that land use planning of the new communities maximises the provision and use of sustainable transport internally and connects externally to key urban centres.

6.25 To maximise the use of public transport new forms of high quality rapid transit networks will be provided to serve existing urban centres such as Colchester and Braintree; key destinations such as the University of Essex; and key transport interchanges in North Essex. To achieve the desired step change in sustainable transport this infrastructure will need to be funded and provided early in the development phase.

6.26 Consistent with healthy living, safe, attractive and convenient walking and cycling routes will maximise active mode choice. Connectivity will be improved across barriers such as rail lines and major roads to bring together communities Provision for car travel will include an emphasis on the use of new technology such as electric and ultra-low emission vehicles. Strategies for car usage will include car sharing, car clubs and appropriate car parking strategies.

B. Education

6.27 New development must provide for the educational needs of new communities and this is set out in more detail within the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. This will involve the expansion of existing schools where feasible and the construction of new schools, together with provision for special educational needs, early years and childcare places. Education requirements will need to be based on a strong understanding of future pupil numbers, with co-operation between county, district and borough councils. A range of educational opportunities will need to be addressed as part of a sustainable growth strategy, including practical vocational training, apprenticeships, and further and higher education.

C. Healthcare

6.28 The authorities will need to work with the NHS, Public Health and local health partnerships to ensure adequate provision and range of healthcare facilities to support new and growing communities and this is set out in more detail within the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. This will be particularly important given the ageing profile of existing and future residents. There is already a need for more and better quality health care facilities across North Essex with some areas having relatively poor access to health care facilities. Health objectives will also be delivered through providing safe, attractive and convenient routes for walking and cycling, and maximising participation in active modes of travel. Support will be given to to meet cross-boundary need for hospice facilities.

D. Broadband

6.29 The NPPF indicates how high quality communications infrastructure is crucial for sustainable growth. The availability of high speed and reliable broadband, particularly in rural areas, is a key factor in unlocking new development opportunities and ensuring that people can access services online and work from home.

6.30 Fast broadband connections and telecommunications are an increasingly important requirement to serve all development. New development should contribute to the creation of a comprehensive and effective network in both urban and rural areas to promote economic competitiveness and to reduce the need to travel. The priority is to secure the earliest availability for universal broadband coverage and fastest connection speeds for all existing and new developments. Developers are encouraged to engage with broadband providers. Where provision is possible broadband must be installed on an open access basis and which will need to be directly accessed from the nearest British Telecom exchange and threaded through resistant tubing to enable easy access to the fibre optic cable for future repair, replacement or upgrading.

(33) Policy SP5: Infrastructure and Connectivity

Development must be supported by provision of infrastructure, services and facilities that are identified to serve the needs arising from new development.

The following are strategic priorities for infrastructure provision or improvements within the strategic area:

Transport

  • New and improved infrastructure required to support economic growth, strategic and site-specific priorities outlined in the second part of each Local Plan
  • Substantially improved connectivity by promoting more sustainable travel patterns, introducing urban transport packages to increase transport choice, providing better public transport infrastructure and services, and enhanced inter‐urban transport corridors
  • Increased rail capacity, reliability and punctuality; and reduced overall journey times by rail
  • Support changes in travel behaviour by applying the modal hierarchy and increasing opportunities for sustainable modes of transport that can compete effectively with private vehicles
  • Prioritise public transport, particularly in the urban areas, including new and innovative ways of providing public transport including;
    • high quality rapid public transit networks and connections, in and around urban areas with links to the new Garden Communities
    • maximising the use of the local rail network to serve existing communities and locations for large-scale growth
    • a bus network that is high quality, reliable, simple to use, integrated with other modes and offers flexibility to serve areas of new demand
    • promoting wider use of community transport schemes
  • Improved road infrastructure and strategic highway connections to reduce congestion and provide more reliable journey times along the A12, A120, and A133 to improve access to markets and suppliers for business, widen employment opportunities and support growth
  • Improved junctions on the A12 and other main roads to reduce congestion and address safety
  • A dualled A120 between the A12 and Braintree
  • A comprehensive network of segregated walking and cycling routes linking key centres of activity contributing to an attractive, safe, legible and prioritised walking/cycling environment
  • Develop innovative strategies for the management of private car use and parking including support for electric car charging points.

Education

  • Provide sufficient school places in the form of expanded or new primary and secondary schools together with early years and childcare facilities, with larger developments setting aside land and/or contributing to the cost of delivering land for new schools where required
  • Facilitate and support provision of practical vocational training, apprenticeships, and further and higher education

Health

  • Ensure that essential healthcare infrastructure is provided as part of new developments of appropriate scale in the form of expanded or new healthcare facilities including primary and acute care; pharmacies; dental surgeries; opticians, supporting community services including hospices, treatment and counselling centres.
  • Require new development to maximise its positive contribution in creating healthy communities and minimise its negative health impacts, both in avoidance and mitigation, as far as is practicable.

Broadband

Roll-out of superfast broadband across North Essex to secure the earliest availability for universal broadband coverage and fastest connection speeds for all existing and new developments (residential and non-residential), where all new properties allow for the provision for superfast broadband in order to allow connection to that network as and when it is made available.

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