Section 2 - Publication Draft Colchester Borough Local Plan
11.1 The unique characteristics of Colchester create specific issues, opportunities and challenges for the future, which need to be addressed by the Local Plan. The sub-regional issues identified in Section1 of the Plan, combined with the following issues for Colchester provide the basis and context for the development of the Section 2 Colchester Vision and Objectives, the Spatial Strategy and Policies.
Making the most of the Borough's location and links between communities
11.2 Spatially, Colchester benefits from its southeast location with good access to London, London Stansted Airport and the port of Harwich. The Borough's population has grown by 17.9% between 2001 and 2015 and was estimated to stand at 183,939 people in mid-2015. The Borough's growing population is accommodated within a spatial structure defined by the urban area at its centre, surrounded by a rural hinterland with three smaller centres, Tiptree, West Mersea and Wivenhoe. While Colchester is less deprived than Essex as a whole, two small areas in Colchester were in the top 10% most deprived in England in 2010, Magnolia in St. Andrew's Ward and St Anne's Estate in St Anne's ward. Sustainable development for the future will require the development of sustainable land use patterns that maximise accessibility between jobs, homes, services and facilities.
Deliver economic growth in response to new challenges and trends
11.3 Colchester has maintained good levels of employment growth over the last two decades with declining industrial employment being offset by a growth in office jobs. Colchester registered 92,300 workforce jobs in 2014 representing an increase of 20% over 1991 levels. This increase was higher than in the UK (14.6%) and similar to the East of England (19.6%), but was lower than employment growth recorded across Essex as a whole (27.9%) over the same period. The challenge for Colchester will be to retain existing office employers and to increase the supply of better quality modern space catering to small and start-up businesses.
Supporting the Town Centre as the heart of the Borough
11.4 Colchester Town Centre serves as a centre not only for the Borough but for a much wider area of North East Essex, with residents of Braintree, Maldon and Tendring districts travelling into the town to work, shop and use its community facilities. The Town Centre's present character reflects its rich and diverse history dating back to the Iron Age and including its period as the Roman capital of Britain, its importance as a wool and cloth centre in medieval and Tudor times, and its focus as a hub for Victorian and 20th century industry. In addition to its wealth of historic buildings and environments the Town Centre is also valued for its shops; employment opportunities; institutions of learning and culture; and services catering to a wide variety of users. The Local Plan seeks to retain the pre-eminence and vitality of the Town Centre in the face of changing economic and lifestyle trends and the rapid pace of technological innovation.
11.5 Colchester delivered 12,644 new homes between 2001/02 and 2014/15 at an average rate of 903 dwellings per year. Given the continuing pressures on the South East housing market, Colchester will need to maintain its good rate of delivery over the next plan period to meet the Objectively Assessed Need figure of 920 houses a year, while also ensuring that increasing quantity is matched with high design quality, a suitable housing mix and sustainable construction.
11.6 The car currently dominates the way people travel, with the 2011 Census showing that the car represents 55% of all journeys to work in the Borough. The Borough's self-containment rate (share of residents who also work within the Borough) was 69% in 2011, with 24,850 employed residents leaving the Borough to work. Of these 25% go to Greater London, 15% to Tendring District, 15% to Braintree District and 10% to Chelmsford City. The Local Plan will need to manage the continuing pressures of vehicle congestion and parking while developing practical solutions to minimise the need to travel and provide non-car based alternatives to movement around the Borough.
11.7 The following Vision sets out where we want to be in 2033. The objectives that follow address the issues, opportunities and problems faced by the Borough.
Colchester will be an active and welcoming town with its rich and prestigious heritage treasured and showcased for all to enjoy. Colchester will be acclaimed for the creative, innovative and sustainable ways in which it addresses the wide range of challenges facing the Borough, including climate change; population growth and its changing composition; new lifestyle and technological innovations; creating and maintaining strong safe, healthy communities; and shifting market forces.
The Council will work proactively to ensure that the historic Town Centre continues its role as the cultural and economic heart of the Borough and international visitor destination. The surrounding urban area of Colchester will continue to provide a focus for new housing and employment with good transport accessibility and links to green spaces within both urban areas and the adjacent countryside. Tiptree, Wivenhoe and West Mersea are the largest of the Borough's sustainable settlements and will provide essential services and facilities to their rural hinterland. The rural hinterland will remain home to an array of distinctive and thriving villages, set amidst beautiful landscapes and coastal areas which will be protected and enhanced for the enjoyment of all.
Colchester has made the most of its brownfield sites in recent years, revitalising large areas of the town, providing an array of high quality new homes, businesses, and facilities. Colchester will build on this progress with the delivery of a range of high quality greenfield developments and regenerating further brownfield sites where they become available. Working in partnership with our neighbours and local communities, two new exemplary Garden Communities to the East and West will become innovatively designed, sustainable communities enabling a strong sense of local identity, social inclusion, and involvement; well-co-ordinated and timely delivery of high quality infrastructure and facilities; good links to the Borough's primary hub at Colchester Town Centre; a range of market and affordable housing, and an array of job opportunities, together with opportunities for sport; renewable energy; leisure and recreation; walking and cycling, and growing produce.
The Borough will enable the provision of a wide range of new housing that addresses the need for affordable, well-designed and adaptable homes that meet the needs of a diverse market, including families, young people/students, and an increasing number of older residents. New development will be designed and located to ensure that residents are, from the start, able to reach a wide range of destinations using sustainable transport methods. The Council with its partners will pursue a range of funding options to ensure the timely delivery of new infrastructure and facilities.
Colchester will boast a diverse and thriving economy within a prosperous South East region, supported by high quality digital infrastructure and accessible locations for new employment development, providing job opportunities for all. The Borough Council will pursue commercial opportunities that support job creation and generate revenue to help sustain the delivery of essential public services to the whole community, working in partnership with public and private sector partners. Colchester will provide an array of high quality training and educational opportunities at all levels, providing equality of opportunity for all. In particular, the University of Essex will grow in its role as a leading higher education institution, developing strong links to the new Garden Community as well as the Town Centre and East Colchester.
The Objectives for the Borough can be broken down into three themes as set out below:
1. Sustainable Growth
- Ensure new development is sustainable and minimises the use of scarce natural resources and addresses the causes and potential impacts of climate change, and encourages renewable energy.
- Focus new development at sustainable locations to create new communities with distinctive identities whilst supporting existing communities, local businesses, and sustainable transport.
- Provide high quality housing of all tenures at accessible locations to accommodate our growing community.
- Ensure there are sufficient sites allocated in the right locations to support employment growth over the plan period.
- Focus development at accessible locations which support public transport, walking and cycling, and reduce the need to travel, and enhance sustainable travel connections.
- Protect and enhance the vitality and viability of Colchester's historic Town Centre.
- Secure infrastructure to support new development.
- Promotion of healthy lifestyles through the provision and enhancement of sport, leisure and recreation facilities, public open space and green infrastructure.
2. Natural Environment
- Protect the countryside and coast.
- Develop a green infrastructure network across the Borough.
- Ensure new development avoids areas of flood risk and reduces future flood risk where possible.
- Protect and enhance landscapes, biodiversity, green spaces, air and water quality, and river corridors.
- Protect and enhance designated sites, geodiversity and soils.
- Ensure the unique qualities of different communities and environments in the Borough are identified, protected and enhanced through policies and allocations which ensure high quality, consistency, equity and responsiveness to local character.
- Promote high quality design and sustain Colchester's historic character, found in its buildings, townscape and archaeology.
- Improve streetscapes, open spaces and green links to provide attractive and accessible spaces for residents to live, work and play.