I am very much aware of the concern of many of my constituents about the amount of new housing either under planned or already under construction in both Maldon and Chelmsford local authority areas.
The new South Maldon Garden Suburb which will consist of 1,400 houses is growing by the day and the North Heybridge Suburb of another 1,500 homes is in the early construction phase. However, even with these developments, Maldon District is still below the amount of new housing that is forecast to be required. For this reason, a further review of the Local Development Plan is being conducted with a view to identifying the best areas to accommodate another 4,500 homes. The consultation on this closed earlier this year along with a call for sites which resulted in a large number of submissions from local landowners and others. These are being considered to establish whether they are technically possible but it has not yet been decided even which part of the District is more suitable for additional housing growth. Once this has been done, the majority of suggested sites are likely to be rejected at this time if they are outside the areas identified and those remaining will undergo further evaluation and consultation.
In Chelmsford City Council area, a similar exercise is underway and a further consultation is due to take place in August. However, under the existing Local Development Plan, it is already proposed to build over 1,000 homes in the north of South Woodham Ferrers.
I am in no doubt of the need for more housing as I see this daily in contacts from constituents who are either in need of housing or rehousing in bigger homes. There is a very severe shortage locally which has resulted in long waiting lists, even in the most urgent cases. However, I am concerned sat the imposition of arbitrary figures by central Government which unless met results in the Planning Inspectorate overturning local decisions and allowing speculative applications for developments which are clearly unsuitable. This needs to be addressed nationally and I have already raised this with Ministers and will do so again as the Government’s new planning reforms are debated in Parliament.
It is also essential that we have investment in local infrastructure to support the new housing that is being built and I am in regular contact with local authorities and other bodies about this;
Schools: The new South Maldon Garden Suburb will include a new Primary School for 420 pupils which is due to open in September 2024. New Primary schools are also proposed in North Heybridge and in South Woodham Ferrers. It is also intended to undertake a major expansion of the Plume School to accommodate the new Secondary pupils and I am in regular dialogue with the School and Essex County Council to ensure the necessary funding is available.
The NHS: Our local GP surgeries have been under considerable pressure, since the Covid pandemic and this has resulted in long waiting lists and difficulties in obtaining appointments. I am in regular contact with the new Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System which replaces the previous Clinical Commissioning Groups: Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System (ics.nhs.uk) and the new Primary Care Networks: Witham and Maldon PCN (covering Blackwater Surgery), Phoenix PCN (covering Longfield and Tollesbury), Aegros Healthcare PCN (covering Danbury Medical Centre, Chelmsford City Health PCN (covering Stock Surgery) and Dengie and South Woodham Ferrers PCN (covering 8 Surgeries within the constituency). A number are recruiting new GPs such as Longfield which has two additional salaried GPs and an Advanced Nurse Practitoner. Discussions are also continuing about the new Maldon Health Hub. Finally, I am also very much aware of the concern about poor response times of the East of England Ambulance Service and recently visited the Operations Centre at Chelmsford to meet the new Chief Executive, Tom Abell (see below)
Roads: Earlier in the year, I invited County Councillor Lee Scott, the Cabinet Member for Highways, to visit Maldon and South Woodham Ferrers to see both specific stretches of road with problems as well as the larger concern over the congestion on the Burnham Road in South Woodham Ferrers which will be increased by the proposed development there. I am also discussing with the County Council the proposed A12 Widening Scheme – this will upgrade the existing A12 to three lanes between Junction 19 (Boreham) and Junction 25 (Marks Tey) at a cost of £1.3 billion. However, the current proposal removes the existing Junctions at Hatfield Peverel (20a and 20b) and proposes a new junction 21. The current design is a missed opportunity and is likely to put further pressure on local roads.
Water and Sewage: At my recent meeting with Anglian Water, we discussed the pressure on local sewerage caused by new development. They are confident that the Maldon Water Recycling Centre will cope but I am continuing to press them to invest more in treatment and to investigate complaints of discharges elsewhere.