Braintree planners turn down offer for 200 homes due to cycle lane issues

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Plans for over 200 homes outside Witham were turned down after strong opposition and concerns over proposed cycle lanes.

The authority previously postponed a decision from October last year when it asked Bellway to fix its ‘Wacky Races’ style roads if it wanted to build 230 homes in Rivenhall.

The 17.1 hectares of farmland on land northeast of Rectory Lane in Rivenhall, adjoins a previous Bellway development for 385 homes still partly under construction.

Read more: Latest news for Braintree

The Highway Authority had said it accepted that the proposal would generate additional journeys on the local road network, although it added that cycling and walking would reduce car use to a level that was unlikely to have serious impact on the roads.

But the development’s cycleway along Collingwood Road in Witham has raised serious concerns, not least because of the safety of those using it.

Cllr Michael Lager, Leader of Witham City Council, told the planning committee on February 22 that the proposed route was still unsuitable, with the cycle path at its narrowest point being less than 1.5m wide.

He said: “Many of the objections raised at the previous meeting remain, but it is very important that the cycle route proposal is removed in favor of a better alternative route with details in the hands of the council and that the hedges existing ones are better protected.”

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Bellway Homes had applied for permission to obtain outline permission for up to 230 homes, public open spaces including sports fields and facilities and play parks.

But beyond concerns about road safety and the safety of cycle routes, Councilor James Abbott (Green, Silver End and Cressing) said the plans were speculative and the site had already been dismissed as unsuitable for the local plan .

He said: “This site is a major foray into the rural parish of Rivenhall and is an unallocated site.

“The local planning committee has rejected this site numerous times and twice specifically in 2016 and it was decided not to award the site.

“It can’t just be dismissed.

“A tremendous amount of work has gone into local plans and then turning around and saying it doesn’t matter is not acceptable.”

Labor leader Councilor David Mann (Bocking North) said: ‘In my view we need go no further than introduction.

“This is a proposal outside the settlement boundaries. It’s not in the local plan, it’s not in the emerging local plan, it’s on a site that was rejected by the local plan committee as recently as 2016 and a number of times before that.

“This is not an invited application. This is purely speculative.

“And the fact that it’s called phase four is a misnomer.

“Just because there’s a phase one, two and three doesn’t mean there should be a phase four.”

Steve Field, a highway engineer working for Bellway, said other options for other bike lanes had been investigated but none had been deliverable.

He said: ‘The Collingwood cycle lanes project is being continued as it is supported by Essex’s freeways having been designed with the latest cycle design principles.

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