Inquiry update – A local view

A local resident and No Brook Green supporter had this to say this morning to the inquiry. Hear Hear.

“I know that the developer will argue that the appeal site is just a useful pathway network through some fields. That’s how he wants you to view it. And it is true to say he would be factually accurate to describe it as such.

He wants you to form the view that it is really nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. He has employed very able and expensive “experts” who have visited the site a couple of times to persuade you as convincingly as they can of that. But on that score, he is so very wrong. It is so much more than a pathway network through some unremarkable fields. Its unique. It really is extraordinary and very special. It’s highly valuable. It is so hard to articulate – but you’ll experience it for yourself the moment you go there. As for me, I stand here as a new mother who has found the Flitch and surrounding rights of way which criss-cross the appeal site to be a life line.

I have walked and enjoyed the Flitch Way and all the surrounding rights of way in the appeal site on a daily basis for 5 years with my dog and, for the last 11 months, with my baby in her pram. We have seen the seasons change and admired the countryside from the flitch with its lovely views in all its glory. I can honestly say without the daily access this past year to this beautiful linear country Park, surrounded by open views across wonderful countryside and wildlife, and the peace it provides I would have most probably gone slightly insane.

To see the Flitch become an urbanized sealed footpath or high speed cycleway through a housing estate and to lose all those long walks on rights of way around the appeal site enjoying open countryside, the river and brooks and views of the historic building Naylinghurst would, for me and for many others, be devastating. Frankly, I would no longer use it. It would have lost all the elements that make it so valuable and so special. That would in no way be compensated by the fact it might be marginally easier to push the pram along a sealed surface –in fact I don’t struggle with that currently in all weathers in any event. In fact it would be worse for my dog to walk on, especially in heat as we experienced this summer.

The developer could do as much “mitigation” as possible – but in reality there would be no escaping the fact that we were in the middle of a housing estate – the daily living noises, the views – one just has to look at what its like the other side of Pods Brook Road to get a good idea what would happen. I could just as easily walk my daughter along the parallel roadway if that is what I wanted – indeed Rayne Road would at least have countryside views on one side still! I use the Flitch Way and the public rights of way along the appeal site precisely because of what they offer in terms of views, countryside, tranquility and for the sense of getting away from it all.

Today’s children are attached to electronic devices and surrounded by modern day technology. I want my child to be connected with nature and this would take away my local access to that opportunity along with hundreds of others particularly those in Braintree whose ONLY access to open countryside on foot is this appeal site. I would desist in using it as would so many families in Rayne, Braintree and those from further afield.

Having moved from Nottinghamshire 6 years ago it was important to me to find something similar in Essex. I wanted to find a village home with access via foot to countryside walks. It was only when I moved to the village of Rayne 3 years ago that I found I could finally called Essex my home. I have made some truly wonderful friends by virtue of our shared experience of walking the beautiful flitch. I love being a part of this village with such an amazing community spirit. It saddens me to think that our children and grandchildren may not get to enjoy the pleasures of this area as we do today because of a predatory developer that wants to build a highly inappropriate development ill suited to its environment. In fact, I would be ashamed to tell them that we let it happen. As the No Brook Green Committee slogan rightly says – this is simply the wrong place, the wrong time and the wrong solution.

My opposition to this development started while sat stationary at the back of springwood industrial estate in an hour of queuing traffic to reach Rayne, something I have done too many times to count. I read about this development and thought how on earth can the current infrastructure of Braintree withstand a 1600 home development and all the additional traffic and was deeply saddened at the thought of loosing the flitch in all but name. I decided to try in help in any way I could and offered my skills to the No Brook Green group. I really felt the community spirit of Rayne and got an understanding of just how important the appeal site is to so many people. In fact haven’t spoken to one single person from anywhere in the District in these 2 ½ years who thinks this development would be good.

I believe that the determination and passion of the No Brook Green group and all of its hundreds of supporters speaks volumes. The hundred of hours that we have committed to fighting this with no money and no experience is a true measure of the very real harm this will cause. Harm that will significantly and demonstrably outweigh any benefits.

In fact, despite having no planning qualifications (and not being paid as much as the Acorn consultants!) we are the true experts of the area, it’s people and what is right for our community in both Rayne and Braintree. We are the people that this development effect and we are the people that will suffer for ever, long after the developer has moved onto his next business venture and long after the experts who seek to persuade you that this is really no great sacrifice are off enjoying the countryside somewhere else on their bikes. We all understand housing is needed but not at the cost here. Surely, some things are worth protecting? Does planning Policy really mean you are unable to protect even the most valuable sites?

This may all sound extremely emotional. Indeed I am emotional about this. I know planning isn’t an emotional decision. But it’s the reasons behind the emotion that are valid panning issues. The destruction of a valuable community asset, currently such a special place, accessible as it is by all residents of Braintree and Rayne and others would be devastating. We would grieve for its loss. Rayne would be forever merged with Braintree, losing it’s independent village character formed over many years. The way in which the separation is currently experienced – leaving the busy town of Braintree, travelling through open tranquil countryside either side of the Flitch Way and then emerging in Rayne – gives a real sense of leaving one busy community and entering another quite distinct village. How the developer can even argue that coalescence would not occur is just incomprehensible.

The passion of the opposition and the tenacious and organized way in which we have fought this development can be used as a litmus paper measuring the great harm this development would do. For all of the valid planning reasons set out in this appeal I hope and pray that you will make the right decision for everyone and recommend refusal of this extraordinarily harmful development.”

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