If you ask people for their views on Essex, no doubt you would be regaled with tales involving TOWIE, nights in Sugar Hut, white stiletto heels and of course the ‘natural’ orange glow which the local weather provides its inhabitants.
However, leaving all outdated stereotypes aside, Essex is a county on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down. Spiralling costs in London have forced commuters to look further afield for a home which has room to swing a cat for under £500,000. As a result of the increase in demand, parts of South Essex are now beginning to experience a property bubble due to a number of factors including good transport links.
With Crossrail due to open next year and run as far into Essex as Shenfield, it will join a host of existing fast, regular and reliable (according to Greater Anglia at least) train and tube services into London – exactly what is required for a booming commuter belt.
However, it’s not just public transport which is helping to fuel the property boom – the county’s strategic road network is also proving to be a popular draw for homeowners and housebuilders alike. You only have to drive down the A12 or A120 to see a host of national housebuilders proudly flying their flags to promote new sites, and to remind local landowners that they are looking for further acquisitions.
Since gaining its City status in 2012, Chelmsford is now very much at the heart of the property boom in Essex. House prices locally are soaring and the outskirts of the City resemble more of a constant building site than new settlement.
To help ease the strain on growth of existing towns and villages, Essex is being bold and pressing ahead with plans for Garden Communities across the county. Whilst in principle it is the type of bold thinking that is required to deal with the housing situation locally, the one issue which could impact the deliverability of such schemes is the poor infrastructure and connecting roads.
Whilst the large major roads connect the county to London, Ipswich and beyond, interconnecting roads are somewhat lagging behind. The fact that Essex is home to the second largest amount of country lanes, second only to Devon, speaks volumes. Rather than the usual politician language of an ‘infrastructure first’ approach to development, if these Garden Communities are going to be successful, actions really will speak louder than words.
It appears as though this idea is beginning to get through to the powers that be, as was highlighted at Snapdragon’s recent Breakfast Briefing, held in partnership with Boyer Planning. The event in Colchester where guest speakers included local MP Will Quince, Leader of Colchester Borough Council Cllr Paul Smith, and Director of Housing Growth and Strategy at Essex County Council Jamie Carswell. All three spoke about their recognition and understanding of ensuring that infrastructure was delivered ahead of the housing.
If Essex is going to continue to be a significant strategic county and help be a part of the solution to the so called ‘national housing crisis’, both local and national policymakers need to ensure that the much-needed investment for both infrastructure and services is delivered in order to help all housebuilders meet their targets, both large and small.
Building on a number of recent appointments and ongoing projects in the county, Snapdragon now has a dedicated Essex offering with a new office just opened in Chelmsford City Centre. If you would like to understand more about the services we offer or to chat about all things Essex, get in touch with our very own local resident, Joel Fayers:
Snapdragon Consulting, Elizabeth House, 28 Baddow Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 0DG