Straits Mill is a mixed former historical industrial and greenfield site comprising undulating, partially wooded and partially developed land on the northern gateway into Braintree.
The creation of this new community presented a number of design challenges which the proposals have responded to through a high quality residential-led mixed use neighbourhood for up to 1,000 new dwellings (30% affordable), land for a new 2FE primary school as part of a community hub, alongside a new centre for retail, local workspaces and healthcare, three hectares of SME business space, set amongst a high quality public open space.
The new community enhances the setting of the Blackwater River Corridor which is part of a ‘health and wellbeing network’ that passes through the neighbourhood. Complementing this the local community will also benefit from dedicated cycleways, a recreational cycle track through the existing woodland, sports facilities, wetland areas and public open space, including the provision of local growspaces and allotments.
For the local economy, the scheme will deliver significant job growth both during the construction phase - 552 full time jobs per month and through the operational phases via the Local Centre (up to 1,000sqm in size and up to 11,400sqm of employment floorspace), for the future residents of Straits Mill and for those of the surrounding area. The new neighbourhood is anticipated to generate 546 net additional jobs directly, whilst the primary school could generate a further 43-48 full-time and part-time positions.
Connecting people living at Straits Mill to wider job opportunities will also be significantly improved through enhancements to the cycle ways between the site and Braintree Town Centre and a S106 contribution towards the redevelopment of Braintree town centre bus station.
The new neighbourhood seeks to provide community benefit to all future residents of the development and residents living nearby through an emphasis on high quality access to the outdoors. The new community makes provision for green infrastructure, with connected open spaces and connections outwards to the wider landscape. Significant areas of public open space are provided with a range of types and characters, including community gardens and allotments, and an extended local nature reserve. Safe pedestrian routes and improved public rights of way are proposed to encourage walking. These measures will increase access for all to high quality outside spaces that will promote good physical and mental health and wellbeing.
In recognition of the outline nature of the application, we prepared a Design Code to inform the future reserved matters application. This Design Code captures the aspirations at the outline stage, ensuring that the high quality is embedded through the delivery stages.
The result was an exceptional application applauded by BDC Officers to Members in the Committee Report:
"Consequently, the level of detail submitted and the proposed quality of the proposal is considered by Officers to be very high and is underpinned by a carefully considered and detailed Design Code which future developers of land parcels on the site must adhere to. This will ensure both continuity and quality across the development and provides the Council with significantly greater certainty over what is being proposed than could otherwise be achieved."
- Up to 1,000 residential units
- Land for a new 2FE primary school
- 3ha of B1/B2 employment land with a co-located early years facility
- Local centre with A1-A5 uses
- Extended local nature reserve
- Retained and enhanced core woodland area
- 21.13ha of strategic green infrastructure
- Exemplar Design Code
"Straits Mill’s unique character and history has allowed us and the team to create a high quality residential-led mixed use development based around a strong network of green spaces and woodlands with community and healthy living at its heart. The proposals have been developed in collaboration with Braintree District Council and Essex County Council which has influenced the design and been instrumental in the success of the project. It has been a pleasure to work with all the stakeholders on this project." Gareth Wilson, Partner
The creativity brought to the outline stage by the inclusion of design teams early in the process will ensure that the outline parameters secure a high quality form of development and ultimately gave officers and members the confidence needed to support the proposals.
The Design Code produced collaboratively with the local authority also means it has become a benchmark that can be used again for other developments within Braintree to give a consistent level of quality, expectation and a speedier planning process.
Involved since 2015, our team, acting as planning and design lead, secured draft allocation of the site in the emerging Braintree Local Plan and prepared the outline planning application. Working closely with the local authority and key stakeholders prior to submission and during the determination process, with committee approving the scheme January 2020 subject to S106 which is shortly to be completed (September 2020), the positive outcome was a significant achievement for the design team and saw the application recommended for approval before the examination of the Braintree Local Plan.