Located to the north east of Chelmsford, England’s newest city, Chelmsford Garden Village will offer around 10,000 new homes and significant employment areas to support a new community of up to 30,000 people. Sustainably located alongside the A12, and within easy reach of Chelmsford city centre and the Great Eastern Main Line, it offers the best of town and country living.

The new Garden Village, allocated in Chelmsford’s Local Plan, is already underway, where early phases have delivered nearly 1,000 new homes at Beaulieu and Channels; a neighbourhood centre; Essex’s first all-through school for 5-18 year olds; and bus priority measures for rapid transit into the city centre. Key planned infrastructure includes a new rail station and the Chelmsford North East Bypass, submitted as Essex’s number one priority through the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

Future growth will deliver a new country park, 3,500 affordable homes, expansion to existing park-and-ride, and over 300 hectares of open space, of which 78 hectares is already being managed through the Land Trust, at Beaulieu. The Land Trust, a national land management charity, through Beaulieu Estates Management, will manage and maintain the parks and open spaces, ensuring their long-term stewardship.

A new community gardens comprising over 11 acres is also currently being created, which will host a community garden building, a formal garden and orchard area together with an informal area for ball games, offering numerous social opportunities to the community. The community garden will provide a space which is managed locally by the community, local schools and colleges, offering outdoor space for education and an opportunity to grow their own food. It provides a focal point and the opportunity to learn about food sustainability and healthy eating. In addition, there is the opportunity for the community to form a ‘Friends group’ to help manage woodland areas, forming a community woodland incorporating orchards, trails, public art, bug hotels and beekeeping; this has the potential to teach local school children about woodland management, wildlife, ecology and biodiversity. Running and cycling trails are provided throughout the development to provide safe and attractive routes, encouraging active everyday lifestyles.

The Beaulieu development already provides a key example of delivering community facilities with the opening of the Beaulieu Community Centre on 28 September 2018. The new Beaulieu Community Centre nestles in the Beaulieu Square Neighbourhood Centre and is run by The Beaulieu Community Trust (BCT), formed of representatives from Beaulieu Churches, Springfield Parish Council and local residents. Through the design process, Countryside Zest encouraged the involvement of the BCT and residents to ensure the community centre met the needs of both new and existing residents and they were able to influence the design. The community centre provides the first certified ‘Changing Places’ toilet and wet room with adjustable changing bench and hoist in the city to enable the centre to be used by all members of the community. With the community interest to run and maintain these facilities, it helps to generate a sustained income which can be reinvested back into these key facilities and services.

The positive working relationship between planners at the local authority and the development team has been a key factor in the delivery of Beaulieu and Channels so far. A Planning Performance Agreement has been entered on a yearly basis, and the local authority has a team dedicated to aid delivery of the development. Regular meetings take place between the local authority team and developers, considering current and future planning applications and the masterplan for the wider area. The larger area is included in the Chelmsford Local Plan, currently under examination by a Planning Inspector, and is being comprehensively masterplanned with the developers to secure A high-quality, sustainable development.

Further community spaces are being developed through the masterplan process, and community stewardship schemes are being developed by The Land Trust, including working with Writtle University College and sponsoring apprenticeships, all of which will be an important feature of the garden community.

The outcome of a garden communities bid submitted to government in late 2018 is imminent.

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