Chelmsford City Council and Countryside Zest - delivering a new community

Countryside Zest (Beaulieu Park) LLP (a 50/50 joint venture between Countryside Properties PLC and L&Q) has been collaborating closely with Chelmsford City Council to masterplan and deliver a vibrant neighbourhood to the North East of Chelmsford known as Beaulieu.

Countryside Zest has had a clear focus on place making at Beaulieu. The new community of 3,600 homes of which 27 per cent are affordable, includes 176 acres of public open space together with new schools, business space, shops and major infrastructure.

Since being identified as an area of growth, Chelmsford City Council and Countryside Zest have actively cooperated in order to bring forward this significant new development to the North East of Chelmsford. The first neighbourhood, Beaulieu Park, which comprises 615 homes was completed in 2005. Following this success, Countryside Zest and Chelmsford City Council worked together in the promotion of a new larger neighbourhood which was promoted through the local plan process and a subsequent area action plan.

Beaulieu has been a strategic site of Countryside’s for over 20 years and we have worked closely with Chelmsford City Council to develop and deliver a highly successful landscape-led masterplan scheme. Our ongoing relationship with the city council has enabled all parties involved to identify opportunities and to overcome inevitable problems associated with a site of this scale.

Andrew Carrington, Managing Director of Strategic Land at Countryside Zest

Fortnightly meetings between Countryside Zest and officers have aided the planning process together with regular high level meetings and site visits with members and officers from Chelmsford City Council to review progress on the overall development. The introduction of a case specific planning officer, funded through a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA), has permitted 30 applications to be approved between May 2013 and May 2017, demonstrating the benefits of creating partnerships between authority and developer. Through the section 106 agreement over £80 million will be invested in infrastructure to benefit the local area.

In addition to significant education payments, Countryside Zest have provided land for the county’s first all-through (primary and secondary) school which will be located onsite. These elements have all combined to form a deep understanding and strong partnership, which has been a key driver in delivering the project.

Planning proactively through partnerships has filtered into many other aspects of the development. Beaulieu Square’s neighbourhood centre will serve as the heart of the community and includes a new community centre which will be run by the Beaulieu Community Trust, an equal partnership between Springfield Parish Council and Beaulieu Churches. Through the design process Countryside Zest have encouraged the involvement of the trust and local residents to ensure the community centre meets the needs of both new and existing residents.

Planning permission has also been granted for the delivery of a new railway station at Beaulieu, a key piece of infrastructure for the city. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Countryside Zest, Essex County Council, Chelmsford City Council and Network Rail demonstrates the strength of the commitment of this partnership. Countryside Zest will contribute over £20 million towards the funding of the new station.

With over 170 acres set aside for parks and open spaces at Beaulieu, a key focus has been on securing its long term stewardship. This has been achieved through a partnership with the Land Trust, a national land management charity. Through Beaulieu Estates Management, the Land Trust will manage and maintain the parks and open spaces to be provided across the scheme in perpetuity. Creating this partnership has allowed local residents to actively become engaged with preserving and enhancing the local environment. Through this partnership, Beaulieu will continue to remain an attractive and healthy place to live long after the project has been delivered.Building on the success of the partnership at Beaulieu, Countryside Zest is working with the city council and other landowners in the promotion of a site on the northern boundary of Beaulieu to be included as a strategic growth site for the 2021-2036 Chelmsford Local Plan.

As the largest new neighbourhood in Chelmsford, Beaulieu is a key growth area for the city. Working closely with Countryside Zest has enabled us to ensure the effective delivery of new homes, community facilities and much needed infrastructure. The partnership approach adopted by all parties has enabled a strong relationship to be maintained between all parties, including other stakeholders, throughout the development process.

David Green, Director of Sustainable Communities, Chelmsford City Council.