North-west Essex plan for 18,000-home communities rejected
Plans for 18,000 homes in three new developments have been criticised as "unsound" by planning inspectors.
Uttlesford District Council's local plan with the new "garden communities" in north-west Essex needs "almost complete redrafting", they added.
The inspectors, who held hearings in July, said a new plan to address house building needs should be drawn up.
The council's portfolio holder for planning John Evans said he was "disappointed" by the criticism.
Garden Community schemes across England, including north Essex but excluding north-west Essex, were on Tuesday offered a share of £6m from the government.
Uttlesford council had put forward plans for new developments at North Uttlesford, Easton Park and west of Braintree.
The two inspectors have not reached their final decision on the plans but said to move forward required the "virtual rewriting of the plan" by the council which they say will take up to two years' work.
It comes as a second round of inspectors' hearings have recently got under way for the neighbouring North Essex Garden Communities plan which involves 43,000 new homes over 50 years.
Inspectors wrote on 14 January to the council saying they "should delete the North Uttlesford garden community" plan as it "performs the least well against the Garden Community Principles" and criticised the "highly-sensitive" location because of its "significant buried archaeology" of Roman and Anglo-Saxon interest.
They concluded: "We are not persuaded that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the garden communities... have been justified. We therefore cannot conclude that these fundamental aspects of the plan are sound."
Mr Evans said: "We are clearly disappointed with the outcome as it does not provide certainty for many Uttlesford communities. We will need to take time to consider the ramifications and prepare a set of actions."
The North Essex Garden Communities project has received a £550,000 share of the government funding to develop plans for the three proposed Garden Communities across the Colchester, Tendring and Braintree districts.
John Spence, Essex County Council cabinet member for adults, said: "We welcome the confirmation of extra funding... which is a vote of confidence in our ability to deliver garden communities in north Essex through our partnership work."