Essex is a diverse county, stretching as it does from London out to the east coast, encompassing both very rural and densely populated urban areas. In this report we will focus on the market in the more developed part of the county, namely the south western corner.
First a few fundamentals. Essex is one of the largest non-metropolitan counties in the country. As a result of factors such as the strong economy, migration and popularity with those moving out of London it is, according to Essex County Council, one of the most rapidly growing areas in the UK. The current population of 1.4m is forecast (based like most current statistics on pre-Brexit figures) to reach 1.65m by 2025.
The economy is as diverse as the geography. Key industries include electronics, pharmaceuticals and financial services, which are notable in Chelmsford and Harlow. The Basildon/Brentwood area has a particularly buoyant economy, being the headquarters for several multinationals. The Thames Gateway area, from London Docklands to Southend, was designated an area for economic development in the 1990s and transport and logistics industries are notable. The 2016 Budget has created a new Thames Estuary Growth Commission 2050, under the supervision of Lord Heseltine, to further regenerate and develop the area.
The area has an extensive transport infrastructure which helps to support its buoyant economy as well as making it an important London commuter location. A report by The Telegraph has identified Basildon, Harlow, Braintree and Southend as being in the 'top ten most affordable London commuting locations'. Crossrail should be fully open and serving Brentwood and Shenfield in 2019.
The M25 and Dartford Crossing is something of a choke point. There is a proposal for a new tunnel, the Lower Thames Crossing, linking Essex with Kent including a major road between the M25 and M2/A2 towards the south coast ports. Public consultation has concluded and a decision on whether to proceed is expected at the end of 2016. The tunnel could open in 2027 and estimates suggest it could create 25,000 jobs and see 21,000 new homes in the immediate area, plus give direct access to the new Ebsfleet 'garden city' project across the river where 15,000 homes could be built over 15-20 years.