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Failure of Uttlesford's second housing plan puts pressure on Bishop's Stortford

The failure of Uttlesford council's second draft district plan – the blueprint for development in the district – has serious implications for Bishop's Stortford.

Cllr Keith Warnell, chairman of the town council's planning and development committee, has spelled out the dangers.

For more than a decade, he and his colleagues have been voicing their concerns about how delivering housing targets in Uttlesford could put strain on infrastructure and services in Stortford.

Developer Fairfield explicitly stated that residents of a new settlement it was planning between Henham and Elsenham would look to Stortford to meet their leisure and shopping needs. The development was the central plank of UDC's first failed plan, which was abandoned in 2014.

The second strategy focused on three new centres of population – including an estate off the A120 at Easton Park near Dunmow – and the prospect of train commuters heading for Stortford as the nearest station for a fast link to London has been a cause of concern for the council.

Cllr Warnell, who is also deputy mayor, said after inspectors rejected the second plan as unsound: "This is, of course, a worry for us and for Uttlesford and is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs all round.

"When a local plan is out of date, all housing and development policies are invalid and developers can build largely where they like in the district within general planning regulations, and, if contested by the local authority, will often appeal and win that appeal on grounds of a silent local plan.

"Specifically, the potential impact on Bishop's Stortford is that developers could build right up to our boundary, and as we are the largest local town with an increasing number of great facilities here, there would be an impact on traffic, parking, public transport, education provision and the like when we get nothing from Uttlesford District Council in Section 106/New Homes Bonus to improve our facilities and infrastructure."

He warned: "To be fair, there is a duty of co-operation between district councils on development and impacts thereof, but with no local plan, there is minimal control. An earlier iteration of their plan saw development proposals up to the Essex edge of Birchanger Wood and along the Essex side of Hallingbury Road, literally on our doorstep by yards!"

Cllr Warnell conceded: "There could be a benefit to local business here with increased footfall, increased employment and business opportunities, but overall this is a worry because of the lack of control, and as this is the second failure, this uncontrolled situation will likely continue for some time."

East Herts Council's local plan passed inspection at the first attempt and was adopted in October 2018 as the framework for development in the district.

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