'Hellsenham' planning inquiry inspector gives go-ahead for developer Fairfield's estate of 350 homes between Elsenham and Henham
A Government planning inspector has delivered an unwelcome Christmas present to villagers in Elsenham, Henham and Stansted following a public inquiry.
Developer Fairfield Homes appealed after planning authority Uttlesford District Council failed to determine its application for permission to build 350 homes and a primary school on land straddling Elsenham and Henham within the allotted 13-week period.
It was allowed by inspector David Wildsmith, overriding significant local concerns about the impact of traffic on the area, particularly Stansted’s Grove Hill.
The announcement has left residents of the three parishes “extremely disappointed” and, for now, brings to a close an 18-year fight which has seen two previous appeals rejected by the Planning Inspectorate and cost parishioners £400,000.
And it comes with a warning that this could be “the first of many such decisions” with the absence of a Local Plan in place for Uttlesford.
Nick Baker, chairman of Henham Parish Council and the Save Our Village campaign, blamed UDC for its failure to determine the application in time – which led Fairfield to appeal – its failure to produce a Local Plan and Essex Highways, which he claimed had effectively ignored local voices.
“Essex Highways have been a shambles on this all the way through. We were not only fighting the inspectorate but our local politicians in the sense of Essex Highways. Now we have a development on a site that has already been determined by two previous inspectors and a housing minister to be unsuitable,” said Mr Baker. “It’s very disappointing for the residents who raised huge amounts of money to fight this and shows that local democracy is not listened to in these matters.”
Cllr Melvin Caton, who with Cllr Alan Dean represents Stansted North on UDC, said developments in Elsenham in the past five to 10 years had significiantly impacted Stansted.
“One of the disappointments of the inspector’s decision is that he basically said there was capacity on Grove Hill, but I find that difficult to reconcile with the reality of day-to-day living in Stansted,” he said.
“This is not a very good Christmas present for Elsenham and not a good sign for the district in general because we’re going to get more and more of these applications in our villages which are going to be very difficult to resist.
“And I’m not surprised the villages feel let down – Essex Highways were the crucial consultees and backed out at the last minute of making any highways objections.”