Residents for Uttlesford press ahead with local plan despite inspectors' warning
Uttlesford District Council is pressing ahead with scrutiny of its housebuilding plans by independent inspectors this week - rather than risk going back to the drawing board and finding space for a settlement the size of Bishop’s Stortford.
The new Residents for Uttlesford administration, which swept to power in May, was given the chance to pull back after it was noted the party had been a harsh critic of the draft Uttlesford local plan formulated by its Conservative predecessor.
Louise Crosby and Elaine Worthington, who began testing the plans for soundness at a session yesterday (Tuesday) previously wrote to the council to warn: “Residents for Uttlesford’s’ representations raised several significant concerns about the plan. These include a detailed objection to the sustainability appraisal. Other representations say that the plan is not justified or effective and is unsound in relation to the delivery of infrastructure, lack of provision of green infrastructure, lack of economic strategy, the lack of cognisance of the Stansted Airport Expansion, lack of financial modelling for the new settlements, lack of evidence to support the spatial strategy, inadequate transport study, missing air quality
assessment, objection to a site in Saffron Walden and conflict with the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) on a number of counts.
“These are fundamental objections that go to the heart of the plan’s strategy.”
They warned that if the new council was not convinced of the soundness of its own plan, it should consider withdrawing. In 2014, a first draft plan began the same examination process and was rejected for being unsustainable by the inspector and so far it has taken more than ten years and millions of pounds to come up with a strategy.
On Friday the council threw a further spanner in the works by referring proposals for Stansted Airport expansion back to its planning committee - despite approval for growth from 35m to 43m passengers per annum in November.
Uttlesford leader Cllr John Lodge said: The decision is a difficult one because R4U has had a number of concerns. However on balance to withdraw would be disastrous for all Uttlesford residents.
“It is critical to understand the impact to our communities if this plan was withdrawn or rejected. Previous UDC administrations have been working on it for more than a decade. It has been withdrawn, delayed or rejected multiple times. The delays have costs council taxpayers £millions. Every time there is a delay the number of new houses the government requires Uttlesford to provide goes up. Since 2011 the government’s requirement has doubled to more than 700 new homes a year, every year.
“This current plan requires us to take 7,000 additional houses because 7,000 have already been approved since the plan started. If the plan is withdrawn we are back to zero and our district will need to find room for more than 14,000 in our towns, villages and countryside – that is a similar size to Bishops Stortford.”
He warned the government could seize control of both the numbers and locations of new homes.