Uttlesford housing growth plan branded ‘shambolic’ and ‘ill-conceived’ by planning guru
22:33 28 May 2014
“Ill-conceived, ill-considered and ill-thought-out” was how a planning expert described Uttlesford District Council’s housing growth proposals.
Alan Storah, who was commissioned by Saffron Walden Town Council to write a report about the Local Plan, was presenting his findings at an extraordinary full council meeting in the town hall on Tuesday evening.
Town councillors unanimously agreed to use the reasoning in Mr Storah’s report as a basis for objecting to the plan as part of the final public consultation. Uttlesford is due to submit its development proposals to the Planning Inspector this autumn.
Just over 1,000 homes are set to be built on the east of Saffron Walden between now and 2031, with two separate housing schemes for a total of 367 homes being approved last month.
Addressing members of the town council, Mr Storah said: “Uttlesford’s draft Local Plan is exceptional and outstanding. Unfortunately it merits that description for all the wrong reasons – it is ill-conceived, ill-considered and ill-thought through.
“The plan is a salutary lesson in what not to do and how not to do it.”
He added that the document “fell desperately short of being fit for purpose” and “fails on every aspect”. It did not meet legal requirements, Mr Storah claimed, citing a lack of cross-border working, an unsustainable approach and a “shambolic” attempt at catering for the government-imposed increase in the amount of housing-building needed.
He added: “It has taken seven years for the plan to get this far and I suspect there is quite a way to go yet.”
Mr Storah also revealed what appeared to be a u-turn on policy by Uttlesford District Council.
In a document published in 2007, Walden was perceived by the district council to have “little capacity to accommodate significant new greenfield development on the edge of the town, due to impact on the historic character, the lack of capacity at the secondary school, sewerage disposal and poor air quality in parts of the central area as a result of existing traffic congestion”.
But in a 2012 document the town was seen as “a major focus for development because services and facilities are concentrated there, making it suitable for a larger scale of development”.
Mr Storah said: “So what has changed in five years? A shift in analysis that befits a group of primary school children as far as I can see.”
Cllr Ben Balliger said: “It has been brought to our attention that there has been a complete contradiction and a willingness to ignore by those putting the plan together. We have to acknowledge that and ask for why there has been such a turnaround in the conclusion [on potential housing development in Saffron Walden].”
Uttlesford was “failing in its duty”, according to Cllr David Watson, who also blasted the schooling situation in Walden, calling it an “absolute disgrace”.
Cllr Beryl Wardley said: “I agree totally with what Mr Storah has said. My concerns are about congestion, pollution and most of all that local people’s views have been totally disregarded.”