Councillors bemused by possible reversal of decision to reject 800 homes bid

Confusion reigns over whether the decision to reject a controversial bid to build 800 homes could be reversed.

Last week Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee narrowly rejected a proposal by The Fairfield Partnership for a new development between Elsenham and Henham.

The decision sparked a round of applause from more than 100 residents in attendance and had campaigners rejoicing over a hard-fought victory.

But councillors were alarmed this week after discovering the celebrations could be shortlived.

Speaking at a full council meeting on Tuesday, Cllr David Morson wanted clarification on the situation.

He asked about rumours of two meeting dates supposedly organised on October 23 and 28, which The Fairfield Partnership had allegedly been privy to and not councillors.

Chief executive John Mitchell dismissed any talk of a meeting on October 28, telling members he had “no idea where the suggestion of special meetings had come from”.

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Mr Mitchell explained that because there was still an ongoing consultation period running until October 17 it meant no decision notice on the planning committee’s resolution on October 2 could be issued before that expired.

If there were any “significant developments” that needed to be brought to the attention of the planning committee then this would be done on October 23, he said.

“What members wouldn’t thank us [as officers] for is not bringing any significant issue to their attention,” Mr Mitchell explained.

“If the developer took the case to a planning appeal then we would be made mincemeat of by any barrister worth his salt, were we not to provide you with any new information.

“There is no disrespect meant to members of the planning committee about their decision. This is merely a procedural matter.”

The council’s legal officer, Mike Perry, confirmed that if there were to be a re-run of the vote, which on Wednesday last week ended up six to five, the two members of the planning committee not at that meeting would be eligible to cast their vote.

This could potentially be an altering factor for the initial decision to refuse the application.