Focus turns to possibility of building new town in Uttlesford in the wake of Planning Inspector’s report

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- Credit: Archant

The possibility of having to build a new town in Uttlesford is the latest twist in the long-running housing saga, following the Planning Inspector’s “damning” final report on the Local Plan.

Leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Howard Rolfe has not ruled out the idea now that the plan to put 2,100 homes in Elsenham appears dead in the water.

Inspector Roy Foster, in his report published on Monday, expanded on the issues he outlined in the summary statement on December 3, which saw the Local Plan thrown out on the grounds Elsenham was an unsustainable location for major development and because there was a need for a greater number of houses across the district as a whole.

In his conclusion he said that new settlements “may form an appropriate means for catering for the future long-term growth of the district”.

Speaking about the need for a single settlement, Cllr Rolfe said: “That has to be one of the options.

“The inspector has referred to a single settlement – we cannot rule anything in or out at this stage but everything will be totally based on an objective assessment.”

When asked to speculate about where a new settlement could be built, he replied: “It would be wholly inappropriate to comment at this stage”, saying that would “defy the principle of objectivity”.

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“We will assess what the options are when we do a call for sites,” Cllr Rolfe said, adding that the process would be “transparent”.

Fears about the damage a single settlement could do to the district have been raised, with Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate councillor Mike Hibbs saying it would “threaten the characters of Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden”.

He said: “I think wherever it goes there are going to be severe implications. For a single settlement it has to be big and that is what is worrying me. Some people have said it will be 10,000 houses which is a hell of a lot of people.

“It is considerably bigger than what we have been talking about already – basically a new town.”

In his report, Mr Foster said there needs to be a 10 per cent increase in the 523 homes the council had set as the number needed to be built each year – equating to 1,120 more over a 20-year period.

The plan had set out sites for the building of 10,460 homes between 2011 and 2031.

UDC says the findings mean the authority will be able to build on its existing evidence base rather than tearing up the plan and starting again, with a working group made up of cross-party membership recommending revisions in preparation of a revised plan in the new year.

To read the inspector’s statement in full, visit uttlesford.gov.uk/localplanexamination.

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