Infrastructure issues should be the priority, not houses – Saffron Walden councillor

Cllr Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council.

Cllr Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council. - Credit: Archant

The leader of Uttlesford District Council has once again been forced to defend his party’s handling of the much-maligned Local Plan – claiming that discussing infrastructure needs first would be “putting the cart before the horse”.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Saffron Walden Mike Hibbs had argued that it was time discussions began about how people would like Saffron Walden to look in the future.

This would include setting out needs for education, transport and health, he said, “rather than just asking developers where they would like to build houses”.

But leader of the Conservative-run council, Howard Rolfe, hit back. Education and health needs were being taken care of, he said, referencing the Reporter’s exclusive story last week about the expansion plans for RA Butler Academy, and more in the pipeline for Katherine Semar Schools.

On roads, he said Essex County Council – which was tasked with coming up with a transport plan, including a possible £1million link road between Thaxted Road and Radwinter Road – was happy.

“The Planning Inspector wanted to understand a little more about how the infrastructure would work,” Cllr Rolfe, pictured, said of the hearing at the end of last year when the Local Plan for the whole district was deemed inadequate.

“The link road is dependent on two or three of the [major] planning applications for Saffron Walden going ahead, of which one for Kier [for up to 300 homes off Thaxted Road] we will hear the outcome of some time in March.”

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Cllr Hibbs had raised the point about the need for a discussion on infrastructure after attending a business meeting.

He said the Saffron Walden Town Council, of which he is also a member, was now putting together a neighbourhood plan based on what councillors and residents wanted the town to look like in the future.

“Instead of going out for a call for development sites shouldn’t we be asking what we want the district to look like in 20 years’ time? Where should the roads be? What can we do about school places? How about health services? It shouldn’t just be saying to developers where would they like to build houses.”

Cllr Hibbs added: “The neighbourhood plan for Saffron Walden will address exactly this issue and is a really positive thing being worked on.”