New report reveals 'negative effects' of local plan on sustainability in district

PUBLISHED: 10:05 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:21 10 January 2019

Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden. Picture: SaffronPhoto

SaffronPhoto 2016

The proposed Uttlesford local plan will have "negative effects" on encouraging sustainable transport and mitigating climate change, a new report has revealed.

An updated sustainability appraisal, a document which forms part of the local plan, has been published by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and the document, compiled by engineering firm AECOM, reveals marked differences with an earlier report carried out by Place Services - a public sector provider of planning services run by Essex County Council.

The sustainability appraisal assesses the local plan and its role is to promote sustainable development.

UDC was prompted to review its local plan before submitting the document for inspection in January after an appraisal for three new settlements between Braintree and Colchester, put together by North Essex Garden Communities, was deemed inadequate by a planning inspector earlier this year.

Anticipating similar problems might arise with the Uttlesford plan, the district council commissioned AECOM, a development and planning consultant, to review its appraisal.

A key conclusion of AECOM’s new report recommended the council should undertake a “fresh, objective and comparative appraisal of garden community options” and a new and updated appraisal has now been published.

One of the sustainability appraisal’s objectives is to “conserve and enhance soil and contribute to the sustainable use of land”. In the original report, Place Services said the local plan would have a neutral or positive impact on achieving this objective.

However, AECOM’s appraisal predicts that the local plan will have a “significant permanent negative effect” on the objective to contribute to the sustainable use of land due to “significant” loss of greenfield and agricultural land, and a lack of brownfield sites in the district.

Another objective of the sustainability appraisal is to reduce contributions to climate change. Place Services said the local plan would have a positive impact on reaching this objective yet AECOM’s new report says the overall growth proposed in the local plan is likely to lead to a “residual minor negative effect” on climate change mitigation.

Campaigners for the StopNUtown action group, which opposes 5,000 houses proposed near Great Chesterford as part of the local plan, said the summary of the new appraisal findings was “misleading” because anticipated outcomes of the three proposed garden communities in the local plan had been “lumped” together to produce an average result.

Spokesman Richard Pavitt said: “This has a smoothing effect, turning serious negative consequences into minor negatives.”

The appraisal from Place Services said the local plan would have a positive impact on sustainable methods of travel. However, AECOM’s report says there is still likely to be some minor long-term negative effects.

Mr Pavitt said: “The majority of North Uttlesford Garden Community (NUGC) residents will drive to work or to a commuter rail station. Without primary shopping, residents will drive to Saffron Walden, Sawston or Cambridge.

“It is questionable how NUGC will meet sustainable transport objectives. Despite this, the section in the summary covering sustainable methods of travel omits mention of NUGC and instead says the local plan will have only ‘residual minor long-term negative effects’.”

Furthermore, Mr Pavitt questioned the conclusion from AECOM about damage to heritage assets.

He said: “Historic England - a statutory consultee for the plan process - has already objected in emphatic terms about the location of NUGC, expecting it to have a substantial damaging effect. And yet, the summary concludes ‘a residual minor negative effect’.”

The contents of the appraisal will be discussed at a meeting of the planning policy working group at UDC today (Thursday). It will then be subject to a formal representation period from Monday when members of the public will be able to have their say.

A spokesman for Essex County Council’s Place Services said: “The sustainability appraisal completed by Place Services followed an agreed approach and was based on the evidence and information available at the time it was carried out.”

UDC still anticipates submitting the local plan to the secretary of state on or before January 24.

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