Planning Inspector says MORE houses need to be built in Uttlesford as Local Plan deemed ‘unsound’

Uttlesford District Council

Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council’s Local Plan was dramatically thrown out by the Planning Inspector today – on the grounds that MORE houses need to be built in the district over the next 20 years.

Roy Foster, from the Planning Inspectorate, halted the hearing into the plan two days early after finding it ‘unsound’ for a number of reasons.

It is understood Mr Foster believes there needs to be a 10 per cent increase in the 523 homes the council had set as number that needed to be built each year – equating to just over 1,000 more over a 20-year period.

On top of that, the proposed site for 2,100 homes in Elsenham was seen as unsustainable on transport infrastructure grounds.

Opponents of the Local Plan, which set out where 10,400 homes should be built between 2011 and 2031, say it means the whole thing now needs to be torn up. Effectively, it could mean the need to find sites for around 3,000 additional houses by 2031.

Former Tory councillor Keith Mackman, who was ousted from the party in August, said it made council Leader Howard Rolfe’s position “untenable”.

“The Inspector had the option to suspend the hearing for six months [so that the council could make the necessary alterations] but he clearly thinks there is too much to do,” said Cllr Mackman.

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“The council will have to go back to the drawing board. But firstly a lot of people who have been in charge of that Local Plan need to eat some humble pie.”

Saffron Walden town councillor Mike Hibbs feared it would now be “open season” for developers without Uttlesford District Council having a development plan.

“On the one hand I feel justified and vindicated because it’s what I and many other people have been saying for a long time, but nevertheless it’s an extremely worrying situation to be in,” he said.

He also said Cllr Rolfe should resign, claiming that somebody should be held accountable.

“He [Cllr Rolfe] can either do the honourable thing now or wait until May when it’s done to him,” Cllr Hibbs added.

But Leader Howard Rolfe defended his position, saying gaps had to be filled in the plan he previously said he was “proud of”.

“Obviously we are disappointed,” Cllr Rolfe said. “He [the Inspector] has raised two points, one is numbers and the second is about development at Elsenham.

“These things happen. He has found it unsound on two points and we will have to go back and fill those gaps.

“This does not affect my position.”

On the additional homes now likely to be needed, he added: “We will have to find other sites. This will be most carefully considered once we have the full letter.”

Chairman of Saffron Walden campaign group, Dan Starr, has long argued that the plan was unsound.

Reacting to the news, he said: “I think this is a good result for the district.

“We have been working hard to push for a better plan and now the Inspector has found it unsound it gives the residents of Uttlesford the opportunity to get directly involved in the formation of a better plan for the district.”

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