Protest group accused of ‘scaremongering’

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to build 880 homes in Saffron Walden have been accused of “manipulating people with half-truths and scaremongering”.

The chairman of Great Chesterford Parish Council, Joanna Francis, has hit back at supporters of the action group for suggesting the village would be a suitable site for a single settlement – an alternative to Uttlesford District Council’s favoured approach for a dispersal of housing across the district.

She also questioned whether it was necessary to fight a cause by “casting aspersions on the integrity of district councillors and officers and by trying to whip up a frenzy by grossly exaggerating the housing numbers”.

It follows an exhibition by in the market square last Saturday which saw scores of residents pack round a 3D model of Saffron Walden to view the group’s interpretation of the impact new housing would have on the town if the council’s draft Local Development Framework for the next 15 years was given the green light.

Cllr Francis said: “The things that have been said by supporters of WeAreResidents are appalling and inaccurate.

“I have read the supporting documents for the Strategic Local Plan and it has never been stated that Great Chesterford was the preferred site for a single settlement.”

She also stressed that the 100 houses allocated to the village, which currently has just over 600 homes, was a greater percentage increase than Saffron Walden was facing under the draft plans.

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“We too have sewage capacity issues, a full school and an over-subscribed pre-school, we have traffic and parking issues and we need to protect the historic nature of our settlement,” Cllr Francis explained.

But were quick to pour cold water on a potential rift with the village.

Spokesman Eryl Stafford said: “It is certainly not our intention to start a war of words between different communities in the district. We are in correspondence with other groups in the area who share our simple aims regarding the local plan – a plan that prioritises sustainability, is based on up-to-date evidence, is apolitical and is conducted in a transparent manner.”

He also said the group did not endorse one particular location in the district for housing development over another and added that supporters were entitled to their own opinions about what would be the best solution.

The topic is expected to become a national talking point when the spotlight is turned on Saffron Walden in the second series of BBC programme Town.