Protesters bake cake to mark a year of being ‘ignored’ by district council
- Credit: Archant
IN an unusual form of protest, campaigning residents have baked a birthday cake to mark a year of “not being listened to by councillors”.
Last summer, members of campaign group WeAreResidents.org delivered more than 2,000 letters in opposition to Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) draft housing strategy – which would see 880 homes built in Saffron Walden by 2026.
To honour the 12 months since this milestone, the group signed a card in the market square and re-delivered the rejection letters, in response to last year’s second consultation on the draft Local Development Framework, to the authority.
Chairman of WeAreResidents.org, Dan Starr, said the district had been “left open to speculative development” because of the delay in the council’s Local Plan and called for resignations from the cabinet.
He said: “The Local Plan is a mess, residents are furious, and they have lost their trust in the council leadership. UDC cabinet councillors Jim Ketteridge, Susan Barker and Howard Rolfe are responsible and directly culpable.
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“Right now Uttlesford residents need new leaders who are accountable and can get the job done rather than let this fiasco go on unchecked until they are voted out in the 2015 local elections.”
Residents from across Uttlesford have backed Mr Starr’s calls for change.
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Tony Clarke, from Great Dunmow, said: “In its pursuit of political aims, UDC has released the genie from the bottle in the form of uncontrolled and unsustainable development. We are witnessing the results of failure at both political and executive levels.
“Now residents face a stark choice – continued unplanned overdevelopment with underfunded, dysfunctional infrastructure, or we can get rid of them through the ballot box before it is too late.”
Neil Hargreaves, of campaign group Save Newport Village, added: “Many unhappy returns to the Local Plan. UDC has betrayed democracy by ignoring public consultation responses for over a year.
“As a direct consequence of UDC’s failure, Dunmow, Walden, Stansted, and my own village Newport are facing unprecedented growth that is unsustainable and will cause major upheaval and irrevocably damage them.”
WeAreResidents.org claim 99 per cent of the people they polled in July 2012 rejected UDC’s draft Local Plan.
The authority’s previous preferred strategy was for a single settlement between Elsenham and Henham but this was met with fierce opposition. At the beginning of last year, councillors announced a change of plan by choosing to follow a dispersal strategy aimed at spreading new housing across the district’s two main towns and other ‘key villages’.
Delays in waiting for traffic surveys from Essex Highways and the Highways Agency have stalled the progress of UDC’s Local Plan so far this year.
Leader of UDC, Cllr Jim Ketteridge, said: “We do not intend to enter into a slanging match with activists from WeAreResidents, which is a one issue organisation.
“The fact Uttlesford has been recognised as the second best place to live in the UK and has a district council that has been praised by Government for its financial management and stability should put such comments in an entirely different context.”