Protesters in gas masks and Grim Reaper outfit fail to prevent approval of 230-home proposal in Saffron Walden

Protesters in a Grim Reaper outfit and gas masks outside Uttlesford District Council.

Protesters in a Grim Reaper outfit and gas masks outside Uttlesford District Council. - Credit: Archant

Up to 230 homes will be built on the east side of Saffron Walden – despite the best efforts of ­protestors in gas masks.

Saffron Walden's Essex county councillor John Lodge was among the campaigners protesting new housing

Saffron Walden's Essex county councillor John Lodge was among the campaigners protesting new housing because of air pollution concerns. - Credit: Archant

Members of residents campaign group showed their opposition to three large-scale planning applications for up to 700 homes in the town by turning up in force outside the offices of Uttlesford District Council today (Wednesday).

One dressed as the Grim Reaper and another wore a gas mask.

The group was protesting against housing they said would cause deaths because of the air pollution generated by an increase in traffic. Many carried placards and asthma inhalers.

A proposal, by Kier Homes, for up to 300 homes on a 20.2-hectare site off Thaxted Road was narrowly rejected 6-4 by the district council’s planning committee but not because of health concerns.

The stumbling block in the eyes of councillors was the lack of a guarantee for a link road between Thaxted Road and Radwinter Road.

Another plan, for up to 230 homes, with a primary school, business space and 102 extra care homes, was passed 8-2.

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It has been estimated by developer Manor Oak the scheme will create 247 full-time jobs – 120 of which related to the primary school and care home facility.

Councillors were not swayed by the provision in Kier’s application for up to 120 affordable homes, a pavilion building and extension to One Minet Skate Park.

As exclusively revealed by the Reporter last month, also included was 7.7 hectares of land which has been earmarked by Saffron Walden Rugby Club, WaldenTRI and Saffron Striders for an all-weather athletics track, two full-size rugby pitches, two mini-pitches, a training pitch and a clubhouse.

There is a possibility this could be in jeopardy if Kier chooses to appeal the decision.

A third application, by Ridgeons, was also discussed by councillors but a decision had not been reached at the time of going to press. This proposal was for up to 167 homes, office and industrial space, a shop, hotel and either a cafe, restaurant or pub off Ashdon Road.

Saffron Walden’s Essex county councillor John Lodge claimed that “people would die” if ­planners approved any of the three housing applications.

Referring to calculations ­relating to a report released by Public Health last month, he said: “Thirty two people will die in Uttlesford this year as a result of air pollution. There is likely to be a 10-20 per cent increase [caused by the housing].

“Air pollution is killing 10 times as many people than the number who our dying on our roads.”

He claimed that one child from every class in a Saffron Walden school would “not live out their full lifespan” because of air ­pollution.

However, this was disputed by Uttlesford’s environmental health expert, who said the district had the “second best air quality” levels in Essex according to the Public Health report.

She said congestion was the biggest cause of air pollution and that improvements in car ­emissions, along with traffic ­mitigation measures planned for Saffron Walden, would enhance air quality.

The impact the housing developments would have on air pollution was described as “small” by experts.

An official from Essex Highways attempted to alleviate concerns that a link road would not be built by stating that £2million of funding had been applied for in a submission by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

But he failed to convince councillors. Cllr Keith Eden, the Mayor of Saffron Walden, summed up the mood of the room when he said he was “nervous about agreeing to a plan that is dependent on a link road without having the confidence that it would be built”.