Councillors say it will be ‘difficult’ to support Uttlesford local plan if changes are not made

John Lodge, R4U chairman. Picture: R4U

John Lodge, R4U chairman. Picture: R4U - Credit: Archant

Local political party Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) says it will only support the new local plan if Uttlesford District Council (UDC) meets its four red lines of community control, infrastructure-before-building, affordable housing for key workers, and an evidence-led process.

R4U chairman John Lodge, who sits on UDC’s local plan working group, said: “UDC is now pushing its local plan through and this plan is not in residents’ best interests. It doesn’t give local people control; it allows developers to asset-strip billions from our communities instead of providing infrastructure and facilities; it fails on affordable housing for key workers; and much of the evidence is missing or inadequate.

“The UDC leadership has refused to commit to any new settlement being controlled by community-led development corporations, instead favouring an approach which hands over the keys of the kingdom to developers to do what they wish. Of the 30 new towns built in the UK post war,,.all have been controlled by development corporations. So why are Uttlesford residents being denied direct local control?

“UDC’s new local plan was a chance for the leadership to start afresh and show they were here for local taxpayers who fund them. But this plan needs amendment to fix large core issues.

“A number of concerned councillors from other parties have approached us, and if there are no changes, it will be difficult for them to support this plan.

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“If the council cabinet whip their party and force their plan through, residents will ultimately decide at the ballot boxes in 2019.”

Leader of UDC, Councillor Howard Rolfe said: “This is an extraordinary outburst from the R4U hierarchy. The expression half-baked is a good summary of what appears, in part, to be a political rant from Momentum.

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“The local plan development has been conducted on a cross party basis not least because politics should not be the determinant of planning. R4U have been part of the process since 2015 and, recognising the need to have a plan, have made a valuable contribution to its development. They were supportive at the Planning Policy Working Group and at the Regulation 18 stage.

“I am sure readers and residents are also clear that Uttlesford must have a plan. It is difficult to produce something without objections because housing is not universally popular but has to go somewhere, however the spatial strategy has been positively received and most of the district want a plan as protection against speculative development and potentially rising numbers.

“Turning to the “red lines”, we all agree that infrastructure which includes social housing, schools, health care facilities, community buildings, sports facilities as well as roads, cycle and footpaths must be in place at the right moment in the development cycle. We agree the plan must be evidence led.

“We further agree that there must be the appropriate level of community decision making, involvement and long term responsibility.

“Uttlesford District Council will use whatever mechanisms are appropriate, including if necessary development corporations (DCs), to ensure the potential new settlements will be based on garden community principles. The council’s barrister advises, however, that the role of DCs in delivering the garden communities does not need to be determined at this stage.”

A spokesman for UDC said: “Policy SP5 within the local plan clearly establishes the requirements for the provision of phasing, infrastructure and delivery plans as part of the development plan documents that will set out the more detailed requirements that developers will need to meet.

“This gives the community the control being sought and allows the community to have its say. In addition, the council is developing a community engagement strategy that goes beyond the statutory requirements and which will involve, among many other elements, community engagement forums for each of the garden communities.

“The local plan clearly establishes the requirement for 40 per cent affordable housing and the garden community principles require mixed tenure homes and housing types that are genuinely affordable for everyone.

“The council has been open and transparent about the evidence underpinning the plan, having presented it all to the council’s Planning Policy Working Group, which meets in public, and publishing it on the website.”

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