Saffron Walden Town Council object to ‘unacceptable’ 300 homes plan

Saffron Walden Town Hall

Saffron Walden Town Hall - Credit: Archant

THE biggest house-building bid Saffron Walden has faced in 30 years was shot down by town councillors tonight (Wednesday).

Developer Kier Homes has lodged a planning application for 300 homes off Thaxted Road – prompting around 350 responses from residents.

Saffron Walden Town Council was vehemently against the outline application – which includes the provision of land for open space/recreational uses, a community pavilion and extension to One Minet Skate Park.

Planning expert Alan Storah presented a report to councillors, which concluded the development was contrary to Uttlesford District Council’s Local Plan.

He said: “The adverse impacts of this scheme are so clear and substantial that they significantly and demonstrably outweigh the modest benefits.”

Cllr Ben Balliger said he had “fundamental questions” about the application. “This particular area of land has been described by Mr Storah as the best and most versatile agricultural land in the region.

“That strikes me as being essential to the future management of the population because we’re going to need to grow our own food to satisfy the increase in people.”

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He added: “There is no provision for schools. This is a national issue and a local one right now. We’ve heard again that County High is already oversubscribed by 10 per cent and that is unacceptable. To increase the size of the town without any consideration of how we will accommodate a further three per cent is unthinkable.”

A statement was read on behalf of Cllr David Watson, who was unable to attend the meeting. He wrote that the proposal was “both opportunist and quite cynical in that it has jumped the gun to try and get approval while Uttlesford District Council can neither prove it has a five year supply of deliverable housing or that is has an up-to-date Local Plan”.

He backed the report by Mr Storah which cited traffic concerns, air pollution, necessary sewerage upgrades, oversubscribed schools and that there was “no demonstrable need” for the skate park to be expanded.

Cllr Watson added that the town council had been in negotiations with Saffron Walden Rugby Club, WaldenTRI and Saffron Striders to ensure “the maximum benefit of the land...would go to the most people”, if the application were accepted by UDC’s planning committee.

Members were told the clubs would “work well together, complement each others aims and bring great benefit to Saffron Walden”, according to Cllr Watson, who wrote that there were proposals for two rugby pitches, a full size 400 metre running track with floodlighting and space for mini rugby”.

Cllr Nick Osborne said he was not opposed to extra housing – saying he would like his daughter to be able to live in the town when she grows up – but told members: “I see no possibility that we can accept this proposal as it stands”.

Members unanimously objected to the proposal. It will now go before the district council’s planning committee in the coming weeks.

Prior to the meeting, mayor Keith Eden called the 300-home proposal “the largest application proposed in Saffron Walden for 30 years”.