Thousands more homes planned for Uttlesford after government “moves the goalposts”

UDC's London Road base.

UDC's London Road base. - Credit: Archant

Housing activists have reacted to the revelation Uttlesford is to take thousands more houses than originally planned.

It emerged today (Wednesday) that the district is set to grow by 10,460 homes over a 20-year period.

Around 7,234 homes were previously earmarked in the 15-year draft Local Plan, including sites for about 3,300 that had not already been built or approved by the district council’s planning committee.

Fearing the plan would not be accepted by the Planning Inspectorate, officers have revised the housing allocation and changed the length of the plan so it runs from 2011-2031.

Over the coming weeks they will now seek to identify sites for a further 2,680 homes on top of the 3,300 already listed in the emerging Local Plan.

The change in numbers will equate to 523 homes being built per year instead of the 415 previously suggested.

Campaign group have insisted the emerging Local Plan, backdated to run between 2011-2026, is now “dead” and the dispersal strategy of spreading homes across the district should be replaced by a single settlement approach.

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Leader of Uttlesford District Council, Councillor Jim Ketteridge, refuted the claims and instead blamed the government for the change in housing numbers.

“We’re certainly not starting again with the emerging Local Plan. It [the increase in the number of houses] is obviously controversial but we are not alone in having to do this,” he told the Reporter.

“Most councils are having to do the same thing in abiding by new government criteria and from our point of view we are very disappointed that the efforts made to decide our own level of housing have not come to fruition.”

Cllr Ketteridge said it was now clear the government was “looking to authorities to provide a level of growth based on the highest and most up-to-date population projections provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Office of National Statistics”.

Justifying the delay in what has so far been a six-year saga, he said: “The goalposts have been moved, not only under this government but the previous one as well, so that hasn’t helped.

“We’ve also had to wait a long time to get the Highways transport assessment but we now have that and will be working through it.”

A pre-submission public consultation will be held in March or April next year ahead of the plan being formally submitted to an an independent planning inspector in July 2014.

It is hoped the Local Plan will be adopted in early 2015.