Councillors criticise Local Plan decision-making and lack of progress

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 October 2020

R4U Councillor  John Evans, UDC portfolio holder for planning and the Local Plan. Photo: Supplied by R4U.

R4U Councillor John Evans, UDC portfolio holder for planning and the Local Plan. Photo: Supplied by R4U.

Supplied by R4U

Uttlesford district councillors have expressed their frustrations that no progress has been made on the new Local Plan for months.

Councillor Christian Criscione. Photo: Supplied by Cllr Christian Criscione.Councillor Christian Criscione. Photo: Supplied by Cllr Christian Criscione.

But Local Plan portfolio holder Councillor John Evans has said the delays were not his fault and the Residents for Uttlesford administration is not wasting time.

In a heated online scrutiny meeting, Cllr Arthur Coote (R4U) said: “I’ve been on holiday and I’ve come back and nothing new is here.”

Tory Councillor Christian Criscione suggested that despite the UK government’s proposals in August to reform the planning system, councillors should still work on the Local Plan: “I find myself fairly disappointed about the progress that has been made so far, and the quality of the documents that came through to us.”

Cllr Neil Gregory of Uttlesford Independents, chairing the meeting, said Cllr Criscione’s comments were “quite gentle”, adding: “Cllr Dean said he couldn’t see that progress of substance has been made on the Local Plan and I concurred with his observations.

Independent Councillor Neil Gregory. Photo: Rob Hill.Independent Councillor Neil Gregory. Photo: Rob Hill.

“We are three from different parties who share the same view.”

Cllr Coote said the new Local Plan should have a project manager, and expressed concern about the role being forced upon UDC officers, who are employed for “different matters”.

Councillors also raised questions about Local Plan decision-making.

Cllr Coote criticised the appointment of a project manager without the approval of the scrutiny committee. The officer was Garden Communities Project Manager on the previous Local Plan.

Cllr Coote said: “I don’t think that the last two failed Local Plans speak very well of using other people who have been there before.”

Officers stressed that project management was not a reason for the withdrawal of the previous Local Plan and highlighted the extensive experience of the currect project manager.

Cllr Coote also said that the committee should scrutinise things before they go out.

R4U Cllr Garry LeCount, vice chair of the meeting, said he fears a peer group which advises councillors is in fact running the Local Plan.

The scrutiny meeting was rescheduled for September, after it was cancelled over the summer.

Cllr Evans said: “They were cancelled not upon my suggestion and approbation nor indeed knowledge. The reasons that we’ve been given before by the chief executive is that this was the advice given to officers by the peer review group in the light of the August 6 emergence of the White Paper.”

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