UPDATE: Bid to build 800 homes in Uttlesford narrowly refused

More than 100 residents cheered as a bid to build 800 homes in Uttlesford was thrown out by the narrowest of margins.

Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee rejected an application by The Fairfield Partnership for a development on the 755 acres of land it controls between Elsenham and Henham.

It prompted an eruption of applause from a packed public gallery.

Councillors voted 6:5 in favour of refusal.

Speaking afterwards, district councillor for the two villages, David Morson, told the Reporter he was “very pleased with the decision”.

Having helped fight numerous attempts to build homes on the site over the past seven years, he said: “I’m grateful to the councillors who saw reason behind what we were trying to say. Thankfully they were brave enough to stand up for their principles.”

Earlier he told planners how approving 800 homes could give the green light for a total of 3,000 as part of Fairfield’s wider scheme.

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Cllr Morson’s district council colleague, Elizabeth Parr, addressed councillors. She said: “If this application is granted approval with all the objections being ignored it shows how people are not being listened to about how they would like to shape their communities.”

Fairfield’s proposal included provision for a retail centre, primary school, land for health centre use, community buildings, open space and improvements to surrounding road infrastructure.

Multiple speakers questioned the council’s claim that it was still unable to demonstrate an adequate five-year housing supply – a key reasoning for officers’ recommendation for approval.

Assistant director of planning Andrew Taylor said an objective assessment had shown a shortfall of 592 houses over the next five years.

“We still have a five-year land supply shortage of just over one year,” he said.

It was claimed by Cllr Doug Perry that the application was not sustainable, but this was met with consternation by Cllr Vic Ranger.

He said: “It has everything we would want to see, not only the infrastructure but also in terms of local amenities and facilities. For Cllr Perry to suggest it is not sustainable when it clearly is...I cannot see where we can object.”

Cllr Ranger, who was in favour of the plan, citing the community benefits associated and the inclusion of 320 affordable homes, added: “It’s been forever the case that when expansion is needed it takes up green space. It’s like we’re trying to fly in the face of logic...I feel we should be supporting the application not refusing it.”

It was left to Cllr Elizabeth Godwin to round off the comments, saying: “It’s almost like we’re getting a new town by stealth. We’re getting greedy here. I know we need the houses and have got to put them somewhere but this is just too big an application. My fear is this would change Elsenham for a very long time.”