Councillor says UDC now has something “oven-ready” for Local Plan

PUBLISHED: 10:00 21 October 2020

Conservative Cllr Christian Criscione.

Conservative Cllr Christian Criscione.

Christian Criscione

A Conservative councillor said Uttlesford District Council now has something “oven-ready” for the new Local Plan, as the group sets to meet on Monday (October 26).

R4U Cllr Arthur Coote.R4U Cllr Arthur Coote.

During a scrutiny committee meeting, Councillor Christian Criscione said: “I have to commend the work that officer Simon Payne has done to get us to this point. I feel like we made huge progress since the last scrutiny committee meeting.

“Clearly we will have something oven-ready to go to the Local Plan Leadership Group when we report to them.”

This comes after the September meeting prompted councillors to highlight that no progress had been made on the Local Plan for months.

But R4U Cllr Arthur Coote reinforced the fact that the progress has been “pretty slow”.

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.

He added: “We are probably running behind what most councillors would want us to be achieving.”

Mr Payne said the current council has “very skilled people” and “big ambitions”, such as net zero carbon and biodiversity.

He added: “There’s a real opportunity now not to do things as we did before and ensure we can achieve those ambitions.

“We’ve also asked the government for some additional funding, especially around the community engagement. We’re yet to hear whether we are successful on that.”

R4U Councillor Garry LeCount.R4U Councillor Garry LeCount.

R4U Cllr Garry LeCount said the last two Local Plans did not have scrutiny meetings such as the ones that have been keeping an eye on progress under the current R4U administration.

R4U Cllr John Evans said there have been and there will be meetings across Essex to submit a response to the government’s white paper, which could see changes to the housing planning system, and give less power to local authorities. He added Braintree will have “more favourable” housing numbers than Uttlesford.

Councillors also discussed how they will engage with Uttlesford residents and use their views to draft the new Local Plan.

Officer Stephen Miles said people will be asked to answer “easy” questions regarding what they like about where they live, what they would like to see changed, what is and what is not going well.

He said each issue will have a four-week consultation period, and there will be presentations from experts to the community.

Mr Miles added: “They will discuss the issues, and that will then be kept online for people to review and make their comments.

“We will be asking town and parish councils to respond to these things as well.”

Mr Miles also said that residents will be able to submit their thoughts “in whatever way that people want to send them”.

“We want everyone in the district to respond, if that’s not too ambitious,” he added.

Lib Dem Cllr Geoffrey Sell said he would like to use parish newsletters and magazines to reach people who may not be using social media.

But Cllr Coote said the council needs to be “very careful” with the questions put forward to residents.

He said: “I think we mustn’t raise expectations. In my own town or ward everyone will be saying it’s all ok.

“I agree we should get as many people as possible, but I do worry when I hear the way you put that over as if you can say what you want, and we’ll get it.”

Mr Miles clarified residents should understand there will be a housing requirement for the district.

Cllr Criscione said the risk assessment should include government intervention, even though that is currently a low risk.

Mr Miles said UDC representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Friday, September 25.

He added: “We set out the timetable to officials. They said that if we had submitted the plan to the government by the time of the deadline, December 2023, the government wouldn’t be looking to intervene, because it wouldn’t achieve anything. The purpose of intervention is to make the councils who are back on their feet pick up the pace.

“The key thing they want to see is progress. They were happy to hear about ours.”

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