Uttlesford District Council ‘wasting money’ fixing problems in local plan, says campaign group

PUBLISHED: 08:45 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:45 18 February 2019

Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden. Picture: SaffronPhoto

SaffronPhoto 2016

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) paid £35,000 to consultants to prepare an updated sustainability appraisal for its local plan, having already forked out £42,000 to Essex County Council for an initial report.

The district council opted to update its sustainability appraisal - a document which assesses the sustainability of the local plan - after a Government inspector criticised a plan for another authority, which was also put together by Essex County Council.

UDC was concerned its appraisal would also fall foul of the inspector and so ordered its document be updated, incurring thousands of pounds in extra cost.

StopNUtown, a campaign group aiming to stop 5,000 houses being built in Great Chesterford as part of the local plan, said there was a “real risk” the council would “simply go on wasting money” trying to fix problems in the plan.

Richard Pavitt, spokesman for StopNUtown, said: “Instead of doing it properly it has persisted in spending an ever-increasing amount of money trying to fix the problems. Each time it is criticised the council responds by saying that extra expenditure is within budget – but that’s easy to say when you just keep on increasing the budget.

“In December 2016, an independent report commissioned by UDC identified numerous gaps in UDC’s evidence base and sustainability appraisal.

“Soon after that, UDC added a new settlement at Great Chesterford to the plan but with inadequate evidence to indicate this was an appropriate location. Little was done to rectify the plan shortcomings and the council pushed on citing a Government-imposed deadline for filing a plan.

“That the most important evidence base for the plan – the sustainability appraisal – has been revised for a third time is no surprise. The problem stems from the original areas of search and call for sites, which envisaged housing estates not new towns. It is fundamental. To plan for new settlements you must use a different set of criteria and no amount of revision and repackaging of the appraisal will overcome this.”

A spokesman for UDC said: “The new sustainability appraisal endorses the Uttlesford local plan and confirms the strategy is the most appropriate when compared against the reasonable alternatives.”

The appraisal is currently subject to a representation period - members of the public are encouraged to have their say on it by 5pm on February 25. Visit www.uttlesford.gov.uk/draftplan2018.

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