Uttlesford housing plan should be torn up, say united resident groups

Campaign groups have united in the fight against unwanted housing – urging Uttlesford District Council to rip up its Local Plan and start again.

Saffron Walden-based WeAreResidents.org have teamed up with Save Newport Village, SaveOurVillages (Henham/Elsenham), Save Stansted Village, Takeley Parish Council and a number of residents from Great Dunmow, Thaxted and other settlements in the district.

Calling themselves ‘Uttlesford United Residents’, the group has branded the council’s Local Plan process, which sets out how the district should grow over the next 18 years, a “dismal failure”.

Spokesman Matt North said: “It is evident to all that whilst Uttlesford needs to plan for significant housing growth the process to date has been dismal.

“The whole focus seems to be on where to dump houses with little or no thought to the infrastructure needs of current or future residents.”

He added: “Decisions are made which don’t appear to be supported by evidence; and most shameful of all is the complete absence of meaningful engagement with town and parish councils or individual residents.

“It is this latter point which has united groups from across the district who are demanding that Uttlesford begins a new local plan development process.”

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Uttlesford United Residents is also calling on other parish and town councils, groups and individuals from across the district to sign its petition at uttlesfordunitedresidents.org

The group’s aims are:

1. To see the Local Plan development process be stopped and the current draft plan discarded.

2. For a brand new Local Plan development process to be put in place, that meets the following standards:

- It is strategic: it works to an agreed set of objectives and reviews options against these objectives. It takes account of existing infrastructure capacity and needs as well as the infrastructure requirements that accompany new households before deciding where to put houses;

- It is evidence-based: up-to-date evidence is gathered first before decisions are taken;

- It is open and transparent: information is provided in a timely and accessible manner to stakeholders. That all decisions and discussions related to the local plan are open to public scrutiny;

- It includes early and meaningful engagement with local organisations and parish/town councils and that concerns and ideas of individuals and organisations in Uttlesford are properly considered; and

- It is timely: that a robust time-frame for development of the plan is put in place and accountability for meeting the time-frame established. We also believe a new plan can be done in less time than the current 2015 timescale.

Last month Uttlesford District Council revealed it was changing the length of its plan from 15 to 20 years, back-dated from 2011 to 2031. The district is set to grow by 10,460 homes during that period.