Uttlesford Lib Dems attack council over ‘lack of openness’ about planning

Cllr Alan Dean

Cllr Alan Dean - Credit: Archant

The leader of the local Liberal Democrat group has once again criticised Uttlesford District Council (UDC) for its “lack of openness” over planning.

Councillor Alan Dean said he and a number of other councillors were unhappy with the lack of transparency surrounding the upcoming hearing by the Planning Inspector. Roy Foster, from the Planning Inspectorate, is due to assess the district council’s Local Plan in November.

Cllr Dean said: “We want to ensure the inspector in charge of November’s inspection of the council’s controversial local plan receives frank and honest responses to his recent questions.

“I have been asking since the start of last week to be able to help ensure the answers given are scrupulously objective and based on evidence.”

“I asked Cllr Howard Rolfe, the council leader, to let me see a draft. This request was refused.”

The inspector has already queried whether UDC evaluated other potential sites last November when it chose Elsenham for the site of a new town. He also questioned how Uttlesford has planned for development pressures on the north of the district from the Cambridge area, in addition to how its plans for major growth in the south of the district will impact on the already congested junction 8 of the M11.

Cllr Dean added: “I have been told that the final response will be put before a meeting of the Local Plan working group next Monday morning.

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“Its members won’t receive the papers either until they get to the meeting or, at best, on the working day before the meeting. They won’t be allowed to change the responses is any way.

“This sounds like another planning stitch-up by Uttlesford and another example of an unaccountable bureaucracy. The public has every right to be suspicious when councillors are prevented from doing their job.”

Leader of UDC, Cllr Howard Rolfe, refuted the claim that he had refused Cllr Dean anything and said once all the questions had been answered the information would be published on the council’s website for the public to see.

He said: “There is absolutely no secrecy – as soon as I have got the report, which includes the answers to what are very detailed questions, then Cllr Dean will have it, too, along with the other councillors.

“He is also welcome to attend the Local Plan working group next Monday when these answers will be discussed.

Once the answers have been sent to the Planning Inspector we will publish them on the council’s website for all to see.”