Uttlesford named as one of the fastest growing ‘housing hotspots’ in the country

Campaigners are trying to stop 5,000 houses being built in Great Chesterford. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Campaigners are trying to stop 5,000 houses being built in Great Chesterford. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

A new report has revealed that Uttlesford is one of the top five fastest growing ‘housing hotspots’ in the UK, but campaigners suggest the district is building more houses than it needs and projections are ‘overstated’.

With recent figures indicating that construction work in Britain has trebled in the last 20 years, Royal Mail commissioned a report painting a detailed picture of where and which sectors are building on this boom.

Tower Hamlets is officially the nation’s fastest growing ‘housing hotspot’, seeing a 14 per cent increase in new houses between 2010 and 2017.

Both Uttlesford and Cambridge have seen 11 per cent growth in the number of new homes being built in the same period, ranking third and fourth in the country.

Steve Rooney, head of the address management unit at Royal Mail said: “As we deliver to more than 30 million addresses across the UK, our ‘Not Yet Built’ database is notified of any new building developments – either business or residential. I hope we’ll be delivering to most – if not all – of these fledgling properties in years to come.”

But Richard Pavitt, spokesman for StopNUtown, a campaign group aiming to stop the building of 5,000 houses in Great Chesterford, said: “It seems to confirm what many of us have known for a while: that UDC - as a percentage of its housing stock - is building faster than most places.”

StopNUtown believe the council’s forecast for the level of housing needed in Uttlesford could be overstated by as many as 3,000 houses.

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Based on the Office for National Statistics’ new household projections released on September 20, StopNUtown say 11,598 homes are needed in Uttlesford over the period of the local plan to 2033.

This compares with the council’s current proposal to build 14,677 houses.

“The last-minute addition to the local plan of a new town on the Cambridgeshire border was always suspect and poorly reasoned, and these latest figures make it even less credible,” Mr Pavitt said. “We have consistently asked why the council and its leader Howard Rolfe are so determined to build more houses than appear to be justified. We never get a plausible answer, so whom is the council serving? It certainly isn’t the needs of the district and its residents.”

The council is scheduled to meet on October 9 to consider changes to the draft local plan arising from issues with its West of Braintree scheme. Campaigners say this would be a good time to also review the housing target and ensure the local plan has realistic ambitions before it is submitted for inspection.

“There is a considerable risk that the flawed and flimsy evidence for a new town at Great Chesterford could result in the whole local plan being thrown out by the inspector,” said Mr Pavitt. “The council is playing a high stakes game that could rebound. It would make more sense to follow the figures and remove the North Uttlesford Garden Community to give the plan greater certainty.”

Royal Mail worked with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to collate its findings and the report draws upon business demography data collated by the Valuation Office Agency, the Office of National Statistics and information from Royal Mail’s ‘Not Yet Built’ database.

A spokesman for Uttlesford District Council said: “The ONS updated household projections on September 20. For Uttlesford they indicate household growth of 10,070 from 2011 to 2033. This compares with the household growth in the 2014-based projections of 11,733.

“The council is using the 2014 projections as the basis for working out its objectively assessed housing need and setting this out within the local plan.

“If the council were to recalculate its housing need using the updated information, it would require the co-operation of neighbouring authorities and involve the commissioning of further research work. The plan would need to be amended and a further period of consultation would be required.

“To take this course of action would mean we would not be able to submit the plan until after January 24, 2019. This is the cut-off for when the government updates its National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out national planning policies and how these should be applied.”