Views aired at Uttlesford District Council’s extraordinary meeting on delayed Local Plan
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Around 150 people attended an extraordinary meeting of the district council last week (November 16) to debate Uttlesford’s Local Plan and air their views on housing proposals.
A series of questions on the plan, which will decide where 12,500 new homes are placed in the district up to 2033, were put to councillor Susan Barker.
Cllr Barker outlined the reasons for the delay in publishing the latest draft proposals, and a motion, emphasizing the council’s confidence in its planning officers and advisors, was also agreed.
Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), said: “It was an open, productive meeting with interesting debate. I was pleased so many members of the public attended and there was time to hear from all who requested to speak. This is a plan for the community and we welcome everyone’s views.
“Clearly, what the meeting demonstrated is exactly the problem facing the council – people from all parts of Uttlesford stating reasons why they believe development should not go in their area. These homes have to go somewhere.
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“The Government intends to build a million homes by 2020 and we have an obligation to play our part in that. Homelessness and house prices are national problems that must be addressed.
“It is important we get a Local Plan in place, not only to prevent speculative applications but to provide certainty that we have the right development in the right place.
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“Equally, it is important we understand the evidence presented and the process. The plan, if not agreed by everybody, has to be respected by the majority.”
However, Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) attacked the Tory-led district council following the meeting, labelling the whole process a “sham”.
Councillor John Lodge, R4U chairman, said: “We are happy to have forced UDC to hold this public meeting. We’d like to thank the estimated 150 people who attended and several hundred more who listened to the live audio stream.
“Residents consistently raised concerns about the sites UDC is targeting for new homes, a lack of transparency in the decision making process, and an existing shortfall in school places and road capacity.
“Unfortunately, our concerns about this sham of a Local Plan process have been confirmed. The cabinet had no concrete answers, preferring instead to attack councillors who asked questions for their residents.”An R4U motion calling for greater transparency and confidence in the process was voted down.
UDC says its planning officers are taking care to ensure all the necessary evidence is available, to reduce the risk of the plan being thrown out by the Planning Inspectorate, as it was in 2014 – at a cost of £2million.