by Alan Dean on 20 October, 2016
Uttlesford local plan seems to be in turmoil this week.
The article in today’s Observer came as a complete surprise and shock to most members of the council. So far the council has published no local plan proposals. They should have been published by Tuesday, two days ago, at the latest.
Councillors have not agreed to any new settlement proposals. We were expecting planning officers’ recommendations to be published on Tuesday and had been sworn to confidentiality about what these might be.
Papers should have been published for next Tuesday’s Planning Policy Working Group on Monday or Tuesday. No agenda has been published and the deadline has passed. What is going on?
So to read these suggestions in today’s local papers is contemptuous of the so-called evidence-based planning process that we have all been doing our best to cooperate with.
As I result, I have written the following email to all councillors and to many council officers demanding an explanation. I await a reply.
EMAIL 08:12, 20 October 2016
There seems to have been a breakdown in due process which risks leading to a loss of trust in the Local Plan process.
On Tuesday (or earlier) papers were due to have been published containing officer recommendations for the Local Plan. They were not. No agenda has yet been published for next Tuesday’s Planning Policy Working Group and the agenda papers for the following day’s Cabinet show “to follow” at Local Plan item 6.
Members were asked at the LP workshop on October 11th keep draft ideas from officers STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL until publication day on October 18th. But publication day came and went. Telephone calls by me were not returned. The best I have received is an email yesterday saying “We are currently striving to scope the issue and will be issuing appropriate communications once we have done so and worked through the implications. I recognise that there were expectations that documents would be in the public domain last night and that we need to address that. I will be in touch this afternoon.”
Nobody was in touch yesterday afternoon. I do not know what “the issue” is.
However, this morning on my doormat I found in today’s Herts & Essex Observer (Stansted & Dunmow) a new issue. You can see the front page in the attached image. “2,800 homes planned in two new ‘garden cities’” at Easton Park and Boxted Wood.
Susan Barker is quoted extensively. She says “The evidence shows these two are the most viable sites”. Gordon Glenday says the two new settlements will be “based on garden city principles”. There is much more on the front page and on page 3.
I remain to be convinced about the evidence. I sent in on Monday questions asking for evidence that officers have researched adequately an alternative location at Great Chesterford to demonstrate that the council is being even-handed. I have received no response.
But most importantly, I am appalled at the way in which most elected members have been made to look inadequate before their public in making promises about the release of information into the public domain that have not been fulfilled other than through a short newspaper article.
I hereby call for an explanation today from the leader and the chief executive.
Cllr Alan Dean
Member of Uttlesford District Council for Stansted North
Chair of Scrutiny11 Comments