Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

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by Alan Dean on 1 July, 2017

Thursday evening saw a step forward towards ending the Ten Year Saga of Uttlesford’s Local Plan. The Planning Policy Working Group agreed unanimously – four Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and two Residents for Uttlesford councillors – to endorse the newly emerged draft. It now heads for Cabinet on July 6th and Full Council on July 11th.

July 11th is not the end of the road for this record-breaking saga; it is simply the start of a public consultation on what’s known as the preferred option. It’s bound to change in some way during the autumn and again next year after yet another public consultation and before a plan for Uttlesford is again placed before a planning inspector for another examination in public. Fingers crossed this time that the examination will not be curtailed as the previous flawed plan was in 2014.

There have been several protests and legal threats from members of the public that they are being stitched up; accusations that the plan had been pre-determined without supporting evidence; that evidence has only just been cobbled together in an attempt (which some people say is vain) to justify the proposals in the plan. I can understand that perception, given the many false starts over the past ten years and past accusations of secret meetings – many of which came from me(!) prior to 2015 – that the whole show has been politically driven.

I have been closely involved in the process (as a member of the Policy Planning Working Group – PPWG) since the 2014 debacle when the undeniably politically-driven “Hellsenham” was the star feature that was binned by the examination inspector. I am satisfied that this plan is evidence driven and is not a party political stitch up by any political party.

The reason the last draft plan was “pulled” in the autumn of 2016 somewhat incompetently and the preparation process was stalled was because council members had not been adequately briefed on the evidence behind the plan before they were going to be asked to vote on what is a complicated document – and there was unfinished work. The reason that the plan published last week is different from the one that did not see the light of day (*) late last year is primarily not because the 2015 version was written to fit a “2007-type political edict” ($). It is different because the evidence on the housing number requirement rose so significantly in recent months to justify an extra new settlement.

[* I never saw the 2016 version. Some members of the public obtained a copy via a Freedom of Information Request. I think they would be wasting their time spending money on lawyers on the grounds that there was pre-determination of elements the recent draft plan.]

[$ My latest description of the political blunder by the Tories in 2007 to put forward “Hellsenham” aka NE Elsenham without planning evidence  to back up their decision.]

The latest draft of the plan puts forward three new settlements or Garden Communities at North Uttlesford (in Great Chesterford parish), Easton Park (between Little Easton village and Great Dunmow town) and West of Braintree (the name currently given to land east of Stebbing village within Uttlesford district but stretching into Braintree district towards Braintree town). Land for roughly 6,000 homes is still required and about 75% of that total would be distributed amongst the three Garden Communities. The remaining 25% would be built at existing towns and villages in the district. One other change in this plan is a significant reduction in the number of homes proposed for the eastern side of Saffron Walden to minimise road congestion and air pollution until a solution is found to bypassing the town centre.

A number of textual changes was agreed on Thursday evening. Most significantly, references to “full use” of the runway capacity at Stansted Airport were struck out and were replaced to make it clear that only permitted airport throughput (passengers and planes) will be assumed and countenanced. What is permitted may change over time.

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