I consulted with fellow Residents for Uttlesford group members and senior members of the Lib Dems following on from the Planning Inspector’s decision to prematurely stop the examination into the draft Local Plan and publish a statement about its soundness.
Eight years and over £2 million wasted. We have all agreed that the incompetence with which the plan had been prepared has to be acknowledged, yet the UDC Cabinet and Executive Officers have tried to play down the scale of the setback, even claiming that the Inspector had found much of the plan to be sound. The Inspector’s published statement said NO such thing, indeed he was scathing about the Elsenham allocation particularly, questioned the housing numbers and stated clearly that the plan was too badly damaged to be fixed within 6 months. That bears repeating, the plan was so badly flawed that the Inspector was unable to consider temporarily suspending the Plan to allow UDC to implement revisions.
This level of rejection calls into question the political judgement of the UDC Cabinet members responsible for putting the draft plan together, along with the professional judgement of the officers who gave advice. It would be different if the Inspector had identified a couple of minor flaws and offered guidance on how to correct them, but instead he has rejected the entire plan.
It is considered inappropriate for councillors to call for officers to be held to account – only the Chief Executive John Mitchell can do that, but it is entirely legitimate to call elected Cabinet members to account. This is especially true as the UDC leader stated to the public in 2012 that the plan was a political decision, which was later backed up by a senior UDC officer.
Jointly we have made a motion of no confidence against the elected UDC leadership. Firstly UDC Leader Cllr Howard Rolfe, who is on record as stating that the Plan was sound and he was proud of it; secondly Cllr Susan Barker, who is the portfolio member responsible for the Plan, and who is closely involved with the politicised decision to propose a large allocation near Elsenham. Since neither appear inclined to do the honourable thing and resign, our motion will give elected members of the full UDC Council the opportunity to decide if they are happy with the status quo and the previous conduct and decisions of these 2 most senior UDC leaders who have cost our district so much.
We will also ask for a recorded vote so that it is transparent to all.
We also suggest that concerned residents attend the full council meeting to hear the motion. It is a public meeting and is held is at the UDC offices on London Rd in Saffron Walden on Thursday 18th December, starting at 19:30.