The roots of R4U go back to November 2013 when a number of residents groups met to agree how they could best work together to represent communities across Uttlesford district. These groups met under the clouds of a failing district Local Plan where decisions on new housing were being made for non-transparent political reasons rather than following the evidence for where was the best location.
At the time the Local Plan proposed a new settlement at Elsenham and Henham and the rest of the housing dispersed around the existing towns of Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow, and a number of villages in the district. There was almost nothing proposed in the way of new infrastructure, such as roads and schools. The groups were unhappy with this situation because public opinion, need and evidence was being ignored.
Nov 2013: Residents Coalition Pressure Group
The groups formed a coalition under the banner of Uttlesford United Residents. The coalition included: WeAreResidents.org (Saffron Walden), Save Newport Village, the Joint Parish Councils Steering Group (Save Our Villages, Elsenham and Henham), Save Stansted Village and Takeley Parish Council.
The resdients’ coalition agreed a series of united aims:
- The Local Plan development process be stopped and the current draft plan discarded.
- A brand new Local Plan development process to be put in place that meets the following standards:
- It is strategic: it works to an agreed set of objectives and reviews options against these objectives. It takes account of existing infrastructure capacity and needs as well as the infrastructure requirements that accompany new households before deciding where to put houses.
- It is evidence-based: up-to-date evidence is gathered first before decisions are taken.
- It is open and transparent: information is provided in a timely and accessible manner to stakeholders. That all decisions and discussions related to the local plan are open to public scrutiny.
- It includes early and meaningful engagement with local organisations and parish/town councils and that concerns and ideas of individuals and organisations in Uttlesford are properly considered.
- It is timely: that a robust time-frame for development of the plan is put in place and accountability for meeting the time-frame established.
Oct 2014: Residents Party
Unsatisfied that the leadership at Uttlesford District Council still refused to follow an evidence-based process, in the Autumn of 2014 a number of those residents groups formed a political party, Residents for Uttlesford (R4U). R4U had the intent to carry forward the aims of the coalition by changing the system from the inside, whilst the remaining residents’ groups continued to apply pressure from the outside.
The residents’ coalition and R4U continued to apply pressure on what they considered was a flawed Local Plan by Uttlesford District Council. They were eventually found to be correct when the Local Plan was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in December 2014.
May 2015: Election Success
For the 2015 local elections R4U produced the first local manifesto that had ever been produced for Uttlesford. This encompassed the goals of the residents’ coalition together with well-rounded policies that covered all the major topics, including the economy, schools, roads, environment, health and community.
R4U achieved remarkable electoral success for a new party. After the May 2015 election, R4U had councillors at all levels of local government, county, district, town and parish, from Dunmow to Saffron Walden, and was the second party at Uttlesford District Council.
Growth and Maturity
Since the 2015 local elections R4U has continued to champion residents’ causes. It has helped new resident groups to get off the ground, such as Hands of Thaxted. It has also maintained and expanded its alliances with the founding members of the original residents’ coalition, including Save Our Villages in Henham.
Where it is the majority party on a council, such as in Saffron Walden, it has fixed a £1m financial hole left by previous administrations and repaired crumbling community assets. On other councils, such as in Great Dunmow, it has been working to create a more vibrant town centre economy. And in a number of places it’s councillors are working on the development of Neighbourhood Plans.
On Uttlesford District Council where it is the second party, it has continued to push the Conservative leadership to do a proper job. In late 2016 continued pressure forced the UDC leadership to withdraw another failing Local Plan and go back to the drawing board – this time following an evidence-led process.
A Future Built Around Residents
R4U will continue to champion residents’ causes, make their voices heard, and push for a better, more transparent district council. R4U’s long term goal is to gain control of Uttlesford District Council so it can change it from the inside for the better. It is happy to do this in coalition with other parties, as it always has, or on its own with the continued support of residents’ groups.