Uttlesford Local Plan Consultation

The draft Uttlesford Local Plan is in public consultation until Monday 5:00PM on 13th August 2018.  Residents should provide their feedback to UDC on their website at the link below (not this website)  before the consultation closes:

https://www.uttlesford.gov.uk/draftplan2018

We are concerned that this draft still has serious flaws, including those exposed by the Inspector of the Braintree Local Plan when he rejected it earlier this summer. Read what we said about how this draft of the Uttlesford Local Plan will allow developers to asset-strip £billions from Uttlesford communities.

Read more below…

What is a Local Plan?
The government requires a district council to allow ‘enough’ new homes to be built. In Uttlesford’s case this is Uttlesford District Council (UDC). To do this UDC is required to produce a Local Plan that says where it will, and will not, allow new building. As part of that Local Plan the council has to produce evidence to say how many are ‘enough’ new homes. In our case UDC has determined that number is currently over 600 new homes every year until 2033 – 14,000 in total. UDC is also required to produce evidence to prove that the sites it wants to allocate for new building are the most sustainable, i.e. in effect the best locations that create the least impact to our environment and existing residents.

Do not confuse the Local Plan with a Neighbourhood Plan. The 2 fit together but are different. A Local Plan provides a ‘helicopter view’ of where the planning authority, i.e. district council, will allow building. A Neighbourhood Plan fits under that and covers more of the details.

Why Should You Care
The Local Plan will decide where all the new homes and jobs are provided round here until 2033 and so where the investment goes for infrastructure such as schools, roads, healthcare, shops and other things.

To put it bluntly, if you don’t get involved you may find 1,000 houses dumped on your doorstep or no school places for your family members.

During the process UDC are required by law to consult with local people a number of times. UDC is supposed to listen to and act on public responses. And importantly your responses form part of the evidence that the Planning Inspector will read when he or she decides if the Plan is fit for purpose. If they don’t like what they read, they’ll reject the Plan.

Please use the link below in the section Respond to the Public Consultation.

Summary of this Local Plan
UDC has calculated that they are required to find places for 14,000 new homes between the start of their plan and 2033. They have post-dated their plan to start in 2011 so they can count the 8,000+ new homes that they have already approved over the last few years. That means that in this consultation they are looking to find sites for the remaining 6,000.

UDC are proposing to put the majority of these additional new homes in 3 new settlements, one near Great Chesterford, a second one between Dunmow and Stansted Airport, and a third other between Dunmow and Braintree. Over time UDC is proposing that these three new settlements will take many thousands of additional new homes each, creating 3 new towns in the district.

In terms of the existing towns and villages, in this draft of the Plan UDC is proposing:

    • Great Dunmow gets 767 new homes in addition to the 2,531 already approved since 2011 (and there are an additional 1925 adjacent to Dunmow at the proposed Easton Park new town)
    • Saffron Walden gets 315 in addition to the 1,078 already approved
    • Elsenham gets 170 in addition to the 480 already approved (but the new town proposed to extend the village has been removed from the Local Plan)
    • Great Chesterford gets 0 in addition to the 132 already approved (but 1925 are proposed for a site very close to the village)
    • Stebbing and Felsted are proposed to be next to the new ‘West of Braintree’ new town, 970 houses of which are in Uttlesford).
    • Stansted Mountfitchet gets 40 in addition to the 578 already approved
    • Takeley gets 20 in addition to the 678 already approved
    • Thaxted gets 20 in addition to the 213 already approved
    • UDC is not targeting any other settlements for additional new homes over those that they have already approved
District Map

New homes will go in 3 new settlements and in existing towns and villages (source: UDC)

Key Issues
There are specific issues for the different towns and villages in Uttlesford. Read below for things to think about when you are forming your responses to UDC’s consultation (see consultation link below).

R4U believes that this draft of the Uttlesford Local Plan is unlawful and will be found unsound by the Planning Inspector. R4U is particularly concerned after the recent rejection of the similar Braintree Local Plan, which confirmed a number of R4U’s concerns. If our Local Plan is rejected, it will perpetuate the current developer free-for-all and will cost local taxpayers even more money. It is right that the plan is fixed before it is inspected.

R4U has expressed its concerns to the UDC leadership, who have ignored them for the most part.

A few of our primary concerns are:

  • There is no transparent process as to how UDC have arrived at the housing distribution and so locations that they are proposing; and there’s no systematic assessment as to why it is more sustainable (i.e. better) than any other distribution, as required by law;
  • There is no clarity as to how UDC propose to ensure that community benefits are realised from each of the new settlements. We believe that any new settlement should be built through a local Development Corporation majority controlled by the local community to ensure that proper sustainable communities are built;
  • There is no proper infrastructure plan.  Uttlesford residents have been let down time and again over the last 10 years by UDC’s failure to force developers to provide proper infrastructure to support new developments. Compared to national standards, virtually no new green infrastructure, parks, sports fields, sports facilities or other spaces have been provided, and this draft of their Plan is just as bad. Similarly virtually no new transport infrastructure, for sustainable transport or otherwise, has been provided over the last 10 years.  The draft Plan as written will repeat these failings – virtually no green infrastructure is identified in relation to any existing settlement, and there is no detail as to how it will be provided in the proposed new settlements; similarly, there are virtually no firm plans for other infrastructure, and there are therefore no costings to show whether the plan is financially viable. These same infrastructure and cost shortcomings were referenced by the Planning Inspector when he rejected the Braintree Local Plan;
  • There is no sustainable transport plan at all.  Given that most residents of the proposed new developments are likely to be commuting out of Uttlesford to work, this is particularly important. Again the Inspector failed the Braintree plan for this issue;
  • Whilst UDC has commissioned a Transport Study on the effect of the new plan on principle link roads in the district, they have not commissioned any assessment of the effect of development on existing towns and villages, where most of the capacity issues are at present.  In 2014, they commissioned reports which showed how bad traffic congestion was in the principle settlements such as Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, Newport and Stansted Mountfitchet.  They have done nothing similar with the current plan, which again we believe makes the draft Plan unlawful.  Not only is there no consideration of the traffic impact of new development in existing towns and villages, but there is no assessment of the impact of for example the proposed development at Easton Park on traffic in Great Dunmow or the proposed development near Great Chesterford on Saffron Walden; this is particularly important since each of the new settlements is proposed to have only very limited retail development (Tesco Express type shops), but no supermarkets or other main retail outlets, so residents will be very dependent on driving to Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden, as well as Cambridge and Bishops Stortford;
  • Similarly UDC has repeatedly refused to commission an Air Quality Assessment to show the effects of new development on air quality, particularly in Saffron Walden, where air pollution has been at illegal levels for most of the last 12 years.  The Air Quality Assessment they commissioned in 2014 showed that their plans were likely to worsen air pollution, and we believe that this is why they are not producing a proper assessment now;
1. Issues for Saffron Walden
Of the 1,000+ new homes that UDC has already approved, 545 are yet to be built. So the additional 315 that they want to add means that actually 860 new homes are yet come to the town. To put that into perspective, that is 260 primary school places, 170 secondary places and 1,370 additional cars. And nearly all of those are on the inaccessible east.

Of the 315 additional homes, 90 are in small infill sites, and the rest are on the inaccessible east of the town, including 150 are proposed for the Kier site that was already rejected by two Planning Inspectors.

  • Some families that live in the east of already cannot get their children into the SWCHS – what should be done about schooling?
  • Instead of the Kier site, should UDC consider the land next to the Linden development behind Tesco so that there is enough land to add a second form entry to the new primary school at the top of Shire Hill?
  • What are the key issues with the actual sites that UDC is proposing? Are the sites that UDC is proposing the best locations or are their others inside or outside of Saffron Walden?
  • What needs to be done about the roads, schools and other infrastructure to limit the impact for existing residents (i.e. make the new developments sustainable)?
  • Saffron Walden already has illegal air quality, yet UDC is proposing more building on the east. How do you feel about that?
2. Issues for Great Dunmow
Of the 2,531 new homes that UDC has already approved, 2,166 are yet to be built. So the additional 767 that they want to add means that actually nearly 3,000 new homes are yet come to the town. To put that into perspective, that is 900 primary school places, 600 secondary places and 4,800 additional cars.

In additional UDC Is proposing a new settlement on either side of Dunmow. Easton Park is a few km to the west and this Local Plan proposes the first 1,925 of 10,000 new homes. To put this into context, Dunmow itself has 3,800 homes.

Further along the A120 at Stebbing, UDC is proposing another new settlement at Andrewsfield/West of Braintree. During this Local Plan (up to 2033) UDC is proposing 970 houses on that site growing to 5,000 over time.

Of the 767 additional homes in Great Dunmow itself, over and above the completion of Woodlands Park, the majority are on farmland which will extend Dunmow to the west all the way to the western Stortford Rd roundabout by the old gatehouse for Easton Park.

  • Are the sites that UDC is proposing the best locations or are their others inside or outside of Dunmow? What are the key issues with the actual sites that UDC is proposing?
  • What needs to be done about the roads, schools and other infrastructure to limit the impact for existing residents (i.e. make the new developments sustainable)?
  • Are there any historic elements to your settlement that will be impacted by the proposed developments
  • The HRS won’t be able to take all these new pupils? Where should a new secondary school be built?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the scale of development proposed for Dunmow?
  • What impacts will the proposed new towns on either side of Dunmow create for the town?
  • What buffer or other protections are need for Dunmow from these new towns?
  • How will these new towns impact your roads, schools and other infrastructure?
  • Are there any historic elements to your settlement that will be impacted by the proposed developments

Find out more from local residents’ action groups either side of Dunmow:

3. Issues for villages being targeted for new homes
  • Are the sites that UDC is proposing the best locations or are their others inside or outside of your settlement?
  • What are the key issues with the actual sites that UDC is proposing?
  • What needs to be done about the roads, schools and other infrastructure to limit the impact for existing residents (i.e. make the new developments sustainable)?
  • Is flooding, sewage or pollution an issue and if so how will the proposed new sites affect those things?
  • How close are employment sites to your settlement and how easy is it for new home owners to get to work – i.e. are the locations sustainable?
  • Are there any historic elements to your settlement that will be impacted by the proposed developments
4. Issues for those likely to be directly impacted by new settlements
  • Do you agree or disagree with the scale of development proposed near you?
  • What impacts will it create on your settlement?
  • How will UDC create a buffer or other protections for your settlement from these new towns?
  • What needs to be done about the roads, schools and other infrastructure?
  • Is flooding, sewage or pollution an issue and if so how will the proposed new sites affect those things?
  • How close are employment sites to your settlement and how easy is it for new home owners to get to work and how will their commutes effect your settlement?
  • Are there any historic elements to your settlement that will be impacted by the proposed developments

Find out more from local residents’ action groups:

How to Respond to the Public Consultation
Responding is easy. It can all be done from the UDC website at this link:

https://www.uttlesford.gov.uk/draftplan2018

Then click on the ‘The Local Plan and how to comment’ link, then ‘Online consultation portal ►’ and next ‘Read and Comment on Document’. You will to register and login to add comments.  The draft Local Plan document is split into sections with each paragraph numbered. There are tabs on the pages to view the comments that other have left.

You can also send you comments via email to: planningpolicy@uttlesford.gov.uk

R4U’s Role in the Local Plan
This UDC administration has been working on a new Local Plan since their last draft Plan was rejected by the Planning Inspector in 2014. According to the Inspector it was rejected because UDC wanted to build in poor locations without the proper evidence, and they’d failed to properly consult. That failure cost local taxpayers over £2m, which is more than £60 per council tax bill.

After that plan was rejected, in 2015 local people elected their first R4U district councillors to hold UDC to account over the Local Plan fiasco. As we are the second party at UDC we can’t make the decisions, but we can apply pressure for it to be done right and expose issues where we see them.

We are relatively happy with what we’ve achieved so far. A cross-party group was established to scrutinise the new Plan process after we pushed for it – and we have 2 seats on that team. We’ve written to the Planning Inspector when things have been going off track and so the UDC administration adopted a process which appears to be more evidence-led and driving to a much more sustainable solution. And now UDC has a new chief executive, head of planning and head of legal. They also reinstated the ‘regulation 18’ public consultation which they had refused to do in 2016.

However constant delays in the delivery of a Local Plan by UDC mean that there is now a ‘presumption in favour of development’, i.e. it is harder to prevent poor or unsustainable planning applications. And we believe there are still major issues in this version of the draft Local Plan.