Dan Starr: District Council and residents tussle over new homes on BBC Radio

BBC Radio Essex host Dave Monk presented his show from Saffron Walden last week. During the broadcast he held a debate about new homes proposed for the town between myself and the UDC Deputy Leader Cllr Susan Barker, who is also responsible for the Uttlesford Local Plan. The replay of the housing sections of the broadcast is at the bottom of this page.

Firstly host Dave Monk asked me about residents’ concerns about housing.

I said “The discussion is really about the location of new houses and the infrastructure required for them, school places, roads, doctors’ surgeries and employment too. This is a medieval market town. Our roads are cow tracks that have been paved over the last 400 years and they can’t take the traffic. As a consequence we have the only illegal air pollution area in Uttlesford; West is best and the East is a poor location.”

Then Dave Monk asked Cllr Susan Barker if too many houses were being built too fast and in the wrong places. In response she said “No I wouldn’t agree”, adding that UDC didn’t really have any option because “We can only build where land is available.”

In response Dave Monk asked Cllr Barker “If the land is simply in wrong place, surely it shouldn’t be built on?”

Cllr Barker replied “I wouldn’t say it is in the wrong place, it’s close to the town and abuts other developments.”

Dave Monk said he had experienced the morning traffic and “wasn’t the town going to become gridlocked with all the additional cars?” Cllr Barker admitted that the current “traffic flow was bad” and there was “no logical bypass”, but felt that infrastructure would be delivered via legal deals with the developers. She added that “Development was coming and the government is forcing development upon us!”

I thought it was a good debate, but I found it disappointing that the Deputy UDC Leader is consistently choosing to mislead over the availability of other building land not on the east of Walden, this time on BBC radio. arlier this year she was corrected when a UDC Standards Committee review into her conduct found that she had previously incorrectly made the same assertion that no other land was available, and here she is spreading the misinformation again, when she clearly knows better.

One of the reasons I’m standing for District Council next year is I believe we need a change in tone from the Council and one with more honesty in the way it communicates.

You can hear the whole discussion on YouTube below: