Wednesday 10th December 2014, Saffron Walden: Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the local advocacy party for towns and villages, has outlined its main manifesto policy points to address what it sees as the catastrophic failure of the recently refused Tory led draft Uttlesford Local Plan.
On 3rd December the Planning Inspectorate halted its examination of the draft Local Plan after major parts of it were found unsound. Only 15 other councils in the country have had their plans withdrawn after examination by the Planning Inspectorate.
Cllr Keith Mackman, R4U leader at UDC said “UDC has wasted over £2 million of tax-payers’ money on a politically driven plan that was not fit for purpose, even though they had been told so during 2 public consultations and 1,000s of pages of deposition.”
Cllr Mackman went on to say “By any measure it is a catastrophic failure of the Tory led District Council. They are even still saying that their Plan is not unsound. This is patently untrue for anyone that has read the Inspector’s statement. It is time for a fresh Council with fresh ideas that can really represent the residents of Uttlesford.”
R4U party chair and Essex County Councillor, John Lodge outlined the party’s policy points to deal with the crisis: “UDC is broken and needs restructuring. If elected in May 2015 to run the District Council, Residents-for-Uttlesford will: (1) deliver a new consultative, evidence-led Local Plan via a transparent and cooperative process; (2) implement special measures to fix the damage done to many communities by developments approved under the failed Local Plan; (3) remove vested interests from the Local Plan Working Group and include external participation from town/parish councils and residents; and (4) remove political influence from the Planning Committee.”
John Lodge added “We will also restructure major parts of the planning function of the Council. We will improve the competence of key planning and legal roles. And we will make many meetings open to the public, stream them over the Internet, and move them to evenings so residents can attend.”
Manifesto Policy Points: Local Plan Refusal
If elected with a majority to Uttlesford District Council, R4U will:
- Create a new evidence-led and transparent Local Plan: The Planning Inspector has found UDC’s current plan unsound and the process lacking in the required evidence, cooperation and transparency. R4U will initiate a new evidence-led process that will follow best-practice and the Planning Inspector’s guidance. This process will consider the objectively assessed housing need, the differing dispersal and new settlement(s) strategies, and fully consider the environmental, social, economic, cultural, and infrastructure impacts to reach its recommendation. Town/Parish Councils and the public will be actively involved; neighbouring districts will consulted; agencies responsible for infrastructure will be held to account. Houses have to go somewhere, but evidence not politics will dictate where, and we will work very hard with affected communities to hammer out the best deal for them.
- Remediate the impacts on communities of the failed Local Plan: The failed draft Local Plan has allowed development on many sites without suitable infrastructure. We will review the legacy planning deficit left by the failed local Plan across the District, identify such special measures as may be appropriate and deliverable to remedy the problem areas, and devise an action plan to implement them in a reasonable timescale.
- Remove vested interests from the Local Plan Working Group: This UDC steering group is responsible for the Local Plan strategies. The proportion of Cabinet members and their deputies on the Group will be limited to fewer than 50%; all elected political groups, town/parish councils and residents groups will be invited to participate; accessibility and transparency will be increased by making meetings public, streaming them over the Internet, and moving them to the evenings where possible.
- Remove politics from the Planning Committee: National guidance recommends that Planning Committees are independent. A UDC Cabinet member will no longer be able to chair the committee; Town/Parish Councils will ‘be at the table’ in any debate about a particular application for their community; we will remove UDC’s current ban on public statements; accessibility and transparency will be increased by streaming them over the Internet, and moving them to the evenings where possible.
- Invest in key staff skills: The Head of Planning will be a direct management team/senior role; officer skills in the planning and legal departments will be improved; additional technical support will be provided to the Planning Committee.
Residents for Uttlesford’s full manifesto will be announced closer to the election.