Risk of another £2 million Local Plan failure as UDC Cabinet bars public from consulting on new homes’ sites – Press Release

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has expressed significant concerns about another Local Plan rejection after the UDC Cabinet voted to remove public and developer consultation on their new draft Local Plan.

Last week the UDC Cabinet voted to remove the public consultation on the actual locations for new homes in their draft Local Plan. This move has caused fury from councillors who see it as a cynical attempt to silence dissenting public voices. Councillors say a greater concern is that this risks rejection of the Local Plan for a second time. The last Local Plan was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in 2014 at a cost the local taxpayer of more than £2 million.

Cllr Joanna Parry (R4U)
Cllr Joanna Parry (R4U)
R4U’s Cllr Joanna Parry is on the district council Local Plan working group. She said “During the last consultation in December the UDC leadership told the public not to comment about specific sites as they would be given the chance this Spring. Now the UDC Cabinet is breaking its promise and silencing public opinion. When the new UDC Leader took over a few years ago he committed to an open and transparent council. These were simply empty promises.”

Cllr Parry said “Public speaking at planning meetings is limited, opposition groups are silenced on the local plan working group, and Tory members of that group are whipped to vote through anti-democratic proposals without debate or any cross-party support. They claim it is because they don’t have time to do a proper Plan, but this is not true – they have extended the overall time by 9 months. The last 2 public consultations on sites overwhelmingly rejected the UDC Cabinet’s proposals; so make no bones about it, this is all about forcing their agenda and denying the public a voice.”

Cllr Parry continued “Documents show that they have retrospectively rewritten the December 2015 consultation to pretend it covered the actual development locations, which it didn’t. And now the UDC Cabinet is seeking to decide where new homes get built behind closed doors. This action has opened the council up to legal challenges from developers who have been denied the opportunity to have their sites fairly considered. In 2014 the Planning Inspector rejected their previous local plan for a number of reasons, including a murky process used to determine sites and a failure to cooperate. We cannot trust the UDC Cabinet on long range planning as they clearly have not learnt. This has ‘another £2 million taxpayer fiasco’ written all over it.”

Download R4U’s mark- up of the internal UDC documentation about the remove of the public consultation.

About Residents for Uttlesford

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is the local independent party of north-west Essex towns and villages. Formed in 2014 by a number of residents’ groups, the party believes that on local issues residents should decide, not Westminster parties. R4U’s success has been based on the desire to give local people a voice and implement long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area.

R4U leads Uttlesford District Council (UDC). In its first election in 2015 it became the second party at UDC. In the May 2019 R4U gained majority control of UDC winning two-thirds of the seats. The result delivered the biggest loss of seats by any UK Conservative controlled council in the UK. In 2021 the party won half the Essex County Council seats in Uttlesford district.

R4U also leads Saffron Walden Town Council, where under its stewardship the council has rebuilt finances, invested in community assets, and won multiple awards, including the best run council in Essex. It is a minority party on Great Dunmow Town Council.

Residents for Uttlesford can be found on the web at www.residents4u.org.