R4U exposes evidence vacuum at centre of politically-tarnished Local Plan

Residents for Uttlesford has exposed the extent of missing evidence from the Uttlesford Local Plan and the UDC Cabinet’s attempt to avoid the proper process.

R4U’s Chair Cllr John Lodge said “Last week it was revealed that out of the 4,600 new homes required for the new Local Plan almost none were being considered for where UDC Cabinet members live. Now it is clear that decisions are being made behind closed doors and evidence is being reverse-engineered to justify those decisions.”

John Lodge (R4U)
John Lodge (R4U)

“The law requires that the best and most sustainable locations are chosen for new homes. This basically means sites closest to major roads, schools and jobs. During the summer UDC announced where they wanted to allow the building of 4,600 new homes. R4U has found out this was BEFORE they had produced most of the evidence required to help them decide.  In other words, they were just making it up to suit their own needs.”

“Deciding where to build 1,000s of new homes isn’t a ‘beauty contest’; it is about where’s best. A huge list of the required evidential studies were missing including for air quality,  education, affordable housing, infrastructure development, transport, water, health – and we could go on… One of the most important that is still missing is the Comparative Sustainability Assessment. It evaluates the possible locations and identifies which ones are best for new homes. Without these it is impossible for UDC to conclude which are the best locations.”

“But now they’re cobbling together evidence to support where they’d politically like to build. For example they’ve just whipped up a new air quality plan for Saffron Walden, which fails even to mention the additional 800 houses they are proposing for the east of town! Similarly a new transport assessment is gradually appearing in episodes, but with less than a week to go before the unveiling of the ‘Conservative Plan’, as they call it, this document is also still totally silent on how Saffron Walden roads will be able to cope with large volumes of traffic from new estates on the east.”

“All of this ‘new evidence’ has been kept hidden from the cross-party working group and public until just days before the UDC Cabinet announce their final decision of where they’d like to build. The reason is obvious – groups like R4U work hard to test the evidence and make decisions based on the facts, and they are being intentionally prevented from doing so. Residents are not stupid, and we all deserve to be informed! This is a shocking way to run local democracy, but it won’t wash with the Planning Inspector who took a dim view of incompetence and meddling when he refused their previous plan in 2014 at a cost of £2m to local taxpayers.”

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 leads Uttlesford District Council (UDC). It is the fastest growing local political movement in its district. In its first election in 2015 it became the second party at UDC. In 2017 it solidified its position with a further by-election gain with 60% of the vote. In the May 2019 Local Elections 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.

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 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.