R4U thank local people for their overwhelming attendance and support at the public Local Plan meeting held by UDC, but are disappointed that the release of key documents was blocked and the Conservatives voted down a motion to increase transparency in the Local Plan process.
Central Government demands that UDC find space for new homes. In its Local Plan UDC must find space for more than 4,600 new homes in addition to the 7,000 that it has already approved. The unusual move of calling a Public Extraordinary Meeting was made after R4U expressed a number of concerns about secrecy and missing evidence the draft Plan.
John Lodge (R4U)
R4U’s Chair Cllr John Lodge said “We are very happy to have forced UDC to hold this meeting about their draft Local Plan in public after they tried to hold it in secret. Locals are worried about their future and came out from towns and villages. We’d like to thank the estimated 150 people whom attended and several hundred more listening to the live audio stream. Residents spoke from Dunmow, Little Easton, Stebbing, Thaxted, Takeley, Stansted, Saffron Walden, Ashdon, and Great Chesterford. They consistently raised concerns about the sites that UDC is targeting for new homes, a lack of transparency in the decision making process, and an existing shortfall in school places and road capacity.”
“Unfortunately our concerns about this sham of a Local Plan process have just been confirmed. The Conservative Cabinet had no concrete answers, preferring instead to attack councillors that asked questions on behalf of their residents. The R4U motion that would have brought greater transparency and confidence in the Local Plan process was voted down by the whipped Tory councillors who prefer to play politics than take an opportunity to work together with residents. “
“Despite an apology from Local Plan supremo Cllr Susan Barker about her poor conduct for attempting to bypass council members with a press-leak containing the list of places where she wanted to build, the UDC Cabinet squandered the opportunity to really listen and act for all Uttlesford residents. Instead they chose to continue to bludgeon the district with their own agenda.”
Newport resident Anthony Gerard spoke at the event. He is R4U’s Stansted Division candidate for the 2017 ECC elections. Afterwards he said “After the promise of being really listened to, things went quickly downhill. I asked about school places as many are full and village kids are really struggling to find places. Cllr Susan Barker admitted it was already a problem, but offered no solutions. In fact Cabinet councillors refused to properly answer most of the important questions raised by people. They also refused to reinstate the public consultation about the specific sites for new homes that they cancelled – and they blocked the publication of key documents.”
“Lib Dem and R4U councillors asked lots of questions, but Conservative councillors didn’t ask a single question on behalf of their constituents. Several played on phones and tablets throughout and others left the room for part of the proceedings. They seemed disinterested or had been told not to rock the boat by their leadership. Newport has R4U councillors, but if I had a Conservative one I’d be livid.”
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.