Tory UDC administration’s decision to sell ‘public open space’ land for housing referred for review by R4U

R4U has referred the Conservative UDC Cabinet’s proposal to sell a wildlife site for housing for review by UDC’s Scrutiny Committee. The review comes after R4U investigations found that the land near De Vigier Avenue in Saffron Walden was actually donated as community ‘public open space’ in perpetuity, and not for building.

The land is a half-hectare triangle of community green-space at the end of De Vigier Avenue on the east of Saffron Walden. When development was undertaken in that area in 1984, the land was transferred via a covenant to UDC for community use ‘as a public open space’. The UDC Cabinet is now proposing to sell this public open space for the development of up to 14 homes as part of a scheme on the adjacent Ridgeon site.

Richard Freeman (R4U) Richard Freeman (R4U)

After viewing historic legal contracts, it has been discovered that the land should be kept as public open space in perpetuity, and so Residents for Uttlesford has referred the case for review by UDC’s Scrutiny Committee.

Dr Richard Freeman of R4U, who is Saffron Walden Mayor and district councillor for the ward, said “Since 1984 UDC has been the custodian of this land for community use on behalf of residents. We can assume that when the UDC Cabinet recommended selling the land for development they were not aware that the land is legally reserved for public use, not for private buildings. The land is currently used as a nature habitat and it is important that it is maintained as such, which is why we’ve referred the UDC Cabinet decision for a review by the Scrutiny Committee.”

Heather Asker (R4U) Heather Asker (R4U)

The other ward district councillor is R4U’s Heather Asker. She added “We’ve also asked UDC to publish the 3 wildlife reports that have been compiled for this land. A couple of years ago when UDC tried to bring heavy equipment on to the site, local residents barricaded access because they believed UDC intended to clear wildlife in preparation for a sale. At that time UDC assured them that it would not sell the land. Residents expect UDC to honour that commitment. With the loss of the football pitch and green space that was at the front of the Ridgeon’s site, there is hardly any green space left on this side of town, and so it should be maintained as it is. We agree with the 250 local residents who have signed a petition to request that this be the case.”

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 took majority control of UDC by gaining two-thirds of the seats. Since then it has set about re-engineering the now award-winning council operates, rebuilding the finances and fixing how planning is done. 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