Significant concerns about bias at UDC towards planning approvals sought by Kier in Saffron Walden

Major concerns have been expressed about a new planning application by Kier to build 150 homes on the east of Saffron Walden, and also that Uttlesford District Council has shown a pattern of bias towards development on the site.

Developer Kier has recently submitted a planning application to build 150 homes on farmland on the opposite side of Thaxted Rd from the Saffron Walden Leisure Centre. Previous development of this controversial site was opposed by residents and the Town Council, rejected by UDC’s Planning Committee, found ‘unsound’ by the Local Plan Inspector in 2014, and finally refused by a Planning Inspector at appeal in 2015. The main reasons for the refusals were the impact to already congested roads, associated increases to already illegal pollution levels from traffic, and loss of high-quality agricultural land.

Paul Gadd (R4U) Paul Gadd (R4U)

R4U’s Paul Gadd, a councillor at Saffron Walden Town Council, said “Fundamentally this application is worse than Kier’s previous one. Even though this application is for fewer homes, since the previous refusals UDC has approved many hundreds more new homes on the inaccessible east of Saffron Walden. That means that the pollution and traffic situation is in fact already much worse. Because of that ECC has made it crystal clear that the east of town can only take 150 more homes without a new east-west bypass, and none is proposed. Since then UDC has approved more than half of that number, so the town just can’t take the number of houses that Kier are proposing.”

Cllr Paul Gadd continued “As concerning is UDC’s lack of impartiality and active promotion of this particular developer’s site. A Freedom of Information request, published in 2016, showed that as part of trying to push the previous Kier application through, the UDC leadership hid and misrepresented legal advice. This was so that they could undermine the refusal made by their own Planning Committee, leaving residents and the town council to fund and fight the appeal – which they won. Shockingly papers obtained from UDC at the appeal hearing also showed that UDC had tried to conspire with Kier to actively circumvent that appeal process, again to try and allow building on the site. It is shocking.”

Cllr Gadd concluded “There still appears to be active bias at UDC. They continue to refuse to consider other better alternative sites for new homes in Saffron Walden, and are repeatedly advocating for Kier. They are refusing to publish an update to their outdated 2013 Air Quality Assessment which would show how poor pollution is still predicted to be. And earlier this year, they tried to force through bizarre road proposals, which would create a huge one-way system that would feed HGVs through the town centre – all so that they could green-light Kier. But there is more; recent press revelations exposed what appeared to be a planning officer’s bias towards another developer. And residents may have also read that UDC received money from Stansted Airport to consider their expansion plans. So one of our R4U councillors has written to UDC to ask them if Kier has also paid them any money for ‘consideration’ of their various planning applications. We await their response. When there are better options for new homes, residents should be told why UDC is still hiding information and favouring this thrice rejected site; after all, the council is supposed to work for them, not developers.”

UDC is currently undertaking a public consultation on Keir’s planning application. Comments need to be submitted to UDC by 16th May 2018. Residents can do this via email to planning@uttlesford.gov.uk quoting application number UTT/18/0824/OP or online at this link on the UDC website Kier planning application page.

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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.