Concerns that new Local Plan will allow developers to asset-strip £billions from Uttlesford communities

R4U has said it is concerned about infrastructure asset-stripping by developers and will only support the Uttlesford District Council leadership’s new Local Plan if the council meets R4U’s four red lines of: community control, infrastructure-before-building, affordable housing for key workers, and an evidence-led process. The Local Plan is currently moving through local cabinet and council votes.

Red lines for residents:
  1. Community Control: New settlement creation must be steered by local community-led Development Corporations that will hold developers in check, ensure infrastructure delivery, protect existing communities, and get the best deal for local people. They should be majority owned by UDC, and include board members from adjacent town and parish councils.
  2. Infrastructure Before Building: Building of new homes must follow the delivery of key primary supporting infrastructure, such as roads and schools; and alongside secondary items such as retail facilities, employment land, medical centres, sports/green spaces, high-speed broadband and utilities.
  3. True Affordability: A portion of the Affordable Housing provided in each new settlement must be retained for existing local people, and with schemes for local key service-workers that are index-linked to wages, making them truly affordable.
  4. Proper Evidence: Empirical evidence, including that for housing need, sustainability, air quality, water, green-spaces, roads, schools and other infrastructure, should be produced, used and published to determine how many new houses Uttlesford needs to provide and the best locations

John Lodge (R4U)John Lodge (R4U)

R4U chair John Lodge, who sits on UDC’s Local Plan working group, said “We all want a Local Plan that works for our future. We were elected to hold the Uttlesford District Council leadership to account on behalf of local people. But UDC are now pushing their Local Plan through the council cabinet and councillors and as it is today this Plan is simply not in the best interests of residents. It doesn’t give local people control; it allows developers to asset-strip £billions from our communities instead of providing infrastructure and facilities; it fails on affordable housing for key workers; and much of the evidence is missing or inadequate.”

“To make matters worse, rather than come clean to voters, they’re cynically pushing off any of the detail about their new towns until after next year’s local elections. They’ve also ignored any expansion of Stansted Airport. And they’re trying to use scare tactics to suggest that the government will step-in and there’ll be another 2,000 homes foisted on us unless we accept this half-baked plan right now. That is scaremongering. The government has told councils to expect a likely increase in numbers of new homes anyway, and they could hardly do a worse job than UDC. The district council has had a string of Local Plan and planning failures that have left us out of pocket by £millions and with the current shocking developer free-for-all.”

“Whilst we’ve won a number of concessions for residents on the timing of new homes and where they will be built, this Plan falls well short of what is required. Most critical is that the UDC leadership has refused to commit to any new settlement being controlled by community-led Development Corporations, instead favouring an approach which hands over the keys of the kingdom to developers to do what they wish. Of the nearly 30 new towns built in the UK since the War, all have been controlled by Development Corporations. So why are Uttlesford residents being denied direct local control?”

“Local people care about our future, but developers don’t. They are big self-motivated businesses. Grosvenor, who are proposing to build out Chesterford new town, are worth £10billion; profiteering at Persimmon means that the directors are eligible for £328million in bonuses; and the founder of Bloor Homes is worth £1.85billion and donated £1million to the Conservative Party. Not using community-led Development Corporations means that fat-cat developers will be able to siphon off more than £2bn that should instead be providing real affordable homes, roads, schools, healthcare, sports and community facilities. And there are many other problems with this Local Plan, including poor evidence, the allocation of 1,000s of new homes on unsustainable sites in existing towns and villages, and failures in key policy areas. It is still not fit for our needs.”

Cllr Lodge concluded “Our communities feel under siege by this council leadership and their asset-stripping developer friends, particularly in Saffron Walden, Dunmow, Chesterford, Stansted, Thaxted, Little Easton, Newport, Takeley, Elsenham, Henham, Felsted, and Stebbing. Their new Local Plan was a chance for the UDC leadership to start afresh and show that they were here for the local taxpayers who fund them.”

“But this Plan needs to be amended to fix large core issues. However in their efforts to pander to their Westminster puppet-masters they have pushed residents into the back-seat. A number of similarly concerned councillors from the other parties have approach us, and if there are no changes, it will be difficult for many councillors to support this Plan. If the council cabinet whip their party and force their Plan through, residents will ultimately decide at the local election ballot boxes in 2019.”

The draft of the Local Plan was voted through by the UDC Cabinet on 13th June and will presented to the full council for approval on 19th June. Residents who wish to attend the public meeting can find out more here in the UDC website and email by 12 noon on Friday 15th June if they wish to speak. Note: UDC has indicated that it has extended the deadline to register to speak until 12 noon Monday 18th due to a mistake in papers about the meeting they published.

About Residents for Uttlesford