R4U calls for Uttlesford Local Plan lead Cllr Susan Barker to resign over latest in string of major failures

R4U is calling for the resignation of Uttlesford Local Plan portfolio holder Cllr Susan Barker after another costly plan failure which could delay the Local Plan to 2020.

A Local Plan will allow Uttlesford District Council to control how many houses are built and where they go. The council is required to undertake an independent assessment of its plan. This was recently concluded by AECOM, a multi-national planning and engineering consultancy. Published last week, the report highlighted critical failures (AECOM report; see Chapter 5)  in the latest draft of UDC’s Local Plan, including major deficiencies in the process for how the sites for new homes were selected. AECOM indicate that properly fixing the plan will mean further delays. In contrast the UDC leadership thought it would be ready to send for final review by the Planning Inspector early in the New Year.

Uttlesford Local Plan Timeline
  • May 2011: Cllr Susan Barker appointed to lead Local Plan
  • Jan 2012: UDC adopt strategy to build new town in Elsenham (‘Hellensham’) and extend larger towns and villages
  • Mar 2013: UDC increase new housing number from 338 to 415 a year
  • Oct 2013: UDC forced to adopt proper 15+ year plan length after Planning Inspector intervention
  • Oct 2014: UDC increase new housing number to 523 a year
  • Nov 2014: Plan costs exceed £2m to local taxpayer
  • Dec 2014: Plan rejected by Planning Inspector for multiple failures including process for how the sites for new homes were selected
  • Jun 2015: UDC’s flagship Kier extension to east of Saffron Walden rejected by Planning Inspector
  • Sep 2015: UDC increase new housing number to 568 a year
  • Aug 2016: Major delay as UDC’s flagship ‘Hellsenham’ new town site rejected by Secretary of State
  • Oct 2016: UDC’s ‘manufactured’ air quality study for Saffron Walden fails scrutiny review
  • Oct 2016: R4U writes to Planning Inspector to highlight on-going failures, including missing evidence for how the sites for new homes were selected
  • Oct 2016: Major plan delay after UDC forced to abandon unsustainable major “Greater Walden” town extension due to not enough road capacity
  • Jun 2017: UDC adopt strategy of 3 new towns near Dunmow/Little Easton, Great Chesterford and Stebbing/Felsted
  • Jul 2017: UDC increase new housing number to 641 a year
  • Jul 2017: Major delay after UDC required to undertake further public consultation
  • Jun 2018: Neighbouring Braintree Plan rejected bringing into question conjoined new town at Stebbing/Felsted
  • Jun 2018: UDC increase new housing number to 705 a year from 2022
  • Aug 2018: Plan costs exceed £4m to local taxpayer
  • Sep 2018: UDC delay plan further after Braintree Plan refusal
  • Nov 2018: Independent consultant AECOM finds multiple failures including process for how the sites for new homes were selected
  • Jan 2019: New draft Local Plan submitted to Inspector
  • May 2019: Conservative administration replaced by R4U
  • Jun 2019: Local Plan Examination (of previous administration’s Plan)

R4U chair Cllr John Lodge said “AECOM’s recommendation of how to properly fix the flaws in UDC’s Local Plan means it could be delayed a further 2 years. For 7 years we’ve seen a catalogue of failures by Local Plan lead Cllr Susan Barker, who was appointed to the district council cabinet position to oversee the Uttlesford Local Plan in 2011.

John Lodge (R4U)John Lodge
R4U Chair & Leader UDC

Since then the Planning Inspector has handed her a string of rejections, including her whole draft Local Plan in 2014; her marquee Kier housing site in Saffron Walden in 2015; and her misguided flagship ‘Hellsenham’ new town in 2016. Delay-after-delay is costing residents a whopping £5m, which is £164 per council tax bill. Residents have lost confidence in her, and its time she resigned.”

“Cllr Barker has proven to be unable to learn from her mistakes. Part of the reasons for the 2014 rejection by the Planning Inspector were failures in the process for how the sites for new homes were selected. When she’d failed to act on it by 2016, R4U was forced to write to the Planning Inspector. Earlier this year she’d still not acted, so R4U refused to be a signatory to the plan because these and other issues had not been resolved. Now after 4 years UDC’s own independent consultant AECOM has found the same fatal flaws that have been there since 2014 and not acted on.”

John Lodge concluded “Poor Local Plan leadership has cost residents £millions, and left our district with a developer-free-for-all whilst we wait for a proper plan to pass – and we are further away from that than we were in 2014. Cllr Barker’s delays mean that UDC has lost control of development in our district. Enough is enough. UDC should appoint another cabinet member to oversee the Local Plan and this time they must listen to advice and take the lowest risk approach to getting this plan delivered.”

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.