R4U makes first changes at UDC planning to tip balance back towards residents and their communities

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has made the first of a number of changes to the planning area at UDC to give residents a strong voice and hold developers to account.

John Lodge (R4U) John Lodge (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr John Lodge, the UDC Council Leader, said “The previous administration got it wrong. For too long planning in Uttlesford has not been working for us. It is time to tip the balance back towards our communities and what they need. You elected us to fix it and that is what we’re doing. We have established a cross-party working group. The first changes we have implemented mean that residents and their town and parish councils now have a stronger say in what happens. Planning enforcement has also been refocused to deal with rogue development. We have many more changes coming for the planning area at UDC, but these initial ones show that we are a new type of administration that is listening and working for residents.”

Sandi Merifield (R4U) Sandi Merifield (R4U)

Some of the changes affect how the Planning Committee operates. R4U’s Cllr Sandi Merifield, Chair of the UDC Planning Committee, said “Planning is often an emotive issue and it is proper that people can voice their concerns. The previous Conservative administration’s policy of limiting resident speaking at planning committee meetings was wholly unacceptable. We’ve reversed it. More public speakers are now allowed and they have more time to make their points. But we’ve gone further. Town and Parish councils know their turf better than anyone. Their representatives are now invited to site visits, they will have longer to speak at planning meetings, and importantly their opinions will be actively sought during those meetings. We implemented the changes in August and they have been positively received by Town and Parish councils. We will monitor how they work and make any additional tweaks before they are finally formally adopted.”

UDC Planning Enforcement instructed Cala Homes to remove an unauthorised earth bank they built that separated new homes on an estate in Newport

Neil Hargreaves (R4U) Neil Hargreaves (R4U)

The new administration is also taking a tougher line on developers. R4U’s Cllr Neil Hargreaves of the Newport ward added “Planning enforcement wasn’t given priority by the previous administration. The result was that the worst developers often did what they wanted – building things that were different from the approved plans or without consent; bulldozing habitat and landscape; and not delivering their agreed community commitments, such as new playgrounds. We intend to put an end to that and are already taking action. For example Cala Homes have been ordered to remove a huge 3-metre high earth bank that they built around their site in Newport, rather than pay for the excess soil to be removed. They did not have permission for it and it is unacceptable to build an earth wall that blocks countryside views and sunlight from homes. The earth bank has now been much reduced to the previously agreed level. We encourage town and parish councils all over Uttlesford to let us know when developers aren’t delivering what they agreed to so that we can take action.”

The unauthorised 3m earth bank that blocked light and views was built by Cala to save the developer the cost of removing the spare soil from their site

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.

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