Concerns about ‘house-building assault’ on Uttlesford as developers push for many more homes than are needed

Concern has been expressed by Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) about a developers’ ‘house-building assault’ on the district mandated and enabled by the government as the Local Plan ‘Call for Sites’ results are published by UDC.

John Lodge (R4U) John Lodge (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr John Lodge, who is Leader of Uttlesford District Council, said “Developers have put their cards on the table under the Local Plan ‘Call for Sites’ phase. They’ve now told UDC where they’d like to build tens-of-thousands of new houses in our rural district. Only about a fifth of these sites are likely to get permission for new homes under the Plan as developers are pushing for many more than is required by the government. But until there is certainty it is a worrying time for many residents and communities across the district.”

Cllr Lodge continued “Our district is facing an unprecedented house-building assault. £6m and vital years were wasted on previous failed Local Plans by the Conservatives, countersigned by the Lib-Dems. This has left our towns and villages ravaged by an ongoing developer free-for-all. Meanwhile the Westminster government legally requires UDC to approve thousands more houses, keeps increasing the number, and is steamrollering through its so-called Developers’ Charter. This damaging new law would automatically give planning permission to developers, sweeping away the ability for residents and their councils to locally decide on housing. The government’s desire to put developers’ profits ahead of residents’ wishes is very concerning, especially in light of the investigations by the Financial Times that showed that a quarter of all donations to the Conservative Party were from the property development sector.”

In their front page lead article of 30th July the Financial Times reported that a quarter of all donations to the Conservative Party had come from the property sector since Boris Johnson was elected leader in 2019. This amounted to nearly £18million in donations from the property tycoons, including those behind housebuilders Countywide, Redrow and Bloor. Last November the government announced their intent to rewrite planning law, automatically giving developers planning approval in many cases, bypassing local control, and removing the ability for local councils to make developers pay for affordable housing.

John Evans (R4U)John Evans (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr John Evans, who is the UDC portfolio holder for Planning, said “Our district is in a race against time to get a new Local Plan in place to limit the impact of speculative development and government changes. The new process we’ve implemented at UDC is more transparent, with far greater input from residents, town and parish councils; and features extra scrutiny reviews to ensure that everything is done properly. As a result of the ‘Call for Sites’ UDC has published a map of all the sites where developers would like to build. None of these have been accepted and they will now all be subject to careful assessment. Importantly UDC has also withdrawn all of the sites promoted by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in their previous failed Plans. We believe it is important to start again, this time using proper evidence from the ground up.”

Cllr Evans concluded “Over the next few months UDC will seek feedback on the sites from town and parish councils and then undertake a residents’ consultation in the New Year. Rest assured that at UDC we will fight to make sure that we minimise the housing numbers to only those the district needs and is legally required to provide; and that sound evidence will guide the best locations, with developers being made to pay for necessary infrastructure.”

UDC has published the developers’ responses to the Local Plan ‘Call for Sites’ on their website.

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.