R4U appalled that Conservatives seize control of Uttlesford planning decisions by the back door

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is appalled by a political move by the government to bypass local decision-making on housebuilding in Uttlesford, and believes the move may result in the back-door approval of widespread development across the district.

Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch is a Minister of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Her department has written to UDC to say that it has decided that developers can bypass the local authority for any planning application of more than 10 houses until the council stops refusing too many planning applications.

The R4U administration at UDC inherited an underperforming planning function from the previous Conservatives, which included two failed Local Plans at a cost of £6 million. Since then it has been undertaking a widespread ’improvement plan’ and says an intervention is not merited.

Petrina Lees (R4U) Petrina Lees (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr Petrina Lees, who is Leader of Uttlesford District Council, said “We’ve all seen the reports in the national press of the huge donations to the Conservatives by property tycoons. We don’t ’dance with donors’ – we stick up for residents. But for a decade Boris Johnson and his predecessors have said ‘build, build, build’. Residents have repeatedly said ‘no’ to unsustainable development and locally voted the Conservatives out. So now they’ve decided that instead they want to be able to approve 1,000s of new houses via the back door.”

Cllr Petrina Less added “This intervention is by the department of which our MP is a Minister of State. The excuse they are using to seize control comes from their claim that UDC isn’t winning enough planning applications on appeal – but poor development in our towns and villages must be fought for residents. In truth the vast majority of applications today are approved, with just the poorest being refused, and fewer going to appeal for further review. This removal of local decision-making is an unwarranted and cynical political move by the Conservatives.”

Cllr Lees concluded “They have decided that Civil Servants from an agency of our MP’s department will now decide what gets built in Uttlesford and where. Conservatives had previously proposed to approve new towns on the outskirts of Great Dunmow, Great Chesterford, and Stebbing, and large extensions to Saffron Walden and Elsenham. This move brings the very real fear that these developers will now go right to government for approval. It is an appalling betrayal of local democracy. Again the Conservatives have shown they want to decide what’s best for us and can’t be trusted on local matters.”

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