The government has stated that it wishes to support the building industry by streamlining the appeals process. In other words, tipping the balance of power towards developers.
This week a building consortium has won an appeal that allows them to build 1,100 new homes on the edge of Harlow, Essex. In his decision letter, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles stated that the scheme would help to make up the shortfall in the required five-year supply of housing land and was sustainable and justified in the Green Belt.
This decision sets precedence that provides a very clear indication of the likely outcome of any appeal in our corner of Essex. Fairfield Partnership is proposing a new town of up to 3,000 new homes in the south of Uttlesford. Our District Council has been promoting and proposing exactly this type of new town development for 6 years as being the best and most sustainable. That was until their sudden and unexplained U-turn earlier this year, so Fairfield is likely to appeal if Uttlesford District Council blocks them.
There are striking parallels between the Harlow and Uttlesford proposals which mean that Fairfield will likely win any appeal they could make:
- Housing shortfall: Both Harlow and Uttlesford are behind in meeting their statutory 5-year housing requirements, making a successful appeal easier.
- Access to major transport: Both locations are within 2 miles of the M11 and have railway stations within walking distance.
- Employment: Both locations are adjacent to local employment development areas; Harlow has major employers and has just won a large enterprise grant; in Uttlesford all the job development is planned for the south near Stansted Airport.
- Evidence: There is substantial evidence that shows that each of the locations are the most sustainable options.
It seems that it would be prudent for Uttlesford District Council to reverse their U-turn and revert to their long-held and evidence-supported new town strategy. It will meet their new housing requirements and prevent wasting tax-payers money in fighting an appeal that they would ultimately be very likely to lose. It is what 99% of responders to the recent draft Local Plan told them.