Saffron Walden Weekly News editor Adam Luke covers the on-going delays to the Uttlesford Local Plan and the knock on impact:
Councillors fear Uttlesford could be flooded with planning applications and costly appeals because there is still no 15-year district housing plan. Last month, the authority revealed a time-consuming traffic survey by Essex Highways and consideration of public feedback had put its Local Plan – allocating sites for thousands of new homes until 2030 – months behind schedule.
The strategy is designed to give Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee guidelines on where new housing should be allowed, but now concerns have been raised that the delay will encourage developers to try to get their applications in before the plan is in place and the council will struggle to stop them.
Cllr David Watson, district representative for Audley Ward, Saffron Walden, said he has heard growing rumours of imminent applications for the town, where he is also mayor. He said: “There has recently been a planning appeal on an application in Great Dunmow where ultimately the committee could not say they didn’t want houses in that location because they didn’t have the Local Plan yet.
“There is uncertainty as we still don’t have an agreed strategy. Word is that a number of applications are about to come in now for Saffron Walden, and developers being developers will build if they see the opportunity – and it is now.
“It is going to be very costly for the council to try to fight off these applications and appeals, but developers will have that factored in their budget. It looks like this uncertainty will continue into 2014 and that is a real danger.”
Two applications due in the coming days are from The Fairfield Partnership for the first stage of a 3,300-home development in Elsenham, and from Taylor Wimpey in Bentfield Green, Stansted Mountfitchet, for 170 homes.
Cllr Alan Dean, Lib representative for Stansted South, said: “This situation is a very serious planning anomaly. I am appalled at the further delays in the progress of the Local Plan.”
An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said: “The council is taking proactive steps to address this issue by bringing forward the Local Plan timescale.
“We acknowledge that there will be some developers who choose to appeal planning permission refusals on the grounds that we have not adopted a Local Plan at present.
“However, it is the council’s view that the need to get the Local Plan right for the future needs of Uttlesford’s residents, together with robust supporting evidence, outweighs the short-term financial challenges posed by such appeals.”
Read the article in the Walden Weekly (page 1).