UDC Planning Committee approves 237 and refuses 800 homes

Uttlesford District CouncilThere were 4 major planning applications in front of the UDC Planning Committee on 2 October. All were recommended for approval by UDC officers.

Of particularly significance was the Elsenham application because it was the first 800 homes of a 3,000 new settlement plan UDC had backed from 2007 until 2012.

The council chambers were packed and at times it got very rowdy, particularly when Cllr David Morson who was opposing the Elsenham application had his microphone cut. Several times Planning Committee Chair Cllr Jackie Cheetham threatened to clear the room unless everyone settled down.

Head of UDC Planning Andrew Taylor urged approval saying that the 2012 draft Local Plan carried little weight because of the strength of opposition against it. He also insisted that the government required 5-year supply of housing had not met and that Uttlesford still had a shortfall of 592 even with recent approvals. Clearly UDC is working on new annual numbers because this number is significantly larger than previous shortfall reports from UDC when they were working on 415 a year.

Every major application got approved apart from the Elsenham (new single-settlement) one, so 237 new homes were approved and 800 refused. That means that UDC is still 355 short of their 5-year housing supply.

Here are the results:

Here is how the individual councillors voted for the first 3 applications.

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Posted in News, Planning, Planning Application News, Spotlight Articles, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
6 comments on “UDC Planning Committee approves 237 and refuses 800 homes
  1. Unbelievable statements – please embarrass the council on all our behalfs re the vaguerisms of their 5 year housing supply figures and their apparent disrespect for their OWN development plan! We do not necessarily oppose it, we oppose a council who has not managed to commit to it or indeed manage the correct time span for it. How are they not shamed by their inconsistent words and actions and yet still have the nerve to shout us down when we protest?!?!

  2. mattlnorth says:

    Here we go again. The decisions of UDC’s planning committee conform to neither rhyme nor reason. Two housing applications are presented on the same day to the same committee members, both with a recommendation for approval by the so-called ‘planning experts’. One gets approved; the other doesn’t. And yet no single cogent planning reason is presented to support either decision. You might as well ask the reception class at RAB to decide; or maybe just toss a coin. The planning system here in UDC is a basket case and the council leader should resign now in shame over what is occurring on his watch.

  3. Geoff Powers says:

    In truth, the individual applications and the accompanying officer reports are so densely worded that even elected members with several years’ experience of sitting on the Planning Committee need time to read, digest and consider the import of every paragraph – and sufficient time is what is not being granted to committee members to fulfil this task in the present febrile atmosphere.

    We are always told that membership of the planning committee is a quasi-judicial role, yet juries are granted as much time as they require by the judge to reach a verdict; our planning committee does not, apparently, enjoy that privilege because they are being ‘leant on’ continually by their committee chair and chief planning officer to expedite the process, and arguably ‘sprung’ into hurried decision-making. The chief planning officer appears set on driving through each and every application come hell and high water – I suspect because he realises that the council is in dead trouble. Throw into the pot two or three pretty clueless souls – committee members who really haven’t got to grips with the task in hand, or who don’t do their homework thoroughly – and the picture you get is what appears on the voting chart above. It goes without saying that the chances of the committee arriving at erroneous or ill-judged decisions is heightened considerably. Along with this is the ever present risk that individual decisions will be challenged by disappointed applicants, and then we get into the potentially interminable appeal-cycle. Another instance of ‘act in haste and repent at leisure’.

    In the case of the Elsenham application, what is the possible justification for sending the application to committee before the end of the consultation period? This fact particularly means that potential objectors who may not yet have submitted objections have been denied their legal rights, and the process is already compromised before the committee sits down to consider the application. The blame for this must lie squarely with the chief officer, Andrew Taylor. This issue needs to be taken up urgently with the district council’s chief executive, John Mitchell, as, if Mr Taylor is seen to get away with it unchallenged, there is every likelihood that it may happen again.

  4. Raymond Franklin. says:

    All who worked towards this result should be congratulated. The fundamental point has always been that (in my opinion) ANY large development within Elsenham was going to cause REAL problems. I will not reitterate what has always been my main concern – The Roads. But I am forced to say that IF as much effort had been put into the opposition against the two large developments off Stansted Road. If as many had written with their comments. Those also may have been defeated. Ray Franklin.

  5. Geoff Powers says:

    As a follow-up to what I wrote above, I heard this morning ‘on the grapevine’ that one leading member of the planning committee, after the Elsenham decision had been made, took a fellow member, who had voted against the application, verbally to task, and that the exchange became quite heated.

    This raises another issue related to the exercise of the quasi-judicial role: ‘fettering one’s discretion’. In a court of law a jury member must not assume the accused is guilty simply because he is such an evil-looking individual, before hearing the actual evidence against him. In the same way, in considering a planning application committee members must not assume that it should be approved because of policy ‘diktats’, etc. Planning committee members must reach a decision based solely on the basis of the merits of the application as presented to them in the written application and accompanying officer’s report. In the present climate at UDC I believe there is serious risk of members being pressurised into conforming to a desired outcome. Undesirable -and illegal! – and therefore open to challenge. Council officers are supposed to act at all times impartially and neutrally with respect to the political make-up of the council and to exercise their role with discretion and good sense.

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