The fate of the Kier development application for 300 homes off Thaxted Rd was to be decided by the UDC Planning Committee on 11th December 2013, but in the end they couldn’t reach a conclusion and deferred the decision to a later date.
The council chambers were packed. Residents of the town and surrounding villages turned out in force and there were 22 speakers opposing the application, including 1 from the district council and 2 from town and parish councils. It took over 3 hours for the speakers to say their 3-minute statements and the Planning Committee to debate the application. WeAreResidents.org would like to thank everyone that turned up and especially to those residents that spoke.
In the end the decision was deferred until a later date because the Planning Committee members thought that the planning officers hadn’t provided the information necessary for them to make a decision. Particular concerns were raised about:
- the complete lack of proposals for new classroom places even though all of Saffron Walden’s schools will be over capacity by the time the houses would be built;
- the inevitable increases in air pollution and traffic congestion; and
- the lack of sustainability.
Even though we’d have liked an outright refusal, we agree that the Planning Officer’s Report was very poorly written and contained a number of significant and material errors, particularly with respect to air quality, education, and roads. We had written to inform the Planning Committee members of this earlier in the week and a deferral was their best choice given that lack of supporting information.
Things got quite heated at times and the meeting was temporarily stopped at one point when the Planning Committee chair, UDC Cabinet member Jackie Cheetham decided to clear the room of the public; she wasn’t happy when the WeAreResidents.org County Councillor, John Lodge decided to challenge what he thought was her misrepresentation of the facts when answering a question from one of the committee members with respect to ECC’s view on the school and education provision. Many residents then refused to leave the room because of what they thought was a lack of impartiality by the Planning Committee chair and a deliberate attempt to gag their concerns. Eventually the meeting got going again. We fully support the position John and the residents took. Evidence should always be clear and complete and misrepresentations challenged. It’s called transparent democracy.
The application will come before the Planning Committee again at a yet to be determined later date, but it is likely to be in the first few months of 2014.