In a sometimes heated meeting on Wednesday 12th March, the UDC Planning Committee clearly understood the issues created by home-building on the east of Walden without proper plans for education and traffic, and voted to defer the Ridgeon’s planning application for 167 new homes until those plans are delivered.
The council chambers were packed as the 16 speakers who opposed the development, including WeAreResidents.org, cited issues with school places, traffic mitigation, parking, air quality, sustainability, and loss of the football field as key issues.
During the meeting the traffic proposals were roundly criticised by the councillors on the committee, with them accusing the Highways Authority of being in “Cloud Cuckoo Land” over their Highways proposals that “will probably never work”, and “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” with respect to removing residents’’ street parking on Ashdon Rd.
With regard to a lack of any strategy for school places councillors said “It is insane that there is no plan for schools – and we’ve been given inadequate explanations” and “For education, our duty as a planning committee means that we need to see a plan – and there isn’t one – so we can’t approve this application.”
One of the speakers was a local mum who had just returned to Saffron Walden and moved into the first affordable house in the adjacent Persimmon Ashdon Rd development. She spoke about the direct result of no plan for school places. She said “I was offered what I was told was the last primary school place in town and it is at Katherine Semar. It is a 6 km round trip from my new home; a 40 minute walk each way. So I had to buy a car instead of furniture for my house.”
There was no visible support for approving the application amongst planning committee councillors, and so they decided to defer a decision until a later date when proper, detailed and workable plans have been published for traffic and education.
With respect to Ridgeon themselves, they are good and well respected local employer who bring a lot of benefits to the town in terms of jobs, taxes and a great store – and we want them to stay in town. But the facts of the matter are that the impacts of building on the east of Walden have not been properly considered in the Uttlesford Local Plan, and Ridgeon’s have been caught up in the middle of it.