In a noisy, heated and often contentious meeting on 8th April the full Uttlesford District Council approved the draft of UDC Cabinet’s Local Plan by 23 votes to 14.
Already rejected by residents
Before the meeting the draft Local Plan had already been rejected by Uttlesford residents. 99% of public consultees objected to the draft in 2012 and again in December 2013 there was further overwhelming objection to the update; to all intents and purposes the latest draft of the Local Plan is the same, just with more houses.
The updated draft was still unsound because it was unsustainable and had unresolved issues with regard to traffic, jobs, education and water. It also breached legally required air quality levels, and the views of towns, parishes and the public were not properly considered.
These points were raised by a number of members of the public that spoke to oppose the plan, including WeAreResidents.org (read our statement). There were no public speakers in support of the draft Local Plan.
The meeting had an nasty air to it all the way through. Residents were frustrated that they had been ignored for the last 2 years and major defects in the plan had not been addressed. Those opposing the plan provided cogent reasons why the plan needed to be reworked, whist those supporting it just cited the need for more homes and that they believed that the plan was sound. As a result the UDC Cabinet seemed to be spoiling for a fight, being dismissive and throwing insults at both Liberal Democrats and residents alike. They even threatened to end local democracy by holding future meetings in private.
When it came to the vote there was balanced cross-party opposition to the plan with 6 Conservatives, 5 Liberal Democrats and all 3 Independents pushing for refusal. But it wasn’t enough to derail the party whipped majority Conservative group. No councillors from any other parties voted to approve the plan.
Unusually there were no abstentions. Interestingly it seemed that those on the fence stayed away, with 7 councillors choosing to be absent. An odd decision for what is probably one of the most significant votes of their district political career.
How did your councillor vote?
Do you want to know how your councillor represented you? 23 voted for approval and 14 were against approval of this draft of the Local Plan. See below.
Listen to the replay
UDC have now made repays of certain meeting available online. You can listen to this Council Meeting of 8th April 2014 on Audiominutes.com. The public speakers are at the beginning before it moves to the full council debate. The chairman of the meeting was Cllr Eric Hicks.
What happens next
After the meeting, Dan Starr chair of WeAreResidents.org said:
“The ruling UDC Cabinet has clearly lost touch with the residents of Uttlesford. Whilst a number of councillors from all parties made strong factual and emotional pleas for this unsound draft of the Local Plan to be rejected and fixed, the Cabinet instead chose to insult and be dismissive of residents. UDC Leader Jim Ketteridge summed up by lecturing the voters of Uttlesford that a public consultation wasn’t a referendum, and so UDC had the right to ignore their wishes. It may not be a referendum, but this old-school patronising attitude towards local government is likely to mean that the 2015 district council elections will be.”
This approved draft of the Local Plan will be available for a further round public consultation during the Spring of 2014 before being sent to the Planning Inspectorate for review over the Summer and Autumn. It will then be adopted by the UDC full council in early 2015.
However now that this draft is approved, UDC will seek to use it to green-light the building of 5,900 new homes on the remaining developers’ sites that the Council has been promoting across the district, including Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, Elsenham and other settlements.