Draft Local Plan “on life support” as Inspector raises concerns over soundness

Planning Inspectorate The Planning Inspector has written to Uttlesford District Council ahead of the draft Local Plan hearing to express a number of significant concerns about the soundness of the plan. As part of the formal independent review, the Planning Inspectorate is required to find a plan “sound” before it can be approved.

Concerns over soundness

In the Inspector’s letter of 21st August [PDF], Roy Foster wrote to UDC with his “soundness concerns and questions” including:

  • Why UDC considered and chose some sites for large scale home building and not others;
  • That infrastructure, including roads, is not deliverable;
  • The Council failed to engage with others in formation of the draft Plan, including its statutory Duty to Cooperate;
  • There may not be a solid basis for the number of new homes that UDC has chosen;

The Planning Inspectorate also wrote back in 2013 when UDC tried to deliver a plan that was 20% short of its required 15 year length.

Consistent failure to address fundamental issues

A number of Uttlesford residents groups, including WeAreResidents.org, have been critics of the draft Local Plan. The issues raised by the Inspector are all issues that resident’s groups had previously highlighted to the Council a number of times during the public consultation phases of the draft Plan, including when it was rejected by a unanimous majority of respondents twice, once in 2012 and again in early 2014. UDC failed to act on any of the feedback and instead sent its draft Local Plan to the Inspector almost unchanged. Now the Inspector is asking the same questions, but this time the stakes are much higher. If the draft Local Plan is unsound, it will have to go back to the drawing board.

Dan Starr, chair of WeAreResidents.org: “In his initial review, The Planning Inspector is concerned that the draft Local Plan is unsound for many of the reasons that we have been highlighting for the last 2 years. He is concerned that there is no evidence why certain sites have been selected over others, that there is no clear strategy for roads and other infrastructure, and that UDC has failed to cooperate with third-parties. This discredited draft Local Plan is now on life support.”

Concerns over UDC’s chosen locations

The Inspector was particularly concerned about how UDC selected sites for large scale homebuilding. Earlier this year, Cllr Susan Barker, Deputy UDC Leader and owner of the Local Plan, faced a Code-of-Conduct inquiry when she was accused of lying to the Full Council about the availability of other sites. UDC are both judge and jury on these types of inquiry, and even though it was found that she had misled the Council, they decided to take no action against their Cabinet colleague.

In his letter to UDC, the Inspector also asked questions about site selection:

Planning Inspector Roy Foster: “At the point when the Council decided that the plan needed to include a new settlement as part of the most appropriate strategy for meeting its assessed housing needs, which candidate locations/sites were identified and considered for that purpose and how was Elsenham judged to be the most justified and effective as compared with reasonable alternatives? Those making representations to the plan suggest a number of other potential/locations sites for new settlements. Which of these were/were not considered during the Council’s process?”

Inspector Roy Foster knows some of the issues in Uttlesford having previously overseen at least one appeal in the district. In that case, Inspector Foster found against the developer and refused planning permission.

The Planning Inspector asked the council to respond to his concerns by 17th September.

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Posted in Consultation, Planning, Roads and Transport, Traffic, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
4 comments on “Draft Local Plan “on life support” as Inspector raises concerns over soundness
  1. Geoff Powers, Great Dunmow says:

    If the Draft Local Plan fails to get past the Inspector – as it very well might, given the factors listed above – how do we re-boot the process? I cannot imagine for one moment that the council leadership would suddenly call upon the community of Uttlesford and all upstanding citizens to help them out of the hole they have dug. Their overweening arrogance would never allow such an admission of failure and loss of face. We might then be presented with several months of stalemate leading up to the Local Elections in May 2015, and the task of re-commencing the process would then be left to a new, and probably relatively inexperienced, administration of all political colours and none to get stuck into the task afresh. They could do no worse than the present administration and, arguably, might do very much better, but we would still have no respite from the continuing onslaught of developers’ applications and a succession of planning appeals.

    Not a prospect to look forward to, but the odds against this are shortening by the day!
    Interested parties should now seize the moment to initiate a parallel process, with or without the goodwill of the district council, to address such an eventuality, drawing on the wealth of professional expertise within our local community.

  2. Ray Franklin says:

    While this all goes on footing are being dug and building progresses. I am definitely NOT a defeatist But is the all going to be too late? Are they going to take newly built and now occupied houses down, are we going to see land which has planning consent have that consent taken away? Of course not the financial, implications are staggering. I do not know how we do get out of this mess, Ray Franklin

    • Good points Ray. No they won’t revoke already approved planning permissions, but (1) a number of major sites still have to be approved and (2) most of the ones that have been approved are only for Outline Permission and so Detailed Permission is still to be granted. While Outline Planning can’t be revoked, a better Council could hold those developers more to account. Plus the current draft Local Plan is front loaded, meaning that they’ll have to come back for 1,000s more houses within 10 years. So a proper plan is important.

  3. Ray Franklin says:

    “A better Council could hold those developers more to account” I quote from your reply.

    “Crest Homes” are about to reveal their detailed plans at Elsenham parish Council Meeting on Monday 1st September 7.45. What is the chance of slowing down this Proposal UNTIL a “new” & better Council is put in place?

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