The Planning Inspectorate has rejected UDC’s draft Uttlesford Local Plan and found it unsound. UDC now needs to build a new plan. This decision leaves a lot of questions unanswered, so read our answers to Frequently Asked Questions:
- Isn’t this the worst possible outcome? No. We We believe that the draft Plan was fatally flawed and the Inspector agreed. The Inspector said that the Plan would take so long fix it needed to be refused. It is far better to have a fresh start at the process than the wrong plan that would damage many of our towns and villages for ever.
- Haven’t campaigners against the plan caused more houses to be built? No! They were always required. In his comments the Inspector makes it clear that UDC failed to look at the evidence required to properly calculate the number of new homes. In simple terms it was a maths and judgement error on UDC’s part.
- What happens now? UDC is required to start the production of a new plan, including working out how many houses are required, the formulation of the strategy as to where new homes should go, a call for development sites, and consulting with the public and other authorities. They are also required to do this in an open and transparent manner. As the Inspector’s decision makes clear, he had severe doubts about the process UDC has followed in the past.
- How long will it take to produce a new plan? The Inspector had the option of suspending the plan for up to 6 months so that UDC could fix it. He felt that so much work was required it would take much longer, so he scrapped the plan and effectively told UDC to start again. He has guided them to reverting to the pre-2012 new-settlement approach, which requires gathering new evidence, weighing the options and consulting with the public. This will be a long exercise that could take up to a year or more. The majority of the work is likely to be overseen by the new Council administration that gets elected in May 2015.
- The previous selection of Elsenham was discredited by the Inspector. How do we know that UDC will do a proper job next time? We don’t, which is why residents are demanding a seat at the table and it is important that residents carefully consider which councillors and political parties they vote for in the May 2015 local elections.
- Where in the district will a new settlement go? Even though the Inspector guided UDC towards a new settlement approach, UDC has to undertake an evidence-led study to determine if that is the best and if so, where it should go. However UDC’s comparative sustainability assessment did determine that a new settlement was best, but they didn’t use it in formulating the draft Local Plan. If a new settlement was once again shown to be the best option, then evidence should also guide the most sustainable location. The Inspector said that the process should transparent and collaborative this time. Residents should hold UDC to this.
- Isn’t it now an open season for developers? As long as UDC is able to show it has a 5-year pipeline of new homes it is able to defend its planning refusals. Even with the 10% increased number of houses the Inspector indicated, UDC is still able to show it has a 5-year supply. However residents need UDC to act properly and oppose predatory development. We believe that there is a need to end political decisions such as those taken by the UDC Cabinet to refuse to fight the appeals against the Elsenham and Saffron Walden proposed developments. As the Inspectors’ decision shows, residents’ groups were fully justified in opposing these developments and UDC was not.
- Can we overturn planning approvals that have already been given? Practically no, which is why we believe that UDC has been pushing as many approvals through as fast as they could before the Inspector reviewed their Plan.
- What happens about the Elsenham, Land Securities, Kier and Gladman appeals? Those appeals will continue their normal course, but we hope that the Inspector for each should consider them within the context of this Local Plan refusal.
- Since the Inspector has said Elsenham is unsustainable for a new settlement, doesn’t that mean that Saffron Walden and Dunmow will get more houses? No. UDC’s own evidence presented at the Local Plan hearings showed that Saffron Walden could only take 250 more homes, even though they have already approved over 800. The Inspector agreed with this and was quite clear in his guidance that both Saffron Walden and Dunmow were constrained and limited for growth. He pointed UDC to reverting to the pre-2012 new settlement strategy, which would focus the majority of new homes in a single new-town location. UDC now has to select that site through and open and transparent process.
- Shouldn’t someone be accountable for this mess and the waste of tax-payers money? We agree because the issues with the plan have been flagged to UDC for many years. We think it’s an absolute disgrace that UDC could take 8 years, waste millions of pounds of residents’ money and still create a plan that has been so comprehensively rejected. Residents can hold their councillors responsible by voting in new councillors in the May 2015 elections. That’s why residents are standing their own residents candidates under the R4U banner so that national party politics can’t again play a part in the decisions of the council.
Got more questions? Send us an email and we’ll try to answer them.