Hot on the heels of a victory for Thaxted residents, Saffron Walden has achieved a solid victory of its own. After an appeal by developer Kier to build 300 homes, the Planning Inspectorate has upheld the refusal and so they will not be allowed to build. The decision also states useful precedents that should help protect the town in the future.
Impacts of building on the east of Saffron Walden were highlighted by
residents nationally on BBC Town with Nicholas Crane in 2012.
The primary reason for the dismissal of the Kier appeal was the unsustainable traffic impacts, which residents have been highlighting for several years.
“The effect of the proposals on the efficient operation of the local highway network is a significant negative factor with adverse economic effects through congestion and delays. The loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land has not been justified.”
“The harm that I have identified in these respects in combination would be significant. On the basis of the detailed evidence before me, overall the proposals would not amount to sustainable development. I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.” Kier Appeal Planning Inspector Mike Moore.
The Kier site was promoted by the UDC Cabinet in their 2014 failed Local Plan. When rejecting the draft Local Plan, the Planning Inspectorate was critical of the impacts to traffic from building on the east of Saffron Walden. This second decision reaffirms those concerns.
Kier’s application was originally refused by the UDC Planning Committee. The UDC Cabinet decided not to defend the refusal because they were unhappy with the Planning Committee going against their draft Local Plan. This left Saffron Walden Town Council and residents’ lobby group WeAreResidents.org to jointly fight the appeal and foot the £50,000 costs on their own.
WeAreResidents.org is one of the founding organisations of Residents for Uttlesford (R4U). R4U was set up to give residents a real voice in what happens locally. The local party won 9 Uttlesford District Council seats in the May 2015 elections and is now the second party in the district and largest party on the Saffron Walden Town Council.
in his appeal dismissal notice Inspector Mike Moore stated that:
- Development not needed: The development was not needed because UDC was able to demonstrate that it had the required 5-year supply of new homes, even at the increased levels indicated by the Local Plan inspector in 2014.
- Significant negative traffic impacts: He said “It is clear that the extent of congestion in the original assessments has been underestimated. The cumulative effect of the proposed development and other commitments would be significant at some key junctions in terms of additional delays and queuing at important times of the day. The conclusion on the effect of the proposals on the efficient operation of the local highway network is a significant negative factor with adverse economic effects through congestion and delays.”
- Loss of productive farmland: He said “The loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land has not been justified. I have seen no comparative assessment of development locations in Uttlesford. As such, while the loss of the best and most versatile land would be modest in the context of the general quality of agricultural land in the District, this would be a disbenefit of the proposal to be weighed in the overall balance in my decision.”
- Unsustainable development: He said “On the basis of the current evidence, the harm that I have identified in these respects in combination would be significant, outweighing the benefits that I have outlined…..overall the proposals would not amount to sustainable development…. I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed”
The full appeal dismissal notice can be downloaded and read here.
In his decision the Inspector made statements that should inform other planning applications in Saffron Walden and elsewhere in the district. These included:
- Uttlesford has a 5-year supply of new homes: UDC is required to show it has a 5-year supply of new homes so that it can repel predatory development. The Inspector reconfirmed that this is the case and that UDC should be considered a only ‘five percent’ authority, i.e. one that needs to demonstrate a 105% supply of new homes because it has consistently met or nearly met this requirement.
- Saffron Walden’s road network can’t cope: The lack of a proper highways strategy for the whole town, inadequate funding, and no certainly over delivery all prevent future large-scale development of the east of Saffron Walden.
Founded in 2011, WeAreResidents.org is the Uttlesford based group that provides a strong, independent voice for the views of local residents. The group campaigns for long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area. WeAreResidents.org works with other similar groups across Uttlesford and enjoys the strong support of professionals in key and relevant professions.
WeAreResidents.org is one of the residents’ groups that help start Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the local political party of towns and a village that is seeking to give residents a stronger say in local matters.
WeAreResidents.org can we found on the web at www.WeAreResidents.org.