History of the Uttlesford Local Plan

Over the last 10 years Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has considered a new town to be the preferred route to achieving centrally imposed governmental housing targets. This is because the existing towns and villages in the district have:

  • Traffic congestion and vehicle emission problems
  • Poor connections to A-roads, motorways and railways
  • Narrow and historic streets that can’t easily be expanded
  • Schools, water and sewerage that are all at capacity

In other words, significant development of existing towns would be difficult and unsustainable. And since 2006 UDC have published a number of studies to support this position, as are shown in the timeline whitepaper.

Then quickly and behind closed doors at the start of 2012, the UDC Cabinet’s housing strategy changed completely. It moved away from a new town and in favour of concentrating 1,000s of new houses in Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow, nearly 800 in Elsenham and Newport. The remainder were to be spread around the rest of the district (see the full housing allocations here). However the underling infrastructure and sustainability issues have not changed; it is still the worst and least sustainable option.

But decisions weren’t transparent and clear:

  • Before April 2012: UDC met behind closed doors with developers and house builders. Those meetings are unminuted, but they happened just before the policy U-turn.
  • 5 April 2012: The UDC Cabinet reviewed and approved a new model for housing growth which was based on predicted job growth, and was later found to be flawed.
  • 10 May 2012: The UDC Cabinet discussed and agreed the U-turn in housing policy. The minutes indicate that evidence would need to be “created” to support this switch.
  • 21 May 2012: The UDC Scrutiny Committee reviewed the draft Local Plan. Concerns were raised specifically the location of the sites proposed for Saffron Walden and Newport; unaddressed traffic and emission issues; the fact that the plan for jobs was not keeping up with proposed housing. Given that the draft Plan was 147 pages and included sites agreed with developers, it is very likely that it was produced behind closed doors well before the 5th April UDC Cabinet meeting.
  • 24 May 2012: The UDC Cabinet reviewed and approved the draft Uttlesford Local Plan document in spite of the Scrutiny Committee concerns.
  • 22 March 2013: UDC provided an update with respect to proposed Local Plan development sites. Quite apart from UDC still ignoring their own evidence, and the weight of public opinion over their dispersed housing strategy, the update fails to plan for or address any of the core issues of sustainability, highways, transportation, employment, water, sewerage, air quality, education and medical provision, community engagement and tax-payer desire.

The lack of transparency over the switch in strategy is concerning to residents, particular as the new approach seems to favour developers more and impacts the greatest number of council tax-payers. Building in existing settlements means that developers need to spend less for infrastructure investments. This increases their margins , but disadvantages council tax payers both through the impact to their settlements and their ability to access local services.

It is also concerning to many councillors, some of whom have come out publicly against the plan; all the decisions were made by the UDC Cabinet alone and seemingly without much reference to or input from non-cabinet councillors, which seems to undermine the reason why district councillors are elected.

3 comments on “History of the Uttlesford Local Plan
  1. Simon clew says:

    How can anyone possibly think that 3000 houses 4 miles north of Walden is preferable to 800 houses to the south east of the town? residents of Gt and little chesteford, Duxford, Hinxton, ickleton, littlebury, not to mention people living in Walden will disagree with this idea. Certainly there is a case for a complete moratorium on all of this required housing. We the people vote and pay for these people to represent us, the people and not the other way around!
    A campaign for small sustainable developments and natural developments of existing towns and villages make sense. This has been the case for centuries. A massive new town will certainly kill walden and ruin the lives of many thousands of people. Let’s no just be NMBY’s but instead demand an open sensible approach to all of OUR futures

    • waradmin says:

      Simon, all the research done by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) since 2007 indicates that a new settlement is the most sustainable and dispersing housing into existing settlements is the least sustainable. This is also the evidence from our districts that have done similar analysis. This has resulted in good, sustainable and modern developments such as Cambourne; the people that live there like to and it doesn’t over stretch already over-stretched existing communities.
      Of course it all depends where a new settlement were to be located. UDC’s own research has favoured a number of locations around the district. They generally require good transport links (roads and rail) and proximity to local job markets. The rule of thumb is that commuting is reasonable within 15 miles.
      The problem with locating 880 houses in Saffron Walden is the location proposed. A site on the east is the least sustainable, requiring 1,000s of additional cars to cut through existing neighbourhoods to access jobs and transport on the west. This will also impact Newport, Quendon, Littlebury and Little aqnd Great Chesteford as those cars head north and south to jobs because the UDC Plan also is not bringing employment to the town for those 880 new houses.

      • Simon Clew says:

        Dear Admin,
        I must disagree with your premise that all research previously points to a new town being the answer. It was not too long ago when all of the residents of Walden rightly opposed the Hanley Grange new town proposed near Great Chesterford. A new development on much the same land would suffer from the same problems and would be turned down for the same reasons.
        It would not be sustainable, attracting commuters to Cambridge and London rather than developing slowly the current town economy
        Although there has been much talk of good access to trains & the M11. There is no parking at Great Chesterford station so presumably commuters would need to travel by car no doubt to Audley End or Whittlesford. (Through Saffron Walden/Littlebury) There is no access to the M11 northbound from Great Chesterford & the access Southbound at the A1301/ A505, including the roundabout at Pampisford, are already at full capacity. Drivers will go through Saffron Walden and Newport to hook up with the M11 at Junction 8.
        The site is Greenfield & on rising land so that any development would be highly visible. It would greatly increase the risk of flooding to Saffron Walden, Gt Chesterford, Little Chesterford, Littlebury, Ickleton and Hinxton. The Research Centre at Hixton would also be at further risk of flooding potentialy putting the whole campus project in doubt.
        New schools and many, many other facilities would be required. All a few miles north of Saffron Walden.
        My point is: By all means oppose excessive town development on reasonable grounds. But to argue that the answer is a new town 4 miles north of the current one is nonsense and potentially far more damaging than the plans you are so vociferously opposing.

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