Concerns that UDC ‘acted wrongly’ over Kier appeal after FOI request shows UDC misrepresented legal advice to Planning Inspector – Press Release

Banner: UDC FOI request

WeAreResidents.org, the independent residents’ community group, has announced that documents obtained under a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request have raised new concerns that Uttlesford District Council (UDC) acted wrongly in relation to the recent Kier appeal in Saffron Walden.

In 2014 after UDC’s planning committee had refused Kier planning permission, UDC decided not to defend the subsequent appeal by the developer. Kier was seeking to build 300 homes on the east of Saffron Walden on one of UDC’s preferred draft Local Plan sites. This left the Town Council and local residents group WeAreResidents.org alone to defend the appeal and foot the nearly £50,000 legal bill.

Dan Starr, chair of WeAreResidents said:

“When deciding if UDC should contest the Kier appeal, it obtained legal advice which it then blocked the public from seeing and scrutinising. During the appeal UDC wrote to the Planning Inspector to say that they hadn’t contested the appeal because, in their opinion ‘there are no legitimate planning grounds’ for Kier’s development to be refused. This was clearly not true because the Town Council and WeAreResidents.org subsequently won the case. Of even more concern is that it’s not what their legal advice said either.”

“WeAreResidents.org has now received copies of UDC’s legal advice via a Freedom of Information request. These documents directly contradict UDC’s public statement to the Planning Inspector, which seems to have been calculated to assist Kier as much as possible in winning their appeal, when they should have been opposing it.”

Dan Starr continued:

“Scrutiny of the just-released documents reveals more. At the time we wrote to UDC to request that inaccuracies and apparent bias be corrected in the officer’s report about the Kier development before it was sent to their lawyers. In reading the documents it has become obvious that these were not acted on by UDC when obtaining their legal advice. However, and in spite of that, UDC was still given a ‘30-40%’ chance of winning by their lawyers. This is clearly completely different from stating that there are ‘no’ grounds at all on which to oppose the appeal.

“It is impossible to reconcile the statements made by UDC and their now public legal advice – and they have refused to explain why they took the action they did. A new Chief Executive starts at UDC in February, and WeAreResidents.org will be requesting that she conducts a full review of UDC’s actions in relation to Kier.  It would seem that they were at best negligent, and their conduct raises serious issues as to the propriety of their actions.”

About WeAreResidents.org

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.

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Posted in Housing and Planning, News, Planning, Planning Application News, Press Releases, Rotten Boroughs, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Press Release: Appeal victory for Saffron Walden residents against unsustainable development by Kier

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.

 

About WeAreResidents.org

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.

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Posted in Housing and Planning, News, Planning, Planning Application News, Press Releases, Roads and Transport, Spotlight Articles, Traffic, Uttlesford District Council

Document: ECC Developers Guide to Infrastructure Contributions

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Published in 2010, this Essex County Council guide outlines the (Section-106 agreement) infrastructure levies that ECC expects district councils to apply to developers building new homes. It was created because of “concerns about inadequate infrastructure” obligations as a part of new development.

Of particular significance is the pupil/schools calculation on page 23.

Quick Summary

ECC have a simplified model for calculating the majority if developer contributions to the infrastructure that the county is responsible for. The details are in their guide (above) but in summary the levies per new home are:

Contribution area ECC levy per new home
Education (Pre=School.Primary, Secondary, 6th Form) £8,822
Adult Learning £97
Libraries £281
Archive & Record Keeping £53
Youth Services £542
Adult Social Care £241
Waste Management £305
Greenspace Land Allocation £513
Subtotal per new home £10,854

Highway obligations are determined on a site-by-site basis because each location has specific and different highways needs.

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Posted in Education and Schools, Essex County Council, Planning, Reports and Documents, Traffic, Uttlesford District Council

Document: Uttlesford Local Plan 2012 public consultation responses to dispersed housing strategy

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Download Document (PDF)According to the UDC website, 3,387 responses were received to UDC’s new proposals to disperse new homes into existing settlements (over-build), rather than UDC’s long held view to focus the majority in a new settlement; 99% of respondents (3,348) rejected the new proposals, with only 39 respondents supporting them.

Document: Details of these public responses from 2012 draft Local Plan public consultation

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Posted in Consultation, Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: WeAreResidents.org formal response to draft Uttlesford Local Plan

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Download Document (PDF)WeAreResidents.org strongly object to the proposed July 2012 draft of the Uttlesford Local Plan because of poor sustainability, lack of required local job creation, traffic and emission impacts as well as other issues. WeAreResidents.org cannot understand why UDC are proposing a Local Plan site strategy which is so clearly contradicted by the evidence base that they have spent the last five years compiling.

UDC’s evidence shows that Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Newport cannot sustain the level of development now proposed; WeAreResidents.org urge UDC review the information presented in this document, along with the more than 3,100 individual opposition letters collected in Saffron Walden, and revert to the UDC’s long-held and evidence-supported position of primary development in a new settlement.

The following document provides the detailed and formal response from WeAreResidents.org to UDC as part of UDC’s public consultation process that ends on 23rd July 2012. It references the draft Uttlesford Local Plan and other supporting documentation provided by UDC on its website. It was delivered to UDC on 23rd July 2012 before the public consultation closed.

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Posted in Consultation, Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: Summary & Timeline of Uttlesford Housing Allocation Strategy, 2006 – 2012

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Download Document (PDF)This whitepaper by lawyer and WeAreResidents.org committee member Paul Gadd reviews the history and predecessors to the current Uttlesford Local Development Plan. It considers all the evidence and seeks to draw conclusions as to the best strategic approach for housing now and for the future for Uttlesford.

References

These are the main studies and policy documents prepared by UDC to support their housing allocation strategy and referenced in the Summary & Timeline whitepaper:

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Posted in Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: UDC appraisals of all potential development sites (SHLAA)

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Download Document (PDF)UDC SHLAA All Uttlesford Sites Appraisals and Review (Saffron Walden Maps starting page 776)

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Posted in Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: UDC Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 (SHLAA)

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Download Document (PDF)Document: UDC Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012

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Posted in Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: UDC Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2011 (SHLAA)

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Download Document (PDF)Document: UDC Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2011

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Posted in Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Document: Uttlesford Core Strategy – Further consultation on preferred options February 2010

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Download Document (PDF)This UDC report tallies the numbers of public responses for the single settlement strategy. It should be read in conjunction with the 2012 public consultation responses.

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Posted in Consultation, Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan

Download: Uttlesford District Council 2007-8 Housing Options Leaflet

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Download Document (PDF)From 2007 until 2012, for their Local Plan, Uttlesford District Council promoted focusing the majority of development in a new settlement, a.k.a. Option 4. This 2008 UDC flyer describes the options to Uttlesford residents as part of the public consultation process. It also strongly guides residents towards Option 4 as the recommened choice.


Download UDC’s Housing Options 2008 Public Consultation Leaflet [PDF]

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Posted in Consultation, Planning, Reports and Documents, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
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