Council leader vows to work with residents as Uttlesford local plan is approved

PUBLISHED: 08:21 21 June 2018

Councillor Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council

Councillor Howard Rolfe, leader of Uttlesford District Council

Archant

Plans for two new towns in Uttlesford have taken a significant step forward after the latest version of the Uttlesford local plan was approved for publication, before submission to the government for examination.

A new settlement near Dunmow is included in the plan, which ultimately could deliver 10,000 houses, along with a new community near Great Chesterford, which could see 5,000 homes built in the long-term.

During a five-hour meeting on Tuesday (June 19), residents, parish councillors and activists urged councillors to make amendments to the local plan before approval.

Councillor Andy Dodsley, from Little Easton Parish Council, said the local plan would be judged “unviable” by the inspector, and questioned the choice to build a new town next to a major airport with “aggressive expansion plans”.

He said that the proposed development would result in “gridlock along the A120 and M11 corridors”.

Vincent Thompson from Stop Easton Park action group echoed Cllr Dodsley’s comments, describing the Easton Park community as a “white elephant built on a house of cards”. A representative from Great Chesterford Parish Council asked about the impact of 5,000 houses on the local road network, and Fiona Wilkinson from Little Chesterford Parish Council, said more information on infrastructure was needed, and the plan was “unworkable”.

Councillor Sandi Merifield, from Stebbing Parish Council asked for the plan to be turned down, following a government inspector’s comments that proposals for garden communities made by Braintree, Colchester and Tendring district councils were “unsound”.

One of these proposed communities included in the local plan is the west of Braintree site, where 970 homes, delivered by 2033, is proposed.

Cllr Merifield asked for more time to see where “West of Braintree is going” or to withdraw the site from Uttlesford’s local plan.

An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said: “The council will study the issues raised in the examining planning inspector’s letter with special interest.

“The council will be applying the feedback to the north Essex authorities from their inspector, making sure that our evidence base is further strengthened where necessary over the coming months.”

Following the decision to advance the local plan to the next stage, action group StopNUtown, which opposes the site near Great Chesterford, said: “StopNUtown is disappointed but not surprised at the outcome of the vote. We are being told that this vote was for ‘what’ the council wants to achieve and not ‘how’ it will be delivered. The council has batted away any question of whether a new town at Great Chesterford is needed, or is the right solution or how it will affect the area.”

Councillor John Lodge, leader of political group Residents for Uttlesford, said: “We all want a local plan that works for the future of Uttlesford, but this isn’t it. It fails residents and puts developers first.”

Twenty-three councillors voted for the plan, and 13 against.

This is the final stage of the process before the plan is submitted to the government later this year for independent examination.

Council leader Howard Rolfe said: “I am sure that most residents in Uttlesford will breathe a collective sigh of relief that the local plan took another step forward.

“The council listened carefully to more than 20 external speakers who spoke for and against the plan. Changes to the plan had already been made in response to earlier comments and the council will continue to respond where possible to residents’ concerns.

“For the proposed new settlements the development plan document process was explained to the meeting and how it offers real opportunity for close community involvement in the shaping and design of the settlement.

“This is merely the end of the beginning. There is still much to do and external factors will play a part in the ongoing process.

“We will work very closely with all residents but particularly those affected by the proposed new settlements which will all be developed on Garden Community principles.”

Between June 25 and August 13 the public can comment on the published plan, before it is submitted to the Government later this year for independent examination.

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