Developers and residents have their say at local plan examination hearings

UDC lead Councillor John Lodge. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

UDC lead Councillor John Lodge. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

The first batch of public examination sessions, in which Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) new local plan is being assessed by Government-appointed inspectors, took place last week.

The local plan, which will bring together all major planning policy for the district into a single document, was submitted for examination in January as part of a process which could see its adoption.

It is currently being examined by inspectors, who are assessing whether the document is sound and has been prepared in accordance with the relevant legal requirements.

Speaking about the first lot of examination sessions, which took place between July 2 and July 4, UDC leader, Councillor John Lodge, said: "So far the planning inspectors have examined the number of new homes that the Government requires to be built, where in Uttlesford they should go, and where jobs would be created. There were strong representations by residents critical of the number of new homes and locations, and by those that wanted to provide more land for employment.

"Housing developers also all lined up to propose their own additional sites in existing towns and villages. The inspectors will be back in a week to examine the proposals for new settlements, infrastructure and the airport. Residents want their voices heard on these matters so we are encouraged that a good number of their parish councils and groups have been invited to speak by the inspectors.

"The examination findings are not expected to be issued until after the hearings are complete."

As well as this, Cllr Lodge again defended Residents for Uttlesford's (R4U) choice not to withdraw the local plan, following a letter from planning inspectors which advised the council to effectively reaffirm its support for the plan, or withdraw it. R4U had been critical of the plan and raised significant concerns before defeating the Conservatives at the local elections in May.

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Cllr Lodge said: "The truth is we must stop the Tory's decade-long developer-free-for-all that has overrun our towns and villages. The quickest way is for this plan to pass inspection and be adopted. Withdrawing it would mean four more years of speculative development, a further £3million cost for the taxpayer and thousands more houses.

"Council officers have assured us that the plan was ready for inspection. We have committed that if this is found not to be the case by the Inspectors, then we will positively work with them to resolve any issues."

Stage one of the hearing sessions will commence again next Tuesday, lasting another three days.