Following our MP’s visit to Great Chesterford for the annual village meeting the action group has written to Mrs Badenoch in response to remarks she made and to provide a fuller explanation of comments made to her in the Q&A Session.
Dear Mrs Badenoch,
Thank you for visiting Great Chesterford on 3rd May for the annual village meeting. As you might have anticipated, the district local plan and proposed new town adjacent to Great Chesterford are hot topics.
You cited Beaulieu Park in Chelmsford as an example of a successful large-scale development. Grosvenor similarly cites their project at Trumpington Meadows in Cambridge. But giving these as examples of successes points to a core problem in Government strategy.
Both these examples are, in effect, urban extensions. They are attached to cities where people can easily reach entertainment, shopping and transport hubs. And they represent a proportionate increase to those cities’ housing stock. They are not stuck in the middle of the countryside, massively bigger and thus disproportionate to anything else surrounding.
A new town, across countryside hilltops, isolated
North Uttlesford Garden Community (NUGC) – like other isolated new communities that are being imposed in the south east of England – is struggling to offer evidence to substantiate economic viability, deliverability or sustainability. It patently is not sustainable unless there is a very substantial upfront capital expenditure, which is unlikely to happen.
The assertion by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) that ‘Garden City Principles’ will provide the solutions is highly misleading. As a general rule, Garden City Principles are not affordable unless the land is purchased at or close to its nominal value by a community-controlled development corporation. Perhaps that’s why the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is seeking to drop reference to GCPs in revision of the National Planning Policy Framework – would that be because landowners and developers don’t want the constraint? Cynical Conservatism at its worst. (* see end note).
Nothing Grosvenor or Uttlesford District Council has proposed suggests NUGC will be anything other than a conventional development with massive opportunistic wealth generation for the landowners together with predictable delays in: (i) the delivery of infrastructure, (ii) remediation of environmental damage, and (iii) development of the local transport network to cope with the extra load.
Questionable justification, lacking evidence
Uttlesford is a casualty of flawed national policy imposed on a small under-resourced district council attempting but failing to punch above its weight. Were it not for UDC’s reliance on exaggerated employment data from the owners of Stansted airport and thus a higher housing target, NUGC would not be required.
The housing target adopted by UDC is higher than many observers say is necessary, including neighbouring district councils. This, together with the choice of a site clearly pitched at the Cambridge housing market, raises serious questions about UDC’s objectives. The location of NUGC ignores the 1,500 houses planned by Wellcome Genome campus (just 600m away) and the serious implications for the local road infrastructure if both developments proceed. The NUGC site is also suspiciously close to the 50% UDC-owned Chesterford Research Park – is this a conflict of interest?
The council’s antics could place in doubt the soundness of the draft local plan. UDC has already squandered several million pounds on previous draft iterations of a local plan.
You stated at the 3rd May meeting that as an MP you cannot get involved in the detail of local planning matters. Indeed, but this is not “detail.” This is strategy that significantly affects the future of Uttlesford and the quality of life enjoyed by your constituents, who are looking for leadership. The council’s antics are proving extremely divisive and it is quite possible that come the next local elections leadership of the council will change hands.
I enclose a booklet that is being circulated to all households and businesses in the CB10 and CB11 postal districts (the northern part of Uttlesford). This will inform you as to why there is such strength of feeling about NUGC and the conduct of UDC.
We would be very happy to see you in Great Chesterford again and to discuss in more detail why NUGC is a seriously flawed proposition.
on behalf of StopNUtown Action Group
* The recently published interim report of the Raynsford Review of Planning in England, says about the 2012 introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework: “the NPPF used policy to effectively undermine the statutory obligation for a plan-led system. The NPPF viability test also effectively empowered the developer of land to strike down any policy compromising their development profit. The role of the public interest in planning is now unclear.”