On the eve of UDC’s Planning Policy Working Group meeting to finalise the district local plan (ready for cabinet and ultimately a full council vote), StopNUtown Action Group published an open Letter to Council leader, Howard Rolfe, which contains four important questions.
31st May 2018
Dear Councillor Rolfe,
About the proposed local plan: most councils would welcome a reduction in their assessed housing need. It would make for an easier-to-achieve target, less stress when deciding where to put houses and less impact on the countryside and roads.
And yet, as leader of the council and chief promoter of a new town in north Uttlesford, you are insisting on a housing target that is widely considered to be higher than needed.
In 2016 consultants employed by UDC derived an OAN (Objectively Assessed Need) of 14,100 houses. This is the figure you are using for the local plan. Then in 2017 the same consultants revised the figure down to 13,300 which you chose to ignore.
There is yet more evidence that housing need for Uttlesford has been over-stated. A new population projection by the Office for National Statistics shows a reduction in population growth for Uttlesford.
At the same time Stansted Airport’s employment forecast has been shown for what it is, wishful thinking. There won’t be anywhere near as many new jobs at the airport. So we have lower population growth and less jobs growth, but you are still insisting on a higher housing target.
Here are four questions to which residents in the north of Uttlesford would welcome straight answers:
1. Why are you so wedded to a higher housing target in the face of evidence that says it should be lower?
2. Why are you so keen on a massive housing development in this most northerly part of the district? This would not be needed if your housing target were more realistic.
3. Is there a conflict of interest between the council’s 50% shareholding in Chesterford Research Park (near to the site of the new town) and the council’s role in proposing the site of that new town?
4. Finally, could you please explain how an isolated community on a difficult-to-develop site with poor local roads and negligible public transport (and no plans to improve these) can be economically viable or sustainable?
On previous occasions you have stated Government will intervene and impose an ever higher housing target if there is not a local plan in place soon. That is a convenient threat to shut down legitimate debate; however there is little evidence this would apply to a council that already has a higher than needed housing target.
Can we please have straight answers to these questions. It is time to for you to come clean with the residents of Saffron Walden, Great Chesterford and surrounding communities who will suffer the consequences of your actions.
The Steering Committee
StopNUtown Action Group
on behalf of the many concerned residents of Uttlesford