A report on the Uttlesford draft Local Plan made public this week (wk/comm. 12/11/18) poses searching questions about the Council’s competence and behaviour, stretching from the officers that prepared the plan to councillors who approved it for public consultation.

Several months ago UDC asked planning consultants AECOM to review the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) contained in the Uttlesford draft Local Plan. The SA is a vital part of the evidence base for locating new housing, particularly new garden communities (GCs). Earlier this week UDC published AECOM’s report.

Here are two short extracts:

This is one of the report’s conclusions –

5.5 …. statutory consultees and the wider public were not presented at the Regulation 19 stage with genuine, mutually exclusive, reasonable alternatives to the preferred spatial strategy in terms of how to meet the identified needs of the District.

 And this is one of the report’s recommendations –

5.10.6 Undertake a fresh, objective and comparative appraisal of GC options based on a range of different sizes as well as on the merits of the sites, not what is being promoted by developers. Clearly set out any assumptions as well as the capacity of the sites in terms of what can be delivered during the life of the plan and in total. The same process should be carried out for any strategic urban extensions that came forward through the SLAA process.

 From the outset we – that is the action group and the parish council – have pointed to the misguided way the council has relied on sites promoted by land owners/agents, without carrying out a full and proper assessment of the alternatives.

So here we are, four years almost to the day since the last Local Plan was pulled on recommendation of the Inspector, and we are no further advanced. If anything, the process has gone backwards because we are faced with not having a 5-year land supply. So developers will be making applications to build all over the place. This is entirely self-inflicted, a consequence of putting party politics above the genuine needs of the district and its people.

The catalyst for the AECOM report was the outcome of the Inspector’s decisions regarding NEGC, the three-settlement plan between Braintree and Colchester. The inspector’s findings were published on June 15th though the key findings had been widely expected as a consequence of the public hearings. Officers and cabinet at UDC knew full well the likely implications of the NEGC inspection.

So why did UDC proceed to public consultation with a patently deficient draft plan?

On June 12th UDC Cabinet voted to take the draft local Plan forward to full council. Then on June 19 Council ignored requests to delay the plan pending further consideration of the NEGC outcome and voted to proceed to Reg19 consultation.

This raises the following questions, which the action group is asking our resident district councillor and cabinet member, Julie Redfern, to address to the council on our behalf:-

Did officers recommend to PPWG knowing the plan to be deficient? If so, what action will be taken to censure the responsible officers?

Did cabinet members recommend to council knowing the plan to be deficient? if so, will the cabinet members who voted in favour consider their position? It is a reasonable expectation that cabinet members have a more detailed understanding of plan matters than other councillors.

To read the full AECOM report click here