In Walden Local newspaper (21/11/18) our Member of Parliament, Kemi Badenoch, replied to the open letter published by StopNUtown Action Group. Sadly, she avoided the questions we posed, made a series of unevidenced assertions and repeatedly misrepresented what we said. For the record this is what we did (and did NOT) say.

Our letter was about North Uttlesford garden Community and the major sustainability issues of putting a new town on the Essex/Cambs border, a location promoted by a group of landowners, chosen out of political expediency and bolted into the Local Plan with no evidence as to its sustainability. You can read our letter in full here. Scroll down to read Mrs Badenoch’s reply in full.

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Our MP says: “StopNUtown mention homes being built by South Cambridgeshire District Council as a solution. These same homes were also objected to by local parish councils and many residents.”

No, we did not mention them as a “solution.” What we said was “South Cambs has an approved local plan that provides all the housing it needs” so there is no justification to build houses in north Uttlesford to serve the Cambridgeshire market especially when the location of NUGC will severely disrupt Saffron Walden and roads along the Uttlesford/South Cambs border. As for Mrs Badenoch’s claim that “these same homes were also objected to by local parish councils and many residents” Great Chesterford Parish Council made no observation on the SCDC draft Local Plan beyond expressing concern about road congestion. It would be surprising if any other parish in Uttlesford objected to housing in south Cambs. So who are the “local parish councils and many residents” that Mrs Badenoch refers to? Do they exist?

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Our MP says: StopNUtown questions who the 40% affordable housing will be for.”

No, we didn’t. What we said was “The site of NUGC has problems, too many to list. These will make it an expensive site to develop. The prospect of it providing any significant amount of low cost or social housing is slim. UDC promises 40% “affordable” housing – affordable to whom?” That is a very different question to the one Mrs Badenoch infers. Anyone who has seen the pricing of new houses in this area will know that the supposedly “affordable” are beyond the reach of young people and essential workers.

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Our MP says: “StopNUtown allege that NUGV is intended to provide homes for workers at Stansted Airport.”

No, we did not “allege” anything. We asked a simple question “is NUGC intended to provide homes for workers at the airport?” because if it is then with a 35-mile roundtrip by car and no workable public transport options it is not a sustainable proposition.

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Our MP says: “StopNUtown have requested that I make representations to the Government to reduce house building.”

No, we did not make such a simplistic request. What we asked for is “that Govt moderates it’s relentless drive for housing numbers, anywhere, at any cost” because it is having a corrosive effect and driving ill-equipped local authorities such as UDC to adopt expedient and unsustainable policies.

Draw your own conclusions. The overriding concern of people living in this area is the sustainability of the proposed North Uttlesford Garden Community (NUGC). UDC has provided no evidence that this new town will not be a catastrophic testament to greed and political expedience. Until UDC and the developers come forward with properly costed and sourced solutions to the many problems NUGC will create this action group will continue asking awkward questions. Additionally, we would take issue with Mrs Badenoch about her somewhat simplistic claim that increasing the number of new builds will bring house prices down. There is no evidence this will work. The sheer volume needed to have such an effect is probably beyond the capacity of the building industry even if it willing to build so many houses. Yes, we need more houses, plenty of them, but lets have a sensible debate about how to achieve this end goal.

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Note: throughout her reply Mrs Badenoch refers to NUGV. That name was dropped two years ago.