January 2019: If you’re wondering what’s happening about the draft Local Plan you’re not alone. The whole thing is a mess not helped by the unashamed way UDC is window-dressing the harsh realities and trying to cover the tracks of its own failings.

The latest development is that UDC has been forced to revisit and revise the Sustainability Appraisal at the heart of the Local Plan. The resulting document is the evidential equivalent of a magician’s sleight of hand. It cleverly distracts by providing plausible discussion of the plan and its failings while managing to diminish the negative impacts.

This revised Sustainability Appraisal is set for yet another round of public consultation expected to commence 14th January. We will let you know what action is needed. In the meantime, the following is a very useful and concise reminder of the failings of the Local Plan as it currently stands. We are grateful to Tony Clarke in Great Dunmow for providing this snapshot based on his considerable experience of Government procurement and contractual matters.

“On the evidence which is currently publicly available UDC has no reliable commercial or contractual basis upon which to base it’s claims about Easton Park and North Uttlesford garden communities. The only information UDC has from the relevant developers is that set out in their Call for Sites submissions. This cannot be relied on because it is not binding on the developers, it is now out of date, and in many areas, is seriously at odds with the various claims made by UDC. 

 The Call for Sites submission for NUGC was not prepared by the developers, Grosvenor Estate. It was prepared by a group of academics acting as consultants to land agents Bidwells, and paid for by the landowners. As an example of how to prepare a Call For Sites submission, it is textbook. However, if you want a serious, sustainable, buildable commercial and contractual proposal for a new town, throw it in the bin.

Grosvenor has made various statements about this document but none of them constitute an unequivocal and binding commitment to abide by its full provisions. It would appear there is no binding legal agreement in place for the landowners to sell their land to Grosvenor for an agreed price. This must call into question all of the financial and economic claims made by UDC with particular reference to S106 agreements and infrastructure provision. In summary, UDC has no viable means of holding Grosvenor or the landowners to the provisions of the Call For Sites document, or to the content of the Reg19 draft Local Plan.”

 Tony’s comments serve to reinforce what so many of us have argued all along – that the local plan is little more than wishful thinking and that UDC has completely failed to show how it can be delivered without substantial damage to this area. In simple terms, it is not sustainable.