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Uttlesford withdraws local plan

Words: Laura Edgar
Local plan withdrawn / Shutterstock_617641913

Uttlesford District Council has withdrawn its local plan from examination after inspectors cited ‘significant concerns in relation to the soundness of the plan’.

During an extraordinary council meeting held remotely via videoconferencing software at the end of April (30 April), councillors approved a recommendation to withdraw the draft plan and start work on getting a local plan in place by 2023.

Inspectors Louise Crosby and Elaine Worthington wrote to the councils in January this year with their concerns, which included:

  • There is a lack of evidence to enable us to conclude parts of the plan relating to three garden communities – Easton Park, North Uttlesford and West of Braintree – which intend to deliver 18,500 homes, much of the new housing for the plan area. Whilst we realise it is the council’s intention to lay down much of the detail of the proposed garden communities in further development plan documents (DPDs), following the adoption of the plan, it is this examination which must determine whether the garden community proposals are properly justified and realistically developable. This is of major importance in this case given the large-scale and long-term nature of the garden community developments, combined with the fact that they would be the primary source of housing in the district for the next 30 to 40 years.”
  • All the reasonable alternatives tested in the Sustainability Appraisal [SA] included all three garden communities with varying degrees of other development, except one (option 3) which included no garden communities. No testing was carried out with two garden communities, along with other development at existing settlements. This has in part led to fundamental problems with the overall spatial strategy.
  • The mechanisms by which the Town and Country Planning Association’s garden city principles will be delivered and ensured are not readily evident in the plan. 

As the examination process does not allow major changes to the plan to be carried out, the inspectors suggested that the council should withdraw the plan.

“We believe that the key decisions to be made on the future of the garden communities and the spatial strategy need to be taken by the council, in consultation with local residents. The most effective and transparent way to do this would be through the preparation of a new plan, based on a robust SA, rather than emerging as our recommendations in main

The council said its decision to withdraw the plan took into account the independent professional advice of a peer review team from the East of England Local Government Association that had been appointed to provide guidance for the council.

John Evans, portfolio holder for planning and the local plan, said: “This has been an important decision with potential ramifications for the district’s residents and businesses for years to come and it was important that we took the time to carefully consider the implications of withdrawing the plan and starting again. Given the recommendation from the inspectors and what we were told by the expert consultants, it was the clear majority view that preparing a new plan is the most appropriate option.

“We must now look forward and work in an efficient and effective manner to create a robust local plan that provides for sustainable growth and benefits for the district. It will be important to take on board the concerns of the inspectors and to address the issues they have raised.

“We are committed to involving residents, businesses and the town and parish councils, and we need to begin by developing a consensus on what the plan will aspire to achieve. One of the first jobs will be to draw up a new statement of community involvement to ensure this happens in a positive and engaging way.”

The council added that it is committed to having an up-to-date plan in place by the government deadline of December 2023.

More information can be found here on the council website. The inspectors’ letter can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock