The cat’s out of the bag…. The draft Local Plan has been revealed. Is it a soft kitten or a feral cat?
Those of you who were resident in this most northerly part of Uttlesford at the time of the 2019 draft Local Plan will know how contentious it was. Three huge new towns including one next to Great Chesterford were part of a grand plan to urbanise swathes of north Essex. That plan drowned in a sea of blame seeking and accusations.
The truth of that failed plan is simple: it was over-ambitious, driven by political ambition. Reality checks and detailed evaluation had been lost in the thunder of back slapping. Govt inspectors gave it short shrift and the Plan was withdrawn.
But the need for a Local Plan remains, more so than ever. It is a statutory obligation and with the way the planning system works a Local Plan is vital to fighting off predatory developers.
By contrast, the proposed plan this time could be described as a gentler beast. The approach has been belt & braces, and single-mindedly intent on meeting deadlines to get a plan in place.
The top level takeaways of the draft plan:
- NO NEW TOWNS
That doesn’t mean to say they don’t have a role to play when in the right place for the right reason; however they take a long time to bring to fruition so are best planned with the luxury of time and a clear sense of purpose.
- COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY (CIL)
This will enable communities to gain the infrastructure they need and to catch up on the woeful deficit in some parts of Uttlesford rather being limited by the section106 process.
- NEW POLICIES
A lot of thought has gone into identifying what in the district needs to be protected and improved. This includes housing type, size and design; improved energy efficiency; measures to conserve water; and the protection of nature. In many respects Uttlesford will be at the cutting edge of planning policy.
In terms of housing numbers the intention is to deliver sufficient to get a Local Plan in place. We can then look to the longer term on the front foot rather than constantly battling opportunistic developers.
The plan covers 2021 to 2041 and makes provision for 6,076 additional homes to be built in Uttlesford after allowing for those already built or given planning consent since 2021.
Rather unexpectedly, GREAT CHESTERFORD gets no new housing allocation beyond what has already been built since 2021 or consented and awaiting construction (notably the 111 houses on the east side of London Road). Given the very rural nature of the ward there is little proposed development elsewhere in the ward.
We are pleased with the focussed way the plan has been drawn together and the much improved rationale to achieving something that is workable.
Our next newsletter will carry more about the draft plan. Public consultation will commence 3rd November and run to the new year. Look out for links to see the full detail of the plan.
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What follows are key points taken from an executive summary prepared by the Planning Policy Manager.
• The Government have signalled their intention to change the Planning System, to include a new approach to preparing Local Plans, but transitional arrangements allow Councils currently progressing Plans to submit their plans up to June 2025. Failure to reach this date would mean a new Uttlesford Local Plan could not be adopted before 2028 at the earliest.
The draft Local Plan is designed to achieve a number of key aims:
- to be capable of being found SOUND at Examination whilst reducing any risks, as far as possible, associated with its preparation
- give consideration to the findings of the Inspectors for the previously submitted Uttlesford Local Plans
- support the delivery of sustainable development by maximising opportunities for the use of sustainable modes of travel and by providing good access to jobs, services and facilities
- seek to maximise opportunities for new infrastructure to benefit existing communities, in addition to new residents, in an attempt to start addressing the infrastructure deficit
- include a comprehensive suite of new policies to ensure planning in Uttlesford provides for high-quality development, helps to address the climate change emergency, supports biodiversity enhancement, etc.
For the reasons stated above, it is considered imperative that the Uttlesford Local Plan is progressed efficiently. There is sufficient time for the Council to submit a plan ahead of the June 2025 deadline, although there is relatively little flexibility for changing the following timetable:
- Consultation on Draft Local Plan (Regulation 18) Nov/Dec 2023
- Publication of Submission Plan (Regulation 19) June/July 2024
- Submission to Secretary of State Dec/ 2024
- Examination 2025
- Adopted Mid-2026