Permission has been granted by the Government for 170 new homes in Saffron Walden – despite its ‘harm upon the character and openness of this part of the countryside’.

The development, on arable land west of Thaxted Road, on the edge of Saffron Walden, sits opposite a development of 150 homes from Bellway. 

Developers Keir Ventures Ltd has pledged that 40 per cent of the homes would be affordable.

Keir Ventures was able to bypass Uttlesford District Council and apply directly to the government after the council was designated earlier in 2022 over the quality of its decision making on major applications.

The proposed Thaxted Road site is currently agricultural land, but neighbours other new developments and the Knights Way retail park, which is home to a supermarket, café, cinema, hotel, gym and the Saffron Walden Recycling Centre.

Saffron Walden Town Council argued the development would have a negative visual impact on existing residents due to their loss of views of the fields.

But Uttlesford District Council submitted to the inspectorate "that the indicative plans demonstrate that the proposal could be accommodated within the local landscape with minimal adverse impact on the wider landscape character and visual resources".

The council also indicated that the proposal could create a high-quality scheme that "relates well to the adjacent settlement and which would not harm Saffron Walden’s character".

However inspectorate Jo Dowling said in her decision report: "Due to changing the nature of the site from open arable fields to a significant amount of built form the proposed development would inevitably cause some level of harm upon the character and openness of this part of the countryside.

"In particular, Uttlesford District Council highlighted that the proposed development would impact upon cross-valley views and characteristic views of fields and meadows that would be seen from the surrounding area."


She added: "I agree that the application site because of its openness and topography would be altered as a result of the proposed development.

"However, having visited the site, I agree with the conclusions of the applicant’s landscape and visual appraisal that because of the context provided by the existing built form the application is one that could accommodate change and as a result the consequential effects would not result in an unacceptable level of harm to landscape character or visual resources."

The number of affordable homes which could total as many as 68 "would make a valuable contribution to the district’s housing supply", Uttlesford District Council says.

Other social benefits would be delivered through the delivery of public open space and play and recreation areas.

Ms Dowling added: "Even though the proposal would result in the permanent loss of agricultural land Uttlesford District Council acknowledges that the benefits arising from the proposal which would include the delivery of both market and affordable housing could be substantial."