Uttlesford District Council, which has not successfully adopted an updated local plan for 20 years, has seen its draft consultation slammed by councillors and residents.

The council held an extraordinary council meeting on Monday, October 16 following the first presentation of the draft by the local plan leadership group on Wednesday, October 4, to discuss more specifically the implication of the council’s five year housing land supply (5YHLS) and the draft local development plan before being approved for public consultation.

The consultation period will begin on Friday, November 3, closing on Friday, December 15.

Dr Jean Johnson, who made a representation previously at the October 4 meeting, reiterated that her concerns lie predominantly with existing infrastructure being unable to cope with the level of development proposed in the draft plan.

She also called for a review of the plan’s depletion of the district’s Countryside Protection Zone (CPZ) as a result of new provisions of land for industrial purposes.

Dr Johnson said that, especially between residential areas and Stansted Airport, a constriction of the CPZ would lead to a massive reduction in an undeveloped 'buffer' with "horrendous consequences… and mitigation won’t help".


Planning policy manager Andrew Maxted argued that the "areas within site boundaries which are not proposed for actual development are substantial".

However, without the draft plan being progressed to public consultation, and therefore missing the summer 2024 adoption deadline before the central government makes changes to the planning system, Mr Maxted warned that the council "will not regain control" of development across the district.

He said this would lead to increased speculative development from independent companies, which risked infrastructure falling behind in the long term.

He said: "It (the draft plan) may not be perfect, but it’s about finding the best opportunity we can to deliver the most balanced approach.

"It’s prudent to progress the plan quickly."

In agreement, Councillor Neil Reeve (Residents for Uttlesford, Broad Oak and the Hallingburys) said: "Simply having an adopted plan will form a basis for us to put improved infrastructure in place."

Councillor Arthur Coote (Residents for Uttlesford, Saffron Walden Audley), despite acknowledging what Cllr Reeve described as a "dreadful time" for the team assembling the local plan, said: "This is not a local council issue; we’ve been forced into this position by (a lack of funding from) central government.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Cllr Arthur CooteCllr Arthur Coote (Image: Uttlesford District Council)

Cllr Coote added that he is not "going to defend anything in this plan", and that, as the portfolio holder for housing and equalities, saw the lack of social housing provision mentioned in the draft as a "tragedy".

Despite all local authorities currently being required to adopt updated local plans every five years, UDC has had its last two plans rejected in 2014 and 2019.

Currently, its existing local plan was adopted in 2005, meaning it is almost 20 years out of date.