The decision has been deferred on a bid to build up to 350 homes on the site of ancient Roman heritage assets due to the risk of a planning deadlock.

The item was brought before Uttlesford District Council at its planning committee meeting on November 22.

The application by Catesby Promotions Limited seeks outline planning permission for an access road, with all matters reserved for the construction of up to 350 new dwellings, a heritage park and trail, public open space, a drainage system and a joint café and visitors’ shop.

The land between Walden Road and Newmarket Road in Great Chesterford has been the subject of controversy for a number of years, having been earmarked as part of a plan for 'garden community' schemes.

Had it been approved, the North Uttlesford Garden Community would have played a small part in the shelved North Essex Garden Communities project through which developers intended to deliver approximately 43,000 new homes over 50 years.

The Great Chesterford site was dropped due to the ‘highly sensitive location’ being home to “significant buried archaeology”; described as the ruins of a Roman fort, a Roman town, Anglo-Saxon burial grounds and a Romano-Celtic temple.

Councillors were left polarised by planning officer Lindsay Trevillion’s case report, which stated that the risks of the proposal's location within an identified flood zone and the damage to historical assets “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the development”.

Although only 19 objections were raised by residents in the direct vicinity, Historic England said that the harm to the Roman monuments and surrounding countryside would be “severe”.

Councillor Neil Gregory said that the briefing note from the applicant was “somewhat misleading”. He added that the flood zone if waterlogged, would be difficult to cross and “impossible to build on”.

Sewage would be at risk of flooding into the ground of the development due to existing infrastructure being unable to cope with thousands of new residents, and local schools which are already over-subscribed would leave children without a guarantee of studying nearby.

Chairman of Great Chesterford Parish Council, Tom Newcombe, said that the “unsuitable and premature” proposal clashed with Great Chesterford’s “lawful” neighbourhood plan, as well as UDC’s planning policy within its Local Plan.


David Morris, speaking on behalf of Catesby Promotions, said that the development’s proximity to transport links such as bus routes and a train station offered a “genuine alternative to use of a private car”.

He said that the benefits sat “above policy requirements”, and that the Roman heritage assets would be safe, with the intention being to eventually transfer them to public ownership in perpetuity.

Councillors were warned that voting against the officer’s recommendation to refuse to grant planning permission could see the council lose up to £9 million in planning gain if the case was sent to appeal through the Planning Inspectorate and overturned, and incur much higher legal costs if objectors were granted a judicial review.

At the end of the debate,  UDC ultimately voted to defer the decision until a later date.