Designated status continues to hang over the planning department at Uttlesford, reports District Councillor for Stansted North Geoffrey Sell
Last year the Council was designated by the Government over the quality of its planning decisions. This means that developers of over 10 houses can apply directly to the Planning Inspectorate without having to go through the Council. Most have chosen not to do so. When developers do avail themselves of their right it gives us just the status of a consultee. It was heartening to learn that not all applications to the Planning Inspectorate received approval. An application for 18 houses in Elmdon and a solar farm in Manuden were both turned down.
The Local Plan is out of date. Because of this the presumption for planning inspectors is to grant planning permission. Planning inspectors call this the tilted balance, where the balance is in favour of the developer. A Local Plan will be controversial, but it will give a degree of certainty as to where development should take place. The latest projection is that the Council is working towards producing a plan by the end of 2024. .
Many firms in their literature lay claim to be good corporate citizens. The reality is that for some they do not live up to their claims. In the case of Gigaclear, a provider of broadband, they erected a large cabinet at the entrance to Five Acres on Parish Council land without any consultation either with the Council or residents. A further failure of communication was with Care Homes UK at the Mountfitchet Care Home in Coltsfield, where a number of mature trees were felled. No explanation was given to residents in advance as to why this action was necessary. On both these cases I have intervened. The community is a stakeholder in a business. It is time that companies accepted this and act upon it.
COST OF LIVING
The cost of living crisis is causing hardship to residents who are facing financial difficulties. A cost of living crisis fund has been set up for the 2023/24 financial year to support Uttlesford residents who may be struggling to pay their Council Tax liability. This is available to all Council Tax Bands. www.uttlesford.gov.uk/cost-of-living-support-fund
Now the dust of the district council elections has settled it is time to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead. Before doing so, on behalf of Alan Dean and myself, we should like to thank those residents of Stansted North who supported us in our re-election campaign. It is a privilege and a responsibility to serve the residents of the place I have called home for most of my life. Once again, the quartet of councillors that represent Stansted on Uttlesford District Council has changed.
I welcome Nick Church and Ray Gooding who were elected to represent the Stansted South and Birchanger ward. I look forward to a constructive working relationship with them. Commiserations go to Melvin Caton and Ayub Khan who were unsuccessful in getting re-elected. They both worked hard as councillors. I have taken over from Melvin the leadership of the Liberal Democrat Group. The Residents for Uttlesford Party were re-elected with a reduced majority. There are some significant challenges facing the District Council not least with Planning.