Alan Dean

AUGUST UPDATE

 

July and August traditionally are the quiet months for councils, writes District Councillor Alan Dean in his latest column, but this is not so in 2022. Read more

Melvin Caton

MAY UPDATE

District Councillor Melvin Cation provides an update for May of how Uttlesford is playing its part to deal with the crisis in Ukraine and to manage the escalating Cost of Living Crisis. 

After the unexpected drama of Uttlesford’s Planning Department being designated because of poor performance in deciding major planning applications over the 2018-2020 period last month, the District Councillors report this month outlines the important local actions taken to mitigate decisions taken on the national and international stage.

Help with the Cost of living

Earlier in the winter Stansted councillors were successful in persuading the District Council to write to the Government to oppose the cutting of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit provided during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the government continued with the cut, but locally district councillors donated nearly £6000 from their personal councillors; allowances to the Uttlesford Foodbank and the Citizen’s Advice’s Energy Fund to support local families in need.

At the February budget meeting a proposal by Cllr Khan to provide a one off £100 grant to nearly 1000 working households in Uttlesford to help towards their Council Tax bills in 2022/23 financial year was passed unanimously by the council. With energy costs escalating the District Council has been successful in getting funding to support low income home owners in fuel poverty to improve the energy efficiency of their property.

The scheme will be able to support up to 116 properties. If you want more information about the Green Homes Grants phone 0808 196 8255 or put into your browser surveys.est.org.uk/s/GreenHomesGrantSchemeLAD.

Refugees from Ukraine

Like the rest of the country, residents in Uttlesford have been keen to support the refugees from the war in Ukraine and have been frustrated by the slow response at the national level. At the beginning of April 47 refugees from Ukraine were in Uttlesford, staying with 30 host families. The District Council are responsible for inspecting the homes and for carrying out any necessary Disclosure & Barring Service checks on host families.

Any arriving families with school-age children are having to apply to local schools through the same systems as if they had just moved into the district from another part of the UK, though our schools are understood to being extremely responsive and being advised to register with a local GP again in the same way as if they’d just moved here from elsewhere in the UK.

At the time of writing, a way of linking up incoming refugees and host families with wider support from local communities in their neighbourhoods, has not been established. The kind of voluntary support from local communities is something that they will be able to access as and when they choose by reaching out directly or through their host families.

Planning Matters

And finally some important information on a couple of planning matters. The first draft of the proposed Local Plan containing the proposed locations for development in Uttlesford up to 2040 is now likely to be published at end of May, rather than the beginning of the month.

Secondly, a New Director of Planning at Uttlesford DC, Dean Hermitage, has been appointed and will be in post by the end of June. Dean currently works for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Whitehall. He has previously worked for Harringay and Southend-on-Sea Councils. Dean lives with his family in Chelmsford.

District Cll Sell

JULY UPDATE

With news of how District Councillors are supporting local voluntary initiatives and what’s being done to tackle the Climate Emergency, Geoffrey Sell provides an insight on Uttlesford affairs in August.

 

I hope you enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Like many of you I have never known another monarch. In a sense we are all Elizabethan. We are extremely fortunate in that for 70 years we have had in The Queen a Head of State who has shown such dedication and selflessness.

Supporting Our Community

Thanks go to the Parish Council for organising the lighting of the beacon and the jubilee picnic. Stansted’s district councillors Melvin Caton, Alan Dean, Ayub Khan and myself all contributed £1,000 each towards the cost of the celebrations. The New Homes Bonus scheme gives District Councillors £2000 per annum to spend on good causes in their wards. Over the last year I have helped to fund several organisations:

  • Residents of Walpole Meadows: defibrillator
  • Stansted Millers: windmill fete
  • Uttlesford Citizens Advice: service provision
  • Stansted Link: production costs of the magazine

Climate Change

Environmental issues have become an increasing concern. More and more of us have become aware of the fragility of our planet. Sir David Attenborough has warned that “we are at a crossroads”. The decisions we take now will have lasting impacts. Pre-Covid, I visited SE Asia on several occasions. I became acutely conscious of this fragility and the harm we are doing to our environment. Whether it was coming out of a hotel in Hyderabad, India and having to hold my nose because of the smell coming from the polluted river. Or being informed in Malaysia it was just as well you were not here last week, we had really bad smog. This was caused by deforestation in neighbouring Indonesia.

So what has Uttlesford done about climate change? In 2019 we declared a climate emergency. Councillors pledged to take local action to contribute to prevent a climate and ecological catastrophe through the development of practices and policies, with an aim to achieve net-zero carbon status by 2030 and to protect and enhance bio-diversity in the district.

At the last Scrutiny Committee we received a progress report. Although some progress has been made much needs to be done. It was disappointing that out of the £1,000,000 budget allocated for climate change only £80,500 has been committed or spent. The Leader of the Council admitted that insufficient officer resources had been allocated. It was also disappointing to learn that our recycling figure stands at 47.9% This rates us at 105th in the council recycling table.

The highest rated council in Essex is Rochford in 8th position with a rate of 61,8 %. Maldon on 8th at 58.9% Colchester in 21st at 56.7%. On a positive note the council has launched a new Environmental Services newsletter. The first edition of the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ newsletter included information on changes to bin collections as well as details about recycling and food waste. Sign up to receive future editions of the newsletter at www.uttlesford.gov.uk/keep-me-posted

Annual Council Meeting

The meeting saw the formation of a new political group the Liberal Democrat and Green Alliance. All the Stansted councillors together with Cllr Janice Loughlin who represents the adjoining Stort Valley ward have joined this group. The other members are two Green councillors from Saffron Walden and one from Takeley. The formation of the group means that we are the official opposition to the Residents for Uttlesford administration. It is also a recognition that the two groups in the last year have been working closely together. The leader of the group is Cllr Melvin Caton.

Ayub Khan

JUNE UPDATE

Ayub Khan has airport parking in his sights in his district councillor’s report for June

 

As the country now starts to recover from the pandemic and people start to travel, one of the consequences has been the return of airport fly parking to the area. Following concerns raised by residents on the Mountfitchet Estate, Cllr Caton and I met with the Community Team at Stansted Airport to take them on a tour of the area to view the problems caused by airport fly parking. I am pleased to announce that following our discussions, Stansted Airport has agreed to install “No Airport Parking” signs across the estate.

In addition to the above, we have also agreed that the “No Airport Parking” signage will be placed on the following roads on Foresthall Park:

  • Walson Way
  • Reeve Road
  • Livings Way
  • Palmer Close
  • Forest Hall Road

This is a good outcome for both areas as a first measure to try and alleviate the problem of airport parking.

Parking Restrictions

District Councillors have been working with the Parish Council and the North East Parking Partnership to discuss appropriate restrictions on the Mountfitchet Estate and Foresthall Park. This follows concerns related to parking, speeding and safety at junctions.

A consultation will be published in the next few months to inform residents on the process and timescales. It is likely that the Parking Partnership will implement any agreed restrictions in autumn 2023. Further information will be provided through the Parish Council Highways Committee.

Emerging Uttlesford Local Plan

The first draft of the latest attempt to create an Uttlesford Local Plan is due to go out to consultation with residents from June 20 to July 29. It is worth reminding residents that the R4U administration decided to withdraw the previous Local Plan and start the process again.

This decision has cost the District Council some £7m. All four Stansted District Councillors voted against this approach as we wanted the administration to retain and repair the previous plan. Thus, saving money and reducing duplication and avoiding something of a developer free-for-all.

The result of withdrawing the previous plan means that Uttlesford will be required to build 706 houses per annum until 2040 instead of 636 houses per annum, under the withdrawn plan. In total Uttlesford District Council now must find sites for around 16,000 houses. Stansted District Councillors are not against house building and have always been in favour of the creation of new well integrated communities rather than developer-led additions to the edges of existing communities.

We consider that any development in existing settlements must come with considerable benefits to the community in the form of additional infrastructure, services, and facilities, e.g. for sports and recreation, culture and open spaces that improve the wellbeing and quality of life of our residents. In addition, all new developments must be low carbon. Highways MUST be able to cope. Like the Parish Council we are opposed to the proposed new settlement at Bollington Hall in Ugley on the grounds of the negative impact on Stansted Mountfitchet, especially traffic on B1383, public services, and coalescence of a new settlement with our village.

Alan Dean

APRIL UPDATE

It may take the District Council’s planning department two years to get back on track, says District Councillor Alan Dean in his April column.

The last time I wrote in The Link was in October, when we were still awaiting the result of the planning appeal about development west of Pennington Lane. It was a relief to many people when the planning inspector’s decision to dismiss the appeal came through later that month – though after The Link had gone to press.

I mention that because in early February planning appeals brought about what is probably the biggest issue currently to confront Uttlesford District Council; maybe even the biggest shock since UDC was created in the 1970s.

Inadequate Performance

It all began on the 7th with a letter from the Minister of State for Housing saying: “The Secretary of State…considers that there are respects in which the local planning authority at Uttlesford District Council…is not adequately performing their function of determining planning applications for major applications [over 10 houses or over 1 hectare of land].”

This means that planning permission applicants now have the option of applying either to UDC in the normal way, or by bypassing the district council and apply- ing instead to the national Planning Inspectorate. Time will tell how this will pan out. I am aware that there are some new applicants who have decided to continue with the Council’s decision-making channels.

Designated Status

Uttlesford is now the only council in England that is currently in this so-called “designation” category. There has been no other council so designated for about eight years; it’s not common and it’s nothing to be proud of.

It has now come to light that the risk of this happening was first flagged up in 2018 and again in the past two years. However, few people within UDC knew. No-one did much or anything effective to tackle the underlying problems, which apparently are about the Council refusing too many planning applications that appeal inspectors think were in accordance with planning policy and rules, and so should have been approved by UDC.

There have been protests that the government’s deci- sion flouts local democracy. But quasi judicial deci- sions that planning officers and councillors make should conform with planning laws and regulations.

Two Years to Get Back to Normal

The planning set-up at Uttlesford is undergoing major changes of staff. Councillors involved in planning will also have to learn new skills. It may take around two years for UDC to get back its normal local planning responsibilities. In the meantime, I just hope that poor plans do not get through this unprecedented approval system that would have been avoided had the alarm bells been heard and acted on some years ago.

District Cll Sell

FEBRUARY UPDATE

Geoffrey Sell’s first column for 2002 sees the district councillor update residents of efforts to rid the village of HGVs and brings news of the district council’s Local Plan

 

On behalf of Stansted’s District Councillors Melvin Caton, Alan Dean, Ayub Khan and myself I should like to wish you a Happy and Safe 2022.

Last year was another challenging one. It was the year of the jabs, in which Stansted surgery has placed an invaluable part in the roll out of the vaccines.   It’s hard to imagine that at this time last year, barely anyone had received their first dose of a Covid vaccine.

I thought it might be helpful to give a review of some issues affecting Stansted.

Removing HGVs from the centre of Stansted

The entry points of Grove Hill, Church Road, High Lane and Chapel Hill will become no-go zones for HGVs, to be monitored using the latest camera technology, under proposals agreed between highways authority Essex County Council and residents.

The scheme will go out to consultation this year and is a solution to years of negotiations. It makes Stansted one of the first areas in the county to seek a blanket ban. As Chair of the Highways Committee of the Parish Council and Vice Chair of Uttlesford Highways Panel I have been working closely with our county councillor Ray Gooding. We have been greatly assisted by Cllr Lee Scott  ECC portfolio holder for Highways. Local residents have shown great patience.

Welcome to new community organisations

Stansted’s response to dealing with the pandemic included the setting up of new community organisations. These included Let’s Talk, the Stansted Community Mental Health Initiative and Touchpoint. The latter has taken over the running of the Day Centre. We have supported these organisations through grants from the new homes bonus scheme which each district councillor has.  Alan and myself have worked with residents to fund a defibrillator at Walpole Meadows

Development Pressures

Last year your councillors and residents celebrated the dismissal by the Planning Inspectorate of the Bloor Homes planning application. This was for 168 houses west of Pennington Lane.

Despite this victory, development pressures will loom large this year. As the planning authority the Council has the responsibility for preparing the local plan. The council has conducted the call for sites and had nearly 300 responses.  The local plan is for the period 2020-2040.

The local plan has had a chequered history. We are now on version 3 the previous one having been withdrawn by the Residents for Uttlesford administration. Stansted councillors voted against withdrawal and for amendment. We were in the minority.  It is a crucial document as it determines the scale of development and where it should be located. It is Central Government that sets the numbers of houses required. The numbers are approximately 11,600 over the 20 year period. Some including myself argue that this is far too high a figure. It constitutes a significant risk of making Uttlesford a less pleasant place to live in.   The link details the sites that have been submitted by landowners.  Call for Sites April 2021 (arcgis.com)

My colleague Cllr Melvin Caton is a member of the Local Plan Leadership Group. They have the responsibility of bringing an acceptable local plan to fruition. The timetable has been slipping, but these are some of the significant timelines.

  • By summer 2022 UDC will presents its preferred options for public consultation
  • Mid 2023 the local plan will be submitted to Central Government for examination and hopefully approval.
  • Mid 2024 Adoption of the local plan by UDC

The shape of the plan which I am assured by officers will be evidence led is currently unknown. What is known is that its decisions will not be universally welcomed. As one of the districts principal settlements Stansted is in a vulnerable position. We will all need to do our best to ensure that the essential character of the community we are fortunate to call home is preserved and indeed enhanced.   If there is to be development then Stansted must receive significant community benefits.