Alan Dean

DECEMBER

Local taxpayers are to be stuck with the bill from Uttlesford’s legal flip-flop over Stansted Airport’s expansion, writes District Councillor Alan Dean.

Cost of Living Support

A winter approaches, we must be thankful that voluntary organisations such as TouchPoint are bringing help to many people in need of food, companionship and other support in Stansted and in some surrounding villages.

The Essex County Council, meanwhile, has published a document called Cost of Living Support for Households and Communities. Head to https://bit.ly/3h3QmgS on the internet where the document can be downloaded. It contains a 6- point plan about what ECC is doing, though it doesn’t say much about how individuals should go about obtaining help, but may provide some signposting for voluntary groups to where that is available.

Airport Compensation

The bad news from Uttlesford is that agreement has finally been reached with Stansted Airport to pay the company £2,100,000 compensation for the Council’s irregular behaviour in mishandling the planning appeal to expand the airport’s annual passenger throughput.

The planning inspectors decreed that Uttlesford District Council had “acted unreasonably” in the way it fought the appeal. A council that loses an appeal would normally not have to compensate the applicant with a cash payment, because each party is expected to pay its own costs, which include bills from expensive lawyers. When UDC’s planning committee’s REFUSAL was taken by the airport to an appeal before national planning inspectors, the District Council’s appeal team surprisingly decided to argue for the opposite – an APPROVAL plus some legal jargon.

This was considered by the inspectors (as well as by many councillors) to have been unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour. So, the District Council – or rather, we taxpayers – was effectively fined £2,100,000. Add to that the Council’s own external costs for lawyers, et al, of £1,368,890, PLUS unquantified costs within the District Council for staff time.

All this adds up to a wasted total cost to UDC taxpayers of around £4,000,000. UDC’s annual Council Tax income for last year was £6,120,521.61. So the financial loss from this major maladministration comes to around two-thirds of one year’s tax payment to UDC by all households across the Uttlesford.

The good news is that the District Council’s planning procedures are likely to be changed in future to increase the transparency of the system to both opposition councillors, like me, and to the public across Uttlesford – with the aim of ensuring this type of episode will never be repeated.

Local Plan Pushed Back to 2023

The second bad news is that the initial stage public consultation for Uttlesford’s long-awaited Local Plan has been delayed from this autumn until the second half of 2023. This means that there will be several more years of planning uncertainty, resulting in yet more house building in unsuitable locations as developers and landowners exploit the absence of a Plan.

Developer Fails to Deliver Footpaths

Finally, on the day in early November that I wrote this report, I received a disappointing update about two footpaths to Cambridge Road and High Lane from King Charles’ Drive that the housing developer had failed to deliver in line with a legal agreement. In September the Planning Committee agreed with me that the developer should not be allowed to get away with neglecting to deliver what they signed up to. Sadly, the developer has said they will submit an appeal against the committee’s recent decision, so there will be further delay. I hope that District Council planning officers will support their Planning Committee Members on this occasion by fighting the appeal with robust evidence. My fellow district councillors and I wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2023 bring more cheer than did 2022.