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.
I wrote this report as we approached the start of the school holidays in a mood of deep disappointment and dismay at the state of Uttlesford District Council.
Firstly, by now residents should have been engaged in, if not already having completed, a public consultation over proposals for a long-awaited Local Plan. Planning anarchy is already in full swing. So, the announcement at the end of June that the ruling party of Uttlesford District Council shockingly can’t agree amongst themselves what plan to put forward was very worrying news.
In my opinion, the excuse that new land for future housing has been offered in a secret location and has now to be investigated was a lame excuse for the delay, which will last until November – or later. Circumstances always change, so I fear that the Residents for Uttlesford majority on UDC may prove incapable of deciding on any Local Plan to put forAlan Dean District Councillor reports 22 ward. That will make a bad planning situation worse and could lead to the government stepping in and taking over yet another of the District Council’s planning functions.
Secondly, in June the District Council agreed to offer £1.4 million to compensate Stansted Airport for UDC’s losing the planning appeal about allowing a higher passenger throughput. Stansted’s councillors did not vote in favour. I will be surprised if the airport owner agrees to accept the offer, instead wanting more money to cover their actual appeal costs.
The big issue is that the majority party, R4U, allowed or encouraged the District Council’s appeal team to betray the planning committee by not fighting the appeal, but instead by pursuing a line of argument that would achieve the opposite of what had been agreed. They tried to do a dodgy deal with the airport. The appeal inspectors understandably viewed this approach with contempt and thought that UDC was wasting everyone’s time and money. In my opinion, it was a shocking betrayal of local democracy and good behaviour. It was improper behaviour that will likely cost every resident a lot of lost council tax in due course.
On Climate Change, Read the Small Print!
The third let down to report is about climate change. My colleague Geoffrey Sell wrote about climate change in July and the slow progress being made by UDC in applying its £1,000,000 budget on practical initiatives to reduce the district’s carbon emissions. I hope that actual progress will soon be made to cut local emissions. With heating, lighting and transport fuel costs soaring, there is another incentive to cut fuel usage. In Germany, where I have been recently on holiday (travelling by train), people were able to buy a ticket for £8 that allowed travel on local buses, trains and ferries for one month. The take-up has been massive. I hope the scheme gets more people out of their cars and onto public transport in the long-term. Local trains were somewhat crowded in our experience. At Uttlesford, claims have been made that the District Council’s carbon footprint has been cut significantly by using a new electricity supplier of green electricity. It was then discovered that the supplier was paying for carbon-offset credits for using carbon-creating supplies. Always read the small print!
Good News on Social Housing & Airport Parking
The good news this month is that UDC has bought 18 new social homes in Great Dunmow. This came about after I advised the Council to follow the example of South Cambridgeshire District Council, which abuts Uttlesford. There is still a long way to go before UDC meets its targeted figure for new council homes. And finally, “NO FLY PARKING” signs have gone up in the Mountfitchet Estate and across Foresthall Park in an initiative with Stansted Airport Limited. This is aimed primarily at airport users who avoid paying airport parking charges by clogging up our residential areas. This should be the start of a longer-term project to address this social nuisance