Stansted growth and Uttlesford’s local plan

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

One of the biggest upsets in the local elections was in Uttlesford where the local residents party, Residents 4Uttlesford, overturned a significant Conservative majority to take the council. The Conservatives lost 19 of its 23 seats and the residents gained 17 giving them 26 seats and an overall majority.

The residents’ group have vehemently opposed the expansion of Stansted airport and the local plan in recent years, and had vowed to reverse both if they gained power. It obviously worked and now they have to deliver on their promises. They are finding that being in power is a lot different to being in opposition.

In late June, an extraordinary council meeting was called to vote to instruct officers to refer the Stansted planning application back to the planning committee. The committee had approved the application last November, but the council had not yet issued the notice as the S106 agreement had to be concluded.

Apparently, the Town and County Planning Act provides for an application to be referred back to a committee if an officer feels there has been a material change between consent and the issue of the notice that would have impacted upon the committee’s decision. This is all subjective, but the onus is upon the officer’s interpretation, so it is not clear if the instruction is correct. The application is set to return to the planning committee in September, although by then it will be out of time and probably in the hands of the Inspector for non-determination. Whatever the outcome, this is very likely to end up in a court.

The examination in public of the local plan started at the beginning of July but there were rumours that the new administration was looking to withdraw it before then. The inspector wrote to the council broadly saying she did not want an EiP where the main objector to the plan was the council that had submitted it, so she invited the council to withdraw it. It would have been quite serious for Uttlesford if it did withdraw the plan with the Secretary of State waiting in the wings for sure.

Politically, this is a disaster for the residents’ group although it may just be a rouse – it is possible the council will withdraw the plan at the end of the EiP if it has not got what it wanted during it, which is entirely feasible.