The Liberal Democrats and Greens on Uttlesford District Council have welcomed the Council's decision to back their motion of censure of the R4U administration for the lack of leadership, lack of oversight and lack of good governance, which has led to the first consultation on the draft Local Plan being delayed for a further 8 months until well after the elections in May 2023.
"Instead of starting the process of public consultation this November with the subsequent plan adoption next year, the whole Plan may well now be delayed until 2025! This is not only an affront to local democracy in Uttlesford, but worse, it could possibly be a ploy by the R4U administration to avoid being held accountable at next May's elections by local residents when they find out the location of thousands of new houses and see the proposed future shape of our district", said Cllr Melvin Caton (Stansted South and Birchanger), the leader of the Lib Dem and Green Alliance group on the District Council.
The censure motion proposedby Cllr Vere Isham (Takeley) at the Council meeting on Thursday, October 13 was passed by 13 votes for, to 12 against, with 4 abstentions. The R4U councillors spilt their votes all three ways.
Cllr Isham said "Here we are, with no prospect of a new Local Plan for many more years. We can only imagine the consequences that will follow - more speculative large housing applications flowing in. Plus, yet further costs to the Council on top of the millions of our pounds already wasted since May 2019 when R4U promised in their election manifesto they would fix the Local Plan. Three and a half years later, the submitted Plan failed and there is still no Plan and not likely to be one for at least two years!
The key themes throughout this sorry saga are lack of leadership, lack of oversight, and lack of good governance.
They call themselves a residents' administration, yet in reality do little for local residents and refuse to take any responsibility for their blundering incompetence".
Cllr Paul Fairhurst (SW Shire) told the council that at a recent meeting, the Chairs of Scrutiny and Local Plan Leadership Group had both agreed that there had been a failure of governance of the development of the Local Plan.
"Five days before the Council was due to publish the latest draft Plan, the CEO was informed by his new planning heads that it was 'unfit for publication' and therefore the November consultation could not take place. Either both committees had failed to ask adequate questions and dig deeper, or they had been misled."
Cllr Janice Loghlin (Stort Valley) added that meetings were often held in secret with many councillors not being kept informed of the proposed sites and of the process. "Had the process been more transparent and included all members and local residents", she said, "then maybe we would not have had to pass this motion of censure on the R4U administration".
Cllr Geoffrey Sell (Stansted North) asked the R4U leadership when the major new development site in Saffron Walden would be made public. "Elsewhere in the district sites proposed for development in the Call for Sites were made public months ago, but the proposed Saffron Walden site, which includes a link road,remains shrouded in secrecy and subject to massive speculation in local social media," he said.