I note the recent suggestion of a local Liberal Democrat that I should intervene to make Uttlesford District Council think again about its housing proposals.
It strikes me that the Council has been thinking about this issue non-stop for the last eight years, first under Lib Dem control and more recently with Conservative leadership. Funny thing, but I don’t remember the Lib Dems getting so far as having a finalised plan which we could all stand back and applaud for its sensitivity and far-sightedness.
Agreeing on a plan is, of course, when the trouble begins. As soon as people see their village or their town being allocated more houses than they feel they want they – quite understandably – resist. That is where the Lib Dems come in. The affected community will quickly discover that the Lib Dems are on their side. Maybe the Council after consultation has a change of heart and the finger then points in another direction. With a crunching of gears and a squeal of brakes the Lib Dem protest wagon will roll up to make common cause.
Not having a plan is undoubtedly the Lib Dems’ best policy. No-one need be offended. They become everyone’s sympathetic friend. Stick with condemning Plan A whatever Plan A happens to be. Don’t be so foolish as to offer a Plan B, because that would actually mean having to say where 4,000, 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 houses should be put. That might just prove controversial.
Perhaps I am being a bit unfair. In reality I have to admit that the Lib Dems do have an alternative plan. You see, it’s the next plan, the one just round the corner, the one that ‘thinking again’ will produce. How blind we all are not to recognize it. After all it is just a matter of going back to the drawing board. Before long it will be staring you in the face. Strange though that the Lib Dems have given us no hint as to what shape, let alone content, it might have. One wonders how long they can hide.
I tried in 2008 to help the Council by holding an informal meeting of parish and town councils. All bar two were represented. On a private and non-committed basis the largest number of voluntary bids for new housing reached around 2,100. This is way below estimated need for the next twenty years.
No amount of thinking again can reduce the serious nature of the decision that the council has to take. In the meantime planning applications whether in conformity or conflict with the draft local plan will have to be processed. It really would help if the Lib Dems would tell young people who aspire to own or rent a home in the District where they may expect to find one. A spoonful of bi-partisanship might help lasting decisions to be made.