11 Emson Close | Saffron Walden | Essex | CB10 1HL
2.1 The Heritage and Character Assessment, carried out by AECOM, broke the parish into four distinct character areas.
THE TOWN CENTRE
2.2 Saffron Walden is the largest town in the District of Uttlesford and is the administrative and commercial centre. This very attractive town is one of the finest preserved examples of a medieval market town, with a wealth of listed buildings in the town centre and Conservation Areas which cover much of the town.
2.3 The town centre has a market square surrounded by medieval streets. It has a diversity of architectural styles and a street layout which together document the historic development of the town. It includes the Common, which is officially registered as a village green and has a turf-cut maze which is listed as a scheduled monument. Walden Castle and the Repell Ditches are also listed as scheduled monuments. Amongst many fine buildings, the town centre hosts the Town Hall, St Mary’s Church, Bridge End Garden and Jubilee Gardens, and the old Corn Exchange which is now the library. A great number of buildings in the town centre are listed.
2.4 The residential neighbourhoods are characterised by predominantly inter-war through to current day residential housing estates with mostly semi-detached and terraced houses. The main roads cut through the neighbourhoods and lead directly to the town centre. Away from the main roads streets are mainly quiet cul-de-sacs. Schools, an industrial area and supermarkets are located within the residential neighbourhoods.
2.5 The rural landscape is characterised by rolling open arable land which is accessible to the public to enjoy via a network of public rights of way, which includes the HarCamLow Way. In the hamlet of Little Walden, dispersed farm houses and associated buildings, and cottages serve to complement the sense of openness and remoteness from development.
2.6 The historic landscape comprises Audley End House, the surrounding and associated parkland designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and the immediate surrounding area which includes the golf club and St Mark’s College.
2.7 As well as having immense aesthetic appeal, Saffron Walden also benefits from good schools and a charming town centre. It has a very active and friendly community which is often remarked upon by visitors and newcomers to the town.
2.8 Saffron Walden is accessible to both London and Cambridge, with the M11 motorway and Audley End railway station being a few miles outside the town.
2.9 The Heritage and Character Assessment regards views into and out of both the Conservation Areas and the countryside as being key assets of the parish. The key risk identified for all areas was any development which might impede the views. Accordingly, the SWNP maps the key views.
2.10 The sum of the town’s attributes offers such an attractive proposition that new and existing housing is relatively easily sold to people wishing to escape the larger urban conurbations, especially London and Cambridge.
2.11 The high quality of amenities in the town has contributed to a virtuous circle, as development has brought in more residents, who in turn have become clients for the amenities and so by any measure Saffron Walden can be described as a thriving market town. It is regularly listed amongst the best places to live nationwide.
2.12 Whilst the increased population brings additional and welcome participants to the town’s activities and consumers to the town’s businesses, the property purchasing power of incomers outbids that of existing residents and of many people who work locally. Affordability of housing has consequently become a key local issue, reported both in public consultations and in official Strategic Housing Market Assessments commissioned by the District Authority. A Halifax report in 2018 stated that Saffron Walden was the 9th most expensive market town in the UK in which to buy a home.
2.13 There is a widely-held perception that infrastructure development has not kept pace with housing development and that the town is “at capacity”. The road network is constrained by the physical structure of the medieval street plan and highways assessments have not identified any possible alterations which would materially reduce congestion or improve air quality. The busiest junctions are at capacity, or are forecast to be at capacity by 2033. Despite the increases in population in the last ten years, the town has not had the proportionate addition of essential infrastructure such as schools, doctors’ surgeries, playing fields or other open spaces.
2.14 Uttlesford has had a much higher increase in the number of dwellings than England has had as a whole, +22% compared to +8%. The population has also increased, although not by as much: +9% in Uttlesford compared to +5% in England as a whole. The average number of people living in each dwelling has dropped in both Uttlesford and England as a whole; however the drop has been greater in Uttlesford.
2.15 Forecasted changes in the population, as relevant to housing need, are published in the Uttlesford District Council Housing Strategy 2016-2021 (Dec 2015). Page 13 states:
Our population is getting older, living longer and requiring greater care. This is already having implications for the housing market. Requirements for extra care, residential homes and a specialist dementia facility are needed to meet these needs.”
2.16 High house prices are an issue in Saffron Walden. The Uttlesford District Council Housing Strategy 2016-2021 (Dec 2015) quotes:
The evidence base shows that house prices are high in Uttlesford and incomes low, meaning that mortgages are unaffordable for a large percentage of our population. This places a strain on the Council’s housing stock and the private rented sector. Young people, families and those providing our key services (for example care staff, teachers, cleaners etc.) are moving out of Uttlesford away from family and support to be able to buy their first home.”
2.17 Uttlesford is a rural district where household car ownership is recognised as being higher than the national average. In the 2011 Census the average number of vehicles per household was 1.2 nationally, 1.4 in Essex and 1.7 in Uttlesford. This reflects the rural nature of the majority of Uttlesford and the relatively sparse public transport provision. According to the 2011 Census, 76% of residents in Uttlesford commute to work by car.
2.18 According to the 2015 UDC Strategic Environmental Assessment , almost half of all residents in Uttlesford travel to work outside the district, and just under half of all jobs in the area are taken by people living elsewhere. House prices, traffic volumes and busy commuter trains are further evidence that a significant number of residents of Saffron Walden commute out each day to achieve higher incomes than are generally available in the parish or in Uttlesford as a whole. Conversely, local employers report that a significant number of the key services in Saffron Walden are supplied by people commuting into the town each day, for lack of housing affordability within the town.
 Place Services: Uttlesford District Council Local Plan Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment Scoping Report: Annex B – Baseline Information July 2015 (page 29)
Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.
Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.
Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.
Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.
Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.