3.1  In order to ensure that the SWNP addresses the issues which are important to the residents of the parish, the survey questions and the focus groups asked people to describe their thoughts about development in relation to the following topics:

  • Saffron Walden’s heritage;
  • Housing types, housing and development design and spatial planning and design;
  • Transport and getting around;
  • Green infrastructure;
  • The local economy and business including retail and consumer, professional services, tourism and light industrial;
  • Mental and physical health;
  • Arts;
  • Education and skills; and
  • Sport and physical activity.

3.2  It was inevitable that some issues arising from public consultations were conflicting because not everyone wants the same thing for the future of the parish. For example, some survey respondents expressed concern about the aesthetics of new developments while others focused on high house prices. Some welcomed development that may enable them or family members to stay living in the town, while others thought the town was too big already.

3.3  Some issues that arose could be viewed as both a positive and a negative. For example, on the positive side, and as an asset to Saffron Walden, the schools offer a very high standard of education. On the other hand, this attracts new families to the area resulting in the schools being at capacity. This is something that can be mitigated when addressed at the early stages of planning applications.

3.4  Naturally many of the issues which emerged from the surveys, the focus groups and from primary evidence documents overlapped more than one topic. For example, the issue of high school run traffic volumes overlaps the areas of spatial planning, transport capacity issues and physical health.

3.5  The Neighbourhood Plan team recognised that many of the issues and concerns raised by residents during the initial public surveys and consultations are not technically planning issues, because they cannot be resolved by planning solutions or policy. Therefore, it is clear that some issues listed in this section technically sit outside the SWNP. Nonetheless they provided a critically important insight into public opinion and thus provided a useful lens through which to assess and determine the direction of travel. They are included here for that reason.

3.6  The recurring comments made in public consultations have been summarised into the following categories:

  • Assets to Saffron Walden, which the SWNP seeks to protect for future generations.
  • Opportunities for Saffron Walden, which the SWNP seeks to embrace for the benefit of future generations.
  • Challenges for Saffron Walden, where improvement or mitigation measures are required to create a sustainable future for Saffron Walden.


1. Saffron Walden is a market town with a town centre which provides a range of services and commerce to an extensive rural catchment area. [1]

2. Saffron Walden has an excellent range of independent and interesting shops, which makes for a commercial centre which offers a novel experience to visitors.  [2]

3. Saffron Walden has well-regarded schools.  [3]

4. Food and drink offers are successful in the town, seen in the success of individual market stalls, the occasional French market (predominantly food), and in the large number of cafes and restaurants operating in the centre.  [4]

5. Saffron Walden has a strong community feel.  [5]

6. The town contains a variety of historically and aesthetically interesting architecture and attracts tourists and new residents from outside areas.  [6]

7. Saffron Walden sits in a bowl and the views from Saffron Walden out to the surrounding countryside are a key part of Saffron Walden’s appeal.  [7]

8. The town is rural and this feel is supported by a number of important green spaces in and around the town which are both formal and informal.

9. Saffron Walden has a strong offer of art-related activities which support health and a community spirit.

10. The Slade watercourse is a wildlife asset.

[1]  This opinion is supported by Uttlesford District Council Regulation 19 Local Plan 2018, para. 2.5 and (Uttlesford) District Retail Study Savills, May 2018 Update, para. 2.41 “the centre’s function [is] one of meeting the main food shopping requirements of the town in its wider hinterland and a significant proportion of the comparison retail needs of the Study”.

[2]  This opinion is supported by (Uttlesford) District Retail Study Savills, May 2018 Update, para. 3.7 “Saffron Walden [has] a reasonably wide representation of comparison traders, most of which are independent.”

[3]  This opinion is supported by Ofsted St Mary’s CofEVA Primary School Good (2017), RA Butler Infant School Good (2015), RA Butler Junior School Good (2017), St Thomas More Catholic Primary School Good (2018), Saffron Walden County High School Outstanding (2013), Katherine Semar Junior School (no results listed at time of writing), Katherine Semar Infant School (no results listed at time of writing), Dame Bradbury’s (Independent Primary School)

[4]  This opinion is supported by revenue generated by Saffron Walden Town Council Market.

[5]  Saffron Walden has a regular programme of free events arranged by voluntary groups, a strong voluntary sector, and community centres well-booked for clubs, groups and classes.

[6]  This opinion is supported by the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre

[7]  This opinion is supported by the Heritage and Character Assessment


11. Saffron Walden has a strong performance art community which could be built upon as a revenue source.  [8]

12. Tourism could play a larger part in the economy.  [9]

13. The town is located on the London /Cambridge corridor. New technology will find wide applications which will encompass work, and work/life balance, transport, health and education. A well-educated community, and proximity to Cambridge and London, gives Saffron Walden the opportunity to adopt an agile approach and benefit from future investment and benefits.

14. The evening economy could be more vibrant and there is support for a more café-style culture.

15. Many residents in Saffron Walden actively support, or at least accept, the need for development.

[8] Saffron Walden Arts Trust and various performing groups regularly present performances. Saffron Screen has a current business plan which would support expansion should space become available. Saffron Hall has regular fully booked events.

[9] This opinion is supported by Visit England Audley End House (English Heritage) received 150,591 visitors in 2015 and 165,799 visitors in 2016, an increase of 10.1%, and Saffron Walden Bid Campaign (referencing trial event in which Saturday visitors to Audley End were offered free transport to and from the town centre) “The Horse and Carriage Trial in July 2017 and vintage bus (December 2017) brought over 1,000 people into town and more than 1/5 of them said they would not otherwise have visited”.



16. Homes are too expensive for many residents of the town. The average house price in Uttlesford is 18 times the average income.  [10]

17. There are not enough one and two and three bedroom homes so it is difficult for starter families and singles to live and remain in the town.  [11]


18. The style of architecture of new builds is rarely original and new estates in Saffron Walden are largely indistinguishable from other new build developments anywhere else in the country.

19. There isn’t enough off-road parking on developments for the cars required for each household, so cars are inevitably parked along the street . This creates congestion, can be an obstruction for emergency vehicles and detracts from the vision originally presented by the developers.

20. New build houses tend to be small, so garages get used for storage rather than for parking, with cars ending up along the street.

21. Recently built gated developments reduce the social interactivity and connectivity in their locations in town.

22. None of the developments in Saffron Walden are “eco-builds” or built to Passivhaus standards (where very little energy is used for heating or cooling).

23. New developments have solid paved parking which has limited permeability.

24. House extensions are very popular in Saffron Walden, including on the newest developments less than 4 years old, reducing the garden sizes and putting more pressure on the communal green spaces for play and general recreation.  [12]


25. Infrastructure improvements have not happened in step with past housing development and many residents are disillusioned with regard to further development and feel that the town is too big already.

26. The volume of traffic using the medieval road structure of the centre of the town has led to traffic congestion and accompanying air quality issues which are not easily resolved because the roads cannot be widened.  [13]

27. During peak hours and during term time, congestion on many roads and junctions is much heavier than outside of term times, which indicates that the school run generates many car journeys.

28. Highways schemes [14] seem to be designed only to speed up traffic, which directly conflicts with measures which would be implemented were pedestrian and cyclist safety at the top of the agenda.

29. The vast majority of new houses have been built on the East of the town which is difficult for the road network to support, given that the external destinations in highest demand (Audley End train station in Wendens Ambo, the M11 and Cambridge) are accessed via the West of the town. All traffic must pass through the centre of the town as there is no relief road.  [15]

30. Saffron Walden has higher than acceptable levels of air pollution and the town centre is subject to an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

31. HGVs have access through town which causes damage to streets and buildings, high levels of pollution, and creates a road environment which is unfriendly to cyclists and pedestrians, as long vehicles can’t turn corners without mounting kerbs and/or making several manoeuvres.

32. Public transport options for workers commuting into town are limited.  [16]

33. The town has poor public transport links which means that not only is it hard to commute out of the town without using a private car, it is also difficult to come in as a visitor.  [17]

34. Non-car driving residents needing access to hospital for appointments are recommended by the NHS to use the Uttlesford Community Travel Service which is run by volunteers.

35. There are not enough connections between town and surrounding countryside for access on foot or by bicycle.

36. Recent new developments are not well connected by footpaths to the rest of the town, which encourages driving thus compounding the problem of traffic volumes.  [18]

37. There is little cycle parking available in the town centre, and hardly any dedicated cycling infrastructure in the parish.  [19]


38. The historic buildings in Saffron Walden are very close to the edge of narrow roads and are regularly struck and damaged by vehicles.  [20]

39. Vibration and pollution from traffic causes damage to old buildings.


40. Saffron Walden does not have an arts performance space that is large enough, or that can be booked for long enough, for full staged productions to be viable.

41. Saffron Walden does not have a space to host large arts exhibitions.

42. Cost of hire of rooms and availability of storage space is an issue for arts groups.


43. Saffron Walden has a lack of recreational facilities for organised sports and informal activities relative to the population size.  [21]

44. There is no provision for many sports activities in town, with rugby being mentioned most frequently in public consultations.  [22]

45. There is a lack of community halls and facilities. [23]


46. There is no in-town provision specifically for dog walking.

47. Saffron Walden does not have enough accessible open space. [24]

48. There is a good network of out of town cross-field footpaths for ramblers to the north and the east of the town, but no real network of bridle-paths.

49. Gardens on new build estates are smaller than on older estates, reducing the green footprint of the town as it expands and increasing the pressure on public playgrounds.

50. As greenfield sites are developed additional pressure is placed on the green lung spaces within the town which are essential to an urban area.

51. Wildlife corridors and natural habitats are decreasing within the Neighbourhood Plan zone as greenfield sites are developed.

52. Residents of new developments often find that the green spaces are not of good quality.

53. New housing developments are relatively cramped with less space for street and garden trees than on older developments. This can be seen from the ‘rooftop view’ of the town.


54. There is a sense that schools at all levels are at capacity. [25]


55. There is a sense that doctors’ surgeries are at capacity. [26]

56. There is no walk-in health centre.


57. Bricks and mortar retailers are under threat from internet shopping trends (as they are everywhere in the country). The challenge is finding ways to keep the town centre vibrant.

58. Many people consider that there are too many charity shops in the centre of Saffron Walden and cite high rent and rates as a cause of this.

59. The town does not have many high street shops so when not ordering online, local shoppers will naturally travel outside the area when wanting to visit these types of stores whether for a specific purchase or for a leisure shopping outing.

60. The cost of parking in town is too expensive for many people who commute into Saffron Walden (those who cannot afford the cost of living in the town itself).

61. Signage to Saffron Hall and Saffron Screen is not clear enough for out of town visitors.

62. Saffron Screen and Saffron Hall are out of the centre and therefore events held there do not generate a positive knock-on impact on the evening economic activity of the town centre.

[10] This opinion is supported by facts reported in the Uttlesford District Council Housing Strategy 2016-21 – (see section on housing for further details).

[11] This opinion was widely supported by the Neighbourhood Plan survey, in which 76% of votes supported more 2 and 3-bedroom houses being built. 6% were against this suggestion, and 18% were neutral.

[12] This opinion is supported by the 10 or so planning applications per fortnight for home extensions which are presented to the Saffron Walden Town Council Planning and Road Traffic Committee, the vast majority of which are approved. This would be equivalent to roughly 260 home extensions per year.

[13] This opinion is supported by Essex Highways Uttlesford Local Plan Highway Impact Assessment 2013.

[14] For example, removing parking from Peaslands Road, with the intended effect of speeding up traffic.

[15] Land ownership constraints and protected designations such as Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings and Registered Parkland around the town have meant that the only land coming forward for development has been to the east of the town. This has led to far more development in the east than would have been recommended had development land also been available to the west.

[16] For example – no late buses from Saffron Walden to nearby Ashdon after 2.30pm, making it possible to commute in to SW by bus but not to get back in the evening.

[17] This opinion is supported by the Uttlesford District Transport Study December 2016 page 20, para 3.3.3 Table 1 – 2011 Census: Mode of Travel to Work (Usual Residents) The data reflects the rural nature of the majority of Uttlesford and the relatively sparse public transport provision. For many residents the car is the only feasible mode of transport.”

[18] This opinion is supported by a map showing missed opportunities for connectivity in Section 5.

[19] This opinion is supported by Uttlesford District Cycling Action Plan March 2018 which identifies improvements to this.

[20] Buildings are regularly damaged, and some building owners report that they now find it difficult or impossible to insure their buildings. Town Council owned CCTV cameras occasionally struck by high vehicles.

[21] This opinion is supported by the Uttlesford Open Space Strategy 2012 which identified a number of additional recreational facilities that should be established with contributions from developers to meet demand.

[22] The Saffron Walden rugby club is based in Henham 8.5 miles away for lack of pitches in Saffron Walden. All sports clubs report that they have to use facilities out of the parish to meet the needs of their members.

[23] The Neighbourhood Plan group surveyed groups with halls for hire (for example Church halls) and they all reported to be working at capacity and often having to turn down booking requests.

[24] This opinion is supported by Fields in Trust which recommends 3.2ha per 1,000 of population which would equate to a requirement of approximately 54ha in Saffron Walden. Current provision in Saffron Walden is around 15ha.

[25] There are instances of children not getting into their first or closest school.

[26] There can be a wait of 4-5 weeks for an appointment.


3.7  During the public consultations, the Neighbourhood Plan team gained a comprehensive understanding of the issues that are important to the people living and working in the Saffron Walden Civil Parish.

3.8  This understanding enabled the Neighbourhood Plan team to create a vision for the future of Saffron Walden, as follows:

Saffron Walden will retain its unique identity as a visually beautiful market town with its rich heritage, a large number of listed buildings and a number of historic green spaces within the town and across the parish. It will be a settlement of the highest environmental sustainability due to provision for pedestrians and cyclists, continued reduction in carbon emissions, encouragement of recycling and use of green energy. Movement within the town will be safe and easy and journeys by car will be minimised. Economic activity will develop so that as many residents as possible will be able to earn their livings in the town. The traditional long-established links with the artistic community will be maintained and its proximity to Cambridge will enable it to become a popular tourist destination. The existence of many local interest groups, combined with activities organised by residents demonstrates a high level of civic pride. Little Walden will maintain its separate identity and integrity as a rural village served by Saffron Walden.


3.9  The vision informed the Neighbourhood Plan core objectives.

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.

Each policy within the SWNP addresses one or more of the following core objectives.


Meets objectives









SW1 SWNP spatial strategy


SW2 Protection of views



SW3 Land at Viceroy Coaches, to rear of 10-12 Bridge Street



SW4 Housing mix on new developments


SW5 Affordable housing


SW6 Housing density



SW7 Design

SW8 Parking on new developments


SW9 Energy efficient and sustainable design



SW10 Accessible and adaptable homes




SW11 Town centre uses


SW12 Convenience stores in residential neighbourhoods


SW13 17 Market Hill


SW14 Shopfront design


SW15 Development of 56 High Street


SW16 Regeneration of George Street


SW17 Development of new and existing commercial spaces



SW18 High quality communications infrastructure




SW19 Ecological requirements for all new domestic and commercial developments





SW20 Promoting walking and cycling

SW21 Travel planning


SW22 Improving provision of public transport


SW23 Vehicular transport




SW24 Allotments


SW25 Playing fields and sports halls


SW26 Community halls and centres


SW27 Open space for informal recreation


SW28 Public rights of way


SW29 Land of value to natural environment




SW30 Arts and cultural facilities




SW31 Education




SW32 Healthcare



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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.