Summer 2017 Update

Local Planning Matters

The Old School House, Coppice Row.  Following the ‘demolition’ of much of the original building, the owner has now submitted a further application described as “The extension and conversion of” this historic, locally listed building – Ref. EPF/0811/17.  The reality is that any development would now necessitate a rebuild, rather than a conversion.  The present plans are for a more intensive development of 2 x 5 bedroom dwellings, instead of the 2013 approved plans for one 3 bedroom and one 4 bedroom dwelling.  TBAG has submitted a strong objection to the increase in bedrooms, from 7 to 10, as this would result in an over-intensification of residential use on what is a highly sensitive Green Belt site adjacent to the Churchyard, War Memorial and the SSSI of Epping Forest.

Draft Local Plan & Protection of the Green Belt:-

EFDC have been holding Development Forum meetings with potential developers of sites around Harlow and across the rest of Epping Forest District.  It appears that over 60 new sites have come forward but details have not been made public and no Minutes of these meetings have been published.

While residents were trying to get to grips with the enormity of the Draft Local Plan (DLP) Consultation, which ran from 31st Oct to 12th Dec 2016, we were unaware that EFDC, Harlow and East Herts District Councils had already made a joint application in October 2016 to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) requesting Government support for a new, “Locally-Led” Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, the huge impact of which was not fully publicised or appreciated at the time of the DLP Consultation and certainly not publicly consulted upon.  Do not be misled with the description as a ‘new garden town’ since it is not a freestanding town but an extension to the existing Harlow Town and built upon the Green Belt land in East Herts and Epping Forest District.  The Government euphemistically describes these tack-on developments as “transformational in scale”.  In effect urban sprawl into existing Green Belt.

EFDC stated in their DLP Background Paper 4 (BGP4) at paragraph 3.4 that “The level of need identified for Epping Forest District [11,400 dwellings] is not, in itself, a sufficient justification for amending Green belt boundaries.  Therefore, further analysis of the specific circumstances relating to the district is necessary.”  In other words insufficient justification for building on our Green Belt.

However, it then goes on to justify that the expansion of Harlow, as part of the aspirational London, Stansted, Cambridge Corridor (LSCC), represented the “Exceptional Circumstances” which justified altering Green Belt boundaries in Epping Forest District – that’s ALL Green Belt boundaries including those around Theydon Bois.  The proposal for growth and expansion around Harlow, as a new Garden Town, which includes land in Epping Forest District, gained Government approval in January 2017.   This, so called, ‘locally led’ proposal, was supported by our MP, Eleanor Laing, as well as the MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, but did not have the support of residents of Epping Forest District who were not consulted and were unaware of the impact that it would have on our Green Belt.  As a consequence we are now faced with housing development on many Green Belt sites in Epping Forest District, including Theydon Bois.

EFDC had over 3,000 responses to the DLP Consultation and are still analysing these as not all responses used the Questionnaire format.  A summary of responses, largely to the Questionnaire, have been published (see here) and the response to Question 3 (proposed development sites around Harlow) showed that only 8.1% strongly agreed, whereas more than 20% strongly disagreed; and this was without residents having the full knowledge of the implications for the rest of the Green Belt in Epping Forest District.  A full report on the proposed LSCC and the detrimental impact it will have on all of our District’s Green Belt can be read on the TBAG homepage.

TBAG continues to work as an Executive Committee Member of the London Green Belt Council, in conjunction with CPRE, to do the utmost to protect the Green Belt around London.  In contrast to our District, other MPs in Surrey and Kent are doing their best to protect their Green Belt, as can be seen in their responses to the recent Government White Paper Consultation on Housing, which can be viewed here.

It is clear that some Conservative MPs are prepared to put their heads above the parapet to protect the Metropolitan Green Belt, whereas our elected representatives and EFDC are actually facilitating development of our Green Belt land.

Spring 2017 Update

Local Planning Matters

The Old School House, Coppice Row.  Many villagers who have walked past the Old School House have been appalled to see how little of the original building remains.  Permission was granted in 2013 to extend and convert the existing building into two dwellings, not to demolish and rebuild it.  Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) strongly objected to the large extension and change of use which would result in an intensification of use and a harmful impact on the sensitive Green Belt site adjacent to St Mary’s Churchyard.  Many people considered that the best way to preserve this Locally Listed building was to approve the extension and conversion to residential use.  Sadly, it is now evident that this was not the case as the majority of the building has been demolished, contrary to the planning permission which was granted.

Marcris Nursing Home, Coopersale Lane.  Following Epping Forest District Council’s (EFDC) refusal of a proposal to demolish the care home and replace it with a new building containing 11 flats, a new proposal (EPF/3321/16) has been submitted to convert the existing building into 11 flats.  TBAG has written a further strong objection to the loss of a much needed care home facility and change of use which would result in a harmful impact on the Green Belt and Protected Coopersale Lane due to the over-intensification of use of the site.

Draft Local Plan & Protection of the Green Belt

The level of housing development proposed for Theydon Bois in the Draft Local Plan, put forward by EFDC, would increase the size of our village by nearly 25%.  Almost all of the development would be in the Green Belt with the largest proportion being to the east of the railway line, which has always formed a definitive and permanent Green Belt boundary to our village.  TBAG have raised a strong and comprehensive objection, in particular to the proposed major expansion of our village and the associated encroachment into the Green Belt.  The full letter of objection can be viewed here.

The Government is presently consulting on a new Housing White Paper in which it states that it is maintaining the existing strong protection of the Green Belt.  However, this apparent protection fails in Districts with a large percentage of Green Belt as it is made clear that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) can amend Green Belt boundaries if there are no other reasonable options (essentially, insufficient brownfield land) for meeting their identified housing targets.  LPAs are advised to consult with neighbouring authorities to try to solve the problem.  EFDC have indeed consulted with neighbouring Harlow District, who wish to expand Harlow Town (the recently announced, Government supported, new Harlow & Gilston Garden Town) as part of the greater growth plan, driven by the London, Stansted, Cambridge Consortium, along the M11 corridor.  Unfortunately, this ‘plan’ involves development on our District’s Green Belt land and it is supported by EFDC who consider that the expansion of Harlow and the M11 corridor represent the exceptional circumstances which justify building on our Green Belt.  This would appear to be at odds with the Autumn Budget Statement when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said “For too long economic activity has been centred in London and the South East.”

TBAG very much regrets that Harlow’s aspirations for growth will be to the detriment of Epping Forest District’s Green Belt.  We are particularly concerned that, at present, our District Councillors seem to have acquiesced to the proposed loss of our Green Belt and are not standing up to the Government.  Worryingly, our own MP wrote to the Minister of State for Housing and Planning (Gavin Barwell MP), in support of the creation of the new Harlow & Gilston Garden Town, in spite of the detrimental consequences for our Green Belt!

Winter 2016 Update

Local Planning Matters

Planning permission was finally granted for the development of 7 apartments and one ‘cottage’ on the site of the Sixteen String Jack PH (EPF/2000/16).  In spite of the reduction in the number of flats, Theydon Bois Action Group considered that the final design, due to its height, bulk and insufficient set back, did not fully address the Planning Inspector’s reasons for dismissing the earlier appeal.  TBAG raised a further objection as did the City of London (Epping Forest) and local residents.  Only time will tell what the true impact of the development will be on this sensitive location at the edge of the village!

TBAG also objected to the application for 2 large dwellings to replace agricultural buildings in the Green Belt at Blunts Farm (EPF/2298/16), citing an earlier Planning Inspector’s appeal dismissal relating to this site.  EFDC also recognised the relevance of the Planning Inspector’s reasons and refused the application.

We were disappointed that the two incidences of unlawful activity on secluded sites off the Abridge Road were both granted a Certificate of Lawful Development because EFDC accepted the evidence put forward and that the activity had continued without being detected for 10 years.  TBAG objected on the grounds that insufficiently robust evidence had been provided.  One of the applications was refused at Planning East Committee but this decision was, unfortunately, reversed by the higher District Development Control Committee.  Had the matter gone to appeal, it would have been interesting to have had a Planning Inspector’s opinion.

Draft Local Plan & Protection of the Green Belt

Residents were concerned that three new development sites to the East of the railway line have been proposed in EFDC’s Draft Local Plan as the railway line is a permanent and definitive boundary between the village and the Green Belt.  TBAG will raise the strongest objection to breaching this boundary and, along with the Rural Preservation Society, have been working with our Parish Council and their planning consultant.  EFDC claim that 11,400 new homes are needed across the District to provide homes for our children up to the year 2033.  This is not true as the growth purely from within the District is “fairly small”, about 200 a year, as stated by EFDC in their Issues & Options Consultation Document.  This would only amount to a few thousand homes needed for our Local Plan.  The Metropolitan Green Belt was put it place to protect the countryside around London and yet EFDC are proposing to alter our Green Belt boundaries, under pressure from Government, and take land out of the Green Belt for development due to outward migration from London by people who want, rather than need, to live here as well as pressure from Harlow Town who wish to expand by building on land in Epping Forest District.

The Green Belt land in our District is effectively being squeezed by pressures from London and Harlow due to Government policies for “Growth” and through promoting development along the M11 Corridor from London to Stansted and Cambridge, including Harlow, which will drive a brown field development “wedge” through the Green Belt where we live!

Government Ministers have consistently stated that they will “Protect our precious Green Belt land” and that “The Green Belt is absolutely sacrosanct” and that unmet housing need does not justify building on the Green Belt.  Yet these promises are not being honoured in practice.  Theydon Bois Action Group have launched a Petition to protect all Green Belts in England.  Please visit our Website and sign the petition if you value our Green Belt.

TBAG extends season’s greetings to all villagers and wishes you all the very best for the New Year.