A bumper Newsletter this quarter but we make no apologies for its length since some news is just too important not to share. We hope you find our efforts interesting.
Local Planning Matters
TBAG have submitted objections to the following applications on grounds of Green Belt Policies:
EPF/0292/21 Land north of Forest Drive – developers Anderson Design and Build Limited didn’t waste any time resubmitting with 10 MORE dwellings making it 38 and not the previously applied for 28. The Local Plan describes this site as “The limited northern expansion provides a natural extension to the settlement and is the least harmful to the Green Belt.“ (Para 5.111). TBAG objected to the density, design, road safety, damage to trees etc, and addressed TBAG Supporters’ concerns.
EPF/2206/21 Land adjacent to Gun Cottage, Abridge Road application for a crossover was again refused on appeal.
EPF/1671/22 Blunts Farm, Ivy House. Application for a swimming pool and extensions to house. Refused.
EPF/2728/22 Blunts Farm, Demolition of existing structures and erection of new storage buildings and retention of two storage containers. Under consideration.
EPF/0034/23 28 Piercing Hill, demolition and replacement of existing dwelling. Under consideration. The house is one of the original Manor Villas, built between 1870 and 1872, after the coming of the railway to Theydon Bois in 1865. TBAG objected to the demolition of this historic building, and EFDC’s Heritage & Conservation Officer has also raised an objection with EFDC Planning.
EPF/0830/23 and EPF/0831/23 Blunts Farm. Resubmissions of applications previously adjudicated to be unlawful for two flats. TBAG has asked why enforcement action was not taken and the applicants permitted to resubmit with no new persuasive evidence. We are concerned about the lack of enforcement action at this site over several decades now.
The Local Plan was formally adopted on 6 March 2023 and will impact the district until 2033. TBAG view this Plan as a Developers’ Charter since EFDC was not prepared to lower the housing numbers in line with latest Government Data. Local Conservative Councillors pushed the plan through ignoring Central Government’s recent concession of a two-year extension to local authorities to allow them to reassess their plans in the light of local constraints (in our case 92% Green Belt and Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation). District Councillor John Philip thought two years was insufficient time to reconsider the statistics, and suggested the district would be left wide open to speculative development if we did not adopt the plan there and then. However, the Government’s own National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that there is ‘no presumption in favour of sustainable development in the Green Belt’. Cllr Philip also suggested that the Planning Inspector “does not favour our District”! When an Independent Councillor asked if Conservative Councillors had a free vote (i.e. not whipped by their political party) the Leader of the Council, Cllr Chris Whitbread, flushed and replied “No comment”. The Conservative Councillors en-bloc chose to robustly support the plan and voted for it to become our new adopted local plan.
Conservatives have claimed for years that they will “Protect our precious green belt land” and that the “green belt is absolutely sacrosanct” etc and TBAG has reported on these agreeable points of view. But at the same time, there was a top-down edict of housing numbers to be achieved. However, in the final throes of our own Local Plan, Central Government finally recognised constraints such as Green Belt and the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation and gave a two year allowance beyond the deadline for completion of local plans in which local authorities could review their housing numbers and adjust their plans accordingly.
The Vision for Theydon Bois is stated in this Local Plan to be that “Theydon Bois will continue to maintain its local feel and character and preserve its rural setting, adjacent to the Epping Forest, whilst providing a mix of housing, key local services and high quality independent retail. Theydon Bois will also enhance its leisure facilities and social infrastructure to support existing and future residents.”
The local plan recognises that “Theydon Bois is a village with a strong rural feel” (Para 5.107) and that “The Green Belt plays an important role in maintaining separation and reducing coalescence between neighbouring settlements, most notably Theydon Bois, Waltham Abbey and North Weald Bassett.” (Para 5.8). And when considering Loughton, “Future development should maintain separation from neighbouring Theydon Bois, Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell.” (Vision for Loughton). Para 5.114 states “There are no allocations for traveller accommodation in Theydon Bois.” We have of course had some experience of travellers and it wasn’t all positive; in fact it was far from positive.
Para 5.110 confirms the allocation of “approximately 57 homes” to be built in our village, a figure which is too vague to TBAG’s thinking and we expect this to be increased as greedy developers move in. TBAG also wonders if this number takes into account the number of in-fill new homes, including conversions into flats, which have taken place since 2011, the start date of the Plan. This number was “informed by the aspiration of Theydon Bois to maintain its local feel and character” (Para 5.110).
How much more of our Green Belt is to be sacrificed to the developers in the next local plan in 2033? Any more will result in a detrimental effect on the character of our environment in Theydon Bois. Are we to evolve and merge like Debden or Loughton or remain a true village (i.e. less than 7,500 residents)? The Local Plan already designates Theydon Bois as a “Large Village” (Table 5.1) and it is highly unlikely that the numbers of residents are ever going to fall.
And talking of the local plan, a local news stream recently published on its website the following article: “Just how many new homes will be built in the district?”. It examines the interpretation of the word ‘approximately’ which is a definition included in the local plan for housing allocation numbers. One example cited is at the former school site in St John’s Road, Epping where the local plan states this site could accommodate “approximately 34 homes”. However, EFDC have granted Qualis, its own wholly-owned development arm, planning permission for 184 apartments and the conversion of a building into two cottages! See the article in full here.
TBAG have also heard reports regarding the South Epping Masterplan site (Ivy Chimneys), where the Submission Version Local Plan put forward by EFDC originally proposed 900 new homes. The Planning Inspector at the Examination in Public reduced this number to approximately 450 new homes, and we now understand that developers are looking to increase this number and make 450 new homes a MINIMUM number and not an approximate number.
New planning applications submitted following adoption of the Local Plan 2033 have raised serious concerns within TBAG on the efficacy of the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) included within it. The new applications are putting the HRA to the test but it appears that EFDC are looking to fudge the HRA, its spirit and intention, and allow an excessive number of new dwellings within the 200m zone of protection for the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The Submission Version Local plan originally called for a protection zone of several kilometres between development and the forest with respect to increased atmospheric pollution and recreational pressure on the forest. We will be relying on the City of London Corporation to object to those applications which put Epping Forest under threat. No amount of cash changing hands can protect our forest from the resultant pollution from inappropriate development.
Epping Forest Clean Air Zone coming?
Events surrounding the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (‘ULEZ’) will, TBAG believe, have a direct effect on whether we will see a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Epping Forest. In February it was reported in our local press that Epping Forest MP, Dame Eleanor Laing, has added her name to a letter to the Conservative Party Chairman, Greg Hans MP, raising concerns over the proposed introduction of the London ULEZ which is scheduled to come into effect on 29 August this year and which will stretch out from London to the borders of Epping Forest. The letter has been written by David Simmonds MP (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner). TBAG hopes that Dame Eleanor will show a similar level of concern and lend her support to residents’ objections should her own District Council seek to introduce a CAZ through Epping Forest, which would be an easy revenue raiser for the Council at £12.50 per day, as is proposed for the ULEZ scheme, but will negatively impact on residents. TBAG have not seen the whole letter, but published quotes indicate that “While hurting our constituents, the ULEZ expansion will have a negligible effect on air quality, according to the Mayor’s own independent impact assessment.” It is likely that rat runs would establish as vehicles attempt to avoid the ULEZ by driving through Epping Forest District. The other trend of 20mph speed limits in built-up and residential areas also adds to poor air quality as modern motors are not as efficient at that speed and burn more fuel for a longer time than when travelling at 30mph. 20mph does of course contribute to safer roads. If one doesn’t get you, the other will …
EFDC makes changes to licensing consultation
Another recent move by EFDC to save money is its decision to cease consulting with residents and businesses when an application for a licence or other licensing conditions is received. EFDC claim consulting with nearby residents “… places an unnecessary and administrative burden on the district council …”. They also claim it is “inconsistent with other local authorities both locally and nationally who follow the statutory consultation only.” So, if you live near a premises which might apply for a licence or other licensing conditions you will no longer be notified of the applications. This policy change was effective from 1 June 2023. Previously, EFDC notified residents and businesses within 150 metres of the application premises and has said that it was not “legally required” to do so. The Licensing Act 2003 requires applications to be displayed at the premises and in a local newspaper and statutory consultees e.g. the police, fire, planning and public health authorities must be consulted. Our Parish Council will continue to be notified and applications should appear on the Weekly List too but residents will be reliant on the PC to decide if wider consultation is thought necessary and to action wider consultation through its own methods.
Support Theydon Bois Dark Sky Policy
Loughton Astronomical Society (LAS) are the village’s most vociferous group when it comes to protecting our Dark Sky Policy. We have been notified by LAS that there is a petition to protect dark skies nationwide, including Theydon Bois, and you may wish to support this. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632558.
Thank you for reading to the end! Your support is greatly appreciated.