Category Archives: CAZ

New Clean Air Zone and overdevelopment

Old Foresters

There has been much debate about events on Station Hill and Old Foresters of late following the hacking back of much of the hedge and most of the trees along Station Hill and the track leading to the site, where most of the trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders, the unlawful use of the EFDC and TfL logos on letters left on commuter cars and the failed recent attempt of persons unknown to deliver four mobile homes to the site. TBAG has been taking an active interest in these matters as we are well versed in the history of this Green Belt site. Last week, two containers were delivered to Old Foresters and are clearly visible from the public footpath. These containers are alleged, but not proven, to be for use in connection with a food bank. Following the earlier dubious activities, we have been informed that EFDC Planning Enforcement Officers are also keeping an active watch on events and have informed TBAG that the “operator” of the containers should have permission to place them on the site and does not. The operator has therefore been given seven days to remove the containers, but they have refused to do so. Should the containers not be removed by Friday, 25 February an Enforcement Notice for their removal will be served. TBAG note, with no surprise at all, that despite the recent change of recorded ownership of this site, the new management appear to be continuing with their activities in the same mould as its predecessors.

Epping Forest CAZ

EFDC are attempting to deal with the district’s air quality issues, which are seriously affecting Epping Forest itself (a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest) which is described as being in 60% unfavourable condition, by proposing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for the forest and which will charge motorists to pass through it. New development near the forest had been put on hold until EFDC could satisfy Natural England and the City of London that this proposed new development – and that proposed in the emerging Local Plan – would not increase the harmful emissions to the area. EFDC reason that by charging vehicles to pass through the forest, drivers will be encouraged to exchange their existing vehicles for ‘cleaner’ electric vehicles and the anticipated result will be that harmful emissions will be reduced sufficiently to mitigate the proposed developments in the vicinity of the forest. There was great opposition to this decision by many District Councillors who saw it as a political walkover and definitely not in the best interests of either the forest or the district’s residents.

TBAG consider that the CAZ is little more than an attempt by EFDC to overcome its decision to permit 11,400 new homes to be built in the District under the emerging Local Plan and not to reduce these numbers (in line with the more up-to-date 2018 ONS statistics which showed a drop in the number of homes required of more than one-half compared to the 2014 figures on which the plan has been based). Were the up to date statistics applied to the emerging Local Plan, it would enable the removal of the most environmentally sensitive sites from the plan including those around the forest. Simply put, reduce the amount of unnecessary development (and pressure on the forest from increased footfall and vehicle movements) and thereby eliminate the need to charge motorists to pass through. And of course the need for EFDC to fund creating the CAZ.

The Planning Inspector will soon be returning her report on EFDC’s response to her requested Main Modifications to the plan and we await her conclusions with interest. TBAG reported in its last update about the Facebook Group ‘Say No to Clean Air Zone’. Supporters will recall that an EGM on this issue was held on 8 February 2021 . An eleventh-hour amendment was proposed by Conservative Party majority Councillors with no prior consultation with cross-party Councillors and this was submitted just 72 minutes before the meeting, giving non-Conservative Councillors insufficient time to consider and consult on the amendment. Councillors resolved to form a cross party portfolio holder advisory group to assist the “administration” in the implementation of air pollution mitigation measuresIt will be telling to see whether this ‘cross-party’ group will indeed be politically balanced or still have a Conservative majority.

Epping Forest Parking Charges

Further forest news that could impact on Theydon Bois is the City of London’s (CoL) recent consultation with the public on its decision to introduce parking charges for many of the car parks in the forest. We know that many of our supporters have helpfully responded to this consultation. This follows hot on the heels of the CoL’s decision last summer to introduce double red line stopping restrictions onto the majority of the forest roads making the car parks the only place that vehicles may stop in the forest. City of London have stated, at a Zoom Committee meeting when the vote for this proposal was taken, that the reason for introducing parking charges is to raise money because they have a “deficit of £250,000”. It is of note that all four Verderers for Epping Forest unanimously voted against this proposal.

It seems to TBAG that by charging vehicles to pass through and park in the forest, not only does this go against the spirit of the Victorian Act dedicating the forest to ‘all the people for all time’ and put a financial burden on all local motorists, but will also have a deleterious effect on our village when forest visitors seek to park on the fringes of these restrictions to use the forest, or local residents circumvent the forest altogether by driving further through its fringes to avoid paying the CAZ charges until the day they can afford a newer, cleaner car. One cannot help but wonder how the forest has been permitted to get into a state of 60% unfavourable condition and why the causes were not mitigated earlier and whether these new measures are not yet more unfortunate steps towards ultimately failing the forest rather than helping it.

As ever, TBAG will keep residents informed on any matters that might affect the Green Belt in and around Theydon Bois.

New Clean Air Zone and overdevelopment

New Clean Air Zone and charges for residents in exchange for overdevelopment of the District

An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) has been arranged for the full Council of Epping Forest District Councillors for 8 February 2021 at 7pm. This is the first EGM to be called in the District for over 40 years and it has been requested by some Councillors because of the recent decision by EFDC’ Overview & Scrutiny Committee to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for Epping Forest. The impact of this for Residents will be a financial charge to drive through Epping Forest’s roads and it will be costly for EFDC to set up too. The options for residents would be to buy an electric car, take to the bicycle or walk.

TBAG believe that the Councillors on EFDC’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee who voted for the CAZ on 7 January (click here to view the webcast), have done so as mitigation to enable the development of 11,400 new dwellings as put forward in the new Local Plan. This number of dwellings is excessive having consideration to the latest Government statistics (published May 2020) which show a reduction in Household Projections for the district of more than a half. EFDC simply refuse to lower the numbers of dwellings in the Local Plan, flying in the face of this hard statistical evidence from the Government’s own Office of National Statistics (ONS). Building homes on our Green Belt will directly contradict EFDC’s declared Climate Change Emergency, Green Infrastructure Strategy and use of the emerging Local Plan to reduce climate change.

The Inspector examining EFDC’s new Local Plan indicated in August 2019 that she was concerned at the proposed development of 11,400 new homes, largely on Green Belt land, and that this number would impact detrimentally on Epping Forest, particularly with respect to air quality. Excessive housing numbers will reduce the sequestration (locking up) of Carbon Dioxide (a Green House Gas) and also increase localised flooding. The new developments will also put increased recreational pressure on the already ailing forest environment, not to mention local services.

EFDC had hoped that their ‘Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy’, including the CAZ, could be quickly rubber stamped by Cllr Bedford, EFDC’s Planning Portfolio Holder. However, the matter was ‘Called In’ by concerned Councillors from the Loughton Residents’ Association and the Green Party. At the vote on 7 January 2021 the Interim Strategy, with its controversial chargeable Clean Air Zone, was narrowly voted through by 7 votes to 5, and with 5 Abstentions!

Public reaction was immediate, with a Say No to EFDC CAZ campaign Facebook group being quickly created. TBAG share many of the views of this campaign and have taken the decision to fully support its aims and objectives as ultimately, it accords with TBAG’s own objectives to protect the Green Belt around Theydon Bois from excessive and inappropriate development. We would encourage our supporters to also support this group by joining its Facebook page to keep abreast of developments with the campaign.

It is common knowledge that EFDC just want to get its new Local Plan over and done with and that they do not want to reduce the excessive number of 11,400 homes or to review and amend its choices of site selection in order to protect the forest. In spite of the opportunities afforded by the Planning Inspector to reduce the amount of development on Green Belt land, as set out in our earlier updates, EFDC is not prepared to reconsider and remove the most environmentally sensitive sites which will mean good profits for developers and land owners and costly financial burden for residents. TBAG look to EFDC, in the first instance, to reduce the unnecessarily high number of new homes, and to scrap their proposed Clean Air Zone, which will be costly to set up and costly for our residents. The proposed Clean Air Zone is being used in an attempt to placate the Inspector into approving the new Local Plan, in spite of its excessive level of proposed new homes, the majority of which would be built on “our precious Green Belt land”.

If ever a District could justify the ‘exceptional circumstances’ for not meeting a prescribed (and now outdated) housing target in its new Local Plan, it is Epping Forest District, which is over 90% Green Belt, has limited brownfield sites and our unique Epping Forest itself which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

TBAG will keep supporters fully updated on this topic and would recommend that Facebook users join the ‘Say No to EFDC CAZ’ campaign and all our supporters consider writing to our Local Councillors with your own views before the webcast of the EGM on 8 February 2021 at 7pm.