Category Archives: Local Plan

Air Quality In Epping Forest

[The original article appeared in Envirotec Magazine]

The environmental team at engineering consultancy Idom Merebrook Ltd (IDOM) has been appointed by the City of London to work on a project assessing the air quality of Epping Forest – the largest public open space in the London area, and a site of national and international conservation importance.

Epping Forest is a 2400-hectare stretch of ancient woodland between London and Essex; it is made up of more than 50 areas of woodland, grassland, bridleway, recreational space and is home to over 50,000 ancient pollard trees and 100 lakes and ponds. As a former Royal Forest it is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, as Conservators of Epping Forest.

Epping Forest has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 due to the presence of beech woodland and heathland. The forest supports over 80% of the UK’s ancient beech trees, many of which are in excess of 500 years old including some of the oldest in Europe.

However, surveys have revealed over 60% of the forest is in unfavourable condition and is at a uniquely high risk of adverse environmental impacts, when compared to other internationally important sites in the southeast of England.

IDOM has been engaged as part of the overall emerging Epping Forest Local Plan (EFLP) to review the air quality sections of the Habitats Regulation Assessment and advise on the appropriateness of the methodology used and robustness of the conclusions reached.

IDOM Project Manager, Kat Johnson, commented:

“Background levels of air pollutants are exceeding critical levels across Epping Forest. This is highly unusual as, although concentrations of air pollutants are typically elevated in close proximity to roads, they do decline with increasing distance, typically to concentrations which are below critical levels.

However, within Epping Forest this is not the case and continuing high levels of air pollution mean that the forest is highly vulnerable to additional threats such as the increase in traffic emissions, associated with future plans outlined by Epping Forest District Council.

Even at the point when air pollutants drop below the critical level, there will still be a lag time in the recovery of habitats to favourable conservation status. Any increase in emissions will therefore extend the period of recovery and is contrary to the conservation objectives of the SAC.”

The approval of the council’s Local Plan, which results in increased traffic along roads through the forest and a consequent inherent increase in air pollution, would be at odds with recent rulings in the Court of Justice of the European Union (the so called ‘Dutch Nitrogen Cases’).

IDOM contributed to the written representation submitted by the Conservators and attended the Examination in Public hearing at Epping Forest District Council’s Civic Offices on 21st May 2019. Representatives from Natural England also appeared at the examination and raised a number of issues which aligned closely with IDOM’s evaluation.

The future of the forest now hangs in the balance, the Conservators recognise that development is necessary and have been working constructively with Epping Forest District Council to devise mitigation strategies for other aspects of the plan (namely recreational impacts).

The Planning Inspector issued advice indicating that further work must be undertaken by EFDC in order to conclude, beyond reasonable scientific doubt, that the Local Plan will not adversely affect the integrity of the Epping Forest SAC.

The IDOM team will continue work to support the City of London to help determine the most sustainable future for the Forest.

Winter 2018 Update

EFDC’s Submission Version of the Local Plan (SVLP) was finally submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in September 2018, after CK Properties Theydon Bois Ltd (who want  to develop the former Old Foresters sports ground, on Green Belt land, to the east of the railway line), had their application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal refused.  A Planning Inspector has now been appointed and Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) has formally requested to speak at the Examination in Public which is expected to take place early in 2019.

Local Planning Matters

Hydes Riding School, Abridge Road/Coopersale Lane – Revised plans (EPF/0429/18) for a 24 hr residential security building in place of a stable were refused at Planning East Subcommittee, against the Officer’s recommendation to grant permission, on the grounds of inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Blunts Farmhouse (now Ivy House), Coopersale Lane –  Following enforcement action by Epping Forest District Council (EFDC), a retrospective planning application (EPF/2169/18) was submitted, which included artificial landscaping features on agricultural land which was not part of the residential curtilage of the dwelling. TBAG objected to the large area of artificial grass and wooden decking around a previously natural pond which had been dredged and sanitised.  The application was subsequently refused by EFDC and we now await the return of this agricultural land to its former natural state.

Lillicroft Nurseries, Abridge Road  –  In August, the Planning Inspector dismissed the appeal (Ref.3195592), against a refusal by EFDC, to develop a replacement dwelling, 4 times the size of the existing dwelling.  A revised application (EPF/2550/18) has been submitted for a replacement dwelling which would be 3 times the size of the existing one and in a different location, deeper within the Green Belt site.  TBAG considers that this revised application does not address the reasons for the appeal dismissal and has submitted a further strong objection to EFDC.

Conflicting Government Planning Policies are undermining protection of the Green Belt.  In spite of Government assurances that they are committed to protecting the Green Belt, their failure to exempt Green Belt locations from development allowed under the General Permitted Development Order is resulting in some clearly inappropriate replacement dwellings being allowed by the Planning Inspectorate as well as some harmful extensions to existing dwellings.  TBAG’s Chairman, who is an Executive Committee member, raised this matter at the London Green Belt Council (LGBC) AGM on 14th November 2018.  The LGBC also acts as the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Green Belt, which aims to support Green Belt friendly planning policies that protect London’s Green Belt for future generations.

In spite of the revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) being published as recently as July 2018, the Government has now launched yet another Consultation to make further amendments to the NPPF and Planning Practice Guidance.  Unfortunately, the Government is not proposing to revise its standard methodology for assessing local housing need in the light of reduced population growth figures recently published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and will not accept the reduction in population growth as an exceptional circumstance to reduce imposed housing targets.  TBAG will respond to this Consultation.

Draft London Plan – Implications for Epping Forest District

The Draft New London Plan Examination in Public is to open on 15 January 2019.  The new Plan is to be applauded in as much as it is said to strengthen safeguards for the London Metropolitan Green Belt.  The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in an earlier press release (Nov 2017) has vowed to protect the Green belt as the “lungs of the capital”.  Mr Khan acknowledges that London needs 66,000 new homes every year but that development must not be done at any cost.  However, London Boroughs have only 7% of the overall London Metropolitan Green Belt area, the remainder being in the shire counties around London.  The effect of protecting this 7% is that the remaining 93% around London is under more pressure to be developed.  Many elected representatives whose constituencies are adjacent to London have raised objections to those Government policies which threaten their Green Belt but TBAG is unaware of any efforts made by our local representatives to defend the London Metropolitan Green Belt in this District.  EFDC have stated that the natural population growth within our district is approximately 200 people per annum yet they have been effectively ordered by Government and have conceded to provide 11,400 new homes by 2033 – over the next 14 years.  Clearly this number does not merely accommodate new homes for our children and grandchildren but for the many thousands who will migrate out from London into the un‑affordable homes that are most likely to be developed.  This number of homes in our Green Belt equates to urban sprawl, and the prevention of urban sprawl is the stated fundamental aim of Government Green Belt Policy.  While the Government plays the numbers game with how many dwellings are required within England, it appears that developers are successfully lobbying Government to build on our Green Belt’s ‘shovel ready sites’ with the primary motive of maximising their profits.

Village Design Statement Association  TBAG would like to thank all Committee members of the Village Design Association for their hard work and commitment in producing the first Village Design Statement for Theydon Bois.  With the winding up of the Association, it was decided by the Committee to donate their remaining funds equally between Theydon Bois & District Rural Preservation Society and Theydon Bois Action Group.  TBAG would like to express its sincere thanks for this generous donation which will help us to continue to protect the Green Belt around our village, in line with the aims of our Group and its Constitution.

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

Judicial Review Dismissed – Theydon Bois Green Belt Saved From Development

Further to the report in our Spring 2018 Update, TBAG are delighted to report that the Judicial Review brought by the owners of the Old Foresters site in Theydon Bois who sought to develop the land, has now been dismissed.

TBAG’s Chair and Vice Chair attended London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Strand today to hear the handing down of the Judgment in the case of CK Properties (Theydon Bois) Limited against Epping Forest District Council.  CK Properties were aggrieved that their site on land known as The Old Foresters had not been included by EFDC in the Submission Version Local Plan as land for development and claimed, inter alia, that they had been prejudiced by the non-availability of Appendix B to the Site Selection Report.

The case had been heard over two days at the end of May with the Claimant’s argument having four grounds of challenge.  Much reference to previous pertinent legal cases was made and matters were debated at length in the twenty-one page Judgment.  The Judge found against all of the four grounds observing that the essence of CK Properties’ complaint was that Appendix B had not been made available on 14 December 2017 at the time of EFDC’s decision to submit the draft local plan to the Planning Inspector for examination in public.  Costs were ordered to be paid by the Claimants to the EFDC in the sum of £10,000.

So while EFDC’s Submission Version Local Plan has been delayed for three months from being sent to the Planning Inspector, we are hopeful that it will now be submitted as soon as is possible.

TBAG is of the firm opinion that there should be no development to the east of the railway line in accordance with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework and that the railway line presents a clear physical feature that is readily recognisable and likely to be a permanent boundary with the Green Belt to the east of our village.

During this extended period of glorious Mediterranean weather, we would remind supporters of the public footpath network that lies on our doorstep just over the railway footbridge including one path which crosses the Old Foresters’ site.  So why not take a walk in the country and enjoy our precious Green Belt!