Category Archives: Updates

Winter 2017 Update

Local Planning Matters

Rear 33/34 Piercing HillOld Coach House.  The application to demolish the building and replace it with a new dwelling, because of the ‘uneconomical’ costs of a conversion, has since been withdrawn.

Lillicroft Nurseries – Following a refusal to demolish and replace the existing bungalow and build a second bungalow on the nursery land, an application has been made to replace the existing small wooden dwelling with a new bungalow more than 4 times the size.  Theydon Bois Action Group has submitted a strong objection to the plans which are contrary to Local and National Green Belt Policies.

EFDC Draft Local Plan & Protection of the Green Belt

Councillor John Philip, the District Council Planning and Governance Portfolio Holder, will present a report  on the Regulation 19 Pre-Submission Local Plan at a full Council meeting (Epping Forest District Council) in December.  The Public Consultation on the Plan will then commence and continue over the Christmas/New Year period into January 2018 without any prior consultation on the new (in excess of 160) sites put forward for development.  EFDC is now racing ahead with a view to submitting the new Local Plan to the Planning Inspector by 31st March 2018.  Failure to meet this deadline could see an additional 9,000 homes, on top of the 11,400 already allocated for Epping Forest District, under a new methodology to calculate housing need, which was put forward by the Government in a recent Consultation.    TBAG submitted a robust response to this Consultation –  ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ – pointing out fundamental flaws in the proposed new methodology and citing local knowledge of the housing situation.  We also wrote directly to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, copied to the Prime Minister and our MP.  We are pleased to see that our Local Authority and MP are at last making a stand against these unrealistic housing targets but remain extremely disappointed that they were not prepared, at the outset of the Local Plan process, to challenge the Government over the loss of our ‘precious Green Belt’, unlike MPs in Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire.  The current housing target of 11,400 new homes would already mean a loss of about 500 hectares of Green Belt land which, by comparison, amounts to almost a quarter of the size of Epping Forest.  It is simply not good enough to say that we are only losing around 1.5% of the District’s existing Green Belt!

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Autumn Budget that the Government would “Continue the strong protection of the Green Belt.”  Unfortunately, the Government has not delivered on its past promises in this respect, effectively passing the responsibility or blame on to Local Authorities who are forced to build on their Green Belt to meet unrealistic housing targets.  The Chancellor also stated that there are 270,000 potential new homes in London which have planning permission but have not been built.  Land banking by developers?  It is unfortunate that the previous Chancellor chose a policy of building our way out of the 2008 recession and developers choose green field sites rather than brown field because it is cheaper for them.

TBAG’s Chairman sits on the Executive Committee of The London Green Belt Council, who have been active in facilitating the recent creation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on London’s Green Belt.  This will enable a more effective pro-Green Belt voice to be heard, both in the House of Commons and the Lords.

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

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.

Autumn 2016 Update

Local Planning Matters – A new planning application (EPF/2000/16) for the development of seven apartments and one cottage has been submitted for the Sixteen String Jack PHsite. Theydon Bois Action Group will give consideration as to whether these new plans overcome the reasons why the Planning Inspector dismissed the earlier appeal.

TBAG has also written objections to a revised application for a replacement dwelling at 26 Piercing Hill (EPF/1548/16) and an application for a detached residential annexe to Theydon Hall Lodge in the Abridge Road (EPF/1464/16), because of their potential impact on the Green Belt.  Although just outside Theydon Bois Parish, we objected to a development of fourteen x 4 bedroom detached houses on the Abridge Golf & Country Club (EPF/0232/16) as this could have set a dangerous precedent for similar Green Belt sites.  District Development Management Committee Councillors supported the Planning Officer’s recommendation and voted to refuse permission.

As part of our aim to protect the Green Belt around Theydon Bois, we have also written objections to two separate applications along the Abridge Road for Certificates of Lawful Development  (CLD) for a change of use of agricultural buildings/land to business storage purposes: EPF/1005/16 – Magnolia House  and EPF/1227/16 – Mossford Green Nursery.  CLDs are often applied for where an unlawful activity has been carried out for a number of years on sites which are secluded and difficult to monitor and have therefore remained undetected by EFDC Enforcement.

Protecting the Green Belt – In June, while EFDC were continuing their work on the new Local Plan, an important and highly relevant letter dated 7 June 2016 (download here) and headed “Development on Brownfield and Green Belt land” was sent from the Minister of State for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis) to all Members of Parliament for English Constituencies.  In his letter, the Minister stated that “The Government has put in place the strongest protections for the Green Belt.”…….. “and that Green Belt boundaries should be adjusted only in exceptional circumstances, through the Local Plan process and with the support of local people.  We have been repeatedly clear that demand for housing alone will not change Green Belt boundaries.”

This message is consistent with the statement made in the House of Commons in January 2014 by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis) “… I also noted the Secretary of State’s policy position that unmet need, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.  The Secretary of State wishes to re-emphasise this policy point to both local planning authorities and planning inspectors as a material consideration in their planning decisions. …”, which statement itself was re-emphasising a similar Ministerial statement made by him in July 2013 “ … The Secretary of State wishes to make clear that, in considering planning applications, although each case will depend on its facts, he considers that the single issue of unmet demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.   “.

This message is also consistent with the Ministerial Statement that the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) made on 6th October 2014 urging Councils to “protect our precious Green Belt land” and saying “This Government has been very clear that when planning for new buildings, protecting our precious green belt must be paramount.  Local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl, or see the vital green lungs around their towns and cities [fall] to unnecessary development.”  On the same date, new Planning Practice Guidance to this effect was published by the Government stating that Unmet housing need ….is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt”

In a statement made on 13 October 2014 by Mr Pickles, he reminded the House of the Government’s intention to protect the Green Belt saying “…housing need does not justify the harm done to the green belt by inappropriate development. … we have been very clear that there is [sic] no central diktats demanding that councils rip up the green belt.”  The Government clearly remains consistent across several years and various Ministers with its stated support for protecting the Green Belt.

TBAG fully endorse all these ministerial statements and look to EFDC and the Planning Policy Portfolio Holder (Theydon Bois District Councillor John Philip) to implement this policy and not weaken protection of the Green Belt in Epping Forest District by unnecessarily changing existing Green Belt boundaries contrary to Minister’s assurances.

This sentiment would appear to be fully supported by our MP, Eleanor Laing.  Following the Epping Society open meeting held on 22 January 2016 entitled ‘The Future of the Green Belt’, Mrs Laing, who spoke at the meeting, issued a press release acknowledging the high priority local residents gave to the Green Belt in our district and stating, inter alia, “For us, here in Epping Forest, we are in the frontline between urban sprawl from London and the rolling Essex countryside beyond. … I know that we can trust our district council to do all that they can with the production of the Local Plan to make sure that our precious Green Belt can be protected. … The best protection that we can have is our Local Plan and that is being produced in consultation with all our residents. … We have a very tough district council who know how important the protection of our Green Belt is.  It (preparing the Local Plan) has to be done carefully, to the letter of the law, otherwise it will be challenged.  With strength and consultation we will succeed.”  She added that the district’s residents had to “stand firm” against Green Belt development.  TBAG feel confident therefore that our MP along with the EFDC Planning Policy Portfolio Holder could again influence EFDC to protect our Green Belt in-line with the Ministers’ statements.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to develop brownfield sites for housing and note that the new London Mayor has pledged to protect the Metropolitan Green Belt.  The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), to which TBAG is affiliated, has stated that there are at present some 200,000 approved planning permissions for new homes in London which are as yet unbuilt and this gives some indication of “Land Banking” by developers.

It is widely accepted that it was Treasury “policy” to build our way out of the recession and developers, in lobbying Government, favour the easy option of building on green field and Green Belt sites rather than brownfield.  It will be interesting to see if the new Government administration  (Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister) sets out planning policies which actually give greater protection to Green Belts in practice, rather than the previous mixed messages with changes to legislation and the General Permitted Development Order, which have allowed significant developments to take place in Green Belts.

Summer 2016 Update

Local Planning Matters – The Appeal Decision on the Sixteen String Jack proposal for 13 flats,  which was of great interest to many residents, was issued on 22nd March 2016 when we finally learned that the Inspector had dismissed the appeal.   The main reason being due to the harm the development would cause to the character and appearance of the surrounding area due to its bulk, mass, prominent position at the front of the site and almost continuous built frontage across the site, particularly as the site is at the settlement edge of Theydon Bois and adjacent to Green Belt land.  The Inspector also recognised the spacious character of the surrounding area and that the development would be at odds with that and would not ‘respond to local distinctiveness’ as set out in Para 60 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  This part of the NPPF was raised by TBAG’s Chairman at the Informal Hearing last November.  The Inspector’s decision supported the majority vote to refuse permission taken by District Councillors at Planning East Committee and, in doing so, disagreed with the original recommendation of the Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) Planning Officer to grant planning permission.  TBAG now looks to see a radical redesign of any future proposals for this site, fully taking on board the Planning Inspector’s statements.

The proposal to demolish the Marcris Nursing Home and replace it with a new development of 11 flats has been refused by the planning officer without the need for a District Council Committee decision.  The proposed new ‘Debden Hall’ development, just outside our Parish, was approved by a majority vote at Planning South Committee.  TBAG, in supporting Loughton Town Council, had submitted a comprehensive objection and greatly regret the loss of this tranquil Green Belt woodland site at Debden Green.  We have also raised concerns with EFDC over the destruction of the natural landscape around Blunts Farmhouse, where revised plans have recently been approved which now include a basement.

Protecting the Green Belt – TBAG believes that the main threats to our Green Belt arise from the continual amendments to Government legislation (NPPF and the General Permitted Development Order) which dictate what can be developed and where.  In spite of the Government’s statements about protecting the Green Belt, the changes they have made which are intended to ‘liberalise’ planning legislation (largely to enable more development to take place) have not exempted Green Belt land.  The Chairman of the London Green Belt Council has recently written to the Prime Minister asking why the Government’s stated policy on protecting the Green Belt is not being upheld. (See the TBAG website).  TBAG has responded in depth to two recent Government Consultations with a view to ensuring the protection of the Green Belt in any proposed changes to planning legislation.

The other cause for concern is the rapidly increasing population of London (one million in the last decade) and the subsequent outward pressure for more housing in the Metropolitan Green Belt.  Paragraph 159 of the NPPF states that migration must be taken into account in the development of new local plans.  In this respect, the outcome of the EU Referendum (In or Out) will undoubtedly have an influence on future pressures for building on the Metropolitan Green Belt.

The Green Belt’s function as a ‘Green Lung’ cannot be overlooked and its protection is vital in order to mitigate against the high levels of air pollution in London.

Spring 2016 Update

Protecting the Green Belt

A primary aim of Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) is to protect the Green Belt around our village which we know is extremely vulnerable to development because of its attractive, semi-rural nature and proximity to London.

To aid our commitment to this aim, we have been members of the London Green Belt Council (LGBC) for a number of years and our Chairman sits on the Executive Committee which is currently reviewing Green Belt issues affecting the Metropolitan Green Belt.  LGBC fully supports the policy of developing brownfield sites before considering the Green Belt but unfortunately developers often favour green field sites (including the Green Belt) because they are easier and cheaper to develop.  A comprehensive study of brownfield land in London was published in October 2014 by commercial estate agents, Stirling Ackroyd, who estimated that there was sufficient land to build 570,000 new homes in the next 10 years whilst preserving all green spaces in London.  In the same month, the Secretary of State, in defence of the Green Belt, issued a Ministerial Statement that ‘Councils must protect our precious Green Belt land’ and that “Unmet housing need (including for traveller sites) is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt.”

Guildford Borough Council, which like Epping Forest District includes a high percentage of Green Belt, responded rapidly to this Ministerial directive by announcing that it would reassess its emerging Local Plan in the light of local opposition to the alteration of Green Belt boundaries and the latest Government guidance by re-evaluating all proposed development sites.  Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) have yet to indicate that they will also adopt the Government’s revised Planning Practice Guidance and restrict development of our ‘Precious Green Belt land’ as they work towards the production of the draft Local Plan.  We would therefore urge our District Councillors to ensure that EFDC Officers take on board the clear policy issued by the Secretary of State.

Other concerns include the ‘land banking’ by some developers who, having gained planning permission for a housing development, do not proceed  until such time as it is more profitable for them to do so.  This, in turn, puts more pressure on developing elsewhere, including the Green Belt.

Local Planning Matters

TBAG has been very busy responding to the usual glut of planning applications which are submitted just before/after the Christmas and New Year holidays and which involve very sensitive, edge of settlement, Green Belt sites.

We also raised an objection to the proposed development of a large new, statement style house in the remains of the Green Belt woodland grounds of Debden Hall.  Although outside of the village, this is important buffer land between Loughton and Theydon Bois which EFDC recognises as a ‘Strategic Green Belt gap’.  Our Chairman spoke against the development at the meeting of the Loughton Town Council planning committee, who unanimously agreed to object to the development.

We still await the Planning Inspector’s decision on the Sixteen String Jack appeal (13 flats) which has undoubtedly been delayed due to consideration of EFDC’s further refusal of the ‘substantially similar scheme’ for 11 flats.

Winter 2015 Update

The summer of 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of the formation of Theydon Bois Action Group, which was originally set up to stop the uncontrolled dumping on Blunts Farm and is well documented on our website. This significant anniversary almost went unnoticed due to the high concentration of TBAG activity over the proposed TfL car park on Green Belt land.

The Appeal relating to the demolition of 47a Theydon Park Road and its replacement with 5 x 2 bedroom flats has been dismissed by the Planning Inspector. In reaching his conclusion, the Inspector acknowledged that the provision of just one parking space per flat was insufficient in this location as he did not consider it to be a ‘main urban area’, even though it was within walking distance of the village centre and station. This welcome decision not only has implications for the rest of Theydon Park Road but also for the parking provision at the more remote Sixteen String Jack site.

Sixteen String Jack. As the Village News goes to print we are awaiting decisions on two different applications for the development of flats on the Sixteen String Jack site, either of which is likely to change the entire character at this end of the village. EPF/2040/14 for 13 flats was recommended for approval by EFDC Planning Officers but refused by Plans East Committee in December 2014. The applicant appealed against the refusal and a Public Hearing was held on 5 November, which was well attended by members of village interest groups, Councillors and residents. The Planning Inspector’s decision is expected in early December. At the Hearing it was encouraging to hear the Planning Inspector state that the decision on 47a Theydon Park Road was a ‘material consideration’ in the Sixteen String Jack Appeal.

A revised application for 11 flats (EPF/1629/15), described as being a ‘substantially similar scheme’ by the developers, was submitted in July. This application, also recommended for approval by EFDC Officers, has had a roller coaster ride through EFDC’s planning committees because of a procedure which allows it to be referred to a higher committee. It was first refused by a clear majority (11 votes to 4) at Planning East Committee in October but subsequently granted at the higher District Development Management Committee when the Chairman used his second ‘casting’ vote, following a split decision. It was then further referred to a meeting of the full Council. EFDC, controversially, scheduled an Extraordinary Council meeting for 23 November before the imminent Appeal Decision Report from the Planning Inspector on the application for13 flats would be available. However, TBAG is pleased to report that, at the Extraordinary meeting, Councillors voted by a clear majority to refuse planning permission for 11 flats. This decision was based on the same sound reasons for refusal made at the earlier Planning East Committee in October.

Other Planning Matters
Permission has been refused for a proposed new dwelling on Green Belt land adjacent to Theydon Hall Lodge, Abridge Road. TBAG is keeping a watching brief on proposed developments at the Marcris Care Home in Coopersale Lane and 26 Piercing Hill because of potential Green Belt implications.

On Remembrance Sunday, our Vice-Chair laid a wreath on behalf of TBAG, the cost of which was again covered by donations from individual Committee members rather than coming from our ‘fighting fund’.

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

Summer 2015 Update

The single most serious threat to our Green Belt, and which also has far reaching implications for the future protection of the Green Belt to the east of the village, has been gaining momentum throughout 2014 and into 2015. This is the proposed development by TfL of a commuter car park on the eastern side of the railway lines at the bottom of Station Hill. This was first reported in the TBAG March 2015 Village News article and we have been working tirelessly since then on this legally complicated issue.

It started in March 2014 when the former allotment site was completely razed to the ground, without any consultation, including the destruction of mature and unusual apple trees remaining from its allotment days in the early 20th century. Several differing reasons were given by TfL for this action. Local knowledge is that the site has only been used once in living memory as operational land by TfL, for the storage of containers for a short while in 2005/06. TBAG were concerned not only for the future of this site, but the implications for the existing ‘brownfield’ car park which, in 2009, TfL put forward as a potential site for development as part of the new Local Plan. TBAG finally discovered that an 80 space car park was proposed.

TfL claimed they could carry out this development without planning permission by using permitted development rights, but TBAG pointed out that this did not apply as the site was not ‘wholly within the railway station’. TfL then attempted to use old Victorian Railway Acts to authorise permitted development. Again, TBAG pointed out to EFDC that this was also invalid, since alterations were required to the entrance, which had not been declared. TfL were then required to submit an application for ‘prior approval’ to account for the highway alterations and this was finally refused by Area Planning Sub-Committee East on 13 May 2015. At the same Committee, a full planning application by TfL for only the small alterations to the site entrance was approved. It effectively by-passed the previous prior approval refusal.

EFDC have taken legal advice which agrees with TfL’s barrister’s opinion that there are permitted development rights for this type of development on this site. After having undertaken extensive and detailed research, TBAG took the unprecedented step of taking its own Counsel’s advice which confirmed that TfL do not have permitted development rights on this land for car park development and that a full planning application should be submitted as any landowner would be required to do. With opposing Counsels’ opinions, it all boils down to a question of law.

TBAG are naturally keen to see the law upheld and full formal consultation with all interested third parties carried out, but TfL remain unwilling to submit a full planning application and EFDC do not consider it necessary to request it.

With permitted development applications, only limited comments can be made by the public and Council alike and matters such as Local and Government Green Belt Policies and traffic safety/Highways issues cannot be taken into account. The implications on highways considerations alone present important issues of public safety, which our Parish Council has been keen to bring to the attention of EFDC by commissioning a specialist highways report which supports their stance. Apart from the legal correctness of this proposal, it appears to present an accident waiting to happen which all local interest groups take very seriously.

Despite engaging the support of Eleanor Laing MP, TBAG have been unable to convince TfL or EFDC that a full planning application is the legally correct and most honourable and transparent course of action to take.

Therefore, after much consideration, TBAG has now taken a further unprecedented step and on 22 May 2015 issued at court a claim for application for Judicial Review of the decision taken by Epping Forest District Council on 13 May 2015 which effectively endorsed Transport for London’s assertion that a commuter car park could be constructed on Metropolitan Green Belt land in Theydon Bois Parish using permitted development rights. Our application seeks to have EFDC’s decision quashed. This would leave TfL obliged to submit a full planning application if it wished to develop this site.

TBAG’s solicitors have also written to TfL to request confirmation that no work will be commenced on the site pending the conclusion of these proceedings and we await their reply.

Should EFDC overturn their own decision, declaring the permitted development unlawful and requiring TfL to make a full planning application for any development they might wish to undertake on this site, our legal action could be withdrawn.  However, having corresponded with the Planning Officer concerned, EFDC’s Legal Department and District Councillors on this matter for over four months now, we are not hopeful that this will happen.

So the legal process is now underway to have this matter determined once and for all.  TBAG regrets that it has been forced into taking this action but considers it unavoidable if it is to fulfil its objectives as guardians of the Green Belt surrounding our village from inappropriate or unlawful development.

On other matters, many villagers will be aware that TBAG held a ‘sell out’ fundraising evening in the Theydon Bois Balti House on Monday 27th April. It was a resounding success with good company, excellent food and a fun raffle. In all, we raised over £2,000. Our thanks to all of you who came along and to the many supporters who were unable to attend the event but have made generous individual donations to show your support for TBAG and the work we do to protect our cherished village and precious Green Belt surroundings. Donations to our fighting fund are still possible via the Post Office in the village. You may leave your donation in an envelope marked ‘TBAG’ behind the counter and it will be collected by our Treasurer. Your support really does bring home to us that you value what TBAG stands for and our ongoing efforts to protect the village of Theydon Bois.

On the planning front, TBAG, submitted a strong objection, along with many others, to the application for the demolition of a family house at 47A Theydon Park Road which was due to be replaced with a much larger building containing 5 individual apartments. This application if approved would have set a dangerous precedent for similar developments, not just in Theydon Park Road but all over the village, which would have had a detrimental impact on the existing residential character of Theydon Bois. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the application was refused at Area Planning Sub-Committee East

The Planning Inspector recently dismissed the appeal for a very large agricultural building off Coopersale Lane, adjacent to Blunts Farm. A further application has since been submitted for a smaller building on the same Green Belt site but this has been refused by Epping Forest District Council.

An application for a new dwelling to replace the derelict Blunts Farmhouse has been refused, pending a reduction in size of the proposed residential curtilage (garden area) on this Green Belt site. This was also considered at Committee but a decision has yet to be taken.

Spring 2015 Update

Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) was disappointed that new Permitted Development legislation, which the Government brought into effect in April 2014, did not exempt the Green Belt in spite of strong views which were expressed in responses to the Government’s Consultation Document. We were, however, pleased to see a press release and Ministerial Statement in October 2014 from the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP, urging Councils to ‘Protect our precious Green Belt land’. We hope that Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) will take this on board in developing the new Local Plan which will determine where, and how many, dwellings are required for the next 20 years. This Ministerial Statement is of particular importance as our District comprises of some 92.4% Green Belt land. We note with interest that Guildford Borough Council in Surrey has announced that it will reassess its Draft Local Plan in the light of the new Government Planning Practice Guidance on the Green Belt. EFDC’s Consultation on the “Preferred Options”, where development could potentially take place, has slipped further and is now scheduled for June to September 2015.

The most serious threat to our Green Belt, and which also has far reaching implications for the future protection of the Green Belt to the east of the village, has been gaining momentum throughout 2014. The first indications of this threat took place back in March 2014 when contractors for Transport for London (TfL) cleared the former allotment site to the east of the tube line of all vegetation. The whole site was effectively razed to the ground, including the destruction of old apple trees which remained from the allotment days. This action on behalf of TfL took place with no warning and no consultation with the Parish Council or villagers. Various spurious explanations were given by TfL before TBAG finally learned that the construction of an 80 space car park was proposed for the site, which TfL claimed they could carry out without planning permission.

TfL claim that they can exercise Permitted Development rights, based on old Victorian railway acts going back to 1845, which they have supported with Advice from their Counsel. TBAG are not convinced of this and engaged our own barrister who has advised that the proposed development of a car park does not constitute Permitted Development and that a full planning application should be requested by Epping Forest District Council as a matter of law. Only with a normal planning application can a full and proper consultation with all interested third parties take place. Under Permitted Development, only limited comments can be made. Matters such as important Local and Government Green Belt Policies and traffic safety/Highways issues cannot be taken into account. Theydon Bois Action Group, our Parish Council and Rural Preservation Society are committed to doing all they can to ensure that TfL should submit a proper planning application. TBAG are currently considering taking further legal action in the form of a Judicial Review should this be necessary.

The Chairpersons of TBAG, Theydon Bois & District Rural Preservation Society and CPRE – Epping Forest Branch met with Eleanor Laing MP recently to discuss the situation and seek her support. Villagers may not be aware that, in 2009, TfL put forward Theydon Bois station car park as a potential site for development as part of the new Local Plan. The existing car park site is brownfield land and we do not know what plans TfL may have in store for this site in the future!