Category Archives: Updates

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.

December 2020 Update

Local Planning Matters

Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) has continued to make successful objections to what it considers to be inappropriate development in the Green Belt around our village. TBAG had objected to a planning application to build two large, detached, 5 bedroomed houses in the extensive grounds of Bowlands Meadow, Theydon Road, which the developer described as ‘limited infilling in a village’. Planning permission was refused by EFDC and the developer subsequently appealed to the Planning Inspector. TBAG submitted further objections to the Inspector, who dismissed the appeal. We also raised objections to various applications relating to two properties at Theydon Hall Cottages, Abridge Road, near the M11 motorway bridge. These were in connection with:

i) the unlawful placement of a mobile home relating to one of the cottages and the proposed extension of the residential curtilage to include an agricultural field which lies behind all 4 cottages and:

ii) the proposed, excessive, extension of another dwelling.

These applications were all refused permission by EFDC.

The Emerging Local Plan and Question over Housing Numbers

In July, TBAG alerted the village, through our Website Updates and Mailshots, that the Inspector dealing with our new Local Plan had contacted EFDC, pointing out that the Government’s latest (2018-based) figures for Household Projections in Epping Forest District had shown a dramatic decline (by more than a half) in the number of new households required in the Local Plan. EFDC had based their original assessments on the Government’s earlier data for 2014, this being the latest available data at that time. The Inspector then asked, whether the projected reduction in household growth (also shown in 2016) justifies building on so much of our Green Belt? Our District Councillor, Sue Jones, asked a question on this matter at a Full Council Meeting on the 30th July, when a prepared statement from EFDC was read out. However, the statement made reference to “Nothing will stop us getting the plan through” and “getting the local plan over the line” and, almost begrudgingly, if necessary “to remove the most environmentally sensitive sites”—presumably relating to the impact of excessive development on the environmental integrity of Epping Forest, of which the Inspector had already expressed her concerns.

There is a view, locally, that EFDC just want to get the local plan over with, as more delays mean more time, work and expense. But TBAG take the view that it should be the right number of homes, in the right places. EFDC put the Inspector’s question to their commissioned consultants, who, unsurprisingly, backed EFDC against the Inspector’s question, and argued that the number of homes should actually be increased from 11,400 to 11,920! The Inspector subsequently invited a wider consultation on EFDC’s response supported by their consultant’s 27 page report. TBAG responded with an evidence based critique (see response in full here), stating that the consultants had ignored the impact of Brexit and Covid 19 on migration and economic growth and had chosen to use a 10 year average method which would dilute the currently low household projection figures, by combining them with previously higher figures which peaked in 2013/14, with migration into our district at +1,500, compared to only +550 during 2017/18.

TBAG also responded to two Government consultations on Planning, including its White Paper on ‘Planning for the Future’. This White Paper caused great debate in Parliament by dissenting Tory MP’s due to impact on their Green Belts and countryside, including the Cotswolds, whilst ignoring ‘Growth’ in the Midlands and the North and the Government’s proclaimed ‘Levelling Up’ policy.

TBAG extends season’s greetings to all villagers and wishes you all a safe and healthy New Year.

OCTOBER 2020 – UPDATE ON EFDC’s NEW LOCAL PLAN

EFDC HAS TOLD THE INSPECTOR IT DOES NOT CONSIDER THAT ANY ADJUSTMENT IS NEEDED TO THE PROPOSED HOUSING NUMBERS (11,400) IN THE LIGHT OF THE 2018 ONS FIGURES.

Following on from our July 2020 update, EFDC’s response of 4 September 2020 enclosing a report from their Consultants, Opinion Research Services (ORS) (see documents ED114/114A here) to the Planning Inspector’s letter of 14 July 2020 was finally made public on 23 September 2020. This response related to the latest (2018 based) Government national statistics which indicated a reduction of around 50% in projected household numbers for our district. The Inspector had asked EFDC to consider whether these latest projections “represent a meaningful change in the housing situation” and “Whether the projected reduction in household growth affects the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases”.

It is, therefore, very disappointing that EFDC has reached the conclusion that the latest statistical projections…. “do[es] not represent a meaningful change in the housing situation” and that “the housing requirement in the Local Plan Submission Version does not need to be adjusted.” EFDC then summarises: “Given this conclusion the Council does not consider that it affects the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases.”

The report and conclusion of EFDC’s consultants, ORS, is based on the ‘ten year variant method’ which looks back over the past 10 years when inward migration was higher, rather than looking at the present decreasing figures from 2014, 2016 and 2018 towards the indication of future, and downward, trends. It should be noted that ORS have also produced a similar report jointly for the Strategic Housing Market Area of Harlow, East Herts and Uttlesford District Council’s.

In view of our Council’s decision not to take this very valid opportunity to reduce or remove planned development in our Green Belt and are effectively ‘not budging an inch’, TBAG took the opportunity to write to the Planning Inspector on 6 October to express our support for her view that she may consider it necessary to seek the views of other participants in the examination. TBAG received a prompt reply on the following day confirming “that the Inspector will be inviting comments on these documents”; i.e. the Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) latest, 2018-Based Household Projections, and EFDC’s response to the Inspector, including the commissioned 27 page response from the Council’s consultants, ORS.

TBAG have heard today that this consultation will end in early November. TBAG will therefore actively participate in the Inspector’s Consultation on the latest (reduced) Government figures for Household Projections in Epping Forest District and will point out deficiencies in EFDC’s response and its commissioned consultant’s report on housing numbers.

TBAG, whilst committed to protecting the Green Belt surrounding Theydon Bois, are also very much aware of the detrimental impact on the unique Epping Forest biosphere that will result should there be increased recreational pressures and atmospheric pollution resulting from excessive and unnecessary increased housing numbers and associated traffic movements.

JULY 2020 – UPDATE ON EFDC’s EMERGING NEW LOCAL PLAN

Latest Government statistics indicate that a dramatically lower number of new homes (greater than 50% reduction) will be needed in our District during the new Local Plan period to 2033. This should be good news for our District’s Green Belt.

The Planning Inspector examining Epping Forest District Council’s (EFDC’s) emerging new Local Plan for 11,400 homes has written to EFDC pointing out that the latest Government statistics, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), indicate a drop by more than a half in the projected number of new homes needed in our District. See the Inspector’s letter of 14 July 2020 here. EFDC based their predicted need of 11,400 homes on the ONS 2014-based figures. The Inspector also pointed out that this “meaningful change” in the actual number of homes needed, continued the downward trend indicated in the ONS 2016‑based projections.

TBAG highlighted in its Winter 2016 Update that EFDC’s claim that 11,400 new homes were needed across the District to provide homes for our children up to the year 2033 was untrue. We pointed out that the growth purely from within the District was “fairly small” at about 200 per year as stated by EFDC in their own Issues & Options Consultation document.

The Inspector has now asked EFDC to consider, inter alia, “Whether the projected reduction in household growth affects the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases”. TBAG awaits EFDC’s reply to this question with great interest.

TBAG also note that in 2019 following the Examination in Public, the same Inspector, in her advice to EFDC, expressed concern about the impact that 11,400 new homes and their associated traffic movements would have on the District’s (already poor) air quality and, in particular, its detrimental impact on the integrity of Epping Forest (a Special Area of Conservation) and its habitats.

While we await EFDC’s response to the Inspector’s request, which is due to be submitted by Friday, 31 July 2020, TBAG can only speculate on the effects Brexit and Covid 19 will have on the future ONS 2020‑based household projections which, with the two year lag in production, will be published in around June 2022 and which TBAG anticipate could be lower still.

In the meantime, we trust that EFDC will embrace this opportunity to radically reduce housing numbers, thus protecting our Green Belt and Epping Forest and also delivering on their promise (19 September 2019) to address the ‘Climate Emergency’ challenge.

Spring 2020 Update

Local Planning Matters – Applications awaiting decision, pending further Local Plan work on Environmental Impact on Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC):-
Mossford Green Nursery, Abridge Road – TBAG submitted a strong objection to this proposal to build 17 new homes on an isolated Green Belt site.
Piggotts Farm, Abridge Road – TBAG submitted a strong objection on clear Green Belt Policy grounds against the development of 6 new dwellings in place of agricultural barns.
Bowlands Meadow, Theydon Road – TBAG submitted a strong objection to the proposal for 2 large new dwellings within the Green Belt grounds of the existing property.
Ivy House, Coopersale Lane – A revised scheme for entrance wall/gates, security fence and hedge has recently been submitted. TBAG will consider whether this has addressed the reasons for our earlier objection.
Recently registered – Land adjacent to Magnolia House, Abridge Road –TBAG is currently considering an application for change of use of former agricultural buildings to create 6 new dwellings in the Green Belt close to the M11 motorway.

Update – Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) new Local Plan and Environmental Concerns
The next opportunity for residents to make further comments on the Main Modifications to the emerging Local Plan, (as required by the Planning Inspector), is likely to be July 2020.
It is clear that the Planning Inspector remains concerned about the impact of housing development, traffic movement and air pollution on the integrity of Epping Forest (SAC) and its habitats. This issue was raised by Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest at the Examination in Public last year. In August 2019, the Planning Inspector actioned EFDC to provide evidence “beyond reasonable scientific doubt” ……. “that any effects of development would not be adverse; or to seek to avoid the effects by altering (or potentially reducing) the pattern of growth proposed in the Plan.” The Inspector reiterated her view to EFDC on 25 November 2019 stating that “My advice indicates that you should remain open to this possibility.”
TBAG has always maintained that the proposed number of new homes (11,400), which will result in a loss of Green Belt land, is far too high for a District composed of over 90% Green Belt and which includes the special habitat of Epping Forest, which has both National and European protection.

Climate Emergency – the negative ‘double whammy’ of building on our Green Belt
At a Council meeting on 19 September 2019, EFDC formally declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ in the District and pledged to do everything in their power to make Epping Forest District carbon neutral by 2030 and, in recognising the special circumstances of this District, resolved to protect the SAC (Epping Forest) through the Local Plan. TBAG welcomes this approach and would like to see action taken to reduce the planned number of new homes which is an obvious starting point. Our existing green open spaces and Green Belt land are already doing a vital job in removing and ‘locking up’ carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere. New homes and associated traffic will generate more carbon dioxide and when this development takes place on Green Belt land, the overall increase in carbon dioxide levels is magnified. The increase in nitrogen dioxide and toxic particles from vehicle exhaust, brake linings and tyres adds another harmful dimension, both to people’s health and the Epping Forest biosphere.
Back in November 2004, Eleanor Laing MP presented a residents’ petition in Parliament to the, then, Labour Government in an attempt to stop 11,000 new homes being built in our District because of the impact on our Green Belt and the Epping Forest biosphere. TBAG would urge all of our elected representatives, if they are serious about addressing EFDC’s Climate Emergency, to use their best endeavours to significantly reduce the unsustainable housing target of 11,400 new homes, the majority of which would be built on Green Belt land!