Category Archives: Village News

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the building and replace it with a new dwelling, because of the ‘uneconomical’ costs of a conversion, has since been withdrawn.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.

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.

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.

Spring 2014 Update

(This update also  appeared in the Theydon Bois Village News Issue 86 – JUNE 2014)

The most substantial threat to the Metropolitan Green Belt surrounding our village since its introduction in 1955 continues to be the possibility of development on up to 3 sites at the rural edge of the village. These sites, some put forward by local landowners, have been offered as residential development sites to contribute to the projected 20 year housing supply for the district. You may recall the extensive consultation carried out by EFDC in 2012 to identify specific ‘Issues & Options’ for the emerging Local Plan and the maps showing in red those areas which may be suitable (see EFDC website for Local Plan Consultation Document). As part of the process of considering all the issues and options and results of the consultation, roughly monthly Local Plan Cabinet Meetings were scheduled by EFDC. However, each scheduled meeting since the last in March 2013 has been cancelled. We are therefore unaware of how our Local Plan is progressing. TBAG has written to EFDC to establish the current position and we shall mail supporters once we have news. One thing we have been promised is that an announcement of the ‘preferred option sites’ will be made by 30 October 2014 but how these decisions will be arrived at without sufficient Cabinet meetings is of concern.

TBAG are paying great attention to the ongoing review of national planning legislation as ultimately this filters down to affect planning applications at a local level. Changes to the Government’s General Permitted Development Order were approved on 6 April but notably it made no reference to exempting the Green Belt. Through our membership of NORA and the LGBC, TBAG have expressed their concerns that the Government appear to be ignoring their promises to protect the Green Belt.

Also of national planning importance was Greg Mulholland MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons on 30 April which has cross-party support. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-27222497. Mr Mulholland is rightly critical of some aspects of the NPPF and seeks changes.  He explains how the NPPF at present is proving to put the wishes of developers over those of the local communities (fully ignoring ‘Localism’), especially when it comes to building on green field and Green Belt sites in preference to brown field sites. This is the most encouraging thing we have seen or heard for a long while. The proposed bill was voted forward for a second reading on 6th June.

Oak Hill Farm EPF/2659/13: Perimeter fencing including adjacent agricultural field – refused by Planning East. Another similar application EPF/0670/14 submitted to which TBAG have again objected. Recommendations by EFDC for ‘the way forward’ to the original application have not been followed. TBAG’s objection is on grounds of causing harmful impact on the landscape character and openness of the Green Belt.

Tennis Club EPF/2610/13 and EPF/2611/13: To light two tennis courts – withdrawn. Planning East refused the remaining application.

Lilicroft, Abridge Road, EPF/2479/13: Certificate of Lawful Development – objected to on the grounds of it amounting to a new dwelling in the Green Belt without very special circumstances. The application was approved under delegated powers.

Ripley Grange EPF/2036/13: TBAG spoke at the DDCC meeting in February 2014 and the application for an ‘eco’ house was again refused.

Blunts Farm EPF/0382/14: Prior Notification for an Agricultural Building for machinery storage. Refused.

Land adjacent to Gun Cottage EPF/0255/14: Conversion of stable to dwelling – refused by Planning East.

Theydon Bois Action Group www.theydonbois-actiongroup.co.uk

Protecting the Village of Theydon Bois

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