Category Archives: Village News

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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