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!