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.