Blunt’s Farm Development – Appeal Dismissed

TBAG are delighted to announce the decision of the Government Planning Inspectorate Inspector, Mr William Fieldhouse, to dismiss the application for the demolition of agricultural buildings and erection of four ‘executive’ dwelling houses on this Metropolitan Green Belt farm site. The Inspector confirmed that the lawful use of the site is agricultural and commented that “it seems clear that the appellant has no intention of using his land for that purpose.” TBAG has been of the same mind for several years now. Read the full Decision here.

TBAG Fights for Village at Blunts Appeal Hearing

Around a dozen TBAG supporters, including three members of the TBAG Committee, attended the Planning Inspectorate’s Appeal hearing for the Blunt’s Farm application to develop the Green Belt farmyard into an enclave of four executive 5 bedroom houses. Also supporting the village in opposition to the development were three representatives from the Theydon Bois & District Rural Preservation Society and one local Councillor. The Appellant, Mark Swan was joined by a team of four professionals, including a QC, to defend their corner. The hearing started at 10am.

TBAG were of course there to defend the Green Belt in Theydon Bois from inappropriate development and all Committee members and some supporters spoke up, often making compelling arguments. The hearing went on until 15:05 when it was adjourned to reconvene at a site meeting on Blunt’s Farm. Three members of the TBAG Committee and one from the Rural Pres were given permission by the landowners to attend the site meeting. From the proposed site it is apparent that the first floors and roof lights of any new dwellings would look clearly over the village and conversely, the village will clearly see the proposed buildings on the horizon, especially at night.

The hearing officially closed at 4:30 and TBAG now await the Inspector’s decision which will be published in around three weeks time.

Blunts Farm – Planning Application for four residential buildings

A second and revised application to replace a farm house and build three new executive size houses on the site of existing agricultural barns at Blunts Farm (EPF/2468/12) was this evening on the Agenda at the Planning East Sub-Committee meeting at Civic Offices in Epping. Surprisingly, the application was recommended for approval by the Planning Case Officer. A planning agent spoke on behalf of the Applicant. There were two speakers in opposition to the application, the Chair of the Theydon Bois Parish Council Planning Committee and a member of the TBAG Committee. Sound and clear arguments were put forward by both objectors to demonstrate how this application was contrary to several paragraphs of planning policy documents both national and local. After due consideration, Councillors unanimously voted to refuse this revised application for a housing development on Metropolitan Green Belt land as being sufficiently contrary to current planning legislation and the inevitable intrusion into the Theydon Bois Dark Sky Policy.

Development Sites “Option D”

You may this week have received a flyer regarding an ‘alternative option’ (“Option D”) for the EFDC Issues and Options consultation on possible development sites in Theydon Bois parish. It has been designed to give the impression that it has been prepared by Epping Forest District Council but we can confirm that this is not the case. Neither has it been circulated by our Parish Council, The Rural Preservation Society or Theydon Bois Action Group. We therefore conclude that it might have been circulated by the landowner(s).

Theydon Bois Action Group make no comment on the contents of the flyer, other than to state that our objective is, as ever, to protect all Metropolitan Green Belt within the Parish of Theydon Bois from inappropriate development.

As our national planning system undergoes radical amendment, we must all be careful to make sure we understand the implications of any actions we take.

Issues and Options Consultation – What happens next?

Villagers may be interested to read the following:

Extract from Report to Local Plan Cabinet Committee (LPCC) – 26 November 2012, Item 6, paragraph 3

The number of representations received was 5625 of which 114 were statutory bodies, 264 landowners, 3158 residents, 2089 group responses. The representations are currently being processed and a decision was made to outsource this piece of work in order to ensure that the timetable for meeting the Local Plan continues on track. As the representations are being indexed the Forward Planning team will be working to analyse the results. The information from the I&Os consultation will be used to inform a series of Member workshops in the new year aimed at EFDC and Town & Parish Members. The programme of workshops is intending to draw out the key themes and preferred options for the district over the new plan period. The output from the workshops will be used to inform the preferred options report for the LPCC and Cabinet in early 2013 that will lead to the preparation of the draft preferred options document for consideration by LPCC. It is currently anticipated that the Preferred Options consultation will take place in the Autumn of 2013.

The full agenda is available here.

It is important that our supporters continue to lobby their District Councillors to make their feelings known about the options likely to impact our village on the three sites under consultation. It is important that our District Councillors know villagers’ stance so they may convey this to Epping Forest District Council on our behalf. This is especially important in the light of the recent Coppice Farm shock decision (Planning East Subcommittee recommendation to the District Development Control Committee to grant planning permission to develop virgin green belt land in Theydon Bois see website for more information) when our District Councillors abstained from voting against the application despite it being contrary to various planning policies both local and national. This was also surprising since TBAG have the unequivocal support of Eleanor Laing MP to protect our green belt (see website for a copy of her letter). Speak or write to your District Councillors to let them know your opinions.

Coppice Farm green belt development

The next hearing of this application is before the District Development Committee Council at the end of January 2013. We shall keep you updated on an exact date as it may be appropriate for TBAG supporters to rally and attend the meeting to show their concern over the determination of this application and the apparent lack of consideration of local and national planning policies that EFDC have in this matter.

Coppice Farm Development – Planning Application for Green Belt Land

TBAG were represented at the Planning Committee East Meeting at Civic Offices on 24th October 2012 and can report that the recommendation by EFDC Planning Officers to grant permission for a luxury, 5 bedroom, ‘eco’ dwelling on this Green Belt site was APPROVED. This was despite strong objections, notably from the City of London Superintendent of Epping Forest, our own Parish Council and TBAG and also contrary to Local Plan policies and paragraphs of the current National Planning Policy Framework. The vote was equally split, with several abstentions, and the Chairman used his casting vote to settle the matter in favour of approval. However, as the application relates to green belt land, the application automatically goes to District Development Control Committee and TBAG hope to make further representations against any development on this site. This application relates to part of the Coppice Farm site which is one of the three possible sites for development, as set out in the recent Issues & Options Consultation. TBAG were disappointed to note that our own two Ward District Councillors, Councillors Sue Jones and John Philip who are residents of this village, both abstained from voting on this application, despite claiming to promote protection of our green belt in their party political communications to villagers. TBAG is seeking comment from the Councillors on this issue. See the webcast at http://www.eppingforestdc.public-i.tv/core (Area Planning Subcommittee East, Wed, 24th Oct 2012 – 7:30 pm) at 00:10:53.

January 2011 Update

Villagers

Happy new year to you all. We have some mixed news to report.

Some positive news in that those of you that objected to Phase One of a 350 space Commuter Car Park on land behind Forest Drive and Slade End known as the Old Foresters, will have received confirmation that the application was recently turned down by the planning department at EFDC. We do however expect this application to be appealed to the Planning Inspectorate within the next six months. Those that objected will receive notice of the details of the appeal however all letters of objection will be passed to the PI. TBAG did expect that the application may go to appeal and will be preparing a far more detailed response to the PI if it proves necessary.

The negative news is that the case against the leaseholder of the Old Foresters site for the unlawful stationing of portable buildings, in June 2008, and a small built structure without planning permission collapsed on 6th December 2010. EFDC were preparing a County Court case but were informed by their barrister that a prosecution against the leaseholder was unlikely to be successful and they were advised to bring a case against the land owner, Parkeng. EFDC had previously negotiated a deal with the land owner Mr Philip Newman of Parkeng, whereby he would not be prosecuted. TBAG wrote to Cllr. Lesley Wagland the Portfolio Holder for Legal and Estates, Cllrs. Sue Jones and John Philip our District Ward Councillors and Eleanor Laing MP on 14th December. We are awaiting a reply from the councillors, however Mrs Laing did confirm receipt of our letter and representatives from TBAG will be meeting with her soon to discuss our concerns with regard to this issue.

It is also likely that the enforcement notices served against Blunts Farm Estates Limited in January and August 2006 will be signed off at the District Development Control Committee meeting on 1 February. The varied enforcement notices state that “Within 2 years of the notice taking effect: EITHER the completion of the golf course on the land in accordance with drawing number BLUN.209A approved pursuant to condition 12 of the planning permission dated 23 April 2002, Ref. EPF/765/99 OR the restoration of land levels at Blunts Farm to their original levels prior to the commencement of works on the land in 2002.”

It was then agreed by EFDC that

The Council had anticipated a formal proposal from the applicant. This was finally received in April 2006 in which the applicant had indicated that the little excess on the site would enable them to start filling one of the voids on the site but that they would still need to import, approximately, a further 176,000m2 to complete the course. Officers considered this proposal to be unacceptable leading to more lorry movements. Evidence from investigations indicated that there was more than sufficient material on site to undertake remediation. The Committee noted this view. As part of the preparation for the appeal, Officers had a case conference with Counsel who had recommended that the requirement of the notices to remove from the Land all the excess fill material should be varied to meet the concern about the excessive HGV movements that would arise as a consequence of complying with such a requirement. Also Counsel had advised that it would be prudent to issue new Enforcement Notices in the same form as the varied notices. Additionally, consultants producing evidence of the breach of planning control for the Council, had been instructed, in liaison with the Council’s Landscape Officer, to produce a plan to show the “best fit” in landscape terms of the existing material on site, with the voids filled using the existing surplus, and the remainder distributed in the way least harmful to visual amenity. This remedy for the breaches would involve no exporting of material from the site and so avoid further disruption for residents. Future importation of construction materials would remain restricted to the minimum necessary such as sand for greens and gravel for drainage. Topsoil requirements would be met from material on the site as originally proposed.

Compliance with the enforcement notices are at least 2½ years late. It is worth noting that after confirming to the Planning Inspectorate in October 2007 that they no longer wished to complete the golf course at Blunts Farm because; “the project that was, until recently, commercially viable has in recent weeks ceased to be so” this development team have applied for permission to extend their course Blakes Golf in North Weald by 18 holes requiring in phase one the importation of 69,000 cubic metres of inert waste. After refusal by Essex County Council they are now appealing that decision. TBAG objected to the application and are currently preparing their response to the appeal. We will also be preparing a report to members of the DDCC with regard to the “signing off” of the enforcement notices with regard to Blunts Farm.

We remain vigilant to large scale applications that materially affect the village and are awaiting an application for “training and leisure facility for foster children and their carers” at the Old Foresters site.