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.