Category Archives: Local Plan

Winter 2021 Update

Local Planning Matters

Former Old Foresters

In the early hours of 24 November 2021, after over 22 weeks on the site, all the travellers vacated the site, rather suddenly and after matters unknown which involved an armed police response.  This is good news for those residents that were suffering the noise and smells emanating from this site.

There are currently two Enforcement Notices extant on this site:  One for the two unlawful containers taken by 3Food4U which has been appealed and is already three months into its approximately 6 month expected timeframe for a decision to be taken, and one served on the land operators, the details of which EFDC are being shy about sharing.  We might speculate it is at least partly for the unlawful hard surface and bunding that has been laid beyond the existing concrete base and hopefully to remove the detritus that has been left by the travellers but until EFDC are willing to share a copy of the Notice, we won’t know.

We understand that huge piles of domestic waste including plastic, a mattress and pieces of wood have accumulated on the site and on 17 November a large bonfire was started with exploding cannisters and billowing black toxic smoke.  We understand Environmental Health at EFDC was alerted and attended.

While the travellers were on the site, one supporter wrote to TBAG saying: “An everyday nightmare of noise from humans, dogs and generators intertwined with the animal cruelty being carried out and the uncertainty of how long we will have to endure all of this is having a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Another worry is the ever-increasing mountains of human waste and other garbage piled up around the site and visible to anyone walking in the vicinity which is attracting vermin as well as being an environmental blight on the landscape that will take a considerable amount of time to clean up to get it back to its original state, when and if the travellers do eventually leave. Yet despite all this our impotent elected leaders, sitting comfortably in their ivory towers, are completely ignoring their constituents’ concerns. Their public silence on all of this has been utterly deafening! Shame on them!”

Blunts Farm Barns

TBAG have raised a strong objection to EPF/2402/21, an application intended to legitimise the current unlawful use of the agricultural barns for commercial storage and distribution.

Following our request to EFDC for a copy of all current Enforcement Notices applicable to this site, we were astounded to learn that there are all of NONE as at 9 November 2021 and that there have been none issued since 2001 – a period of some 20 years!  This surely cannot be correct since TBAG are aware of several planning contraventions on the Green Belt site including a residential mobile home being used 24/7, the letting of agricultural barns for commercial and industrial activities, and the placement of two huge containers, to name but three, and we are aware that an Enforcement Officer has attended the site on more than one occasion recently.  TBAG have queried this position and await a response from EFDC.  This follows a long history of well documented serious planning abuses notably, but not limited to, a cannabis factory and a vehicle ‘chop-shop’ (which dismantled stolen vehicles) in the barns, both of which were raided by police, and historically the dumping and dangerous pits that were excavated, the spreading of sewerage sand and the motocross activities on land that should have been developed as a golf course.

1 Theydon Hall Cottages

EPF/2566/21 for ‘Application for a lawful development certificate for (existing) confirmation that the last lawful use of the land to the rear of Theydon Hall Cottages is residential garden land’.  TBAG adhere to the view that this land is now, and only ever has been, green belt agricultural land and have objected to this application.

EPF/2681/21 for ‘Retention of an existing cesspit, landscaping works including a bund & a wall within residential garden land to the rear at Theydon Hall Cottages, also retention of permeable hard surfacing and storage of a mobile home within the immediate residential curtilage of No 1 Theydon Hall Cottages.’  This is a retrospective application as the works have already been carried out.  Again, TBAG consider this land to be green belt and therefore these developments, in the absence of very special circumstances, are inappropriate and we will be objecting to this application.

Arnolds Farm, Abridge

EPF/2670/21 While this site is not in our parish, the effect on our village roads from heavy plant carrying spoil and passing through would be immense.  TBAG therefore made a strong objection to this proposal for a waste recycling facility to recycle hardcore etc.  We note that several local parish councils have objected already but not the parish in which the site lies which raises an eyebrow about the priorities of Lambourne Parish Council.

5G Mast, Orchard Drive

TBAG made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to obtain a copy of the permit that should have been issued by Essex County Council (ECC) for the installation of a dry liner box in connection with the proposed mast and before the planning application had been decided.  The response from ECC was that there was no permit.  So, the works to install the box were apparently unlawful and this was reported to Highways at ECC.  However, ECC then responded that indeed there WAS a permit, issued to T-Mobile Ericsson on 24 July 2021 with no explanation as to why it was not produced under the FoI request.  It does not instil much faith in our County Council when one cannot trust the result of a simple FoI request.  Discovery of the permit does seem rather ‘convenient’.  Readers will recall that this application was refused following over 160 objections including one from TBAG.  We understand that T-Mobile Ericsson will not be required to remove the dry liner box.

The Local Plan and the impact on Epping Forest

The Main Modification’s Consultation was formally responded to by TBAG, and we also contacted the Inspector with our concerns about EFDC’s surprise announcement that 300 word summaries of all submissions would be made by EFDC officers and submitted to the Inspector.  We have raised a Freedom of Information request with EFDC to determine whether or not this ‘summarisation’ was actually requested by the Planning Inspector or simply instituted by EFDC.  TBAG take the view that, whatever the origin of this requirement for summarisation, it should have been published before the consultation started back in July (and which finished in September 2021) to enable responders to write their own 300 word summaries.  The FoI requests were made on 7 October and 2 November 2021 but as yet, no meaningful information has been forthcoming from EFDC.

TBAG remains concerned that the excessive number of 11,400 dwellings proposed by EFDC will impact detrimentally on the integrity of Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which is nationally and internationally recognised.  We do not feel that EFDC have taken into account the constraints within the district of the Forest and the fact that the district is 92.4% Green Belt land.  Epping Forest SAC would suffer further damage from the atmospheric pollution caused by excessive housing development and associated vehicle movements and visitors.  One of EFDC’s mitigations to this would be the introduction of a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) on Forest roads with residents required to pay to use them.  The proposed implementation date for this is 2025.  The likely cost to the motorist could be at least £12.50 per day which is what TfL are charging to use their latest Ultra Low Emission Zone in London.

If EFDC are so determined to improve air quality for Epping Forest SAC, why did they give a recommendation to ‘Grant’ planning permission for the proposed Next Warehouse and Distribution Centre to be situated near Junction 26 of the M25 motorway and only 600 metres from the western edge of Epping Forest?  This development would generate at least 1000 vehicle movements a day with around half of them being HGVs.  Fortunately, Councillors at the subsequent EFDC Full Council meeting voted to refuse this intensive development and on 2 December 2021 EFDC held a further closed full extraordinary meeting allegedly to consider their position in the event that Next bring an appeal to the decision.  TBAG are concerned that EFDC’s and some Councillors’ motives may be simply financial to secure income from the substantial commercial rates that would be payable from such a development and have no regard for the Forest.  Is it similarly the reward of income from domestic rates that drives EFDC to adhere doggedly to the out-of-date housing number of 11,400, when the latest Government data from the Office for National Statistics shows that there has been a reduction in housing need of more than one half for Epping Forest District?

Generally

TBAG have been despairing of our local authority of late.  In the past twelve months, two of our Strong Objection letters were ‘mislaid’ in the EFDC planning system and not included in the respective Officer’s Report.  While this did not affect the outcomes, which were that in each case the Officer refused the applications, it is of concern to TBAG that this could happen at all and TBAG wonder how many other letters of comment from third parties have also gone astray?  Having drawn this to the attention of EFDC, we received an apology and were told by the Planning Applications and Appeals Manager – Development Management, that EFDC are having a new ‘back office’ system installed which will automate much of the work dealing with responses.  We wish EFDC luck with this new system and sincerely hope it does automatically what employees have failed to do!

We would like to wish the warmest Season’s greetings to all our supporters and to wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.

New Clean Air Zone and overdevelopment

New Clean Air Zone and charges for residents in exchange for overdevelopment of the District

An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) has been arranged for the full Council of Epping Forest District Councillors for 8 February 2021 at 7pm. This is the first EGM to be called in the District for over 40 years and it has been requested by some Councillors because of the recent decision by EFDC’ Overview & Scrutiny Committee to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for Epping Forest. The impact of this for Residents will be a financial charge to drive through Epping Forest’s roads and it will be costly for EFDC to set up too. The options for residents would be to buy an electric car, take to the bicycle or walk.

TBAG believe that the Councillors on EFDC’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee who voted for the CAZ on 7 January (click here to view the webcast), have done so as mitigation to enable the development of 11,400 new dwellings as put forward in the new Local Plan. This number of dwellings is excessive having consideration to the latest Government statistics (published May 2020) which show a reduction in Household Projections for the district of more than a half. EFDC simply refuse to lower the numbers of dwellings in the Local Plan, flying in the face of this hard statistical evidence from the Government’s own Office of National Statistics (ONS). Building homes on our Green Belt will directly contradict EFDC’s declared Climate Change Emergency, Green Infrastructure Strategy and use of the emerging Local Plan to reduce climate change.

The Inspector examining EFDC’s new Local Plan indicated in August 2019 that she was concerned at the proposed development of 11,400 new homes, largely on Green Belt land, and that this number would impact detrimentally on Epping Forest, particularly with respect to air quality. Excessive housing numbers will reduce the sequestration (locking up) of Carbon Dioxide (a Green House Gas) and also increase localised flooding. The new developments will also put increased recreational pressure on the already ailing forest environment, not to mention local services.

EFDC had hoped that their ‘Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy’, including the CAZ, could be quickly rubber stamped by Cllr Bedford, EFDC’s Planning Portfolio Holder. However, the matter was ‘Called In’ by concerned Councillors from the Loughton Residents’ Association and the Green Party. At the vote on 7 January 2021 the Interim Strategy, with its controversial chargeable Clean Air Zone, was narrowly voted through by 7 votes to 5, and with 5 Abstentions!

Public reaction was immediate, with a Say No to EFDC CAZ campaign Facebook group being quickly created. TBAG share many of the views of this campaign and have taken the decision to fully support its aims and objectives as ultimately, it accords with TBAG’s own objectives to protect the Green Belt around Theydon Bois from excessive and inappropriate development. We would encourage our supporters to also support this group by joining its Facebook page to keep abreast of developments with the campaign.

It is common knowledge that EFDC just want to get its new Local Plan over and done with and that they do not want to reduce the excessive number of 11,400 homes or to review and amend its choices of site selection in order to protect the forest. In spite of the opportunities afforded by the Planning Inspector to reduce the amount of development on Green Belt land, as set out in our earlier updates, EFDC is not prepared to reconsider and remove the most environmentally sensitive sites which will mean good profits for developers and land owners and costly financial burden for residents. TBAG look to EFDC, in the first instance, to reduce the unnecessarily high number of new homes, and to scrap their proposed Clean Air Zone, which will be costly to set up and costly for our residents. The proposed Clean Air Zone is being used in an attempt to placate the Inspector into approving the new Local Plan, in spite of its excessive level of proposed new homes, the majority of which would be built on “our precious Green Belt land”.

If ever a District could justify the ‘exceptional circumstances’ for not meeting a prescribed (and now outdated) housing target in its new Local Plan, it is Epping Forest District, which is over 90% Green Belt, has limited brownfield sites and our unique Epping Forest itself which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is internationally recognised as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

TBAG will keep supporters fully updated on this topic and would recommend that Facebook users join the ‘Say No to EFDC CAZ’ campaign and all our supporters consider writing to our Local Councillors with your own views before the webcast of the EGM on 8 February 2021 at 7pm.

December 2020 Update

Local Planning Matters

Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG) has continued to make successful objections to what it considers to be inappropriate development in the Green Belt around our village. TBAG had objected to a planning application to build two large, detached, 5 bedroomed houses in the extensive grounds of Bowlands Meadow, Theydon Road, which the developer described as ‘limited infilling in a village’. Planning permission was refused by EFDC and the developer subsequently appealed to the Planning Inspector. TBAG submitted further objections to the Inspector, who dismissed the appeal. We also raised objections to various applications relating to two properties at Theydon Hall Cottages, Abridge Road, near the M11 motorway bridge. These were in connection with:

i) the unlawful placement of a mobile home relating to one of the cottages and the proposed extension of the residential curtilage to include an agricultural field which lies behind all 4 cottages and:

ii) the proposed, excessive, extension of another dwelling.

These applications were all refused permission by EFDC.

The Emerging Local Plan and Question over Housing Numbers

In July, TBAG alerted the village, through our Website Updates and Mailshots, that the Inspector dealing with our new Local Plan had contacted EFDC, pointing out that the Government’s latest (2018-based) figures for Household Projections in Epping Forest District had shown a dramatic decline (by more than a half) in the number of new households required in the Local Plan. EFDC had based their original assessments on the Government’s earlier data for 2014, this being the latest available data at that time. The Inspector then asked, whether the projected reduction in household growth (also shown in 2016) justifies building on so much of our Green Belt? Our District Councillor, Sue Jones, asked a question on this matter at a Full Council Meeting on the 30th July, when a prepared statement from EFDC was read out. However, the statement made reference to “Nothing will stop us getting the plan through” and “getting the local plan over the line” and, almost begrudgingly, if necessary “to remove the most environmentally sensitive sites”—presumably relating to the impact of excessive development on the environmental integrity of Epping Forest, of which the Inspector had already expressed her concerns.

There is a view, locally, that EFDC just want to get the local plan over with, as more delays mean more time, work and expense. But TBAG take the view that it should be the right number of homes, in the right places. EFDC put the Inspector’s question to their commissioned consultants, who, unsurprisingly, backed EFDC against the Inspector’s question, and argued that the number of homes should actually be increased from 11,400 to 11,920! The Inspector subsequently invited a wider consultation on EFDC’s response supported by their consultant’s 27 page report. TBAG responded with an evidence based critique (see response in full here), stating that the consultants had ignored the impact of Brexit and Covid 19 on migration and economic growth and had chosen to use a 10 year average method which would dilute the currently low household projection figures, by combining them with previously higher figures which peaked in 2013/14, with migration into our district at +1,500, compared to only +550 during 2017/18.

TBAG also responded to two Government consultations on Planning, including its White Paper on ‘Planning for the Future’. This White Paper caused great debate in Parliament by dissenting Tory MP’s due to impact on their Green Belts and countryside, including the Cotswolds, whilst ignoring ‘Growth’ in the Midlands and the North and the Government’s proclaimed ‘Levelling Up’ policy.

TBAG extends season’s greetings to all villagers and wishes you all a safe and healthy New Year.

TBAG Response to Planning Inspector’s Latest Consultation

TO: The Inspector for Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) Local Plan
Mrs Louise Phillips MA (Cantab) MSc MRTPI

FROM: The Chair of Theydon Bois Action Group (TBAG)
Dr John Warren BSc PhD

Ref:- ONS 2018-Based Household Projections, EFDC Examination Documents ED114 and 114A

Dear Mrs Phillips,
Further to your invitation to make comment, we wish to refute the conclusions made by EFDC and Opinion Research Services (ORS) and wish to make the following comments and critique for your consideration.

ED114 and EFDC
The methodology used, taking all factors into account, on the 2014-based figures for household growth (14,374) produced an OAN of 12,573 homes. The dramatic reduction (by 54%) in the 2018-based household growth of 6,616, gives rise to, on the same basis, an OAN of only 5,787 homes in stark contrast to the 11,920 now cited by EFDC’s consultants, ORS. It is well known locally, that EFDC just want to get the local plan over with – done and dusted – as delays mean more time and work and cost money, particularly on outside consultants. In this respect, it is not in EFDC’s interest to have the OAN reduced as it will mean more work on site selections to remove the most “environmentally sensitive sites”. This was made clear at a Full Council Meeting on 30 July 2020, when a prepared statement from Alison Blom-Cooper was read out by the Planning Portfolio Holder, Cllr Bedford, along with the comments, “getting the local plan over the line” and “nothing will stop us getting the plan through”. This Agenda item was a late addition to cover the Inspector’s letter of 14 July 2020 to EFDC re-the latest 2018-based household projections and the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases (ED111).

TBAG takes the view that, it should be ‘the right number of homes in the right places’, whereas EFDC seem to be acting with expediency being uppermost in its mind.We are concerned that an excessive, unnecessarily high, number of homes built on our Green Belt land, will impact detrimentally on the environmental integrity of the Epping Forest (SAC & SSSI) as well as dealing a blow to EFDC’s declared (19 Sept. 2019)Climate Emergency, because they are not prepared to reduce the level of development on Green Belt land, which serves beneficial purposes in the sequestration of carbon dioxide (A Green House Gas) and in flood prevention.

We are also concerned by EFDC’s long delay in placing documents ED114 and 114A, (their reply to the Inspector’s letter of 14 July), onto its local plan website and thus into the public domain. The delay of 19 days (from 4 to 23 September) is unacceptable, especially as the ORS document is 27 pages long and includes much graphical and tabulated data. The ‘lost’ 19 days meant that interested parties were disadvantaged in having significantly less time to give their full consideration of such detailed information, in the event that the Inspector invited further comments.

TBAG is also aware of the Local Councils’ Liaison Meeting (7 Sept. 2020) with EFDC and chaired by Nigel Richardson, Director of Planning. Cllr Mary Dadd (Ongar) asked a question about the ONS 2018-based figures being reduced to 6000, and Mr Richardson replied that “this is all about Green Belt and all Green Belt Councils had been written to”, mentioning that is was really one for Ms Blom-Cooper. He then added “It is very clear, the numbers are not going to change”. No mention was made of Epping Forest. So had EFDC decided, in the light of the recent ORS document (ED114A), not to await on the Inspector’s consideration of the matter and her potential, wider consultation?

ED114A, The Opinion Research Services (ORS) Report-September 2020

Note;- In reviewing this report, we have consulted with the following ONS published documents;

(1) Quality and Methodology-Information, by Andrew Nash, 29 June 2020
(2) Impact of different migration trend lengths, by Andrew Nash, 24 March 2020
(3) Variant Household Projections for England, 2016-based, by Saffron Weeks, 16 May 2019

Re- the ORS report, we refute the assumptions, methodology and conclusions in the report as it applies to Epping Forest District. Our district, which is 90+% Green Belt, lies just outside of Greater London and attracts migration from adjacent London Boroughs including Redbridge and Waltham Forest. These, in turn, are subject to inward migration from within London and the ONS Reports make it clear that EU Accession has been a major driver of migration into London. This unlimited migration will cease under Brexit and so it is wrong to project, into the future, events of the previous decade. Covid 19 will have, at the very least, a medium term impact on economic activity and Jobs. Yet these are not mentioned in the ORS Report, which uses Jobs to justify houses.

The ORS Fig 5 for Epping Forest District, clearly shows what has been going on and the dramatic downwards and ongoing trend taking place – from +1500 at its peak in 2013/14 to only + 550 for 2017/18. Yet, ORS try to justify the use of a 10 year variant method to average out peaks and troughs (and so dilute the clear downward trend) against the fact that a “Systemic Change” (Ref2) has happened because of Brexit, and of course Covid 19. The ONS Report (Ref2) covers the disadvantages of the 10 year method, “dampening the effect of more systemic changes that occurred over the 10 years” and the “multiple methodological changes. For example, internal migration estimates have had 3 different methods over that time which will necessarily impact on the quality of the figures.”

ORS also produce a further 2,950 homes, almost as make weight, by way of “adjustments” for supressed household formation and market signals (with an additional 12% uplift).

Finally, we wonder if the purpose of paragraph 9 of their report, re the endorsement of the Inspector of an aspect of the East Herts local plan, is an attempt to “bounce” the Inspector for Epping Forest District?

Dr John Warren

Chair, Theydon Bois Action Group

4 November 2020

OCTOBER 2020 – UPDATE ON EFDC’s NEW LOCAL PLAN

EFDC HAS TOLD THE INSPECTOR IT DOES NOT CONSIDER THAT ANY ADJUSTMENT IS NEEDED TO THE PROPOSED HOUSING NUMBERS (11,400) IN THE LIGHT OF THE 2018 ONS FIGURES.

Following on from our July 2020 update, EFDC’s response of 4 September 2020 enclosing a report from their Consultants, Opinion Research Services (ORS) (see documents ED114/114A here) to the Planning Inspector’s letter of 14 July 2020 was finally made public on 23 September 2020. This response related to the latest (2018 based) Government national statistics which indicated a reduction of around 50% in projected household numbers for our district. The Inspector had asked EFDC to consider whether these latest projections “represent a meaningful change in the housing situation” and “Whether the projected reduction in household growth affects the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases”.

It is, therefore, very disappointing that EFDC has reached the conclusion that the latest statistical projections…. “do[es] not represent a meaningful change in the housing situation” and that “the housing requirement in the Local Plan Submission Version does not need to be adjusted.” EFDC then summarises: “Given this conclusion the Council does not consider that it affects the justification for the plan’s proposed Green Belt releases.”

The report and conclusion of EFDC’s consultants, ORS, is based on the ‘ten year variant method’ which looks back over the past 10 years when inward migration was higher, rather than looking at the present decreasing figures from 2014, 2016 and 2018 towards the indication of future, and downward, trends. It should be noted that ORS have also produced a similar report jointly for the Strategic Housing Market Area of Harlow, East Herts and Uttlesford District Council’s.

In view of our Council’s decision not to take this very valid opportunity to reduce or remove planned development in our Green Belt and are effectively ‘not budging an inch’, TBAG took the opportunity to write to the Planning Inspector on 6 October to express our support for her view that she may consider it necessary to seek the views of other participants in the examination. TBAG received a prompt reply on the following day confirming “that the Inspector will be inviting comments on these documents”; i.e. the Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) latest, 2018-Based Household Projections, and EFDC’s response to the Inspector, including the commissioned 27 page response from the Council’s consultants, ORS.

TBAG have heard today that this consultation will end in early November. TBAG will therefore actively participate in the Inspector’s Consultation on the latest (reduced) Government figures for Household Projections in Epping Forest District and will point out deficiencies in EFDC’s response and its commissioned consultant’s report on housing numbers.

TBAG, whilst committed to protecting the Green Belt surrounding Theydon Bois, are also very much aware of the detrimental impact on the unique Epping Forest biosphere that will result should there be increased recreational pressures and atmospheric pollution resulting from excessive and unnecessary increased housing numbers and associated traffic movements.