Category Archives: Updates

Winter 2023 Update

Local Planning Matters

EPF/0292/21 Land at Forest Drive: Still ‘under consultation’. We note that Essex County Council Highways have submitted a letter which states “Further to the above, and in consultation with the NEPP, it is considered necessary to secure double yellow lines along the northern section of Forest Drive to prevent the development from being blocked, as the existing single yellows will not be sufficient for this purpose.” The impact of this will be that local people who currently park there will be restricted from doing so and could well result in an intensification of parking in Forest Drive and Dukes Avenue to the detriment of existing residents. TBAG still have concerns about the ‘private estate’ nature of the proposal following ECC’s confirmation that the roadway on the site will not be adopted by ECC Highways as a public highway.
EPF/1195/23 Coppice Row Farm, Coppice Row. Proposed detached dwelling. A new application for a four bedroom dwellinghouse with an attached, three bedroom annex. TBAG have made a strong objection to this application located on part of Coppice Farm which is virgin Green Belt and agricultural farmland.
EPF/2728/22 Blunts Farm, Erection of new storage buildings etc: Still ‘under consultation’ and we note no new documents have been added since last August.
EPF/0830/23 and EPF/0831/23 Blunts Farm, two alleged flats: Still ‘under consultation’, with no new documents since August 2023.
EPF/1671/22 New outdoor pool and single storey extension to existing house. This application was again refused and the applicant has appealed to the Planning Inspector. As a ‘householder application’ it is not possible for TBAG to submit further comments to the Planning Inspector.
EPF/2461/22 Mossford Green Nursery, Abridge Road. Demolition of buildings and five new and one replacement dwellings. After refusal by EFDC, the applicant has appealed to the Planning Inspector and TBAG have made further representations to the Planning Inspector against this Green Belt development.
EPF/2518/23 Land at Magnolia House, Abridge Road. Installation of a private Padel Court on virgin Green Belt agricultural land. TBAG has submitted a robust objection.

National Planning Legislation

TBAG are concerned about the Government’s expression of intent to further deregulate the planning regime to enable more permissions for housing development to be granted more speedily. We consider that the problem lies with developers who wish to build slowly in order to drip feed completed development onto the market to keep house prices high and so maximise their profit. This is evidenced by the Local Government Association which has already stated that there are 1.3 million extant planning permissions which have been granted but have not yet been built out. In reality, this amounts to land banking yet developers still want to develop green field and Green Belt sites.

Whenever possible, TBAG responds to Government consultations on planning as we believe influencing national legislation is critical to building a planning system fit for people, the Green Belt, ecology and the climate.

The Government’s new Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill was given Royal Assent on 26 October 2023 and is now the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023. Ostensibly this Bill is about the government’s aims to level up the country, but more than anything it is about planning. We also expect changes to be made to the National Planning Policy Framework once the Government has completed its consultation.

TBAG would like to extend our very warmest wishes for Christmas and the new year to all Theydon Bois residents and especially to our hardworking Committee and loyal supporters. The Committee are very grateful for all the kind expressions of thanks and encouragement which have been emailed to us throughout the year. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to one and all.

Summer 2023 Update

A bumper Newsletter this quarter but we make no apologies for its length since some news is just too important not to share. We hope you find our efforts interesting.

Local Planning Matters

TBAG have submitted objections to the following applications on grounds of Green Belt Policies:
EPF/0292/21 Land north of Forest Drive – developers Anderson Design and Build Limited didn’t waste any time resubmitting with 10 MORE dwellings making it 38 and not the previously applied for 28. The Local Plan describes this site as “The limited northern expansion provides a natural extension to the settlement and is the least harmful to the Green Belt.“ (Para 5.111). TBAG objected to the density, design, road safety, damage to trees etc, and addressed TBAG Supporters’ concerns.
EPF/2206/21 Land adjacent to Gun Cottage, Abridge Road application for a crossover was again refused on appeal.
EPF/1671/22 Blunts Farm, Ivy House. Application for a swimming pool and extensions to house. Refused.
EPF/2728/22 Blunts Farm, Demolition of existing structures and erection of new storage buildings and retention of two storage containers. Under consideration.
EPF/0034/23 28 Piercing Hill, demolition and replacement of existing dwelling. Under consideration. The house is one of the original Manor Villas, built between 1870 and 1872, after the coming of the railway to Theydon Bois in 1865.  TBAG objected to the demolition of this historic building, and EFDC’s Heritage & Conservation Officer has also raised an objection with EFDC Planning.
EPF/0830/23 and EPF/0831/23 Blunts Farm. Resubmissions of applications previously adjudicated to be unlawful for two flats. TBAG has asked why enforcement action was not taken and the applicants permitted to resubmit with no new persuasive evidence. We are concerned about the lack of enforcement action at this site over several decades now.

Local Plan

The Local Plan was formally adopted on 6 March 2023 and will impact the district until 2033. TBAG view this Plan as a Developers’ Charter since EFDC was not prepared to lower the housing numbers in line with latest Government Data. Local Conservative Councillors pushed the plan through ignoring Central Government’s recent concession of a two-year extension to local authorities to allow them to reassess their plans in the light of local constraints (in our case 92% Green Belt and Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation). District Councillor John Philip thought two years was insufficient time to reconsider the statistics, and suggested the district would be left wide open to speculative development if we did not adopt the plan there and then. However, the Government’s own National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that there is ‘no presumption in favour of sustainable development in the Green Belt’. Cllr Philip also suggested that the Planning Inspector “does not favour our District”! When an Independent Councillor asked if Conservative Councillors had a free vote (i.e. not whipped by their political party) the Leader of the Council, Cllr Chris Whitbread, flushed and replied “No comment”. The Conservative Councillors en-bloc chose to robustly support the plan and voted for it to become our new adopted local plan.
Conservatives have claimed for years that they will “Protect our precious green belt land” and that the “green belt is absolutely sacrosanct” etc and TBAG has reported on these agreeable points of view. But at the same time, there was a top-down edict of housing numbers to be achieved. However, in the final throes of our own Local Plan, Central Government finally recognised constraints such as Green Belt and the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation and gave a two year allowance beyond the deadline for completion of local plans in which local authorities could review their housing numbers and adjust their plans accordingly.
The Vision for Theydon Bois is stated in this Local Plan to be that “Theydon Bois will continue to maintain its local feel and character and preserve its rural setting, adjacent to the Epping Forest, whilst providing a mix of housing, key local services and high quality independent retail. Theydon Bois will also enhance its leisure facilities and social infrastructure to support existing and future residents.”

The local plan recognises that “Theydon Bois is a village with a strong rural feel” (Para 5.107) and that “The Green Belt plays an important role in maintaining separation and reducing coalescence between neighbouring settlements, most notably Theydon Bois, Waltham Abbey and North Weald Bassett.” (Para 5.8). And when considering Loughton, “Future development should maintain separation from neighbouring Theydon Bois, Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell.” (Vision for Loughton). Para 5.114 states “There are no allocations for traveller accommodation in Theydon Bois.” We have of course had some experience of travellers and it wasn’t all positive; in fact it was far from positive.

Para 5.110 confirms the allocation of “approximately 57 homes” to be built in our village, a figure which is too vague to TBAG’s thinking and we expect this to be increased as greedy developers move in. TBAG also wonders if this number takes into account the number of in-fill new homes, including conversions into flats, which have taken place since 2011, the start date of the Plan. This number was “informed by the aspiration of Theydon Bois to maintain its local feel and character” (Para 5.110).

How much more of our Green Belt is to be sacrificed to the developers in the next local plan in 2033? Any more will result in a detrimental effect on the character of our environment in Theydon Bois. Are we to evolve and merge like Debden or Loughton or remain a true village (i.e. less than 7,500 residents)? The Local Plan already designates Theydon Bois as a “Large Village” (Table 5.1) and it is highly unlikely that the numbers of residents are ever going to fall.

And talking of the local plan, a local news stream recently published on its website the following article: “Just how many new homes will be built in the district?”. It examines the interpretation of the word ‘approximately’ which is a definition included in the local plan for housing allocation numbers. One example cited is at the former school site in St John’s Road, Epping where the local plan states this site could accommodate “approximately 34 homes”. However, EFDC have granted Qualis, its own wholly-owned development arm, planning permission for 184 apartments and the conversion of a building into two cottages! See the article in full here.

TBAG have also heard reports regarding the South Epping Masterplan site (Ivy Chimneys), where the Submission Version Local Plan put forward by EFDC originally proposed 900 new homes. The Planning Inspector at the Examination in Public reduced this number to approximately 450 new homes, and we now understand that developers are looking to increase this number and make 450 new homes a MINIMUM number and not an approximate number.

New planning applications submitted following adoption of the Local Plan 2033 have raised serious concerns within TBAG on the efficacy of the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) included within it. The new applications are putting the HRA to the test but it appears that EFDC are looking to fudge the HRA, its spirit and intention, and allow an excessive number of new dwellings within the 200m zone of protection for the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The Submission Version Local plan originally called for a protection zone of several kilometres between development and the forest with respect to increased atmospheric pollution and recreational pressure on the forest. We will be relying on the City of London Corporation to object to those applications which put Epping Forest under threat. No amount of cash changing hands can protect our forest from the resultant pollution from inappropriate development.

Epping Forest Clean Air Zone coming?

Events surrounding the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (‘ULEZ’) will, TBAG believe, have a direct effect on whether we will see a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Epping Forest. In February it was reported in our local press that Epping Forest MP, Dame Eleanor Laing, has added her name to a letter to the Conservative Party Chairman, Greg Hans MP, raising concerns over the proposed introduction of the London ULEZ which is scheduled to come into effect on 29 August this year and which will stretch out from London to the borders of Epping Forest. The letter has been written by David Simmonds MP (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner). TBAG hopes that Dame Eleanor will show a similar level of concern and lend her support to residents’ objections should her own District Council seek to introduce a CAZ through Epping Forest, which would be an easy revenue raiser for the Council at £12.50 per day, as is proposed for the ULEZ scheme, but will negatively impact on residents. TBAG have not seen the whole letter, but published quotes indicate that “While hurting our constituents, the ULEZ expansion will have a negligible effect on air quality, according to the Mayor’s own independent impact assessment.” It is likely that rat runs would establish as vehicles attempt to avoid the ULEZ by driving through Epping Forest District. The other trend of 20mph speed limits in built-up and residential areas also adds to poor air quality as modern motors are not as efficient at that speed and burn more fuel for a longer time than when travelling at 30mph. 20mph does of course contribute to safer roads. If one doesn’t get you, the other will …

EFDC makes changes to licensing consultation

Another recent move by EFDC to save money is its decision to cease consulting with residents and businesses when an application for a licence or other licensing conditions is received. EFDC claim consulting with nearby residents “… places an unnecessary and administrative burden on the district council …”. They also claim it is “inconsistent with other local authorities both locally and nationally who follow the statutory consultation only.” So, if you live near a premises which might apply for a licence or other licensing conditions you will no longer be notified of the applications. This policy change was effective from 1 June 2023. Previously, EFDC notified residents and businesses within 150 metres of the application premises and has said that it was not “legally required” to do so. The Licensing Act 2003 requires applications to be displayed at the premises and in a local newspaper and statutory consultees e.g. the police, fire, planning and public health authorities must be consulted. Our Parish Council will continue to be notified and applications should appear on the Weekly List too but residents will be reliant on the PC to decide if wider consultation is thought necessary and to action wider consultation through its own methods.

Support Theydon Bois Dark Sky Policy

Loughton Astronomical Society (LAS) are the village’s most vociferous group when it comes to protecting our Dark Sky Policy. We have been notified by LAS that there is a petition to protect dark skies nationwide, including Theydon Bois, and you may wish to support this. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632558.

Thank you for reading to the end! Your support is greatly appreciated.

Winter 2022 Update

Local Planning Matters

EPF/1406/22 Blunts Farm Change of Use to B8 Storage and associated development – revised application, remains “under consideration”. This application was validated in June this year, almost six months ago. TBAG does not understand why EFDC are taking so long to consider this apparently straightforward application.

Certificates of Lawful Development EPF/1189/22 validated on 23 May and EPF/1107/22 validated on 13 May, both for alleged existing use of two unlawful flats, in a barn on Blunts Farm, remain undetermined. TBAG have raised strong objections to these applications refuting the accuracy of the claims that the two flats have been lived in continuously for more than four years and we fail to again understand why it is taking EFDC so long to arrive at a decision.

EPF/1748/22 Detached cart lodge in agricultural field adjacent to Theydon Hall Lodge, Abridge Road which TBAG objected to on green belt grounds has been refused. In contrast we note that this application took approximately 3 months to determine.

EPF/2461/22 Demolition of existing buildings, erection of replacement dwelling and 5 new “Executive style” dwellings at Mossford Green Nursery, Abridge Road. TBAG objected on several grounds including the unsustainability of the location. Validated on 26 October, it is anyone’s guess how long this application will take to determine.

Local Green Belt News

TBAG welcomes the long overdue securing of the entrance to the site at Former Old Foresters which has now been closed with 12 concrete blocks. This should ensure that there are no repeats of the fly tipping that was regularly taking place on the site following the departure of the travellers. Villagers may be aware of the enormous fire which was started on the huge fly-tip on this site, which sent toxic smoke wafting across the village, on the evening of Saturday 22 October and which took 5 fire engines and many firefighter hours to extinguish.

TBAG are encouraged to also note that concrete blocks have been positioned at the entrance to the track leading to the Former Old Foresters, off Station Hill, which will prevent the unlawful parking and dumping along the trackway which is privately owned land.

EFDC’s Local Plan

The consultation on the remaining Main Modifications to the emerging Plan are currently underway and TBAG will be reviewing the documents and making their representation as appropriate.

TBAG continue to assert that too many houses (11,400) are proposed in EFDC’s emerging local plan when latest Government statistics show that less than half of that number are actually required in our district. The Levelling Up Bill is legislation intended to deal with regional inequalities, but also contains a number of planning measures. On 23 November, 47 Conservative MPs rebelled by signing an amendment to the Government’s Levelling Up Bill, currently going through Parliament. The amendment would ban government-calculated housing targets from influencing planning applications. Under the current system, councils are meant to plan to build a certain number of homes using a government-set formula for ‘housing need’ and not using local, actual need, numbers.

These targets are then supposed to be incorporated into local plans for housebuilding drawn up by councils. Downing Street is quoted as saying that it remained committed to the target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. We are unaware if our MP has supported this welcomed amendment. Other amendments tabled by these 47 rebels would create stricter time-limits to start building for developers granted planning permission. At the moment there are around a million permissions for homes granted, but where no home has been built.

Spring 2022 Update

Local Planning Matters

To view any of the following applications, go to the Epping Forest District Council Planning Portal and enter the full ‘EPF/xxxx/xx’ number to see the complete proposal including plans and the officer’s report once a determination has been made.

Former Old Foresters

The two planning appeals which were submitted by one of the travellers against the enforcement action served on them by EFDC for unlawful encampment and unlawful hardstanding with bunding were withdrawn by the appellant following the departure of the travellers. However, the appeal concerning the unlawful stationing of two containers ref: 3272761 brought by 3food4u still remains undetermined by the Planning Inspectorate after ten months. Three weeks ago TBAG wrote to the Inspector to ask when a determination is likely to be made but have not yet had a response. However, on 13 February 2022 the burnt-out container, with the exploded cans and food jars, was removed. Sadly, the contents were dumped on the land immediately adjacent and TBAG is concerned about vermin, the danger to wildlife from broken glass and the possibility of contaminated food residues leaching into the water table too. Removal of one container does not affect the appeal.

Initially, the EFDC Officer responsible told TBAG that he had been dealing with an agent on behalf of the land owner who assured him that the land, including the hardstanding laid by the travellers, would be cleared by the end of February 2022 which was the ‘compliance’ date on another, withdrawn enforcement notice. As we write, it seems the agent has not kept his assurance and the site still remains strewn with rubbish after three months. We have again written to the EFDC Officer asking why he has appeared to afford this landowner privileged treatment in light of the previous track record for this site and we are told that “… to take no further enforcement action was at the discretion of the Epping Forest District Council”. Our email may have spurred matters on as we are told that a large skip has been delivered. However, progress on clearing the site of rubbish is painfully slow and the hardstanding remains untouched. TBAG try wherever possible to work with EFDC in order to bring planning rule breakers to account but we don’t feel we are witnessing EFDC using every tool in their box to dissuade this unscrupulous landowner from further breaches.

Blunts Farm

Application EPF/2402/21 for change of use from agricultural barns to B8 storage and associated development was refused on 14 January 2022. This came as no surprise to TBAG since there was a similar application (from agricultural to B1 and B8 use) which was also refused in 2001. TBAG was pleased to see EFDC being consistent with this decision. We understand that several unauthorised businesses and residences at this site are subject to enforcement investigations and TBAG now hopes that EFDC will not hesitate to bring robust enforcement action against those responsible for these planning breaches.

A new application EPF/0958/21 for a single storey swimming pool wing to side and rear of the former Blunts Farmhouse house was submitted and TBAG has raised a very strong objection to this proposal which would not be in keeping with the existing dwelling, highly conspicuous and therefore inappropriate in the green belt.

Another new application EPF/0328/22 to replace an existing dilapidated storage building and extend garden over has been registered but the details provided do not meet the required national or local standard for planning application submissions.  Specifically, there is no plan showing the land ownership so it is impossible to establish what is being proposed and where. TBAG will draw this to the attention of the officer dealing with the matter. Ideally the applicant will be made to re-submit their application to conform with the Regulations and clarify the proposal. This application is also retrospective, as we understand the existing building was replaced some three months ago – without planning permission.

Theydon Hall Cottages

Application EPF/2681/21 for retention of works that are subject to an enforcement notice has been refused. Again, TBAG hopes that Enforcement will ensure this green belt agricultural land is returned to its former condition.

Application EPF/0921/20 ‘certificate of lawful development for (existing) confirmation that the last lawful use of the land to the rear of Theydon Hall Cottages is residential garden land’ has been determined as unlawful.  Again, TBAG hopes that Enforcement will ensure this green belt agricultural land is returned to its former condition.

Grey’s Farm, Green Glade

Application EPF/2796/21 for a proposed front porch canopy, lean to on both sides and an extended rear balcony was submitted in November 2021. This green belt farm location accessed via the Cow Bridge and very close to a public footpath gained permission for a ‘Shepherd’s Cottage’ in 2006 and this definition is significant when considering extensions to it. This current proposal would have been extremely visually intrusive and TBAG raised a strong objection to it. It was refused on 14 January 2022. Subsequently, a revised application EPF/0305/22 has been submitted. Since the proposal is very similar to the previous application, albeit reduced in size, the impact will remain substantial and TBAG has raised a further strong objection. TBAG fails to understand why a utilitarian shepherd’s cottage would require a large first floor balcony and enlarged footprint. This has not been explained in the application.

Arnolds Farm

An application for a waste recycling facility, EPF/2670/21 was objected to by EFDC and subsequently refused by Essex County Council. While not in Theydon Bois parish, TBAG also submitted a strong objection because the knock-on effects of this proposal would have had a huge impact on the number of HGV’s regularly using local and village roads.

Next plc & Trinity Hall

Next and Trinity Hall have submitted an appeal ref 3289760 against the refusal by EFDC Councillors (at a four hour full council meeting) to develop a distribution hub on green belt land north of Dowding Way, Waltham Abbey by junction 26 of the M25 motorway and only 600m to the west of Epping Forest.  Trinity Hall (University of Cambridge) are the landowners. While the retail store is going to be missed in Epping High Street, we do enjoy another retail Next in Epping Forest Shopping Park, Debden but this proposed new development would not be a welcome addition to the district as it will cause atmospheric pollution and damage to Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  TBAG has submitted comments of objection to the Planning Inspector expressing our concerns about the impact on air quality and the detrimental effect on the integrity of Epping Forest SAC, plus the lack of local relevance of this development. This appeal is to be heard at a formal public inquiry on 19 May 2022.

TBAG finds it ironic that EFDC is proposing to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) along forest roads and charge certain motorists (the ULEZ is £12.50 per day) to drive through them while at the same time its officers were happy to recommend granting planning permission for this current application which will establish 1000 vehicle movement per day with half of these being HGVs.

We understand that the former Bursar of Trinity Hall is now employed by Qualis as a director in no fewer than five of Qualis’ group of companies. Readers may recall that the Qualis companies were established by EFDC as their ‘development of building projects’ and ‘management consultancy’ companies in 2019.

Local Plan

We await with great anticipation the Planning Inspector’s final decision on the soundness or otherwise of EFDC’s new Local Plan to build 11,400 homes in our district. The final report is expected before the end of April 2022, and TBAG will likely send an update to our supporters announcing the much-anticipated decision. If you do not currently receive our Supporter’s emails but would like to, please go here to register your interest.

Some readers may recall the recent unrest concerning the 300 word summaries that EFDC claimed were requested by the Planning Inspector in response to the Main Modification responses. TBAG was so surprised by this last-minute instruction from the Inspector that a Freedom of Information request was submitted to EFDC asking for sight of the Inspector’s request. After an incorrect response, EFDC finally disclosed that it was in fact they themselves that had decided that the responses to questions, concerning whether or not the respondee considered the plan sound or unsound and what might be changed to make it sound, were to be reduced in size to a mere 300 words. They put this suggestion to the Inspector who subsequently agreed, but this is not the same as declaring at the EFDC Liaison Meeting with local parish and town councils that “This is the inspector’s requirement not ours first of all.” and “The summaries have been requested by the Inspector to limit the amount of information coming in to her.” In the event, the Inspector was given access to all the responses in full via the internet, so for EFDC officers to take time to summarise some responses does seem to have been something of a waste of officer time.

National Planning Policy

TBAG understands that the adoption of effective planning regulations starts at Government level and so we try to keep a keen eye on what is being discussed in the House of Commons, the progress of Bills and so on. This has kept us especially busy at a time when reforms to the Planning system are once again being considered by Government and TBAG always tries to contribute, where appropriate, to relevant issues under consideration by responding to consultations.

One such important issue was the proposed changes to our national planning system, announced in a Government White Paper in August 2020 entitled ‘Planning for the Future’. It included measures to silence the voices of local people when considering what developments would be built locally. TBAG are pleased to report that the Government has dramatically reversed its decision, one could say made a ‘U’ turn, to yet again revise what they consider to be an “outdated” planning system and the proposals have now been scrapped.

To put ‘outdated’ into perspective, a brief history of the nation’s planning regime shows that in 1947 a comprehensive system was adopted which looked carefully at all aspects of planning. However, in March 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) replaced a wide range of these planning policy statements and policy guidance notes which were established and had worked perfectly well since 1947. The new NPPF policies were much diluted, making it easier for developers to obtain permissions, and page upon page of useful planning policies were lost. Historic England commented in 2017, “Many of the issues 1947 solved are now a confused mess like how to deal with strategic housing growth sustainably. Heavily deregulated and underfunded, the notion of public interest planning focused on sustainable development is effectively dead in England.” See the full text here. The NPPF was introduced just 8 years before the White Paper and TBAG hardly think this can constitute ‘outdated’ particularly as parts of the NPPF have already been revised on several occasions.

Crucially, the 2020 White Paper included changes to the standard method for calculating housing need and with this now shelved, it removes the threatened and oft quoted figure of 21,000 homes which would have been imposed on Epping Forest District were the Inspector to find the current draft Local Plan (which proposes an excessive 11,400 homes) unsound. In February 2022, Housing Secretary Michael Gove apparently told backbench Tory MPs that the Government has scrapped plans for a standalone planning bill to deliver many of the planning white paper proposals and will instead “tidy up the planning system” via levelling up legislation. TBAG will continue to watch with keen interest and will respond to the anticipated consultations. Read more on this from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), or the Countryside Charity as they are now known, whose informative article can be found here.

A speech by Gareth Bacon, MP (Conservative) on 26 January seemed to succinctly sum up issues that Theydon Bois residents and EFDC officers continually struggle with in protecting our green belt. His speech was supported by MPs who also had similar problems in Beckenham, Stoke-on-Trent, Epsom and Ewell, Chelmsford, Guildford and Leatherhead, and apparently there are plenty more areas up and down the country similarly suffering as a result of developers ‘gaming’ the system. As our MP was not in the chair when the speech was delivered, TBAG took the initiative to write to her drawing this speech to her attention in this letter.

TBAG is also aware that the Economic Crime Bill for this legislative session has recently been killed off. This was described as a “foolish” decision by Lord Agnew, Conservative, former Minister of State for the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury as he resigned on 31 January 2022. TBAG has to agree. It is success with economic crime that fuels many of the land purchases whose operators then start abusing the planning system. The current Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 applies to overseas entities only.

Failure to take swift action to tighten-up those areas which are wholly in the control of Government, that is, inter alia, Companies House, the Land Registry, the Planning system and economic crimes gives unscrupulous developers the opportunity to hide their identity while exploiting loopholes in the current planning regime. We understand that many developers make significant financial contributions the Government’s party political funds. We await with interest our MP’s reply.

We have not had any news or experience of the new ‘back office system’ that EFDC Planning are allegedly having installed.  We wish them well with it and look forward to it streamlining the planning system for all concerned.

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.