Land at Forest Drive

The development of some two- and three-storey flats and eight houses on land north of Forest Drive was last night confirmed at Plans East by a vote of 8 councillors in favour to 7 against.

This will be the largest single development in the village since Slade End was developed in the early 1980’s and it is destined to become the carbuncle of the village rather than an integrated extension to it. Over intensification of the site and insufficient parking predicts the only integration will be the use of existing streets to park vehicles.

It was openly acknowledged that the scheme was contrary to the Essex Design Guide on Parking Standards which allocates 2 spaces per unit. Instead, the scheme has 2 spaces for each of the 5 link attached houses, 1 one space each for the 3 detached houses and the remaining 18, at least 4 of which are stated to be disabled spaces, are to be shared between the 30 flats.

It is also contrary to several other policies, notably Local Plan Development Management Policy 9, ‘High Quality Design’, which was written to ensure new developments relate positively to their locality, considering building heights and other factors, and integrate well and reflect the existing vernacular so as to blend in with the scene. But no street scene images were ever provided, and this scheme has three-storey flats (plus roofs) at the very edge of settlement on rising ground and adjacent to Green Belt agricultural land. It is a taste of Chelmsford’s design, with its metalled panels, sunken balconies and trendy wood burning stoves with chimneys in 5 of the houses. Oh yes, and that latter point flies in the face of EFDC’s own Climate Emergency declared in 2019 and the subsequent Climate Change Action Plan, June 2023.

But most disappointing to TBAG is the issue of strengthening the northern boundary with the Green Belt. A new bridge is to be ADDED to this boundary for ‘maintenance’ access to the field beyond – who has ever seen a tractor enter this site from Forest Drive? Grass cutters access both fields now across country from the landowner’s farm at Great Gregories. An additional bridge crossing the brook is contrary to Local Plan Site Specific Policy paragraph H.

So why have the controlling Conservative Councillors defied their own adopted policies? Simply for money? Each of the 38 dwellings is worth £10,536 to EFDC, a total of £400,368 just for being built and of course there’s the 38 new sources of Council Tax that will be payable on completion. Housing targets were also an overriding consideration – those over-calculated targets using outdated 2014 government statistics that the council refused to review given a two-year window to do so by Mr Gove in December 2022.

Unfortunately, the officer who wrote the report was not in attendance and the matter was presented by another planning officer. It was also shocking to see that our own District Councillor John Philip (Conservative) was absent from this important meeting, although not entirely surprising when one considers his well-known friendship with the developer for this site, Mark Anderson, with whom he has been friends for “quite a long time”. See here and a further article where such interests were not declared here. Councillor Holly Whitbread, Conservative County Councillor for Theydon Bois, was also missing in action last night. Who are these people working for?

These are the councillors who were responsible for voting this scheme through, despite its clear shortcomings, and don’t forget there will be an election this year:

Councillors For the new development:

I Hadley, Conservative, Moreton & Fyfield

C McCann, Conservative, Lambourne

N Bedford, Conservative, Shelley

R Balcome, Conservative, High Ongar etc.

R Morgan, Conservative, Hastingwood etc.

J McIvor, Conservative, North Weald Bassett

P Keska, Conservative, Chipping Ongar etc.

H Brady, Conservative, Passingford – and if re-elected, shortly to represent Theydon Bois under the new boundaries arrangements.

Councillors Against the new development:

J Whitehouse, Lib. Dem., Epping Hemnall

R Sharif, Lib. Dem. Epping Lindsey etc.

C Amos, Lib. Dem., Theydon Bois

J Whitehouse, Lib. Dem., Epping Hemnall

C McCredie, Independent, Epping Hemnall

B Vaz, Conservative, Chipping Ongar etc.

L Burrows, Conservative, Epping Lindsay/Thornwood

So, we look forward to welcoming the new residents who will not need a lift to access the first and second floor flats, will walk to the centre of the village to use our bus service and tube for their shopping trips, and will cycle to St Margaret’s or Princess Alexandra Hospitals when they have visits to make. What kind of utopia is this we are about to see unfold? And brace yourselves, because having manipulated this council to develop this ex-green-belt field, it’s only a matter of time before the developers – Anderson – will want to get their hands on the next field – via the new bridge of course. TBAG will be fighting a campaign to try and prevent that too.

We were surprised to learn in the run up to this committee meeting just how few village residents were aware of what was going on, from the removal of land from the Green Belt to the proposed scheme, over a period of some 11 years. Please encourage your friends and especially neighbours to sign up for TBAG’s email updates via our website or read our regular article in the Village News to be kept up to date on what’s happening around our village in the Green Belt.