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.