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?
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.