The Government has unveiled proposals for more housing in Epping Forest District. The District has been set a target of 3,500 new homes to be built during the period 2001 to 2021. The new housing will include homes already built since 2001. Planning permission already exists for a large proportion of the remaining balance.
Harlow is also to be enlarged with additional development identified in Green Belt areas to the south, east and west of the town according to the East of England Plan published by the Government on 12 May 2008. Overall, Harlow will grow by a minimum of 16,000 new homes with at least 10,000 earmarked for the Harlow North site, currently within the boundaries of East Hertfordshire.
The Plan excludes development at North Weald. Expansion of Harlow to the south, east and west into Epping Forest District will be governed to some extent by the natural geography of the area, retaining new development within the `bowl` of Harlow to the south and west while the M11 will present a boundary to eastward expansion.
Confirmation of the headline figures for development within Epping Forest District will protect large amounts of Metropolitan Green Belt, threatened in earlier drafts of the East of England Plan by proposals to build more than 18,000 new homes within the District. However, the Plan recognises the expansion of Harlow will still mean a review of Green Belt boundaries although on a smaller scale.
We are committed to the defence of the Green Belt but there is no doubt the Government Plan will force us to make some compromises. Hopefully most of the new development allocated to Epping Forest District will be accommodated on Brown Field sites but the expansion of Harlow will undoubtedly have an impact. The best we can do is work with the Government and our partners to keep Green Belt intrusion to the minimum, said Councillor Mrs Diana Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council. While welcoming confirmation of the lower levels of development within the District, Planning Officers from Epping Forest District Council are still sounding notes of caution about the level of support for new and upgraded infrastructure to service the increased population.
Councillor Mrs Diana Collins said: We are going through the Plan very carefully. We fought a very hard fight to protect our Green Belt and to a large extent we have succeeded, especially at North Weald. Our Planning Officers are looking at the detail at the moment. The biggest concern that seems to be emerging is the continued lack of detail about infrastructure, basic services such as roads, transport, health, education and employment as well as the most fundamental requirements such as water, sewerage, gas and electricity provision. We are still in the dark about the potential Harlow by-pass although with the focus for future development to the north of the town, a new northern link from the A414 to the M11 looks the most likely option.
Councillor Mrs Collins went on to say: There is also a requirement for 56,000 new jobs to be created across a broad area including Epping Forest District, Harlow, Brentwood, Maldon, Braintree, Chelmsford and Uttlesford where Stansted Airport is located. Again at this stage we have very little detail.
The Government has set a target date of 2021 for completion of development. The Plan makes clear the Government`s expectations that Epping Forest District Council will continue to work in partnership with Harlow DC, East Herts DC, Essex and Hertfordshire County Councils and Harlow Renaissance as the `delivery vehicle ` for the new developments.
Councillor Mrs Collins concluded: We have already had extensive consultation with our neighbours. It is vitally important that we continue to work together and ensure the final outcome of the Plan is as sympathetic and sustainable for the District as possible.