Land assessment presentation

Written on . Posted in Community, Local plan / planning our future, Planning, Residents, Your area, Your community

Published on 30 March 2012

There is enough land identified by consultants employed by Epping Forest District Council theoretically to provide approximately 2,399 new homes in the district without any changes to current planning policy. Any additional new homes are likely to require changes to existing policies, according to the report commissioned by the council, as one part of the Local Plan process.

The draft Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) was presented to town, parish and district councillors on Friday. The report follows the ‘Call for Sites’ survey which identified a broad range of suggestions for development sites by residents and developers. A final version of the report will be available around the end of April.

In parallel, district council staff are working on an assessment of housing need in the district, as part of the development of new planning policy. Only when the assessed level of housing need has been established will councillors know how big any gap between current building capacity and future need might be.

If the need for more housing, employment and infrastructure proves greater than current capacity, councillors have the option to review current policies. In particular they could:

  • Look at whether green spaces within towns and villages might be developed; and/or
  • Review Green Belt boundaries to allow some extra development; and/or
  • Look at the existing land use designations (industrial or commercial uses, for example) to determine whether these should be changed to permit residential or other types of development.

A spokesperson for Epping Forest District Council said: “It is too soon to say how many homes we will need but there is a strong chance it will be more than the capacity already identified, particularly five or ten years from now. The consultants emphasised that the draft SLAA does not allocate land for development or that the Council would support development of any or all of the identified areas. The SLAA simply gives us an idea of the potential land capacity.”

The spokesperson continued: “Sustainable development means more than just housing. People moving into new homes would need jobs, schools, places to shop and recreation, as well as roads and other basic infrastructure such as water, gas and electricity supplies, all of which would need to be accommodated locally.”

Slides of the presentation to councillors are available to view here (Please note that maps in the pdf document are indicative only as they are in draft form):

Epping Forest SLAA (pdf 431 KB) Epping Forest SLAA
Residents and local business people will have plenty of opportunity to comment and influence the debate. Three further rounds of public consultation are planned. The first ‘Issues and Options’ round will look at the planning issues facing the district in more detail and the various options for dealing with them. The second round of consultation will involve publication of the public response to the ‘Issues and Options’, along with the Council’s proposed way forward. The third round will focus on the Council’s preferred options before they go before a Government Inspector at the Examination in Public.

The spokesperson added: “All councils are doing this. It is part of the process to create a Local Plan that reflects the latest central government guidance and to ensure that the needs of the district are properly represented. We will continue to update residents as it progresses.”

For further information, contact the Forward Planning team at or phone 01992 564517.


Straw Bale Houses in Millfield

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Four innovative ‘Straw Bale’ houses will be built at Millfield, High Ongar, following a recent planning decision by Epping Forest District Council. This will be the first development of Straw Bale housing to be built in Britain by a housing association.

Two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom houses are being developed by Hastoe Housing Association in partnership with Epping Forest District Council, on former Council-owned land. The land was transferred to Hastoe at a discounted price, and the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is contributing a grant of £92,000 towards the building costs. The properties are being developed by DCH, a local contractor based in Coggeshall (details to be added) and work will start within the next couple of weeks. The four houses will be completed in March 2013 and will be let at affordable rents to families on the Council’s Housing Register.

There are a number of benefits of using straw bales to build the houses.  In particular, whilst the costs of construction are similar to the costs of conventional construction, houses constructed of straw bales need almost no conventional heating due to their exceptionally high insulating properties. The tenants will benefit from fuel costs around 85% cheaper than the average costs for heating similar homes of traditional construction.

Structural parts of the houses, such as the walls, will be built using timber frames, in-filled with the straw bales. The walls will be covered externally, with a lime render. The character of straw bales houses will suit the rural location of the site at Millfield, overlooking farmers’ fields. With clay tile roofs the houses will incorporate as many natural materials as possible and will have a slightly rustic quality, although overall they will have the appearance of conventional homes. The timber porches will be roofed with sedum plants.

Since the straw absorbs carbon dioxide as it is growing, it is widely accepted that buildings of this type of construction have a low, zero or even negative carbon footprint. When complete, the high level of energy efficiency will reduce CO2 emissions by around 60%, compared to conventionally-built homes.

The straw bales used for construction are a sustainable by-product of farming, and every effort will be made to source the bales locally. Tests on other straw bale structures by the University of Bath have established that they are strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds up to 120mph – enough to defy the huff and puff of any big bad wolf!  They also have a fire rating at least double that required by Building Regulations.

“We are very pleased that the first straw bale houses in the country built by a housing association will be in the Epping Forest District, and that the Council has played such an important part in the success of the project so far” says Council Spokesman. “The reduced fuel costs will be an enormous help for families on low incomes, and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of such an eco-friendly scheme“.

Hastoe’s Chief Executive, Sue Chalkley, says: “We look forward to starting work on these straw bales homes as this is an exemplar project. Hastoe is committed to providing affordable housing in rural areas for the benefit of local people. Sustainability is a key part of our approach and this is mirrored by Epping Forest District Council’s drive for highly energy efficient homes. We have been through an extensive design and Hastoe Logoplanning process to ensure that the new homes will be a real benefit to the community.”

Langston Road retail park plans approved

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Commercial properties, Community, Local business, Loughton, Planning, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your environment

Proposals for a multi-million pound fashion-led retail park in Loughton have taken a significant step forward.
Councillors have approved an outline planning application for a retail park at Langston Road in Loughton. The application came before councillors at a special meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s District Development Control Committee on Monday 27 February 2012. As a departure from the Council’s Local Plan, the decision to approve the application must be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit.

The proposal for the 16,000 square metre retail park submitted by Polofind, proposed the redevelopment of its own land and an adjacent depot belonging to Epping Forest District Council. The application included proposals for extensive alterations to cater for future traffic growth through Chigwell Lane and Rectory Lane, including the junction of Langston Road.

Attached to the report for members were proposals for extensive Section 106 conditions. Central to the conditions should be that any retail park should not adversely affect The Broadway shopping centre. In addition to the highway improvements for cars, other Section 106 requirements included improvements for pedestrians and street lighting. Limitations on the types of retail to protect The Broadway include restrictions on food retail and the exclusion of a pharmacy and post office counter. Compensatory tree planting would balance the loss of three mature trees to be removed as part of the highway works.

Retail employment for up to 200 people would follow construction. 

The case for the development was put by Polofind following objections voiced by Loughton Town Council and a local resident. Councillors debated the scheme in depth, seeking clarification on issues including on-site parking for customers and staff as well as the impact on the Oakwood Hill side of Chigwell Lane. Councillors challenged issues around pedestrian and public transport access, seeking better access for shoppers by bus.

A sum of £40,000 would be supplied by the developers towards the cost of the forthcoming Debden Parking Review.

After more than two and half hours of debate, the committee voted by eleven to three in favour of the application.
View details of the Langston Road retail park planning application EPF/2580/10.


Extraordinary District Development Control Meeting

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Community, Democracy, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Meetings, Out and about, Planning, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Extraordinary District Development Control Meeting – Council Depot site and Adjacent Land off Langston Road.

The Chairman of the District Development Control Committee has agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting of that Committee on Monday 27 February 2012 at 7.30pm.

The meeting will be held in the Council Chamber at the Civic Offices in Epping. It has been convened to consider Planning Application EPF/2580/10 – Council Depot site and Adjacent Land off Langston Road, Loughton IG10 3UE – Outline application for the redevelopment of site for 16.435 square metres (GIA) of predominately A1 retail floor space, (including up to 1000 square metres (GIA) of A3 Floorspace), landscaping, car parking, ground remodelling works, retaining wall structures and two accesses off Langston Road.

The Chairman has permitted variation in the normal arrangements for speakers given the importance of the site. He will allow the applicant a slightly longer time at the end of the meeting to address any issues. Anyone wishing to speak should contact Democratic Services no later than 4.00pm on the day before the meeting.

Members will also make a site visit prior to the meeting taking place.

The meeting will be webcast and so anyone interested in this application can watch it from the comfort of their own home if they do not wish to come to the Civic Offices.

District Development Control webcast

Letter to the editor – planning

Written on . Posted in Community, Planning, Residents, Your area, Your community

Published on 27 January 2012

The Editor
Epping Forest Guardian
8 Simon Campion Court

Dear Sir

In response to your comment ‘Planning notices must be clearer’ I thought it might help your readers if the process is explained a little more clearly.

Anyone who submits a planning application has to provide a description of it. Some people write it themselves. Others employ an agent to do it for them. Unless we think the description is misleading, we prefer not to change the words of the applicant. We always write to the nearest neighbours to say a planning application has been submitted. Where applicable we have notices displayed at the relevant address. We would like neighbours to talk to each other when they are thinking of submitting a planning application as this can often avoid difficulties later. This is not a planning requirement but hopefully something most neighbours do.

We publish every planning application on the Council website. In more and more cases we also supply site history from previous applications. We send a weekly list of new planning applications to all our local newspapers and each Town and Parish Council. Our local councils all have access to the plans in their areas. Major planning applications also appear in the public notices section of the Guardian.

It is true we use some formal language. Planning applications are covered by English law and there is no way around quoting the Town and Country Planning Act. Adverts, notices and letters are there to draw attention to the application. However the details of any application can be viewed online or by visiting the Council offices.

Having done all these things, it might be possible that the first thing someone living near an application site might know is from reading the newspaper or talking to a reporter. Isn’t that one of the reasons newspapers are so important and why we spend so many thousands of pounds each year advertising planning applications within them?

The biggest planning applications are advertised and consulted upon much more widely, often with public meetings, exhibitions, printed materials and websites. Developers who ‘revel in obscure language’ as you suggest will no doubt continue to be held up to scrutiny and account by the Epping Forest Guardian and our other local newspapers.

Councillor John Philip
Planning and Technology Portfolio Holder
Epping Forest District Council



Council consults on way to assess housing land

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Democracy, Housing, Planning, Your council, Your home

pping Forest District Council is consulting on how to assess land for potential future housing (the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)) as part of the new Local Plan.

Portfolio holder for planning and technology councillor John Philip said: “Epping Forest District Council strives to strike the right balance between the need for more housing and development on one hand and protection of our existing heritage and environment on the other. The Local Plan was adopted in 1998 and last revised in 2006. A new Local Plan will be essential to continue to defend the district against unsuitable planning applications and encourage such applications that are what we would want for our local community.”

The new plan will cover the period up until 2031. Council Planners need to identify where to put homes and employment in the future, as well as how best to protect our Green Belt, heritage and natural resources. The Plan needs to be evidence-based and consistent with national policies. The evidence is being gathered now.

Once the council has sufficient evidence, all the issues and options can be set out. Input from community groups and the public on proposed ways forward will then be sought.

Councillor Philip said: “I would stress that the SHLAA does not allocate sites, it merely reviews them.”

The methodology proposed follows Government guidance. It aims to establish the way in which the council will assess every site in the district which may be suitable for more than six homes. The review information is then used to inform the allocation process at a later date.

Epping Forest District Council will be consulting residents throughout the plan process to ensure the views of the community are fully considered.

Councillor Philip concluded: “If you wish to review and comment on the SHLAA methodology, please visit the Forward Planning section of our website at between 10 October and 18 November 2011

What local people told us

Written on . Posted in Business, Consultation, Local plan / planning our future, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

We asked local people to explain what they thought was important in the district, and what the priorities should be for the future of the area, i.e. their Community Vision. The key results are to be included as part of the evidence base in the forthcoming preparation of the Core Planning Strategy.

The priorities for the District over the next 20 years are:

  • To protect and enhance green spaces whilst encouraging the growth of local jobs and business.
  • The most important planning issues facing local areas are:
  • Better protection for green spaces, reducing traffic congestion and providing more local job opportunities.

The favoured approaches to the location of new houses and jobs are:

To locate growth close to public transport links and around/within existing towns whilst considering a combination of options throughout the District where appropriate.

Question 1 – What do you think the priorities are for the District over the next 20 years?

The most popular option was ‘Protecting and enhancing green spaces’ which almost a third of respondents chose, followed closely by ‘Encouraging the growth of local jobs and businesses’. ’Providing facilities for the community’ was the third most popular option.

‘Providing housing to meet local need’, and ‘Reducing the impacts of climate change’, were seen as less important by people who responded to the consultation. A small proportion of people wrote their own individual option under the ‘Other’ choice.

Protect and enhance green spaces 32.4%, Encouraging local jobs and businesses 25.4%, Community facilities 17.2%, Local housing 11%, Climate change 10.3%, Other 3.7%.

Question 2 – What planning issues do you think most need to be addressed in your local area?

Opinion was split on this question. Again the most popular option was ‘Better protection for green spaces’. Of the other options available, ‘Reduced traffic congestion’, ‘More local job opportunities’, ‘Right balance of shops and restaurants’, and ‘Improved community facilities’ were preferred.

The options for ‘Better access to public transport’, ‘More affordable housing’ and ‘Provision of a greater variety of housing types’ were chosen less frequently in the response. A small proportion of people gave their own individual suggestions of planning issues which needed to be addressed, under the ‘Other’ choice.


Protect green spaces 20.6%, Reduce congestion 13.9%, Local job opportunities 13.2%, Balance of shops and restaurants 12.3%, Community facilities 11.7%, Public transport 10.6%, Affordable housing 6.9%, Housing variety 6.7%, Other 4.1%.

Question 3 – Where do you think new houses and jobs should be located?

We asked local people where they thought new housing and jobs should go in the district. The most popular options were ‘Close to public transport links’ and ‘Around or within existing towns’. Slightly less popular choices were ‘A combination of all the options spread throughout the district’, ‘Near the edge of Harlow’, and ‘Close to the motorway network’.

The remaining three options were unpopular. A small proportion of people wrote their own individual option under the ‘Other’ choice.

Close to public transport links 23.6%, Around or within existing towns 21.1%, Combination of all the options across district 14.8%, Near the edge of Harlow 12.9%, Near motorway 9.4%, Spread throughout existing rural settlements 6.8%, Concentrated in one existing settlement 4.6%, Other 4.4%, New settlements in the countryside 2.4%

If you would like to find out more detail about what local people told us:

Planning permission for front gardens

Written on . Posted in Planning, Residents, Your home

Epping Forest District Council is reminding residents that should they wish to hard-surface their front garden, planning permission may be required.

DrivewayThe removal of front gardens and their replacement with flat, hard surfaces increases water run-off when it rains. This water flows onto neighbouring land, particularly onto roads and then goes into a drain system not designed to cope with extra water and so flooding is made worse. These hard surfaces also soak up heat during the day and then release it into the environment at night. This contributes to the overall warming of the environment which is thought to be at least partly responsible for the increase in cloud cover in the UK and potential for heavy storms.

In addition, paving over of front gardens impacts on wildlife and biodiversity. Insects and other small organisms lose their environment so there is less food for mammals and birds. Spillages of petrol, diesel and other contaminants go straight into the drains and end up poisoning streams and rivers.

Planning permission

Planning permission is needed for laying traditional, impermeable driveways (such as concrete) greater than five square metres in area that does not provide for the water to run to a permeable area within your property. Scaled drawings and fee (currently £150) must be submitted to the Council. If acceptable, you must await the grant of planning permission decision notice before starting work, otherwise the Council might prosecute should planning permission be retrospectively refused. This can take up to eight weeks and unless there is adequate provision to allow for drainage, planning permission is likely to be refused.

In most cases, you will not need planning permission if you use permeable (or porous) surfacing, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border within your property to drain naturally.

Guidance on the permeable surfacing of front gardens (pdf 710 KB)

Dropped kerbs

You will require planning permission should you wish to create a new, or extend the width of an existing, dropped kerb to your property if the driveway will go onto a classified road (‘A’ and ‘B’ roads, main routes and often country lanes). Essex County Council must separately agree to the crossing, even if you do not need planning permission.

Planning Reception Hours Changing

Written on . Posted in Conservation and listed buildings, Planning, Residents, Your council

From 1 May 2011 Epping Forest District Council’s Planning and Economic Development reception will be changing its hours. The new hours will be 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Services that may be affected include:

  • Planning and Building Control
  • Licensing (including Taxi Licences)
  • Environment and Street Scene
  • Land Charges

Contact via telephone on 01992 564000 between 9am and 5pm and 24 hour access for Planning and Building Control Information via this website will remain unchanged.

North Weald Airfield – Cabinet Committee

Written on . Posted in Business, North Weald Airfield, Our attractions, Planning, Your environment

There could be `considerable` commercial interest if Epping Forest District Council opted to develop aviation opportunities at North Weald Airfield. Councillors are recommending further investigation of options for `active` aviation growth at the Airfield to the next Cabinet meeting on 18 April. Full public consultation would precede any final decision.

The former Battle of Britain Airfield currently handles around 20,000 aircraft movements each year. Under new proposals that could increase by 18,000 extra movements a year.

Leader Di Collins and Deputy Leader Chris Whitbread would like a full consultation and engagement with local residents and tenants of the airfield

An executive summary of a report on potential aviation expansion at North Weald Airfield can be read here (pdf 262KB). The report outlines various options from doing little or nothing, through `organic growth` to `active development`, significantly developing aviation with a commercial partner.

Aviation development consultant Nick Kaberry presented the Halcrow report to members of the council`s North Weald Airfield Cabinet Committee at the Civic Offices in Epping on Tuesday (22 March).

Aviation operations at North Weald currently run at a loss to the council. This is offset by income from other airfield activities allowing the council to break even but the council wants aviation to pay for itself.

Losses will continue if the council does nothing. According to the Halcrow report, organic growth could reduce the losses but not eliminate them. Active growth is the only way to stop losses and generate a profit if the council wants flying to continue.

Active development would focus on business users including small executive jet and turboprop aircraft. Business passenger services can only operate from airfields licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Minimum investment for active development would include bringing 1,400m of the runway up to a CAA licensable standard. Runway and taxi pavements would need strengthening. Lighting and instrument approach capability would be necessary for take off and landing in poor weather. Combined with other improvements, the council would face substantial capital investment. This might be achieved directly or in partnership with a fixed based operating company.

Councillors want any future development proposals to go ahead only after full consultation and engagement with local residents and tenants of the airfield. Councillor Di Collins said: It is still early days. This is one option. There may be others. Residents over many years have made it clear that they want North Weald to remain an operational airfield. The airfield is steeped in heritage and history, and should make a valuable contribution to the local economy and employment.

“For that to continue we need to consolidate the airfield’s long term future with a business plan and strategy that stops the losses and turns airfield into a financial as well as a social and community asset.

“We are custodians of North Weald. We must be sensitive to the requirements of local people and ensure the airfield continues to support the community for future generations.