Council thanks community for choices

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We wish to thank all of the 5,255 residents and businesses who presented their views on future housing and development before the close of the Community Choices consultation on Monday 15 October.

Since the start of the consultation on 30 July, councillors and staff have been talking, and listening to the views of, residents and businesses across the district. Planning Portfolio Holder Councillor Richard Bassett concluded his part of the marathon consultation during the last week with public local council meetings in Sheering and Nazeing.

Planning our future - local planCouncillor Bassett said: “I would like to thank everyone who has taken a constructive part in the process. The more information we can gather from local people, the stronger the Local Plan will be and the better able we will be as a community to protect our district from inappropriate development. It’s a long process and there will be several more rounds of consultation before the final Plan can come into force.”

Over the course of the past 11 weeks, the Council has been doing everything in its power to engage with residents and businesses.

Councillor Bassett said: “We are pleased to report that more than three thousand people replied to the consultation. We are now starting to work through those submissions. They have been received in a variety of ways including an online questionnaire, email, exhibitions, petitions and public meetings.”

During the next phase, the Council staff will collate and sift through all the evidence working with District Councillors to produce a first draft of the Local Plan called ‘Preferred Options’. This will contain proposals for policies to meet future population, housing and development growth and it will again go out to public consultation. Many people chose to use handwritten paper forms to make their submissions. Extra time will be factored in for inputting these alongside the online submissions made via the website.

Councillor Bassett said: “This is the next part of the long process to create a formally accepted Local Plan for the District. The final version of the Local Plan has to be approved by the planning inspectorate and it is important that the widest ranges of options are considered during the total process. This ‘Issues and Options’ part of the consultation has gathered evidence that will help us reject unsuitable sites and concentrate on appropriate development opportunities.”

It will take the council many weeks to work through all the evidence submitted during Community Choices but several key themes are already clear.

Councillor Bassett said: “Very few people support the idea of development in the Green Belt. Councillors share that view but recognise that our children will need somewhere to live. We must accept that a small proportion of the Green Belt will be required to provide enough land for the population growth forecasts over the next twenty years.”

He continued: “Most people would prefer to see any new development take place on previously developed or derelict Brownfield sites. The council has worked hard to try to identify such Brownfield opportunities through the ‘Call for Sites’ exercise. However we may not have been able to identify enough of this type of land and we are appealing to anyone who thinks they may know of any Brownfield site, not included in Community Choices, to let the council know.”

Councillor Bassett concluded: “Everyone wants to protect the environment and special character of the district which makes it such a popular area in which to live. Councillors feel strongly that the district needs to be protected as much as possible. Without a Local Plan, developers would only have to satisfy the general guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, which comes into effect in April 2013 and this may not pay regard to local concerns.”

For more information go to Planning our Future or email or call 01992 564517.

Full Council 27 September

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Members of the Epping Forest Youth Council attended the Full Council meeting on 27 September 2012. On the agenda to be  discussed were Council Tax, the Local Plan consultation, annual accounts, the St Johns Road development and North Weald Airfield.

Watch the webcast in full

Chairman’s announcements

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council began his announcements with a special welcome to Glen Chipp. Mr Chipp is due to take up his new duties as Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council on 1 October 2012. North Weald Airfield featured prominently in the Chairman’s report of his activities during September.

The close ties of friendship between the district and the people of Norway was reinforced by a recent visit of Norwegian RAF veterans and serving members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Chairman also formed part of the welcome to serving and veteran members of No 56 Squadron RAF on Battle of Britain Sunday. 56 Squadron served with distinction, flying from North Weald during the Battle of Britain. Battle honours of 56 Squadron are displayed on its old Standard which was dedicated to St Andrew’s Church in North Weald.

Epping Forest District Council lost the Annual Petanque match with Epping Town Council. Councillor Rolfe and Councillor David Stallan represented the District Council. ‘Dubious tactics’ were alleged before congratulations were offered to the Town Council represented by dual-hatted councillors Jon Whitehouse and Will Breare-Hall.

No increase for Council Tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder, briefed councillors on future financial settlements. She left councillors in no doubt of her belief in the desirability of a zero per cent council tax increase next year.

Local Plan consultation

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder updated councillors on Community Choices. 224 formal responses have been received in response to the Local Plan consultation so far. Council staff have been meeting residents. Almost 1,000 people have attended the Community Choices meetings held across the district over the last six weeks or so.

Annual statement of accounts

The annual statement of accounts for 2011/12 was presented by the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, Councillor Antony Watts. Councillor Watts recommended interested councillors watch the webcast of Audit and Governance committee on 24 September where Finance Director Bob Palmer gave a comprehensive presentation.

Councillor Watts drew attention to a number of changes in production of the latest statement including assessments of depreciation on council assets and the pension fund. He also highlighted the major financial commitment of £185 million stemming from changes to the Housing Subsidy system. He concluded by thanking the Auditors and the Council’s own finance officers before recommending the report. Councillor Syd Stavrou responded to Councillor Watts. She assured councillors of the long term benefits to the Council by making a single one-off payment of £185 million instead of on-going annual payments to central government of £11 million.

The Council’s financial position is better than anticipated despite cuts in central government funding. Councillor Stavrou also recommended acceptance of the annual statement of accounts which met with the approval of the Council. 

St John’s Road design and development brief

Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the St John’s Road Design and Development brief to Full Council. Fellow cabinet member and Epping Councillor, Will Breare-Hall welcomed the brief as amended following consultation earlier in the summer. In particular he drew attention to the shift in emphasis from retail to leisure provision in line with the views expressed by local residents.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council looked forward to discussion based on the brief with other landowners. Ward Councillor Tony Church sought reassurance on the issue of a supermarket. Councillor Grigg responded by drawing a distinction between a supermarket which drew wide-spread public opposition and other forms of retail such as a department store which found favour with some local residents. Councillor Janet Whitehouse asserted that she would have preferred a stronger plan and abstained when councillors voted in favour of the adoption of the Brief.

North Weald Airfield

A budget of £150,000 was agreed to enable Epping Forest District Council to commission further work on the future of North Weald Airfield. Referring to recommendations by Ernst and Young, Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg encouraged councillors to approve the two-stage process looking at aviation and non-aviation options.

Proposed Fieldes Lock Power Station

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Land at Ratty’s Lane, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Veolia Environmental Services (UK) is proposing to construct and operate a rail-linked power station at this site and have submitted a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State via the Planning Inspectorate (application reference number EN010046).

It falls within the definition of a “nationally significant infrastructure project” under Section 52(2) of the Planning Act 2008 and therefore will be determined by the Secretary of State, not the local planning authority. The site is within Broxbourne Borough Council but is close to the western boundary of Epping Forest District Council.

Any comments must be made direct to the Planning Inspectorate by no later than 19 October 2012. Please follow the attached links for details of the application, where the information is available to view and how to make comments.

Read a brief summary of the project

View the detailed application documents at the Planning Inspectorate’s website

Comment on the application at the Planning Inspectorate’s website

Read the guidance notes on the responding to the application

Proposed changes to the need for planning permission for home extensions

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The Government announced its intention to allow larger extensions to be built to houses than presently permitted on Thursday 6 September 2012. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government advised that local authorities will be consulted on the proposed changes – but to date the extent of the changes, or the date of their implementation, are not known.

Guidance relating to works which may presently be undertaken without the need to seek express planning permission from the Council can be obtained from the council’s website – view the planning permission guidance notes.

Epping Forest District Council can also determine whether or not planning permission is required for an extension to a dwelling following the submission of an application for a ‘Certificate of Lawful Development’ (the relevant application form can be downloaded here).

For enquiries relating to whether or not planning permission is required, please contact the Duty Planner between the hours of 10.30 am and 1 pm by telephoning 01992 564477, or by sending an email to

Cabinet discuss St John’s Road development

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A meeting of the Cabinet, on Monday 10 September, began with a series of public questions concerning the recently-published draft St John’s Road design and development brief. Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Anne Grigg responded to each in turn including:

  • Retail and leisure use
  • Ownership
  • Access
  • Impact on neighbouring property values
  • Character and environmental impact of options
  • Public feedback on the options in the recent consultation

View questions and the debate

Councillor Grigg reminded Cabinet of the ownership of St John’s Road, in particular Essex County Council which controls the future of the former primary school, library and registry office.

Turning to the substantive report, Councillor Grigg reported the significant public opposition to a large supermarket. She introduced Mr Steve Walker to present the Development and Design Brief prepared by Allies Morrison Urban Practitioners.

Mr Walker noted the relocation of the primary school as a driving factor and took Cabinet through a description of the recent public consultation. 4 options were tabled for public consideration:

  1. Retail led
  2. Leisure led
  3. Retail and leisure
  4. Residential

More than 800 responses were received. Online responses were particularly popular with residents. Improved sport and leisure was by far the most important consideration raised by residents. Protection of existing historic buildings and the character of town were also very important. Also provision for adult education.

Options for a large supermarket drew the most significant opposition. Retail uses could have potential, provided they complement the existing town centre.

The brief leaves open the possibility of leisure and sports provision, potentially in conjunction with redevelopment of the Hemnall Street sports centre site. Further work is being carried out to assess the viability and impact of such a proposal. Mr Walker reminded Cabinet that as the major landowner, Essex County Council is seeking to realise as much money from the sale of its land holdings as possible having provided the new school .

Councillor Will Breare-Hall recognised the value of the consultation and welcomed the inclusion of  sports and leisure in response to public wishes. Councillor Richard Bassett Planning Portfolio Holder wished to know if Essex County Council as the major land owner had acknowledged local feeling.

Responding to Councillor John Philip, Councillor Bassett, noted the links between St John’s Road and the work going on to produce a new Local Plan.

Councillor Anne Grigg summed up by saying that this was an opportunity for Epping. Subject to any further minor changes, the draft St John’s Road Development Brief will be recommended for approval by Full Council on 27 September.

Residents urged to take part in consultation – Local Plan video

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The issues and options consultation phase of the new Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ runs from 30 July to 15 October. Here, Councillor Richard Bassett, the Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder talks about some of the key elements and encourages residents to become involved.


Click ‘Community Choices’ to view all the information and take part in the Local Plan consultation. 


Planning our future – your choices

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your environment, Your home

A prosperous District with jobs and homes for local people. A place where our children can raise their own families and the Green Belt is protected.’ These are the aims as Epping Forest District Council prepares the next phase of consultation with residents on the new Local Plan.

The Local Plan is a framework for development, conservation and investment in the District by individuals, businesses and utilities. It also sets out the policies by which Epping Forest District Council decides planning applications. When the new Plan comes into force in 2014 it will shape the character and development of the District for the next 20 years. The consultation will run from 30 July to 21 September 2012.

Residents have already contributed extensively to the production of the Plan. Backed up with evidence from a wide range of previous research and consultation, the Council will ask fundamental questions. What level of population growth and housing should the District plan for? How should we decide where it should go? What are our employment needs and aspirations? Where should industrial development happen? How do we protect the Green Belt and still provide homes for our children ten or 20 years from now?

The Issues and Options stage of the Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ will set out the facts as far as the Council can predict future trends. The document will be uploaded to the Council website with an invitation to local residents, business people and other stakeholders to say how the needs of our children should be met over the next 20 years.

Local Plan presentation[1]

“Nationally, the population is growing and Epping Forest District is no different,” says Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder. “However, in Epping Forest there are many challenges. Compared to many other places, the net effects of migration in this District are relatively minor. On average only a few hundred extra people move into the District every year. But, the population of Epping Forest is also getting older. We are living longer and in smaller family units. More people are living alone, driving up demand for more homes. As our generation gets older, who will care for us in our old age if lack of housing forces young people to move away?”

Councillor Bassett continued: “These are tough choices. There are around 6,200 households on our housing waiting list. If we want homes for our children, health and social care for our old age, or even the ability to park our cars outside our houses, we have to take a positive approach to the Local Plan.”

‘Community Choices’ draws on residents’ views from the Community Visioning exercise, technical research and information from the ‘Call For Sites’ which invited people to suggest where future growth might take place. It also takes into account data on transport, employment, social and welfare needs. It takes account of services such as water usage, energy supplies, health and leisure. It poses the question of how to accommodate all these needs, yet still protect the Green Belt.

Councillor Bassett said: “That means being realistic. We need to build new homes and everything associated with modern life. Homes need to be the right types in the right places. And we still need to protect the parts of the District we value most. There will have to be compromises. We must aim to protect the beautiful open rural character of the District, conserve our heritage and enhance our towns and villages. We need answers to the problems of traffic congestion, parking and the balance of public and private transport. Infrastructure from water supplies to schools and health services is an essential part of life now and will become even more important in the future. The Local Plan is about striking the right balance.”

Planning Officers are fine-tuning ‘Community Choices’ and the background information now. The consultation will run for eight weeks starting in July. There will be a number of ways to respond, including online where all documents and background documents will be made available. There will be public exhibitions with Planning Officers touring local communities to answer questions and receive feedback.

Councillor Bassett added: “This is a serious business but people should not be unduly alarmed as what we are doing is setting out possible options. Once we receive all of the feedback, we will review the options and consult on these updated options. Every council is going through this process. Looking at different options does not mean every piece of land will be developed or the Green Belt is going to be scrapped. But we cannot stand still. The world moves on and Epping Forest District must move with it. However, with the help of our residents, businesses and other partners, the new Local Plan will leave a legacy to our children and future generations we can be proud of.”


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

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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

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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.