Development of North Weald on the scale proposed in the East of England Plan is not only excessive but could also undermine the regeneration of Harlow according to Epping Forest District Council. Councillors met at the Civic Offices in Epping on Tuesday (8 March) and Thursday (10 March) to agree their response to the East of England Plan consultation.
If the Government goes ahead with proposals to develop North Weald Airfield and surrounding land at the same time as developments in Harlow, Councillors believe the effect would be for people and businesses to gravitate towards North Weald. Harlow would struggle to attract the same people and businesses the Government believes the town needs for effective regeneration.
Councillor Robert Glozier, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder said that undermining the regeneration of Harlow was one of many reasons why the number of new houses and businesses proposed for North Weald and other parts of the district should be reduced.
He said: Aside from the potential damage to Harlow, development at North Weald and to the South West of Harlow does not look sustainable. The impact on the environment from so much development in the Green Belt would be immense. There are fundamental issues ranging from basic health, welfare and education service provision through to concerns about the supply of water. Even if promises of huge investment in infrastructure such as public transport and roads can be afforded, many other questions remain unanswered.
Councillor Glozier continued: There is an enormous amount of concern among local people. They range from those who believe the great historic significance of the Airfield should prevent development to those who fear the scale of development overall would destroy the fundamentally rural character of our local environment.
Councillors voted to tell the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and the Office of John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister that the overall proposals of 11,000 extra households plus employment developments were too much for Epping Forest district. They specifically rejected the proposal for 6,000 houses at North Weald and 2,700 to the South West of Harlow. District Councillors also believe that whatever the final number of houses allocated to the district, planning control should be retained by the Council and not transferred to a non-elected organisation such as an Urban Development Corporation.
Councillor Glozier said: We are not saying no to any development in the district. By our own assessment we know we need to find capacity for something like 3,000 new houses over the next 16 or so years. We are particularly concerned about the cost of housing and the need to provide affordable homes for young families and key workers such as nurses and teachers. We want to provide homes for these people.
He concluded: We are saying to the Government that we believe their assumptions about the needs and capacity of our district are wrong. They need to stop and rethink their whole strategy.
Residents demonstrated their opposition to the East of England Plan before listening to the debate in the Council meeting. Epping Forest District Council`s objections to the Plan were sent to the Regional Assembly before the deadline for submission of comments on 16 March.
The next main stage in the process will be an Examination in Public (EiP) starting on 13 September. A Panel of Inspectors will identify topics for consideration and may call local people and organisations to give evidence. The Government will expect to receive the recommendations of the Panel in early 2006.