The Local Plan, a set of policies to manage development within Epping Forest District up to 2033, has been submitted for approval to the Planning Inspectorate by Epping Forest District Council. The news was announced by Planning Portfolio Holder John Philip at the meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday 25 September 2019.
Submission followed the end of a legal challenge by property developer CK Properties (Theydon Bois) Ltd after its application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused. CK Properties had already lost its case following a High Court hearing.
Although the Council was successful on all four grounds in the judgment given by Mr Justice Supperstone on 29 June 2018, an injunction continued to prevent the Council from submitting the Local Plan to the Secretary of State for examination until the conclusion of the legal proceedings – this included the subsequent applications for leave to appeal made by the claimants.
11,400 homes by 2033
Councillor John Philip reminded fellow councillors of the key aims of the Plan which includes the delivery of 11,400 new homes over the plan period up to 2033. He congratulated the Council’s planning policy officers.
Councillor Philip said: “I am sorry for the uncertainty this unnecessary delay brought by a property developer has caused to our residents. From the very outset, this Council followed the best legal and technical advice. We were always completely confident of our case. Our approach was vindicated on all grounds at the High Court and again by the Court of Appeal last week.
“Now, at last, we can let the Planning Inspectorate do its job. The Plan will be properly scrutinised in the right forum of an independent examination, where the Planning Inspector will listen to all opinions and come to a proper objective assessment. The District can move forward with a Plan that acknowledges the need for change and growth while protecting the most precious things we love about our district and makes it the place in which we wish to live.”
Councillor Philip expects modifications to the Plan following its Independent Examination. He said: “The Local Plan is without doubt the most complex project we have ever undertaken. Even with the years of care, consultation and diligent hard work put in by so many people including councillors, staff and residents, there are likely to be small amendments required following examination to take account of changing circumstances.
“I will keep an open mind and I urge fellow councillors and residents to do likewise. We can all welcome that process and look forward to engaging with the inspectorate in the most positive and constructive way. We have taken a major step forward and it is long overdue but the end is now in sight and I look forward to it with relish.”
Planning applications for development are considered within the context of policies and regulations. Overall, councillors must have due regard to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which has a presumption in favour of granting planning applications unless there is good reason to do otherwise.
Councils can supplement this national guidance with a set of local policies tailored to the unique local circumstances of each town, district and borough. These policies are enshrined within a Local Plan.
The production of Local Plans must take account of national as well as local priorities for such things as the provision of new housing, employment, health care and leisure for a growing and changing population. Local Plans must show how infrastructure including roads, public transport and utilities including gas, water and electricity are to be provided.
Before a Local Plan can be adopted and used as a basis for making decisions on planning applications, it must be scrutinised and approved by an independently appointed planning inspector working on behalf of the Government. The Inspector will be looking to ensure the Plan is legally sound and meets all the requirements for national and local policies in a fair and consistent way.
This process is conducted in a transparent manner through Independent Examination. The Planning Inspector will scrutinise all the policies and supporting documents before hearing submissions and taking further evidence from interested people.
Inspectors rarely approve a Local Plan without any modifications. This is usually achieved in consultation with the authority to produce a final version for adoption by the Council.
Once adopted, the Local Plan becomes one of the most important means by which councillors can regulate and ensure appropriate development.
The Planning Inspectorate will schedule the Independent Examination of Epping Forest District Council’s Plan among ongoing examinations of other councils’ local plans. Once submitted, councils may have to wait several months before an examination takes place.
More information can be found at http://www.efdclocalplan.org/