Letter to Editor: Harlow Tories playing politics with Latton Priory
Politics / Tue 24th Jan 2023 am31 08:44am
Sir, Cllr Churchill’s article about Latton Priory and comments made by Harlow Alliance Party in recent weeks, either smack of electioneering or a lack of understanding of a Local Development Plan (LDP).
Developers have had their eye on building thousands of homes just across Harlows border for over a decade.
Cllr Churchill is right in saying that a LDP is a valuable strategic document. They are meant to give residents and developers certainty as to where future development will take place within a District.
Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) began production of its LDP as long ago as 2017. A Planning Inspector was appointed with the task of ensuring that the LDP met all legal requirements.
Residents, businesses and interested parties across the EFDC District were asked if they would like to make comments and those that did were invited by the Planning Inspector to a whole host of Examination Hearings held during the first half of 2019.
The local Conservative Party made no submissions or of course attended any of the Hearings.
The Harlow Alliance Party did both arguing the case that residents in Harlow should have been consulted by EFDC.
The Planning Inspector published her comments about a year later, known as Main Modifications. These were changes and comments that EFDC needed to take account of before the LDP could be finalised.
These comments made no change to the part of the LDP which will see the Green Belt around Harlow being built on.
Further consultation has taken place but the Inspector was not prepared to accept any comments other than those relating to the modifications. The recent comments about made by the local Conservatives and Harlow Council are likely to fall on deaf ears.
Cllr Churchill says that previous meetings have set the stage for when the real applications are presented to the relevant Planning Committees. Well I am afraid to say he is wrong. The decision to build will have already be taken by then.
At best, all that can be objected to are issues covered by planning law, not the principle of building on the Green Belt.
Rather than talking to me, he and his fellow Conservative Councillors should be urging Councillors at EFDC to reject the proposal to build on the Green Belt. HAP has written to all 55 Councillors urging them to do so.
Let me get this straight in my head..The Conservative run Council have said they are against the hggt development ... But they made no submissions nor did they bother to even attend the meetings when they had a chance to make a material difference? How come that the Harlow Council website stated that the the Conservative run Harlow council was against this project. I did think something odd was going on at the time as cllr Mick Hardware was chosen to submit the objection to the hggt/EDC.. As, as we should all know by now that Micky has acted as a paid consultant for hggt as well as being heavily involved with hggt whilst wearing his cllr hat....something smells of fish.. I'm happy to be stand corrected if I'm wrong here...
In response to Neil, at the time that comments were first requested the Conservatives did not control Harlow Council but were voicing concerns. Residents and Councillors met with the developers but this was really like a fox looking after the chickens (Harlow's Green Belt). However they did not voice these concerns when and where it really mattered, that is back in 2018 and 2019 to EFDC and the Planning Inspector. The Conservative Party and Conservative controlled Harlow Council have only much more recently voiced their objections to EFDC and the Planning Inspector but it is 4 years to late to object to the principle of development.
If you build along theses wet lands, and place a 4 lane road across this beautiful river, you will all reap what you sow... you councils never stepped up when it mattered..
Neil, to be clear, the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) is a partnership between the councils involved (Harlow, Epping, East Herts, Hertfordshire and Essex) to jointly facilitate the planning and delivery of the Garden Town. It is not a developer or separate from Harlow Council, it is a partnership. I have been involved in HGGT since 2019, sitting on the board for two years when I was the deputy cabinet member for economic development at Essex County Council, and then from 2021 when I became cabinet member for strategic growth at Harlow Council. HGGT is in my portfolio, as well as planning policy so, of course, I would be the lead councillor on making submissions to consultations. I am not and have never been a “paid consultant for HGGT”.
The only ‘politics’ being played here is by HAP which seems to want to change the facts to fit its own arguments. To set the record straight, Harlow councillors started opposing plans for Sumners West in 2012. Unlike HAP, we understand the planning and development management processes. The key decision was the previous Labour administration reversing the objection to the Epping Local Plan, and in particular the sites south and west of Harlow, in 2016. The Conservatives had wholeheartedly supported that objection, and opposed Labour’s U-turn on it. By his own admission, Nick met Cllr Simon Carter at the Epping Examination in Public in 2019, and I attended three of the sessions related to Latton Priory, which abuts my ward. Harlow residents have always been able to participate in the consultations for both the Epping and East Herts local plans – I recall going to public presentations on both, and a presentation on Latton Priory in LeisureZone in 2019. That said, there is no legal obligation on Epping Forest Council or East Herts to consult across the border. Yes, the Harlow Conservatives and Harlow Council have made representations on the Main Modifications and the Further Main Modifications for the local plan. These relate to various elements which effect Harlow, such as the number of houses, adherence to the Garden Town principles and delivery of the Sustainable Transport Corridors. We also reiterated our opposition to the principle of development. The council has also made representations to the Latton Priory master planning consultation concerning traffic impact mitigations and, again, the Sustainable Transport Corridor to the town centre. But the principle of development has already been examined and determined. The only real prospect of stopping this was the council’s objection, which Labour reversed in 2016. If that had not been reversed, the Epping local plan would have probably failed on the basis of a failure in the duty to cooperate. Unfortunately, it would have meant the Harlow local plan would have similarly failed on the same basis.
Well I am sure most readers are fed up with the comments on this subject but I do feel the need to respond to Michael. Firstly, I met Cllr Carter in Epping on one of the days I attended the Hearing, but Cllr Carter was I believe only in Epping to do his shopping and had forgotten that the hearings were even taking place. Secondly, neither EFDC, HDC or the local Conservative Party made any attempt to advise residents living across the whole of Harlow that they could submit objections to the Planning Inspector. Thirdly, I can find no written submission to the Planning Inspector from the Conservative Party prior to the start of the Examination Hearings. Michael says he attended three of these hearings, I feel sure that he would not have been allowed to voice his Parties objections because of the lack of an earlier submission meant that he was not invited to speak. Fourthly, I would repeat that any submissions made to the Planning Inspector since the Main Modifications were published will only be considered in respect of those Modifications, not about the principle of building on the Green Belt. Finally, Michael states that in respect of Latton Priory the principle of development has already been examined and determined. Well surely not until the EFDC Local Plan is signed off by Conservative Councillors in Epping?