On the border: Epping Forest’s 12,000-home local plan blueprint approved 

News / Tue 7th Mar 2023 at 02:46pm

A PLANNING blueprint detailing where approximately 12,000 homes should be built over the next decade in an Essex district has been approved by the local council.

Epping Forest District Council voted to adopt its local plan last night (March 6), which sets out how it will achieve growth until 2033.

The plan, which has allocated land across the district for some 12,199 houses according to a report, was found legally sound by the planning inspectorate last month, subject to a number of modifications.

In addition to the homes, the plan also contains policies for infrastructure, including a new multi storey car park and leisure centre in Epping, as well as the potential relocation of Princess Alexandra Hospital to the east of Harlow garden community.

Additionally, it includes an air pollution mitigation strategy to offset the impact of development. According to the report, this could involve a “clean air zone” in the Epping Forest special area of conservation, if future monitoring demonstrates this is required.

Place portfolio holder and deputy council leader Nigel Beford (Con, Shelley) said at the meeting: “The new plan provides certainty for our communities as to what development will happen and where and makes clear to developers the high standards we expect from development within the district.”

Just under 590 Hectares of land is set to be removed from the local green belt to accommodate for development, the equivalent of 1.86 per cent of the district’s total.

Of this, 400 Ha will be for garden communities and 130Ha will be for the the North Weald Bassett, South of Epping and Waltham Abbey North masterplan areas, some of the plan’s flagship developments.

The removal of green belt was criticised by some opposition councillors at the meeting.

Councillor Chris Pond (Loughton Residents Association, Loughton Broadway) said: “I do find the conversion of the burgage plots of the medieval market town into dense agglomeration of small flats objectionable. The conversion of a lot of green belt that will remain concrete forevermore.”

Councillor Stephen Murray (Ind, Loughton Roding) said this was one of the most important votes in the last 40 years. However, he claimed the balance in the plan is too great towards development and there is not enough concern or protection for the environment.

He said: “I just think the impact on existing communities is unacceptable. It will change the character of the Epping Forest district forever.”

Local plans are a series of policies which guide future decisions on development and growth, and councils are legally required to set them. They can be used to defend against speculative developments, where property developers count on exploiting weak planning defences to pass their proposals.

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