Agenda item

Epping Forest District Local Plan - Progress

(Epping Forest District Council) To verbally report to the Committee on the current position of the new Local Plan for the Epping Forest District.


The Service Director (Planning Services), N Richardson, reported that the Council restructure of senior management had officially started today and he was now responsible for the Local Plan (LP). A Judicial Review of the LP had prevented its submission to the Inspector. The claimant’s case had been dismissed but the developer had taken the case to the Court of Appeal, but the summer recess had caused a further delay. The injunction had remained in place preventing the Council from formally submitting the LP, which was very frustrating. In the meantime a second version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) had been published and in order for the Council to be assessed against the original version, the Government now required LPs to be submitted by 24 January 2019. If the Council missed this deadline, the Government could then impose a housing target in which the numbers could go up. This would therefore involve the Council in a lot more work.


The policies in the LP submission version were a material consideration in determining all planning applications now and an advice notice had been given to the planning officers. Officers now referred to both the current Adopted LP and the submission version of the LP in their reports. It upheld the presumption to protect green belt land (GBL) and further guidance on GBL was given in the NPPF version 2 and there were lots of issues around housing regarding the definition of housing numbers.


A Quality Review Panel (QRP) had been set up in April 2018, and a panel of experts appointed, which was new for this Council. This meant that for large scale sites the Council had an elite team of experts to critically start assessing large applications. As a result of advice from the QRP the developers of Gilston and Harlow Garden Town and some Council sites, such as Dowding Way, Waltham Abbey, had made amendments to their applications. It was the developers that paid for the critical assessments / services of the QRP. When an application came before a committee, any remarks made by the QRP would be included in the case officer’s report. Planning Services would also become involved in Development Management Forums to engage the developer and the public in early discussions on potential proposals, not to endorse but more to facilitate these discussions. The Service Director (Planning Services) had attended a forum on land at Dowding Way, Waltham Abbey and one last week, the ‘Quinn’ development in North Weald, which was very well attended.


On the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the Council would have to produce a mitigation strategy in partnership with Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest. This was to do with the recreational use of the Forest by visitors and air quality. The Council had joined with neighbouring authorities and established that, within 3.2 kilometres of the boundary of the SAC, developers would have to pay a contribution towards making improvements to the Forest and, on a District-wide level, to air quality. Therefore at the moment there was a freeze on planning permission until the impact on the Forest could be defined. This only affected new buildings not extensions onto existing houses, and the developer would have to pay this on the granted application. At the moment the Council was liaising with the Conservators of Epping Forest on which projects they had identified would require a payment to be made. Therefore, on all planning applications for each additional house built, developers would have a legal, Section 106 agreement, and a certain amount from this would be paid to the Council to pass onto the Conservators of Epping Forest. Air quality work was still ongoing. Finally the LP team were busy with the master planning areas in the LP.


A members question and answer session followed.


Councillor K Carter asked even if the LP was submitted in time, what would happen if it was rejected, would the Council still be allocated more housing numbers? The Service Director (Planning Services) replied that as long as the LP was submitted on time that was the Council’s requirement, and there would be no higher level imposed.


Councillor K Carter asked about air quality and what would happen if the incinerator got the go ahead, which would be on the borderline but close to Nazeing and Roydon although in Hertfordshire County Council’s area? What would the Council do about air quality from this facility? The Service Director (Planning Services) said that he thought it would concern air quality in our District not a neighbouring authority’s area. The air quality issue here was to do with the Epping Forest SAC. He would have to find out and get back to the councillor after the meeting. The Chairman said that there could be air quality issues from this incinerator proposal but that this would be for Hertfordshire County Council to assess.


Clerk E Walsh asked if there had been any movement on the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) that had been discussed over the last few years. The Service Director (Planning Services) replied that there was more work to be done on this because the Council could not have a CIL until it had an adopted LP.


Councillor T Blanks asked if a quality review of the ‘Quinn’ development would be conducted by the Council and if the views of the North Weald parishes would be made know to the QRP? The Service Director (Planning Services) confirmed that the QRP would be looking at this development in North Weald with a forum organised towards the end of the month. The minutes of the meeting would be made known to the Panel.


Councillor S Jackman continued that this meeting was very useful and she supported quality in design but were these quality forums open to the public and if not, how would parish councils know what had been discussed? The Service Director (Planning Services) replied that the QRP forums were not public meetings but that their findings would be part of an officer’s report and appended to the report at that time. He remarked that so far the experts had been fairly critical of the schemes put before them and he wasn’t sure if the minutes of those meetings would be publically viewable, but he would try and find out.


Councillor S Billingham asked how the SAC would be measured because in Nazeing recently for two large developments, one was assessed to be outside the SAC and one assessed as inside, but the one that was assessed outside was actually closer to the SAC? It this situation arose again, could Nazeing Parish Council bring this to his attention? The Service Director (Planning Services) said that initially the SAC zone was for 6.4 kilometres but now it was 3.2 kilometres. If that was the case then he did not understand how it had happened, but the clerk could let Planning know before an agenda was published. There was quite a detailed map of the SAC for both the north and the south planning teams. The Chairman asked if this map showing the SAC could be circulated to members after the meeting, to which the Service Director (Planning Services) would try to provide.


Councillor S Billingham referred to the public consultations held in North Weald and if there would be a limit on the size of a development for a public consultation to be convened? A large development in Nazeing, although not the size of the one in North Weald, would have a massive impact on a smaller village. The Service Director (Planning Services) replied that he thought only schemes of 50 plus houses or 4,000 square metres of commercial floor space would go to the QRP Panels, but understood that in some small village settlements, a development of 30 plus houses would have a significant impact. Each case would have to be assessed and the QRPs would be involved and consultations public consultations arranged.


Councillor S Billingham continued that in Nazeing there had been three separate applications, which had totalled around 90 together but were all under 50 houses. The Service Director (Planning Services) replied that unfortunately the applications for these schemes were dealt with separately when they were submitted.


Councillor D Wixley asked if Planning was advising applicants on the reduction of the SAC zone to 3.2 kilometres on applications that had gone to committee when the SAC zone was for 6.4 kilometres, and that the contribution would not now need to be made? The Service Director (Planning Services) replied, yes, this would need to be reviewed for those applications that had gone to committee. These applicants would still have to do an impact assessment on air quality though, which could be sorted out when officers were looking at the S106 agreements.


Councillor D Wixley said that last November councillors were told that the LP had to be submitted by 31 March 2018 to avoid an increase in housing numbers, which had not happened, and had any advantages been taken with this extra time? The Service Director (Planning Services) commented that when the LP was presented to Council in December 2017, that was the fear at that time if the deadline was missed, but typically the Government had moved the goal posts now to 24 January 2019.


Councillor C C Pond said that in respect of the extra levy for air quality on new buildings, if an application doubled the size of the floor plan of a building, could that also attract a levy if that was going to increase the number of inhabitants at that dwelling?


The Service Director (Planning Services) replied the Council wanted to keep the levy simple and this would complicate it, therefore the levy was only for extra dwellings. He added that Waltham Forest and Redbridge Borough Councils would also be included in this recreation impact, but it was up to the individual authorities to assess how they would deal with the levy.


The Chairman thanked members for their questions.