Agenda item

Response to Call-in on the "Release of Restrictive Covenants - Epping Forest College" Report

This report went to the September 2020 Cabinet meeting where it was agreed but was later called in by 5 members. The lead member was Cllr Chris Pond. Attached is the original report, the Call-in sheet, along with notes from an informal meeting held after the call-in had been received.


This call-in was received that the 19 November 2020 Overview and Scrutiny Committee where they referred it back to Cabinet for their consideration.



That the Cabinet reaffirmed their decision taken at their meeting held on 14 September 2020 on the release of the restrictive covenants for Epping Forest College.




Councillor Patel the Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Regulatory Services introduced the call-in on Release of Restrictive Covenants – Epping Forest College, that had been referred back to the Cabinet from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.


This had been thoroughly debated at that Committee. He noted that following this he had agreed to ask our legal officers to approach solicitors from the college to see if they could accommodate Councillor Chris Pond’s request regarding the open land. Our legal officer has now spoken to the college who had responded that the college had sold the majority of the old playing field site and any such discussion on keeping the site unbuilt would have to be dealt with at the planning negotiations. As we were not the landowner this was best handled at the planning stage. Also, EFDC had no way of enforcing that the land stay as open land through a deed with the college as they no longer own the land. Given this and advice received he recommended that the decision taken at the September Cabinet meeting be upheld.


Councillor Chris Pond said that we had not sufficiently safeguarded that land and that we had some leverage now to do so. It was not appropriate to leave it to the planning process some years down the line. The Local Plan was not cast iron on this, it was merely an aspiration.


Councillor Murray endorsed Councillor Pond’s point. He went on to say that the residents of Loughton had little trust in the whole process; the college had just taken and taken, we had lost the sport hall and Luctons’ field. What we get in return was not guaranteed. He was still not convinced that we could solve the pressure on Primary Schools by extending existing ones, but ECC takes a different view on this.


Councillor Patel noted that we were in a stronger position a couple of years ago, now we were in a weaker one.  This could be taken to a tribunal and he had been advised that the Council would lose the case.


Councillor Bedford agreed with Councillor Patel, as a third party now owns the land, we are now in their hands. Councillor Philip noted that there was a long and detailed history on this; Councillor Patel has done as much as he could. We do have a Local Plan (with the Inspector) that covers this area and we only have until 2033 to complete everything that was in our Local Plan. There was a requirement to keep land open in that particular site in the Plan, but we cannot commit to anything as we would be fettering the planning process. This was the best we could do at this stage.


Councillor Chris Pond remarked that indeed it was not in our gift to do this, but the college’s. As he had said before, we can designate Jessel Green as a field in trust. Could that be considered.


Councillor Patel replied that he was not sure that it was in his gift to do so.





That the Cabinet reaffirmed their decision taken at their meeting held on 14 September 2020 on the release of the restrictive covenants for Epping Forest College.



Supporting documents: