The Committee agreed that, as the remaining five planning applications were connected as one redevelopment scheme for Epping, there would be a short introduction to the principles behind the developments first, before a more detailed consideration of each individual planning application prior to its determination.
The Planning Officer, N Finney, presented the principles behind the proposed development of the five sites as a single redevelopment project before the Committee, all of which had been identified within the Council’s emerging Local Plan. A brief summary of each development was given and contrasted with the site allocation within the Local Plan. The Committee was also informed of the outcome of the Habitat Regulations Assessment for the five sites, and the package of mitigation measures required given the sites’ proximity to the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation. The Committee was informed that the applications would provide 25% affordable housing, and the principal heads of terms for the Section 106 Legal Agreement was also outlined.
The Committee noted that the Cottis Lane and Bakers Lane applications proposed commercial development, whereas the emerging Local Plan policy required housing. The shortfall in housing delivery would be met by the St Johns Road site. The remaining two applications at Hemnall Street and the Civic Offices were both proposing residential development. Consequently, a provision in the Section 106 Legal Agreement required the substantial implementation of a minimum of 78 units at St Johns Road to be provided prior to the commencement of above ground works at Bakers Lane. Other cross-site planning obligations in relation to the retention of the existing leisure centre and car parks prior to their replacement, and a package of air pollution mitigation across the five sites was set out in the draft Heads of Terms.
The Team Manager for Joint Planning Implementation, L Grainger, informed the Committee that the financial viability statements submitted by the Applicant demonstrated that the applications would not be viable with the provision of 40% of affordable housing (34% for the St Johns Road application due to the offset from vacant building credits). The Council’s surveyors agreed with this assessment and 25% of affordable housing would be provided on each of the residential sites. In addition, the Legal Agreement would contain a trigger point at which the Applicant would have to confirm whether the residential development would be ‘build to sale’, or ‘build to rent’, and then to confirm the composition of affordable housing provision. This would apply to the St Johns Road, Hemnall Street and Civic Offices sites. It was also confirmed that the Applicant would likely be the management company for any ‘build to rent’ flats.
Cllr C C Pond counselled that the proposals marked a radical shift for Epping and its perception throughout the District as a small market town. Cllr H Brady was impressed that the Applicant had listened to residents during the public consultations and had amended their proposals accordingly. However, the Councillor felt that local residents and key workers should be prioritised for tenancies in these schemes, there should be some community benefit from the Section 106 Legal Agreement for community spaces and playgrounds, and hoped that the Epping Market would not suffer as the Bakers Lane car park was currently used by the Market Traders to park their lorries on market days.