Appeal launched for Next distribution centre and car park near Epping Forest

Next has launched an appeal against a council’s decision to refuse permission for a distribution centre and multi storey car park near Epping.

The fashion giant has also reduced the size of its proposed warehouse for land north of Dowding Way, Epping Forest, by 28 per cent, according to a statement of case.

Epping Forest District Council voted against the plans for the distribution centre, which also included additional accommodation, a “state-of-the-art” photo studio and a multi storey car park and bridge link, in June 2021.

Among the reasons for refusal were claims the plans would impact the green belt, and that the A121 motorway would struggle to accommodate the 1,000 extra lorry movements likely to be generated, according to the council’s planning website.

But the retailer has lodged an appeal, which the council received between January 24 and 28, and has reduced the size of the scheme to 57,267 metres squared, according to the statement.

The statement says the revised version of the plans responds to comments from the council and the community.

It also argues the site was proposed for the district council’s local plan in 2017 for employment land, and that it was also planned to be removed from the green belt.

A section reads: “The Proposed Development is intended for occupation by Next plc (Next) and has been designed to Next’s specifications and requirements for a new Regional Service Centre (RSC) to serve its retail stores and customers in the south east.

“The proposed state-of-the-art Photo Studio, which will sit within the envelope of the warehouse building, will occupy the first and second floors along the western elevation.”

A later section reads: “Underpinning the appeal case is a range of significant social, environmental, and economic benefits that are both tangible and deliverable given the Appellant is the intended end occupier.”

The statement also claims the scheme would create 436 full time operational jobs, and an average 70 construction jobs per month over a 19-month construction period.

It also says Next would work with local schools to offer work placements, and CV writing and mock-interview sessions.

Next PLC and Trinity Hall’s proposals are for a warehouse with ancillary accommodation and a photo studio, a multi storey car park with associated bridge link, roof-mounted solar panels, sprinkler tanks and pumphouse, a substation, fuel island, vehicle wash, attenuation ponds and associated works, as well as landscaping and vehicle access.

In addition to the metropolitan green belt, the site is also located in the Special Area of Conservation.

Councillors raised concern this too could be impacted by air pollution from queues of lorries.

The council also said there was “no reason” to develop this site on the green belt because other areas could be used to create employment opportunities.

A decision on the appeal is likely to be due later this year.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter