Benefits of knocking down Epping library for development outweigh damage to conservation area

Harm to a conservation area with the development of a new library will be outweighed by the benefits it will bring.

Essex County Council plans to demolish the existing library in Epping and in its place build a new public library and 38 residential apartments above. However, no affordable housing is proposed for the development.

The county council’s historic building consultant has also said the proposals would impact on the setting of York Hill Conservation Area, to the north-west of the application site. The plans will be discussed at an Essex County Council planning meeting on October 27.

The consultant notes that York Hill Conservation Area is characterised by its layout, the presence of seventeenth and nineteenth-century architecture and its relationship with the surrounding Epping Forest, which bounds the conservation area on its western edge.

In the context of the scale of development, it is considered that harm to the conservation area is likely, albeit it is acknowledged that this would be at the low end of less than substantial harm

A statement said: “Harm has been identified to the York Hill Conservation Area. However, this harm has been suggested at the lowest end of less than substantial.

“In context of the public benefits which would be realised from this development, in the form of the delivery of a new modern library, it is considered that this harm is accordingly outweighed in the planning balance.

“It is accepted that the public benefit of a new library does not principally stem from the actual design of this development and that this benefit would likely be delivered as part of any re-development of the site, given the policy requirements of the site allocation.

“That said, overall, an appraisal of the proposals has failed to identify any fundamental reasons to suggest that the development is not sustainable or not well designed.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter