Deed of variation for car parks granted for Epping Forest developments

Councillors have approved a deed of variation to ensure the progression of two major developments in Epping Forest district over worries of the potential for significant delays.

The St John’s Road development and Bakers Lane car park are two of five sites which comprise the Qualis Commercial group’s regeneration project across the district.

The sites have been bookmarked as housing and commercial developments respectively, with Bakers Lane car park due to open for use from mid-September after a year under construction.

The 330-space car park is a particularly anticipated addition, as it will provide parking and access for the new £33 million leisure centre tipped to open its doors in 2025.

However, with the St John’s Road site having been chosen for the allocation of at least 78 new dwellings, and construction progress of the Bakers Lane car park having quickly overtaken that of the latter with a contractor recently appointed for the leisure centre, it became clear that building schedule clashes would have the potential to cause significant delays to both projects.

At a committee meeting on August 9, Epping Forest councillors voted unanimously to approve a deed of variation St John’s Road development in order to improve its linkage with the Bakers Lane site, changing the wording of the proposal from ‘substantial implementation’ to ‘committed delivery’.

This promises the completion of demolition work across the St John’s Road site in order to allow adequate clearance for the conclusion of construction in Bakers Lane, in turn helping both developments to stay on track.

Leader of the Epping Forest Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Jon Whitehouse (Epping Hemnall) said that delayed progress of the Bakers Lane and leisure centre site was “undesirable”.

He added that the developments being subject to the terms of an s106 legal agreement between the council and developers “produced a risk of the sites not being in sync, so it’s not a surprise that (the council) has found itself in this position”.

Director of planning services Nigel Richardson warned that if the deed of variation had not been approved, the delivery date for the new leisure centre may have been delayed by up to a year or more.

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Paul Keska (Con. Chipping Ongar, Greensted and Marden Ash) said pressure to adhere to proposed schedules “should come from council members and placed upon Qualis commercial”.

“We certainly don’t want to hold up a project.”

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Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter