Double appeals success for Epping housing applications

A Planning Inspector has given the go ahead for 424 homes on two sites after determining a “significant” land supply shortfall.

The successful appeals in favour of Fairview Homes proposals for the Borders Lane site (Appeal A) and the former playing fields at Epping Forest College (Appeal B) is a blow for Loughton campaigners who had argued the proposals would harm the character and appearance of the area.

The council argued that Fairview Homes were trying to put too many dwellings on the two sites and that the design was unsatisfactory.

But the Planning Inspector has allowed the two appeals – 139 homes in Borders Lane and 285 homes on the former playing fields at Epping Forest College – dismissing Epping Forest District Council’s design and affordable housing objections, while placing “significant weight” on the delivery of new housing in an area with a land supply deficit.

In its argument against the plans, the district council could only demonstrate a maximum housing land supply of 2.43 years, a significant shortfall of 2,942 dwellings.

Planning Inspector Mike Robbins said: “I have found, in relation to Appeal B, that the proposal would comply with the development plan, with significant weight arising in relation to the delivery of housing and other matters.”

Mr Robbins concluded that the offer of strategic access management and monitoring payments – payments towards the emerging LPA mitigation strategy for the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation – and 50 per cent active/50 per cent passive EV charging points was sufficient to overcome the habitats regulations test with an appropriate assessment of the schemes.

The legal team for Fairview Homes said that there has been an effective moratorium on housing development in Epping Forest – pending the Local Plan – but the decision shows how bespoke solutions provide a robust way forward in the absence of the local plan which is still awaiting re-examination.

Mr Robbins said: “Both Appeal A and Appeal B represent the redevelopment and development respectively of underused sites which have been identified in the emerging Local Plan for housing.

“For Appeal B, the framework confirms that decisions should be taken in accordance with the development plan, and for this scheme I have found no conflict with the adopted or the emerging plan.

“For Appeal A, the district has a substantial shortfall in housing delivery and I have concluded that there would be very significant benefits that would arise from the early delivery of housing on these sites.”

Councillor Chris Pond said he was concerned of the impact that the new development would have on the Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

He said: “There is a point where Brentwood, Epping Forest and Chelmsford meet around Norton Mandeville.

“I am on record in 2017 – having made the suggestion that any development near the SAC should continue to be subject to the moratorium – and instead they should start developing between the three authorities, all of whom have a bit of a shortfall in their housing quota garden village in that area.”

Epping Forest District Council was approached for comment.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter