Residents dressed as rabbits protest Ongar development

Residents dressed as rabbits gathered outside a council meeting on Thursday to protest a planned housing development in the Essex countryside.

Roughly 30 people from Ongar were protesting against proposals for 95 homes in Greensted Road.

People of all ages met at the council offices in Epping while the annual general meeting took place, supporting the slogan “homes not hutches”, which refers to the number of one-bedroom apartments included in the proposals.

The protesters are concerned the proposals, which were originally refused but have now been referred to the district development management committee, do not meet the needs of local families, and say there was not enough consultation with residents.

A spokesperson for Epping Forest District Council said in a statement: “The application for new homes on Greensted Road, Ongar was consulted on and advertised in accordance with the statutory requirements for this type of application.

“As with all planning applications, this one takes the recent local plan into account when making any judgements and recommendations. Members of the committee attended a site visit; and it is at the discretion of councillors as to what they consider necessary to view when on site.

“The decision to refer the application to DDMC was made in accordance with the Council’s constitution. Any details of the application discussed at the Planning Sub Committee East meetings can be viewed via the webcast or published meeting minutes, which can be found here .”

Amy Pike, who attended the protest, told the LDRS the group wanted to raise awareness and hoped they could put pressure on the council and developer to reduce the number of houses.

She said some councillors had spoken positively with them about their concerns as they headed into the meeting, although some avoided eye contact.

She said: “We want them to build the kind of houses that people are actually going to want to live in, rather than lots of little boxes with no gardens and little parking.”

Later she said: “It made me very proud of where I live and the people that I live with, that everybody can get together and respectfully do that.”

A petition of over 500 signatures has previously been submitted to the council objection to the plans.

In addition to the sizes of the houses, the group has also said there had been no public exhibition for the development, partly due to COVID, and raised concern over a shortfall of 37 parking spaces at the planned site.

The group also feels three-storey blocks of flats would be out of character with the rest of Ongar, which is in the rural Essex countryside.

According to Ms Pike, the developers found they were unable to build on as much of the land as they thought, but are still keeping the same number of houses rather than reducing the number of properties.

The council is under pressure to deliver on its housing targets, but according to the group too much of a focus  on numbers has led to developers missing what local families need from new houses.

The next district development management committee meeting is on June 29.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter