Frequently Asked Questions

Local Plan

What is a Local Plan?

A Local Plan is a district-wide plan which identifies the vision and aspirations for the future of an area, planning policies, and allocations identifying the sites or areas which can be developed and those which should be protected.

Our Local Plan will help shape future development in Epping Forest District up to 2033 and sets out the level and distribution of planned growth, including new homes and businesses. The Local Plan includes policies which will be used to assess planning applications as they come forward, to ensure that new development is sustainable, well designed and provides for the future needs of the District.

Once finalised and adopted, the Local Plan will become the statutory (legal) Development Plan for the Epping Forest District.

Why do we need a Local Plan?

Local Plans are at the heart of the planning system. Having a Local Plan is a necessary part of creating a robust planning framework to support and manage the future development of the District. Without it, the Council would lose the ability to secure and co-ordinate the development and infrastructure needed.

The Government has made it clear that if the Council has not prepared a Local Plan by early 2017 they will do it for us, and charge the costs of doing so back to the Council. All local authorities across the country without a new Local Plan have been given the same deadline.

The Government has also indicated that it may hold back various grants that the Council receives, affecting our ability to cost effectively provide existing Council services.

Doesn’t Epping Forest District already have a Local Plan?

The Council’s current Local Plan was adopted in 1998. In 2006 the Council adopted the Local Plan Alterations, which replaced parts of the 1998 Local Plan. Most of these policies are still in force but since the National Planning Policy Framework was published in 2012 many are now out of date, and cannot be used.

We now need an up-to-date Local Plan which responds to the latest national planning policy and Government requirements.

What was the feedback to the Draft Local Plan, and how has it been taken on board?

The Council consulted on the Draft Local Plan between 31 October and 12 December 2016. Around 3,400 responses were received. These came from a wide range of respondents including local residents, organisations, landowners and developers, local planning authorities, elected representatives and statutory consultees such as infrastructure providers and Government agencies. All of these responses were analysed in detail by the Council and the findings published in the Draft Local Plan Consultation Report .

The key issues raised by responses included traffic congestion, opposition to development in the Green Belt, impacts on social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, and the impact of development on local character and public open spaces. Landowners and developers also made comments regarding land being promoted for development.

These issues were considered and have been taken into account in producing this Submission Version of the Local Plan.

What is the Submission Version Local Plan for Regulation 19 publication, and how is it different from previous consultations?

The Submission Version of the Local Plan (also sometimes referred to as the Regulation 19 Publication Version) is the final Plan which the Council intends to submit to the Government for independent examination.

Under the Regulations, the Council is required to publish this version of the Plan, together with a number of other submission documents, for a 6 week period and invite representations. Whilst any individual may decide to make representations it is not a wide ranging consultation as was held previously by the Council. Rather it provides an opportunity for local residents, organisations, landowners, developers and other interested parties to submit written representations as to whether or not they consider the Local Plan to be legally compliant, sound and comply with the Duty to Cooperate.

Representations received will then be provided to the independent Planning Inspector appointed to undertake the Examination of the Local Plan. The Planning Inspector will read all representations provided, and take them into account during his or her Examination of the Plan.

However, the Planning Inspector is only concerned with matters of legal compliance and soundness.

How can I make a representation?

Representations should be made during the Publication period using the online representation form. Guidance notes are available which should be read prior to completing your representation forms.

A pdf version of the form can also be downloaded from the website.

Please return completed forms by email to LDFconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

or by post to

Planning Policy
Epping Forest District Council
Civic Offices
323 High Street
Epping
CM16 4BZ

Subject to the agreement of Full Council, the Submission Version of the Local Plan will be published for representations for a period of 6-weeks from noon on Monday 18 December 2017 to 5pm on Monday 29 January 2018. Responses which are submitted after 5pm on 29 January will not be considered.

Where can I find out more about the Local Plan?

The quickest and easiest way to read the submission version Local Plan and any supporting documents is via the Local Plan web page.

You can also call the Council’s Contact Team on 01992 564517 (10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday) or email LDFconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

A limited number of hard copies of the Local Plan together with relevant supporting documentation will be available for reference purposes at Epping Forest District Council Civic Offices, local Parish and Town Council offices, libraries and leisure centres.

The Local Plan-making process

What stage are we at now and where do we go next?

We are currently at the Submission Publication stage of the Local Plan. Once the Publication period has ended, the Local Plan, along with any representations made and supporting documents, will then be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination.

The Government will appoint an examiner who will consider the Local Plan in terms of legal compliance and procedures, soundness, and whether the Council has met its Duty to Cooperate.

What consultation has Epping Forest District Council undertaken so far on the Local Plan?

The Council has held 3 separate public consultation exercises on the Local Plan during its production.

Further details are provided in the Consultation Statement.

Why are representations to the Submission Plan necessary? Can my previous comments be applied?

Previous comments submitted to the Council through consultation have helped to inform the Council’s Submission Version Local Plan. However, if you have representations in relation to the legal compliance or soundness of the Local Plan that you would like to be considered by the Inspector appointed to undertake the Independent Examination, these must be submitted to the Council during the Publication period.

What happens if I miss the deadline?

Representations (responses) on the Local Plan must be made within the Publication period. Late responses will not be considered.

Do I have to give my personal information when making a representation?

It is a requirement of the Local Plan process that representations can only be deemed legitimate (in Planning terms this is “duly made”) if they are received in a written format (ie by email, online or by post) with a name and address supplied. Comments made verbally or anonymously cannot be accepted.

It is also important to appreciate that the Council is obliged to make all duly-made representations available for public inspection, so your response (including contact name) will be made public.

However, personal information, such as email addresses and phone numbers, will be removed (redacted) from the response before it is published.

How do I keep up-to-date with the Local Plan process?

If you do not wish to submit representations on the Local Plan, but would like to receive updates, please contact the Council on 01992 564517 (between 10am and 4pm) or email LDFconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk, and your details will be added to our consultee database.

When will the Local Plan be adopted?

We anticipate that the Local Plan will be adopted as the statutory Development Plan for the District in Spring 2019, subject to the outcome of the Examination process.

The timetable is set out within the Council’s Local Development Scheme. The further the Local Plan progresses towards Examination and Adoption, the greater material weight that can be afforded to it in planning decisions.

Further information

I have a question that is not answered on this page. Can I get an answer to my question?

Yes – please contact the Council on 01992 564517 (between 10am and 4pm on weekdays, or leave a message outside these hours) or email LDFconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk and we will be happy to help. We will endeavour to respond to your question as quickly as we can.

Can I get a copy of the document in an alternative format?

Yes. If you need copies of any of the documents in large print, braille or in another language, please contact us on 01992 564517 (between 10am and 4pm on weekdays, or leave a message outside these hours) or email LDFconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Local Plan content

My area is already overdeveloped and our infrastructure cannot cope with new homes. Why can the new development not go somewhere else?

The proposed level of housing and employment development in the Local Plan must be supported by the appropriate level of infrastructure, such as new schools, GP surgeries and road improvements. A separate Infrastructure Delivery Plan has been prepared to ensure that the infrastructure needs arising from growth have been identified, and can be planned for accordingly.

The Council is required to plan for enough new homes and jobs in the District to meet future needs as part of the new Local Plan. It is proposed that about a third of new residential development will be focussed around Harlow and that the remainder will be accommodated in other settlements in the District.

Feedback from the Community Choices consultation clearly showed that people wanted an even distribution of new development across the District and close to services including transport hubs.

What is the ‘Duty to Co-operate’, and why do we have to work with neighbouring authorities?

The Duty to Co-operate was first set out in the Localism Act 2011 (which amended the Town and Country Planning Act 2004) following the abolition of regional planning. It places a legal duty on local planning authorities to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis with other nearby Councils and relevant organisations to ensure that Local Plans are prepared to take into account cross-boundary matters.

Whilst the Duty to Co-operate is not a duty to agree, Councils should try to secure necessary cooperation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plans for examination.

How have you taken into account emerging Neighbourhood Plans?

We are aware that a number of Parish and Town Councils within the District are preparing neighbourhood plans for their areas. Whilst the Council will support the preparation and production of these plans, they must be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the Local Plan and in line with national planning guidance.

The Council has had ongoing engagement with Parish and Town Councils which are currently preparing Neighbourhood Plans, and has assisted in ensuring that they align wherever possible with the Local Plan. Once Neighbourhood Plans are ‘made’ by the Council (following successful examination and referendum) Neighbourhood Plans will be used to determine planning applications, alongside the Local Plan.

Further details can be found at Neighbourhood Planning.

Where is new development being focussed?

Over the plan period the Council needs to provide for at least 11,400 new homes and approximately 10,000 new jobs in the District.

In order to meet this level of growth the Local Plan seeks to allocate a number of sites across the District for future development. The proposed development will be focused around Harlow (around 3,900 homes). The remaining growth will be delivered on a range of sites in and adjacent to towns and settlements across the rest of the District.

Employment growth is being focussed at Waltham Abbey, Loughton and North Weald Bassett. The Council’s strategy seeks to ensure that growth takes place in the most sustainable locations, including the Districts towns and larger villages, whilst also ensuring a level of growth that can help to support and sustain the smaller villages.

How did you assess all the potential sites that have been suggested for development?

The Local Plan assessed all of the sites that were identified as having development potential and which met minimum requirements of being at least 0.2 hectares (about half an acre) in size, and for sites suggested for residential use, they also had to be able to accommodate 6 or more dwellings.

Once this threshold had been applied, the remaining sites were assessed in a number of stages against various criteria to understand how each site performed. These criteria included:

  • Environmental, biodiversity and heritage impacts, which included things like impact on Epping Forest (an Internationally Protected Site), impact on trees and impact on Listed Buildings
  • Flood risk
  • The level of harm to the Green Belt caused by development
  • Public transport accessibility, and traffic impacts
  • Impacts on the landscape or the character of towns and villages
  • Site-specific constraints that could affect development, such as gas pipelines or contaminated land
  • The likelihood that the site can be developed, including land ownership, existing uses/availability, and provision of infrastructure like schools, roads and utilities

Using this information, as well as feedback from a number of workshops and other specialists, the Council identified the sites proposed for allocation. Following the Consultation on the Draft Local Plan, the site selection process re-commenced in 2017 to take account of the responses received, update any assessments based on more recent evidence base documents, and to take account of proposed changes to national planning policy.

A detailed methodology setting out the process for selecting sites, as well as a full list of the criteria.

You can read an overview of the Site Selection process.

Why has so much emphasis been placed on development in and around Harlow?

For a number of years Harlow has been recognised as an area for growth and development. Harlow’s continued aspiration to support economic growth and regeneration within its core town centre requires housing to support it. There have been ongoing discussions with Harlow Council and other nearby local authorities (that make up the Housing Market Area or ‘HMA’) as to the best location for this growth, and it has been agreed that development should be focussed at Harlow as this is the most sustainable location for new homes.

The authorities have together undertaken detailed and rigorous assessment to identify the best sites for development to take place. A number of these sites are located within Epping Forest District, but adjacent to the existing built up area of Harlow.

The Government has recognised the growth potential of Harlow, and in January 2017 Epping Forest District, Harlow District and East Hertfordshire District Councils were given Garden Town status for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. The Local Plan includes policies to guide and manage development and infrastructure planned as part of the Garden Town within Epping Forest District.

How did the Council decide how many sites to allocate in each settlement?

The Site Selection Report shows which sites have been assessed for each settlement, and the proposed capacity of these sites.

The final number of homes allocated for each settlement were arrived at by looking at the number of suitable and deliverable sites in that settlement, and what was considered the best fit for each settlement, taking into account the findings from previous consultation, and other evidence documents, including the Green Belt Review, Settlement Capacity Study, infrastructure requirements set out in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and impacts on traffic and air quality.

These considerations informed our decisions on what scale of development was suitable for each settlement.

What is the justification that resulted in Waltham Abbey’s reclassification as a small district centre rather than a town?

This classification refers to just the Town Centre rather than the settlement itself. The classification of Waltham Abbey’s Town Centre as a ‘Small District Centre’ is based on the Town Centres Review (September 2016) which concluded that, based on the size of retail units, services and facilities provided, the centre currently operates more as a Small District Centre.

The settlement of Waltham Abbey is still considered to be a Town within the District’s Settlement Hierarchy, along with Epping, Loughton and Ongar.

Will all of the new homes be built straight away?

No. They will need to be phased, together with infrastructure provision to support the development, across the plan period up to 2033.

The Council has produced a Housing Implementation Strategy which provides further details of how and when housing is expected to be developed. Some development on smaller and less complicated sites can happen earlier, but it is likely that larger sites that will require masterplanning and more significant infrastructure like roads and schools to be built first, will happen later in the Plan period.

The Local Plan site allocations have been selected to provide a range of different types and sizes of sites to ensure that development takes place over time. However, the Council does need to ensure that sufficient homes can be built in the next five years to meet national short-term targets, otherwise the Local Plan may not be considered to be sound.

Why do we need housing and employment growth in Epping Forest District?

The population of the district is increasing and changing. People are living longer, and the number of single occupancy households continues to increase, whilst the cost of housing continues to rise making it unaffordable for a significant number of people.

Like all local authorities, Epping Forest District Council is required to consider up to date population and household projections, which have identified the need for more housing, including affordable and assisted living facilities. There is also an identified need for the local economy to provide jobs and services for local residents, and for these to be close to where people live.

A number of technical documents have been produced which set out the basis for the requirements set out within the Plan. Future housing requirements are summarised within the Housing Implementation Strategy .

Why can't all the housing be on 'brownfield' sites? Why is the Council building on the Green Belt?

The Council recognises and supports the importance of pursuing sustainable development for the District. In line with National Planning Policy and good planning practice, the site selection work and other technical assessments looked at brownfield sites first for proposed allocations in the emerging Local Plan. However, in order to meet the housing and employment land needs, the Council must also consider Green Belt land because there are not enough brownfield sites available to meet the needs of the District.

The Council has undertaken a Green Belt Review as part of the preparation of the Local Plan. The Green Belt Review was undertaken in two stages. Stage 1 was a high-level, strategic assessment of all the current Green Belt land in the District. Stage 2 of the Green Belt Review was a more detailed assessment of the broad locations identified at Stage 1.

How will the Council ensure that there is enough affordable housing in the District?

On sites which provide 11 or more new homes the Council will seek to ensure that a minimum of 40% of these are affordable. Affordable homes will include homes which are provided for affordable rent, and also intermediate housing which includes an element of rent and purchase.

What about Gypsies and Travellers? Has the Council completed an up to date assessment of needs and are additional sites being identified in the Local Plan?

Technical assessments currently indicate that over the Local Plan period (from 2011-2033) the Council needs to provide an additional 38 pitches and one yard.

To date 16 pitches have already been provided and a further four have planning permission so this leaves a requirement of 18 pitches and one yard. Potentially suitable sites have been identified in the Local Plan to accommodate these. An Essex-wide Gypsy and Travellers Accommodation Needs Assessment has been completed which has informed the approach being taken.

What is to stop more of the Green Belt being developed after the Local Plan is agreed?

Government policy on the Green Belt, set out in the NPPF, is quite clear. Local authorities with Green Belts should establish Green Belt boundaries through their Local Plans.

Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.

The changes to the Green Belt boundary set out in the Local Plan are intended to be permanent in the long term and should be capable of enduring beyond the Plan Period. This means that further Green Belt alterations cannot take place until the next Local Plan is produced from 2033 onwards.

Is the Lee Valley Regional Park being protected by the Local Plan?

Yes. Through a number of policies the emerging Local Plan supports the delivery of the Vision for the Lee Valley Regional Park as set out by the Park Authority.

Does the Local Plan protect Epping Forest District’s historical artefacts and buildings?

Yes. The Local Plan promotes a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment seeking to conserve and where possible enhance the many historic assets that we are fortunate to have within the District.

Has the Council undertaken a Sustainability Appraisal of the emerging Local Plan?

Yes. All new development plan documents need to be subject to Sustainability Appraisal (SA). This incorporates a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which is required under European legislation for all plans which may have a significant effect on the environment/economy/society.

In 2010 AECOM (formerly known as URS) undertook a Sustainability Appraisal. An interim SA report was published alongside the Issues and Options ‘Community Choices’ Consultation and the Draft Local Plan Regulation 18 consultation. Work on the Sustainability Appraisal has continued alongside preparation of the emerging Local Plan, and a further Sustainability Appraisal and non-technical summary will be published alongside the Regulation 19 Submission Version Local Plan publication.

Has the Council taken into account flood risk in producing the Local Plan?

Yes. In April 2015 the Council produced a Level 1 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment which has informed the Local Plan policies. The Council has also carefully considered flood risk through the Site Selection process to ensure that the plan does not allocate sites which are at risk of flooding.

There are a small number of site allocations where a small part of the site is subject to flood risk. In these cases, development proposals will be required to make sure that no development takes place in these areas.

How is the Council providing for the ageing population?

The Council has used up to date evidence on housing needs, including careful consideration of future population projections to inform the production of the emerging Local Plan. The evidence considers the need for housing to support an ageing population, included assisted living, and care homes.

The Local Plan will help to ensure that future development includes an appropriate mix of housing to meet the needs of the ageing population in the District, and that development is located in the most sustainable locations, supported by the necessary infrastructure.

Will you be providing additional school and doctor places to accommodate new residents to the district?

The Council recognises that it is essential to ensure that new development is served by the necessary infrastructure to an appropriate level and at an appropriate time. As part of the Council’s evidence base an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) has been produced in consultation with key infrastructure providers and delivery partners setting out the range, scale, location, funding arrangements and timing of the additional infrastructure needs to support the anticipated growth across the District over the plan period. This is being refined further before the Local Plan is submitted for Examination.

Can the existing drainage cope with the proposed new development?

Parts of the District currently experience flooding from a range of sources – it is clearly critical to manage flood risk in order to minimise harm to people and property. Therefore, the Council has sought to avoid development in areas at risk of flooding and ensure the provision of flood mitigation measures so as to manage water run-off. Prior to permitting any new development the Council will need to be satisfied that the water drainage and sewerage arrangements are satisfactory.

In many cases existing infrastructure can’t cope so how are we going to manage with all the additional people?

The Local Plan is clear that infrastructure requirements needed to support new development must be delivered at a rate and scale to meet the needs of proposed development. New development must be served and supported by appropriate on and off site infrastructure and services and promoters of schemes will be required to make appropriate contributions.

As part of the supporting evidence base the Council has produced an Infrastructure Delivery Plan which sets out the detailed infrastructure requirements.

Does the emerging Local Plan impact on car parking facilities in the District?

We have prioritised development in sustainable locations, and therefore we are proposing development on some car parks in the District.

However, allocation of development on these sites would not lead to any net loss of existing parking spaces. Public parking will continue to be provided beneath or adjacent to residential housing.

What are you doing to encourage the survival of the town and district centres across Epping Forest District?

The District has a number of distinctive centres that serve their local communities and provide a good range of independent traders as well as national multiples. Through the Local Plan policies, the Council seeks to support the future vitality and viability of all the District’s centres, including by encouraging a range of town centre uses. The approach has been informed by the Town Centre Review.