The recent headline in the Guardian “Charging drivers a planning necessity” and the accompanying article are I am afraid both factually wrong and continue to perpetuate the stance being taken by Epping Forest District Council (EFDC).
EFDC’s Local Plan is required to deliver 11,400 homes within the next decade or so. However they have chosen to ignore the most recent predictions from the Office of National Statistics that the number of new households created in the future has decreased significantly, the percentage increase in the UK’S population is set to drop when compared with the last decade and Harlow will have 3,000 more homes built than the target Harlow District Council (HDC) has been set by the Government. Threats by the Government that target numbers will be increased to nearly 21,000 homes if EFDC do not create a Local Plan clearly demonstrate that these Plans are nothing to do with the number of new homes which are actually needed, but are all about increasing the profits of house builders and land speculators.
So why would EFDC choose to ignore the fact that the number of new homes required is not as high as it had been thought in the past? The answer is money. The Government pay councils what is known as a “New Homes Bonus” when they allow homes to be built in their district. When plans were first published by the developers for the area known as Latton Priory (on the border of Harlow) it was stated that the 1,050 homes would generate a bonus payment to EFDC of £25 million. Whilst we know these payments are not as generous as they once were, allowing 11,400 homes to be built in the district will raise a huge sum to shore up the Council’s finances. On top of this the Council now expect those travelling through the forest to have to pay for the privilege.
The Harlow Alliance Party is the only Party to object to the Local Plans of EFDC and HDC. Major infrastructure is needed as a prelude to any large scale increase in homes in the area, to include a northern and southern by-pass for Harlow and access to the north from the M11 at Loughton, giving amongst other things easier access to the M25 and the new hospital being built at junction 7a at Harlow. An extension to the Oyster card scheme to include the two rail stations in Harlow so that fares to London become comparable with those from Epping and Debden on the tube would reduce the number of commuters travelling through the forest from the north to these two stations.
Until councils in the region start working together, EFDC cannot on it’s own hope to mitigate the damage being caused to Epping Forest.