Politics of planning: Essex edition

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

In this issue’s round-up we are looking at what is going on around Essex.

Malden remains the only council in Essex to have an up-to-date local plan, although Chelmsford may well soon be the second.

 Basildon has seen some political turmoil already this year with its fourth change of administration in as many years. This has been compounded by Theresa Villiers MP, DEFRA Secretary of State, slapping a directions notice to the council to mitigate air quality issues around the A127.  This has delayed the local plan examination in public as there may be impacts from additional traffic caused by development on this road. The timing could not be worse as Robert Kenrick MP, the new MHCLG secretary of state, is monitoring Basildon as still being on the naughty step for not having an up-to-date local plan.

Neighbouring Castle Point, which rejected its draft local plan earlier this year, is further up the naughty step and awaits a decision from MHCLG as to what happens next. There could be intervention but more likely will be directions on how to proceed.

 Epping Forest has received an interim report from the inspector, following the EiP which finished in May. She has taken out a couple of sites, mainly urban green spaces, but the key issue to be addressed is mitigation around Epping Forest. There is a dispute between the council and Natural England over the Habitats Regulation Assessment.

Neighbouring Harlow completed its EiP also in May this year and it looks as though it will be approved in the autumn ready for adoption by the council early in the new year.

The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) is powering ahead with planning applications received for the initial 8,000+ homes at Gilston and the two river crossings. These have been submitted jointly to Harlow and East Herts councils as the HGGT has not yet been formalised and has not taken planning powers. Master-planning has started on Latton Priory to the south of Harlow, a further 1,050 homes, which is in Epping Forest.

Further north in Uttlesford the new Residents4Uttlesford party which swept to power removing the Conservatives in May. It campaigned on a platform of stopping the local plan and halting the expansion of Stansted airport, but they have done no such thing. They have delayed the issue of the planning consent to Stansted airport but are unlikely to be able to stop it, and did not withdraw the published local plan when invited to do so by the inspector.