Agenda item

Implementation of the Local Plan: Update on Progress

To consider the attached report (C-027-2019-20).




That the Cabinet noted the steps being taken to determine planning applications currently held in abeyance.



The Planning Services Portfolio Holder introduced the report updating the implementation of the Local Plan. This report was based around the planning applications that the Council not been able to issue fully even if decisions had been made in principle at an officer level or by an area committee.


Members noted that the Council was aware of its legal obligations under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) ("the Habitats Regulations"), specifically, its duties as the 'competent authority' concerning the assessment of the implications of plans and projects for the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation ("EFSAC").


As local planning authority, before deciding to grant planning permission for a project involving development likely to have a significant effect on the EFSAC (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), the Council must make an Appropriate Assessment. For the purposes of that Appropriate Assessment, the Council must consult Natural England, as the appropriate nature conservation body, and have regard to any representations made by Natural England about the project within such reasonable time as the Council specifies.


Applying the precautionary principle and taking account of the conclusions of the Appropriate Assessment, the Council may grant planning permission for the proposed development only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the EFSAC.


In the absence of mitigation and/avoidance measures agreed with Natural England, currently, the Council could not lawfully grant planning permission for new developments that would result in a net increase in vehicle movements. This had resulted in planning applications being held in abeyance pending the identification of an acceptable air quality mitigation strategy to manage the adverse effects of atmospheric pollution arising from additional vehicles using roads in the vicinity of the EFSAC.


The Council had been working hard to identify whether an interim approach could be identified to address the backlog of planning applications pending completion of the additional HRA. To that end, the Council had undertaken a comprehensive review of all the applications held in abeyance and, following a detailed consideration of the development proposed in each application, the Council had concluded that some of the proposals would not result in a net increase in vehicle movements and, as a result, could be screened out as having no likely significant effect on the EFSAC. These decisions have now been issued.


Working with Natural England, the Council was currently exploring whether a viable interim approach could be identified to enable additional planning permissions to be granted.


Councillor Chris Pond asked for the list of the 19 planning permissions that had been issued be published in the members bulletin. Councillor Philip agreed to do this.


Councillor Wixley asked what the situation was in neighbouring authorities such as Waltham Forest and Redbridge. He was told that they were caught by the same issues that we were caught with and had the same problems to deal with as we had.




That the Cabinet noted the steps being taken to determine planning applications currently held in abeyance.



Reasons for Proposed Decision


To ensure that members are kept fully up-to-date on the steps being undertaken by the Council to determine planning applications in accordance with its legal obligations under the Habitats Regulations.


Other Options for Action:


Not to update members on the steps being undertaken would be contrary to previous commitments to keep Members informed.



Supporting documents: