Issued: September 18, 2017
MP furious about Government change to housing numbers which would mean thousands of additional homes built in district over next ten years
LETTER: Eleanor Laing's letter to Communities and Local Government Secretary Ssajid Javid can be read and downloaded HERE
Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing is seeking an urgent meeting with Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid after it emerged that thousands more new homes are being earmarked for the Epping Forest District than currently proposed.
The Government has published a new formula for assessing the number of new homes to be built with Epping Forest to be "adversely affected, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the country", Mrs Laing says.
The new system of assessing housing need would mean some 923 new homes a year would have to be built in the Epping Forest district for the next ten years compared to the current figure of 514 a year - an increase of some 79.5 per cent.
Mrs Laing said: "I have had a meeting to discuss this very worrying development with the leader of Epping Forest District Council (councillor Chris Whitbread) and councillor John Philip (the planning portfolio holder with responsibility for the Local Plan).
"We are all in agreement that this figure is unsustainable and I've asked the Secretary of State to meet with me as a matter of urgency."
In her letter to Mr Javid, Mrs Laing states: "I can see why this (new formula) will work well in some parts in the country but, as with every 'one size fits all' formula, it does not work for Epping Forest.
"We have a particular problem in Epping Forest because we are adjacent to the London boundary and therefore subject to the pressures of London, including higher house prices, but we do not benefit from London infrastructure.
"Additionally, although we are subject to the 'Duty to Cooperate' with our neighbouring authorities in Essex, there is no requirement for the Mayor of London to co-operate with Epping Forest."
Mrs Laing states that "the only local authorities which have a change similar to our greater than the 80 per cent required of Epping Forest are London boroughs."
Her letter adds: "Because Epping Forest suffers from the same high house prices as London, your formula treats us as if we are in London. We are not in London."
Mrs Laing adds: "Epping Forest would be subject to an increase of 79.5 per cent. The district comprises 94 per cent Green Belt land, including the ancient Forest. Putting these two statistics together, your proposals for Epping Forest district are simply impossible to fulfill."
The current figure of 5,140 new dwellings over the next ten years is already "significantly large", Mrs Laing says.
In her letter, Mrs Laing highlights the "assiduous" work being undertaken on the Epping Forest Local Plan and the consultation which has been carried out "at every stage" as well as issues, such as a Government decision over the new M11 junction 7A which have delayed its completion.
Mrs Laing also raises the issue of infrastructure needed to support so many additional new homes.
"The simple fact is that whereas our local infrastructure, roads, schools and NHS facilities will, with further investment, be able to deal with 5,140 new homes over the next 10 years, it simply will not be able to cope with 9,230 new homes over the same period."
Mrs Laing's letter adds that she hopes the difficulties imposed by the constraints of Green Belt land will mean that Epping Forest "can be recognised as being something of an anomaly and that the crude statistic of a required increase of some 80 per cent in our assessed housing need can be modified.
"I hope that you will accept my analysis of the disastrous predicament in which your draft plans would put by constituency and that you will be able to meet me in the near future in order to discuss the matter further."