Opponents say the battle to save Jessel Green is just beginning as the Epping Forest Guardian launches a campaign to help save it.

More than 300 people gathered on the Debden Estate on Tuesday to make a stand.

The strength of feeling behind the campaign has been so incredible that some were nearly reduced to tears by the sheer number of people who turned up.

The council says there is not enough time to change the local plan and Jessel Green will need to be built on.

Of course, we appreciate how important it is for the council to hit its targets, but at what cost?

So today, we pledge to support all of you who are acting to prevent this catastrophic loss.

Epping Forest Guardian:

So much more than just a park

People were left fuming after Epping Forest District Council voted to destroy the field and replace it with 154 homes, to help meet targets set out by central government.

The decision was made at an extraordinary meeting at the civic offices where the Local Plan, which sets out where 11,400 new homes will be built, was officially approved.

But although people put forward alternative sites - including Theydon Bois which saw its housing allocation cut by 300 - they were ultimately defeated.

Neil Bartlett, who has spent years trying to save the land, said: “This has been hanging our heads over a cloud and to get to this point, we have had to fight.

“Families have been pulling a lot of weight into this and it’s not been justified. We feel very, very let down by the council.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

The Save Jessel Green group, supported by the Epping Forest Guardian, will now take the matter to the planning inspectorate in the hopes of reversing the decision.

Mr Bartlett said: “If we lose this field we’ll lose a community, we’ll loose freedom, and we’ll lose happiness.“We won’t give up without a fight. We will never, ever give up.

"We will go right to the very end. We won’t rest on our laurels and hope the planning inspectorate will see what’s gone on.”

Mother-of-three Roxy Hadfield said: “It is really important and an issue close to our hearts, I have been involved since the first meeting we had where we found out the green was under threat.

“My children and I use this space every day for one reason or another and the highlight of our year is the Jessel Green fun day.

“We are completely distraught at the thought we could lose even part of the green, we adore this space – it’s the heart of our community.

Michelle Burrell said: “We have grown up with the green here, it is used for so many different things, children go sledging here in the winter and we have fetes here in the summer.

“My grandparents moved here from north London exactly because they wanted green space and my family has been here ever since.

“The council have taken Theydon Bois off the list, but we seem to be the only community that is protesting against houses being build and they are ignoring us.”

Stephanie Hemsworth added: “Everyone who comes here always say how wonderful and green this area is. It will become a concrete jungle if the green is not saved, I have seen enough of it happening in London.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

‘Flawed and repugnant’

During last week’s meeting, Cllr Chris Pond, a Loughton Residents Association representative, initially proposed an amendment to remove Jessel Green and build an extra 300 homes in Harlow.

“It’s the most repugnant and toxic of points,” he said. “Residents regard this as deeply flawed and unsound but it can be repaid.”

Cllr John Phillip, who is responsible for planning on the council, said his amendment was “flawed” because Harlow has already maximised its housing allocation.

But Independent Stephen Murray said: “It’s exactly the same as building in the middle of a village that is in the heart of the community.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

He stressed how the “green lung” of the area is on the same road as two secondary schools and three primary schools, and used by many children.

“It’s just a vibrant open space, not a park, it’s a living open space which residents really want. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Chambers accused those complaining of “nimbyism”.

Cllr Jennings listed the famous parks in the area, including Hampstead Heath and Regents Park. She then added: “Can you imagine them covered in high rise flats or high density housing?

“They are all priceless gems in their neighbourhoods, this is our own green gem, the jewel in our crown. It’s just a priceless.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

Cllr Brian Sandler, himself a Conservative representative, suggested building extra homes in Theydon Bois in order to save Jessel Green.

Although Cllr Pond agreed to drop his motion in favour of his colleague’s, this was ultimately defeated.

Speaking after the meeting Dave Plummer, Epping Forest Green Party’s Coordinator, called it “shocking”.

‘Too late to amend’

The council’s barrister, Mark Beard, said any amendments would cause huge delays, meaning the council would not meet its March 31 deadline.

He added: “The council is on a very tight deadline. It’s impossible.”

But long-time campaigner Paul Morris believes that had the plan been put out sooner, sites such as Jessel Green might have been saved because there would have been more time to find alternatives.

Epping Forest Guardian:

‘Not enough brownfield land’

Epping Forest Council said in a statement: “In producing the Local Plan, the council has had to take difficult decisions as to how best to accommodate growth required to meet the future needs for the District as required by national policy.

“Unfortunately, there is not enough brownfield land available in the District to meet future needs, and therefore the council has agreed a strategy to ensure a balanced approach which minimises the use of Green Belt and managed open spaces to accommodate future development.

“Having an up-to-date Local Plan in place in the future will ensure that future development is plan-led, rather than speculative and uncoordinated.

“It will ensure that the council can manage future development proposals in a controlled manner, and ensure the provision of infrastructure to support growth."

Epping Forest Guardian:

What’s next?

People have six weeks to comment only on the “soundness of the plan” before the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid has the final say.

Theydon Bois controversy

At the start of the meeting, Cllr Phillip addressed concerns which were exclusively revealed in the Guardian last week about the removal of 300 homes in his own ward, Theydon Bois.

He said flooding issues were among the reasons why Theydon Bois sites had been reduced.

He said: “I am fully aware of the comments around the district about these allegations.

“We had a clear objection to the development proposed east of the Tube line from the Corporation of London, the guardians of Epping Forest.

Epping Forest Guardian:

“We examined several different approaches but unfortunately, there was not one that could be brought forward.

“Due to the flooding issues on two of the remaining sites, the capacity of these have had to be reduced to allow them to remain in the plan.”

He also touched on how station car parks are to be built over, saying it is a requirement that there is “no reduction in parking facilities”.

The authority will also look to replace library sites which are to be lost when the new homes are build, he added.

He said he had been in touch with the Secretary of State in the last few weeks and was keen to get the plan out as soon as possible, so as not to miss the deadline.

The consultation was released on Monday.