Plans for "rabbit hutch" houses and flats in the Essex countryside which sparked a protest earlier this year have been blocked.

Epping Forest District Council’s development management committee voted to refuse the plans for 95 homes in Greensted Road, Chipping Ongar, at a meeting last week (September 21).

Earlier this year, roughly 30 people dressed up as rabbits and gathered outside the council’s offices in Epping high street, supporting the slogan “homes not hutches”, a reference to the number of one-bedroom apartments included in the proposals.

The scheme was criticised at the meeting over its density and housing mix, as well as a shortfall of parking spaces and potential surface water flooding and drainage issues.

Officers at the meeting said the site was not in a flood risk zone, and an agent speaking on behalf of the applicant said technical issues had been resolved, and now had the support of the council’s drainage officer.

Planning agent Danny Simmonds said the 95 homes proposed is lower than the 107 the site has been allocated for in the council’s local plan. 

He continued to say those proposed in the scheme were above national and local design standards, the number of parking spaces had been increased in response to the concerns.

He said: “Importantly of course the proposals provide for much-need housing, so as to reduce the pressure on sites elsewhere in Ongar and also elsewhere in the district as a whole.” 

Among objectors at the meeting was Mary Dadd, chair of the Ongar neighbourhood planning group, who said the town had a demand for three-bedroom family homes but not small, one-bedroom flats.

She said: “The cramped three-storey, one-bedroom flats are overbearing on neighbours, with the heights and massing completely out of character for the rural location.”

She also said insufficient visitor parking could cause cars to spill out into country lanes near the site.

Cllr Chris Pond (Loughton Residents Association, Loughton Broadway) noted the site is served only by “unreliable” bus services to Epping and Chelmsford, and acknowledged residents’ criticisms over the lack of parking.

However, not all councillors at the meeting were in opposition to the scheme. Cllr Heather Brady (Con, Passingford) said she thought the design of the three-story blocks of flats was “reasonable” and that higher density developments are a compromise which protect against suburban sprawl.

She said: “There’s a certain number of residential places that have to be built. You have the choice of building nice, big, three-bedroom houses with big gardens and plenty of parking.

“And the price you pay for that is to extend over many, many more hundreds of acres, many, many more scores of acres outside of Ongar, across the farmland and across the green belt.”

Officers’ recommendation to approve the proposals with conditions was defeated by the three to 11, with one councillor voting to abstain.



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