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RURAL REGENERATION

PURPOSES

The purposes of the policies in this section are:

 

  • Enabling rural and urban regeneration of the Parish;

  • Creating a more vibrant historic High Street in Chipping Ongar;

  • Ensuring a mix of housing to meet local need;

  • Creating more sustainable live/work patterns and accommodating broadband.

 

The policies in this Chapter enable growth, whilst also helping to ensure that such growth meets local need and is sustainable. They need to read in conjunction with those policies on Community and Transport Infrastructure and Environment and Design.

 

The Neighbourhood Plan aims to enable housing and a balanced mix of employment opportunities for the existing and future community, whilst also regenerating Chipping Ongar High Street.

EMPLOYMENT AND RURAL DIVERSIFICATION

 

Ongar has little local employment within the Civil Parish, outside of the town centre, and employment has diminished further in the last 10 years. The top types of employment in Ongar match those living in Epping Forest and Essex. These are Public Administration, Health and Education, Wholesale and Retail trade and Construction. More than half of workers commute outside the area, including to London [9].

Ongar parish includes a high proportion of micro and small as well as medium enterprises; many are run from residents’ own homes. Other places of employment are a number of farms and agricultural-related businesses, commercial services such as pubs, and the Ongar Business Centre, formerly known as the Essex Technology and Innovation Centre. Since 2012 the Epping Ongar Heritage Railway has operated a very popular resource that brings 46,000 (2019) visitors to Chipping Ongar. {10}

 

In addition to the Epping Ongar Railway there are other opportunities to link Ongar’s tourism attractions to those in Epping Forest and nearby Secret Nuclear Bunker and Mud Races. These will be encouraged as further Action Projects. Bringing in more visitors will help to make the Town Centre and other businesses more viable.

 

New employment sites in Ongar or just outside will help to make a more sustainable settlement. Consultation with local businesses and residents has identified support for rural diversification, home based businesses, agriculture, tourism, light industrial and other businesses that can operate in the rural environment.

Paragraph 84 of the NPPF 2021 demonstrates support for a prosperous rural economy through policies and decisions which enable rural business growth in new and converted buildings, agricultural diversification, tourism and leisure, local services and community facilities.

 

The emerging Local Plan identifies within the economic profile for the District (Paragraph 1.31) that:

“Economic activity rates in the District are high for both men and women, with 78.5% of 16-64 year olds in employment which is similar to the average for England (78%) and slightly lower than the East of England average (80.2%). Within this, male employment (81%) is higher than female employment (76.1%). At 17%, self-employment makes up a significant proportion of overall employment and is higher than the East of England and England averages."

 
  1. Development that creates local employment and/or diversifies the rural  economy will be supported. This includes new facilities to support the visitor economy, new community facilities, serviced offices, co-working or enterprise space.

  2. This support is subject to there being no significant adverse impact on:

    • This support is subject to there being no significant adverse impact on:

    • The amenities of residential properties through noise, disturbance, vibration, privacy or overlooking matters;

    • The open and rural character of the area; The vitality of Chipping Ongar High Street.

  3. Sites falling within the Green Belt are subject to Green Belt policy.

POLICY ONG-RR1: EMPLOYMENT AND RURAL DIVERSIFICATION

The Epping Ongar Railway, St Andrew’s Church at Greensted and Essex Way attract thousands of visitors to the area every year.

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Essex Way

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Greensted Church

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Epping Ongar Railway

INTERPRETATION OF ONG-RR1

 

The policy enables development that provides local employment, subject to consideration of impacts. More specific requirements for the High Street are contained in Policy ONG-RR2.

 

Policy ONG-CT3 (Transport and Movement) sets out transport requirements for employment development, including car park spaces and more sustainable forms of transport.

RATIONALE: CHIPPING ONGAR HIGH STREET

Like many communities, residents feel the heart of Ongar is the town centre at Chipping Ongar and this is what provides its sense of place and local identity. With the decline of retail in High Streets nationally, it is important that other services and activities are located in the town centre to ensure it remains a central community hub for people to meet and socialise.

 

The decline in Chipping Ongar’s retail and historic Market occurred over the last few decades. By the end of 2019, the footfall was low, and the centre had lost its banks and doctors’ surgeries, with many independent retailers also gone. There are more empty shops in the primary retail frontage and empty offices than ever before, including during the last recession [11], but even more concerning has been the frequency that its small independent shops have changed tenancy and the shorter opening hours offered. The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 added to the uncertainty of the economic viability of further businesses and accelerated the need for a change of focus in the town centre.

 

With existing low overall footfall, the viability for small businesses is difficult. Government has adopted several schemes to diversify town centre uses and regenerate High Streets. EFDC Local Plan 2011-2033 has recognised the need to diversify the range of uses in town centres [12] A district Town Manager covering Chipping Ongar appointed in 2021, will oversee various regeneration proposals including those put forward by the local community. By encouraging town centre uses other than retail, Ongar Neighbourhood Plan policies will enable regeneration of Chipping Ongar town centre as a vibrant destination place with a new purpose, in an attractive historic setting, close by recreational and leisure amenities and accessible countryside. This would also increase community cohesion and could reduce reliance on cars for local journeys, and also increase visitor potential. Alongside the planning policies there are a number of specific Actions [13] that would strengthen and complement planning policies. These include improving the public realm of the historic centre, which has had no investment for over 20 years, so now needs to be addressed. In addition, maintenance of the highway and pavements has been poor, and the large volume of through traffic, especially 44 tonne HGVs, is detracting from the ambience [14].

 

Making more efficient use of land could involve consolidating existing surface car parks into well designed multi-storey, underground car parks or car barns or building over surface parks [15] in order to also accommodate additional community, recreation and leisure facilities, thus supporting diversification and the regeneration of the town centre. This is supported and could include cultural and youth facilities well positioned in the centre of the historic town, also attracting more people into Chipping Ongar Town Centre itself. High standards of design would be required in context and appropriate to the Historic Town. National Design Guide and National Model Design Code 2021 contain more design detail.

 

Section 7 Paragraph 86 of the NPPF covers vitality of town centres and state that policies and decisions should make a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation by allowing a responsive mix of uses reflecting their distinctive characters, supporting markets and looking to allocate sites over a period looking at least 10 years ahead. Paragraph 53 enables the protection against the loss of essential core of a primary shopping area that would undermine the vitality and viability.

 

An anticipated increase in visitors from successful regeneration will also necessitate an increase in overall car space numbers and possible demand for a Coach car park. Coach car parking could be included in an improved bus stop and terminus near Ongar Bridge. See also Transport and Movement Section 8.4 and Policy ONG-CT3.

 

The following Map of Ongar’s ‘Small District Centre Boundary’ is taken from EFDC Local Plan Submission Version.

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The Budworth Hall is a valuable meeting place which brings people to Chipping Ongar Town Centre.

 

POLICY ONG-RR2: CHIPPING ONGAR HIGH STREET

  1. Within the defined Small District Centre Boundary, changes of use or reuse of vacant ground floor frontage units will be supported where it involves uses that complement or enhance the vitality and viability of the High Street.

  2. Use of upper floors will be supported, where such uses would complement and have no adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the High Street. Suitable uses include business and residential.

  3. Redevelopment of surface car parks for uses that support the vitality of the High Street will be supported on suitable sites, providing satisfactory replacement parking is replaced on the same site or at another conveniently located site.

INTERPRETATION OF ONG-RR2

The policy creates a flexible approach to new uses in the High Street, recognising the importance of a mix of town centre functions, in addition to retail. Joint use of buildings such as the library, for a range of services will be supported.

 

The policy enables more efficient use of the land to accommodate both car parking and community use, for example the re-use of surface area for a community amenity with car parking above, or undercroft car parking. This is likely to require a partnership approach.

 

See also Policy ONG-ED2 which relates specifically to the historic High Street within Chipping Ongar Conservation Area.

Section 8.4 and Policy ONG-CT3 covers Transport and Movement, including car park provision.

RATIONALE: NEW HOUSING MIX AND STANDARDS

The district Housing Mix proposed for EFDC is based on the SHMA 2015 and OAHN16 reports for projected population and is approximately the same as the existing housing mix within the civil parish of Ongar. Maintaining this housing mix in Ongar as the small town and surrounding settlement grows, is important for sustainability and is supported locally. A balanced cohesive community [17], Chipping Ongar is defined as a Small District Centre by EFDC and is located in the rural NE of the district, approximately 7 miles away from the next nearest town. The present housing mix supports its ‘excellent range of services and facilities’ [18], including good local schools and health care provision. As efforts are made to regenerate the town centre, such a resultant mix of age ranges will enhance the all-round viability and vitality of the parish.

 

The nature and location of the civil parish of Ongar attracts families to live and enjoy our small country town with its variety of sports and leisure facilities and surrounded by protected countryside. Approximately 70% of Ongar homes are family homes with 3 or more bedrooms (2011 census). Children make up over 1 in 5 of the population and 1 in 8 are over 80 [19]. By contrast, ONS statistics also indicate that under 30s are still attracted to city living, and now make up almost 50% of inner city populations [20]. Predicted types of households for 2033 in EFDC indicate an increase in the number of households with dependent children over and above other types of household. Thus maintaining the present housing mix in Ongar will support the predicted demographic changes, both in Ongar in particular and in EFDC generally.

Bar chart to compare existing Ongar Housing Mix in 2011 with EFDC proposals for 2011-2033[23]

 
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Market forces [22] confirm a high continued demand for family homes in Ongar, especially 3 bed homes with gardens and sufficient car parking provision. House price values are in the region of 20% lower in Ongar than the equivalent in Epping or Loughton [23] and therefore making these more affordable. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020/21 and change in working patterns has reinforced such rural small town appeal.

 

A 30% increase in the number of homes is planned by 2027 from 2,626 in 2011 [24] with the addition of approximately 590 new homes allocated in EFDC Local Pan 2011-2033 and 200 already approved applications or built as windfall sites since 2011 [25]. With such a large increase in housing in a short time, particular attention must be given to ensure that all developers complement, and therefore retain, the civil Parish’s distinctive and rural character in order to encourage full integration of our new residents into the cohesive community. This is fully supported by the Residents Survey 2018.   See also Sustainable Design section 7.5 and Policy ONG-ED4.

 

Ongar residents typically wish to remain within this parish as they grow older [26], living independently or in sheltered accommodation. Despite more sheltered accommodation in Ongar recently, there is a demand for bungalows and other single floor flexible living accommodation with gardens, for downsizers [27]. Developers are expected to refer to the DWELL report (2016) [28] and to use its guidance to meet the local demand when considering new development layouts for Ongar. The Essex Design Guide website includes DWELL reports within its guidance for downsizers. Requirements of elderly and disabled, will be expected as part of the housing mix in Ongar.

 

Chipping Ongar town centre locations are convenient for smaller home and flats, including for retirees. 1 and 2 bed flats [29] are coming forward from conversions of the upper parts of Chipping Ongar High Street premises and brownfield infill sites as windfall sites. Allocated sites ONGR1-8 are mostly edge of settlement sites, which are ideal for larger family homes with gardens and parking and open space within the site.

 

This will deliver the most efficient use of land in compliance with national guidelines in NPPF 2021. It must also be taken into consideration that all sites ONGR 1-8 are classed [30] as having a High or Very High Sensitivity to Change and High Performance relating to the Green Belt purposes as reported in EFDC site selection documents. A rural ambience must be maintained. See also Section 7 Environment and Design.

 

EFDC confirmed in 2021 that “when applications are made where the proposed housing mix for a new development deviates from that in the Local Plan, the applicant is required to provide a justification that takes into account both quantitative (evidence based) and qualitative reason.” [31]

 

The small rural historic town of Chipping Ongar has Right of Ways across surrounding countryside, but has no town park. An existing deficit of semi natural open space and other recreational facilities was defined in 4 Global reports for EFDC. New developments in EFDC’s Local Plan 2011-2033 [32] are required contribute to additional infrastructure requirements as detailed in EFDC Infrastructure Delivery Programme [33]. The limited size of the allocated housing sites in Ongar, may require developers to contribute collectively to a more centrally based recreational amenity or facility. See Section Community and Transport Infrastructure, including Policy ONG-CT4 Infrastructure Priorities

 

Ongar Neighbourhood Plan includes requirement for internal housing space standards to be at least in compliance with the National Standards [34] but expects developers to build more spacious living to take account of the number of people now working from home and Ongar’s rural location. Only applying minimum National standards is not appropriate or intended for a rural parish such as Ongar, where there is more land capacity for homes than inner cities.

 

Most of Ongar’s surrounding countryside is inaccessible productive farmland. The deficit of open space within the settlement envelopes is confirmed in EFDC reports by 4 Global [35]. Essex Design Guide [36] standards for minimum outside private amenity space must also be complied with for town centre homes but is expected to be greater on the edge of settlement sites. This to be in addition to the space required for off street parking. The continued reliance on private cars is justified in Section 8.4 Transport and Movement and Policy ONG-CT3 includes parking standards. Realistic off street parking provision is therefore required for new homes.

 

Development of any kind must ”relate well to and enhance the existing character and context” (para 64 of National Design Guide 2019). Character at edge of settlement of Ongar is of openness, green verges and views to surrounding countryside. Character and Design are covered in Section 7 of Ongar Neighbourhood Plan, and Ongar Design Guide 2019, which include Place Shaping, layouts, materials etc.

 

Density of any new housing should be appropriate to the prevailing character of the surrounding neighbourhood within Ongar, whether in our small town centre or on the edge of the Green Belt, the latter requiring additional considerations to comply with the principles of the Green Belt.

 

EFDC baseline density for the district is 30dph. [37] Paragraph 2.88 of the Local Plan also acknowledges that it is not appropriate to apply density ranges set out in Policy SP3 mechanistically but to consider the density appropriate to the location. The average density for the built up parts of Ongar is 24pdh. EFDC site selection reports on the Green Belt and Landscape Sensitivity, conclude sites in Ongar are particularly sensitive to the impact of intensification and development because of the prevailing character of the area and the sensitive nature of the surrounding countryside or built form. Planning applications will be expected to justify the density range, housing mix and parking provision accordingly [38] with evidence.

 

The National Design Guide supports this in Paragraph 66:“Built form is determined by good urban design principles that combine layout, form and scale in a way that responds positively to the context. The appropriate density will result from the context, accessibility, the proposed building types, form and character of the development”.

 

The concept of ‘efficient use of land’ is not intended to increase the density or height of buildings beyond the prevailing character of the neighbourhood and would misinterpret the NPPF, which is partly intended for the reuse of brownfield sites and prevent urban sprawl in large towns and cities. This is supported by The Minister of State for Housing in June 2021 in response to Ongar’s query. He referred to The NPPF 2021 paragraph 124 [39] and Chapter 12 in particular [40] saying that “Government sets out that planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments be visually attractive, sympathetic to local character and history and create places which are safe, inclusive and accessible and promote health and well- being.” Paragraph 125 recommends the application of “area based character assessments, design guides and codes to help ensure that land is used efficiently while also creating beautiful and sustainable places.” Efficient use of land will also expect developments to have a mix of development and open space. This is explored further in National Design Guide and National Model Design Code.

 

The Chief Executive of EFDC, in response to a query on Housing Need projections and Housing Mix [41], reiterated that Market Housing Mix, with over 75% of Market Housing Mix being 3+ bedrooms, is to be supported by the indicative densities (which has a starting point of 30dph [42]) for allocated sites, including all Ongar sites.

 

To enable local people to stay within the civil parish they grew up in, when setting up home, Housing Association and Community Land Trust groups will be supported. The regulations on these organisations enable more flexibility than many other schemes, of giving priority to those with a link to Ongar, to benefit from low cost market homes remaining at an affordable price for future eligible households in perpetuity.

 

Better social integration of residents of affordable and market housing is achieved by integrating homes within a development, rather than building only affordable homes in one section. Different tenures should also be indistinguishable (tenure blind).

POLICY ONG-RR3: NEW HOUSING MIX AND STANDARDS

  1. The mix of accommodation in newbuild residential development must reflect the latest evidence of local need in the civil parish of Ongar to meet the requirements of all parts of the community, including:

    • Larger accommodation (3-4 bedrooms) suitable for families;

    • Smaller accommodation (1-2 bedrooms) suitable for first time buyers and those seeking to downsize;

    • Accommodation suitable for older people and people of limited mobility.

  2. The mix, density and character of housing should complement the local context and wider existing area, including:​

    • Higher density and smaller accommodation close to the Town Centre;

    • Lower density and larger accommodation with front and rear gardens, at edge of settlement and in the more rural parts of the civil parish.

  3.  Any affordable housing requirement should be provided as an integral part of each development and be tenure blind.

  4. Community-led, self-build and high environmental performance housing are encouraged.

INTERPRETATION OF ONG-RR3

The policy emphasises the importance of new housing being in character with the rural parish and maintaining our balanced community. See also Policies on Local Character and Design ONG-ED1, Sustainable Design ONG-ED4 and Policy Transport and Movement ONG- CT3, which includes parking provision.

The housing mix, based on evidence for EFDC (SHMA 2015) generally and Ongar civil parish in particular (ONS 2011), includes the need to provide a range of properties to enable growing families to stay in the Civil Parish as their housing needs change over time, thus being able to remain living within the cohesive community over many years.

Planning applications must justify the mix of new homes to be provided in compliance with this Ongar Neighbourhood plan Policy ONG-RR3 and EFDC Policy H1 part B. To demonstrate compliance with the policy, developers should explain how the mix reflects evidence of need locally in the parish including family homes and downsizers. Any application that “deviates from that in the Local Plan” must justify with “both quantitative (evidence based) and qualitative reasons.” [43.] National Design Guide 2019 guidelines relating to local context and character must be applied when considering any National Standards. Windfall sites and brownfield development and conversions will be more suitable for smaller accommodation and flats enabling a balance to be reset elsewhere in the parish in favour of family homes.

Density must equate with the prevailing density of approx. 24dph in the built up parts of Ongar. EFDC district wide base density is 30dph [44]. If the density is too high, the danger is that the housing mix cannot be met, and cramming encroaches on internal and private amenity space with harmful well-being and social effects [45] as well as the resulting development being out of character with its neighbourhood.

For Car parking provision See ONG-CT3 [46].

It is expected that new dwellings will comply with the nationally described space standards, but compliance with the DWELL standard is also encouraged.

 

Garden space requirements are set out in the Essex Design Guide, but should relate to the local character, which may indicate larger or small gardens; and sensitive locations within Conservation Areas. Design and character requirements are dealt with by policies in the Environment and Design part of this Neighbourhood Plan.

 

Tenure blind means that the affordable housing is indistinguishable from the market housing.

RATIONALE: BROADBAND

 

With the growth in home working, a fast and reliable internet connection will be vital. Most of Ongar is on existing plans for broadband development

 

NPPF at Paragraph 114 requires advanced, high quality and reliable communications infrastructure for economic growth and social well-being. Planning applications should include full fibre connections to existing and all new developments, including conversions.

 

POLICY ONG-RR4: BROADBAND

All new dwellings must incorporate high-speed broadband connections within the site, so as to be ready as and when local services are upgraded.

INTERPRETATION OF ONG-R4

The policy requires high-speed infrastructure to be provided within development sites, to include all new dwellings including conversions and change of use to residential, so as to be ready as local service provision is improved, including 4G, and 5G and any future upgrades.

11 EFDC Local Plan Evidence Base www.efdclocalplan.org/local-plan/evidence-base/      EB1008 Arup Town Centres Review 2016 and EB1006 Town Centres Study Roger Tym & Partners 2010

12 EFDC Local Plan 2011-2033 Policy E2 part D

13 See accompanying ONP Appendix -Projects and Actions and EFDC Ongar Regeneration Study and Proposals Paul Messenger 2020 in Evidence Files

14 Supported by Residents Survey Q 5.2 in Evidence Files

15 See National Model Design Code 2021 Section U1.i efficient use of land

16 EB405 Opinion Research Services (ORS) EFDC Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015 and updates EB406

17 Residents Survey 2018 in evidence file

18 EB801 ARUP Report on site selection and its Chipping Ongar Town Proforma

19 The Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2011 states 21.7% of Ongar’s population are children under 18, whilst 12.5% are over 80.

20 See High Streets Task Force https://www.highstreetstaskforce.org.uk/

21 EB405 Opinion Research Services (ORS) for EFDC in Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015 and updates EB406 and Table 4.1 which separates SHMA 2015 Affordable and Market Housing Mix projections

22 Zoopla & Rightmove and John Sear estate agents

23 Rightmove & Zoopla June 2021 with between £180k and £220k lower than Epping and Loughton respectively; also reported in EB801 ARUP Site Selection (viability assessment)

24 EB1118 Infrastructure Delivery Programme update 2021 Part B

25 EFDC planning approvals since 2011 including 105 in Fyfield Rd and 60 retirement homes.

26 Residents survey 2018 see evidence file

27 Residents’ Survey 2018 in Evidence File

28 DWELL (Designing with downsizers University of Sheffield 2016) see evidence file guidance for design and layout of developments to include downsizers. https://dwell.group.shef.ac.uk/

29 EB405 Opinion Research Services (ORS) EFDC in Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015 EB405 and EB406 30 Land Character and Green Belt Review papers for EFDC for site selection www.efdclocalplan.org/local- plan/evidence-base/

31 See response from EFDC CEO to Alex Burghart MP case no. AB7683 in Evidence file

32 See evidence file

33 link to IDP https://www.efdclocalplan.org/local-plan/evidence-base/

34 ‘Technical housing standards – nationally prescribed space standards, March 2015’ minimum sizes range from only 61 sq.m for a 2 bedroomed 1 storey (3 person) accommodation to 84 sqm for a 3bed 2 storey (4 person) and 97 sq.m for 4 bed 2 storey homes (5 person).

35 4 Global open space report EB706

36 Essex Design Guide https://www.essexdesignguide.co.uk/ which also indicates 100sq.m outside private space for a 3 bedroomed home.

37 EB801 ARUP Site selection reports

38 See evidence file Letter from EFDC Chief Executive to Alex Burghart MP case no. AB7683 in Evidence file Which states the requirement of evidence for any deviation from housing mix

39 NPPF Para 122 Paragraph 122 stating that development should also recognise “that provision of housing, habitat creation, public access to the countryside, flood risk mitigation are among many of the efficient uses of land” and that “identified need for different types of housing, the desirability of maintaining an area’s prevailing character and the importance of securing well-designed, attractive and healthy places” needs to be taken into account in local Polices.

40 Extract from letter from Minister of State for Housing, June 2021“The NPPF should be read as a whole”…”which emphasise the importance of sustainable, well-designed development which supports strong, vibrant and healthy communities. In particular, the Government supports the creation of high-quality buildings and places. In Chapter 12 the Government sets out that planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments be visually attractive, sympathetic to local character and history and create places which are safe, inclusive and accessible and promote health and well-being.” See evidence file for the letter from Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP 2021

41 See evidence file for response to case ref AB17683 relating to the District Housing Mix

42 See EFDC Local Plan 2011-2033 evidence base for site selection (external reports) EB800-805

https://www.efdclocalplan.org/local-plan/evidence-base

43 See Evidence File Response from EFDC Chief Executive relating to Housing Mix in Ongar to Alex Burghart MP case no.AB17683

44 EFDC Site Selection Reports EB800-805 https://www.efdclocalplan.org/local-plan/evidence-base/

45 See NPPF 2021 paragraph 8 relating to economic, social and environment objectives of Sustainable development

46 see section 8.4 Transport and Movement for justification of Policy ONG CT3