PROPOSED changes to planning laws that could bring undecided applications across the district down on the side of developers have been slammed.

It its draft policy, the Government says council planning decisions should be weighted in favour of “sustainable development”, although it is not yet clear what this refers to.

It has also argued that communities should be able to decide which areas of land to develop and which to protect.

Andrew Smith, 62, of Hemnall Street, Epping, led the opposition to a 60-home development in Green Belt land off Theydon Place.

He said: “It’s going to make it very difficult for any local authority to keep control over what goes on.

“The Government says it gives communities the right to decide where they want development and where they don’t, but development companies are much better organised and have more staff to put to work on this.”

The Theydon Place development has been turned down by the council, but Mr Smith said he was worried that a planning inspector will apply the planned law change if an appeal is lodged by developers Hill Partnerships.

“It’s been reported in the national press that authorities are already bearing in mind the Government’s new policy,” he added. “If I were (Hill Partnerships), I would now be putting in an appeal and saying that given the new policy, why would there not be a presumption in favour of the development?”

The Theydon Bois Action Group has called on villagers to write to MP Eleanor Laing opposing the law changes.

Its chairman, David McKelvey, said the application for a new commuter car park in Green Belt on the outskirts of the village could now be given the go-ahead on appeal.

“How can we feel as positive as we did that the appeal for this wholly inappropriate and speculative application will be dismissed?” he added.

“A recent application to tarmac over eight acres of green field meadow in Great Ryburgh, Norfolk, for a lorry park were recently passed by the local planning authority.

“The Government’s new pro-planning policy was apparently singled out by officials as a key planning consideration.”

The group is also urging resident to sign a National Trust petition against the changes in law, which can be found on

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