AN ousted district council leader has raised fears over the validity of plans that will determine where an estimated 10,000 homes are built across the district.
More than 200 campaigners gathered outside an exhibition on the plans in Chigwell last night to protest against 1,200 homes that could surround the village as part of the 20 year plans.
Protest organiser Sue Lloyd said: “Our view is that there should be no development in Chigwell village.
“There are other areas which could be considered, such as Hackney, which is growing at a rapid rate and there’s a lot of employment.
“There’s also the Olympic park in Stratford, where there are now housing developments.”
She said Chigwell’s winding roads, over-crowding on its branch of the Central line and the lack of employment in the village meant it was not suitable for more housing.
The council promised to write to every home in the district informing people about a 160-page survey on the plans at the start of a 11-week consultation period.
But former council leader Lesley Wagland claimed many people in Chigwell and some in Loughton had still not received information leaflets and were missing valuable time to respond.
“I was told by the planning department that something had gone wrong with the distribution,” she said.
“There are still large numbers of residents who have received nothing.”
The answers to the consultation will be used as part of the council’s evidence from which it will form its 20 year plan – the alternative to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which favours 'sustainable' development.
“What we’ve in effect got is people with about two weeks’ notice,” she said. “It puts us at all sorts of risks as a council and seems to be wholly undesirable – does that leave us vulnerable to judicial review?”
She added that the consultation itself, which involves answering 97 questions and referring to the document, was “fiendishly complicated.”
“It seems to me to be completely unacceptable,” she added. “Residents are coming to me and saying they want to respond, but they have a copy of the questionnaire and the consultation and don’t know where to cross-refer to.”
But Richard Bassett, the council’s planning portfolio holder, said it was not legally required to write to each household about the plan.
“We did it because it’s a way of letting everyone know,” he said. “We had to notify all parish councils and bodies such as the Environment Agency, which we did.”
He added that leaflets announcing the plans had now been delivered to all streets in the district.
“Our delivery people are GPS marked and we can see which roads they have been down,” he added.
He said if people were too confused by the questionnaire to complete it, they could write to the council separately about their street.
“We need local knowledge and we’re trying to reach out to everyone,” he added.