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Demolition of Loughton Library

3 November 2023
Demolition of Loughton Library Approved by the County Council
The proposal to demolish Loughton Library and provide a 5-storey block containing a smaller new Library with 38 flats above it was approved by the County Council's heavily Conservative Development Committee at Chelmsford on Friday 27 October.

Local LRA Cllr Chris Pond and his predecessor David Linnell (for LRA Plans Group) spoke forcefully against the proposal but to no avail. No non-Tory voted for it.

Since the officers and committee ignored paragraph 152 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which mandates re-use of current buildings because of the huge carbon "bill" involved in demolition/rebuild, LRA will be writing direct to Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), who has recently personally decided to refuse the Marks and Spencer application to demolish and rebuild their Oxford Street shop, to invite him to do similarly with this

3 March 2023

LRA was recently able to obtain the District Council's comments on the County Council's planning application to demolish Loughton Library and replace it with a smaller library with 38 flats on top.

The District Council have objected to the application, with the key issue that the 38 flats exceeds the 20 flats allowed for in the draft Local Plan, and that there would be an adverse effect from pollution on the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation and, as the District Council say, on the York Hill Conservation Area as well.

Support LRA4 November 2022

Although the consultation ended October 20th, you can still send your comments by post to the Chief Planning Officer, County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford CM1 1LX.

LRA Plans Group acquired the confidential pre-application "Statement of Community Involvement" document relating to the redevelopment of the Library through a Freedom of Information request. The summary demonstrates the majority of residents oppose the development. Over half of respondents opposed any additional housing and in particular the size and massing, loss of library space, against the principle of the demolition, parking and impact of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation were all registered as areas of objection. Notwithstanding this, only minor changes were made to the scheme before the application was submitted.

It is disappointing a public authority is ignoring the views of the local community. LRA Plans Group will continue to oppose the development.

LRA Cllr Chris Pond is also seeking to found out how library services will be maintained during the demolition and building period. The County Council to date has only said they "will seek to mitigate the impact of works on users of the building and ensure a continued library offer to the residents of Loughton" without any detail and whether this just means redirecting users to other libraries.

14 October 2022

The consultation period closes October 20th. It is now time to make your views known to the Council. More on our website and how to comment.

You can read LRAPG's letter of objection here.

5 October 2022Loughton Library
The County Council have now applied for planning permission to demolish Loughton Library on Traps Hill and replace it with a 5-storey block. More details are here.

A consultation is underway until October 20th. It is now time to make your views known to the Council.

How to Comment

Comment online here. Click Accept at the bottom of the page, then on the next page click 'Comment on this application” at the top right.

Alternatively, you can write to the Chief Planning Officer, County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford CM1 1LX.

Please copy your comments by email to us so that we can take account of your views - the LRA Plans Group oppose the application and will make detailed comments to the County Council.

Loughton Library
You may like to consider the following points:

The existing library, at two storeys, dominates this part of Traps Hill which is characterised by open spaces before it meets the three-storey high street retail buildings. The proposed five storey building, by reason its height and bulk is wholly out of character with the area and will dominate the setting of Traps Hill. Because of the lack of buildings at the Church Hill side of the cricket and bowls grounds, the new building will also stand out like a sore thumb to anyone walking or driving south down Church Hill, against a background of much lower buildings. It will also significantly harm the setting of the cricket ground (one of the very few grounds still in the centre of such a large urban settlement like Loughton).

The application proposes 38 additional dwellings which would mean more car pollution and a subsequent impact on the air quality in the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The additional dwellings will also result in more pressure for the SAC’s overstressed recreational services and subsequent damage to the SAC. The District Council has no firm plans to mitigate this damage to the SAC, and cannot be sure that any payments towards mitigation made as part of a planning approval will be enough to carry it out. This approach is in clear breach of UK law.

No “affordable housing” is included. If councils are providing zero affordable housing in their schemes, how can they expect private developers to provide any?

• The existing building is not that old, and should be refurbished.

In the earlier public consultation, most residents (and LRA Cllr Chris Pond) firmly opposed the plans.
Loughton LibraryWhat Happens Next
Like you, we can only make comments on the proposals, which the County Council must take into account but not necessarily agree with. The application will be decided upon by Councillors in a County Council Planning Committee. This is a quasi-legal process, and decisions have to be taken on planning grounds only, whatever the personal views of the Cllrs involved.

LRAPG is an independent panel that comments on all planning and licensing applications on behalf of Loughton residents and is quite separate from LRA Cllrs sitting on planning committees.

5 August 2022
Loughton Town Council to move offices

Because of the County Council’s intention to demolish Loughton Library on Traps Hill and replace it with a 5-storey block, the Town Council is having to move out by October. They plan to move back to their previous offices at 1 Buckingham Court in Rectory Lane (near the junction with Church Hill).

The Buckingham Court offices that were vacated in 2016 were successfully let out, but became empty in 2021 when the firm that had them ceased to trade. The Town Council reluctantly decided to return to the old site given the huge uncertainty caused by the County Council's unsustainable redevelopment plans.

LRA comment: LRA Plans Group, along with many residents, strongly opposes the County Council’s plans for the Library and the consequent unnecessary displacement of the Town Council. We note that planning permission for the new building has not yet been granted.

1 June 2022
Results of the County Council public consultation on demolishing Loughton Library
The County Council held a public consultation last July on their plans to replace Loughton Library (Traps Hill) with a five-storey building – a ground floor library and 4 floors on top containing 38 flats. The flats would be owned by “Essex Homes” a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Council, who would pay for the development. There would be no encroachment onto the public car park, but the parking area for library staff and visitors would be lost, without replacement.

As we’d heard nothing from the County Council since we used the Freedom of Information Act to get a copy of the report. Not many people responded, given the size of the Library’s catchment area (which may indicate a certain cynicism about such consultations). Even the rather loaded question “Do you in principle support a new library for Loughton at zero net cost to the Essex taxpayer?" got support from less than half of the respondents. Overall, the responses from respondents were quite negative or very negative, although the report tries to play this down. As a result of the comments, the Council has made some minor changes to the design.

LRA comment: Five storeys still seems to LRA’s Plans Group (LRAPG) to be wholly out-of-character with its surroundings (the Traps Hill car park, the cricket field and the bowls club ground, an area which used be designated as “Urban Open Space”). The new building would be close to the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (EFSAC), and the extra basement parking for residents would in LRAPG’s view be in breach of the legal requirements on air quality for the EFSAC. LRA County Cllr Chris Pond spoke recently at a County Council Cabinet meeting about the cavalier attitude Essex Homes have to embodied carbon, and also how they were intending to sell swanky flats in a building out-of-character with its surroundings (in this case in Waltham Abbey) for capital receipts. What they propose for Loughton certainly has no demonstrable local support.

14 January 2021
New Essex Libraries Strategy – give your views

There's still time to give your views (until January 21st) on the County Council’s draft strategy. More

As always, there’s not enough detail for us to be sure of how what is being proposed will affect Loughton and Debden Libraries.

Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) have reviewed the strategy and their comments are here.

28 September 2021Loughton Library

Recently Essex County Council held an online session on the future of Essex Libraries; you can find a report on it here. It appears that “sustainability” was among the objectives mentioned.

However, there was no justification for about the most unsustainable thing the Council plans to do, which is to demolish and rebuild the Loughton Library building - how many decades will it take to reclaim the waste of resources and carbon bill for this?

10 September 2021
County Council plans for our Libraries

Two online sessions are taking place on Monday September 20th for residents to discuss their views and ideas on the library service. The Council will outline ideas for key principles to help guide the service and its future development - residents will be able to discuss these, as well as make suggestions and offer feedback. The Council say that their ambition is to enhance and upgrade the library service and ensure it reflects the needs of local communities. All libraries in Essex will remain open and opportunities for training and upskilling libraries staff will be a key priority.

Morning session: 11:30am to 12:30pm. Book here
Evening session: 6-7pm. Book here

LRA comment: the County Council are well underway with their appalling plan to replace Loughton Library with a five-storey block; if you’re unhappy with this, we suggest you join one of these sessions and let them know your views.

13 August 2021

The County Council’s public consultation ended on August 1st. We hope an ative plan for the Library, including retention of the existing building instead of its demolition, will be worked up in the next week or so. There is of course no guarantee that the County Council will be interested.

20 July 2021

There is now a public consultation. You can find this, and the detailed plans here. There are also exhibition events at the Library on Thursday July 22nd and Saturday July 24th. More

The design of the new Library brings it all onto the ground floor (on two floors at present) and preserves the current level of stock (books, CDs, etc) in 80% of the current space, plus a new outdoor area which can be used in connection with the Library by schools etc in fine weather. However, this still represents a very significant reduction in book stock held locally compared with that of, say, ten years ago.

The County Council wants to put 38 flats on four floors on top of the ground-floor library in order to raise the money to pay for the development. Five storeys seems to LRA’s Plans Group (LRAPG) to be wholly out-of-character with its surroundings (the Traps Hill car park, the cricket field and the bowls club ground, an area which used be designated as “Urban Open Space”). There would be no encroachment onto the public car park, but the parking area for library staff and visitors would be lost, without replacement.

The new building would be close to the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (EFSAC), and the extra basement parking for residents would in LRAPG’s view be in breach of the legal requirements on air quality for the EFSAC. The Town Council and the National Jazz Archive would have the same amount of space in the new building as they have now. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) would not return to the new building as they changed over to giving advice over the phone during Covid (they have found that this works well and means that their advisers can work from home. Anyone needing face-to-face advice will have to go to their Epping office).

The County Council own the site. The development would be done by Essex Homes Ltd, a company owned by the County Council. The Council would finance the construction of the building with a cheap loan from the Public Works Loan Board. It would then get income from leasehold sales of the flats and then ground rents from them.

There will be a formal planning application in the autumn. This will be considered by the County Council’s planning committee. At that stage, LRA Plans Group will strongly oppose the development on its design, loss of library facilities and threat to the air quality in the EFSAC.
All this has nothing to do with the District Council, except they have aided and abetted it by putting it into the draft Local Plan as a development site (with a capacity of about 20 homes). There is now a public consultation on the 'Main Modifications' to the Plan (more in our next regular news email), and the LRA Plans Group will press the Inspector either to remove the site and/or reduce its capacity.

In the meantime we will be looking for other ways of stopping the proposal. There’s more background below on the Library and here on the draft Local Plan and we’ll be keeping residents informed on this page, with our news emails to members, and on Twitter and Facebook.

What you can do
Please let the County Council know what you think of the proposal. The consulation ends August 1st.

On the consultation website there is a feedback form for your comments. If you agree with all or any of the LRA Plans Group comments include them in your feedback. You can also email your comments to loughtonlibrary@secnewgate.co.uk or by free post (scroll down the page).

Please copy your comments to us (applications@LoughtonResidents.co.uk) and to the Town Council (contact@loughton-tc.gov.uk) and the District Council (appcomment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk).

7 July 2021

Details of information events are on the consultation website and in the leaflet that was delivered to residents (surprisingly, the leaflet doesn’t say that you can find the details of the scheme on the website). In due course the exhibition materials will be loaded onto the website.

The development is actually five storeys - four storeys plus a penthouse.

2 July 2021

Essex County Council is about to consult residents about their plans to demolish the Traps Hill library and replace it with a four-storey block with lots of flats on the upper floors over a smaller library. Starting next week, they’re arranging for leaflets to be delivered to local households, with a structured questionnaire.  This application will not be decided by the District Council, but by a Conservative-dominated development committee in Chelmsford, but the Town and District Councils are able to comment on the proposals.

On Monday July 12th there will be an online public meeting with Essex County Cllrs, architects and the Essex Housing Team. There will be face to face public exhibition events on Thursday July 22nd (afternoon and evening) and on the morning of Saturday July 24th. Details should be in the leaflet.

LRA Plans Group comment: the council say that one reason for the redevelopment is the poor state of the current building’s roof; this appears to be the result of the Council’s past neglect. However, these plans would produce a smaller and poorer library in a building wholly out of character in its surroundings, and the residents’ vehicles would contribute to air pollution in the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation, which would be in breach of the relevant legislation.

What you can do: please consider your views on this carefully, and reply to the County Council. If you agree with all or any of the LRA Plans Group comments include them in your reply (if the Council’s questionnaire doesn’t allow you to express your views in full, please reply by email or free post). Please copy your comments to us at applications@LoughtonResidents.co.uk and to the Town Council (contact@loughton-tc.gov.uk) and the District Council (appcomment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk).

Loughton Library11 June 2021

We understand the much-delayed consultation on this project to demolish Loughton Library and provide a smaller library under a block of flats will take place in July.

Please be ready to give your views!

21 May 2021

Loughton Library is planned to be demolished and replaced by a much smaller library and no doubt a very big block of flats. How big, the County Council won't say. From what we heard on the doorsteps, there will be a huge outcry on this, and they are intending to do a postal questionnaire.

11 April 2021
LRA Cllr Chris Pond has been asking the County Council some searching questions about their proposals [LRA comments in brackets]:

The Council have now announced that they are putting back their planned public consultation on the redevelopment until after the election.

LRA comment: we think the whole proposal is misguided and we will continue to press for proper answers to these questions.

13 March 2021

Essex County Council is proposing to demolish the existing library building on Traps Hill and to replace it with flats and a smaller library. The site is in the draft District Local Plan for redevelopment to give a smaller library, with (at the moment) 20 flats above. However, LRA Cllr Chris Pond suspects that the County Council wants to build higher than the expected three storeys, with a garage floor below, as their rebuilding budget of almost 12.4m would otherwise imply a cost per flat of at least 600,000. The County Council is refusing to reveal its plans.

The site is only four minutes’ walk from the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (EFSAC), and LRA believes that any development here would adversely affect the EFSAC. In addition, anything over 3 storeys would be wholly out-of-character with its surroundings, at a time when the Government is emphasising the need for new developments to reflect “the character of each place and local design preferences”.

If the scheme goes ahead, Chris says that a larger vacant High Road retail unit, such as the former Clinton Cards and New Look stores, would be a "good possibility for a decamp" while any building work was taking place at Traps Hill for about a year. Chris thinks that these District Council owned units could also provide enough temporary space for the library and the Citizens Advice Bureau. The National Jazz Archive will also need relocating.

30 August 2019

Loughton LibraryLoughton Library is under threat of demolition and replacement by a smaller library under a block of flats. 

The County Council plans to spend almost 800,000 to demolish the library and replace it with 27 new apartments for either sale or rent, along with a new library.

As reported in the Epping Forest Guardian, LRA Cllr Chris Pond said that the development, just a short walk from the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), will add extra pressure on the wildlife that exists there.

He added a European Court of Justice judgement protecting special areas of conservation against development needed to be taken into account, and that replacing the library with homes would harm Epping Forest wildlife.

Cllr Pond called in the plan at a recent County Council Committee Meeting (read the details - item 7), however this was rejected on party lines by the Conservative controlled council. Much will now depend on the inspector's report on the Local Plan on safeguarding the SAC (read the latest here), as this would be 27 extra dwellings, each with people, dogs and cycles etc within a four minute walk of the SAC.

Separately, the Town Council Planning & Licensing Committee agreed to register Loughton Library and Town Hall as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ with the District Council, and will let Essex County Council know they're doing so.