This blog is written by Jacqueline Dodman of the Theydon Bois and Abridge Action Group. There have been a number of proposals for golf courses in this area which is close to the junction of the M25 and M11 motorways. (see also Blakes Golf Blog) The Theydon Bois Action Group now has its own website at

The Theydon Bois and Abridge Action Group, now called TBAG was formed primarily to ensure that the villages and environs of Theydon Bois and Abridge would not be damaged and that villagers would not be adversely affected by the commercial activities of developers. The group has been particularly concerned with the Blunts Farm development. For 2.5 years, from mid 2003 until January 2006 our two villages have been plagued by an average of more than 250 heavy lorries, making daily return trips, delivering landfill to the Blunts Farm site. These lorries have endangered families, and severely damaged private and public property including listed buildings. The traffic congestion, noise and pollution they have created has been intolerable. The surface of the B172 was so bad that 30 mph signs have been posted along the entire length from Abridge to the entrance to Parsonage Golf course, and has now been totally re surfaced at a significant cost to the tax payer. In addition, the Green Belt has been compromised and local residents have been further affected by the smell and the health dangers resulting from the dumping of unwanted and suspect materials.

This has all taken place because a developer has persuaded the Epping Forest District Council to grant permission for the construction of a golf course necessitating the importation of hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of landfill. This has allowed millions of pounds in profits to be made, with no resulting benefit to the community.

Even so the developer has imported considerably more than was envisaged in the planning application and rather belatedly enforcement notices have been served and the Environment Agency withdrew the developers 19A Waste Exemption Certificate prohibiting the importation of any further landfill.

TBAG were granted Rule 6 status for the Planning Inspectorate Public Enquiry and had prepared a considerable amount of evidence before the developers, a subsidiary of Aitch Group, withdrew their appeal. The following is taken from our appeal documentation.

We can provide evidence demonstrating that Blunts Farm Estates Ltd has blatantly, continuously and repeatedly lied to residents, EFDC, Inspectors etc. in order to continue profiting from importing spoil into this and their other sites Blakes Golf formerly Ongar Park in North Weald. Blunts Farm Estates have taken 2.5 years to reach the current situation at Parsonage Golf, Theydon Bois. The golf course is still far from completion and the developers have now decded that they now no longer wish to complete / develop a golf course on the site.

The imported ‘spoil’ to construct the golf course has far exceeded the levels agreed by Epping Forest District Council. The developer would not have constructed the golf course without the income from spoil. Sir John Harman Chairman of the Environment Agency visited the site and confirmed that he estimated that the developers had probably made £20 million dumping at the site. He said "It's an example of an unscrupulous operator looking to run a landfill site while avoiding the appropriate planning and environmental controls by claiming the so-called golf-course' exemption."

The method of construction appears to be a ruse to circumnavigate landfill tax legislation.

The number of heavy lorries delivering spoil to the site from 6am each day- (averaging more than 250 per day x 6 days a week x 51 weeks per year x 2.5 years) has been extremely detrimental to the environments of Theydon Bois and Abridge. These lorries have created excessive noise, pollution and damage to private and public property including listed buildings. In addition, the materials imported to the site have polluted the land and atmosphere. There is no benefit to the area. The site is in the centre of an area awash with golf courses. There are 20 golf courses within a radius of 5 miles.

The developer has already greatly exceeded the topographical limits agreed with EFDC and imported at least 50% more spoil than indicated. The plans agreed by EFDC only requested raising parts of the area. The developer has already dumped spoil on the entire area, raising the whole landscape by a minimum of 2 metres. There is already sufficient topsoil on the site to complete construction. In fact the methodology statement states that extra topsoil will not be required for completion. There is no reason why the developer should be permitted to import further landfill to the danger and disadvantage of local residents.

The natural landscape of the site was rolling countryside. The dumping to date has already changed the natural lie of the land. The base levels of the entire area have been raised by at least 2 metres. Streams, hedgerows and public footpaths have been damaged and compromised. The current high points already look most unnatural.It is not planning policy to allow golf course constructors to flout landfill legislation. Neither is it appropriate to the green belt to bury it under millions of tons of building rubble.

The developers have misled the council and residents regarding the development of both the Blunts Farm site and their North Weald golf course, Blakes Golf formerly Ongar Park. They sought and obtained planning permission for the latter at much the same time as that for Blunts Farm. This also subjected the residents to the dangers and inconvenience of hundreds of lorries importing spoil on a daily basis.

The developer did not start work until planning permission was granted for both sites. EFDC struggled to control the developer’s activities in North Weald and voted to issue Enforcement Notices against Blunts Farm Estates Limited in March 2005. The developer has often ignored the instructions and requests of EFDC. This is at least the third project by this developer using this methodology; they were also involved in Stapleford Abbotts golf course construction at Tysea Hill.

EFDC has proof that the developer has exceeded the volume of fill permitted.In notes supporting the original planning application Swan Golf the developer’s agents stated ‘there will be between two and three lorry movements per hour’. TBAG can evidence that there has been an average of at least 25 return trips an hour over the past 2.5 years, and can evidence as many as 45 trips per hour.

The original levels and current levels of the land are clearly evident by visiting the site. The land height has already been raised generally by 2 metres and in some places by over 4 metres.The Environment Agency deactivated the Waste Management Licence Exemption on 11th January 2006 at 4pm. Blunts Farm Estates Limited were informed that they were not allowed to accept any more waste at the site as of Thursday 12th January 2006, although lorries continued to dump illegally from 6.41am to 9.07am.

TBAG feel that excessive dumping at the site has caused:

1. risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals
2. nuisance through noise or odours
3. an adverse effect on the local countryside and places of special interest

We have photographs of oil drums, metal, plastic, tarmac, large plastic liquid containers, tyres and vast quantities of what we believe to be sewerage ‘sludge’. We have evidence that ‘sludge’ was delivered to the site by South Herts Waste Management. These photographs demonstrate what we feel to be, a risk to water, soil and plants. This pollution has had a serious adverse impact on the local countryside and a place of special interest to residents. The sewerage sludge has caused nuisance through odour and has attracted millions of seagulls.

The lorries themselves did cause a nuisance through noise, pollution and vibration damage to property thundering through Abridge from 6.30 in the morning 6 days per week. The impact that this development has caused on the local countryside is incalculable.

The water filled pits on the site have been ‘bubbling’ for months and appear to be a novel feature in the methodology of golf course construction. It is inarguable that the fill imported has greatly exceeded that permitted. It would be unreasonable and disastrous to accept an argument for completing the course and then measuring the spoil imported. The developer clearly believes that if they blight the area and harm the residents with tens of thousands of additional lorries, the authorities will not force them to remove the excess spoil and further disadvantage residents. As previously stated and proven the operations have not been carried out in accordance with the permission and approved details. The methodology statement was misleading.

TBAG had wished for the construction of the golf course to be completed without the importation of any more material. The developer should not be allowed to import further materials in the belief that he will not be forced to remove them. There is also the risk that if he were forced to remove excess materials the developer might wind up the operation having made a vast profit from flouting landfill legislation. Any materials thought to be a ‘danger’ to the general public should be removed. The developers have more recently confirmed that they no longer wish to construct a golf course on the site.

Residents are now left with a barren dangerous 'moon scape'. Blunts Farm Estates Limited a subsidery of Aitch Group, no longer wish to develop a golf course and are currently in negotiation with EFDC to empty the water filled pits, fill the vast voids and attempt to make the site look as close as it did before they turned this green belt site into a landfill. The land will be permanently scarred, it is covered in hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of demolition waste, it could never be returned to agriculture and could well be a long term health hazard to the people of Theydon Bois. We have no idea what the long term future for the site is, but we have lost green fields and gained a landfill site.

Theydon Bois Action Group.