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A charity group who provide food banks for vulnerable people have launched an appeal against a decision to prevent them storing food and other donations on unused land near Theydon Bois underground station.

Epping Forest Council threw out an application for retrospective planning permission to site two storage containers on the Old Foresters Sports Ground car park in Station Hill.

The charity 3FOOD4U have been using the old sea containers as a storage hub before distributing much needed supplies to shops and pop ups in Loughton, Chigwell Row, Waltham Abbey, Ongar and North Weald.

But the Council claim the units breach planning law as the area is designated Green Belt and no special circumstances exist that outweigh the harm caused by its use.

However the landowners, who are allowing the charity to use the land and containers for free say permission should be granted because the space is vital for the continued operation of the charity food bank during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pesh Kapasiawala, chairman of the Trustees for 3FOOD4U, said:” I’m really hoping that we can reach an amicable settlement to this issue and the inspectorate will find in our favour.

This country has gone through very challenging times over the past year and more and more people are relying on food banks like ours to get by.

In my opinion the location of the food bank storage units seem perfect, not close to anyone’s home and out of the way so will not affect people’s business or lives.

We need this additional space to store food for people, especially with young families, who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own during this pandemic.

I hope common sense will prevail.”

The sensitive issue has rankled with locals and the site has been subject to attack from vandals with the result that the storage containers have had their locks glued up and thousands of nails have been strewn over the tarmac car park.

Police have been called to the site as arguments have broken out between the site users and local protest groups. The owners have installed CCTV to catch any future trespassers on the site.

The controversial site, which sits on the Old Foresters Sports Ground, was once earmarked as a golf driving range, a children’s day nursery, then run as a school for children with learning difficulties.

Previous plans to turn part of the site into a car park for the station have been blocked in the past. During the UK Olympics it was used as a temporary camp site for overseas visitors and tourists. Three years ago there was a legal row after a proposal was ditched following a proposal to build 160 homes on the site as part of the local plan.

The latest row blew up in February when the owners, Theydon Bois Land Management, who have turned down offers from members of the travelling community to buy the site, gave permission to the charity to store tins of food, clothes and non perishable items as they were in desperate need of more storage. The council served an enforcement notice and the row has now gone to appeal.

Discussions have also been going on with the Council about planting 10,000 trees over the 15 acres site and an adjoining plot which could be used for carbon offsetting and biodiversity.

A final decision about the future of the land is expected by the summer.