Robert Daniels Court Celebrates Re-opening

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After a successful two-year refurbishment programme, Home South (formerly Warden Housing) is to officially re-open Robert Daniels Court in Theydon Bois, Essex. Staff and residents are hosting an event on Friday 14 July from noon until 2.00 pm to mark the occasion. Guest speakers will include Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council and Tracey Lees, Managing Director for Home South. Councillor Mrs Caroline Pond, Vice Chairman of Epping Forest District Council will plant a commemorative tree and the event will also feature performances by the Theydon Bois Primary School Choir. Guests, including all Epping Forest District Councillors, will have an opportunity to tour the improved accommodation and talk to residents.

Robert Daniels Court is the first ever stock transfer of sheltered housing from Epping Forest District Council to a housing association. Following extensive consultation with residents and a ballot, ownership of the building was transferred to Home South, and Home South became the tenants` new landlord. The scheme was originally built in the sixties and was in need of a complete refurbishment. Most of the accommodation was in the form of bedsits, with combined bedrooms and lounges, with residents having to use shared bathroom facilities. Residents were consulted on what facilities they needed, and remained at Robert Daniels Court whilst the improvement scheme was carried out. An extension of self-contained flats was built and all the bedsits have been converted into flats. Now that the scheme has been completed, the residents are delighted with their new and converted homes.

Robert Daniels Court provides accommodation for the over sixties and cost just over £2.5 million to improve with completion in June 2006. The overall cost to the Council was far less than if the Council had undertaken the improvements itself. There are now 35 one-bedroom self-contained flats, all featuring modern facilities, including in some flats `wet rooms` and low-level use kitchens. A new communal lounge and landscaped garden will play host to a range of events and activities.

The scheme was completed successfully thanks to a strong partnership between Home South (formerly Warden), Epping Forest District Council, architects Hunter and Partners and Rok Construction. Robert Daniels Court has been designed to cater for varying levels of support and a full time Resident Manager is available for those requiring such support. Councillor Stallan says I`m sure the residents will agree that their new homes have been worth the wait. They look excellent. Warden Housing has proved itself, like the Council, to be a caring landlord. Indeed, with the success of this transfer the Council is now working with Warden (now Home South) to transfer another sheltered housing scheme in Chigwell. We will be seeking the Secretary of State`s consent for this in the near future.

Tribute to Former Councillor Michael Wardle

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Councillors and Staff at Epping Forest District Council have paid tribute to former EFDC Councillor Michael Wardle, who passed away on Friday 23 June 2006 after suffering from a long illness. Councillor Wardle served as the representative for St. Mary`s Ward in Loughton on the District Council from 1992 until his retirement in 2002. Councillor Wardle had also been a Loughton Town Councillor for the Loughton St. Mary`s Ward since 1996.

Epping Forest District Council Chairman Ann Haigh said We would like to offer Councillor Wardle`s family our sincere condolences and sympathy for their loss. He will be remembered not only for his excellent service to the community for both Epping Forest District Council and Loughton Town Council during the previous two decades but also for his care and compassion for others as well as his wonderful dry sense of humour.

Councillor Wardle left a wife and three children and Council Members and staff stood in silent tribute as Councillors received news of his death at the meeting of the Full Council on Thursday 29 June.

Michael Wardle was Chairman of the District Council`s Area Plans Subcommittee A from 1995 to 1997 and was also Vice-Chairman of the District Council`s District Development Control Committee from 2000 to 2001 as well as being a member of numerous committees in his ten years with the Council. Michael was a founder member of Loughton Town Council when he became a Town Councillor in 1996.

Councillor Wardle will be remembered as a friendly and charismatic Councillor. He had many friends and will be sadly missed.

Councillors Criticise Roding Road Bridge Delays

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Councillors last night heavily criticised the delays in reopening Roding Road in Loughton and the lack of information being provided by Transport for London contractors Metronet and Essex County Council Highways. They also criticised the response of the Post Office in sealing post boxes in the area and refusing collections.

The bridge over Roding Road, which carries Central Line trains to and from Loughton Station, was hit by a skip lorry on 13 June 2006 causing damage to the structure. A three week emergency road closure has been put in place while repair work is carried out due to fears that the structure is unsafe.

Local Loughton Roding Ward councillor Councillor Stephen Murray, seconded by Cllr Ken Angold-Stephens, put a motion to Council last night calling on the Leader of Council, Civil Engineering and Maintenance Portfolio holder and Joint Chief Executives to continue to put pressure on Essex County Council and Metronet to get the work completed swiftly. Cllr Angold-Stephens also criticised the lack of information being given to local residents regarding the road closure and the status of the works, as well as the post offices decision to close post boxes due to difficulties in collection. Councillors unanimously supported the motion and added their own concerns regarding the continuing traffic congestion and economic damage the road closure is causing, and again called on contractors to work as quickly as possible, including at night, to complete the repairs.

Cllr Di Collins, Leader of Council, said, Full council welcomed Cllr Murray`s motion and the Cabinet will give it its full support. I have experienced the traffic problems there myself and will be calling the County Portfolio holder and contractors to find out what the situation is. The Post Office`s decision to seal the post boxes in Roding Road and stop collecting until the road reopens also beggars belief. We understand the difficulties in collecting here now with the heavy congestion and closure but to stop collecting is ridiculous. We need some creative thinking from all parties to get the town moving. Councillor Andy Green, the Portfolio holder for Civil Engineering and Maintenance, and myself will continue to put pressure on Metronet and the County Council to get Roding Road reopened at the earliest possible date.

Standards Committee Annual Report 2005/2006

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Councillors heard last night how the authority`s Standards Committee had operated over the past year as the Committee`s Fourth Annual Report was noted by Full Council.

The Standards Committee`s main role is to advise councillors on ethical issues and provide training in the Code of Conduct. They also investigate complaints against councillors when necessary.

The report covered the work the Committee had undertaken in the past year, including responding to the government`s consultation on a review of the Code of Conduct, investigating 3 complaints (two against District councillors and one against a parish councillor), and running a series of training courses for councillors. The Committee also introduced two new protocols, one involving councillors declaring gifts and hospitality, and another covering how Members use Council facilities and IT equipment.

Dr Hawes, Chairman of the Standards Committee, said, It has been a very productive year for the committee with some interesting developments at a national level in how we deal locally with complaints against councillors. Some may be uncomfortable with the way standards are enforced and see the national Standards Board and local Standards Committee as an unwarranted intrusion in the democratic process. However, there is a great need to ensure that councillors and other public figures have the correct advice with regard to ethical matters, and that any complaints can be investigated independently and fairly. The objective of the New Ethical Framework was to build public confidence in local democratic politics and with training, advice and transparency in how we operate this objective can be achieved.

 

Cool Chairman in the Shade for Guide Dogs

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Link to Healthy Eyes website

Councillor Mrs Ann Haigh Chairman of Epping Forest District Council encouraged everyone in the district to look cool by wearing their sunglasses for Guide Dogs, supporting the charity`s annual fundraising event Shades Day. She joined her fellow Councillors at the Full Council meeting on 29 June in wearing sunglasses to highlight the importance of protecting your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun.

The Chairman was amongst thousands of schoolchildren and adults all over the UK who will be making a donation of £1 to The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to wear their sunnies on Shades Day. The special day provides a unique opportunity to learn more about eye care, particularly in the sun, such as the importance of wearing good quality sunglasses.

Councillor Mrs Haigh said: Shades Day is a fantastic way both to raise money for Guide Dogs and to highlight an important eye care message for us all.

Epping Forest District Councillors looking cool for Shades Day - click to enlarge image

Picture is of Chairman and members of Epping Forest District Council posing in their shades with Jane Boreham fundraiser and secretary of Chelmsford branch of Guide Dogs together with 14 week old Guide Dog golden retriever puppy Alexis.

Guide Dogs is committed to eye health education and has invested more than £10 million into researching the causes of eye conditions. Funding research into eye diseases is essential to understand the causes of blindness and how to help prevent sight loss, says Tom Pey Guide Dogs` Director of Public Policy and Development. There are simple measures that everyone can take to look after their eyes and, potentially, save their sight.

This year`s Shades Day will be extra special as the charity celebrates the 75th anniversary of the first guide dogs in the UK, which qualified with their pioneering blind owners in Wallasey, Cheshire, in 1931.

For more information on eye health, visit www.healthyeyes.org.uk

Councillor Metcalfe Joins Refuse Collectors

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Cllr Metcalfe inspects wheeled bin refuse - click to enlarge imageCouncillor Stephen Metcalfe, Portfolio Holder for Customer Services, Media, Communications and ICT, spent Monday morning (26 June 2006) helping refuse collectors in Abridge.

He joined the team collecting wheelie bins, so that he could see for himself the issues both the crews and the public are facing. Councillor Metcalfe said: This experience was a real eye opener and an educational experience for me. The crews work incredibly hard to do their best for everyone.

Councillor Metcalfe went on to say, I have taken on this job so that I can work with the public to improve the system. However, the public needs to work with us as well. For example, people must recycle wherever possible to help us make the system work.

Cllr Metcalfe empties Abridges' wheeled bins - click to enlarge imageCouncillor Metcalfe said he recognised the problems with the introduction of alternate weekly collections. He continued: Having now experienced some of these problems first hand, I will be better informed of the issues when looking at how the system might be adapted. I am therefore hoping to strike a fairer balance between the needs of residents and the Council`s need to recycle more. We need to work in partnership so that everyone sees the system as fair and just.

Finally, Councillor Metcalfe was quick to express his gratitude towards the waste collection team. He concluded, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the crew for their support and assistance. They really made me feel like one of the team.

 

Councillors Ask School Governors To Think Again

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District Councillors supported the objections of many local residents by refusing the outline planning application for the relocation of Leverton, Infants and Nursery School at the meeting of Area Plans Subcommittee D on Wednesday 14 June.

While many councillors expressed sympathy for the desire to improve the school, they felt that the proposals to build in the Green Belt and partially fund the project with a housing development on the existing school site did not constitute the very exceptional circumstances required to set aside normal planning policies.

The existing buildings are of a relatively young age. The original school was granted planning permission in 1969. The most recent addition of the Nursery was approved in 1996.

Having taken into account an officer report, a presentation on behalf of the school governors, four speakers against the proposals and a large number of written objections from residents and Waltham Abbey Town Council, the application was refused.

 

Relief, Anger and Consternation – Mixed Emotions Greet Publication of EiP

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3,000 new houses could be built in Epping Forest District as part of the proposed expansion of Harlow. Epping Forest District Council would also need to accommodate an extra 3,500 dwellings not directly linked to Harlow if the Government accepts the recommendations of a panel set up to scrutinise the East of England Plan. The Panel rejects proposals for around 6,000 new dwellings at North Weald.

The recommendations are included in the report of the Panel set up to hold the Examination in Public (EiP) of the East of England Plan. The Panel has further reduced the total number of homes allocated to Epping Forest District from 11,000 to 6,500 by removing the allocation specifically identified for North Weald in the East of England Plan.

The Panel`s recommendations for the construction of 6,500 houses would mean significant development within the Green Belt.

The Panel has also recommended that proposals for the expansion of Harlow to the North in East Hertfordshire be dropped despite increasing the overall number of new dwellings designated for Harlow from 8,000 to 13,500 (including the 3,000 to be built in Epping Forest District).

The news has created a mixture of conflicting emotions within Epping Forest District Council.  The Council has achieved major successes in its ongoing battles to protect the District. From an original allocation of 18,600 new houses, the Council argued for major reductions. By the time the East of England Plan was published that figure had been reduced to 11,000. The EiP Panel recommendations have now brought the figure down to 6,500.

The new allocation of 6,500 is much closer to the level of development the Council believes the District needs to address a shortage of affordable housing as well as new homes for sale.

However, the Council is deeply concerned. Anger and consternation has been expressed at the proposed location of the new homes and the push to extend Harlow into the Epping Forest Green Belt in what looks like a redrawing of the Council boundaries. If the EiP proposals get the Government go-ahead, an arch of land to the South and West of Harlow including communities in Nazeing, Roydon, Broadley Common, Jacks Hatch and Epping Green could be affected. Expansion East of Harlow could also feature.

There is no question that the proposals represent a massive urban expansion into the Green Belt. Expansion to the South of Harlow also raises the possibility of a southern link road between the A414 and M11.

Epping Forest District Council is being told to work with Harlow District Council to make an early start. The EiP Panel says: The strategy for Harlow should be delivered through a partnership approach based on the Area Regeneration Partnership. Harlow District Council and Epping Forest District Council should prepare a joint LDD (Local Development Document) to establish the planning framework for new urban extensions and Green Belt reviews. The aim will be to bring forward development simultaneously at various locations so as to facilitate a significant increase in housing delivery at an early stage.

While the Council gets down to examining the EiP report in fine detail, Councillors believe now more than ever that it is vital that final decisions on the location of new housing are made by local people through the Planning Authority and not imposed by outsiders or a Government-appointed Development Corporation.

Councillors also want `cast-iron` guarantees that infrastructure will be provided. The East of England Regional Assembly withdrew the endorsement of its own plan last year after doubts emerged over Government promises to fund infrastructure. As the current water shortage and drought restrictions continue, those doubts remain. From the current concerns about water supply, through to the provision for schools, health centres and hospitals, public transport, leisure and work opportunities, the Council wants those cast-iron guarantees of infrastructure in place before a single new house is built.

The EiP Panel itself also identifies infrastructure as a major issue and says that if water supply problems can`t be solved then development should be delayed or altered.

The EiP Panel recommendations have now been submitted to the Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government where the final decisions will be taken. The Government is expected to publish its decisions in November after a further twelve-week consultation period during which Epping Forest District Council will continue to campaign on behalf of our residents and our District.

Roding Valley Meadow Local Nature Reserve Twentieth Anniversary

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Countrycare, the countryside management section of Epping Forest District Council will be joining forces with Essex Wildlife Trust on Saturday 24 June to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Roding Valley Meadow Local Nature Reserve.

The event will be marked by a day of fun for all the family. Visitors should meet at 11.00am in the main car park off Roding Lane, Chigwell from where they will be guided to the events area in the Twenty Two Acre field.  During the day there will be a guided walk around the reserve, pond dipping, a minibeast safari and face painting with a nature theme.

Summer Spectacular and Disability Awareness

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Summer Spectacular is a disability awareness event being organised by Epping Forest District Council Sports Development and Chigwell Disabled Group. The event, which is to promote and encourage disabled and non-disabled sport within the wider community, will take place on Saturday 24 June at the Metropolitan Police Club, Chigwell.

The whole-day event will begin with a Sports Conference aimed at agencies working within the fields of sport and the arts supporting disabled people. Later there will be an Activity Fest at which local businesses and sports clubs will be promoting the activities they support with taster sessions for visitors. Sports will include athletics, cricket, football, badminton, tennis and boccia, together with the Epping Forest District Council Arts Team. Information stalls will also be on site from Chigwell Riding Trust for Special Needs, Epping Forest District Council Swimming Pools and Leisure Centres, Voluntary Action Epping Forest, Accuro, Lifewalks and Redbridge Sport and Leisure Centre.

The event will end with a cabaret show where everyone involved during the day can come together, relax and celebrate disability awareness.