Trees planted at Roding Valley Meadows

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Loughton, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Volunteering opportunities, Working with the council, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

750 trees were planted by local volunteers and residents of the Oakwood Hill Estate in Debden. They joined Essex Wildlife Trust and Epping Forest Countrycare to plant trees along the boundary between Oakwood Hill and Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

The tree planting is part of a larger project aimed at improving this area of the nature reserve, creating a more inviting and picturesque place for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

Over 30 volunteers turned up to help with the planting. They included local families, councillors and even Police Community Support Officers.

Earlier in the year the large patch of bramble which had grown along the boundary line was cleared, litter removed and a new post and wire fence was erected by the Reserve Warden and his volunteers. The latest stage in the project was to plant a native mixed species hedgerow along the fence line.

Species planted included hazel, field maple, hawthorn, dogwood and dog rose.

Housing Allocations Scheme review and new Tenancy Policy consultation

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Consultation, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your home

The council is seeking views on its draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme and new draft Tenancy Policy.

Housing Allocations Scheme

The council operates a housing register. This is a list of ‘homeseekers’ who are waiting to be offered a council or housing association property. We are required by law to have a Housing Allocations Scheme for

  • deciding priorities and the procedure to be followed in selecting homeseekers for council accommodation, or
  • nominating homeseekers for housing association accommodation

The council’s current scheme has not been reviewed since its introduction in December 2010 (although it was amended in September 2012 to take account of new Armed Forces Regulations). This was due to new Government guidance that we were waiting for. The guidance was issued in July 2012 and it gives councils the power to decide how accommodation should be allocated, based on local priorities. Allocations can now be made in any way the council sees fit, but the scheme must be both legal and rational.

Tenancy Policy

Social housing providers (such as councils and housing associations) must now publish clear and accessible tenancy policies. They must outline their approach to tenancy management, including actions to sustain tenancies, prevent unnecessary evictions and tackle tenancy fraud. The policy should explain how the needs of vulnerable people are taken into account, and how advice and assistance will be provided.

Our draft Tenancy Policy also sets out

  • the lengths and types of tenancies, and the circumstances under which a particular type will be granted
  • how applicants or tenants can appeal against decisions that we make
  • discretionary rights to succeed to a tenancy

The Council’s Housing Scrutiny Member Panel has considered both documents and our Tenants and Leaseholders Federation is being consulted. The final draft documents will be considered by the cabinet on 15 April 2013. If you would like to comment on the draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme, or the draft Tenancy Policy, please write to:

The Assistant Director of Housing (Operations), Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ.

You can also phone our housing consultation hotline 01992 564762 (24 hour answerphone) or email housinginfo@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Information

The information you need can be found in the following documents

Responses are needed by Thursday 14 March 2013. The Council’s Cabinet and Housing Portfolio Holder will then consider the results of this consultation. When approved, the new scheme and policy will come into force on 1 July 2013.

One Business Briefing – brimming with news for local businesses

Written on . Posted in Abandoned vehicles, Animal welfare, Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Business, Business rates, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Doing business with the council, Drainage, Energy efficiency, Epping, Grants, Gypsy and traveller, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Media, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Working with the council, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The January 2013 edition of ‘One Business Briefing’ is now available.

In this edition Reed in Partnership gives local businesses advice on how they can use Government funding to get staff job relevant qualifications at no cost to the employer or employee. It also introduces MP Eleanor Laing’s new Business Forum, reports on current tourism development work, including a key event on 31 January 2013 to develop tourism within the area and much more.

Read the January 2013 edition – One Business Briefing

Produced by Epping Forest District Council, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest district. The briefing is designed to report on business funding opportunities / access to finance, business support, workshops / events for business, town centre news and other local economic development initiatives.

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘One Business Briefing’ by email please email economicdevelopment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Roding Valley Meadows hedge laying project

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Loughton, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Volunteering opportunities, Your area, Your community, Your environment

On 10 October, work started on a joint hedge laying project between the Essex Wildlife Trust, Epping Forest Countrycare and the Epping Conservation Hedge layers, to restore an old neglected hedge line on Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

Before the work

Before the work

Hedge laying is the practice of  ‘pleaching’ the base of a tree, this allows its main stem to be laid over to one side while still remaining attached to its roots, it is then held in place with wooden stakes and bound together. By laying a hedge in this fashion, it allows fresh growth from its base creating a thick, dense hedge. This is ideal habitat for small mammals and invertebrates and also provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

The team consisted of experienced and amateur hedge layers, who, over two days laid a total of 74 yards. The project will continue next winter to complete the rest of the hedge, which can be seen running adjacent to the River Roding and Debden Sports Club.

A pleached tree

The final result

 

Benefit cap changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

From April 2013 there will be a ‘cap’ or maximum limit on the total amount of benefit that people of working age can receive. Households will have income capped to £500 per week for families and £350 for single people.

The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits including housing benefit and if the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced to bring the total income in line with the applicable cap.

How will this affect me?

If your benefits are capped this will mean you may have to pay more towards your rent than you do currently. This is a really important change because if you get behind with your rent you may risk losing your home.
The cap will not apply if you, or your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are entitled to working tax credit or receive any of the following

There will be a period where the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks for those who have been continuously in work for the previous 12 months.

The cap will apply to the combined income from:

Council tax benefit changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

Council tax benefit is changing from 1 April 2013 in line with national welfare reforms. All local councils will replace it with their own locally run service, known as the local council tax support scheme.

How is council tax benefit changing?

Epping Forest District Council will create a local scheme that is suitable for the area, working within a budget that has been reduced by over £1 million from its current spend.

How will this affect me?

This reduction in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much. This could mean that from April 2013 people who pay no council tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. We can’t say how your benefit will be affected at this stage or how much you may have to pay.

Proposals for the local council tax support include

  • The calculation of support will be based on 80% of the council tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • The calculation of support will be based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives higher council tax band, will be calculated as if their property was a band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation with a disregard of £15 per week (per family)
  • The capital limit will be reduced from the current level of £16,000 to £6,000
  • Second adult rebate will not be included in the scheme for people of working age
  • A minimum award of £0.50 per week. This is in line with the minimum award in housing benefit

Pension age people are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments under the new scheme although they may need to pay more if council tax increases.

Housing association appointed to develop new council homes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Planning, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Epping Forest District Council has appointed East Thames Group, a housing association, as development agent to deliver its new council housebuilding programme.

This is thought to be the first agreement of its type, where a council has appointed a housing association to deliver a whole development programme. East Thames will develop around 120 new affordable rented homes on behalf of the council over a 6 year period. The £1.6 million appointment follows a competitive tender process, with most of the new homes being developed on difficult-to-let garage sites in the council’s ownership.

East Thames will provide all the required development, project management and professional building services for the programme. The housing association will undertake initial development and financial appraisals, preparation of planning applications, all resident consultation and liaison and the procurement and supervision of works contractors.

“This is the right approach for us”, said Councillor David Stallan, the council’s housing portfolio holder. “The council has not built any new homes for over 25 years, so we do not have the technical expertise in-house to undertake new housebuilding ourselves. We are very pleased to announce this strategic partnership with East Thames, who we have already worked successfully with over a number years through our enabling role”. “Not only did East Thames submit the most competitive price”, Councillor Stallan continued, “their tender submission was also assessed as providing the best quality. We will continue to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in our district, with all of our housing association partners. But personally, I am looking forward to the day when we are able to build more council homes each year than we sell through the Right to Buy”.

Initially 13 organisations, comprising both housing associations and private companies, expressed interest in tendering for the role, with six shortlisted to submit detailed tenders.

East Thames will also be responsible for formulating the council’s development strategy and seeking investment partner status with the Homes and Communities Agency for the council. If successful, this would enable the Council to bid for grant funding for the new homes.

The appointment is expected to commence in January 2013, with the development of the first sites starting on site commencing in early 2014. The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a committee to oversee the housing building programme.

Green Flag award for Roding Valley Meadows

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Countrycare and EWT announce the award
Countrycare and EWT announce the award

A flag-raising ceremony took place in November attended by members of Epping Forest District Council, Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Grange Farm Centre Trust (GFCT) and Roding Valley volunteer group.

The group was welcomed by Abigail Oldham, Countryside Manager, Countrycare. Then Patrick Bailly, EWT Warden of the Reserve, explained the importance of the Reserve for nature, wildlife, recreation and education.

The Reserve, in Loughton, is the largest area of traditional river-valley landscape left in Essex. Bounded by thick hedgerows, the herb-rich meadows, marsh and scrub woodland follow the meanders of the River Roding for a mile-and-a-half. More than 200 species of wildflowers thrive in the meadows.

The plant assemblage is so rare that the Reserve was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1986.

Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together
Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together

Lush hedgerows and veteran trees attract many species of bird, such as woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk. The ponds, river and fen attract numerous dragonflies and birds, such as Kingfisher, Snipe and Reed Bunting.

The Reserve is owned by the District Council and the Grange Farm Centre Trust and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.
The Green Flag recognises UK green spaces that are well-managed, sustainable, of conservation and heritage value and of high quality. The Reserve was judged on a searing hot day in July when Patrick Bailly lead a guided tour of the site, impressing the judge with his management methods.
And the flag is up!
And the flag is up!

After the volunteers were thanked for their contribution to making the Reserve the beautiful place it is today, John Hall, EWT’s Chief Executive, Alex Pelican, Grange Farm Centre Trust and Abigail Oldham, together raised the flag.

Refreshments were served in a marquee on one of the Reserve’s meadows where an exhibition about Countrycare and the Roding Valley Meadows was displayed.

Read more about Roding Valley Meadows.

Interested in volunteering? Volunteer with Countrycare.

Read more about the Essex Wildlife Trust.

National Empty Homes Week

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Council tax, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your home

National Empty Homes week runs from 26 November to 1 December 2012 highlighting the waste of empty properties.

Each dwelling that stands empty is a wasted resource and the council is committed to bringing empty properties back to use.

  • An empty property can cost an owner up to £10,000 a year in maintenance, Council Tax, increased insurance and potential loss in rental
  • They act as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour including squatters, vandalism, arson and rubbish dumping
  • Run-down, derelict and abandoned properties bring down the appearance of a neighbourhood and give a sense of decay and decline
  • The house next door to an empty property may be devalued by as much as 10%

We can help owners of empty properties by giving advice and information and also by offering financial assistance.

Report an empty property

If you know of an empty property and want to make us aware of it, please complete the online form.

If you would like to discuss any property or issue relating to empty homes call the Empty Property Officer on 01992 564706. All calls and information received will be treated in confidence.

Read more on empty properties.

New super fast broadband available

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Residents and businesses can now benefit from a new super fast broadband service thanks to the FibreWiFi Broadband Service provided by Buzcom.

Orders are now being taken for the new service which covers most of the Epping Forest district, with homes and businesses able to access speeds of up to 50 Mb.

FibreWiFi logoAll enquiries about the coverage, pricing and features should be sent to FibreWiFi

Epping Forest District Council provided assistance to help enable the network.