Council in ‘Yes Minister’ Lampoon Admits ‘We slipped up’

Written on . Posted in Business, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Embarrassed council managers have apologised, admitting `we made a mistake ` after the wrong covering letter was sent to residents as part of planning consultation on future development. The Daily Mail reported on `Sir Humphrey ` being alive and well at Epping Forest District Council after the letter was sent to local residents.

“I am sorry. We slipped up. The letter, full of technical planning jargon should not have been sent to local residents, said John Preston, Director of the Council`s Planning Service.”

He continued: We did try to write the attached guide in `Plain English` but we dropped our guard on the covering letter that went with it. We are very keen to engage local residents fully in the preparation of planning policies, which will continue to help to control development and protect the Green Belt. The planning system is increasingly complex and involves new processes and terms which remain unfamiliar or frankly quite baffling to the wider community.

The council will contact residents again shortly. John Preston said: It is very embarrassing but some people at least will see a funny side to it. Every profession has its `Sir Humphrey ` language and planners are no different but we understand that you have to alter your words according to your audience. This consultation could have far reaching consequences for the future of our district, setting policies on where to build new homes and businesses as well as protecting the countryside. It is the start of a quite lengthy process with more consultation to follow. Hopefully, the extra publicity provided by the Daily Mail will give the consultation a boost in responses.

Full details of the consultation and questionnaire are available from the Planning Area of the Council’s Website.

Text of the correct letter that was circulated as an e-mail to local residents is reproduced below:

“The Forward Planning team at Epping Forest District Council is in the initial stages of preparing a Core Strategy for the district. This is the key new planning policy document which will look ahead to 2031, and eventually replace the Local Plan.

“All new planning policy documents need to be subject to Sustainability Appraisal. This is an assessment of the likely economic, environmental and social effects of the new policies. The Sustainability Appraisal provides information to help judge whether the new policies are the most appropriate for the district, and whether changes should be made.

“In preparing the Sustainability Appraisal, its scope and level of detail need to be agreed before it is used to assess issues, options and policies.  It is a statutory requirement to hold a period of consultation on the scope of the Sustainability Appraisal, the purpose of which is to ensure that all the relevant issues and concerns have been included.

“The consultation period is from 17 May to 18 June 2010.  The consultation document, a short guide and the online response form is available from

“If you have any queries about this consultation, please contact the Forward Planning team on 01992 564517 or at .”


Yours faithfully

Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan

Written on . Posted in Business, Local business, Older people, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Young people

Chapel End Savoy Players will be presenting Iolanthe, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s best-loved operas from Wednesday 19 May to Saturday 22 May 2010.

The full costumed performances with orchestra, are being presented at the Deaton Theatre in Forest School, Oakhurst Gardens, Snaresbrook, London E17 3PY. The show will start each evening at 7:45pm, and the Saturday matinee at 2:30pm.

All tickets for Wednesday night, which is a Preview Performance, are £5. Tickets for all other nights are £10 and for the Saturday matinee are £8. 10% discount for 10 tickets or more. Tickets are also available at the door on the night. The venue has disabled facilities.

    To buy tickets you can:

  1. Telephone the Box Office on 020 8527 0215 or 020 8529 3143
  2. Email
  3. Or buy them at the door on the night

For further information visit the Chapel End Savoy Players (CESP) website.

Consultation on Licensing Act

Written on . Posted in Business, Consultation, Licensing, Local business, Supporting business, Your council

We want  to know your thoughts and comments on our licensing policies.

As a requirement of the Licensing Act 2003, licensing authorities such as Epping Forest District Council are required to consult on their licensing policies every three years.

The deadline for comments is 31 July 2010, this will allow Council Members time to consider your comments.

    Please read the policy and let us know your thoughts and comments:

  • Epping Forest District Council Statement of Licensing Policy (pdf 93 KB)

Find out more about the Licensing Act and how it may affect you at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website.

    You can send your comments:

  • by post to The Licensing Section, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ
  • or by email to

Promoting Local Democracy Conference 2010

Written on . Posted in Business, Democracy, Supporting business, Your council

Should the voting age be lowered from 18 to 16? That’s the question members of the Epping Forest Youth Council and young people from across the district will be debating at a conference promoting local democracy this week.

The promoting local democracy conference 2010 is being held in the council chambers at Epping Forest District Council on Friday 12 March 2010 with the debate being broadcast live over the internet between 11:15 am and 12:15 pm.

During the conference, young people will get the chance to quiz 2 of the districts 3 MPs, Eleanor Laing (MP for Epping Forest) and Bill Rammell (MP for Harlow, Nazeing, Roydon and Sheering), and the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council Councillor Penny Smith. The delegates will get to choose the 3 main priorities for the Epping Forest Youth Council to address, these issues will form the EFYC manifesto.

Ian Willett, Returning Officer for the Epping Forest District said: “It is widely perceived that young people are not involved in or even aware of democracy at a local level. These young people are our future voters and we know that they are keen to have their say on issues that affect their daily lives. All the major political parties have recognised and been discussing this issue to encourage our youth to engage with the political process.”

Mr Willett continued: “Working with the Epping Forest Youth Council I have found that most young people today are knowledgeable and informed about what is going on. This is our chance to discover their views, and maybe in the future 16 years olds will be able to vote.”

New Guidelines for Shooters

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Countryside and wildlife, Crime and safety, Local business, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Your community, Your environment

Trespassers firearms and the law posterEpping Forest District Council`s Safer Communities Officer Paul Gardener and Epping Forest Police District Crime Reduction Officer Tony Ellis have been working together to improve policing in rural areas. This is as a result of the National Farmers` Union County Chairperson expressing concerns to the Chief Constable regarding policing priorities towards rural crime.

One action as a result of those concerns was for an email family to be established to exchange information between members about current crime trends and suspicious persons. This now 90-strong group has gone on to form a Neighbourhood Action Panel (NAP) to discuss and resolve rural crime issues – the Prime Minister mentioned the initiative in a recent speech as good practice.

At one of the NAP meetings, a farmer drew attention to a current trend that has become a national debate in some of the shooting magazines. People who are legitimately shooting on land have been approached by trespassers on that land. When asked to leave, the trespasser has reported to the Police that they were threatened by a man with a gun, meaning, in some cases, that the shooter has been arrested and his weapons confiscated solely on the word of the trespasser.

The Police and the Safer Communities Team, in consultation with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and Mick Fidgeon the Head of Essex Police Firearms Licensing Department produced guidelines for shooters which, if followed, would protect them from false allegations. The guidelines will be circulated to every Police Firearms Department in Britain recommending that they be adopted nationally. They will also be taken to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) with the suggestion that ACPO and BASC work together to expand them. Epping Forest Safer Communities Partnership has supported the initiative by funding the production of leaflets and posters, which will be distributed to shooters through shooting schools, firearms dealers, retail farming outlets and shooting syndicates.

Tony Ellis Crime Reduction, Mike Aldiss Essex Shooting School, Paul Gardener Safer Communities

Epping Forest Police Inspector Craig Carrington said: We were asked by the members of the NAP to come up with a plan of action, which would help protect legitimate shooters from falling victim to mischievous allegations. Paul and Tony have worked hard on this initiative and the result is a document which contributes nationally to resolving the problem. This has been a Partnership project with a number of other agencies contributing towards the final product and shows the value of working together with the community to resolve problems.

Caroline Wiggins Epping Forest District Council Community Safety Manager said: “The Farmers` NAP has highlighted a very real concern with the potential to have serious consequences and I am pleased the Safer Communities Partnership has been able to support this worthwhile initiative.”

Cafe Pays Price for Out of Date Food

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Food safety, Older people, Out and about, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community

Food products including ham, cheese and shrimps have been seized from an Epping Cafe by Environmental Health Officers from Epping Forest District Council following a routine inspection on 2 February 2010. The Officers seized the products from Belgique after discovering them to be past their use by date – in one case by more than a month.

The issue was referred to a Justice of the Peace at Harlow Magistrates` Court who agreed the food should be condemned and destroyed. Belgique were not represented in court but will have to pay for the cost of disposal of the out of date food products.

Two Hygiene and Improvement Notices have been issued to Belgique on `food management safety` and `staff training`. They have 14 days to comply with the notices and failure to do so could lead to prosecution.

Retailers Encouraged to Challenge 25

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Local business, Older people, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community

Essex County Council Trading Standards are encouraging retailers throughout Epping Forest to sign up for the Challenge 25 scheme, to help prevent underage sales of all age-restricted goods and crack down on antisocial behaviour.

Trading Standards will be working with Epping Forest District Council, Epping Forest Safer Communities Partnership and Essex Police to help retailers implement a Challenge 25 policy.

Anyone attempting to buy an age restricted product (including: alcohol, tobacco, knives, solvents, aerosol paints, fireworks and video recordings and games), who looks under 25 will be asked to confirm their age by producing a valid form of ID. This helps to reduce some of the uncertainty that staff face when selling age-restricted items.

The campaign is aimed at supporting local businesses and raising awareness about the consequences of under-age sales. Trading Standards will visit every relevant retailer in Epping Forest to promote the scheme and encourage them to voluntarily sign up for Challenge 25.

Premises that sign up for Challenge 25 are given posters and leaflets explaining how the scheme works, as well as verbal guidance to staff on how to spot a fake ID, how to avoid proxy sales and how to refuse a sale.

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety & Transport Portfolio Holder said: We hope that all the retail outlets selling these products will sign up to Challenge 25.  This initiative focuses on those products that, when sold irresponsibly, cause the greatest anti-social impact on society.  The introduction of this scheme in Epping Forest District will help to reduce under age sales and identify those premises that might need closer supervision.  The Partnership fully supports its introduction.

Essex Book Festival

Written on . Posted in Business, Local business, Loughton, Supporting business, Your area

The annual Essex Book Festival is once again returning in March and is celebrating 11 years with a number of fantastic literary events across the county. This is an excellent opportunity for people to meet some of the biggest names in the literary world and for new writers to meet their public. This year there are more events taking place in the Epping Forest district than ever before.

Essex Book Festival 2010

Mike Gayle, best-selling novelist and ex-agony uncle. Loughton Library, Traps Hill, Loughton IG10 1HD on 11 March at 8.00pm, tickets £6.50 or £4.50 concessions.

George Alagiah, BBC foreign correspondent and presenter of BBC Six O`clock news. St Mary`s Church, 201 High Road, Loughton IG10 1BB on 19 March at 7.30pm, tickets £10 or £8 concessions.

Bee Rowlatt and May Witwit talking about Jane Austen in Baghdad. Debden Library, Epping Forest College, Borders Lane, Loughton IG10 3SA on 8 March at 7.30pm, tickets £4 or £3 concessions.

Francesca Kay, author of award-winning book An Equal Stillness. In partnership with Epping Library`s Book Talk Group, Epping Library, St John`s Road, Epping, CM16 5DN on 17 March at 2.30pm, tickets £4 or £3 concessions.

Best-selling Sadie Jones (The Outcast, Small Wars) and her sister Melissa (The Secret Heart of Emily Hudson) in partnership with Ongar Library Book Talk Group, Budworth Hall, High Street, Chipping Ongar, CM5 9LG on 29 March at 7.30pm, tickets £6.50/£4.50 concessions.

For more information on booking these and other Essex Book Festival events, pick up a Festival programme available in libraries and book by post using the booking form. You can also book by telephone on 01206 573948 or book online at the Essex Book Festival website.

Valuation Officer Examined on Business Rate Hike

Written on . Posted in Business, Business rates, Your area

David Jackson, Valuation Officer for East Anglia, appeared before Councillors, local business people and the webcast cameras of Epping Forest District Council to explain why he increased local Non-Domestic Rate (business rates) for shopkeepers during the worst recession in many years. Mr Jackson set out his case and was then cross-examined by Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the Civic Offices on Thursday 28 January.

Councillor Lesley Wagland suggested to Mr Jackson that his revaluation of local businesses `might be wrong` and urged him to relook at the `real market` in 2008.

Councillor Peter Spencer and Councillor Lesley Wagland pressed Mr Jackson concerning rate increases in Buckhurst Hill.

Mr Jackson acknowledged that previous rate levels had been wrongly applied in Buckhurst Hill, leading to the big increase. Councillor Peter Spencer asked if natural justice was served by such a large increase, especially before the regular five-year review. Mr Jackson felt he had to take account of new information in resetting the Business Rate.

In response to Councillor Lesley Wagland, Mr Jackson said that his role was impartial and not solely to extract the highest possible rate. He apologised to any shopkeeper where his staff had announced to shopkeepers that they had `Come to put the rates up.  Mrs Wagland challenged Mr Jackson. She felt the Valuation Officer had approached the process from the wrong perspective.

Councillor Wagland compared the `Waitrose effect` of a major grocery store being applied to small businesses such as the local newsagent. She asked Mr Jackson to ensure small businesses were aware they had until 31 March to appeal against the original 2005 valuation list and that they could appeal against the 2010 list from 1 April.

Councillor Derek Jacobs raised similar concerns on behalf of shopkeepers in Ongar. He suggested that rates in Ongar appeared to exceed those of London Boroughs. Mr Jackson said the rateable value for Ongar was based on the evidence for that area. It was not directly comparable to other areas.

Buckhurst Hill High Street

Under further questioning, Mr Jackson said shopkeepers affected by road works in Ongar and elsewhere should appeal for a temporary rate reduction.

Councillor John Knapman developed the points made by Councillor Wagland concerning the definition of a small business in comparison with a large business such as Waitrose. Councillor Knapman also asked how the Valuation Office took account of market conditions. Mr Jackson confirmed to Councillor Knapman that should rateable values go down, business rates should go down, too.

Councillor Knapman was frustrated that despite the poor economic conditions in which local Councils such as Epping Forest District and Essex County Council strived to keep businesses going the Valuations Office could push some under. Councillor Chris Whitbread added that the review had been carried out during the economic boom but had been implemented in the depths of recession. He did not think the local impact was neutral even if it had been nationally and he called for Government action to solve the problem.

Councillor Jon Whitehouse and Councillor Richard Bassett made further challenges. Councillor Whitehouse asked how transitional relief might be applied. Councillor Bassett was concerned that small businesses in his area (Nazeing) had seen business rates increase from £13,000 per year to £19,000 partly because of changes to the small business rate threshold. Councillor Bassett asked if the Valuation Office was geared up to the number of appeals it was going to get.

Mr Jackson assured Councillors his office would deal with every appeal.

Councillor Syd Stavrou established that the viability of businesses played no part in the valuation.

After a long and searching examination of the reasons for the increase, Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairman Councillor Richard Morgan thanked David Jackson, Councillors and members of the public for their contributions.

Councillors will examine plans for health services provided to residents by north London hospitals at its next meeting on 4 March 2010.

Business Rates in the Spotlight

Written on . Posted in Business, Business rates, Your council

Epping Forest District Council`s Overview and Scrutiny Committee has arranged for representatives from the Local District Valuation office to attend their meeting at the end of January 2010.

The Chairman of the Committee, Councillor Richard Morgan, explained: Following recent concerns raised by the public and councillors about the rise in local business rates, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee has asked that representatives from the District Valuation Office attend our meeting on 28 January 2010. They will hopefully explain the rational behind the recent rises and how they were arrived at. This will also give our Councillors a chance to question them about the policy that has caused such concern to our residents.

Buckhurst Hill High Street

Residents are reminded that this meeting is open to the public and they may come and watch the proceedings. If they cannot get to the Civic offices in person they can watch it on the Councils website, as a live webcast or as a recording at a later date.

The meeting will be held on Thursday 28 January 2010 at the Civic Offices in Epping, starting at 7:30pm.