Housing Strategy Consultation

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Housing, Older people, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Epping Forest District Council is seeking views on a draft Housing Strategy which identifies current and future housing needs and sets out its vision for housing in the district. Residents are invited to read the Consultation Draft and to send their comments to the Council.

Organisations with an interest in housing are also being consulted. A well-attended conference was held in Waltham Abbey on 18 March. A wide range of organisations were represented, including Housing Associations, developers and other Councils. Groups representing people with particular housing needs were also invited to attend the presentations and workshops. Following the conference, local residents now have the opportunity to add their views.

The Consultation Draft Housing Strategy includes the objectives set out in the Council Plan. This states an overall vision, which is that “We want the Epping Forest district to be a safe, healthy and attractive place in which to live and work”. The Plan also sets out five key objectives in relation to housing, which are:

  • To make sure that growth in the number of homes being developed is properly planned (and sustainable)
  • To make affordable housing available (both for rent and for low cost home ownership) in rural and urban locations, for people who want to live in the district
  • To make sure that people with special needs are able to live in suitable accommodation with the right levels of support
  • To accommodate quickly homeless people in suitable, permanent accommodation
  • To make sure that all homes in the district, in both the public and private sector, are in a decent condition.

The Consultation Draft Housing Strategy sets out how the Council is working towards these objectives and how other issues will be approached – such as anti-social behaviour and energy efficiency. It explains how the Capital Programme will be financed and the final chapter includes a detailed action plan.

This is the first Housing Strategy to be published since May 2003. The Government at that time expected Councils to produce their own Strategies, according to a set of guidelines. While this is no longer a requirement, the Council has concluded that it should have an up to date Housing Strategy. After the consultation period, which ends on 5 June this year, the Council will consider all the responses received and then produce its final version for adoption in the summer.

Residents wishing to read the Consultation Draft can download it from the Council’s website www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/housing or they can phone the Housing Information Team on 01992 564292 to request a copy. There is a feedback form on the website. Alternatively, the Council would also welcome comments and suggestions by letter, addressed to the Housing Information and Strategy Team at the Civic Offices in Epping, or by email to: housinginfo@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Crime In Your Community Survey Prize Draw Winner

Written on . Posted in Community, Crime and safety, Older people, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your home

Congratulations to Shelagne Sheldrake of Ongar, the lucky winner of a £100 Marks & Spencer voucher for completing Epping Forest District Council`s `Crime in your Community` online survey.  Chairman of Council Councillor John Knapman picked the winning number from the replies received.  

Epping Forest District Council`s Safer Communities Partnership undertook the survey between February and March this year via the Council`s website. The aim of the survey was to establish the public`s perception of crime and whether they felt safe.

The results received were measured against local and national indicators to establish the public`s perception of anti-social behaviour. The results showed 94.6% of people feel safe during daylight while out in their local area and 62.5% of people feel safe after dark while out in their local area. 74.1% of people requested an increase of police patrols, 9.8% feel people being drunk or rowdy in public places is a very big problem and 75.9% feel property crimes (vandalism and theft) is the biggest problem where they live.

The results of the survey, carried out over a month from mid February to mid March, will be used to assist in the setting of priorities for the coming year for the Partnership.

Chairman of Council Councillor John Knapman said:  I would like to thank all those who took the time to respond to our survey.  It really is very helpful when planning where to direct resources to know what our residents think about crime and safety.

Local Strategic Partnership Meeting

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Consultation, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

The co-ordinating group of local service organisations, Epping Forest Local Strategic Partnership Board welcomed its new Manager, John Houston on Thursday 26 February 2009. John will work for the whole group which includes local Councils, Essex County Council, West Essex PCT, Epping Forest College and Essex Police. Technically he is employed by Epping Forest District Council with funding support from the major statutory partners.

Agenda for Local Strategic Partnership Board meeting on 26 February 2009

Traveller and Gypsy Site Provision Consultation

Following introductions, the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Chairperson, Councillor Diana Collins of Epping Forest District Council moved to the first main agenda item, public consultation on future provision of sites for travellers and gypsies. The District Council`s Director of Planning and Economic Development, John Preston gave an outline of the consultation, one of the biggest undertaken by the Council. He explained how the Council would need to analyse the large number of responses and take the process forward. He also informed the LSP of the Planning Inspector`s recommendation to reduce the number of extra pitches from 49 to 39.

John Houston noted the role of the LSP to support disadvantaged people and acknowledged local concerns about the process. He invited the LSP to go through a discussion paper prepared on behalf of its members, to be submitted to the District Council as part of the consultation process. The LSP noted that around 90 pitches already existed in the District. Members of the group considered a number of issues in their discussion, including housing provision, health and fear of crime issues. It was felt that it was important for the LSP to be clear in terms of treating everyone equally and fairly. The group acknowledged the strength of local feeling.

`Credit Crunch` Response

Business input is needed for a co-ordinated response to the Credit Crunch, members of the LSP Board agreed. A Task and Finish Panel of Members will meet to develop ways in which Government Agencies and business might work together to stimulate and support the local economy.

Project Funding

The Essex Partnership has now confirmed that the bids from Epping Forest have been successful and an allocation of £453,855 has been made to support the schemes the Board has endorsed. The LSP Board will be able to move forward on all the proposals.

Projects will include an information guide on Home Safety, a supported volunteering project including opportunities that are tailored to meet personal development needs and pathways to work. People with learning difficulties will benefit from access to the Arts.

Further projects will help the emotional health and wellbeing of children, support for parents and holiday and after-school drop-in sessions for teenagers. Funding will help support vulnerable parents and carers in isolated rural communities. Investment in local CCTV will help to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

Smoking, Heart Disease, Obesity

Catherine O`Connell of West Essex Primary Care Trust outlined priorities for preventing early deaths in Epping Forest District. Issues of major concern include reducing smoking, combating heart disease and tackling childhood obesity which can lead to health problems in later life. Among other concerns for the area`s children was a lower than hoped for take up of the MMR vaccine. Instances of measles are increasing.

Local hospitals have made huge improvements in patient safety. MRSA infections in local hospitals are now lower than in many other areas.

Life expectancy of the population is improving overall and work is therefore focusing on narrowing the gap between those groups at the lower end of the life expectancy range and the top.

Catherine O`Connell was also proud of the PCT record in providing NHS dentists to any local resident who now needs one. Residents can be referred to their nearest available local dentist through just one phone call.

Housing Strategy

Epping Forest District Council`s Director of Housing, Alan Hall, presented a briefing on the latest developments of the Local Authority Draft Housing Strategy. Numbers and location of affordable housing, balancing urban and rural demand, meeting special needs and ensuring homes meet a high quality standard are enshrined in the latest draft.

More than 7,000 households are not in suitable housing while 1,300 families are assessed as in `housing need`. More families are listed on the Housing Register. Property prices are 11 times average earnings. Up to 2021 there is projected district-wide shortfall of 5,700 affordable homes. Building new affordable homes is closely associated with private sector development. The current slow-down in the commercial new-build market is therefore affecting the number of new-build affordable homes being developed.

Young people are moving out of the district due to high property prices and the population profile is of an increasingly ageing population.

Forty-five actions are listed in the draft plan to address housing issues. Among these actions are facilitating 200 affordable new homes by 2010. Ongoing work with local residents continues to prevent people becoming homeless. The Council will work with a Housing Association to provide a Mortgage Rescue Scheme. All Council homes are on course to achieve the ` Decent Homes ` standard by 2010.

News from the Cabinet

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

News from the Cabinet meeting held on 9 March 2009.

Agenda and decisions for Cabinet meeting on 9 March 2009
View webcast of Cabinet meeting on 9 March 2009 (opens in a new window)

The Meadows – Legal Costs

Legal costs of £7,250 awarded against Epping Forest District Council reminded Councillors of the risk of swift action to prevent unauthorised traveller encampments. Members of the Council`s Cabinet agreed to make the payment after the Council sought an injunction to prevent travellers moving on to The Meadows, land south of Waltham Road, Nazeing last October.

The site, an overgrown field was subject to clearance, leading local residents and the Council to suspect that the work was in preparation for use by travellers. Council Officers faced a dilemma of taking swift action based on incomplete information or potentially waiting too long for more information and being unable to prevent a potential incursion.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: We are disappointed with the Judge`s decision to award costs against us. I think there was significant cause for us to be concerned. Residents would not have thanked us, had we waited until it was too late to take effective action. Despite the financial risk, faced with the same circumstances in the future, I think most of our residents would want us to act decisively again.

Relaxation of Shared Ownership Rules

The economic downturn has led to a reduction in demand for new shared ownership housing. Members of the Cabinet agreed proposals to relax the requirement for shared ownership elements to new social housing schemes, providing greater flexibility to housing associations for the development of social rented housing or the use of a ` Rent Now – Buy Later ` scheme where tenants pay an intermediate rent of around 80 per cent of market rent until they can afford to buy a share of the property. Cabinet Members agreed to keep the policy under six monthly review.

Home Ownership Grants

The Council`s own pilot home ownership grants scheme has been very successful and is to be extended. Five families have so far used or are taking up the offer of £34,000 grants to move out of a Council house in order to buy private property. Council properties vacated through the scheme can be re-let to other families or individuals on the Council`s Housing Register in need of affordable rented housing. The Cabinet agreed the provision of five additional grants for 2009/10.

Civic Awards 2009 Community Service Medals

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Community, Crime and safety, Loughton, Ongar, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

You can watch the awards presentation in full. Click the back button at the bottom of the page and click the link to watch the webcast.

Community Service medals are awarded to members of the Emergency Services who have made a special contribution or shown care and dedication well above and beyond the call of duty.

Police Community Support Officer Hayley Toye

Chairman John Knapman with PCSO Hayley ToyeEpping Forest District Council supports its local PCSOs, and works in partnership with them and Essex Police, and provides funding. As a result there has been real benefits from the introduction of PCSOs. No-one illustrates that better than the winner of the Epping Forest Police Community Service Medal for 2009.

Hayley Toye is a dedicated Officer serving the neighbourhood of Debden. Well known by local Councillors, residents and young people, she has made a particularly strong impact on anti-social behaviour. Her strength lies in talking with people and listening to them.

Building relationships and trust, Hayley has tackled problems as diverse as graffiti, racial abuse, shoplifting and inconsiderate parking. She uses her initiative to find new ways of communicating with local young people, one particular notable example being her Halloween disco.

Essex Ambulance Service Paramedic Brian Clark

Chairman John Knapman with Louise SamouelleBased at Ongar Ambulance Station, Brian Clark has been saving lives since 1980.

He is described as a `lovely, caring gentleman ` and he can be unaware of his impact on the people around him. Attending a minor emergency, Brian was surprised when the patient recognised him as the man who had saved his life years earlier. He has a reputation for remaining calm and level headed in pressurised and extreme situations.

Brian plays a big part in the social calendar of his station and the same friendly approach has endeared him to many of the new recruits he has mentored and trained over the years.

Brian is unable to receive his Community Service Medal in person but representing him at the awards presentation is Brian’s manager from the Essex Ambulance Service, Louise Samouelle.

Civic Awards 2009 Young Citizen of the Year

Written on . Posted in Civic events, Community, Crime and safety, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your council, Your home

You can watch the awards presentation in full. Click the back button at the bottom of the page and click the link to watch the webcast.

The Young Citizen of the Year Award

The Epping Forest District Young Citizen of the Year for 2009 is Darnell Margurite.

Young Citizen of the Year Darnell Margurite and Chairman John Knapman

The Young Citizen of the Year Award was awarded to a young man who has made a tremendous difference to his local community.

In the past Limes Farm has had a bedevilled reputation for social issues and crime but more recently the Estate has enjoyed a much better atmosphere, lower levels of crime and less anti-social behaviour. The Young Citizen of the Year for 2009 has played a key role in the transformation.

He has given young people on the Estate something to do. Only 19 years old himself, he has worked with a close friend, Ben Wooley, to set up a football project for 8 to 13 year olds. It has not been easy. He has faced and overcome some very challenging behaviour, honing his own skills as a football coach and winning the respect of the Estate.

His efforts have not gone unrecognised elsewhere. Watching his voluntary work on Limes Farm, he came to the notice of Tottenham Hotspur, which has offered him a coaching role within their Football Foundation. His enthusiasm, dedication and hard work have marked him out as a true role model.

Crime Reduction at Limes Farm

Written on . Posted in Chigwell, Community, Crime and safety, Democracy, Residents, Working with the council, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Residents at Limes Farm in Chigwell have been invited to express their views on the dramatic reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour on the estate over the past year.

Organised by the Safer Communities Partnership a Special Action Group has been working with local residents at Limes Farm for the past 16 months and has seen a 31% reduction in crime and a 39% reduction in anti-social behaviour.

From 16 to 20 February 2009 questionnaires were distributed. Residents were invited to the community police office on the estate for a cup of tea to have a chat and fill in a questionnaire about their experiences of actions taken so far.

Some of their comments included:

I am pleased to see more Officers patrolling

There has been less crime

People feel safer on the estate and there is a good community atmosphere

Loughton Inspector Simon Werrett from Essex Police said: “All the hard work has paid off, not only by The Safer Communities Partnership and Police but by local residents working together to really make a difference in improving the quality of life on the estate. They truly believed in making the change and they have succeeded.”

Councillor Syd Stavrou Epping Forest District Council Community Wellbeing Portfolio Holder said: I think these results speak for themselves. There has been a lot of hard work put into this group by many different organisations and individuals. This has shown the value of a co-ordinated problem solving response. Lessons have been learned and the Special Action Group process will become `best practice` for other areas requiring attention in Epping Forest district.

Council Tax 2009 / 2010

Written on . Posted in Community, Council tax, Housing, Residents, Your community, Your home, Your money

Epping Forest District Council has set another low increase on its Council Tax precept.

Residents living in an average Band D property will see the amount they pay to the District Council go up by £3.60 for next year, less than seven pence a week. The increase of just 2.5 per cent will consolidate the Council`s position as second cheapest in Essex and our aim is to become the cheapest over the period covered by the Medium Term Financial Strategy.

The new rate was confirmed at the meeting of the District Council on 17 February 2009. It comes at a time of falling income from investments, fees and charges and a very low increase of only £46,000 overall in the Council`s grant settlement from the Government. However, being debt-free with some substantial investments still earning high rates of interest fixed before the recent Bank of England cuts, Epping Forest remains in a much better financial position than many other Councils.

Unlike many Councils, we are well prepared against the economic down-turn and that will help us through the next three to five years, said Councillor Chris Whitbread, Finance Portfolio Holder. We have managed our budgets carefully, putting money away in case of a `rainy day`. That day has arrived and we are well placed to weather the storm.

Councillor Whitbread continued: Our residents are our first priority. As well as keeping our Council Tax precept down, we will do whatever else we can to help our community through the rough economic times to come. Local businesses should benefit from the freeze on increases to car parking charges. The Council will try to source as much of our spending as locally as we can and we will pay our bills quickly. We continue to fund organisations such as the Citizens` Advice Bureau, new projects such as the proposed Furniture Exchange scheme to be based in Waltham Abbey and a range of Housing- related schemes to help people struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

He added: The budget also allows for improvements to a number of services, including year-round weekly collection of kitchen refuse for recycling.

As the collection authority, Epping Forest District Council also agreed the overall Council Tax at its meeting on 17 February 2009, including rates set by Essex County Council, the emergency services and Town and Parish Councils. Band D residents will pay an extra £19.89 to Essex County Council, £6.03 more to Essex Police and £2.34 to the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. Combining the elements collected by Epping Forest District Council on behalf of all precepting authorities, the total for an average Band D Council Taxpayer would be £1,460.29, an overall increase of 2.4 per cent.
    Broken down into its constituent parts, the bill for an average Band D Council Taxpayer in Epping Forest district will be:

  • £1,066.50 to Essex County Council
  • £128.25 to Essex Police
  • £64.62 to Essex Fire Authority
  • £146.61 to Epping Forest District Council

An additional payment (depending on where you live) to the Town or Parish Council will range from £13.33 in Stapleford Abbotts to £91.79 in Waltham Abbey.

Cabinet 5 February 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

A Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent is being recommended by Cabinet for adoption at the next full meeting of Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Cabinet also agreed a further extension of the ongoing public consultation on future provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

Watch the webcastView webcast of Cabinet meeting on 5 February 2009 (opens in a new window)

Budget

Against a very difficult national economic backdrop, Epping Forest District Council is set to achieve a low Council Tax precept increase of 2.5 per cent. For a family in an average Band D property, it means an increase of just £3.60 in the District Council precept for the entire year, or less than seven pence per week. It is likely to be one of the lowest Council Tax precepts set in Essex.

This comes despite reductions in income from investments, a very low financial settlement increase from Central Government of just £46,000, no increase in car parking charges and lower income from fees and charges. Drawing on reserves and finding compensatory savings of £300,000 per year, the Cabinet is charting a medium term strategy designed to bring the budget back into balance whilst assisting local businesses and residents through the forecast economic turndown.

Councillors re-iterated recent commitments to make faster payments for services provided by local businesses, an increase in rental loans to homeless people and introduction of a mortgage rescue scheme in partnership with the Citizens` Advice Bureau and Moat Housing Association.

The District Council will re-allocate money from the defunct Lighthouse Furniture Project in Epping Forest to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF). If successful in bidding for the tenancy of 15 Market Square, Waltham Abbey, VAEF will use District Council funding to support a new Furniture Exchange Scheme designed to help people on lower incomes who need good second-hand furniture and are unable to afford normal High Street prices. Long-term, the project aims to become self-financing.

Major investment in the domestic waste and recycling service is included within the budget. Councillors previously agreed to implement the favoured option of residents in recent public consultation. Enhancements to the service will see extension of recycling to include kitchen waste, collected weekly with garden refuse in a new wheelie bin.

Traveller and Gypsy Consultation

Rescheduled training, originally planned for late 2008 but actually received in January prompted Members to agree a further extension to the consultation period on traveller and gypsy site provision. The extension to 20 February will give local residents an additional two weeks in which to submit their views.

Customer Transformation

In a far-reaching report, Members of the Cabinet considered proposals for changing the way Epping Forest District Council serves its residents. Councillor Brian Rolfe Chairman of the Customer Transformation Task and Finish Panel outlined improvements the Council could make in how it deals with the public. The report looks directly at face to face contact, contact by phone and through other channels such as The Forester magazine and website.

Recognising current financial constraints, Councillor Mitchell Cohen proposed a temporary increase in resources to the Council website, engaging a second member of staff to support the website for a fixed three-year term.

Councillor Diana Collins Leader of the Council congratulated Councillor Rolfe on the Panel report and supported the principles. She asked Councillor Rolfe for a further report providing guidance to Cabinet on the priorities of the Panel.

Severe Weather Update – 3 February

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Meetings, Recycling and waste, Your council, Your home

Most Epping Forest District Council services are returning to normal after the heavy snow that brought many roads to a standstill on Monday. However, the severe weather is continuing to affect some services.

Refuse and recycling collections are suspended for a second day due to ice on many residential roads. Some disposal sites are also closed. Special collections have also been cancelled and residents will be notified of new arrangements.

A revised domestic refuse and recycling schedule will be published later today.

Today`s scheduled evening meetings of the Epping Forest District Youth Council and District Development Control Committee are cancelled. Revised dates are:

Youth Council Tuesday 10 February at 7.30pm.

District Development Control Committee a new meeting date will be published in due course

A number of daytime meetings may also be disrupted. Anyone visiting the Council today is advised to phone first and check that your meeting is going ahead.

Sports and Leisure Centres operated for the Council by SLM (Sports and Leisure Management Limited) are open although residents are again advised to phone first and check before attending special classes or activities. `All Angels` and `All Saints` Urban Street Dance classes at St Michael and All Angel’s Church Hall, Roding Road, Loughton, IG10 3EJ “ scheduled for 5:30pm and 6:30pm have been cancelled.

Aviation is suspended at North Weald Airfield. Motoring activities have also been suspended due to the icy conditions. However, other commercial activities are unaffected and the Airfield is open to tenants and those delivering to their premises.

Council Offices are open.