Council Appeal Against Gypsy and Traveller Direction

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Your council, Your environment

The Leader of Epping Forest District Council will appeal directly to the Government for the removal of the Direction requiring the Council to consult upon and develop a separate Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document. The letter to Right Honourable John Healey MP, Minister for Housing and Planning within the Department of Communities and Local Government was recommended at the Cabinet meeting on 4 January to Full Council on 19 January for final approval.

Councillor Di Collins will publish a letter on behalf of the Council drawing attention to the substantial increase in provision of authorised pitches since the Government Direction. She will state that the workload associated with continuation of the Government Direction is putting other planning priorities at risk. She will seek approval for the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document to be subsumed within the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. She will seek support from all three local MPs and the Shadow Minister.

Councillors also asked Councillor Collins to remind the Minister that the new planning framework was supposed to streamline processes and reduce costs. The Direction seems to have created the opposite effect. Councillors complimented the local community for the amount of work that had gone into the responses to the consultation and stressed that this evidence base was a key input to further work on the DPD.

Epping Forest District Council is required to identify space to accommodate a minimum of 34 additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches by 2011. Through the normal planning process, permissions and approvals have reduced this figure to about 20. However, more than 10,500 people responded individually or as part of groups to the consultation on potential sites. This led to a massive evaluation exercise for Council staff which has taken far longer than the Government timetable envisaged.

The Council wants to streamline the process by subsuming the Gypsy and Traveller issues into the Core Strategy as part of the Local Development Framework. The LDF replaces the Local Plan as the `blue-print` for policies against which future planning applications are judged. Completion of the LDF is considered vital by the Council as it prepares with Harlow and East Herts District Councils to implement the recommendations of the East of England Plan.

The Council will continue the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document pending the Minister`s response.

Councillor Di Collins said: There is enormous strength of feeling among residents and councillors. We believe the original Government Direction was flawed. We are now appealing to the Minister to look at the outcome of that Direction – the process that Epping Forest District Council has followed – and listen to local residents and councillors and the evidence we have already collected. If he listens, I believe he must understand that the Direction should be lifted and local people should be trusted with the power to make decisions for ourselves.

Keeping High Streets Clear as Freeze Deepens

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Older people, Residents, Travel, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

As temperatures remain below freezing, Essex County Council continues the battle to keep the district`s main roads free of ice and snow. Although not strictly part of its role, Epping Forest District Council is also helping by diverting staff and contractors from normal duties to grit heavily-used pedestrian areas.

The District Council is set to take delivery of another three tonnes of grit on Friday 8 January 2010, supplementing supplies already being used in town and shopping centres, car parks and sheltered housing schemes for older people.

District Council staff gritted the most heavily-used pedestrian areas in Epping High Street 7 January 2010

Picture caption – Epping Forest District Council staff gritted the most heavily-used pedestrian areas in Epping High Street 7 January 2010.

Councillor Mary Sartin, Environment Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: Although Essex County Council Highways is responsible for gritting, we are working well in partnership. District Council grounds maintenance staff and street cleaners employed by our contractor Sita are supporting the County efforts on the roads by targeting the most heavily-used pedestrian areas of the district.

It is hard work but our teams are doing all they can, shovelling snow to the sides of pavements and laying down salt. They can`t do every path and pavement, we don`t have enough people. It is very low-tech but is of great benefit to high street businesses and local residents in need of shopping supplies during the freeze.

Staff are also gritting local pay and display car parks. Earlier this week Councillors agreed in principle to hold Pay and Display car park charges at current levels for another year and maintain free parking in the Council`s Long Stay Car Parks on Saturdays. Councillor Sartin said: It is another example of our commitment to supporting residents and local businesses.

Snow Disruption to Refuse and Recycling

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Older people, Recycling and waste, Residents, Travel, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Severe weather continues to cause disruption to the Council`s waste and recycling collection services. Today should have seen waste and recycling collections for Abridge, Chigwell and Waltham Abbey. However, despite the best efforts of our refuse and recycling contractors, it has not been possible to collect from a large number of roads.

For some residents this means storing large volumes of waste including the extra waste generated in the Christmas holiday period. Residents are requested to place all waste at the normal collection point. Due to the exceptional circumstances the Council will collect any side waste (this is waste placed next to your normal wheelie bin).

For as long as access is difficult and until the weather improves we will use all available resources to collect as much waste as we can. Once the weather improves and normal operations commence we will prioritise collections and collect from those properties that have been waiting the longest for a collection.

The Council apologises for this continued disruption to normal waste and recycling services. Residents have been very understanding and co-operative during this difficult period and this is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Epping Conservation Area Character Appraisal

Written on . Posted in Conservation and listed buildings, Consultation, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Our countryside, Your area, Your council, Your environment

The final version of the Epping Conservation Area Character Appraisal has been published by Epping Forest District Council. This follows public consultation when local residents were invited to comment on the draft document.

Epping Conservation Area was first designated in 1969 and encompasses most of Epping Town Centre. When the appraisal was compiled, the area was surveyed and photographed in detail. A range of historic maps was consulted and documentary research carried out.

The purpose of a character appraisal is to define the character of the conservation area, review its boundaries and highlight any parts of it that may be in need of improvement. The character appraisal for the Epping Conservation Area covers topics such as public spaces, shop fronts, and highway signs as well as sites with potential for improvement or development.

A limited number of hard copies will also be available. These can be obtained by telephoning 01992 564582 or emailing contactLB@eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Alternatively, the appraisal will be available to view at the District Council`s Planning Reception in the Civic Offices in Epping from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

The Council is soon to be printing a character appraisal on Bell Common after public consultation earlier in the year.

Councillors Hit Streets with New Clean-up Teams

Written on . Posted in Community, Older people, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Senior Councillors joined Epping Forest District Council`s Environment and Neighbourhood Officers (ENOs) on patrol in Ongar, Theydon Bois and Waltham Abbey last week. From small-scale littering to fly-tipping and graffiti, they saw some of the problems the new service has been set up to tackle.

Councillor Di Collins with ENOs at the Borough Car Park in Chipping Ongar

Picture caption – Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council with Richard Gardiner, Kevin Bagshaw and Richard Thomason (ENOs) at the Borough Car Park in Chipping Ongar

We have a beautiful district and the vast majority of our residents want us to keep it that way, said Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council. Unfortunately, there is a small minority that feels differently and it is a constant struggle to clean up after the fly-tippers, vandals and graffiti vandals. The introduction of our new Environment and Neighbourhood Officers along with the Environmental Response Unit will make a major contribution to tackling such problems.

Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Mary Sartin accompanies ENOs on patrol in Waltham Abbey

Picture caption – Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Mary Sartin accompanies Environment and Neighbourhood Officers John Heppell and Steve Anstiss on patrol in Waltham Abbey.

Plans for the new service were drawn up by Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Mary Sartin last year. With savings identified from efficiencies across other parts of the Council, £250,000 has been invested in the team and equipment. The new Environment and Neighbourhood Officers received their uniforms last month. With the highly-recognisable response vehicle and uniformed staff, Councillor Sartin hopes people will talk to the Officers on patrol to report problems.

She said: We want to be high profile and accessible so people will tell us where the problems are. The Environment and Neighbourhood Officers have a range of resources to call on and we aim to deal with them as quickly as possible.

Councillor Penny Smith with ENOs in Theydon Bois looking for evidence

Picture caption – Councillor Penny Smith in Theydon Bois with members of the Environment and Neighbourhood Team (Chris Smith, Richard Gardiner and Kevin Bagshaw) looking for evidence that could link dumped rubbish back to the fly-tippers.

Contractors such as Sita UK, the Council`s domestic waste collector can handle many jobs such as fly-tipping on highway land. The Environment and Neighbourhood Officers can also call upon contractors to remove graffiti. Many of the jobs are relatively small and can be completed quickly by the Council`s own Neighbourhood Response Officers, who can be seen around the District in their distinctive response vehicle. Councillor Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, met some members of the Team at the site of some fly-tipping near Theydon Bois. She said: Fly-tipping is a big problem for private landowners, too. They are often innocent victims who bear the cost of this anti-social behaviour. If the rubbish is dumped on their land, they have to pay for the cost of removal which seems unfair but is the law. I can`t understand the mentality of people who cause this kind of damage and cost to their fellow citizens. It is such a shame.

Councillor Smith said: Sometimes it is not immediately obvious who the landowner is and it can therefore take much longer to clear.

The Neighbourhood Response Officers and Environmental Response Vehicle are additional resources to help deal quickly with small, normally visible problems that are often difficult and time consuming to follow up, whilst the ENOs investigate, raise the issue with the landowner to try and prevent the problem recurring and pursue or educate offenders. ENOs have Community Safety Scheme Accreditation which means they can also require people to give them their names, issue fixed penalty notices and carry out investigations.

Councillor Smith added: Our Officers have a range of powers. Householders also need to make sure they employ reputable contractors. If our Environment and Neighbourhood Officers find evidence linking a fly-tip to you, expect them to ask you for evidence that you have acted reasonably. Remember, fly-tipping carries a fine of up to £50,000.

Councillor Smith concluded: We all want to keep our district clean and green. Please help us to succeed.

ENOs have Community Safety Scheme Accreditation

Picture caption – ENOs have Community Safety Scheme Accreditation which means they can also require people to give them their names, issue fixed penalty notices and carry out investigations.

    To contact the Environment and Neighbourhood Team:

  • call our dedicated reporting number on 01992 564500
  • email ess@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Animal Welfare Award

Written on . Posted in Animal welfare, Out and about, Your area, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council Animal Welfare Officer Kevin Cope has been one of eight successful runners-up in the RSPCA Community Animal Welfare Footprints 2009 Award. Kevin is part of an innovative, effective animal welfare group. The judges felt that his Forum entry offered an innovative model of how effective, well-organised and positive working can be. Their entry fell short of being the winning one, but the judges wanted the Essex Animal Welfare Forum to be recognised as a fine model of good practice with a finalist certificate.

The Forum is made up of representatives from all 14 Essex Authorities and aims to promote animal welfare in the county. By bringing together Environmental Health Officers, Dog and Animal Wardens, Licensing Officers and Technical staff the Forum supports officers, offering advice and is the major contributor to consultations involving animal welfare issues. It runs low-cost training for officers and produces reports on stray dogs and animal licensing establishments.

Epping Forest District Council and the Essex Animal Welfare Group, along with the three Innovator Award Winners, the remaining finalists and the footprint achievers will feature on the RSPCA website.

Furthermore the RSPCA has extended an invitation to two representatives from the Forum, including Kevin, to a reception at the House of Lords on Wednesday 28 October 2009.

Animal Welfare Officer Kevin Cope said: It was a great honour to be one of the eight finalists. We are really pleased with winning an award, which just confirms the importance of partnership working with the RSPCA.

Loughton Broadway Area Parking Review

Written on . Posted in Community, Loughton, Older people, Parking, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council has asked Essex County Council to undertake a review of the parking in the Loughton Broadway Area.

This is your chance to comment on the Council’s review and we want to hear your views on the proposed measures.

Consultation maps of the proposed measures can be viewed online at the Essex County Council website.

Your comments can be submitted online or in writing but no later than Friday 23 October 2009.

The results of this review will be considered firstly by the Epping Forest District Council`s Local Highways Panel and then by the Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, where the final decision will be made. It is proposed that any changes will be implemented from February 2009 onwards.

Food and Garden Waste Wheelie Bins

Written on . Posted in Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Our countryside, Recycling and waste, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Green lidded wheelie bin for food and garden waste and black wheelie bin for non-recyclable waste

Following the introduction of new food and garden waste wheelie bins by Epping Forest District Council some residents with very large gardens have expressed concerns about the amount of their garden waste they will be able to recycle using the new bins.

One of the most important factors the Council considered in developing the new system was the need to reduce the total amount of waste being collected. Although the food and garden wheelie bin only holds the equivalent of four or five of the former sacks, unlike the old sacks system, the food and garden waste will be collected weekly. In the vast majority of cases this should be sufficient, especially where residents are also composting waste at home and storing the garden waste to allow it to dry out and reduce in weight and volume.

The Green lidded wheelie bin is for food and garden waste and the black wheelie bin is for non-recyclable waste.

However, the Council recognises that there may be exceptional circumstances where a second wheelie bin is appropriate, and therefore at the Cabinet meeting on the 7 September 2009 Councillors looked again at the particular problems of a small number of residents who have very large gardens and agreed that in these exceptional circumstances a second food and garden wheelie bin might be made available, following an individual assessment.

People who think they might qualify for a second wheelie bin will need to talk to the Council first to make sure other options, such as garden composting and storage of garden waste have also been considered.

In addition, the Council will consider, again on an individual basis, providing a garden wheelie bin to residents in flats who are currently maintaining garden areas themselves and who wish to continue to do so. This will enable residents to continue to keep their surroundings tidy and ensure that garden waste is recycled.

Land Banking Scheme

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Countryside and wildlife, Local business, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your environment

These commonly advertise small plots of agricultural land for sale, on the internet, by phone or through the use of leaflets and brochures or newspaper articles. These parcels of land are advertised as potential investment opportunities. The premise is that planning permission for a new housing development can be sought and if approved, the value of the land should increase at which point it could be sold on to a developer for a substantial profit, or the purchasers could build their own homes. The sales information often gives the impression that planning permission is shortly to be granted, or the use of the land is to be changed via the Development Plan process.

There are examples all over the UK of such schemes, where unsuspecting buyers have purchased plots of land believing that the value will increase significantly. There is no example to date where planning permission has been granted for all or part of an area of land that has been divided into plots in this way. Purchasers are left with a piece of land with agricultural land value, and very little prospect of being able to sell it on or develop it.

Investigations into these types of schemes have been carried out by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Trading Standards and several national newspapers. Some that have claimed to be able to seek planning permission for a collective of plot owners have been closed down. Such collective investment schemes need to be authorised by the FSA to be legal.

Emerging Property Partnership (EPP) is currently advertising plots of land for sale on land within the Blunts Farm area in Theydon Bois.

    However, the planning policy position has not changed:

  • The land is entirely within the Green Belt, and therefore the normal restrictions on development apply
  • The areas of land are isolated from the existing built area of Theydon Bois, and the services it provides
  • No means of access has been shown to the parcels of land. Policy CP3 would require this is addressed before any planning application could be made
  • The land has been submitted to the District Council under the Call for Sites exercise, but this does not mean that there is any certainty that this land will be allocated for development purposes
  • The allocation of 3,500 new homes claimed by the vendors refers to the requirement in the East of England Plan for the whole District over the period 2001 to 2021

EPP does not offer to seek planning permission for plot owners, nor does it give any guarantee that planning permission will be forthcoming. However, Planning Officers have received a number of calls about the land available, and feel it is important that people should be advised of the true planning policy situation.

Birchwood Industrial Estate Fire

Written on . Posted in Business, Environmental health, Regulations, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your environment

Local agencies should monitor Birchwood Industrial Estate `as closely as the law permits` according to District Councillors. Residents can help by keeping diaries and reporting problems to the Council and Environment Agency. Checks by the West Essex PCT have found no associated respiratory problems linked to the recent fires.

Asked about reduction in the amount of material kept on the site, better management in terms of security, fire breaks, water supply and other ways of reducing the impact of the site on local residents, Alex Chown of the Environment Agency replied that he was working with the operator to deliver these aims.

Councillors endorsed a joint letter from the agencies involved to residents of Nazeing setting out the issues with a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

Representatives of the Environment Agency and Council met at the Civic Offices of Epping Forest District Council in Epping on Thursday 23 July 2009 following the two Birchwood fires in Nazeing earlier in the year. Fire broke out at the wood recycling centre off Hoe Lane Nazeing in January. A second blaze occurred in May, leading to calls for the operation to close.

John Gilbert, Environment and Street Scene Director for Epping Forest District Council set the context at the Safer Cleaner Greener Scrutiny Panel. He outlined the history of the site including a wood-chipping operation for waste timber recycling. As a relatively small scale operation in comparison with other recycling facilities, he said that it did not fall within tougher regulatory powers.

Planning consent for the site had been granted by a Government Planning inspector against the wishes of the Council at appeal. The Council had had concerns about the operation including dust and the very large quantities of wood stored on site. Council Environmental Health Officers had visited the site on a number of occasions. Since the two fires, the Council has received a petition from local residents asking for the operation to be closed.

Alex Chown of the Environment Agency elaborated on how the chipping of wood on the site was exempt from the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. The Environment Agency began detailed investigations following the first fire which appeared to show the operation was running in line with the regulations. Following the second fire, the Agency considered removing the exemption and de-registering the operation.

The exemption has not been removed but the operation has been halted temporarily while the owner seeks to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Agency. De-registering remains an option.

When chipping and recycling wood, the company operated within the regulations. It could not be held legally responsible for the fires. However, it is responding to pressure by the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency. An Improvement notice has been served by the Health and Safety Executive to make the site more secure against unauthorised access.

The current national regulations are under review and central government may strengthen them next year. If that was to happen it is possible that the current operation at Birchwood would become subject to tighter regulations.