Gypsy and Traveller Direction Lifted

Written on . Posted in Gypsy and traveller, Residents, Your environment

Councillor Di CollinsCalls by Epping Forest District Council for the controversial Government Gypsy and Traveller Direction to be lifted have been heeded. Councillors are celebrating after the new Coalition Minister Greg Clark MP confirmed the revocation of the Direction in response to the calls by District Council Leader Di Collins.

In his reply to Councillor Collins, Greg Clark says: Despite the difficulties placed on your authority you have shown that the council has taken a responsible approach to meeting the accommodation requirements of travellers in the district. I do not hesitate, therefore, in agreeing to your request to withdraw the direction.

Councillor Collins wrote repeatedly to minsters in the previous and current governments, calling for the lifting of the direction. She said: This is fantastic news. I am absolutely delighted. The Direction has been a millstone around our necks for three years. It has been especially difficult for many of our residents and placed a tremendous strain on the council. It was not even supported by our local gypsy and traveller communities. After working so hard, it will be an immense relief to all of us that the new minister has acted so speedily.

Epping Forest District Council was one of a small number of councils placed under Government directions to provide disproportionately high numbers of new gypsy and traveller pitches compared to other councils. Having been successful in having the original number of pitches reduced from 49 to 34, the council was still required to carry out a public consultation process separately from its normal planning procedures.

The process diverted council funds and resources away from other matters. Many residents lived under a cloud of anxiety and uncertainty while the council tried to convince the previous government not to force through the direction. However, within a few days of the new Coalition Government taking office, regional planning targets were scrapped and councillors began to hope the new ministerial team at the Department of Communities and Local Government was listening.

Confirmation that the new Government had lifted the direction was received in a letter to Councillor Collins signed on 6 July 2010.

Councillor Collins added: Now it is over I would like to thank the council`s staff, my fellow councillors, our local MPs including Eric Pickles who has become Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government, and most importantly the thousands of local residents who fought tirelessly for the right outcome. It has been a long struggle and finally a triumph for local democracy over big government. Residents and councillors alike will be celebrating.

Deadline Extended For Residents’ Planning Consultation

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Residents, business people and community groups have an extra three weeks to respond to the latest phase of Epping Forest District Council`s consultation on future planning policies. Anyone wishing to comment now has until 9 July 2010 to get their replies back to the council online, by e-mail or post to the Civic Offices in Epping.

The Core Strategy is the key new planning policy document which will look ahead to 2031. It eventually replaces the Local Plan and will set the local planning policies of the district. The Core Strategy is important because it will guide the council`s decisions on planning applications for development including housing, businesses and high streets. With other documents it will form the Local Development Framework, helping to balance development with the protection of the green belt, conservation areas, listed buildings and other features that make the district unique.

Part of the preparation involves the assessment of economic, environmental and social issues facing the district. This is called a Sustainability Appraisal. However, before the Sustainability Appraisal can be carried out, the council needs local residents to consider what issues they think should be included in the assessment. This is set out in the `Scoping Report` that residents are being asked to comment on at the moment.

We hit some teething problems when the consultation was launched last month so we have decided to give residents more time to respond, said Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council. This is a very complicated process. We produced a Plain English guide but our accompanying letters were confusing to residents. I hope we have now learned from our mistake and the information is being presented in a much more understandable way.

The Council is writing to and e-mailing several thousand residents who participated in earlier consultation exercises and indicated they would like to be kept involved. However, anyone can take part.

Councillor Collins said: I would encourage everyone to look at the information on the website or ask for a copy from the Council. Recent remarks by Eric Pickles MP, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government seem to suggest that councils will have much more control over local development than previously. It is therefore all the more important that local people have their say.

Residents can complete a survey form by contacting the Forward Planning team by telephone on 01992 564517 or by email.

New Decision on Gypsy and Traveller Provision

Written on . Posted in Community, Gypsy and traveller, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your environment

 

Councillors have welcomed with delight, news that the new Government intends to allow local people more control over local planning decisions.

In particular, councillors have interpreted this as a clear indication that the Government Direction on Traveller and Gypsy site provision will be lifted.

Local MP for Brentwood and Ongar, Eric Pickles is the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In a letter sent to Epping Forest District Council on 27 May he said: I am writing to you today to highlight our commitment in the coalition agreements where we very clearly set out our intention to rapidly abolish Regional Strategies and return decision making-powers on housing and planning to local councils. Consequently, decisions on housing supply (including the provision for Traveller sites) will rest with Local Planning Authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.

This is great news, said Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council. This is the decision this council made right from the beginning of the process and we are delighted that the new Government is supporting us. It means the end for the deeply unpopular Government Directive that effectively forced the Council and our residents into one of the most prolonged, expensive and bureaucratic consultations our residents have ever had to endure. It was disliked by everyone, including our local Gypsy and Travelling community and it will be a great relief for everyone to know we will now see the back of it. I applaud Eric Pickles for his swift action.

Epping Forest District Council was one of a small number of Districts forced by Government Directive to carry out special consultations to identify potential sites for Gypsies and Travellers. The Council said that the time and resources it was forced to devote to the Directive hampered its ability to meet other responsibilities and that the process was an unnecessary concern to residents.

Councillor Collins added: Eric Pickles is lifting a huge shadow of worry and concern from the shoulders of our residents. I deeply regret that the previous Government could not take the same decision sooner. It has cost everyone huge amounts of time, money and stress when we need to focus more on the economic woes of the recession. However, today is a day for the whole district to celebrate.


Letter from Councillor Di Collins to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP

Dated 4 June 2010

At the outset, may I extend our warmest congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State. I know you are aware of the previous Government`s Direction which required the Council to amend its Local Development Scheme to include the preparation and adoption of a Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document to make further provision for gypsy and traveller sites within the area (“the Direction”).  You may also be aware that we wrote to your predecessor on 25 January 2010 requesting he withdraw the Direction.

Whilst recognising the progress that the Council has made to increase site provision in recent years, the former Government was not prepared to consider removing the Direction until the 34 net additional permanent pitches identified as a requirement in the RSS Single Issue Review (SIR) have been provided. As we have demonstrated, this was an aim that the Council is on target to achieve.

We welcome your letter dated 27 May 2010 and note your intention to make a formal statement concerning housing supply (including the provision of traveller sites) soon. Without intending to appear impatient, we ask you to urgently consider withdrawing the Direction for the reasons explained in our letter to your predecessor (copy attached). We would still be happy to meet with you, provide updated information and share the Council’s recent experience relating to the preparation of a gypsy and traveller DPD. We believe our engagement with stakeholders is a valuable source of information that may assist the new Government in the formulation of planning policy in this area. In addition, it does seem the Direction was founded upon an unsound and inequitable approach. Indeed, we understand that a similar Direction to Brentwood Borough Council has subsequently been withdrawn, without the requirement to meet particular numbers in the RSS SIR. The Direction continues to consume a disproportionate amount of scarce resources, has caused significant delays to other planning priorities and is deeply unpopular with local residents, including the gypsy and traveller community. Only the withdrawal of the Direction can remove the uncertainty for those sites which have been identified during this process but, for sound planning reasons, are clearly not suitable. Additionally the Council would not then need to conduct further expensive and time consuming assessments of those sites.

We remain content to process prospective planning applications from those with a genuine local need, using our existing policies. We remain committed to include policies in our Core Strategy that deal with all housing needs, including the provision of gypsy and traveller sites. As such, there can be no doubt that Epping Forest District Council has met its responsibilities and is committed to doing so in a manner that positively reflects the new Government’s ‘localism’ agenda.

I look forward to receiving a positive response from you,

Yours sincerely

Councillor Diana Collins
Leader of the Council


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 http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/Council_Services/planning/forward_planning/LDF.asp

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

 

Yours faithfully


Core Strategy Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Written on . Posted in Community, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council`s Forward Planning Team 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 (SA), its scope and level of detail need to be agreed before it is used to assess issues, options and policies. This stage produces the `Scoping Report`, which should include:

  • An initial list of the economic, environmental and social issues
  • Other plans, programmes and objectives relevant to the Core Strategy (eg, East of England Plan, Local Transport Plan, Biodiversity Action Plan and the plans and programmes of the Primary Care Trust and the Education Authority)
  • Up to date sources of information on all the issues, either already collected or still needed, with notes on potential problems of collection
  • Proposals for the structure and level of detail of the SA report

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. Queries should be directed to the Forward Planning Team on 01992 564517, or to ldfconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Special Conservation Award – Alan Cox

Written on . Posted in Civic events, Conservation and listed buildings, Democracy, Media, Your council, Your environment

The Epping Forest district is rich in history and culture. Waltham Abbey, the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Blake Hall and North Weald enjoy high public profiles. Historic and literary figures as diverse as Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and the infamous Dick Turpin have added colour and some notoriety. But nestling on the boundary between Upshire and Epping Upland, one of our oldest and most important historic buildings is once again becoming a centre for culture and the community.

The history of the Copped Hall Estate stretches back many hundreds of years. The first performance of A Mid-Summer Night`s Dream is said to have been performed in the grounds of the old Tudor mansion. For centuries, the lives of people for miles around were centred on the Estate.

Then, disaster struck. In 1917, the Hall was gutted by fire. It became a shell in danger of collapse and total loss.

Alan Cox with Chairman Penny Smith

But Copped Hall holds a special place in our imaginations. Battered and scarred, it still inspires. And none more so than in the mind of the winner of our next award, made this evening in recognition of his flair, passion and sheer determination to see Copped Hall restored to its former glory, though not this time as a seat of privilege but as a centre of history and culture for our whole community.

Since 1986 he has worked tirelessly, first to secure, then to stabilise, before beginning the long process of restoration. He has not been alone. There are now some 1,000 Friends of Copped Hall, many of whom are actively involved in the restoration work and community activities, a Board of Trustees and a range of other partners driving forward or supporting the process.

Copped Hall is coming back to life thanks in large part to the leadership of our award winner. Special Conservation Award goes to the Alan Cox, architect leading the restoration of Copped Hall.

More Trees Please

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our countryside, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your community, Your environment

This year, a total of 180 trees have been planted by the Council`s Parks Department across the Epping Forest district.

A range of species, including Sweet Gum, Turkish Hazel, Rowan, Cherries and Silver Birch have been planted this season. The aim is to put the right tree in the right place. Therefore careful consideration is given to the species selection to try to avoid the tree becoming a nuisance and instead, a long-term asset to an area.

A Tree being planted by Epping Forest District Councils Parks Department

A mixture of bare root and container-grown stock are planted in a range of locations, from paved areas or grass verges to open spaces. The ongoing threats against our trees from climate change, pollution, pests and diseases as well as sadly vandalism, only re-enforces the need to place the right tree in the right spot.

Environmental Co-ordinator Sarah Creitzman said: The Council recognises its responsibility to help protect our local environment and planting plenty of new trees is one way to try to tackle climate change. There are a number of schemes in place, run by the Council to make sure that new trees continue to be planted every season.

Amongst the trees planted this season, a number were kindly donated by members of the public through our Tree Donation Scheme. Details of how to take advantage of this service and to find further information on how the Council aims to preserve the tree population of the district, visit the Trees area of the council website.

Essex Food Litter Campaign

Written on . Posted in Community, Local business, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council, in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy (KBT), is tackling fast food litter on our streets. The official campaign was launched on Friday 26 February 2010. The campaign message includes posters showing how dropping litter can make people appear as `dirty pigs` to others, in an attempt to change attitudes. The posters will go up on billboards, bus shelters, phone boxes and an Advan displaying the poster has also been travelling around the district.

Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Mary Sartin with ENOs by the Advan in Waltham Abbey

Fast food and its packaging makes up a quarter of all litter on the streets. In addition to attracting pests and wild animals, neighbourhoods blighted by litter can often act as a magnet to more serious crimes.

The environmental charity `Keep Britain Tidy` has previously used the `Dirty Pig` campaign aims successfully to tackle the problem of wrappers, cartons and uneaten food dropped on the ground.

    Fast food filth facts:

  • Fast food litter is a major problem, it refers to food eaten on the go and its packaging which ends up strewn on our streets
  • Food litter can cause permanent grease stains to pavements
  • Not only does dropped food litter look a mess, it also attracts rats and other vermin
  • It adds considerably to the costs of street cleansing

Councillor Mary Sartin, the Environment Portfolio Holder said: Fast food litter is a problem for many communities and it can be a real eyesore that can adversely affect the community`s perceptions of their neighbourhood. This Essex-wide initiative is a great opportunity to work with fast food suppliers to increase awareness and tackle the problem.

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.”

Chairman Learns to Eco-drive

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Democracy, Energy efficiency, Media, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council Chairman Councillor Penny Smith has taken part in a driving lesson provided by the Energy Saving Trust to learn how to become a more economical driver. Her lesson was part of The Smarter Driving Event which took place in Epping High Street on Tuesday 16 February 2010.

The Chairman drove a two lap circuit of Epping Town Centre and managed to improve her fuel efficiency by an astonishing 11 miles per Gallon. On the first lap she was asked by an instructor to drive naturally in the way that she had been taught. This was followed by a second lap in which the instructor gave practical advice to help change some of the common habits that lead to uneconomical driving.

Councillor Penny Smith and Sarah Creiztman with members of the Energy Saving Trust team

Commenting on her lesson Councillor Smith said: “If everyone in the district were to drive in this smarter way, the environmental benefits would be huge. With the effects of the recession still being felt there is, of course, a financial incentive too. Hopefully we will see more and more drivers adopting these changes and I would encourage anyone who owns a car to find out more.”

More information about the Energy Saving Trust and their Smarter Driving Events can be found on the Energy Saving Trust website.