Gypsy and Traveller Reduction

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Secretary of State published the final East of England Plan policy (H3) for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision on 20 July 2009. Epping Forest District Council is required to provide an additional 34 pitches in the period 2006 to 2011. This would mean that the minimum number of authorised pitches in the district should total 128 by 2011. The policy expects pitch provision to be made through a combination of Development Plan Documents (DPD) and development control decisions and that opportunities should be taken to secure provision within major developments.

Councillor Di Collins Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “We argued long and hard that the overall number of extra gypsy and traveller pitches allocated to our district was unfair in comparison to other Council areas. I am pleased we had some success. From an original draft allocation of 49, it was no mean feat to get the Government to reduce the figure to 34. However, I think the vast majority of Epping Forest residents will agree with me that the allocation is still too high and should have been much lower.

“Having confirmed our allocation, I think it is now up to the Government to listen very carefully to the views of local people about where the extra pitches should go in the district. Those decisions should be taken locally in conjunction with the needs of all our residents and not imposed by Government-appointed Inspectors.

The District Council is continuing to analyse responses made to the consultation for additional pitch locations within the district, which ran from November 2008 to February 2009. Discussions with GO-East about a revised timetable for submitting a draft DPD continue. Beyond 2011 the East of England Plan policy requires additional provision based on an annual 3% compound increase and advises that DPDs should consider the need for rural exception sites and the alteration of Green Belt boundaries.

The County of Essex and the Unitary Authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock are also required to make provision for 30 transit pitches by 2011.

Policy H4 deals with pitch provision for travelling show people and requires Essex, Southend and Thurrock to make provision for an additional 103 plots by 2011 with an annual 1.5% compound increase thereafter. Councils are again advised to consider rural exception sites and changes to Green Belt boundaries.

The implications of these two policies will be considered in the Autumn by the Council’s Local Development Framework Cabinet.

Recycling Initiatives at Epping Forest Schools

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Our countryside, Recycling and waste, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

 

Epping Forest District Council is helping to boost its already excellent recycling levels by offering schools across the district the opportunity to take advantage of free recycling facilities. Recycling will enable schools to reduce the waste they produce by more than 70% and cut the cost of their waste collection, making money available for other budgets.

Most schools typically recycle paper from their classrooms and offices. Some also recycle cans and glass. Every classroom/office taking part in the scheme has a blue box identical to those provided by the Council to all households across the district, enabling children to make the link between recycling in school and at home.

Portfolio Holder for the Environment Councillor Mary Sartin said: Learning about waste management can be a valuable source of education, linking directly to both Citizenship and Education for Sustainable Development. Recycling projects also provide an opportunity for the entire school to work together as a team.

Schools are able to develop their pupils` knowledge and understanding of such issues, preparing them to make informed choices in the future, which will no doubt influence how rubbish is tackled in the future.

If your school, or playschool/nursery is not yet using Epping Forest District Council`s recycling service, please phone 01992 564608.

Council Cash to Support Homeless

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Housing, Local plan / planning our future, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

A scheme that has helped over 200 families rent a home in the private sector is to be boosted with more money. Epping Forest District Council will pass the full benefit of a £7,500 Government grant to Epping Forest Housing Aid, enabling the local charity to guarantee more rent deposits on behalf of local people. The Council is also extending the value of underwriting Epping Forest Housing Aid`s guarantees from £40,000 to £60,000. Together, the measure will allow more local people to take the first steps to renting a new home. Twenty families are expected to benefit almost immediately.

In a separate move, the Cabinet of Epping Forest District Council also authorised the provision of £47,500 to provide small interest-free loans to residents who might otherwise be in danger of losing their homes due to the economic downturn. Loans of between £1,000 and £3,000 are envisaged although Government guidance allows for loans of up to £5,000 under the scheme.

Councillors Wowed on Copped Hall Visit

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

After more than 90 years, the gutted remains of Copped Hall are rising from the ashes thanks to a band of dedicated volunteers and trustees. Members of Epping Forest District Council including the Chairman, Councillor Penny Smith, were treated to an extensive tour of the restoration works as the Hall returns to its former glory. Where only a short while ago there were no floors or roof, councillors were able to walk from room to room, admiring the restoration work in warmth and comfort as thunderstorms lashed the building outside.

Copped Hall on a stormy day, it is hard to imagine the vast amount of restoration work going on

The current Copped Hall was built in 1753 near the site of an earlier Tudor palace. It was extended and embellished but disaster struck when fire ripped through the building in 1917. What remained was left to decay and the Hall could have been demolished entirely. However, unlike so many English stately homes, it was not knocked down. In 1993 the Copped Hall Trust was established to save the house and surrounding gardens.

Councillors see where new floors will be laid across fire resistant steel beamsArchitect Alan Cox by one of the restored fireplaces

With support of organisations including Epping Forest District Council and the dedicated hard work of many individuals, Copped Hall, the gardens and associated buildings are gradually being brought back to life. The Trustees hold events including the Copped Hall Run with Epping Rotary, music and open-air theatre productions. Tours around the inside of the building are being held for members of the public and local schools.

The cellars at Copped HallCouncillors visit the stables at Copped Hall

Councillor Penny Smith`s family has farmed land in nearby Epping Upland and she remembers some of the people who used to work on the Copped Hall Estate.

She said: Today, many people have no idea about the hall or estate. Most only catch a glimpse as they speed past on the M25. However, there was a time when the lives of people in Epping, Epping Upland and Upshire revolved around Copped Hall. It is steeped in history with records as far back as the Doomsday Book.

The restoration still has a very long way to go but walking through the rooms is incredibly atmospheric. From the great dining and bedrooms to the servants` quarters, kitchens and stables, you get a sense of the generations that lived, worked and died there. Small touches such as the restoration of a fireplace, paintings on a wall and the occasional piece of period furniture add to the impression that this was once a very special place and is becoming so again.

Chairman Penny Smith with Councillor Mary Sartin and Copped Hall Trustee John Padfield

Although there are public footpaths across the Copped Hall Estate, entry to the House is by appointment with the Trustees only who run regular tours, proceeds from which go towards the restoration work.

Councillor Penny Smith thanked Alan Cox and Denys Favre of the Copped Hall Trustees for showing the Councillors the Hall. She said: It is marvellous to see the fantastic work taking place. The Copped Hall Trust is a charitable organisation. It relies upon an army of dedicated volunteers led by Alan, Denys and the other trustees. They have done a tremendous job and I look forward to seeing the restoration progress over the next year or so.

Epping Parking Review

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

Epping Parking Review

A three week consultation period ending on 3 July 2009 has been undertaken as part of a review into the Epping Parking Scheme which was implemented in August 2007.

Essex County Council issued a consultation letter to residents and businesses in the Epping Forest District on behalf on Epping Forest District Council to review the Scheme.

    Full details can be found on the Essex County Council website.

New ‘Slimmed-Down’ Cabinet Meets

Written on . Posted in Community, Councillors, Democracy, Housing, Parking, Recycling and waste, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

News and video from the first Cabinet meeting of the new Council year including the announcement of the new slimmed-down Cabinet, parking on Council estates and recycling among others.

New Cabinet

Business resumed for District Councillors at the Cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Monday 8 June 2009 following last week`s County and European Elections. It was the first meeting of the new slimmed-down Cabinet following its reduction from nine to eight members at the Annual Council meeting in May.

    The new Cabinet comprises:

  • Councillor Di Collins – Leader of the Council
  • Councillor Chris Whitbread – Finance and Economic Development
  • Councillor Richard Bassett – Performance Management
  • Councillor Mitch Cohen – Legal and Estates
  • Councillor Heather Harding – Leisure and Wellbeing
  • Councillor Mary Sartin – Environment
  • Councillor David Stallan – Housing
  • Councillor Syd Stavrou – Community Safety and Transport

Councillor Mitch Cohen briefed members on the impact of the recession on local businesses following a meeting with business tenants. Epping Forest District Council is taking steps to assist local businesses. Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny briefly outlined the latest work of his committee including public consultation on the format of the Forester and local calls for free Tube travel into London for residents of pensionable age.

Cabinet went on to discuss the issue of free Tube travel with members expressing concern about the potential cost to the Council. Councillor Richard Bassett, Performance Management Portfolio Holder listened to the views of councillors. While free travel proved not to be a viable option, Councillor Bassett noted that older residents could still travel very cheaply using the Oyster Card and gave a commitment to publicise it within the Forester.

Church Hill Car Park

A proposal by Councillor Mitch Cohen, Legal and Estates Portfolio Holder to market Church Hill Car Park, Loughton for retail development was agreed. Councillor Cohen received approval to market the site for freehold sale or long lease agreement and report back to Cabinet on the outcome. Affordable housing could be incorporated into a scheme.

Parking on Council Estates

Cabinet endorsed a flexible approach to tackling unauthorised parking on its housing estates. Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder received support for enforcement on an ad hoc basis in conjunction with local consultation and good management of parking areas. Where problems persisted and local residents complained, methods of controlling unauthorised parking could include the installation of jockey rails and shrubs.

Recycling

Extension of door step recycling collection services has led to a decline in use of local recycling points. Cabinet agreed to remove 26 local points saving £10,000 a year but to retain 21 District Recycling Centres. Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Mary Sartin indicated that some of the savings could be used to extend textile recycling.

In response to a question, Councillor Sartin confirmed that recycling services are being extended to households living in flats.

Gypsy and Traveller Pitch Provision Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Councillors, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District has bucked the regional trend with another reduction in the number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches allocated to the area. The number of proposed new pitches has been reduced by a further five to 34 by 2011 in the latest consultation issued by the Secretary of State on 27 March. The reduction follows an earlier recommendation to cut the number from 49 to 39.

The latest figures are published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Overall the Secretary of State proposes to increase the number of new pitches in the East of England from 1,187 to 1,237. Epping Forest is one of two Councils in Essex to argue successfully for further reductions. Basildon has had its provisional allocation cut by 19 to 62.

Both Councils remain top of the list for Gypsy and Traveller provision, Epping Forest forecast to accommodate 128 and Basildon 174 by 2011. Thurrock is next with 124. At the other end of the scale, Southend and Castle Point have been asked to provide 15 each.

The Secretary of State was commenting on the latest stage in the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy, a planning document that looks at the need for development, including housing. Residents have eight weeks to comment and respond to the Secretary of State. Submissions must be received by 5.00pm on Friday 22 May 2009.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council welcomed the latest reduction but felt there was still scope for further reductions. She said: This is a very sensitive issue. The Gypsy and Traveller communities have rights to adequate site provision but this needs to be balanced against the equally important needs of the settled community. Slowly but surely, our arguments for a fairer allocation of pitches across the region is gaining some success. There is still some way to go but we have clearly made progress. Everyone now has the chance to tell the Secretary of Sate directly what they think.

Links to the Government Office and online Government consultation can be found via Epping Forest District Council`s website www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Alternatively, write to:

Regional Planning Team
Go-East
Eastbrook
Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge
CB2 8DF

or e-mail gtproposedchanges@goeast.gsi.gov.uk

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.

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.

Gypsy and Traveller Consultation Reminder

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

 

Epping Forest District Council is reminding local residents that the Options Consultation on proposed Gypsy and Traveller sites in the district will soon be closed. The questionnaire enclosed with the consultation documents needs to be completed and returned either via the Council`s website or by post by 5pm on 6 February 2009.

The Government has directed Epping Forest District Council to make plan provision for new Gypsy and Traveller pitches. This must be submitted by October 2009, when there will be an opportunity for people to make representations to be heard by an independent Planning Inspector. The consultation document discusses a number of possible sites in detail and a bird`s eye view to show the surrounding area. The Plan must meet targets for additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches. Following a recent Examination across the East of England the provisional target has been reduced for Epping Forest District from 49 pitches by 2011 to 39 pitches. The Secretary of State will be consulting soon on what the final figure should be.

The consultation has been running since 4 November 2008 and a number of exhibitions have been held for residents to find out more information or put questions to Officers from the Council.

    The consultation document and all related information can be found on the following link:

  • Development Plan Provision for Gypsies and Travellers

Hard copies of the document can be provided by calling 01992 564517.