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.

Further Update on Fire at Birchwood Industrial Estate

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Since the last information provided to residents of Nazeing by Epping Forest District Council, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has issued further updates.

The fire at Nazeing

  • two fire appliances remain on site at the Birchwood Industrial Estate
  • water is no longer being drawn from a local lake via a high volume pump
  • Hoe Lane is now open to traffic

The fire continues to burn under control and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service expects to be at the scene for at least the next 24 hours.

The Epping Forest District Council Emergency Planning Team distributed a letter to residents in Nazeing earlier today prior to the updates listed above.

Text of the letter can be seen below.

“Information Update “ Birchwood Industrial Estate, Nazeing – Fire

You may be aware that Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been tackling a fire at the Birchwood Industrial Estate off Hoe Lane since the early hours of Monday morning. You may have seen the flames, a glow in the night sky, or the column of smoke. However, residents should not be unduly alarmed. The fire is under control and while inconvenient to local residents, it hopefully should not cause you undue stress or concern.

The seat of the fire is a very large wood pile originally intended for recycling into chipboard and other products.

Three fire appliances remain on site at the estate as Firefighters continue to manage the fire. The wood pile has burned steadily but under the control of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.  The material is thought to be clean wood burning at a very high temperature producing relatively little smoke. Residents living nearby and in Nazeing are being advised there is no need to keep their windows and doors closed although in the current cold weather most people will be doing so anyway.

Environmental Health Officers from Epping Forest District Council are supporting the Fire Service. They are also monitoring air quality at various points around Nazeing which has so far raised no signs for concern. The Environment Agency is monitoring water run-off from the site but the situation is being helped by the Fire Service recycling water, collecting it as it runs off the wood pile and spraying it on again. Further water supplies are being brought to the site from hydrants in Hoe Lane and from a local lake via a high volume pump.

It is thought the fire is likely to burn for several days. Wind and weather may affect the timescales. Fire Breaks have also been created to separate the burning sections of the wood pile from the rest.

We cannot be certain when the fire will be fully extinguished or what the weather will do over the next few days, however, the outlook is promising.  Hoe Lane is closed but residents and businesses have access to their properties.

If you would like further updates please listen to broadcasts on local radio stations. You can also log on to the Council Website, www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk which we will keep up to date with the latest news from our colleagues at the Fire Service.

Please accept my assurances of our support.

Yours faithfully

Derek Macnab
Deputy Chief Executive
(Epping Forest District Council Emergency Planning Team)”

Fire at Birchwood Industrial Estate Update

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Four fire appliances remain on site at Birchwood Industrial Estate in Nazeing as Firefighters continue to manage the fire that broke out in the early hours of Monday morning. The large wood pile has burned steadily but under the control of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. By keeping the surrounding wood dampened down, the centre of the pile is being allowed to burn down. The material is thought to be `clean wood` burning at a very high temperature producing relatively little smoke. Residents living nearby and in Nazeing are being advised there is no need to keep their windows and doors closed although in the current cold weather most people will be doing so anyway.

Environmental Health Officers from Epping Forest District Council continue to support the Fire Service. They are also monitoring air quality at various points around Nazeing which has so far raised no signs of concern. The Environment Agency is monitoring water run-off from the site but the situation is being helped by the Fire Service recycling water, collecting it as it runs off the wood pile and spraying it on again.

Firefighters continue to manage the fire

Further water supplies are being brought to the site from hydrants in Hoe Lane and from a local lake via a high volume pump.

It is thought the fire is likely to burn for several days. Wind and weather may affect the timescales. Fire Breaks have also been created to separate the burning sections of the wood pile from the rest.

Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: I would like to thank the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service for the marvellous job they are doing. Thankfully, despite the scale of the fire no-one has been hurt or injured and it is now a question of containing and managing it. We believe the wood pile is essentially clean wood that was intended for recycling, so the smoke coming off it is very similar to a very large bonfire. Residents should therefore not be unduly alarmed.

Councillor Collins continued: District Council Environmental Health Officers will continue to monitor air quality around the site but so far all the signs have been good. They have also been in contact to reassure the local primary school which is largely unaffected.

While we can`t be certain when the fire will finally be extinguished or what the weather will do over the next few days, the outlook is promising. Hoe Lane remains closed but residents and businesses have access to their properties and I hope everything will return to normal as soon as possible.

Fire at Birchwood Industrial Estate, Nazeing

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Firefighters have brought a large fire at Birchwood Industrial Estate, Nazeing under control. The fire is thought to have begun in the early hours of Monday morning (5 January 2009). The scene has been described as an enormous bonfire as a large wood pile intended for recycling has gone up in flames. It is thought the material is clean wood but residents of nearby Nazeing are being advised as a precaution to keep indoors as much as possible with their windows and doors closed.

Hoe Lane, which provides access to the site, is temporarily closed while Firefighters of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service continue to monitor and control the blaze.

Firefighters continue to monitor and control the blaze at Nazeing

Epping Forest District Council has been assisting the emergency services. Environmental Health and Building Control Officers are on the scene to assist and advise Fire Service colleagues. The Council has also made preliminary arrangements for a rest centre although it is thought unlikely it will be needed.

Information can be found on the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service website.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service website (opens in a new window)

Interactive Online Planning System Goes Live

Written on . Posted in Local plan / planning our future, Planning, Your council, Your environment

 

Residents in the Epping Forest District can now easily view online the progress of planning applications following the implementation of phase ii of the Council`s interactive Planning website iPlan and a new interactive online mapping system called ‘pinpoint’.

‘pinpoint’ gives residents fast and easy access to planning applications information showing current and historic applications, and enables users to search for applications in their area by postcode. It also allows residents to register for email notifications to keep customers up-to-date with the progress of any specific planning applications they are interested in this new and exciting development, for which Epping Forest District Council is one of the test sites, is the product of eGovToolkit.

iPlan, launched in 2006, saw the implementation of the Northgate Planning Explorer which opened up data relating to planning applications dating back to 1948. Phase ii develops this further by making information on Building Control applications available online. There have also been major improvements to the look and feel of the whole system.

The second major development in Phase ii is an improved system for making comments on applications. These can be submitted online and automatically added to the system. This new version also includes a link from the Planning system to our Committee Management System allowing users to automatically search the committee agendas and reports.

Another important improvement means that we are now able to make documents relating to planning applications, both current and historic, available online. The first batch of documents published online totals over 130,000 individual documents. These documents include decision notices, register pages, application forms, plans, supporting documents for applications and appeal decisions. With new documents being added daily, the amount of material available online will continue to grow.

The historic material will be useful to residents looking to research the planning history of their property before making a planning application, or for groups interested in the local area. The availability of information means that residents can view data from the comfort of their home and not have to travel to an office to view details of applications they wish to comment on.

    To use the new planning systems, click on the links below:

  • Epping Forest District Council pinpoint website (Sorry this system is no longer available)
  • iplan interactive planning website

Councillor Anne Grigg, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development said: This second stage of iPlan is the end product of a considerable effort on behalf of the Support team within the Planning Directorate, the Council`s ICT team and a number of our software suppliers. This new system will serve to make interacting with Planning simpler for residents and all involved in the planning process.

Steve Bacon, Planning Business Manager at Epping Forest District Council continued: This new phase builds on our successful existing public access channel, and enhances that system by making documentation and more information available by creating links between our key systems. In addition, the innovative use of maps means that these systems are now easier to use than ever.

John Preston, Director of Planning and Economic Development said: This represents a massive change in the way that the Planning Directorate makes information available and in the amount of information available. Further enhancements are planned to the system soon to take advantage of the opportunities for electronic consultation.

Provisional Site Allocation Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Countryside and wildlife, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Go East, the regional office of the Government says the provisional allocation of additional gypsy and traveller site pitches for Epping Forest district has been reduced by ten from 49 to 39. The announcement is contained in the Examination in Public (EiP) Report into the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England published on 18 December 2008. The EiP report now forms the basis of recommendations to the Government which will hold further consultation before issuing its final allocations next year.

Councillors and Planning Officers have consistently argued for a reduction in the number of pitches allocated to Epping Forest district. While Councillors feel the allocation remains unfairly high for Epping Forest in comparison to other districts, the reduction is a vindication of their stance. The Council will continue to press for further reductions.

The reduction for Epping Forest district is in marked contrast to most other parts of the region. Overall, the EiP has increased the regional allocation of extra traveller and gypsy pitches by a further 50 from 1,187 to 1,237.

The Government announcement comes as residents continue to respond to local consultation on the future provision of traveller and gypsy sites in the district.

Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: The announcement is a move in the right direction but I don`t think it goes far enough. Local residents are very concerned about the high number of extra traveller and gypsy pitches the district is being asked to accommodate. Epping Forest district already has more gypsy and traveller accommodation than most other areas. Even with the potential reduction from 49 to 39 extra pitches, we are still being asked to take substantially more than many other areas. We will continue to argue for further reductions.

The Secretary of State will consider the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England and the recommendations of the EiP before issuing any proposed changes in the Spring. There will then be a further period of consultation. Go East says that the Secretary of State will publish the finalised policy in the Summer of 2009.

Call for Sites Provisional List Published

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

Around 200 suggestions from local residents, landowners and developers have been received by Epping Forest District Council since it asked people to nominate potential sites for all types of future development including housing.

Residents can see the list below.

Call for sites provisional list pdf (349 KB)

The list will eventually help the Council formulate plans for accommodating around 3,500 new homes allocated by the Government to the district under the East of England Plan.

Information from the `Call for Sites` will inform the preparation of the Local Development Framework (LDF), a series of documents setting out future planning policies for the district. As a result of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the LDF is the new form of plan making in England and Wales and replaces the Local Plan. In Epping Forest district the priority for the LDF is to provide sufficient land allocations to meet the housing, employment and other targets in the East of England Plan and to meet the requirements for Gypsy and Traveller provision given by the Single Issue Review of the East of England Plan.

Sites identified and evaluated through the `Call for Sites` exercise will be particularly relevant to some of the documents that will make up the LDF. These include the Core Strategy and a Land Allocations Development Plan Document. The `Call for Sites` exercise assists the process of finding the most suitable and deliverable sites for the LDF.

The `Call for Sites` is the first step for the Council in identifying potential land for new development. While making the provisional list public, the Council stresses that being on the list does not indicate support by Councillors, or that the land will ultimately be found suitable for development purposes.

Some residents asked us if they could see the provisional list so we have made it available on the website. However, it is still incomplete and unevaluated. Some of the suggestions will not be viable. Others will need serious consideration but that process is not likely to take place for many months. We still need to add some of our own land holdings into the mix as well as other potential sites, says Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Anne Grigg.

Councillor Grigg added: The official deadline for suggestions was 18 July but we are continuing to get occasional additions.

No action will be taken on considering whether the land that has been submitted is suitable for development in the long term, until preparation of the Core Strategy has been commenced. Any land that is promoted for development from the `Call for Sites` must be in accordance with the strategy of development distribution across the district. Public consultation on the Core Strategy including consideration of the development options available for the district is likely to occur during Summer 2009.

Landscape Officer Invited to House of Commons

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

Landscape Officer Chris Neilan

Epping Forest District Council`s Landscape Officer and Arboriculturist Chris Neilan was invited to a special reception at the House of Commons hosted by Tree Council Vice President Brian Donohoe MP at which Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government, officially launched National Tree Week.

Chris Neilan said: I was invited because CAVAT (Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees), the tree value method I have developed, is crucial to current major national initiatives to help protect trees. Over the previous few months it has featured in articles in many national newspapers, including a photograph on the front page of the Times and a feature in The Observer and is currently reported on the front of the current Tree Guardian, the Tree Council’s newsletter to their tree wardens.

CAVAT is specifically reviewed in the Trees and Design Action Group Green Paper `No Trees, No Future – Trees in the Urban Realm `, also launched for consultation at the event. The paper includes two sets of proposed guidelines. One is for Large Species Trees in New Development – including maximising opportunities to plant large species landscape trees in new development and overcoming issues such as perceived threats to foundations. The other is for Assessing the Value of Urban Trees – dealing with the potential approaches to assessing the financial value of trees in developments, including their value to the community. CAVAT is reviewed under this heading and its adoption by the insurance, loss adjusting, Local Authority and private arboricultural sectors (in connection with setting evidence levels in subsidence cases) praised as an excellent example of joint working.

Chris Neilan concluded: I was delighted to attend this special event at the House of Commons and am very happy that my tree valuation method is now helping to improve the management of trees and to save trees that might otherwise be lost, well beyond the bounds of Epping Forest District.

Clarification of Compulsory Purchase

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Epping, Gypsy and traveller, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

 

Our record shows that although we have compulsory purchase powers, they are used as a last resort, whether connected to traveller and gypsy sites or any other matter, says Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council. Councillor Grigg made her comment in response to concerns raised in a national newspaper and added: Against that background I cannot see Epping Forest District Council wanting to use compulsory purchase powers in this instance.

Residents have voiced concerns through the traveller and gypsy consultation process and the matter has been debated in the House of Commons. The Council has clarified that although it is among a number of agencies with the power to make a compulsory purchase of land, Councillors regard this as very much a last resort.

Information on the consultation can be found at:

  • Development Plan Provision for Gypsies and Travellers in Epping Forest District

Consultation on options for potentially new or extended traveller sites began on 4 November 2008 and has been extended by three days to Friday 23 January 2009. It is being driven by the need to respond to the Government directive. The Council has been told to find 49 more pitches within the district by 2011 and a further 57 pitches by 2023. The consultation document is a starting point. No decisions have been taken. The Council stresses these are potential sites. Nothing is set in stone.

Council staff are holding a series of public exhibitions around the district where people can ask questions and discuss the options. Councillor Mrs Grigg said: The exhibitions are being generally well received. We are asked why the Council is doing this. Our answer is that we are responding to a Government directive. We have to plan for 49 new pitches. It is vital that local residents know what is happening and respond directly to the District Council. Some people may send their views to their Parish, Town or even the County Council. That is OK but we need your views direct to help the District Council frame its response to the Government later.

Councillors do not think the allocation process for Epping Forest District is fair. They are concerned by the methodology used to calculate need and think the number should be reduced. The consultation document is helping the Council inform local residents about potential sites although other options may be suggested through the process. The most important element from the Council’s perspective is to gather as much evidence and opinion from local people as possible to place before the Government-appointed panel of inspectors next year.

The Council is anxious to make sure everyone knows what is happening. As well as placing information online, every household can read more in the Forester magazine currently being delivered across the district. The Council is also working with the media, particularly local newspapers, to inform residents. People living closest to the potential sites have been contacted directly. Residents can also see the debates at Cabinet and Council meetings via webcasts on the Council website.

The Council cannot dictate the recommendations of the inspectors through the Examination in Public, or the final decision of the Secretary of State but by raising as much public awareness as possible, it is doing all it can to gather the evidence it needs to influence the outcome for the benefit of the entire local community.

Councillors are urging local residents to support the Council and get the facts. Councillor Anne Grigg said: “This is a very sensitive matter and people are extremely worried. The Epping Forest District Council website contains a very significant amount of information designed to assist people in responding to this consultation and this will be updated.

We need people to keep a close eye on the website, read the consultation document and supporting information and return completed questionnaires. That is the best way to give the Council the evidence we need to back our arguments when the Government takes its decisions in 2010.”

View the consultation document and supporting information click on link above or call Forward Planning on 01992 564517.