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.
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.
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.
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.