Welfare Reform drop-in session

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Housing, Older people, Regulations, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your money

In April 2013 major changes are happening to the benefit system. We have organised a drop-in session at the Limes Centre in Chigwell on Friday 11 January 2013 to inform people about welfare reforms.

Come along between 9am and 12 noon to find out what the changes could mean for you.

The Limes Centre in ChigwellChanges that will start in April 2013 include 

If you are unsure of how these major changes may affect you, benefit officers will be available to answer your questions and advise you about your options.

The Limes Centre, Limes Avenue, Chigwell, IG7 5LP.

Housing and benefits

One Business Briefing – brimming with news for local businesses

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The January 2013 edition of ‘One Business Briefing’ is now available.

In this edition Reed in Partnership gives local businesses advice on how they can use Government funding to get staff job relevant qualifications at no cost to the employer or employee. It also introduces MP Eleanor Laing’s new Business Forum, reports on current tourism development work, including a key event on 31 January 2013 to develop tourism within the area and much more.

Read the January 2013 edition – One Business Briefing

Produced by Epping Forest District Council, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest district. The briefing is designed to report on business funding opportunities / access to finance, business support, workshops / events for business, town centre news and other local economic development initiatives.

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘One Business Briefing’ by email please email economicdevelopment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Council on 18 December 2012

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Local Plan, Housing, CCTV, Ash Dieback, The Box and more discussed at Council on 18 December 2012.

Local Plan

Progress on the new Local Plan and associated work was reported to the latest meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 18 December by Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder. In a written report, Councillor Bassett said that work on the Local Plan is continuing. All the issues and options consultation responses will be entered into the analysis system by the end of December.

Analysis of the data is ongoing for forthcoming workshops involving Town, Parish and District Councillors and MPs during the first 3 months of the new year. A further workshop will be held later in the year that will consider the implications of further evidence and a preferred option for the emerging Local Plan to be published in late summer or early autumn 2013 for consultation.

Councillor Bassett has also asked the Forward Planning team to compile a list of the “Brownfield” sites they have considered as part of the Local Plan process. It is hoped that this will help councillors identify any which were not identified in the Strategic Land Availability Assessment part of the process. He reminded councillors that brownfield sites which would accommodate less than 6 houses would not be part of the identification process as they are considered as windfall sites and applications for these normally appear through the normal planning process.

Councillor Bassett noted further work on population projections due to take place in the next few months following recent releases of Census 2011 data. He is also due to hold a follow-up meeting with Harlow District Council in January to discuss cooperation focusing on planning and economic development.

Housing

In other updates, Councillor David Stallan reported progress towards the council’s new house building programme. It is envisaged that the development of the first sites will commence in 2014 and be completed in the winter of 2014/15. He also reported on the use of government grants to support the Council’s Homelessness Prevention Service, Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau and 20 additional loans under the council’s successful Rental Loan Scheme.

CCTV

In his written reports, Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder updated councillors on the reallocation of existing money and new money to enhance CCTV in Loughton High Road as well as a further £40,000 to expand and maintain other new CCTV systems across the district. Councillors agreed a further £10,000 towards the upgrade of Loughton cameras.

Following late-night disorder in Epping, Councillor Waller has also authorised more cameras with funding by club licensees. He also announced a combined operation by the council and Essex Police including more police patrols, use of drug dogs, checking taxi licensing and live CCTV monitoring.

Ash Dieback

Ash Dieback has now been reported in the Epping Forest district. Council staff are advising concerned members of the public and referring possible cases to the national helpline. Tree wardens are also being advised about the disease and are encouraging local surveys to supplement those being undertaken by the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust. Councillor Waller reported that infection is unlikely to be found on council owned trees in the short term, because there have been no recent plantings of ash saplings. The council’s regular survey of its own stock will include a check for signs of the disease in future.

Councillor Waller’s report noted that although ash is an important tree in the district it is not the major tree of the local countryside or towns. It is a minor component of the district treescape compared to oak in the wider countryside and beech in Epping Forest. The loss even of a high percentage, would be significant but could be mitigated by an active planting programme of other species on council land and by larger landowners and farmers.

The Box – Epping

A late question by Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens informed District Councillors of an emerging funding concern at The Box – a facility for young people in Epping High Street. It would seem, funding by Essex County Council through to April is in doubt and the facility is in danger of closing without intervention. Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council thanked Councillor Angold-Stephens for bringing the matter to the council’s attention. He is to instruct District Council Officers to contact the organisers of The Box without delay and encourage an application for grant aid to support The Box until the end of the Financial Year.

Cabinet on 3 December

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Leader, Licensing, Local business, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Parking reviews, town centre initiatives, dog control orders and more were among the items discussed at cabinet on Monday 3 December 2012.

£35,000 for Town Centre initiatives

Councillors at cabinet on 3 December approved £35,000 to develop a range of initiatives in support of the district’s town centres. Councillor Anne Grigg, Economic Development and Asset Management Portfolio Holder announced a town team taskforce will work with local town centre partnerships to allocate the money and develop the initiatives. It will also champion the needs of local high streets, co-ordinate and promote activities across the district, innovating and testing new ideas.

Although funded by the council and chaired by Councillor Anne Grigg in her business champion capacity, the taskforce will be made up mainly of local business leaders drawn from the 6 town centre partnerships, Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, Epping Forest College and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Among the practical initiatives being considered for the taskforce to take forward are ‘High Street Hero’ awards, maximising national campaigns at local level, ‘bite-size’ training for small businesses and economic initiative grants. Linking tourism and high street promotion through the websites ‘Visit Epping Forest’ and ‘One Shops Local’ with promotional support by the council through platforms such as the Forester magazine and council website will help to support these initiatives.

 

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council is also a local business person. He strongly welcomed the proposals put forward by Councillor Grigg. Reminding councillors that 3 December is the busiest day for online shopping, he said that each of the towns of Epping Forest has excellent shops and services as well as the opportunity to reach residents.

In a further measure of support to residents and high street shops, Councillor Gary Waller announced £25,000 towards significant extension and improvement to CCTV coverage in Loughton. In response to a question he also noted improvements to CCTV coverage in Epping. Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder then went on to ask cabinet to confirm no increase in charges in the council’s town centre pay and display car parks.

Development agent chosen for council house building

Councillors have taken another major step towards starting a new council house building programme with approval to appoint East Thames Group as development agent. Cabinet approved a recommendation for the appointment of East Thames on an initial 4 year contract which could be extended to up to 7 years as the council starts to provide 20 new dwellings a year over a 6 year period.

The appointment follows a competitive tender in which the bid of £1,582,500 by East Thames Group came out as the most economically advantageous to the council.

East Thames will be responsible for feasibility, planning application, post-planning including project management and appointment of construction contractors plus other related services.

Dog control orders

Dog owners will be required to clear their dog’s faeces on public land following the adoption of dog control orders by the council. Cabinet also approved recommendations to restrict the total number of dogs that can be walked by a single person on public land to four and for authorised officers to require dogs to be put on a lead when requested.

£113,000 boost for homelessness prevention

The homelessness prevention service is to be boosted. In addition to allocating money for staffing its own service, members of the cabinet also approved funding towards the costs of debt advisers employed by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the council’s rental loan scheme assisting homeless people obtain private rented accommodation.

Prevention is a key part of the council’s strategy in dealing with homelessness. Between 2008 and 2012, 1,820 of the 2,233 homelessness cases (82%) dealt with by the council were prevented, enabling people to find or keep a roof over their heads.

Parking reviews

Lessons learnt from the Epping Parking Review will be used to improve the outcomes of the Buckhurst Hill and Loughton Broadway reviews. In particular, subsequent reviews will target the needs of specific areas rather than wider area reviews. Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder assured councillors that full consultation would be carried out as the reviews went forward.

Overview and Scrutiny on 27 November

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Youth council funding, parking charges, and more were discussed at a meeting of Overview and Scrutiny on 27 November 2012.

£12,000 for Youth Council

The Overview and Scrutiny committee is to recommend Epping Forest District Council continues to fund the Epping Forest Youth Council with a bid of £12,000 for the next financial year.

Councillors approved the recommendation to the full council for the full amount after a lively presentation and debate with Epping Forest Youth Council. Youth councillors took their senior counterparts through a comprehensive presentation of their work since the most recent youth council elections in March. Coordinating their presentation with a PowerPoint display, youth councillors identified a survey of local youth clubs as one of the key projects achieved during the previous 8 months. Youth Plus of Ongar have been awarded and recognised by the Youth Council as the best project evaluated during the survey.

Youth councillors enjoy a wider range of training opportunities and are regularly consulted by the district council when senior councillors are formulating policy. Youth councillors also have the opportunity to meet influential community leaders such as Robert Halfon MP who welcomed them to the House of Commons earlier in the year.

Youth councillor responsibilities go beyond the district council. Youth councillors work hard in their local schools and community, taking issues up on behalf of their peers with whichever organisations are appropriate.

Following the presentation to Overview and Scrutiny, district councillors questioned youth councillors on a range of issues. Tables were then turned as youth councillors asked the district councillors how they would improve the links between young people, older councillors and residents.

Leader of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread entered the debate, responding that he would like more links between the youth council and the district. Councillor John Philip wanted to learn lessons from the use of social media by the youth council.

Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny was joined by Councillor Stephen Murray and other councillors in commending the youth council not only for their presentation but also the question and answer session before  recommending that the bid for funding go forward as a Continuing Service Budget bid for ongoing funding of the youth council in the future.

Car parking charges

Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee questioned members of the cabinet on progress towards the council’s key objectives. Among the issues debated was the benefit to local high street businesses of free Saturday parking in the run up to Christmas. Portfolio Holder Councillor Gary Waller informed the committee of research and consultation looking at a range of parking issues including the uniformity of charging in car parks across the district as well as parking for shoppers in town centres.

Police and Crime Commissioner

Reviewing their own work programme, members of Overview and Scrutiny were keen to invite the new Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston to discuss his plans at a future meeting. Councillor Stephen Murray was particularly concerned that the new commissioner find time to visit the district more frequently.

Licensing review

Making it easier for residents and councillors to attend licensing meetings by moving them from daytime to evening schedules will be one of the issues examined by the ‘Review of Licensing Services’ Task and Finish Panel. Members of Overview and Scrutiny approved the terms of reference of the panel which has been asked to report its findings by April 2013.

Help us to tackle fly tipping

Written on . Posted in Business, Our countryside, Out and about, Prosecutions, Recycling and waste, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your environment, Your home

If you are an individual or household passing waste to someone other than the council’s refuse collectors, remember you are under an obligation to check that the person you’re handing your waste to is authorised to take it. This is known as the Household Duty of Care and applies to every private individual involved in transferring waste.

Businesses also have a Duty of Care when dealing with their commercial waste, and must fulfil more requirements. In a recent prosecution, a Harlow based company were fined for the offence of “not securing that the transfer of waste was to an authorised person and not exchanging a written description of the waste”.

No tipping
If you produce commercial waste (and all businesses produce some waste, however small), ensure you can answer YES to all of the following statements.

  • My waste is stored on my property
  • My waste cannot escape from my property and is securely contained
  • I have checked that my waste is collected by an authorised person
  • I have waste transfer note(s) to cover all my waste collections and I keep the paperwork for two years

If you answered NO to any of these statements, you must take action now to comply with the law.

Epping Forest District Council’s Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Will Breare-Hall, said: “Not only is the illegal dumping of rubbish damaging to the environment, it is also costly for the council to deal with. It is a serious criminal offence which can lead to large fines or even imprisonment. Where we have sufficient evidence we will prosecute. Households and business can help by complying with their Duty of Care, ensuring that their waste goes to people authorised to deal with it, and keeping it out of the hands of potential fly tippers. Households and businesses who don’t comply with their Duty of Care risk being prosecuted if their waste is fly tipped.”

Councillor Breare-Hall continued: “I encourage members of the public who witness fly tipping to write down details of the offence, including the date and time, and to report it to us as soon as possible, either online or by calling 01992 564608 during office hours or 01992 564000 at all other times. We offer a special collection service for bulky household items such as beds, chairs, sofas, fridges and washing machines, so no items need ever be illegally dumped. Together we can tackle fly tipping and ensure that Epping Forest district remains a clean and attractive place for residents and visitors alike.”

Find out more about fly tipping online or contact the council’s Environment and Neighbourhood Officers on 01992 564608 for advice.

Food businesses go from zeros to heroes

Written on . Posted in Business, Environmental health, Food safety, Licensing, Local business, Out and about, Prosecutions, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Food Hygiene Inspectors have started the first round of revisits to those food businesses rated zero in the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Since the ratings were first published in April this year businesses have had time to improve their standards and inspectors have received a pleasant surprise.

Food hygiene ratings logoOf those visited so far, all have shown some improvement but special mention must go to the Perfect Choice take-away in Loughton, where the business has gone from a score of zero, requiring urgent work, to 5, displaying the highest standards.

The business has trained all its staff in food hygiene and thorough cleaning has been undertaken. They have introduced procedures to protect the food from contamination and are operating at a very good standard of hygiene and safety.

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Portfolio Holder for Environment said: “We are very pleased to see that businesses have taken the rating scheme seriously and congratulate those who have made great efforts to improve. This is an excellent start but we will continue to work with those who still need to make improvements.”

The Food Standards Agency are encouraging the public to ‘Look before they book’ when organising Christmas meals. Catriona Stewart, Head of the Food Hygiene Ratings Team at the FSA, adds: “No-one wants to gamble with their health when eating out, particularly when celebrating a special festive meal. Local authorities, including Epping Forest District Council, have worked with the FSA to roll-out the scheme successfully, which helps people choose where to eat. We now have an app for your smart phone which makes it even easier for people to check hygiene ratings before deciding which place to visit.”

Food Hygiene ratings can be found on the website www.food.gov.uk/ratings or the new, free FSA app can be downloaded from Google Play (food.gov.uk/app-android) or iTunes (food.gov.uk/app-itunes).

Comment on potential changes to planning permission for extensions

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The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a consultation document for 6 weeks seeking comments on possible temporary changes to permitted development rights on extensions.

Among its proposed course of action is to allow homeowners and businesses to make larger extensions to their homes and business premises without needing to submit a planning application. For example, this could allow a maximum 8 metre depth for a single storey rear extension to a detached house and 6 metre depth for any other type of house, without needing planning permission. If approved, this would be a temporary measure for 3 years.

You can comment on this consultation direct to the DCLG, which ends on 24 December 2012, on a downloadable response form by following the link below. This form also includes details of the proposals.

Comment on the DCLG consultation document

New planning application fees

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As from 22 November 2012, there will be a new level of planning application fees, which  will increase by 15 percent above the current level.  This is the first national increase since 2008 and therefore any planning applications received from this date will require the new fee. 

 Please follow this link to view the new charges

 

First reflections on the Local Plan consultation

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Anyone who wants to know what local residents and stakeholders said during the recent ‘Community Choices’ public consultation can find out in our latest video update.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder has chosen Chipping Ongar as the location for his second Local Plan blog. He gives an initial assessment of the evidence submitted to Epping Forest District Council on the issues and options facing the district as it continues to prepare a Local Plan covering the next 20 years.

More than 5,500 responses were made in response to the Council’s appeal for evidence and opinions. It will be several months before detailed analysis is completed.

In addition to online consultation documents and a questionnaire, the Council organised a number of evening drop-in sessions throughout the district at which local people discussed the issues and options with councillors and staff face to face. Presentations were made to Town and Parish Councils, several of whom invited district council representatives to talk about the consultation at their public meetings. The district council received letters and emails as well as several petitions, all of which are being incorporated into the body of evidence.

Councillor Bassett said: “We received a great deal of interest and I would like to thank everyone who participated in the consultation. The new Local Plan will be our district’s best defence against inappropriate development as well as enabling us to provide homes and employment opportunities for our children. The evidence and opinions provided by our residents are vital in making it as strong and robust as possible.”

The next stage in the public consultation process will be the publication of a ‘preferred options’ document containing draft policies based on evidence from ‘Community Choices’ and forecasts of population growth and housing need. Eventually this will lead to a ‘submission’ Local Plan for further scrutiny by a government-appointed inspector at an ‘Examination in Public’. Only by successfully passing all these stages will the final Local Plan be adopted as the blueprint for appropriate development over the next 20 years.