Epping Forest District and its Parliamentary constituencies are under review, with the final consultation period between Tuesday 16 October and Monday 10 December 2012.
The final stage involves increasing the number of eligible voters in the Epping Forest constituency, to equalise it with the surrounding constituencies. The review has resulted in the Lambourne Ward within Epping Forest District Council being moved from the Brentwood and Ongar constituency and re-drawn into the Epping Forest constituency, in order to increase the electorate.
The boundary directly affects the residents of Epping Forest District and this is the last stage of consultation on the draft proposals. This would therefore be the final opportunity for the public to make suggestions and amendments to the draft. Epping Forest residents should also note the Government is currently in the process of writing a piece of legislation which will enforce a fixed term for MPs.
Returning Officer Ian Willett said: “After this consultation period the public will have no further say in the matter, so make sure to express your views and suggestions before the closing date.”
The 8 week consultation period will be between Tuesday 16 October and Monday 10 December and will be reviewed by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE). The BCE is an independent and impartial, non-departmental public body contracted by Parliament to review constituency boundaries in England, proposing any recommendations and amendments back to them.
Have your final say by picking up summaries of the revised proposals and any further information about the commission. These will be available to the general public from Tuesday 16 October at the Civic Offices, Epping, Ongar library and on the BCE commission website up until the deadline of Monday 10 December 2012.
A meeting of the Cabinet, on Monday 10 September, began with a series of public questions concerning the recently-published draft St John’s Road design and development brief. Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Anne Grigg responded to each in turn including:
Retail and leisure use
Impact on neighbouring property values
Character and environmental impact of options
Public feedback on the options in the recent consultation
View questions and the debate
Councillor Grigg reminded Cabinet of the ownership of St John’s Road, in particular Essex County Council which controls the future of the former primary school, library and registry office.
Turning to the substantive report, Councillor Grigg reported the significant public opposition to a large supermarket. She introduced Mr Steve Walker to present the Development and Design Brief prepared by Allies Morrison Urban Practitioners.
Mr Walker noted the relocation of the primary school as a driving factor and took Cabinet through a description of the recent public consultation. 4 options were tabled for public consideration:
Retail and leisure
More than 800 responses were received. Online responses were particularly popular with residents. Improved sport and leisure was by far the most important consideration raised by residents. Protection of existing historic buildings and the character of town were also very important. Also provision for adult education.
Options for a large supermarket drew the most significant opposition. Retail uses could have potential, provided they complement the existing town centre.
The brief leaves open the possibility of leisure and sports provision, potentially in conjunction with redevelopment of the Hemnall Street sports centre site. Further work is being carried out to assess the viability and impact of such a proposal. Mr Walker reminded Cabinet that as the major landowner, Essex County Council is seeking to realise as much money from the sale of its land holdings as possible having provided the new school .
Councillor Will Breare-Hall recognised the value of the consultation and welcomed the inclusion of sports and leisure in response to public wishes. Councillor Richard Bassett Planning Portfolio Holder wished to know if Essex County Council as the major land owner had acknowledged local feeling.
Responding to Councillor John Philip, Councillor Bassett, noted the links between St John’s Road and the work going on to produce a new Local Plan.
Councillor Anne Grigg summed up by saying that this was an opportunity for Epping. Subject to any further minor changes, the draft St John’s Road Development Brief will be recommended for approval by Full Council on 27 September.
The Superintendent of Epping Forest, Paul Thompson was welcomed by Councillors to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council on 4 September. The meeting began with a presentation by Mr Thompson on forest management. Judy Adams, Chairman of the Friends of Epping Forest also attended the presentation. A question and answer session followed.
View the presentation and debate here.
Epping Forest is owned and has been managed by the Corporation of London on behalf of the people of London and Essex for 134 years. It covers large parts of the district as well as areas of several London Boroughs.
12 miles long from Forest Gate to Bell Common, the Forest covers more than nine square miles. Outside core forest land, the Corporation also manages thousands of acres of buffer land, much of which is agricultural. Epping Forest is London’s largest open space. It is ancient and in earlier times covered most of Essex. It inspired and today forms a key part of the Green Belt.
4.3 million visitors or around 12,000 people a day visit the Forest. The next election of the Forest Verderers is next year 2013.
As part of managing the Forest, the Conservators are charged with providing recreation and enjoyment to the public, an un-built and unspoilt forest, preserving its natural aspect and beauty. Pollarding is a major responsibility as is the maintenance of open land, heath and ancient and historic features such as Amesbury Banks and the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge. The Corporation is a guarantor of commoners’ rights.
There are many special sites of scientific interest protecting animals and plants in the Forest. There are nine reservoirs.
Dog walking is one of the most popular activities in the Forest. Horse riding is also important with a huge network of bridleways. Mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular. The Corporation also provides many football pitches, cricket pitches and several golf courses. Many people run in the forest with several Olympic hopefuls training there recently.
Education is a major element of the Corporation role including outreach and the facilities at High Beach.
Lottery support is assisting with forest management including preservation work of ‘keystone’ trees. Many of these are at risk or coming to the end of their lives but provide particularly important wildlife habitats.
Public involvement in the production of the Management Plan is hoped to give greater confidence in Corporation policies. The Plan will take up to two years to complete. It will include extensive online consultation using similar survey techniques to those used by Lee Valley Regional Park.
High-tech electronic collars are being introduced for cattle grazing within the forest as part of the environmental management. Small electric shocks, half the power of an electric fence are delivered as the cows reach otherwise invisible boundaries. Cows learn the boundaries very fast.
Further environmental management is taking place through car parking and speed restrictions.
The Friends of Epping Forest is a charity which has supported the Forest for the last 43 years. It aims to protect the Forest by raising public awareness and appreciation. It is a friend of the Conservators. It runs many guided walks, scrutinises planning applications, welcomes the Council’s proposals for dog control and supports the various fetes and festivals in and around the Forest.
Councillor David Wixley, one of the Friends of Epping Forest, asked Paul Thompson for reassurances over the future of the visitor centre at High Beach. Mr Thompson replied that it could not remain open with Corporation resources alone following the opening of ‘The View’ in Chingford. However, he was confident of finding partners able to work with the Corporation for the long term continuation of the Visitor Centre at High Beach.
Responding to another question by Councillor Alan Lion, Mr Thompson confirmed the Corporation was taking account of the current Council Local Plan consultation and would participate to ensure the protection of the Forest.
Many Forest visitors come by car. Councillor Leon Girling asked if new speeding restrictions had been assessed. Mr Thompson said it was very early days but a review would take place next year. However, evidence so far seemed to suggest speeds had dropped and he outlined plans to introduce new Shuttlebus services as the Corporation seeks to rationalise car parks.
Councillor David Wixley also raised concerns about the impact of cattle grazing in managing wood pasture. Mr Thompson explained the relationship between grazing and some of the most important trees. He felt the re-introduction of grazing to some areas would benefit habitat, restoring open vistas to something more similar to Victorian times than the more recent denser forest.
Management of the Forest population of deer was raised by Councillor John Knapman. Mr Thompson said the current population was too high, causing problems in the Forest, on neighbouring agricultural land and on local roads and needed to be reduced.
Councillor Penny Smith asked if the rules and regulations of forest use would be revised to make the notices clearer for the public. Mr Thompson confirmed new signs are planned for gateways and car parks.
Councillor Jennie Hart asked about diseases affecting Horse Chestnuts and other trees. Mr Thompson said there were a significant number of issues surrounding tree health including conditions affecting Plane trees. He speculated on a number of animals from squirrels to deer stripping bark from Silver Birch trees.
Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee thanked Paul Thompson and Judy Adams for an excellent presentation.
The issues and options consultation phase of the new Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ runs from 30 July to 15 October. Here, Councillor Richard Bassett, the Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder talks about some of the key elements and encourages residents to become involved.
Click ‘Community Choices’ to view all the information and take part in the Local Plan consultation.
Consultation is due to start on 2 August for 8 weeks concerning the proposed introduction of dog control orders on publicly-owned land across the district. The council is encouraging residents of, and visitors to, the district to have their say on the proposals.
Three new control orders are being suggested under the Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. The proposals include extending the area over which failing to clear up dog fouling is an offence to include all public land within the district, including that owned by the City of London Corporation. The council also proposes to give authorised officers powers to request that a dog be put on a lead in public areas if necessary, and to restrict the number of dogs under one person’s control in public areas to four at one time.
Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Portfolio Holder for the environment, said “The council receives a number of complaints each year about ‘professional dog walkers’ taking an excessive number of dogs onto recreational land and public areas. Complaints refer to the dogs being out of control, blocking footpaths and fouling without the person responsible being able to clean up after them because of the number of dogs in their control. “I therefore encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to return a questionnaire.”
Responses will be reported back to Councillors to assist them in making any final decisions.
Epping Forest District residents will have their say on how support for Council Tax payments will be provided to local people on low incomes.
Under the Welfare Reform Act, the Government will end Council Tax Benefit on 31 March 2013 to be replaced by a Local Council Tax Support scheme (LCTS). The Government is moving responsibility for the new scheme to councils and reducing the amount of money it provides. The Government funding allocated to Epping Forest District for LCTS is expected to fall to 88% of its current Council Tax Benefit value. For Epping Forest District Council, this means a drop of approximately £1 million.
Residents will be asked to comment on the proposals stemming from the Government’s reforms. District and borough councils in the county have been working together with Essex County Council to design, develop and deliver a framework for the new LCTS schemes and tackle the reduction in funding.
Pensioners are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments. If benefit payments are to be met without significant costs to Council Tax Payers or reductions in other services, the support given to those of working age will need to be reduced.
The proposed Epping Forest framework incorporates five key principles for working age claimants:
• Calculation of support will be based on 80 per cent of the Council Tax bill rather than 100 per cent as at present.
• The calculation of benefit will be on the maximum of a Band D property. Anyone in a higher banded property will only be able to claim at the Band D rate.
• Child maintenance will be taken into account when assessing income although £15.00 per week will be disregarded.
• Anyone with savings of more than £6,000 will not be eligible
• An exceptional hardship scheme will provide a safety net for people in particular need.
Epping Forest District Council is also seeking views on whether child benefit should be included in the calculation, whether there should be a standard charge for other adults living in a property and whether any groups of people, such as disabled or young families should receive any protection.
It is proposed that some forms of income such as Disability Living Allowance and War Disablement Pensions be excluded from the calculations to ensure the most vulnerable groups in the community are protected from the reductions.
Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “These are tough choices. Some people who have never paid Council Tax before will do so for the first time. We are working to ensure no-one is left unable to fend for themselves without a roof over their head. The elderly and most vulnerable groups should be protected. Working age people should be encouraged to work. Families on low incomes should receive some support and thrift should be rewarded. Nevertheless, I do not understate the potential impact on people of working age on low incomes if these proposals are adopted. It is therefore vital that people look very carefully at the proposals and reply to the consultation.”
Cabinet meeting on 23 July approved proposals for everyone in receipt of Council Tax Benefit in Epping Forest district to be contacted directly during a six-week period starting on 1 August as part of the pan-Essex consultation. At the end of the consultation period, the feedback received will be considered by the Cabinet with final approval of the new scheme planned for the meeting of Full Council on 18 December.
All residents are being invited to participate whether or not they are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit. The consultation is available here from 1 August with links to the questionnaire on the Essex County Council website.
The deadline for comments on the St John’s Road area redevelopment is approaching, Epping Forest District Council is reminding residents.
A council spokesperson said: I would encourage everyone to have their say on how they would like to see this area developed. It is vitally important that we are told what residents want, rather than what they don’t want.
This is particularly important as Epping Forest District Council owns one-sixth of the site, two-thirds belong to Essex County Council and another sixth is in the ownership of Epping Town Council. Epping Forest District Council will not be developing the site itself, so the consultation process really is the way to influence any outcome.’
The spokesperson continued: The consultation closes on Monday 23 April at 5pm. Please take this opportunity to make your comments count.
Residents have until 23 April to express views on the St John’s Road, Epping Development Brief.
The deadline has been extended in response to appeals by ward councillors and residents to Epping Forest District Council’s Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Gagan Mohindra.
Councillor Mohindra said: “I have personally been approached by Councillor Whitbread and Councillor Breare-Hall about concerns raised to them by local residents. Indeed, I am aware that all the ward councillors have been in touch with officers with similar comments. All of them said that the original schedule was too tight and we needed to give local people more time especially as St John’s Road is located in the heart of Epping. The final decision will shape the character of the town for generations to come. I believe we have to be flexible. It is therefore entirely right that we take more time over this process if that is what local people want.”
The exhibition in the Civic Offices at Epping will remain throughout the extended period. The other display, currently at St John’s Church will transfer to St John’s Road Library for the remainder of the consultation from 24 March. Further publicity is also planned including a leaflet delivery to Epping residents, notifying them of the extension and location of the exhibitions.
The bulk of the site is owned by the tax payer, approximately one-third Essex County Council, one-sixth Epping Forest District Council and one-sixth Epping Town Council. St John’s Church also sits entirely within the development area.
There are 4 distinct options:
Retail and leisure
View details of the 4 options in the leaflet below and submit your views online (Consultation now closed):
Key objectives for Epping Forest District Council are to ensure the development integrates well with the High Street, provides a sustainable mix of uses with high-quality public spaces and respects and complements the historic character of the town. Any development also needs to be practical, deliverable and affordable.
Councillor Mohindra added: “This brief has been a long time in the formulation. Extending the consultation by a few weeks will not harm the process and I want to be sure we have given local residents and businesses as much opportunity to respond as we can. I also want the fullest range of views. I believe some of the options are less affordable and practical than others but I still want to know what people think of all the possibilities. We are looking at each in the current financial climate but what may not be possible today might be possible tomorrow.”
Do you live, work, shop, or spend your leisure time in Epping? If so, Epping Forest District Council wants your views on proposed options for a development and design brief in the St John’s Road Area in the town.
Consultation begins on Monday 5 March and runs until Monday 26 March on 4 possible options for redeveloping this area. These options are either retail-led, leisure-led, retail and leisure or residential.
Updated 16 March 2012 – the St John’s consultation has been extended to Monday 23 April 2012.
The proposals include a wide range of suggestions for the area, including cafes / restaurants, new shops, new housing, new high quality public space, new facilities for the Parish Church to name a few. As many people as possible are encouraged to have their say.
View details of the 4 options in the leaflet below and submit your views online:
During the consultation period the exhibition will be at the District Council offices on the High Street, Epping from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm as well as at the Parish Church of St John on the corner of the High Street and St John’s Road. This will be open every day from 9 am to 3.30 pm but may also be open at other times.
Questionnaires will be available at these exhibitions for anyone to provide their feedback to the council. These can be handed in at any of the exhibitions (detailed below) or they can be posted.
Members of the Project Board will also be present to answer any queries at the venues and times below:
Monday 5 March from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm at St John’s Church market-day coffee morning in the church
Thursday 8 March from 3 pm to 6 pm at the Box youth venue, the High Street (for people of school age)
Monday 12 March from 6 pm to 9 pm at St John’s Church
Saturday 24 March from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm at the Library, St John’s Road