Council in ‘Yes Minister’ Lampoon Admits ‘We slipped up’

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Embarrassed council managers have apologised, admitting `we made a mistake ` after the wrong covering letter was sent to residents as part of planning consultation on future development. The Daily Mail reported on `Sir Humphrey ` being alive and well at Epping Forest District Council after the letter was sent to local residents.

“I am sorry. We slipped up. The letter, full of technical planning jargon should not have been sent to local residents, said John Preston, Director of the Council`s Planning Service.”

He continued: We did try to write the attached guide in `Plain English` but we dropped our guard on the covering letter that went with it. We are very keen to engage local residents fully in the preparation of planning policies, which will continue to help to control development and protect the Green Belt. The planning system is increasingly complex and involves new processes and terms which remain unfamiliar or frankly quite baffling to the wider community.

The council will contact residents again shortly. John Preston said: It is very embarrassing but some people at least will see a funny side to it. Every profession has its `Sir Humphrey ` language and planners are no different but we understand that you have to alter your words according to your audience. This consultation could have far reaching consequences for the future of our district, setting policies on where to build new homes and businesses as well as protecting the countryside. It is the start of a quite lengthy process with more consultation to follow. Hopefully, the extra publicity provided by the Daily Mail will give the consultation a boost in responses.

Full details of the consultation and questionnaire are available from the Planning Area of the Council’s Website.

Text of the correct letter that was circulated as an e-mail to local residents is reproduced below:

“The Forward Planning team at Epping Forest District Council is in the initial stages of preparing a Core Strategy for the district. This is the key new planning policy document which will look ahead to 2031, and eventually replace the Local Plan.

“All new planning policy documents need to be subject to Sustainability Appraisal. This is an assessment of the likely economic, environmental and social effects of the new policies. The Sustainability Appraisal provides information to help judge whether the new policies are the most appropriate for the district, and whether changes should be made.

“In preparing the Sustainability Appraisal, its scope and level of detail need to be agreed before it is used to assess issues, options and policies.  It is a statutory requirement to hold a period of consultation on the scope of the Sustainability Appraisal, the purpose of which is to ensure that all the relevant issues and concerns have been included.

“The consultation period is from 17 May to 18 June 2010.  The consultation document, a short guide and the online response form is available from

“If you have any queries about this consultation, please contact the Forward Planning team on 01992 564517 or at .”


Yours faithfully

Arts Bursary Winner – Christoper Crichlow

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The Arts Bursary winner is a young man from Ongar who attends Debden Park High School. His interest is in music. As a member of the Loughton Youth Project he is one of the presenters of the Urban Show broadcast every Thursday. He featured on the Loughton Youth Project recording `Wot Defines U`.

At just 16 years of age, he is already a talented composer, writer and producer. During the judging process, our panel was especially impressed by his drive to make inspirational, positive and enriching contemporary music. The Bursary will help to meet the costs of equipment and recording time in a professional studio.

Christoper Crichlow with Chairman Penny Smith

Four further Arts awards of £500 to £1,500 are to be made to Laura Sibbick from Loughton for her redevelopment of the Deptford Mice theatre production, Georgina Perriam from Loughton who has created a new piece of children`s theatre, Aaron Griffiths from Loughton for a Mac Book to develop his skills as a Graphic Artist and Toby Riches from Ongar to support two international tours with Essex Music Services and Chichester University.

Community Service Medal – Sally Pattie

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Community Service medals are awarded to members of the Emergency Services who have made a special contribution or shown care and dedication well above and beyond the call of duty.

Few people have seen or adapted better to the changes in the emergency services over the years than the first of our Community Service Medal winners. When she joined the ambulance service in 1980, women were rare in the service. She was soon to become the first female paramedic in Essex, a distinction that led to her appointment as attending paramedic to the Queen at the opening of the Q E Two bridge in 1991.

Chairman Penny Smith with Sally Pattie

The first few minutes after an accident, stroke or heart attack can be crucial to the survival of a patient. As well as helping people directly, over the years our Medal winner has helped by training many hundreds, or possibly thousands, of ordinary people in life-saving skills such as CPR. She also played a pivotal role in the Anne Diamond `Back to Bed` campaign, visiting families who have lost babies and providing training in neonatal resuscitation.

Few developments more starkly demonstrate the advance of the life-saving equipment over the last 30 years than the introduction of Air Ambulances. Working with the Essex Police helicopter team, our winner evaluated the potential for air transportation in pre-hospital care now part of the everyday life-saving role of the Essex Air Ambulance.

Community Service Medal – Ray Skinner

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The second Community Service Medal presentation goes to a member of the Essex County Fire and Rescue service. He has protected the lives and homes of the people of Essex and Hertfordshire for 27 years, 14 of which have been served in the Epping Forest area.

For the last five years our medal winner has been the Essex Community Commander for Harlow and Epping, ensuring both Fire Safety and the operational side of the service. Under his command, the division has become the best performing in the County.

Chairman Penny Smith with Ray Skinner

With a broader remit as Chairman of the Essex Resilience Forum Support Group, he has been pivotal in the co-ordination of emergency response planning among blue-light emergency services, health and local authorities across the county.

Community Service Medal – Mark Sheridan-Brown

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Our third Community Service Medal nomination goes to PC Mark Sheridan-Brown. While the media spotlight often falls on urban crime, the needs of rural communities can be overlooked. However, from the time of his appointment as Neighbourhood Specialist Officer to Ongar and the surrounding area, Mark Sheridan-Brown has won hearts and minds.

He is highly-motivated and community-focused. He has built relationships with partner agencies such as Epping Forest District Council and in the local community, his work on the development of special Neighbourhood Action Panels being particularly important to local farmers. Indeed, so successful have the Neighbourhood Action Panels under his guidance been, that they have been held up as examples of best practice by no less a person than the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

The public confidence Mark has instilled has directly helped to reduce fear of crime as well as making the rural area around Ongar a safer place to be.

Mark was unable to accept his award in person and will be presented at a later date.

Employee of the Year – Dawn Jolley

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Councils are facing some of the toughest decisions on spending in living memory. Epping Forest district is already well-run and efficient. Finding savings in such a lean organisation is a difficult job. It means finding new and better ways of working. Anyone who can save the Council almost a quarter of a million pounds by doing things differently is therefore more than worthy of special recognition but that is just what the winner of our first staff award has done.

The trick has been to examine, re-organise and centralise the way the Council buys external goods and services. Central purchasing may be a simple thing to say but in practice it is a massive task in persuading people to work differently. However, the results speak for themselves.

Dawn Jolley with Chairman Penny Smith

Team of the Year – the Academy Project Team

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The second staff award is for the Epping Forest District Council Team of the Year award for Innovation 2010 goes to the Academy Project Team. Whenever a new system is introduced, you can expect a degree of delay and disruption. If computers are involved, you can anticipate more problems.

So when Councillors agreed to change the biggest and most sophisticated IT system for tax collection and benefit payments, with some 65,000 different individual accounts, and not knowing a major economic recession was just around the corner, you might have thought the Council was in trouble.

The Chairman Penny Smith with Fiona Bateman, Shipra Bajpai and Lorraine Martin.

The old system was Orbis. Responsibility for its replacement with Academy was given to a team drawn from Finance and ICT. The team showed great flexibility, intelligence and determination, acquiring new skills and devising solutions to complex problems along the way. And the team continued to provide high quality services with minimal disruption to residents throughout, at a time when demand for Council Tax rebates and Housing Benefit was increasing. The result has been a textbook case of best practice.

Team of the Year – Sheltered Housing Scheme Managers

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The third staff award is for the Epping Forest District Council Team of the Year award for Dealing with the Public 2010 goes to the Sheltered Housing Scehme Managers.

For many people, getting older can be a daunting time. The reassurance of knowing there is someone you can call, someone you can talk to and someone who will help, can make all the difference. The winners of the third set of staff awards, Dealing with the Public, make that difference.

Chairman Penny Smith with Kath Shelton, Caroline Gleaves and Suzanne Doherty

They are a dedicated group who help to make the retirement years of many older residents the most comfortable, safe and enjoyable. Working hand in hand with another award-winning service, Epping Forest Careline, the Sheltered Housing Scheme Managers are skilled in dealing with many of life`s emergencies whether great or small. They can be called out at any time of the day or night.

But they also add immeasurably to the quality of life of our older citizens, whether organising social events, collecting prescriptions, liaising with doctors or just passing the time of day with a smile and a few kind words.

The Scheme Managers clearly love their work and care deeply for the people they support. Every day they go well beyond the call of duty or their job description.

Outstanding Contribution – Pat Seager

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This year Councillor Di Collins and Councillor Syd Stavrou decided that an additional award should be made to recognise the outstanding contribution of an employee. Indeed, without her professionalism and efficiency, the civic awards and dinner would not have happened.

For fifteen years she has been at the right hand of every successive Chairman of Epping Forest District Council. She organises diaries, makes sure people should be where they are supposed to be and has played a major part in raising some £250,000 for Chairman`s charities. Usually, she remains firmly in the background.

Chairman Penny Smith and Pat Seager

The outstanding contribution award goes to Pat Seager.

Special Conservation Award – Alan Cox

Written on . Posted in Civic events, Conservation and listed buildings, Democracy, Media, Your council, Your environment

The Epping Forest district is rich in history and culture. Waltham Abbey, the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Blake Hall and North Weald enjoy high public profiles. Historic and literary figures as diverse as Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and the infamous Dick Turpin have added colour and some notoriety. But nestling on the boundary between Upshire and Epping Upland, one of our oldest and most important historic buildings is once again becoming a centre for culture and the community.

The history of the Copped Hall Estate stretches back many hundreds of years. The first performance of A Mid-Summer Night`s Dream is said to have been performed in the grounds of the old Tudor mansion. For centuries, the lives of people for miles around were centred on the Estate.

Then, disaster struck. In 1917, the Hall was gutted by fire. It became a shell in danger of collapse and total loss.

Alan Cox with Chairman Penny Smith

But Copped Hall holds a special place in our imaginations. Battered and scarred, it still inspires. And none more so than in the mind of the winner of our next award, made this evening in recognition of his flair, passion and sheer determination to see Copped Hall restored to its former glory, though not this time as a seat of privilege but as a centre of history and culture for our whole community.

Since 1986 he has worked tirelessly, first to secure, then to stabilise, before beginning the long process of restoration. He has not been alone. There are now some 1,000 Friends of Copped Hall, many of whom are actively involved in the restoration work and community activities, a Board of Trustees and a range of other partners driving forward or supporting the process.

Copped Hall is coming back to life thanks in large part to the leadership of our award winner. Special Conservation Award goes to the Alan Cox, architect leading the restoration of Copped Hall.