Gypsy and Traveller Reduction

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Secretary of State published the final East of England Plan policy (H3) for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision on 20 July 2009. Epping Forest District Council is required to provide an additional 34 pitches in the period 2006 to 2011. This would mean that the minimum number of authorised pitches in the district should total 128 by 2011. The policy expects pitch provision to be made through a combination of Development Plan Documents (DPD) and development control decisions and that opportunities should be taken to secure provision within major developments.

Councillor Di Collins Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “We argued long and hard that the overall number of extra gypsy and traveller pitches allocated to our district was unfair in comparison to other Council areas. I am pleased we had some success. From an original draft allocation of 49, it was no mean feat to get the Government to reduce the figure to 34. However, I think the vast majority of Epping Forest residents will agree with me that the allocation is still too high and should have been much lower.

“Having confirmed our allocation, I think it is now up to the Government to listen very carefully to the views of local people about where the extra pitches should go in the district. Those decisions should be taken locally in conjunction with the needs of all our residents and not imposed by Government-appointed Inspectors.

The District Council is continuing to analyse responses made to the consultation for additional pitch locations within the district, which ran from November 2008 to February 2009. Discussions with GO-East about a revised timetable for submitting a draft DPD continue. Beyond 2011 the East of England Plan policy requires additional provision based on an annual 3% compound increase and advises that DPDs should consider the need for rural exception sites and the alteration of Green Belt boundaries.

The County of Essex and the Unitary Authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock are also required to make provision for 30 transit pitches by 2011.

Policy H4 deals with pitch provision for travelling show people and requires Essex, Southend and Thurrock to make provision for an additional 103 plots by 2011 with an annual 1.5% compound increase thereafter. Councils are again advised to consider rural exception sites and changes to Green Belt boundaries.

The implications of these two policies will be considered in the Autumn by the Council’s Local Development Framework Cabinet.

Recycling Initiatives at Epping Forest Schools

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Our countryside, Recycling and waste, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

 

Epping Forest District Council is helping to boost its already excellent recycling levels by offering schools across the district the opportunity to take advantage of free recycling facilities. Recycling will enable schools to reduce the waste they produce by more than 70% and cut the cost of their waste collection, making money available for other budgets.

Most schools typically recycle paper from their classrooms and offices. Some also recycle cans and glass. Every classroom/office taking part in the scheme has a blue box identical to those provided by the Council to all households across the district, enabling children to make the link between recycling in school and at home.

Portfolio Holder for the Environment Councillor Mary Sartin said: Learning about waste management can be a valuable source of education, linking directly to both Citizenship and Education for Sustainable Development. Recycling projects also provide an opportunity for the entire school to work together as a team.

Schools are able to develop their pupils` knowledge and understanding of such issues, preparing them to make informed choices in the future, which will no doubt influence how rubbish is tackled in the future.

If your school, or playschool/nursery is not yet using Epping Forest District Council`s recycling service, please phone 01992 564608.

Councillors Wowed on Copped Hall Visit

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Our countryside, Your area, Your council, Your environment

After more than 90 years, the gutted remains of Copped Hall are rising from the ashes thanks to a band of dedicated volunteers and trustees. Members of Epping Forest District Council including the Chairman, Councillor Penny Smith, were treated to an extensive tour of the restoration works as the Hall returns to its former glory. Where only a short while ago there were no floors or roof, councillors were able to walk from room to room, admiring the restoration work in warmth and comfort as thunderstorms lashed the building outside.

Copped Hall on a stormy day, it is hard to imagine the vast amount of restoration work going on

The current Copped Hall was built in 1753 near the site of an earlier Tudor palace. It was extended and embellished but disaster struck when fire ripped through the building in 1917. What remained was left to decay and the Hall could have been demolished entirely. However, unlike so many English stately homes, it was not knocked down. In 1993 the Copped Hall Trust was established to save the house and surrounding gardens.

Councillors see where new floors will be laid across fire resistant steel beamsArchitect Alan Cox by one of the restored fireplaces

With support of organisations including Epping Forest District Council and the dedicated hard work of many individuals, Copped Hall, the gardens and associated buildings are gradually being brought back to life. The Trustees hold events including the Copped Hall Run with Epping Rotary, music and open-air theatre productions. Tours around the inside of the building are being held for members of the public and local schools.

The cellars at Copped HallCouncillors visit the stables at Copped Hall

Councillor Penny Smith`s family has farmed land in nearby Epping Upland and she remembers some of the people who used to work on the Copped Hall Estate.

She said: Today, many people have no idea about the hall or estate. Most only catch a glimpse as they speed past on the M25. However, there was a time when the lives of people in Epping, Epping Upland and Upshire revolved around Copped Hall. It is steeped in history with records as far back as the Doomsday Book.

The restoration still has a very long way to go but walking through the rooms is incredibly atmospheric. From the great dining and bedrooms to the servants` quarters, kitchens and stables, you get a sense of the generations that lived, worked and died there. Small touches such as the restoration of a fireplace, paintings on a wall and the occasional piece of period furniture add to the impression that this was once a very special place and is becoming so again.

Chairman Penny Smith with Councillor Mary Sartin and Copped Hall Trustee John Padfield

Although there are public footpaths across the Copped Hall Estate, entry to the House is by appointment with the Trustees only who run regular tours, proceeds from which go towards the restoration work.

Councillor Penny Smith thanked Alan Cox and Denys Favre of the Copped Hall Trustees for showing the Councillors the Hall. She said: It is marvellous to see the fantastic work taking place. The Copped Hall Trust is a charitable organisation. It relies upon an army of dedicated volunteers led by Alan, Denys and the other trustees. They have done a tremendous job and I look forward to seeing the restoration progress over the next year or so.

Council Teams Up With BBC

Written on . Posted in Countryside and wildlife, Health, Our countryside, Out and about, Working with the council

Epping Forest District Council is one of 50 local Councils across the UK and the only one in Essex that has joined forces with the BBC Breathing Places campaign to turn their communities into breathing places.

In the next 12 months each Council has committed to make space for nature and create wildlife friendly communities in urban and rural locations.

Working in partnership with the BBC, Councils will encourage nature novices to join events, learn new skills and make a long lasting difference to their community. Across the Epping Forest district the plan is to change the community by holding regular volunteer days and transforming a number of sites for both people and wildlife over the next year.

Karen Gregory BBC Breathing Places Project Executive said: “I am delighted that Epping Forest District Council has joined us for what promises to be an exciting year for the Breathing Places Campaign. Working in partnership gives us both a wonderful opportunity to reach thousands of people and inspire them to get out and do one thing for nature.

Inspired by existing wildlife priorities local Councils have set practical targets for the year including tree planting, bird box building, pond clearance, wasteland transformation, wildflower planting and litter clearance. Everyone and anyone can get involved locally as Councils will be teaming up with schools, libraries, children`s centres and existing wildlife organisations.

    The year kicks off with the BBC Breathing Places ‘Dirty Weekend’ – click on the link below for more details.

  • BBC Breathing Places Dirty Weekend website (opens in a new weekend)

Join the Green Team

Written on . Posted in Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our countryside, Out and about, Playschemes

The Green Team Programme at Epping Forest District Council, a partnership between Community Development and Countrycare the Council`s countryside management service, is giving young environmentalists from across the district the opportunity to take part in a number of environmentally friendly activities.

The aim of The Green Team activities is for young people to learn about all aspects of care in the countryside. Children aged five to eleven years and young people in school year seven and above are welcome to take part in various activities.

The Green Team logo

Events being organised in the next few months include pond dipping, hay making, woodland discovery, insect and butterfly safari, bug hunting, seed gathering, cutting down trees and making a fire to dispose of the wood.

Activities are planned to take place at the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey, Epping Forest Burial Park in North Weald and various other places of interest in the district.

To find out more about future events, please call Chris Burr on 01992 564363.

Gypsy and Traveller Pitch Provision Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Councillors, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District has bucked the regional trend with another reduction in the number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches allocated to the area. The number of proposed new pitches has been reduced by a further five to 34 by 2011 in the latest consultation issued by the Secretary of State on 27 March. The reduction follows an earlier recommendation to cut the number from 49 to 39.

The latest figures are published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Overall the Secretary of State proposes to increase the number of new pitches in the East of England from 1,187 to 1,237. Epping Forest is one of two Councils in Essex to argue successfully for further reductions. Basildon has had its provisional allocation cut by 19 to 62.

Both Councils remain top of the list for Gypsy and Traveller provision, Epping Forest forecast to accommodate 128 and Basildon 174 by 2011. Thurrock is next with 124. At the other end of the scale, Southend and Castle Point have been asked to provide 15 each.

The Secretary of State was commenting on the latest stage in the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy, a planning document that looks at the need for development, including housing. Residents have eight weeks to comment and respond to the Secretary of State. Submissions must be received by 5.00pm on Friday 22 May 2009.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council welcomed the latest reduction but felt there was still scope for further reductions. She said: This is a very sensitive issue. The Gypsy and Traveller communities have rights to adequate site provision but this needs to be balanced against the equally important needs of the settled community. Slowly but surely, our arguments for a fairer allocation of pitches across the region is gaining some success. There is still some way to go but we have clearly made progress. Everyone now has the chance to tell the Secretary of Sate directly what they think.

Links to the Government Office and online Government consultation can be found via Epping Forest District Council`s website www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Alternatively, write to:

Regional Planning Team
Go-East
Eastbrook
Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge
CB2 8DF

or e-mail gtproposedchanges@goeast.gsi.gov.uk

Local Strategic Partnership Meeting

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Consultation, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

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.

Agenda for Local Strategic Partnership Board meeting on 26 February 2009

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.

Project Funding

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.

Housing Strategy

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.

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.

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.

Councillors Visit Composting Centre

Written on . Posted in Councillors, Countrycare, Our countryside, Your council, Your environment

The London Waste EcoPark in North London

The London EcoPark in Edmonton, north London opened its doors to Epping Forest District Councillors on a fact-finding tour of its garden and kitchen waste recycling facilities.

The London EcoPark composts around 30,000 tonnes of garden and kitchen waste each year from homes in north London. The compost end-product then goes back to gardens, allotments, parks, farming and horticulture.

Ben Donaldson manages the organic composting operation at the London EcoPark. During a busy morning, he took Councillors around the facility and explained the process of turning garden and kitchen waste into high-quality compost using a system known as In Vessel Composting (IVC).

Ben Donaldson shows Councillors the GORE-TEX® tunnelsOnce sifted for contamination, the raw kitchen and garden waste is loaded into the huge tunnels

Pictured above – Ben Donaldson shows Councillors the GORE-TEX® tunnels. Once sifted for contamination, the raw kitchen and garden waste is loaded into the huge tunnels where bacteria and fungi break it down

Food and kitchen waste destined for the Centre is collected by north London Councils. After being checked for contamination by non-compostable waste (eg bottles, plastics and `black sack` rubbish), the material is mixed and loaded into long tunnels with GORE-TEX® roofs and doors. The GORE-TEX® material enables the waste inside to `breathe` but keeps most of the smells in. The tunnels create the perfect environment for heat loving bacteria to multiply, breaking down the waste. As the bacteria work through a natural process, temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade are reached.

The atmosphere inside the storage buildings is warm and humid

Pictured above – the atmosphere inside the storage buildings is warm and humid thanks to the moisture and heat given off by the compost as it degrades

As the heat-loving bacteria use up the food supply, the bacteria die off, being replaced by fungi which continue to break down the material. When the fungi have completed their work, the compost is transferred from the long tunnels into a huge sealed building where it continues to give off moisture and heat. Earth moving machines are used to scoop the material into a giant shredder which shreds and screens the compost into a 0-10 millimetre or 0-20 millimetre particle product ready for farms, gardens and allotments.

The process is completely natural and is providing a valuable resource from material that once went to landfill. Meat products including bones are included, enriching the quality of the final compost. The heat sterilisation process removes any potentially harmful bacteria such as salmonella and all the compost is rigorously tested to ensure that all dangerous bacteria have been eliminated. The process of transforming the waste into high quality compost takes just twelve weeks.

Earth moving machines feed tonnes of raw material into large shredding machines

Pictured above – earth moving machines feed tonnes of raw material into large shredding machines, reducing the compost down to fine grades

Councillor Mary Sartin, Environmental Protection Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council was very impressed. She said: It was an extremely useful and informative visit. No amount of reports or briefings can quite substitute for seeing for yourself. Composting is a very old idea but the application of modern technology on an industrial scale is very new. The facilities at the London EcoPark are clearly one of the ways forward.

Councillor Sartin added: Recycling has increased to more than 40 per cent in Epping Forest District over the last few years. We are very good at dealing with non-organic waste such as paper, glass, plastic and metal and of course organic garden waste. Getting food waste away from landfill and into recycling is the next big challenge. Residents are helping us to develop our ideas through the recent consultation and the fact-finding tour of the London EcoPark helped to answer more questions. I will keep residents up to date as our plans develop.