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.

Trust Branches Out with Rare Freewoods Offer

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Our countryside, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Your community, Your environment

Landowners across Essex are being offered a tree-mendous opportunity – the planting of a new native woodland, completely free of charge, with the Woodland Trust.

The Freewoods offer from the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, takes its woodland creation programme in a new direction by seeking new partners and new locations for tree planting. The offer is expected to strike a chord with environmentally-aware landowners wishing to enhance their land for wildlife. By spring 2009 selected landowners could see their own mini-forests planted of oak, ash, birch and cherry thanks to the Woodland Trust.

Picture of a 10 year old young forest

Essex is one of three counties to pilot the Freewoods opportunity, with the Woodland Trust working alongside Essex County Council to help the authority’s aim to plant an additional 250,000 trees as part of its “Essex Works” tree planting programme.

Councillor Tracey Chapman, Essex County Council cabinet member for environment and waste said: “Our tree pledge aims to help produce a fine sustainable countryside that benefits both wildlife and people. By working with local landowners we are helping to improve and develop land that may otherwise be lost. I would encourage anyone who fits the criteria to apply. The benefits for our landscape and environment are long lasting.”

The other Freewoods pilot counties are Lancashire and Yorkshire, with some individual projects already approved elsewhere including tree planting in a new nature reserve and a new wood on land purchased to save it from development. The Freewoods offer includes site survey and advice on tree species with the Trust then planting and looking after the trees for two years. The minimum planting area per applicant is one hectare (2.5 acres).

“As a starting point all you need is the land and to share our commitment to increase native woodland cover,” said Trust project manager Peter Leeson. “The project is designed to have minimal paperwork and no bureaucracy. The pilot project has limited funds, however, and we will be choosing the best project sites from the applications we receive.”

Peter Leeson continued: “We are passionate about the need to increase native woodland cover, not only to help wildlife prosper but also to increase the quality of everyone’s lives. Of the UK’s total woodland, only one third is native broadleaf trees. An ideal new woodland area would be near ancient woodland or a site of ecological value on arable or improved grazing land. We will not plant trees on sites of high existing ecological value. We know from our work that creating new woodland can be a big decision for landowners – but we also know that more and more people want to plant or manage woods and to help wildlife and biodiversity.”

Research shows that reversing historically low woodland also offers green space for people for exercise and mental relaxation, improves water quality, reduces localised flooding, acts as a cooling influence locally and can play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“Planting new native trees is vitally important to us,” Peter added. “Since the 1930’s England and Wales have lost half of their native woodland cover. England is now one of the least wooded countries in Europe, second from the bottom of the European woodland cover league.”

The Freewoods programme aims to plant trees by the end of March 2009 and has a limited budget. Interested parties should contact: Naomi Fox at the Woodland Trust by telephone on 01476 581111 or by email to naomifox@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity with 300,000 members and supporters.

    The Trust has four key aims:

  1. No further loss of ancient woodland
  2. Restoring and improving the biodiversity of woods
  3. Increasing new native woodland
  4. Increasing people’s understanding and enjoyment of woodland.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to its sites is free. Further news can be found on the Woodland Trust website.

Woodland Trust website (opens in a new window)

Tree Officer Featured in the Observer

Written on . Posted in Countryside and wildlife, Media, Our countryside, Trees and landscapes, Your environment

Photographer Phil Fisk and assistant at work

Epping Forest District Council`s Tree and Landscape Officer Chris Neilan was featured in a major article in The Observer magazine on Sunday 12 October 2008. The subject was his work on Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT), a tree value system intended to help Councils manage their tree stock better and to be able to demonstrate that they are doing so.

CAVAT came to the attention of Lucy Siegle, a journalist from the BBC and The Observer, who interviewed Chris in Berkeley Square in Central London where the (so far) most valuable tree in Britain stands. Earlier in the summer this tree also featured in a number of stories in the national press, including on the front page of The Times. It has been calculated to have a CAVAT value of £750,000. A picture of Chris measuring the tree accompanies the interview.

Tree Officer Chris Neilan being photographed in Berkeley Square

For comparison, an average street tree in Epping would be worth around £5,500 and the most valuable tree in the District so far surveyed would be worth £250,000. This stands by the green, south of St John`s Church in Epping. Chris has been working on CAVAT for the last ten years, largely in his own time but with the support of John Preston, Director of Planning and Economic Development.

Summer of Hugs

Written on . Posted in Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community

Favourite Trees

Countrycare, Epping Forest District Council`s countryside management service, is holding a `Summer of Hugs` event at High Beech in Epping Forest on Saturday 5 July 2008.

The free event is to celebrate the District`s veteran trees and to launch the 50 Favourite Trees book. Visitors can drop in any time between 10am and 4pm on the green outside the King`s Oak Pub and Epping Forest Conservation Centre in High Beech – Grid Reference TQ 41150 98208. There will be displays, maps and guided walks about tree recording and photography.

The 50 Favourite Trees Book is available free of charge from Countrycare or Epping Information Desk at the Civic Offices. A donation of £5 to former Chairman of Council Councillor Caroline Pond`s charities is requested from anyone who enjoyed the book.

Favourite Trees introductionFavourite Trees featuring Paul Hewitt

For more information, contact Countrycare on 01992 788203.

Call for Sites

Written on . Posted in Business, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community

As part of the new Local Development Framework (LDF) for the area, Epping Forest District Council is looking for potential sites for all types of development over the next 15 years. Landowners, Town and Parish Councils, developers, local agents and people who have submitted a local planning application in recent years are being encouraged to complete a land availability form for return to Epping Forest District Council by 18 July 2008.

The Council stresses that the call for potential development sites is not an invitation to wholesale development of the Green Belt.

The call for potential sites is part of the preparation of the Core Strategy, one of the most important documents of the Local Development Framework. It will set out the Council`s vision for housing and employment growth across the district over the next 15 to 20 years and will be in general conformity with the East of England Plan.

Submitted sites will be included in the public consultation process for the development of the LDF. Assessment of the sites will take into account social, economic and environmental issues.

Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development said: The call for sites should ensure early discussion of potential development options and flag up any potential areas the Council may not previously have known of, for example, where a landowner is at the early stages of thinking about redeveloping a residential or brownfield site.

Councillor Mrs Grigg concluded: This call for potential development sites is not an invitation to developers to concrete over large swathes of Epping Forest District Green Belt. Protecting and enhancing our green space is one of the Council`s top priorities. We hope that by making this invitation, we will get sensible proposals to help us meet the long-term housing and employment needs of the district without seriously compromising our environment.

Promoters of potential development land are being asked to return forms to the Council with a site map and land ownership details.

    Completed forms should be sent to:

  • Forward Planning
    Epping Forest District Council
    Civic Offices
    High Street
    Epping
    Essex CM16 4BZ
  • Or by email to contactfp@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Roding Valley Lake Environment Agency Statement

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

The Environment Agency has said that blanket weed is the probable cause of the rapid drop in oxygen levels that led to the death of fish at Roding Valley Lake.

In a statement, the Environment Agency said: We have investigated the matter fully and there are no indications that there is any sewage polluting the lake. All indications show that it was a natural event, caused by excessive blanket weed, which led to lack of oxygen in the main body of water.