We’d like to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to all our big-hearted residents who dropped Christmas gifts into the Civic Offices for mums and children in refuges across Essex.
Collecting gifts for families in refuges has been a tradition amongst Epping Forest District Council staff for many years, but this year we decided to open it up to residents to help bring a little Christmas cheer to those who find themselves in refuges over the festive season….and you didn’t disappoint.
We managed to collect many gifts including books, toys and toiletries, which will be delivered in time for Christmas.
On Friday – Christmas Jumper Day – staff got into the festive spirit with music and mince pies while wrapping all the donated gifts, ready for distribution. They’d all paid £2 to wear their Christmas Jumpers to work, with the cash going to Save the Children.
“We’re so grateful to the local people who have supported our collection this year,” said Cllr Sam Kane, Portfolio Holder for Community and Partnerships.
“Christmas is a tough time for families in refuges and we’re glad to be able to spread a little Christmas joy on the big day.”
Councillors have agreed in principle to relocate staff to North Weald. While customer services, civic and democratic functions will remain at the Civic Offices in Epping, new purpose-built offices will provide space for up to 380 staff at Blenheim Way, North Weald within three years.
New partners will join remaining council staff in Epping, ensuring the northern end of the town retains a strong employment focus and economic footfall for High Street shops and businesses.
Demolition of the 1960s Conder Building attached to the Civic Offices will clear the way for a mix of new homes behind the Civic Offices.
St John’s Road Cinema, Homes and Leisure Centre
As the Civic Offices evolve, the Council will also be transforming the southern end of Epping with a new leisure centre, cinema, homes, businesses and parking. Subject to detailed negotiation and agreement, Epping Forest District Council proposes to work in partnership with Epping Town Council and leisure provider Places Leisure (also known as Places for People) to deliver the development.
The existing sports centre in Epping will be redeveloped for housing following completion of the new St John’s facility, allowing the Council Offices, St John’s Road and Hemnall Street to make a substantial contribution to housing demand identified in the emerging Local Plan.
Council staff working from the current housing depot off Epping High Street will move to new facilities already built at Oakwood Hill, Loughton.
Harlow and Gilston Vision and Design
Three strategic housing locations at Water Lane, Latton Priory and East of Harlow have been identified in the Local Plan for large housing developments on the boundaries of Harlow but within Epping Forest District. Councillors approved the vision and design guide – working documents developed by Epping Forest District Council in partnership with Harlow and East Herts District Councils for Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.
£97 million Capital Programme
Ongoing development of new council houses form the major part of the five-year capital programme put before councillors at the start of the New Year budget setting process. Aside from approximately £8 million for the new Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre, completed in November 2018, around £80 million is identified for a combination of new council housing and improvements to the Council’s existing stock over five years.
Councillors approved £140,000 to complete work necessary to let commercial units at the new Landmark Building in the Broadway, Loughton. Once let, rental income of around £250,000 a year will be used to support the Council’s public services.
A forward-thinking council fit for the future
After the meeting, Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “This is probably one of the most significant Cabinet meetings in years. The strategic development of council services based in Epping, North Weald and our new depot at Oakwood Hill, Loughton dovetail with our determination to build much need new homes sympathetically and boost economic activity across the district.”
“These are bold decisions. They demonstrate vision, confidence in our council, commitment to our residents and belief in the future of our district.”
The King Georges Fields were established and dedicated to the memory of King George V for the use and enjoyment of the people. The Waltham Holy Cross Urban District Council dedicated land at Waltham Abbey to be used as a King George Playing Field. The use of the playing field is regulated by the charity Fields in Trust.
In 1967 the Waltham Abbey swimming pool was built on the Trust land. Consent was obtained as the land was no longer to be used as playing fields. In recent years, the pool required extensive repairs and the Council decided that it should be demolished and replaced by the new Leisure Centre at Hill House.
The site of the old pool remains part of the King Georges Field. However, instead of changing the use back to that of playing fields, the Council is proposing to use the site to bring much needed housing into the area.
It is therefore intended to dedicate an area of land adjoining the new Leisure Centre at Hill House as a replacement King Georges Field. This area is about 20% larger than the existing pool site and will ensure the continued provision of land held in trust for leisure purposes in the Hill House area. The area of land at the King Georges Playing Field adjoining Roundhills (next to the old swimming pool site) that is currently used for recreation will remain the same.
Access to the playing fields through the pool site from Roundhills will remain open until redevelopment works commence, then it will be closed while construction works take place. Other access points will not be affected.
Consultation and approval
The Council is now undertaking a consultation seeking comments from residents and anyone else with an interest in the proposal is welcome to comment before 10 December 2018.
Following the consultation period, the Council’s Housing Portfolio Holder will consider the responses and Cabinet will be asked to approve the proposal at its meeting in January.
Extra investment to support improvements to 20 Council owned car parks, a council owned gymnastic centre in North Weald and to fund two Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau Debt Advisors, was agreed at Cabinet on 8 November 2018.
Following the decision to change parking tariffs in September, Councillors have now agreed to reinvest some of the extra income into the improvement of 20 car parks across the district.
The plans to improve CCTV systems and upgrade to LED lighting were supported by Cabinet members. A study will also be commissioned to look into the viability of installing electricity charging points in council car parks.
Revamp for Gymnastic Centre
The Council owned Gymnastic Centre in North Weald is in need of investment and refurbishment. When it was built in 1986, it was seen as a centre of excellence, and for many years generated international level gymnasts and operated an intensive beginners programme.
Gymnastics continues to have a high profile within the district with a demand for good quality training facilities and the Council is committed to investing in leisure for residents.
£240,000 will be spent to bring the centre back to its former glory. Plans boast brand new equipment and apparatus, as well as essential building works and repairs.
The current lease for the facility is up for renewal at the end of December.
Council funds Debt Advisors
For three years, the Council has funded two Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Debt Advisors to assist residents in the district with their personal budgeting. Last night, Councillors decided to keep funding these advisors for a further year.
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Housing Portfolio Holder spoke passionately about how important the Epping Forest CAB is to residents of the district and to the Council itself – in keeping rent arrears low and preventing homelessness.
More than 80 people turned up at Queens Hall Community Centre, North Weald to hear about a planning application to develop North Weald Park – the former golf club in Rayley Lane. The purpose of the meeting was to allow participants to raise issues and obtain answers about the proposal following a presentation by Epping Forest District Council officers and the developer, Quinn Developments.
Such a forum allows early discussion on planning issues related to the proposal and opportunities to explore amendments and agreements between parties in a positive and constructive way before the application going to District Development Management Committee.
The forum was chaired by EFDC’s Director of Planning Services, Nigel Richardson, accompanied by the case officer Sukhi Dhadwar (Senior Planning Officer) and Planning Officer Corey Isolda.
The hybrid planning application is for a total of 690 homes including affordable housing, retirement and nursing homes, school, medical centre, a shopping and community centre, country park and sporting facilities.
The main issues relating the proposed development are:
Site lies within the Green Belt and is in an unsustainable location.
The site has not been proposed for allocation for development within the adopted or emerging Local Plan.
The location of the site fails to integrate effectively with the existing settlement of North Weald.
The location of the airfield conflicts with the proposed residential use of the site.
Parts of the site are within Flood Zones 2 and 3.
Infrastructure provision will be made on land within the Masterplan area for North Weald.
The character and appearance of the area will significantly change.
Mark Quinn, CEO of the development company outlined the scheme in a presentation before the meeting was thrown open to questions from the floor. These included information about the number of letters of objection and support, the new school and health centre and impacts on the airfield.
Reports to Council on 1 November 2018 included updates on the newly completed Leisure Centre in Waltham Abbey, an Essex-wide fly-tipping campaign, additional Council homes built and an announcement about free weekend parking in Council run car parks in December.
The Council has been promoting the Essex-wide fly-tipping campaign, ‘Crime not to Care’.
Designed to educate residents about their duty of care when disposing of their waste, the campaign informs residents that they can be fined and prosecuted if their waste is fly-tipped by rogue traders.
In his report, Councillor Nigel Avey, Environment Portfolio Holder, informed members of the Councils most recent prosecution. The case of Loughton resident, Mr Tjoluskins, was heard by Magistrates on 13 September. He handed his waste to a scammer who fly-tipped in a bin store in Oakley Court in Loughton. The resident was fined £600 and ordered to pay the Councils prosecution costs of £900.
The campaigns message is simple – before handing over your waste to somebody else, always check, consider and record to protect yourself and reduce fly-tipping by rogue traders.
In his report to members, Councillor Mohindra, Finance Portfolio Holder, presented an update about Universal Credit.
From 5 December, the Job Centre Plus in Loughton will roll out Universal Credit. Meaning that anyone of working age that needs help with their rent and is not already receiving Housing Benefit, will need to apply for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit.
Councillor Syd Stavrou’s report informed members of the handover of four new Council homes in Coopersale, Epping on Wednesday 10 October. The two new 2 bedroom houses and two 1 bedroom flats will be let to applicants on the Councils housing register. A further seven new Council homes will be ready to handover in early November.
The Council has committed around £58 million for new housing since it restarted its council house building programme in 2014. So far, new homes have been built in Waltham Abbey, North Weald and Epping, with more in the pipeline.
Councillor Sam Kane announced the Councils plan to relax parking fees in Council owned car parks on weekends throughout December 2018 ‘to help local traders’ and support our high streets this Christmas.
Parking will be free on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December in all of the Council owned car parks.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread set out progress on a number of key Council initiatives for Overview and Scrutiny on Monday 29 October. Major steps forward include internal reorganisation of the Council’s top management structure, new homes for local people through the council house building programme and the culmination of a year of major investment in leisure facilities with the imminent opening of the brand new Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre.
Thanks to prudent financial planning, effective management and maximisation of assets, Epping Forest District Council is in a stronger financial position than many councils. Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received the latest progress report on services from Council Leader Chris Whitbread.
The Council has a savings target of £2.5m over the next three years as government grants are phased out while protecting frontline services and keeping Council Tax low.
The first new council houses have been completed with many more now in the pipeline.
Senior management has been restructured with two Strategic Directors and eight Service leads tasked with focusing on the customer and driving efficiency through bringing business support functions together.
Councillor Whitbread said that the Council is committed to promoting ‘flexible smarter working’ for staff and redeveloping the rear of the Civic Office site. While listing has delayed changes to the Civic Offices, options are to be discussed by December Cabinet.
Good progress on ICT is supporting customer access to Council services and allowing staff to work in flexible more efficient ways.
Epping Forest District Local Plan
The Local Plan is back on track. Judicial Review caused frustrating delay and uncertainty but the plan is now submitted for examination next year.
Leisure in the district
The Council’s partnership with Places for People has delivered £12 million of improvements including the opening of the new Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre in a few weeks’ time. Council assets are helping to deliver community and economic benefits. Epping Forest Shopping Park is trading well and the Council is now in position to take forward St John’s Road, Epping potentially including another new leisure centre.
Whilst Council Tax was frozen for many years, an increase of 2.5% this year to fund extra police officers dedicated to the district is proving very successful.
Preparation of the 2019/20 budget starts in earnest shortly with positive bids for extra services such as investment in public car parks being looked at by Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny in January.