There is an increasing demand for housing in the district, where development on Green Belt is generally prohibited, so it is particularly important that as many empty properties as possible are brought back into use.
Properties are left empty for a variety of reasons and they can be the source of much misery to neighbours. It is estimated that a home next door to an empty property can be devalued by 10% or more, and there is the additional worry of nuisance, vermin, arson, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
For the owner, an empty property is a wasted resource in terms of potential rental income and can be costly in terms of disrepair, higher insurance costs, increased council tax premiums of 150%, property mortgage fraud, emergency repairs and break-ins.
We are committed to reducing the number of empty properties across the district and can offer financial help in certain circumstances. A stumbling block can be that the empty property is in disrepair and cannot be lived in, let, or easily sold in its condition.
We can therefore offer the following schemes.
Empty homes repayable assistance
offers up to £10,000 if there is an empty property in poor condition that you intend to live in yourself, or let to a tenant. The money is repaid when you eventually sell the property.
offers up to £25,000 if you have a property that you would like to have renovated in order that you can sell or rent it. This is an interest free loan and is paid back within 2 years in the case of a loan to sell, or 5 years in the case of the loan to let.
Whilst we always prefer to work with owners in a constructive way, it has certain enforcement powers to ensure that an empty property is brought back to use, particularly if it has been empty a long time and is problematic to the local community. As a council we are fully committed to bringing empty properties back into use and are looking to help owners in every way we can. However where all other measures have failed, we are prepared to take enforcement action.
Please let us know if you are aware of an empty property. Provide us with the address and any other information you may have and we will do our best to contact the owner, to try to bring the property back to use. All calls are treated in confidence.
For further information contact the Empty Property Officer
The Burton Road fire, proposals for the St Johns Road development, the Epping Forest Shopping Park and the Epping Forest District Local Plan submission were amongst the topics of discussion at Full Council on 25 September 2018.
Council Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread set the record straight in response to questions asked by Councillor Steven Neville relating to the fire at Burton Road on 17 August 2018.
Councillor Whitbread said: “Having read the comparisons with the Grenfell disaster on the front page of the local paper recently, we are concerned that sensational headlines will cause a great deal of unnecessary anxiety for potential tenants. Links with the Grenfell Tower do a disservice to the people involved in that disaster as well as families currently waiting for a new home on our waiting list.
He urged: “Burton Road is a completely different building and it is not yet finished. The fire was caused by a construction related accident, not the materials used. Unlike Grenfell, Burton Road only has four floors. The interior was practically untouched by the fire. Even if it had been possible for such a fire to start once the building was finished and occupied, all the evidence suggests people would have been able to escape unharmed. The building stood up remarkably well to the blaze.”
Options for a new leisure centre at the St Johns Road development site in Epping are being explored. Proposals are being discussed with the District Council’s current leisure provider Places for People and Epping Town Council.
The new leisure centre could form part of the larger St Johns development and could potentially include the first cinema in the town for decades, new shops, public open space and housing.
Planning Portfolio Holder, Councillor John Philip announced that Epping Forest District Council’s Local Plan, a set of policies to manage development within the district up to 2033, has been submitted for approval to the Planning Inspectorate.
The Local Plan’s submission was delayed following a Judicial Review brought by CK Properties in March 2018.
Council was given an update on the new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey by Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Communities, Councillor Helen Kane. She informed Council that the new health and wellbeing hub is now in the final stages of construction and is on target to achieve its scheduled opening on 17 November 2018.
In a bid to combat fly-tipping and increase awareness throughout the district, the Cleaner Essex Group will be ‘recycling’ the Crime not to Care campaign this year to highlight issues caused by fly tipping and how residents can help.
The campaign, due to launch in October, will ask residents and businesses to ‘Check, Challenge and Record’ when handing their waste over for disposal – ensuring waste is kept out of the hands of the rogue traders that fly-tip for profit.
New brands at Shopping Park
Home Bargains and Boots Plc are the last two brands to join the group retailers at the Epping Forest Shopping Park in Loughton.
Home Bargains opened its doors on 1 September 2018 and the lease on the final retail unit has now been agreed with Boots Plc, with completion imminent pending approval of the shop fit out.
Funding granted for inclusion project
Councillors noted a report which referred to the grant of extra funding from Action for Children, for the Epping Forest Inclusion Project. The project provides an important resource, offering a wide range of sport and leisure activities for children and young people with disabilities and their families.
An extra £2 billion for council housing announced by the Government, has been welcomed by Epping Forest District Council. The Council is already building new homes to supplement its stock of around 6,500 properties. There are currently more than 1,500 people waiting for a home on the District’s Housing Register.
Image – John Scott Court, opened in October 2017. Phase One of the Council’s House-building Programme, providing 23 new affordable rented homes in Waltham Abbey
The Council has committed around £58 million for new housing since it restarted its council house building programme in 2014. 28 new homes have been completed so far in Waltham Abbey, North Weald and Epping, with more in the pipeline. It has also bought eight brand new homes off-plan from a developer in Roydon and a further six open market properties for renovation.
Burton Road development, Loughton
Fifty one new houses and flats are nearing completion in Burton Road, Loughton. The site was the scene of a construction related fire a few weeks ago. However, despite flames and a spectacular plume of smoke that could be seen for miles, damage to the block involved was relatively light and largely confined to the roof. The building stood up to the fire extremely well which put back the completion schedule by only a few weeks. The first new tenants should be moving into Burton Road before Christmas.
Thirty four new homes are planned in the next phase of construction. Utilising eight small parcels of land already owned by the Council, it is building these homes in Epping, North Weald and Coopersale. Under future phases, more new properties will be built in Loughton, Buckhurst Hill, Ongar and Waltham Abbey, with planning permission already granted for an additional 74 homes.
All the Council’s new homes are energy-efficient and safe, built to the Government’s Decent Homes Standard and Lifetime Homes Standards.
“More than bricks and mortar”
Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council is proud of the work done so far and very keen to draw some of the extra money announced by the Government into the District. He said: “We provide very high quality council housing but it is more than just bricks and mortar. We take pride when our tenants tell us how much they appreciate the good level of service we provide throughout from lettings to management and maintenance.”
He continued: “The biggest problem with our stock is that we don’t have enough of it. We are committed to building more local council houses for local families, and we will be sure to do all we can to get hold of some of the £2 billion announced by the Government to build more.”
“Council housing second to none”
Delivering Epping Forest District Council’s house building programme is Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing. She added her support, saying: “Council housing in Epping Forest is second to none. I also welcome the Government comments around removing the ‘stigma’ of social housing.
“We are four years into our ten year council house-building programme. The quality of our homes is as good as any private sector equivalent and we are determined to continue in that way. It’s not enough to just build the homes though, our focus is very much on continuing to manage and maintain all our homes in partnership with our tenants to the highest possible standard”.
New tariffs for long stay parking, funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau, Corporate Enforcement Policy, Local Council Tax Support Scheme and Amenity Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) were discussed at a meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet on 6 September.
New parking charges to encourage high street shoppers
New Pay and Display parking charges to encourage more shoppers into local town centres were approved by Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet meeting on 6 September.
Councillor Sam Kane, Cabinet Portfolio Holder responsible for parking responded to a public question from Loughton Town Councillor Tom Owen, speaking on behalf of Loughton Town Centre Partnership.
Anticipating a full report later in the agenda, Councillor Kane drew attention to the pressure on town centre carparks from all day commuter parking. Increasing the cost of all day commuter parking, Councillor Kane outlined the aim to encourage more shoppers into the District’s local high streets by freeing up spaces and keeping short stay charges low.
Existing tariffs of just 20p for 30 minutes, 80p or 90p for up to one hour and £1.60 or £1.80 for two hours are to be retained while long stay and season ticket tariffs will be brought more into line with local London Underground carparks.
Council Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread also asked fellow councillors to note the substantial funding provided by Epping Forest District Council to the Citizens Advice Bureau. This followed attendance by members of the Bureau at a meeting of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Other items covered by Cabinet included the Council’s Corporate Enforcement Policy, Local Council Tax Support Scheme, Amenity Standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), Christmas and New Year staff working arrangements, the Council’s Staff Appeals Process and the latest report from the Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee.
Responding to reports from Housing Portfolio Holder, Syd Stavrou, Councillor Chris Whitbread also paid tribute to council staff for their quick and co-ordinated response to the fire in Burton Road.
New licensing laws for landlords, which further protect tenants in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) from poor living conditions, come into effect on 1 October from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Landlords who let a property to five or more people – from two or more separate households – must be licensed by their local housing authority.
The move gives Epping Forest District Council more powers to crack down on those landlords who are renting out sub-standard and overcrowded homes.
The new rules set minimum size requirements for bedrooms in HMOs to prevent overcrowding, and landlords must adhere to council refuse schemes to reduce problems with rubbish.
If you’re a landlord of an HMO, here’s what to do
If you’re not sure whether the new requirements apply to you
And in time for your licence to be processed before 1 October 2018
What happens if I don’t?
Prosecution or a Civil Penalty of up to £30,000 for committing an offence
Banning Order – You may be banned from operating as a landlord or agent in the private rented sector
Up to 12 months’ rent and/or housing benefit can be claimed back by the tenant and/or the Council
Any Section 21 notice requiring a tenant to leave the property will not be valid.
In addition to general requirements affecting all rented properties, a licensed HMO will need to meet the Essex HMO Amenity Standards. These set the amount of bathroom, toilet and kitchen facilities, together with the sleeping and communal living space required, depending on the size of the property.
Essex Fire and Rescue Service have announced that the fire is now out.
We cannot speculate on the cause of the fire at the moment, that will come out following an official investigation.
The photo below shows the building now that the fire is out and demonstrates how remarkably well the structure has stood up to the fire.
Council Leader, Chris Whitbread said: “You can always rebuild bricks and mortar, the important thing is that everyone appears to be safe and the fire is now out.”
Original statement made – 12:00pm 17 August 2018
A development of new flats in Burton Road, Loughton has caught fire and the fire service are in attendance.
This is a development of new council housing being built for Epping Forest District Council. A £10 million design and build mixed tenure residential development of 51 affordable rent units, comprising of 17 homes and 34 apartments.
Councillor Chris Whitbread Leader of Epping Forest District Council is at Burton Road.
He said: “Our first concern is for the safety and welfare of all concerned. It looks like everyone is safe. Essex Fire and Rescue is on the scene and it is under control. These flats are still being built. This is a construction site and there are no tenants living here. However we are obviously concerned about everyone working on the site at the time the fire started.
“The development is being built for us by Mulalley – a large construction company with a long and successful track record of building major projects. It is too early to say what caused the fire but it is clearly large. Essex Fire and Rescue has cordoned the site off.
“Our first priority is to ensure people are safe. Neighbouring residents are being asked to stay in their homes. This is bound to cause some travel disruption and people are being asked to avoid the area if they can.
“The council has several roles: we are the client and this is a serious setback for us and all those people we are building these new homes for. More importantly in the short term we have a supporting role to the emergency services and would be in a position to set up rest centres nearby if required for neighbouring residents. At this stage our staff are on standby if rest centres are needed. We also employ specialist building control officers who will be at the disposal of Essex Fire and Rescue to assess the damage and ensure the buildings are made safe once the fire is out.
“In the longer term we will recover. Bricks and mortar can always be replaced and we will rebuild these much needed homes for local people. For now, our thoughts are focused on the safety of everyone living and working in the area.
The High Court has dismissed the legal challenge to the Epping Forest District Council’s Local Plan Submission Version 2017 paving the way for the Council to submit the Local Plan to the Secretary of State for Independent Examination. The Court rejected all four grounds of challenge brought by property development company CK Properties (Theydon Bois) Ltd, endorsing the lawfulness of the Council decision to approve the Local Plan for 11,400 new homes over the Plan period up to 2033.
Updated 22 August 2018
However the Council cannot currently submit the plan for examination due to an injunction placed by Mrs Justice Lang in the High Court on 21 March 2018 restraining the Council from submitting the Local Plan until final determination of the legal proceedings. The claimants made an application for permission to appeal to the High Court which was refused on 13 July 2018. The order made by Mr Justice Supperstone accepted that final determination of the legal proceedings included any application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The claimants have now submitted an application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. We are currently waiting for that application to be determined by the Court of Appeal. We understand it is being expedited but we do not currently have a timeline for the decision.
The Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder, Councillor John Philip described the Court’s decision as “good news” and the positive outcome is also seen as vindication of the Council’s approach by its Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread.
John Philip expressed his gratitude to the Court saying: “The production of the Local Plan is possibly the most difficult thing the Council has ever had to do. The issues involved in planning for growth in the District are very sensitive and, inevitably, emotions often run high, but the Court has endorsed the Council’s approach having scrutinised the decision-making process.”
Chris Whitbread was also pleased. He said: “As Councillors we take a balanced view between the protection of the character of the District we love and the need to provide decent homes for local people. We burnt a great deal of ‘midnight oil’ to understand and balance complex issues while collectively studying and guiding the evolution of the Plan through workshops, meetings and engagement before making some really difficult decisions.”
Councillor Philip continued: “I hope CK Properties will see the sense of the Court’s judgment, and pursue their arguments through the Local Plan Examination process, which has always been the proper place to air their concerns, and spare Council Tax payers any additional expense by resorting to the legal appeal process.”