Council on 18 December 2012

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Local Plan, Housing, CCTV, Ash Dieback, The Box and more discussed at Council on 18 December 2012.

Local Plan

Progress on the new Local Plan and associated work was reported to the latest meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 18 December by Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder. In a written report, Councillor Bassett said that work on the Local Plan is continuing. All the issues and options consultation responses will be entered into the analysis system by the end of December.

Analysis of the data is ongoing for forthcoming workshops involving Town, Parish and District Councillors and MPs during the first 3 months of the new year. A further workshop will be held later in the year that will consider the implications of further evidence and a preferred option for the emerging Local Plan to be published in late summer or early autumn 2013 for consultation.

Councillor Bassett has also asked the Forward Planning team to compile a list of the “Brownfield” sites they have considered as part of the Local Plan process. It is hoped that this will help councillors identify any which were not identified in the Strategic Land Availability Assessment part of the process. He reminded councillors that brownfield sites which would accommodate less than 6 houses would not be part of the identification process as they are considered as windfall sites and applications for these normally appear through the normal planning process.

Councillor Bassett noted further work on population projections due to take place in the next few months following recent releases of Census 2011 data. He is also due to hold a follow-up meeting with Harlow District Council in January to discuss cooperation focusing on planning and economic development.

Housing

In other updates, Councillor David Stallan reported progress towards the council’s new house building programme. It is envisaged that the development of the first sites will commence in 2014 and be completed in the winter of 2014/15. He also reported on the use of government grants to support the Council’s Homelessness Prevention Service, Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau and 20 additional loans under the council’s successful Rental Loan Scheme.

CCTV

In his written reports, Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder updated councillors on the reallocation of existing money and new money to enhance CCTV in Loughton High Road as well as a further £40,000 to expand and maintain other new CCTV systems across the district. Councillors agreed a further £10,000 towards the upgrade of Loughton cameras.

Following late-night disorder in Epping, Councillor Waller has also authorised more cameras with funding by club licensees. He also announced a combined operation by the council and Essex Police including more police patrols, use of drug dogs, checking taxi licensing and live CCTV monitoring.

Ash Dieback

Ash Dieback has now been reported in the Epping Forest district. Council staff are advising concerned members of the public and referring possible cases to the national helpline. Tree wardens are also being advised about the disease and are encouraging local surveys to supplement those being undertaken by the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust. Councillor Waller reported that infection is unlikely to be found on council owned trees in the short term, because there have been no recent plantings of ash saplings. The council’s regular survey of its own stock will include a check for signs of the disease in future.

Councillor Waller’s report noted that although ash is an important tree in the district it is not the major tree of the local countryside or towns. It is a minor component of the district treescape compared to oak in the wider countryside and beech in Epping Forest. The loss even of a high percentage, would be significant but could be mitigated by an active planting programme of other species on council land and by larger landowners and farmers.

The Box – Epping

A late question by Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens informed District Councillors of an emerging funding concern at The Box – a facility for young people in Epping High Street. It would seem, funding by Essex County Council through to April is in doubt and the facility is in danger of closing without intervention. Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council thanked Councillor Angold-Stephens for bringing the matter to the council’s attention. He is to instruct District Council Officers to contact the organisers of The Box without delay and encourage an application for grant aid to support The Box until the end of the Financial Year.

Local Council Tax support scheme adopted

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Housing, Meetings, Older people, Private housing, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Epping Forest District Council’s Local Council Tax Support Scheme has been agreed and adopted by Full Council at its meeting on 18 December. From 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will be replaced by the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTS) as a consequence of the Welfare Reform Act.

From April 2013 people of working age who pay no Council Tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. Key elements of the new scheme are:

  • The calculation of support based on 80% of the Council Tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • Anyone of working age who lives in a higher Council Tax band, will have their support calculated as if their property was a Band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation (excluding the first £15 per week per family)
  • The capital limit (personal savings) will be reduced from the current level of £16,000 to £6,000
  • Second adult rebate will not be included in the scheme for people of working age
  • A minimum award of £0.50 per week. This is in line with the minimum award in housing benefit
  • The inclusion of an Exceptional Hardship Fund to help the most vulnerable customers affected by the changes

Pension age people are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments under the new scheme although they may need to pay more if Council Tax increases.

Residents who are currently in receipt of Council Tax Benefit will be contacted in the New Year with details of the impact of these changes. Residents are being advised to go online in advance of this communication to find out whether they will be affected by the introduction of LCTS at www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/index.php/residents/council-tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder said: “Councils across Essex have worked together to implement schemes that limit the impact of the central government grant cuts on our most vulnerable residents. The district is losing approximately £1 million a year compared with the old scheme. Pensioners are protected and people in some of the other most vulnerable groups. We have had to make some difficult decisions about who gets help and how much but we feel that the proposals are as fair as possible to the majority of people within the resources available.”

Funding allocated to Councils for LCTS has been cut by 10% and is frozen at 2011 levels; this results in a drop of £1m for Epping Forest District.

 

Santa takes delivery for refuge children

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Crime and safety, Housing, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your council

Father Christmas paid a very special visit to Epping Forest District Council on 17 December, when he reversed his role and accepted presents.

Charlotte Tredgett meets Father Christmas at the civic officesCouncil staff and their children came to see him at the civic offices but instead of being given presents they handed some over to him to re-distribute to less fortunate children. The presents will be passed on to children who will be staying with their mums in a women’s refuge over the festive season.

Safer Communities Manager Caroline Wiggins said: “For 4 years now, Epping Forest District Council’s very generous staff have been donating presents to make sure that these children don’t miss out. This is something that is very much appreciated because their mums have often had to flee from home without any belongings.”

The event was supported by the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Brian Rolfe and his wife Una.

Father Christmas said: “This was something very different from my usual job of giving presents to children. I will be delighted to hand them on to the children who are not able to be at home for Christmas. I would like to say a very big thank you on their behalf as I’m sure they will be delighted with them.”

Charlotte meets 'Father Christmas' in Epping
Charlotte meets ‘Father Christmas’ in Epping

Benefit cap changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

From April 2013 there will be a ‘cap’ or maximum limit on the total amount of benefit that people of working age can receive. Households will have income capped to £500 per week for families and £350 for single people.

The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits including housing benefit and if the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced to bring the total income in line with the applicable cap.

How will this affect me?

If your benefits are capped this will mean you may have to pay more towards your rent than you do currently. This is a really important change because if you get behind with your rent you may risk losing your home.
The cap will not apply if you, or your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are entitled to working tax credit or receive any of the following

There will be a period where the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks for those who have been continuously in work for the previous 12 months.

The cap will apply to the combined income from:

Housing association appointed to develop new council homes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Planning, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Epping Forest District Council has appointed East Thames Group, a housing association, as development agent to deliver its new council housebuilding programme.

This is thought to be the first agreement of its type, where a council has appointed a housing association to deliver a whole development programme. East Thames will develop around 120 new affordable rented homes on behalf of the council over a 6 year period. The £1.6 million appointment follows a competitive tender process, with most of the new homes being developed on difficult-to-let garage sites in the council’s ownership.

East Thames will provide all the required development, project management and professional building services for the programme. The housing association will undertake initial development and financial appraisals, preparation of planning applications, all resident consultation and liaison and the procurement and supervision of works contractors.

“This is the right approach for us”, said Councillor David Stallan, the council’s housing portfolio holder. “The council has not built any new homes for over 25 years, so we do not have the technical expertise in-house to undertake new housebuilding ourselves. We are very pleased to announce this strategic partnership with East Thames, who we have already worked successfully with over a number years through our enabling role”. “Not only did East Thames submit the most competitive price”, Councillor Stallan continued, “their tender submission was also assessed as providing the best quality. We will continue to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in our district, with all of our housing association partners. But personally, I am looking forward to the day when we are able to build more council homes each year than we sell through the Right to Buy”.

Initially 13 organisations, comprising both housing associations and private companies, expressed interest in tendering for the role, with six shortlisted to submit detailed tenders.

East Thames will also be responsible for formulating the council’s development strategy and seeking investment partner status with the Homes and Communities Agency for the council. If successful, this would enable the Council to bid for grant funding for the new homes.

The appointment is expected to commence in January 2013, with the development of the first sites starting on site commencing in early 2014. The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a committee to oversee the housing building programme.

Cabinet on 3 December

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Leader, Licensing, Local business, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Parking reviews, town centre initiatives, dog control orders and more were among the items discussed at cabinet on Monday 3 December 2012.

£35,000 for Town Centre initiatives

Councillors at cabinet on 3 December approved £35,000 to develop a range of initiatives in support of the district’s town centres. Councillor Anne Grigg, Economic Development and Asset Management Portfolio Holder announced a town team taskforce will work with local town centre partnerships to allocate the money and develop the initiatives. It will also champion the needs of local high streets, co-ordinate and promote activities across the district, innovating and testing new ideas.

Although funded by the council and chaired by Councillor Anne Grigg in her business champion capacity, the taskforce will be made up mainly of local business leaders drawn from the 6 town centre partnerships, Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, Epping Forest College and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Among the practical initiatives being considered for the taskforce to take forward are ‘High Street Hero’ awards, maximising national campaigns at local level, ‘bite-size’ training for small businesses and economic initiative grants. Linking tourism and high street promotion through the websites ‘Visit Epping Forest’ and ‘One Shops Local’ with promotional support by the council through platforms such as the Forester magazine and council website will help to support these initiatives.

 

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council is also a local business person. He strongly welcomed the proposals put forward by Councillor Grigg. Reminding councillors that 3 December is the busiest day for online shopping, he said that each of the towns of Epping Forest has excellent shops and services as well as the opportunity to reach residents.

In a further measure of support to residents and high street shops, Councillor Gary Waller announced £25,000 towards significant extension and improvement to CCTV coverage in Loughton. In response to a question he also noted improvements to CCTV coverage in Epping. Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder then went on to ask cabinet to confirm no increase in charges in the council’s town centre pay and display car parks.

Development agent chosen for council house building

Councillors have taken another major step towards starting a new council house building programme with approval to appoint East Thames Group as development agent. Cabinet approved a recommendation for the appointment of East Thames on an initial 4 year contract which could be extended to up to 7 years as the council starts to provide 20 new dwellings a year over a 6 year period.

The appointment follows a competitive tender in which the bid of £1,582,500 by East Thames Group came out as the most economically advantageous to the council.

East Thames will be responsible for feasibility, planning application, post-planning including project management and appointment of construction contractors plus other related services.

Dog control orders

Dog owners will be required to clear their dog’s faeces on public land following the adoption of dog control orders by the council. Cabinet also approved recommendations to restrict the total number of dogs that can be walked by a single person on public land to four and for authorised officers to require dogs to be put on a lead when requested.

£113,000 boost for homelessness prevention

The homelessness prevention service is to be boosted. In addition to allocating money for staffing its own service, members of the cabinet also approved funding towards the costs of debt advisers employed by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the council’s rental loan scheme assisting homeless people obtain private rented accommodation.

Prevention is a key part of the council’s strategy in dealing with homelessness. Between 2008 and 2012, 1,820 of the 2,233 homelessness cases (82%) dealt with by the council were prevented, enabling people to find or keep a roof over their heads.

Parking reviews

Lessons learnt from the Epping Parking Review will be used to improve the outcomes of the Buckhurst Hill and Loughton Broadway reviews. In particular, subsequent reviews will target the needs of specific areas rather than wider area reviews. Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder assured councillors that full consultation would be carried out as the reviews went forward.

National Empty Homes Week

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Council tax, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your home

National Empty Homes week runs from 26 November to 1 December 2012 highlighting the waste of empty properties.

Each dwelling that stands empty is a wasted resource and the council is committed to bringing empty properties back to use.

  • An empty property can cost an owner up to £10,000 a year in maintenance, Council Tax, increased insurance and potential loss in rental
  • They act as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour including squatters, vandalism, arson and rubbish dumping
  • Run-down, derelict and abandoned properties bring down the appearance of a neighbourhood and give a sense of decay and decline
  • The house next door to an empty property may be devalued by as much as 10%

We can help owners of empty properties by giving advice and information and also by offering financial assistance.

Report an empty property

If you know of an empty property and want to make us aware of it, please complete the online form.

If you would like to discuss any property or issue relating to empty homes call the Empty Property Officer on 01992 564706. All calls and information received will be treated in confidence.

Read more on empty properties.

New super fast broadband available

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Residents and businesses can now benefit from a new super fast broadband service thanks to the FibreWiFi Broadband Service provided by Buzcom.

Orders are now being taken for the new service which covers most of the Epping Forest district, with homes and businesses able to access speeds of up to 50 Mb.

FibreWiFi logoAll enquiries about the coverage, pricing and features should be sent to FibreWiFi

Epping Forest District Council provided assistance to help enable the network.

Comment on potential changes to planning permission for extensions

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The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a consultation document for 6 weeks seeking comments on possible temporary changes to permitted development rights on extensions.

Among its proposed course of action is to allow homeowners and businesses to make larger extensions to their homes and business premises without needing to submit a planning application. For example, this could allow a maximum 8 metre depth for a single storey rear extension to a detached house and 6 metre depth for any other type of house, without needing planning permission. If approved, this would be a temporary measure for 3 years.

You can comment on this consultation direct to the DCLG, which ends on 24 December 2012, on a downloadable response form by following the link below. This form also includes details of the proposals.

Comment on the DCLG consultation document

New planning application fees

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Business rates, Commercial properties, Conservation and listed buildings, Crime and safety, Doing business with the council, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Out and about, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

As from 22 November 2012, there will be a new level of planning application fees, which  will increase by 15 percent above the current level.  This is the first national increase since 2008 and therefore any planning applications received from this date will require the new fee. 

 Please follow this link to view the new charges