First reflections on the Local Plan consultation

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Anyone who wants to know what local residents and stakeholders said during the recent ‘Community Choices’ public consultation can find out in our latest video update.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder has chosen Chipping Ongar as the location for his second Local Plan blog. He gives an initial assessment of the evidence submitted to Epping Forest District Council on the issues and options facing the district as it continues to prepare a Local Plan covering the next 20 years.

More than 5,500 responses were made in response to the Council’s appeal for evidence and opinions. It will be several months before detailed analysis is completed.

In addition to online consultation documents and a questionnaire, the Council organised a number of evening drop-in sessions throughout the district at which local people discussed the issues and options with councillors and staff face to face. Presentations were made to Town and Parish Councils, several of whom invited district council representatives to talk about the consultation at their public meetings. The district council received letters and emails as well as several petitions, all of which are being incorporated into the body of evidence.

Councillor Bassett said: “We received a great deal of interest and I would like to thank everyone who participated in the consultation. The new Local Plan will be our district’s best defence against inappropriate development as well as enabling us to provide homes and employment opportunities for our children. The evidence and opinions provided by our residents are vital in making it as strong and robust as possible.”

The next stage in the public consultation process will be the publication of a ‘preferred options’ document containing draft policies based on evidence from ‘Community Choices’ and forecasts of population growth and housing need. Eventually this will lead to a ‘submission’ Local Plan for further scrutiny by a government-appointed inspector at an ‘Examination in Public’. Only by successfully passing all these stages will the final Local Plan be adopted as the blueprint for appropriate development over the next 20 years.

Important information for housing tenants

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Housing, Residents, Your community, Your money

The September 2012 edition of Housing News is currently being delivered to council tenants.

It has come to our attention that the Welfare Reforms article on page 4, point 3, contains a small error.  It states that From April 2013 all council tenants of non-pensionable age will receive their benefit direct and will then have to pay their rent themselves. In fact only people who make a new claim for universal credit, which will replace housing benefit from October 2013, will have to pay their rent themselves out of the universal credit they will receive directly.

All tenants in receipt of housing benefit will continue to have their housing benefit paid directly to their rent account until they are migrated to universal credit. It is the Government’s intention to migrate existing housing benefit claims over to universal credit some time between October 2013 and 2017, although the date for Epping Forest District Council’s caseload to be transferred is not yet known.

Council thanks community for choices

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We wish to thank all of the 5,255 residents and businesses who presented their views on future housing and development before the close of the Community Choices consultation on Monday 15 October.

Since the start of the consultation on 30 July, councillors and staff have been talking, and listening to the views of, residents and businesses across the district. Planning Portfolio Holder Councillor Richard Bassett concluded his part of the marathon consultation during the last week with public local council meetings in Sheering and Nazeing.

Planning our future - local planCouncillor Bassett said: “I would like to thank everyone who has taken a constructive part in the process. The more information we can gather from local people, the stronger the Local Plan will be and the better able we will be as a community to protect our district from inappropriate development. It’s a long process and there will be several more rounds of consultation before the final Plan can come into force.”

Over the course of the past 11 weeks, the Council has been doing everything in its power to engage with residents and businesses.

Councillor Bassett said: “We are pleased to report that more than three thousand people replied to the consultation. We are now starting to work through those submissions. They have been received in a variety of ways including an online questionnaire, email, exhibitions, petitions and public meetings.”

During the next phase, the Council staff will collate and sift through all the evidence working with District Councillors to produce a first draft of the Local Plan called ‘Preferred Options’. This will contain proposals for policies to meet future population, housing and development growth and it will again go out to public consultation. Many people chose to use handwritten paper forms to make their submissions. Extra time will be factored in for inputting these alongside the online submissions made via the website.

Councillor Bassett said: “This is the next part of the long process to create a formally accepted Local Plan for the District. The final version of the Local Plan has to be approved by the planning inspectorate and it is important that the widest ranges of options are considered during the total process. This ‘Issues and Options’ part of the consultation has gathered evidence that will help us reject unsuitable sites and concentrate on appropriate development opportunities.”

It will take the council many weeks to work through all the evidence submitted during Community Choices but several key themes are already clear.

Councillor Bassett said: “Very few people support the idea of development in the Green Belt. Councillors share that view but recognise that our children will need somewhere to live. We must accept that a small proportion of the Green Belt will be required to provide enough land for the population growth forecasts over the next twenty years.”

He continued: “Most people would prefer to see any new development take place on previously developed or derelict Brownfield sites. The council has worked hard to try to identify such Brownfield opportunities through the ‘Call for Sites’ exercise. However we may not have been able to identify enough of this type of land and we are appealing to anyone who thinks they may know of any Brownfield site, not included in Community Choices, to let the council know.”

Councillor Bassett concluded: “Everyone wants to protect the environment and special character of the district which makes it such a popular area in which to live. Councillors feel strongly that the district needs to be protected as much as possible. Without a Local Plan, developers would only have to satisfy the general guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, which comes into effect in April 2013 and this may not pay regard to local concerns.”

For more information go to Planning our Future or email ldfconsult@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or call 01992 564517.

Essex Key Facts: Latest edition of district area data published

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Image showing many datasets being compared
 

Data is everywhere!

With moves to a more open approach to publishing statistical information and data being encouraged across the public sector, more and more datasets, covering more and more subjects, are becoming widely accessible to all.

Unfortunately, amongst the biggest constraints on accessing the data you need can be knowing where to look, finding the time to visit the many varied websites that publish data and identifying the information you require from amongst what can appear to be an overwhelming amount of statistics that you don’t need.

To make this task a little easier and to help our residents, businesses, students and visitors find relevant data in a more straightforward and direct way, we publish a regular compilation of many of the datasets that are available. ‘Essex Councils Key Facts’ pulls together information on a wide range of subjects and allows readers to see how Epping Forest District compares with its Essex neighbours. The figures give a context to the environment in which we live, work, study and do business, and help paint a picture of some of the issues that face us all on a day to day basis.

Our latest issue, ‘Essex Key Facts Volume 4’, has recently been published and covers Business Data, Jobs and Skills Mismatch Analysis, Access to Key Services and Rural Accessibility to Services. You can find this issue, alongside copies of our previous editions, on our website by following the link below:

 
We hope you find these publications useful and easy to use. If you have any comments on the documents, please drop us a line by email on performance@eppingforestdc.gov.uk
 
The following previous editions are also available:
 
Volume 1: Political control, council tax, population, ethnicity, health, welfare, education, business & employment, carbon emissions, land use mix
Volume 2: Planning, housing, deprivation, mortality, older people care needs, crime
Volume 3: Audit Commission Value For Money profiles

Full Council 27 September

Written on . Posted in Business, Chairman, Commercial properties, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Our performance, Performance, Planning, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your council, Your money

Members of the Epping Forest Youth Council attended the Full Council meeting on 27 September 2012. On the agenda to be  discussed were Council Tax, the Local Plan consultation, annual accounts, the St Johns Road development and North Weald Airfield.

Watch the webcast in full

Chairman’s announcements

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council began his announcements with a special welcome to Glen Chipp. Mr Chipp is due to take up his new duties as Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council on 1 October 2012. North Weald Airfield featured prominently in the Chairman’s report of his activities during September.

The close ties of friendship between the district and the people of Norway was reinforced by a recent visit of Norwegian RAF veterans and serving members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Chairman also formed part of the welcome to serving and veteran members of No 56 Squadron RAF on Battle of Britain Sunday. 56 Squadron served with distinction, flying from North Weald during the Battle of Britain. Battle honours of 56 Squadron are displayed on its old Standard which was dedicated to St Andrew’s Church in North Weald.

Epping Forest District Council lost the Annual Petanque match with Epping Town Council. Councillor Rolfe and Councillor David Stallan represented the District Council. ‘Dubious tactics’ were alleged before congratulations were offered to the Town Council represented by dual-hatted councillors Jon Whitehouse and Will Breare-Hall.

No increase for Council Tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder, briefed councillors on future financial settlements. She left councillors in no doubt of her belief in the desirability of a zero per cent council tax increase next year.

Local Plan consultation

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder updated councillors on Community Choices. 224 formal responses have been received in response to the Local Plan consultation so far. Council staff have been meeting residents. Almost 1,000 people have attended the Community Choices meetings held across the district over the last six weeks or so.

Annual statement of accounts

The annual statement of accounts for 2011/12 was presented by the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, Councillor Antony Watts. Councillor Watts recommended interested councillors watch the webcast of Audit and Governance committee on 24 September where Finance Director Bob Palmer gave a comprehensive presentation.

Councillor Watts drew attention to a number of changes in production of the latest statement including assessments of depreciation on council assets and the pension fund. He also highlighted the major financial commitment of £185 million stemming from changes to the Housing Subsidy system. He concluded by thanking the Auditors and the Council’s own finance officers before recommending the report. Councillor Syd Stavrou responded to Councillor Watts. She assured councillors of the long term benefits to the Council by making a single one-off payment of £185 million instead of on-going annual payments to central government of £11 million.

The Council’s financial position is better than anticipated despite cuts in central government funding. Councillor Stavrou also recommended acceptance of the annual statement of accounts which met with the approval of the Council. 

St John’s Road design and development brief

Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the St John’s Road Design and Development brief to Full Council. Fellow cabinet member and Epping Councillor, Will Breare-Hall welcomed the brief as amended following consultation earlier in the summer. In particular he drew attention to the shift in emphasis from retail to leisure provision in line with the views expressed by local residents.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council looked forward to discussion based on the brief with other landowners. Ward Councillor Tony Church sought reassurance on the issue of a supermarket. Councillor Grigg responded by drawing a distinction between a supermarket which drew wide-spread public opposition and other forms of retail such as a department store which found favour with some local residents. Councillor Janet Whitehouse asserted that she would have preferred a stronger plan and abstained when councillors voted in favour of the adoption of the Brief.

North Weald Airfield

A budget of £150,000 was agreed to enable Epping Forest District Council to commission further work on the future of North Weald Airfield. Referring to recommendations by Ernst and Young, Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg encouraged councillors to approve the two-stage process looking at aviation and non-aviation options.

Older people’s day

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your home

Celebrate “older people’s day” with Epping Forest District Council

You are invited to visit one of our sheltered housing schemes on Monday 1 October 2012.

The UK’s Older People’s Day coincides with the UN International Day for Older Persons. The day is a national celebration of the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society. It is a great way to build new relationships between people of all ages and bring together the local community.

As part of the celebrations, events are being held at nine of the Council’s sheltered housing schemes. You may know somebody who lives in one of our schemes, or maybe you are thinking about sheltered housing for yourself (or someone else). Perhaps you’d just like to celebrate with us. Come and join us, you will be very welcome at one of our events, whatever your reason.

  • Coffee Morning at Barrington Close Centre, Barrington Road, Loughton IG10 2AX from 10am to 12 noon
  • Bingo and Afternoon Tea at Buckhurst Court, Albert Road, Buckhurst Hill IG9 6BD from 2pm to 4pm
  • Bingo and Afternoon Tea at Chapel Road, Epping CM16 5DS from 2pm to 4pm
  • Afternoon Tea at Frank Bretton House, Bansons Way, Ongar CM5 9EY from 2pm to 4pm
  • Tea and Cakes at Jubilee Court, Ninefields, Waltham Abbey EN9 3JB from 3pm to 5pm
  • Tea, Cakes and Tombola at Jessopp Court, Shernbroke Road, Waltham Abbey EN9 3LF from 2pm to 4pm
  • Tea and Cakes at Leonard Davis House, Kiln Road, North Weald CM16 6BS from 2pm to 4.30pm
  • Cream Tea at Parsonage Court, Rectory Lane, Loughton IG10 2BB from 2pm to 4pm
  • Games and Afternoon Tea at Pelly Court, Hemnall Street, Epping CM16 4NA from 2pm to 4pm

There will be a small charge for refreshments, all proceeds go to the residents of the sheltered schemes and will be used to fund communal activities.

We hope that you will able to attend and help celebrate the contribution older people make to our communities.

For further information please contact Epping Forest District Council, Older Peoples Services Manager on 020 8508 8596.

Proposed changes to the need for planning permission for home extensions

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The Government announced its intention to allow larger extensions to be built to houses than presently permitted on Thursday 6 September 2012. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government advised that local authorities will be consulted on the proposed changes – but to date the extent of the changes, or the date of their implementation, are not known.

Guidance relating to works which may presently be undertaken without the need to seek express planning permission from the Council can be obtained from the council’s website – view the planning permission guidance notes.

Epping Forest District Council can also determine whether or not planning permission is required for an extension to a dwelling following the submission of an application for a ‘Certificate of Lawful Development’ (the relevant application form can be downloaded here).

For enquiries relating to whether or not planning permission is required, please contact the Duty Planner between the hours of 10.30 am and 1 pm by telephoning 01992 564477, or by sending an email to contactdc@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Residents urged to take part in consultation – Local Plan video

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Ongar, Our countryside, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your environment, Your home

The issues and options consultation phase of the new Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ runs from 30 July to 15 October. Here, Councillor Richard Bassett, the Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder talks about some of the key elements and encourages residents to become involved.

 

Click ‘Community Choices’ to view all the information and take part in the Local Plan consultation. 

 

Planning our future – your choices

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your environment, Your home

A prosperous District with jobs and homes for local people. A place where our children can raise their own families and the Green Belt is protected.’ These are the aims as Epping Forest District Council prepares the next phase of consultation with residents on the new Local Plan.

The Local Plan is a framework for development, conservation and investment in the District by individuals, businesses and utilities. It also sets out the policies by which Epping Forest District Council decides planning applications. When the new Plan comes into force in 2014 it will shape the character and development of the District for the next 20 years. The consultation will run from 30 July to 21 September 2012.

Residents have already contributed extensively to the production of the Plan. Backed up with evidence from a wide range of previous research and consultation, the Council will ask fundamental questions. What level of population growth and housing should the District plan for? How should we decide where it should go? What are our employment needs and aspirations? Where should industrial development happen? How do we protect the Green Belt and still provide homes for our children ten or 20 years from now?

The Issues and Options stage of the Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ will set out the facts as far as the Council can predict future trends. The document will be uploaded to the Council website with an invitation to local residents, business people and other stakeholders to say how the needs of our children should be met over the next 20 years.

Local Plan presentation[1]

“Nationally, the population is growing and Epping Forest District is no different,” says Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder. “However, in Epping Forest there are many challenges. Compared to many other places, the net effects of migration in this District are relatively minor. On average only a few hundred extra people move into the District every year. But, the population of Epping Forest is also getting older. We are living longer and in smaller family units. More people are living alone, driving up demand for more homes. As our generation gets older, who will care for us in our old age if lack of housing forces young people to move away?”

Councillor Bassett continued: “These are tough choices. There are around 6,200 households on our housing waiting list. If we want homes for our children, health and social care for our old age, or even the ability to park our cars outside our houses, we have to take a positive approach to the Local Plan.”

‘Community Choices’ draws on residents’ views from the Community Visioning exercise, technical research and information from the ‘Call For Sites’ which invited people to suggest where future growth might take place. It also takes into account data on transport, employment, social and welfare needs. It takes account of services such as water usage, energy supplies, health and leisure. It poses the question of how to accommodate all these needs, yet still protect the Green Belt.

Councillor Bassett said: “That means being realistic. We need to build new homes and everything associated with modern life. Homes need to be the right types in the right places. And we still need to protect the parts of the District we value most. There will have to be compromises. We must aim to protect the beautiful open rural character of the District, conserve our heritage and enhance our towns and villages. We need answers to the problems of traffic congestion, parking and the balance of public and private transport. Infrastructure from water supplies to schools and health services is an essential part of life now and will become even more important in the future. The Local Plan is about striking the right balance.”

Planning Officers are fine-tuning ‘Community Choices’ and the background information now. The consultation will run for eight weeks starting in July. There will be a number of ways to respond, including online where all documents and background documents will be made available. There will be public exhibitions with Planning Officers touring local communities to answer questions and receive feedback.

Councillor Bassett added: “This is a serious business but people should not be unduly alarmed as what we are doing is setting out possible options. Once we receive all of the feedback, we will review the options and consult on these updated options. Every council is going through this process. Looking at different options does not mean every piece of land will be developed or the Green Belt is going to be scrapped. But we cannot stand still. The world moves on and Epping Forest District must move with it. However, with the help of our residents, businesses and other partners, the new Local Plan will leave a legacy to our children and future generations we can be proud of.”

 

Fire at Copperfield

Written on . Posted in Crime and safety, Housing, Residents, Your home

Following a fire, council officers from the housing and building control sections were called to Copperfield on the Limes Farm Estate early on Tuesday morning. Essex Fire and Rescue extinguished the blaze in a first floor flat. No one was injured. One resident was led to safety by firefighters.

The first-floor flat was very badly damaged. Another flat underneath suffered from severe water damage. Others in the block had less serious smoke damage. Tenants of the two worst affected flats are discussing rehousing options with the council. However, thanks to hard work by council staff repairing and cleaning the communal entrance affected by smoke, all the other tenants were able to reoccupy their homes by the end of the day.

Although part of the roof has gone, an initial inspection of the damage suggests the structure is sound and the building can be repaired. Costs of repair will be met through the council’s building insurance.

The cause of the fire is not yet known. Council officers hope investigation by Essex Fire and Rescue may establish the reason.

Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder was relieved that no one was injured. He said: “All of the tenants involved have my sympathy, particularly those who have also lost personal possessions, some of which cannot be replaced. It sounds like the tenant in the flat where the blaze started acted quickly to raise the alarm and helped to warn the other residents of the block. Essex Fire and Rescue did a great job. The damage looks bad but bricks and mortar can be repaired and replaced. The most important thing is that everyone is safe.”