Tenant participation survey

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Councillors, Housing, Media, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Tenant participation is an important part of our housing service – your involvement helps to shape the decisions that affect the service you receive. We’re asking our council tenants to complete this short survey which will form part of a review by our Tenant Scrutiny Panel.

The panel is a group of tenants who work together with the Tenants and Leaseholders Federation, looking in-depth at selected housing issues.

Who can take part?

The survey is only open to council tenants living in homes managed by Epping Forest District Council.

Have your say

Sharing information and ideas

Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder said: “Tenant participation is a 2-way process. It involves sharing information and ideas with the aim of improving housing conditions and services.”

“The survey will only take a few minutes and is open until 31 January 2015. The more people who share their views with us, the better informed any changes will be.”

Want to know more

If you’re interested in tenant involvement please contact the council’s Tenant Participation Officer

 

Empty homes week

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Media, Out and about, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Empty Homes week is organised by national charity Empty Homes to highlight the work that’s taking place to bring homes back into use – and to call for continued efforts to bring increasing numbers of empty homes back into use.

New research from Halifax and Empty Homes shows how strongly the public feel about empty homes. They want the government and local authorities to do more about them.

Empty homes week

Help reduce the number of empty properties

There is no sound economic reason for an owner to leave a property empty. An empty property can cost up to £10,000 in maintenance, it can increase your Council Tax payments by 50% and your insurance premiums can increase. What’s more, you could be missing out on valuable rental income.

Owners

A property left empty is a wasted resource and can be costly in terms of increased insurance, increased council tax, emergency repairs, vandalism and arson.

Neighbours

It is estimated that the home next door to an empty property can be devalued by about 10%. There is also the worry of nuisance, vermin, arson, vandalism and anti social behaviour.

Community

There are currently approximately 380 properties that have been empty for more than 6 months in our district. Empty properties provide valuable homes for local people and reduce the demand for building on the Green Belt. For every property brought back to use the council receives a financial reward known as the New Homes Bonus. This can be included in the budget for providing services to residents of the district.

To help the owners we can offer

We are committed to reducing the number of empty properties in the district, and in some cases we can offer financial help. Bringing an empty property back into use can be difficult if it’s in a poor state of repair and cannot be lived in, let or easily sold.

This scheme offers up to £10,000 if there is an empty property in poor condition that you would like to live in yourself. The money is repaid when you eventually sell the property.

This scheme offers up to £25,000 to renovate a property in order to sell it or rent it out. This is an interest free loan and is paid back within 2 years if you sell, or 5 years if you let the property.

Tell us about an empty property

Give us the address, and any other information you may have, and we will do our best to contact the owner. We will work with the owner to bring the property back to use. All calls are treated in confidence.

Want to know more

For further information and advice, or to report an empty property, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team

 

Save money on your energy bills

Written on . Posted in Community, Energy efficiency, Housing, Media, Out and about, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

If you want to save money on your energy bills, register for the Essex Energy Switch now. It is expected residents could save as much as £200 off their annual energy bills.

Residents have from 3 December 2014 until 2 February 2015 to register. It is a completely free, easy, safe and secure way to cut your energy bill.

Energy auction

The Essex Energy Switch is run by Essex County Council and delivered by iChoosr, who specialise in collective energy switching. On Tuesday 18 February 2015 iChoosr will facilitate a nationwide 1-day energy auction. Major energy companies will be invited to offer the lowest energy tariff to those who registered and the company offering the lowest price wins!

iChoosr will then send our a personal offer based on existing energy usage to everyone who’s registered. It is then up to residents to decide whether or not to accept the offer – there is no obligation to switch.

Register now

Want to know more

Find out more

  • Essex Energy Switch on our website
  • Essex County Council news – Essex Energy Switch could see many resident’s energy bills cut

 

 

Council house-building makes a comeback

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Councillors, Housing, Leader, Local business, Media, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

A ground breaking ceremony in Waltham Abbey marked the start of Epping Forest District Council’s house-building programme.

The new developments in the first phase of the programme will provide a mixture of accommodation on ‘brownfield’ garage sites and a former Red Cross Hall site in Waltham Abbey. This phase is expected to cost around £4 million, mainly raised by the council.
Ground breaking ceremony

View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture and then click start slideshow.

The ceremony was held on Friday 13 November at Harveyfields in Waltham Abbey, 1 of 4 sites. The other 3 are in nearby Roundhills and Fairways.

In total the sites will provide

  • 4 1-bedroom flats
  • 5 2-bedroom flats
  • 6 2-bedroom houses
  • 6 3-bedroom houses
  • 2 1-bedroom duplex houses

Local MP Eleanor Laing attended, and the Chairman and Leader of the Council, along with ward councillors and the council’s partner organisations working on the project.

Affordable rents

East Thames – a registered housing provider and social regeneration charity – is development agent for the council’s house-building programme. They are working with Pellings LLP, a firm of construction consultants, and our newly appointed contractor Broadway Construction Ltd.

The council has not built any new housing of its own for around 30 years. So expertise was needed from organisations with recent experience of new affordable housing development. East Thames was chosen because they have a track record in developing homes in the small areas available on housing estates, such as difficult-to-let garage sites.

All the new properties will be let to families on the council’s housing register at ‘affordable rents’. These are different to the social rents that existing council tenants pay, and compare to about half of the rent that a similar property would cost at the full market rate. Residents who rented the garages previously have all been offered alternative arrangements.

Second phase of house-building programme

Plans are already in place for the second phase of the council’s house-building programme. A grant of £0.5 million from the Homes and Communities Agency’s ‘Affordable Homes Programme’ will subsidise the development costs of 40 new affordable homes, based on £12,500 per home. The council will provide the remaining funding for this phase.

This grant is conditional on the council being able to achieve ‘Investment Partner Status’, and being able to deliver the new affordable homes within the timescale of the bid programme.

The second phase of the programme will be concentrated on council-owned land at Burton Road in Loughton. It is expected to provide a total of 52 new affordable rented homes and a detailed planning application has been made. In all, the council has 65 sites across the district on which it hopes to be able to deliver around 30 new affordable homes, per annum, over the next 10 years.

 

Energy switch, M11 and night lighting discussed at council

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Meetings, North Weald Airfield, Our attractions, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

A new M11 junction, saving money on energy bills, Essex part-night lighting, council house building and more were discussed at council on Tuesday 4 November 2014.

Duty to cooperate

Councillors Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council, and Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder, met representatives from neighbouring council areas to discuss issues of mutual interest in the production local plans. Among the items debated was a consensus of support for the development of a new Junction 7a on the M11.

Councils are required to meet and work together as far as possible in the coordination of local plans setting out housing, economic and environmental policies for the next 20 years or so. Known as the Duty to Cooperate Board, other councils in the group include Harlow, Uttlesford, Broxbourne, East Herts, Essex County Council, Hertfordshire County Council and the London Boroughs of Redbridge, Enfield and Waltham Forest.

Chairman’s schedule

Council Chairman Tony Boyce, outlined a packed schedule of recent civic activities. This included a trip on the Epping Ongar Railway and the promotion of the district as a visitor attraction to other council chairmen and mayors. He also opened the CAB annual general meeting, went on a trip with older residents on a Community Transport bus between North Weald and Epping, visited refurbished halls in Roydon and North Weald, attended community events at Waltham Abbey, spent an evening with the air-cadets and visited Chelmsford to learn more about the Territorial Army.

Energy switch

Residents will be given the opportunity to cut their energy bills. Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder Gary Waller recommended that anyone wishing to save money look out for more information to appear in the Christmas edition of The Forester and on the council website.

The second Essex Energy Switch starts on 2 December 2014. It is run in conjunction with Essex County Council and offers residents who want to switch providers the chance to pay less for their gas and electricity bills. A previous scheme earned savings of several hundred pounds for Essex residents.

Train diplomacy lights up district

District councillors called upon Essex County Council to think again on the part-night lighting  scheme early in the morning when people are going to work. A motion was presented by councillor Stephen Murray. He briefly listed the number of trains taking local residents to work before 6am each day as well as early morning buses. Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder Gary Waller supported the motives of councillor Murray.

With tongue firmly in cheek, councillor Waller described how he and fellow district councillors had discussed the very same issue with County Council Portfolio Holder Rodney Bass in a first class carriage compartment on the Epping Ongar heritage railway visit hosted by council Chairman Tony Boyce. Surrounded by district councillors Gary Waller, John Philip, Anne Grigg, David Stallan and Will Breare-Hall in a scene reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel, Councillor Bass was made aware of the feeling across the district council chamber in supporting of turning the lights on earlier. Councillors expected confirmation of good news from Essex County Council in the next few days.

Operations Partner – North Weald Airfield

Councillors agreed to set aside up to £60,000 to procure and appoint marketing agents to help the council seek an operational partner for aviation management at North Weald Airfield.

Children’s services

Overview and Scrutiny Chairman councillor Richard Morgan appealed to fellow councillors to get their questions ready for a presentation by Essex County Council on children’s services at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 10 November. Members of the public can also submit a question to Essex County Council by emailing democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk by 4pm on the day of the meeting.

Council house building

As the new council house building programme gathers momentum, the collaborative approach and consultation with ward members was welcomed by councillors. Reflecting the importance of the house building programme, the revised terms of reference were approved for the Council House Building Cabinet Committee.

 

Cabinet supports homes for local people

Written on . Posted in Arts, Benefits, Business, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Grants, Health, Housing, Local business, Our activities, Out and about, Planning, Playschemes, Sports, Supporting business, Your council, Your home, Your money

Proposals for 15 affordable rented housing units on the site of hard to let garages in Vere Road, Loughton received the backing of councillors at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet on 3 November.

  • Due to technical issues there is no sound in the first few minutes of the webcast.

Affordable homes plan for brownfield site

The proposals to lease the land to Moat Housing Association were presented by Housing Portfolio Holder David Stallan. Subject to planning permission Moat Housing would develop 1 and 2 bedroom flats with associated parking on the site. Epping Forest District Council would receive £425,000 in exchange for a 999 year lease of the land to be used to fund the council’s own house building programme and other regeneration schemes.

Moat and the council would also aim to provide 14 additional car parking spaces for lease to residents of the new development being built next to the site on land formerly occupied by the Sir Winston Churchill public house.

Councillor Stallan assured councillors that full consultation on the proposed development would be carried out with local residents through the planning application process.

Leisure strategy and business loans

Other items debated at cabinet included the council’s leisure and cultural strategy, Council Tax and Local Council Tax Support Scheme, Non Domestic Rates and the Essex voluntary and community sector framework.

The Council is to support a scheme by start-up loans, a Government backed agency that offers loans of up to £10,000 to new businesses in the start up phase or first year of trading. Meetings are being held with the aim of taking the project forward in the next few months. Start-up is one of a series of initiatives to be publicised to local businesses at the Council’s Access to Funding Roadshow to be held at the Civic Offices on 17 November.

 

Know a cheat in your street?

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Business, Council tax, Crime and safety, Housing, Media, Out and about, Private housing, Prosecutions, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Every year, thousands of pounds of your money is stolen by cheaters, money that should be used to improve your local community.

If you know a cheat in your street – report Benefit fraud, Housing tenancy fraud and Council tax fraud to us now!

Spot the cheater - don't let them get away

How do I report fraud?

How are they cheating us?

Benefit fraud – getting benefits they had no right to claim

  • For example, they are doing undeclared work, or someone is living with them but they claim to live alone.

Housing tenancy fraud – misusing council properties

  • For example, unlawful sub-letting, not living in the property and leaving it empty, making a fraudulent Right to Buy application, taking (or making) a payment for a mutual exchange, living in a property after the tenant has died where they had no right to succeed, or giving false or misleading information to get the tenancy.

Council tax fraud – falsely claiming Council Tax discounts

  • For example, claiming they live alone, or  claiming they are a student.

Help us catch the cheaters

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou said: “We know that most people who receive benefits are honest, but a minority are not. Fraud is not a victimless crime – it’s all our taxes that are being stolen.”

“If you suspect someone is claiming benefits they may not be entitled to, please tell us. You don’t have to tell us your name but it helps if you do. Any information you give will be treated in the strictest confidence. Help us catch the cheaters!”

 

Cabinet

Written on . Posted in Housing, Local plan / planning our future, Media, North Weald Airfield, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Your area, Your council

North Weald Bassett Masterplan Study, Epping Town Neighbourhood Area Consultation, Survey of the River Roding and more were discussed at cabinet on Monday 6 October.

Local Plan

Another significant step towards the production of the Local Plan took place at Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet on Monday 6 October when the North Weald Masterplanning Study was accepted into the evidence base. The Study includes options for housing, transport, employment, aviation and defensible green belt boundaries.

As one of the largest assets in the ownership of the Council, the report represents an important step as landlord as well as planning authority. However, councillors were anxious to make clear that the adoption of the Masterplan does not mean any final decisions have been taken. The Plan only outlines different options for the future of the airfield and surrounding area based on the expertise of technical consultants and consultation with local people.

Following the adoption of the Masterplan, Cabinet went on to agree proposals to find an operational partner to work up an aviation business plan for the airfield. The aim is to secure a sustainable future for aviation with the aid of an existing commercial airfield operator with the expertise to increase income, improve efficiency and help guide future plans. Cabinet agreed to seek the approval of up to £60,000 from Full Council to take its proposals forward.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council welcomed the reports and the drive to maximise income from the airfield including potential Park and Ride proposals supported by local residents.

New housebuilding schemes

Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor David Stallan presented reports on progress with the Council’s new housebuilding schemes. Among the decisions approved by Cabinet was the acceleration of the annual Housebuilding programme from 20 to 30 properties per year in phases 3 to 6. Phase 1 is already well under way and Phase 2 proposes a 56 home development at Burton Road.

9 new homes to be built in Waltham Abbey as part of Phase 1 are to be named after the Council’s former District Health and Housing Officer and joint Chief Executive. The flats in Harveyfields will be called John Scott Court.

Councillors supported proposals to accept delegated powers from Essex County Council, allowing Epping Forest District Council to optimise the control of works to ‘ordinary’ watercourses in order to minimise flood risk.

River Roding

Erosion and the condition of bridges across the River Roding will be investigated. Cabinet agreed a budget of £15,000 towards survey costs.

Neighbourhood Plan

Epping is the latest town or parish to seek approval for a designated area to cover a Neighbourhood Plan. It joins a growing list of local councils including, Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers, Chigwell and Theydon Bois, seeking greater involvement in planning through the Neighbourhood Plan process. Applications have also been received from Buckhurst Hill and North Weald Parish Councils.

 

Landlords & tenants support scheme launched

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Local business, Media, Out and about, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

A scheme supporting landlords and helping drive up the quality of housing for tenants across the county’s private rented sector was launched on 25 September 2014.

Landlords who ensure their homes are properly maintained and managed will be able to join the Essex Landlord Accreditation Scheme (ELAS).

Essex Landlord Accreditation SchemeBenefits

As a result they will be able to benefit from

  • reductions on their insurance costs
  • direct access to impartial advice and support on relevant issues
  • opportunities for networking at forums and events
  • access to information on housing trends and needs in their areas which until now was only provided to local housing associations

Through highlighting the county’s good landlords the scheme will help tenants avoid falling foul of unscrupulous landlords. In turn this will help continue to drive up the standards of housing in the private rented sector.

Become a member

From early October landlords across Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Maldon, Tendring and Uttlesford will be able to enlist in the scheme for an annual fee of £95.

To be members of the ELAS landlords will need to

  • demonstrate that their properties are safe to live in
  • ensure that their tenants have valid Tenancy Agreements
  • ensure that all faults reported by their tenants are dealt with in good time
  • have valid gas certificates and Energy Performance Certificates for their properties
  • lodge deposits provided by their tenants in line with statutory legislation

Join the Essex Landlord Accreditation Scheme

Standards

Councillor Dave Stallan, responsible for Housing at Epping Forest District Council said: “Joining this new scheme will provide landlords across Epping Forest with the support to ensure they are meeting a number of set standards and will allow tenants to see that their accommodation is of a good quality of living.”

“The district council is working with its partners across Essex to implement the ELAS in Epping Forest, so I would encourage all landlords in the local area to sign up to this scheme.”

Major benefits

Essex County Council’s Cabinet member for Libraries, Communities and Planning, Cllr Roger Hirst, said: “There are thousands of households living in the county’s private rented sector. This scheme has major benefits for both tenants and landlords.”

“Model landlords will help drive up the standards of private rented housing. To ensure this is maintained spot checks will be carried out to ensure they are continuing to fulfil the standard needed to be part of the scheme.”

“We are committed to working with our partners across the borough, district and city councils to attract the businesses we need to continue growing the Essex economy. This scheme is part of that ongoing work.”

Community safety

Backed by Essex County Council, the scheme will be managed by CFOA Blue Watch which was set up by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association to make living accommodation safer across the UK. With a focus on the prevention of fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and other potentially fatal risks in the home, CFOA Blue Watch is well placed to add value to the scheme.

Adam Eckley, Acting Chief Fire Officer, Essex County Fire & Rescue Service said: “ECFRS is delighted to be working with Blue Watch on this innovative new scheme which has its inaugural launch today in Essex.”

“Community safety is our prime concern and there are landlords in our county who fail to meet their responsibilities; that puts tenants and their families at risk. We believe this tri-partite approach will help to weed out the minority element that chooses not to comply with good practice either through ignorance or intent.”

Local Council Tax Support scheme consultation

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Grants, Housing, Media, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

We need your views on our Local Council Tax Support scheme – a scheme designed to help people in financial need to pay their Council Tax.

People of pension age have been protected by the Government and they have their own scheme for Local Council Tax Support. For people of working age, the council has had to design a scheme for them that is less generous than the scheme for pensioners because of a reduced grant from the Government.

It is important that we get views from anyone connected with the district because there is a balance between how to fund any money paid out against implementing a scheme that leaves an amount of council tax that is affordable and can be collected.

The results of the consultation will be presented to councillors who will decide whether to make any changes to the scheme for 2015/2016.

Our consultation will close on the 19 October 2014.

Find out more

Find out more about the Local Council Tax Support scheme consultation.