Epping Forest District Council welcomed the first tenants into John Scott Court, Waltham Abbey this week.
50 guests gathered for the official opening ceremony, an event which marked the completion of Phase One of the Council’s House-building Programme to provide 23 new affordable rented homes in Waltham Abbey.
The development is named after former District Health and Housing Officer and Joint Chief Executive John Scott as a tribute to decades of service to the Council and the local community.
Guests, including John Scott, MP Eleanor Laing and local councillors joined council officers, contractors and tenants to open the nine newly built homes at John Scott Court, all of which are being let to local residents in need of housing.
Energy efficient homes
The brand new energy-efficient homes, which are built to Lifetime Homes Standards, are built on a formerly under-used garage site.
Resident delighted with her new home
One new tenant, who was delighted to move into her new home said: “I moved in last week and am so happy in my new home. I am very impressed with the size of the rooms, my son has lots of space for his toys. I’ve shown lots of friends and neighbours around my flat and they all want to live here!”
Programme of over 300 homes
The new homes at John Scott Court are the latest completions in the district-wide programme of over 300 new affordable homes to be built during the next 10 years. They will shortly be followed by the completion of Phase 2 of the Programme in Burton Road, Loughton, which is on schedule to complete by March 2018.
Proud to work with residents
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing attended the official opening and said: “We are committed to making the best use of our housing stock and are continuing to build new homes for people in housing need within our community. We are proud to be working with residents and partners, building more well-designed homes for affordable rent in our district”.
After the ceremony there was an opportunity to visit another new development of six houses and flats at Hockley court, Waltham Abbey.
A new Police helicopter base, anti- social behaviour in Waltham abbey and the Oakwood hill depot were among items discussed at Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet meeting Thursday 7 September 2017.
North Weald set to become new Police helicopter base
North Weald Airfield is set to become a new base for the National Police Air Service. Three helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft will be based at the council-owned airfield.
Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg put forward recommendations for a 25 year lease with the helicopter service. The proposals would include a new hanger and buildings to support a range of police helicopter activities.
The Police will be joining a range of other aviation tenants including the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance which has operated very successfully from North Weald for several years. Receiving reassurances about flight lines and noise levels from members of the National Police Air Service at the meeting, councillors welcomed the report and the aspiration for continued development of aviation at North Weald.
Councillor Sam Kane was welcomed to his first Cabinet meeting as Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder by Council Leader Chris Whitbread. Councillor Kane has stepped into the role previous held by Councillor Gary Waller who recently passed away.
Councillor Kane’s first act was to deliver a strong statement regarding anti-social behaviour in Waltham Abbey.
Councillor Sam Kane’s Statement:
“Fellow Councillors will know that Epping Forest District Council is working in partnership with local residents and other organisations to improve the quality of life for everyone in and around Hillhouse on the Ninefields housing estate in Waltham Abbey.
Work has started in just the last few weeks on a brand new leisure centre. Health, housing and social facilities are coming together in a major multi-million pound investment.
The vast majority of residents in this area are the most decent and law-abiding citizens you could ever wish to meet. We also know there is an element of anti-social behaviour, a group of people who seem intent on making the lives of everyone else miserable. We are working with all our partners including Essex Police to tackle this behaviour but events in the last day or so have taken a new and very ugly twist.
Fishing line has been tied at knee height between posts and fences with the deliberate intention of tripping and hurting people. This mindless and stupid act has resulted in injury to a small child. Pictures of the serious cuts to his face have been circulated on social media.
I know this will come as a shock to you and I know every councillor would wish to send our sympathy to this innocent young child and his family.
Local residents and all right-minded people will be incensed by this latest incident. Through this meeting I want to let our residents know that we stand with them. The anti-social behaviour of the last few weeks must now stop.
A temporary dispersal order has been put in place from tonight. You will appreciate that many other things are going on behind the scenes that I cannot discuss in public.
Council staff have been working incredibly hard. Plans of action drawn up with Essex Police even before this latest event are being put into effect now. We believe we know who the perpetrators are. It saddens me to say that they are very young. We have been working with our local schools and have passed the identities of the perpetrators to Essex Police.
Enough is enough. Anti-social behaviour is a blight on our communities which must end. As the action plan goes into effect, I expect to see the situation improve significantly. I also know that you can never eliminate all crime, but with the support of my council colleagues I want to send out a clear message. We stand with all the decent and law-abiding residents of Waltham Abbey.
We will not let the few ruin the lives of the many.”
New council office and depot facilities accommodating Grounds Maintenance, Fleet Maintenance and the MoT centre opened recently at Oakwood Hill in Loughton. Latest proposals for the transfer of the Council’s Housing Repairs service to Oakwood Hill were scrutinised at Cabinet.
Proposals for additional staff car parking received particular attention. A petition opposing the use of green space opposite the new facility was delivered by Councillor Chris Roberts.
Councillors agreed the recommendations in the Cabinet report with the proviso that alternatives to the proposals of additional parking would also be investigated. Full public consultation would also take place as part of any planning application process if the proposals for parking set out in the report went forward.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread updated fellow councillors on a range of projects geared towards improving customer service including a new public customer service reception, plans for which are due to come before Cabinet by the end of the year.
A social media story about tenants trashing a council house in Waltham Abbey that went viral with 700,000 views in two days was wrong. Epping Forest District Council is publicising details of what actually happened to set people’s minds at rest.
The property is actually vacant, the former tenant having recently passed away. The Council got the keys back at the beginning of the month and contractors were clearing it out ready for refurbishment as part of routine maintenance and upgrade before re-letting.
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Housing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: “Councillors became aware of a social media storm over the weekend. A very strongly worded video showing old appliances, bath, sink and other rubbish piled in the back garden was being shared very widely. It was based on the completely mistaken assumption that new tenants had moved into the house and were ripping it apart. Blame was being attached to ‘foreign’ tenants with comments about people from other countries being put before local people.”
“In fact, the contractor clearing the house did not speak good English, leading to some confusion. However, they were actually working extremely hard to ensure the house was ready for the old fixtures and fittings to be cleared away on Monday, ready for work on the refurbishment to start with the minimum of delay.”
Must live in district for 5 years
“The Council’s housing policy says council housing applicants must have been resident in the district for a minimum of 5 years. Once the house has been refurbished, it will be let to a family in need of a new home on our housing waiting list.”
The power of social media
Councillor Stavrou, continued: “I am sorry for all the anxiety and inconvenience this has caused. These kinds of works are routine and usually cause no trouble. However, this instance shows how powerful social media can be and how careful people need to be before leaping to conclusions. We can all take lessons from it.”
Concerned? Contact the council
”I have asked our contractor to apologise to the neighbours. I will ask our contractors in future to post an explanatory card through the letter boxes of neighbouring residents before carrying out this type of work, and hopefully, next time residents have concerns, they will ring us first, before such misleading messages go viral.”
Timeline of events
1 June – The Council received the empty property keys. 2 June – The Council’s contractor inspected the property. 5 June – Asbestos report (always required before refurbishment work) requested. 9 June – AM Asbestos report received. 9 June – PM Contractors go in.
This property had lots of the former tenant’s (deceased) household items to be removed before refurbishment work could start.
Items including the bath, basin and WC are being removed and renewed.
Items placed in garden for collection via back gate.
12 June – Garden scheduled to be cleared today (Monday 12 June).
The garden will be returned to its existing condition on completion of the refurbishment.
Photographs are taken before work starts to make sure the house and garden are returned a good standard at the end of the refurbishment.
23 June – Planned completion date. 26 June – Inspection and return of keys for re-letting.
The budget, Careline, Epping Forest District Council’s 24 hour emergency monitoring service for older people and investment in the Council’s housing stock were among items discussed at Cabinet 2 February 2017.
Leader of Council Councillor Chris Whitbread complimented Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra and his staff on the freeze for the seventh successive year.
Councillor Whitbread also updated Cabinet on the progress of the Council’s transformation programme which continues to look at more efficient ways of working and using the Civic Offices to its full potential.
Councillors have taken steps to protect the future provision of Carline, the Council’s 24 hour emergency monitoring service for elderly and vulnerable people living within the district.
Cabinet received a report presented by Communities Select Committee Chairman Councillor Yolanda Knight setting out proposals for the long term enhancement and protection of the service in partnership with an external provider, instead of providing the monitoring service by the Council itself.
Councillor Knight reassured councillors that the Careline service itself will still be provided by the Council, it was only the monitoring service that would be provided by a new provider, on behalf of the Council.
She said that the Council’s own Monitoring Control Centre has provided an excellent and reliable service since June 1984 and has always meet every requirement set by the TSA (Telecare Service Association). However, as the ageing population of the district continues to grow, demands upon Careline have increased leading to difficulty maintaining staff cover to the levels expected by the Council and now required by the TSA.
In line with the British Standard, moving the Careline monitoring services to another provider will increase the number of operators monitoring the network. It will also:
Ensure no gaps in service
Allow other Careline services to be offered
Enable more alarms to be fitted across the district
Bring safety, security and peace of mind to more residents across the district
Reduce the overall cost of the Careline Service
Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou, and Councillors Anne Grigg and Will Breare-Hall all spoke in support of the proposal, emphasising the importance of arranging a smooth transfer. They also complimented the service on the high standard that has been provided over the years, while looking forward to the continued expansion of its vital work under new arrangements.
£3.6m investment in repairs to empty Council Homes
Cabinet approved the letting of two major housing maintenance contracts worth £3.6 million over three years.
As existing tenants transfer into vacant Council properties, there is a need to repair, and the opportunity to improve and upgrade the properties, before they are re-let to new tenants.
Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou reported that following inviting tenders from six companies, Cabinet was being asked to appoint Graceland’s CMS LTD and Mears PLC. Cabinet approved the recommendations and were pleased to appoint both contactors as both have previously carried out work to empty properties for the Council to a high standard.
New phone connections saving Epping Forest District Council and its tax payers £12,000 a year are set to go live this weekend (17 February to 20 February).
Out of hour’s services
Subject to go ahead, temporary emergency numbers will be used during the switch.
The council has planned the switch at the quietest time of the week to minimise service disruption.
During the switch the two emergency out of hours contact numbers (01992 564000 and 01992 564199 for housing) will temporarily change while the council works with BT.
To contact EFDC out of hours from 5pm on Friday 17 February to 9am on Monday 20 February please call:
Housing Repairs Emergency 0203 589 3012
Any other Emergency 0203 589 3013
Moving phone connections from an analogue to a digitally based internet system will:
Make an annual saving of £12,000
Makes it easier to move phone answering to other locations
Improve phone resilience
Protect vital services
There will be no difference in how residents contact the council via phone as all phone numbers will remain the same and there will be no increase any call charges.
Small changes making a big difference
Technology and Support Services Portfolio Holder Councillor Alan Lion said: “We are planning another 0% increase in Council Tax this year. This is the latest in a series of investments. From double glazing to LED lighting and solar panels it all adds up. Relatively small savings like our new connections to our phone system can play a large part in keeping Council Tax down at the end of the year.”
Empty homes week runs from 28 November to 2 December 2016. During this week we will highlight the incentives to bring empty homes back into use.
In the Epping Forest district there are 410 properties which have been empty for more than 6 months.
Why are properties left empty?
Properties are left empty for a variety of reasons but they can be the source of much misery to neighbours who have to live nearby. It is estimated that the home next door to an empty property can be devalued by 10%. There is also the worry of nuisance, vermin, arson, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
For the owner, an empty property is a wasted resource and can be costly in terms of increased insurance, increased council tax premiums, property fraud, emergency repairs and break-ins.
We are committed to reducing the number of empty properties on the district and can offer financial help in certain circumstances. It is recognised that 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
The Empty Homes Repayable Assistance offers up to £10,000 if there is an empty property that you intend to live in yourself, but is in poor condition. The money is repaid when you eventually sell the property
The PLACE Loan 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 out. 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
We always prefer to work with owners in a constructive way. We have certain enforcement powers that we may use to ensure an empty property is brought back to use, particularly if it has been empty a long time and is problematic to the local community.
Help owners in every way we can
Councillor Syd Stavrou Deputy Leader and Housing Portfolio Holder said: “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 as a last resort.”
Report an empty property
If you are aware of an empty property let us know. We will need the address and any other information. We will do our best to contact the owner, work with them to bring the property back to use. All calls are treated in confidence.
Report an empty property to the Empty Property Officer
‘Stay well this winter’ events have been taking place across the district preparing residents for the colder months.
Health and wellbeing event
These free events in partnership with the West Essex Clinical Commissioning group include:
Advice on managing prescription medicines
Advice on where to access to help i.e. pharmacies, NHS Choices, GP, NHS111 or A&E
Informative talks from pharmacist, nurses and specialist health care advisors
Free health care checks
The event also includes useful help and advice from:
NHS falls prevention
The Alzheimer’s society
East of England Ambulance
East od England Fire Service
The events conclude with some light entertainment from ‘Elvis’ and a goody bag.
View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture below and then click start slideshow
Know the steps you can take
So far ‘stay well this winter ‘has visited The Zinc Arts Centre in Ongar and The Limes Centre Chigwell.
One participant said ‘The talks were very informative and it was good to have a chance to speak to lots of professional in one place’
Karen Murray, EFDC Community Engagement said: ‘These events are a great opportunity for people to know the steps they can take to protect themselves, family and friends over the colder months and to have a bit of fun together whilst enjoying a performance from Elvis’.
Come and join us
The last ‘stay well this winter’ will take place:
Wednesday 16 November
8 Station Road, Loughton IG10 4NX
Please note that the events run all day and include a free lunch.
Booking is required, please call to confirm a place.
Are you over 60, disabled or on a low income? Do you need help to improve, repair or adapt your home?
If you answer yes to both our C.A.R.E. scheme may be able to help you.
C.A.R.E. stands for Caring and Repairing in Epping Forest. It is a Home Improvement Agency run by Epping Forest District Council to provide both practical and technical help to people to remain at home in greater comfort, warmth and security.
Schemes available to provide home adaptations, improvements and repairs
Local authority funding and ways to pay for works
Home visits and inspections of agreed works
Advice on the scale and cost of any necessary works
Help with choosing a reputable and reliable builder
Project management of agreed work
Help to complete forms for local authority funding
We also offer financial assistance and grants to home owners, private tenants and landlords
Disabled Facilities Grants – up to £30,000
Decent Homes Repayable Assistance – up to £10,000
Small Works Repayable Assistance – up to £3,000
Empty Homes Repayable Assistance – up to £10,000
Improving homes and lives
Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou said: “We want people to stay in their own homes for as long as they can, but sometimes as people get older they may need help to adapt their homes or to carry out repairs and maintenance.”
“Caring and Repairing in Epping Forest is here to support you to stay in your home and provides practical help that makes a difference – improving homes and improving lives.”