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.

Cabinet reports to Council on 6 November

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The runway at North Weald Airfield, Council Tax freeze, local plan, recycling, welfare reform were all discussed at the full meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 6 November 2012.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Asset Management Portfolio Holder informed members that Halcrow were in the process of being appointed to undertake some non-invasive testing of the structure of the main North Weald runway. This testing is intended to ensure that the runway is suitable for its current uses and will also inform the strategic review of the Airfield.

Councillor Grigg also reported that Cabinet at its meeting in September agreed to commission a strategic review of North Weald Airfield, to be undertaken as part of the development of the new Local Plan. The review should be completed and reported back to councillors in time for the recommended outcomes to become part of the Local Plan “Preferred Options” consultation scheduled to commence in the summer of 2013.

Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Will Breare-Hall was pleased to report improvement in recycling figures with the quarter 2 out-turn at 62%. In a similar vein, the results for dealing with litter and detritus are also ahead of target.

Councillor Breare-Hall also drew attention to the use of new CCTV cameras in The Broadway, Loughton which have provided a number of leads for fly-tipping investigations. He noted discussions between council officers and Epping Ongar Railway where very few new complaints have been received concerning the heritage railway.

Councillor Breare-Hall’s report concluded with news that following extensive remedial work, the former Bobbingworth Tip has achieved Queen Elizabeth II Field designation. It is now a tranquil and attractive open space. Councillor Breare-Hall said it was a great testament to the hard work of all those involved. A robust commemorative plaque will be placed on site.

Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder reported on the Welfare Reform Mitigation Plan consideration of a proposed new Tenancy Policy and Housing Allocations Scheme for the district.

Councillor Chris Whitbread recommended www.visiteppingforest.org  as one of the new initiatives designed to support and stimulate the local economy through tourism and other avenues. Referring to feedback on the Local Plan, Councillor Whitbread confirmed he had been in discussion with Eleanor Laing MP for Epping Forest concerning many of the issues raised in the Community Choices consultation.

Councillor Mrs Syd Stavrou informed councillors that the Government’s announcement of the latest Financial Settlement would not be made until late December.

Councillor Stavrou had previously announced the Cabinet’s intention to freeze Council Tax for another year. The Government has subsequently announced a grant equivalent to a 1% increase in Council Tax for authorities freezing their charge. Councillor Stavrou was pleased to confirm that Cabinet agreed the parameters set for the 2013/14 budget include no increase in the Council Tax.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder responded to questions put by members of the public as well as councillors in respect of the Local Plan. He repeated previous assurances that no decisions had been taken on the policies to be included in the new Local Plan. Many public responses had been received in response to the recent Community Choices consultation. Population predictions formed a key element in the forecasts of future development need and Councillor Bassett confirmed he would be meeting regional planning experts in the near future to discuss the latest estimates.

Reports by Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder Councillor Liz Webster noted progress on the construction of the new ‘3rd Generation Astroturf’ pitch at Town Mead in Waltham Abbey an a number of successful funding bids including.

• £23,500 for adult training in subjects such as IT
• £39,000 for ‘Transitions’ a professional development programme for carers work with people with dementia
• £27,500 of initial Heritage Lottery Funding towards a bid for £1,165,000 for the expansion of Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey

Loughton Leisure Centre users can look forward to better facilities following a decision to spend £240,000 on improvements. Epping Forest District Council will obtain a reduction in its annual management fee to Sports Leisure Management (SLM) of £88,000 per year in exchange for one-off capital funding to improve changing facilities at Loughton Leisure Centre. The deal equates to a three per cent return on investment on the £240,000 capital sum with the added bonus of spending the money to improve the Council’s own property for the benefit of Leisure Centre users.

Councillor Gary Waller Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder answered questions ranging from parking reviews to the merits of the forthcoming elections for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner. He also thanked Councillor Leon Girling for suggesting a presentation to Loughton Broadway businesses on the capabilities of the new CCTV systems.

Business Briefing hot off the press and brimming with news for local businesses

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The October 2012 edition of ‘one business briefing’ is available. Produced by EFDC, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest District.  The briefing  is designed to report on  business funding opportunities/access to finance, business support, workshops/events for business and local economic development initiatives.

The October edition highlights a new training grant available from Essex County Council which is available to businesses but those eligible must be quick as the grant is only available from now until March 2013. The briefing also highlights specific support available to manufacturing and construction businesses in the Epping Forest district.  If you are looking to set-up in business the briefing directs individuals to support being offered by HMRC, including its free and informal workshop sessions held in Epping.

Read the October 2012 edition – One Business Briefing

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘one business briefing’ directly to your email inbox please email vwillis@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

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.

Full Council 27 September

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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.

Proposed Fieldes Lock Power Station

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Land at Ratty’s Lane, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Veolia Environmental Services (UK) is proposing to construct and operate a rail-linked power station at this site and have submitted a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State via the Planning Inspectorate (application reference number EN010046).

It falls within the definition of a “nationally significant infrastructure project” under Section 52(2) of the Planning Act 2008 and therefore will be determined by the Secretary of State, not the local planning authority. The site is within Broxbourne Borough Council but is close to the western boundary of Epping Forest District Council.

Any comments must be made direct to the Planning Inspectorate by no later than 19 October 2012. Please follow the attached links for details of the application, where the information is available to view and how to make comments.

Read a brief summary of the project

View the detailed application documents at the Planning Inspectorate’s website

Comment on the application at the Planning Inspectorate’s website

Read the guidance notes on the responding to the application

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.

Cabinet discuss St John’s Road development

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A meeting of the Cabinet, on Monday 10 September, began with a series of public questions concerning the recently-published draft St John’s Road design and development brief. Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Anne Grigg responded to each in turn including:

  • Retail and leisure use
  • Ownership
  • Access
  • Impact on neighbouring property values
  • Character and environmental impact of options
  • Public feedback on the options in the recent consultation

View questions and the debate

Councillor Grigg reminded Cabinet of the ownership of St John’s Road, in particular Essex County Council which controls the future of the former primary school, library and registry office.

Turning to the substantive report, Councillor Grigg reported the significant public opposition to a large supermarket. She introduced Mr Steve Walker to present the Development and Design Brief prepared by Allies Morrison Urban Practitioners.

Mr Walker noted the relocation of the primary school as a driving factor and took Cabinet through a description of the recent public consultation. 4 options were tabled for public consideration:

  1. Retail led
  2. Leisure led
  3. Retail and leisure
  4. Residential

More than 800 responses were received. Online responses were particularly popular with residents. Improved sport and leisure was by far the most important consideration raised by residents. Protection of existing historic buildings and the character of town were also very important. Also provision for adult education.

Options for a large supermarket drew the most significant opposition. Retail uses could have potential, provided they complement the existing town centre.

The brief leaves open the possibility of leisure and sports provision, potentially in conjunction with redevelopment of the Hemnall Street sports centre site. Further work is being carried out to assess the viability and impact of such a proposal. Mr Walker reminded Cabinet that as the major landowner, Essex County Council is seeking to realise as much money from the sale of its land holdings as possible having provided the new school .

Councillor Will Breare-Hall recognised the value of the consultation and welcomed the inclusion of  sports and leisure in response to public wishes. Councillor Richard Bassett Planning Portfolio Holder wished to know if Essex County Council as the major land owner had acknowledged local feeling.

Responding to Councillor John Philip, Councillor Bassett, noted the links between St John’s Road and the work going on to produce a new Local Plan.

Councillor Anne Grigg summed up by saying that this was an opportunity for Epping. Subject to any further minor changes, the draft St John’s Road Development Brief will be recommended for approval by Full Council on 27 September.

Residents urged to take part in consultation – Local Plan video

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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

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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.”