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

 

 

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!”

 

Council tax staff act up in Loughton

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Community, Council tax, Local business, Loughton, Media, Older people, Our attractions, Out and about, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Students at the East 15 Acting School in Loughton were helped by council tax staff during their induction week in an innovative new scheme to reduce administration costs and ease stress on students.

On Wednesday 1 October council tax staff helped 240 students register their council tax student certificate, enabling them to be exempt from or pay a reduced rate of council tax. This is the second year the council has worked with the Student Support team and sent council tax staff to the East 15 Acting School during their induction week.

Students Radu Zatreanu and Greta Petkova

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

Council tax for students

Full-time students are not usually counted when calculating the council tax and if everyone living at the property is a full-time student, no-one is counted and the property is exempt. This means there is nothing to pay. To claim the reduction or exemption, the council must see the student certificate, which is provided by the education provider.

Many of the students were first year students and come from outside the Epping Forest district. Council tax staff also gave advice on behalf of other councils including Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Havering and Tower Hamlets among many others.

Fantastic new scheme

Peter Freeman, Council Tax Officer said: “This fantastic new scheme works well for both the council and students. It allows us to get the correct paperwork from students at the start of the year, avoiding unnecessary administration costs and stress to the students.”

“The students also use the opportunity to ask us questions on a variety of topics ranging from ‘what and how can I recycle?’, ‘where do I catch the bus?’ and even ‘where’s the nearest restaurant?’.

Successful registration of our students

Andrew McCarthy, Student Support Officer said: “We have been working closely with Epping Forrest District Council to ensure all our students are registered and the required paperwork has been completed. During induction week we encourage our students to integrate with the local community. Part of this process is ensuring council tax certificates are submitted successfully.”

“Over the past 2 years our links with the council tax department have grown and we are delighted with the presence on campus to enable the successful registration of our students.”

Want to know more?

GOV.UK council tax information for students

 

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.

 

Friends remembered at Council meeting

Written on . Posted in Building control, Chairman, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Elections, Housing, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Meetings, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council

The latest meeting of Epping Forest District Council began in sombre terms as councillors paid tribute to former councillors, Penny Smith, Ken Avey and Joan Davis who all recently passed away.

Tributes

Council Chairman, Councillor Tony Boyce invited Councillor Stephen Murray to offer his reflections about Joan. He described her as the Good Samaritan in action and the first non-conservative chairman of the Council. He recalled the aplomb with which she rose to the challenge of the chairmanship. Coming from a London political family, Stephen Murray said it was our good fortune that she chose to raise her own family and make her life in our district. In conversations with local people, Councillor Murray reported how the word ‘passionate’ so often described Joan in their reminiscences.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of the Council echoed the words of tribute by Councillor Murray. He then went on to speak in moving terms of sitting Councillors Penny Smith and Ken Avey. Recalling, some of his most recent conversations with Ken, he brought a smile to the face of fellow councillors as he described Ken’s campaign for parking. Councillor Whitbread said that Epping Forest was a better place for Joan, Penny and Ken.

Councillor Penny Smith represented the neighbouring ward to Councillor Mary Sartin. Councillor Sartin described Penny as her mentor and friend. Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens speaking as a fellow resident of Loughton, recalled with warmth the dedication with which Joan worked on behalf of the community of Debden. He felt her passing represented the end of an era.

Councillor Antony Watts brought another smile to a subdued council chamber by recalling the mischievous way in which he would ‘press Joan’s buttons’ with his references to her beloved ‘Debden – or Loughton’, and their common interest in Queens Park Rangers.

Further smiles were to be seen as Councillor Will Breare-Hall reminisced about his early experiences of Ken Avey. Councillors Jon Whitehouse, Maggie McEwen, Peter Gode and Gary Waller added to the tributes before Council Chief Executive Glen Chipp offered his condolences and reminiscences on behalf of the council’s staff.

Councillor Boyce thanked everyone for the heartfelt tributes which had united councillors across the political groups of the chamber.

Council meeting Monday 28 July 2014

Questions to members

Questions to members of the cabinet included the issues of new sixth forms for the district, highways, the recent flash flooding, leisure, business rates, housing and the ongoing involvement of Parish and Town Councils in the preparation of the Local Plan.

Individual Electoral Registration (IER)

Major changes to the way in which residents register to vote are progressing well. Governance Portfolio Holder Councillor John Philip provided an update on Individual Elector Registration. He was very pleased to announce that the process of registering voters was going extremely well. 96 percent of residents are due to receive confirmation letters after successful ‘data matching’. Less than 4,000 matches will require further investigation, an extremely good success rate at this stage in the new process.

The General Election in 2015 is expected to be the first major test of the new registration process.

St John’s Road, Epping

Council agreed a budget of £35,000 to meet the cost of legal fees associated with the ongoing St John’s Road negotiations.

The freehold of the area is currently divided between Essex County Council (the former Epping Junior School – 2.59 acres), Epping Forest District Council (the Housing Depot – 0.59 acres) and Epping Town Council (Epping Hall – 0.54 acres). The councils agreed a joint Development Brief to co-ordinate development and ensure the maximum economic and community benefit for Epping.

Following twelve bids from residential developers, 2 bids from Care Home operators, and three mixed use bids the councils agreed to an exclusive fixed negotiating period of 4 weeks with Frontier Estates.

The Frontier Estate proposal is for a food store of approximately 12,900 square feet, a public car park with an estimated 173 spaces, a small cinema, restaurants, ancillary commercial uses and residential development. Part of the Centrepoint building would be refurbished at the developer’s cost and the freehold granted to Epping Town Council. The main access to the food store would be from Epping High Street, whilst there would be access for servicing from St John’s Road.

Straw bale award

Straw Bale award
The pioneering partnership that used straw bales as the main construction material in new affordable houses at High Ongar received another award at Full Council. Kevin Hartnett and Ulrike Maccariello of Hastoe housing association received the Local Authority Building Control East Anglia Building Excellence Award from Cabinet Portfolio Holders John Philip, David Stallan with Stephanie Newton of the Council’s Building Control section.

The High Ongar development now goes through to the national finals to be announced in November.

 

St John’s Road, Epping Update

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Consultation, Epping, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

As discussion continues on social media regarding the future of St John’s Road, Epping Forest District Council has published a summary of the current position.

The St John’s Road site in Epping is owned by three separate organisations. Essex County Council is the major land owner with property including the library and the former school. Epping Forest District Council is the next largest owner with the Housing depot. Finally Epping Town Council has its parish office in St John’s Road. St John’s Church is the other major land owner in the area. It has been consulted on the ideas for the surrounding area but is not a direct part of the main proposals.

St John’s is a major site in the heart of Epping. It is important to try to avoid piecemeal development and ensure as far as we are able, that any redevelopment maximises the benefits to the town, its businesses and its residents. Over the last couple of years, the three organisations as land owners have therefore been trying to produce a joint development brief which would enabled the co-ordinated redevelopment of this area.

The development brief is not a planning application or planning permission.

The development brief has been progressing at a steady pace. It is a vision of what might be achieved and was produced following extensive consultation with local residents and businesses. Each of the three land owners is now moving forward to a point where we might be able to make an agreement with a developer on what we would like to see at St John’s Road.

However, only once that process is completed would the entirely separate process of drawing up planning applications take place and there is of course no guarantee of success at that stage. Any planning applications would have to be looked at entirely independently of the land owning interests of the councils. There would be public consultation and opportunities for anyone to make comments on the plans. There is therefore a considerably long way to go before anyone can say that the future of St John’s is agreed.

St John’s is due to be discussed by members of the Epping Forest District Council Cabinet on Monday 21 July. Due to the commercially sensitive nature of the reports (the Council needs to ensure it achieves the best value for money on behalf of its residents) the debate is likely to be held in private.

 

Were you affected by the winter floods?

Written on . Posted in Business, Business rates, Commercial properties, Drainage, Emergencies, Housing, Local business, Media, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your environment, Your home

We have a number of measures in place to support residents and businesses affected by the recent floods. They include repair and renewal grants, council tax exemption and the business rates relief scheme.

Financial support, in the form of grant schemes and reliefs, is available for homes and businesses that were affected by flooding between 1 December 2013 and 31 March 2014.

We can assist with

  • Flood resilience grants for residents whose homes were flooded
  • Business rate relief and flood resilience grants for businesses affected by flooding

Driving through flood water at Broadley Common

Repair and renewal grant

Residents or businesses should contact the Private Sector Housing Grants Team for information on the repair and renewal grant.

Download the form

Please return your completed form to the address on the back page by 31 August 2014.

Business rates

Businesses should contact the council’s business rates office for details of business rate relief.

Find out more

 

£5.1 million housing scheme discussed at Cabinet

Written on . Posted in Councillors, Democracy, Energy efficiency, Housing, Housing repairs, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Meetings, Parking, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Councillor David Stallan presented a list of potential sites for new council houses at the Cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 3 March 2014.

Council housebuilding

Reporting back from the Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee, the Housing Portfolio Holder’s report identified a wealth of potential sites in towns and villages across the district.

12 sites, 6 of which could provide up to 185 dwellings were identified plus a potential £5 million scheme to provide 31 flats or more on the site of the council depot in Burton Road off the Broadway in Loughton. 6 small sites could accommodate another 26 homes for local people.

Cabinet approved recommendations of the committee to develop plans for various sites spread around the district’s towns and villages on a rotational basis so that all areas are able to benefit from new affordable housing.

Councillors also supported the development of sites in areas where most housing applicants live and that sites able to deliver greater numbers of new homes be prioritised over other areas where fewer homes can be developed.

Existing tenants and leaseholders can also look forward to a range of improvements to their homes after Cabinet agreed improvements and enhancements to the council’s housing stock.

Among the enhancements are

  • Front door fire safety replacement
  • Oakwood Hill Estate enhancements
  • Communal kitchen refurbishment – sheltered housing schemes
  • Mobility scooter stores – sheltered housing schemes
  • Garden maintenance for older and vulnerable tenants
  • WiFi at Norway House – homeless persons hostel
  • Feasibility study for replacement homeless persons accommodation at Norway House

Parking strategy

Local businesses and residents are to be consulted on Epping Forest District Council’s car parks strategy including tariffs for short and long-stay Pay and Display car parks.

Pay and Display tariffs have not been increased by the council for 5 years. However, Councillor Gary Waller reported with some regret ‘that all good things must come to an end’ and that some modest increase in Pay and Display was inevitable. Detailed long-term consideration of parking charges across short and long stay car parks would be incorporated into the consultation process of the new strategy.

Solar panels

Solar panels are to be installed at the main civic offices of Epping Forest District Council. The investment of £80,000 is expected to be recouped by the council through lower energy bills within 8 years. It will also reduce the council’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.