Gypsy and Traveller Pitch Challenge

Written on . Posted in Community, Gypsy and traveller, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

In a strongly worded letter, Epping Forest District councillors are demanding a ministerial meeting to review the Government Direction for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision in Epping Forest District.

At the Full Council meeting on 19 January 2010, Councillor Di Collins, Leader of the Council received the go ahead to issue the demand to The Right Honourable John Healey MP, Minister for Housing and Planning.

In the letter, Councillor Collins draws the Minister`s attention to the substantial increase in provision of authorised pitches since the Government Direction. She states that the workload associated with continuation of the Government Direction is putting other planning priorities at risk. She will seek approval for the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document to be subsumed within the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. The support of all three local MPs and the Shadow Minister has also been sought.

The Minister is reminded that the new planning framework was supposed to streamline processes and reduce costs. The Government Direction seems to have created the opposite effect.

In presenting the latest report and letter to the Council, Councillor Collins emphasised the importance of the role played by the local community in helping to form the evidence to back up the Council`s demands.

Epping Forest District Council is required to identify space to accommodate a minimum of 34 additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches by 2011. Through the normal planning process, permissions and approvals have reduced this figure to about 20. However, more than 10,500 people responded individually or as part of groups to the consultation on potential sites. This led to a massive evaluation exercise for Council staff which has taken far longer than the Government timetable envisaged.

The Council wants to streamline the process by subsuming the Gypsy and Traveller issues into the Core Strategy as part of the Local Development Framework. The LDF replaces the Local Plan as the `blue-print` for policies against which future planning applications are judged. Completion of the LDF is considered vital by the Council as it prepares with Harlow and East Herts District Councils to implement the recommendations of the East of England Plan.

The Council will continue the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document pending the Minister`s response.

Watch the webcast

watch the webcast of the Council meeting

Councillor Di Collins said: The Minister needs to listen to local residents and apply a common sense approach. Circumstances have changed. If the original Government Direction was ever necessary or appropriate, it certainly is not now. It is hampering everyone`s efforts, costing a huge amount of money and preventing the Council from moving forward on other important parts of the Local Development Framework. Enough is enough!

Council Appeal Against Gypsy and Traveller Direction

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Your council, Your environment

The Leader of Epping Forest District Council will appeal directly to the Government for the removal of the Direction requiring the Council to consult upon and develop a separate Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document. The letter to Right Honourable John Healey MP, Minister for Housing and Planning within the Department of Communities and Local Government was recommended at the Cabinet meeting on 4 January to Full Council on 19 January for final approval.

Councillor Di Collins will publish a letter on behalf of the Council drawing attention to the substantial increase in provision of authorised pitches since the Government Direction. She will state that the workload associated with continuation of the Government Direction is putting other planning priorities at risk. She will seek approval for the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document to be subsumed within the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. She will seek support from all three local MPs and the Shadow Minister.

Councillors also asked Councillor Collins to remind the Minister that the new planning framework was supposed to streamline processes and reduce costs. The Direction seems to have created the opposite effect. Councillors complimented the local community for the amount of work that had gone into the responses to the consultation and stressed that this evidence base was a key input to further work on the DPD.

Epping Forest District Council is required to identify space to accommodate a minimum of 34 additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches by 2011. Through the normal planning process, permissions and approvals have reduced this figure to about 20. However, more than 10,500 people responded individually or as part of groups to the consultation on potential sites. This led to a massive evaluation exercise for Council staff which has taken far longer than the Government timetable envisaged.

The Council wants to streamline the process by subsuming the Gypsy and Traveller issues into the Core Strategy as part of the Local Development Framework. The LDF replaces the Local Plan as the `blue-print` for policies against which future planning applications are judged. Completion of the LDF is considered vital by the Council as it prepares with Harlow and East Herts District Councils to implement the recommendations of the East of England Plan.

The Council will continue the preparation of the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document pending the Minister`s response.

Councillor Di Collins said: There is enormous strength of feeling among residents and councillors. We believe the original Government Direction was flawed. We are now appealing to the Minister to look at the outcome of that Direction – the process that Epping Forest District Council has followed – and listen to local residents and councillors and the evidence we have already collected. If he listens, I believe he must understand that the Direction should be lifted and local people should be trusted with the power to make decisions for ourselves.

No Gypsy and Traveller Discussion at Council Tonight

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Meetings, Your council

The Council is unable to consider the agenda item concerning the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document at the Council meeting tonight. This is following the postponement of last night’s Cabinet meeting, on Monday 21 December 2009, due to severe weather conditions.

Agreement has been given by the Leader of the Council to hold the rescheduled Cabinet meeting on Monday 4 January 2010. An extraordinary meeting of the Council will probably take place on Tuesday 19 January 2010, subject to the agreement of the Chairman of the Council.

Gypsy and Traveller Reduction

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Secretary of State published the final East of England Plan policy (H3) for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision on 20 July 2009. Epping Forest District Council is required to provide an additional 34 pitches in the period 2006 to 2011. This would mean that the minimum number of authorised pitches in the district should total 128 by 2011. The policy expects pitch provision to be made through a combination of Development Plan Documents (DPD) and development control decisions and that opportunities should be taken to secure provision within major developments.

Councillor Di Collins Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “We argued long and hard that the overall number of extra gypsy and traveller pitches allocated to our district was unfair in comparison to other Council areas. I am pleased we had some success. From an original draft allocation of 49, it was no mean feat to get the Government to reduce the figure to 34. However, I think the vast majority of Epping Forest residents will agree with me that the allocation is still too high and should have been much lower.

“Having confirmed our allocation, I think it is now up to the Government to listen very carefully to the views of local people about where the extra pitches should go in the district. Those decisions should be taken locally in conjunction with the needs of all our residents and not imposed by Government-appointed Inspectors.

The District Council is continuing to analyse responses made to the consultation for additional pitch locations within the district, which ran from November 2008 to February 2009. Discussions with GO-East about a revised timetable for submitting a draft DPD continue. Beyond 2011 the East of England Plan policy requires additional provision based on an annual 3% compound increase and advises that DPDs should consider the need for rural exception sites and the alteration of Green Belt boundaries.

The County of Essex and the Unitary Authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock are also required to make provision for 30 transit pitches by 2011.

Policy H4 deals with pitch provision for travelling show people and requires Essex, Southend and Thurrock to make provision for an additional 103 plots by 2011 with an annual 1.5% compound increase thereafter. Councils are again advised to consider rural exception sites and changes to Green Belt boundaries.

The implications of these two policies will be considered in the Autumn by the Council’s Local Development Framework Cabinet.

Gypsy and Traveller Pitch Provision Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Councillors, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District has bucked the regional trend with another reduction in the number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches allocated to the area. The number of proposed new pitches has been reduced by a further five to 34 by 2011 in the latest consultation issued by the Secretary of State on 27 March. The reduction follows an earlier recommendation to cut the number from 49 to 39.

The latest figures are published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Overall the Secretary of State proposes to increase the number of new pitches in the East of England from 1,187 to 1,237. Epping Forest is one of two Councils in Essex to argue successfully for further reductions. Basildon has had its provisional allocation cut by 19 to 62.

Both Councils remain top of the list for Gypsy and Traveller provision, Epping Forest forecast to accommodate 128 and Basildon 174 by 2011. Thurrock is next with 124. At the other end of the scale, Southend and Castle Point have been asked to provide 15 each.

The Secretary of State was commenting on the latest stage in the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy, a planning document that looks at the need for development, including housing. Residents have eight weeks to comment and respond to the Secretary of State. Submissions must be received by 5.00pm on Friday 22 May 2009.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council welcomed the latest reduction but felt there was still scope for further reductions. She said: This is a very sensitive issue. The Gypsy and Traveller communities have rights to adequate site provision but this needs to be balanced against the equally important needs of the settled community. Slowly but surely, our arguments for a fairer allocation of pitches across the region is gaining some success. There is still some way to go but we have clearly made progress. Everyone now has the chance to tell the Secretary of Sate directly what they think.

Links to the Government Office and online Government consultation can be found via Epping Forest District Council`s website www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Alternatively, write to:

Regional Planning Team
Go-East
Eastbrook
Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge
CB2 8DF

or e-mail gtproposedchanges@goeast.gsi.gov.uk

Local Strategic Partnership Meeting

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The co-ordinating group of local service organisations, Epping Forest Local Strategic Partnership Board welcomed its new Manager, John Houston on Thursday 26 February 2009. John will work for the whole group which includes local Councils, Essex County Council, West Essex PCT, Epping Forest College and Essex Police. Technically he is employed by Epping Forest District Council with funding support from the major statutory partners.

Agenda for Local Strategic Partnership Board meeting on 26 February 2009

Traveller and Gypsy Site Provision Consultation

Following introductions, the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Chairperson, Councillor Diana Collins of Epping Forest District Council moved to the first main agenda item, public consultation on future provision of sites for travellers and gypsies. The District Council`s Director of Planning and Economic Development, John Preston gave an outline of the consultation, one of the biggest undertaken by the Council. He explained how the Council would need to analyse the large number of responses and take the process forward. He also informed the LSP of the Planning Inspector`s recommendation to reduce the number of extra pitches from 49 to 39.

John Houston noted the role of the LSP to support disadvantaged people and acknowledged local concerns about the process. He invited the LSP to go through a discussion paper prepared on behalf of its members, to be submitted to the District Council as part of the consultation process. The LSP noted that around 90 pitches already existed in the District. Members of the group considered a number of issues in their discussion, including housing provision, health and fear of crime issues. It was felt that it was important for the LSP to be clear in terms of treating everyone equally and fairly. The group acknowledged the strength of local feeling.

`Credit Crunch` Response

Business input is needed for a co-ordinated response to the Credit Crunch, members of the LSP Board agreed. A Task and Finish Panel of Members will meet to develop ways in which Government Agencies and business might work together to stimulate and support the local economy.

Project Funding

The Essex Partnership has now confirmed that the bids from Epping Forest have been successful and an allocation of £453,855 has been made to support the schemes the Board has endorsed. The LSP Board will be able to move forward on all the proposals.

Projects will include an information guide on Home Safety, a supported volunteering project including opportunities that are tailored to meet personal development needs and pathways to work. People with learning difficulties will benefit from access to the Arts.

Further projects will help the emotional health and wellbeing of children, support for parents and holiday and after-school drop-in sessions for teenagers. Funding will help support vulnerable parents and carers in isolated rural communities. Investment in local CCTV will help to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

Smoking, Heart Disease, Obesity

Catherine O`Connell of West Essex Primary Care Trust outlined priorities for preventing early deaths in Epping Forest District. Issues of major concern include reducing smoking, combating heart disease and tackling childhood obesity which can lead to health problems in later life. Among other concerns for the area`s children was a lower than hoped for take up of the MMR vaccine. Instances of measles are increasing.

Local hospitals have made huge improvements in patient safety. MRSA infections in local hospitals are now lower than in many other areas.

Life expectancy of the population is improving overall and work is therefore focusing on narrowing the gap between those groups at the lower end of the life expectancy range and the top.

Catherine O`Connell was also proud of the PCT record in providing NHS dentists to any local resident who now needs one. Residents can be referred to their nearest available local dentist through just one phone call.

Housing Strategy

Epping Forest District Council`s Director of Housing, Alan Hall, presented a briefing on the latest developments of the Local Authority Draft Housing Strategy. Numbers and location of affordable housing, balancing urban and rural demand, meeting special needs and ensuring homes meet a high quality standard are enshrined in the latest draft.

More than 7,000 households are not in suitable housing while 1,300 families are assessed as in `housing need`. More families are listed on the Housing Register. Property prices are 11 times average earnings. Up to 2021 there is projected district-wide shortfall of 5,700 affordable homes. Building new affordable homes is closely associated with private sector development. The current slow-down in the commercial new-build market is therefore affecting the number of new-build affordable homes being developed.

Young people are moving out of the district due to high property prices and the population profile is of an increasingly ageing population.

Forty-five actions are listed in the draft plan to address housing issues. Among these actions are facilitating 200 affordable new homes by 2010. Ongoing work with local residents continues to prevent people becoming homeless. The Council will work with a Housing Association to provide a Mortgage Rescue Scheme. All Council homes are on course to achieve the ` Decent Homes ` standard by 2010.

Cabinet 5 February 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

A Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent is being recommended by Cabinet for adoption at the next full meeting of Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Cabinet also agreed a further extension of the ongoing public consultation on future provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

Watch the webcastView webcast of Cabinet meeting on 5 February 2009 (opens in a new window)

Budget

Against a very difficult national economic backdrop, Epping Forest District Council is set to achieve a low Council Tax precept increase of 2.5 per cent. For a family in an average Band D property, it means an increase of just £3.60 in the District Council precept for the entire year, or less than seven pence per week. It is likely to be one of the lowest Council Tax precepts set in Essex.

This comes despite reductions in income from investments, a very low financial settlement increase from Central Government of just £46,000, no increase in car parking charges and lower income from fees and charges. Drawing on reserves and finding compensatory savings of £300,000 per year, the Cabinet is charting a medium term strategy designed to bring the budget back into balance whilst assisting local businesses and residents through the forecast economic turndown.

Councillors re-iterated recent commitments to make faster payments for services provided by local businesses, an increase in rental loans to homeless people and introduction of a mortgage rescue scheme in partnership with the Citizens` Advice Bureau and Moat Housing Association.

The District Council will re-allocate money from the defunct Lighthouse Furniture Project in Epping Forest to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF). If successful in bidding for the tenancy of 15 Market Square, Waltham Abbey, VAEF will use District Council funding to support a new Furniture Exchange Scheme designed to help people on lower incomes who need good second-hand furniture and are unable to afford normal High Street prices. Long-term, the project aims to become self-financing.

Major investment in the domestic waste and recycling service is included within the budget. Councillors previously agreed to implement the favoured option of residents in recent public consultation. Enhancements to the service will see extension of recycling to include kitchen waste, collected weekly with garden refuse in a new wheelie bin.

Traveller and Gypsy Consultation

Rescheduled training, originally planned for late 2008 but actually received in January prompted Members to agree a further extension to the consultation period on traveller and gypsy site provision. The extension to 20 February will give local residents an additional two weeks in which to submit their views.

Customer Transformation

In a far-reaching report, Members of the Cabinet considered proposals for changing the way Epping Forest District Council serves its residents. Councillor Brian Rolfe Chairman of the Customer Transformation Task and Finish Panel outlined improvements the Council could make in how it deals with the public. The report looks directly at face to face contact, contact by phone and through other channels such as The Forester magazine and website.

Recognising current financial constraints, Councillor Mitchell Cohen proposed a temporary increase in resources to the Council website, engaging a second member of staff to support the website for a fixed three-year term.

Councillor Diana Collins Leader of the Council congratulated Councillor Rolfe on the Panel report and supported the principles. She asked Councillor Rolfe for a further report providing guidance to Cabinet on the priorities of the Panel.

Gypsy and Traveller Consultation Reminder

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Gypsy and traveller, Your council, Your environment

 

Epping Forest District Council is reminding local residents that the Options Consultation on proposed Gypsy and Traveller sites in the district will soon be closed. The questionnaire enclosed with the consultation documents needs to be completed and returned either via the Council`s website or by post by 5pm on 6 February 2009.

The Government has directed Epping Forest District Council to make plan provision for new Gypsy and Traveller pitches. This must be submitted by October 2009, when there will be an opportunity for people to make representations to be heard by an independent Planning Inspector. The consultation document discusses a number of possible sites in detail and a bird`s eye view to show the surrounding area. The Plan must meet targets for additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches. Following a recent Examination across the East of England the provisional target has been reduced for Epping Forest District from 49 pitches by 2011 to 39 pitches. The Secretary of State will be consulting soon on what the final figure should be.

The consultation has been running since 4 November 2008 and a number of exhibitions have been held for residents to find out more information or put questions to Officers from the Council.

    The consultation document and all related information can be found on the following link:

  • Development Plan Provision for Gypsies and Travellers

Hard copies of the document can be provided by calling 01992 564517.

Provisional Site Allocation Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Countryside and wildlife, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Go East, the regional office of the Government says the provisional allocation of additional gypsy and traveller site pitches for Epping Forest district has been reduced by ten from 49 to 39. The announcement is contained in the Examination in Public (EiP) Report into the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England published on 18 December 2008. The EiP report now forms the basis of recommendations to the Government which will hold further consultation before issuing its final allocations next year.

Councillors and Planning Officers have consistently argued for a reduction in the number of pitches allocated to Epping Forest district. While Councillors feel the allocation remains unfairly high for Epping Forest in comparison to other districts, the reduction is a vindication of their stance. The Council will continue to press for further reductions.

The reduction for Epping Forest district is in marked contrast to most other parts of the region. Overall, the EiP has increased the regional allocation of extra traveller and gypsy pitches by a further 50 from 1,187 to 1,237.

The Government announcement comes as residents continue to respond to local consultation on the future provision of traveller and gypsy sites in the district.

Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: The announcement is a move in the right direction but I don`t think it goes far enough. Local residents are very concerned about the high number of extra traveller and gypsy pitches the district is being asked to accommodate. Epping Forest district already has more gypsy and traveller accommodation than most other areas. Even with the potential reduction from 49 to 39 extra pitches, we are still being asked to take substantially more than many other areas. We will continue to argue for further reductions.

The Secretary of State will consider the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England and the recommendations of the EiP before issuing any proposed changes in the Spring. There will then be a further period of consultation. Go East says that the Secretary of State will publish the finalised policy in the Summer of 2009.

Clarification of Compulsory Purchase

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Epping, Gypsy and traveller, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

 

Our record shows that although we have compulsory purchase powers, they are used as a last resort, whether connected to traveller and gypsy sites or any other matter, says Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council. Councillor Grigg made her comment in response to concerns raised in a national newspaper and added: Against that background I cannot see Epping Forest District Council wanting to use compulsory purchase powers in this instance.

Residents have voiced concerns through the traveller and gypsy consultation process and the matter has been debated in the House of Commons. The Council has clarified that although it is among a number of agencies with the power to make a compulsory purchase of land, Councillors regard this as very much a last resort.

Information on the consultation can be found at:

  • Development Plan Provision for Gypsies and Travellers in Epping Forest District

Consultation on options for potentially new or extended traveller sites began on 4 November 2008 and has been extended by three days to Friday 23 January 2009. It is being driven by the need to respond to the Government directive. The Council has been told to find 49 more pitches within the district by 2011 and a further 57 pitches by 2023. The consultation document is a starting point. No decisions have been taken. The Council stresses these are potential sites. Nothing is set in stone.

Council staff are holding a series of public exhibitions around the district where people can ask questions and discuss the options. Councillor Mrs Grigg said: The exhibitions are being generally well received. We are asked why the Council is doing this. Our answer is that we are responding to a Government directive. We have to plan for 49 new pitches. It is vital that local residents know what is happening and respond directly to the District Council. Some people may send their views to their Parish, Town or even the County Council. That is OK but we need your views direct to help the District Council frame its response to the Government later.

Councillors do not think the allocation process for Epping Forest District is fair. They are concerned by the methodology used to calculate need and think the number should be reduced. The consultation document is helping the Council inform local residents about potential sites although other options may be suggested through the process. The most important element from the Council’s perspective is to gather as much evidence and opinion from local people as possible to place before the Government-appointed panel of inspectors next year.

The Council is anxious to make sure everyone knows what is happening. As well as placing information online, every household can read more in the Forester magazine currently being delivered across the district. The Council is also working with the media, particularly local newspapers, to inform residents. People living closest to the potential sites have been contacted directly. Residents can also see the debates at Cabinet and Council meetings via webcasts on the Council website.

The Council cannot dictate the recommendations of the inspectors through the Examination in Public, or the final decision of the Secretary of State but by raising as much public awareness as possible, it is doing all it can to gather the evidence it needs to influence the outcome for the benefit of the entire local community.

Councillors are urging local residents to support the Council and get the facts. Councillor Anne Grigg said: “This is a very sensitive matter and people are extremely worried. The Epping Forest District Council website contains a very significant amount of information designed to assist people in responding to this consultation and this will be updated.

We need people to keep a close eye on the website, read the consultation document and supporting information and return completed questionnaires. That is the best way to give the Council the evidence we need to back our arguments when the Government takes its decisions in 2010.”

View the consultation document and supporting information click on link above or call Forward Planning on 01992 564517.