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.

Travellers and Gypsy Consultation

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

District-wide consultation on the future provision of traveller and gypsy pitches within Epping Forest District will begin on 4 November 2008. Speaking before a packed public gallery and with more residents watching on large TV screens outside the Council Chamber, councillors urged as many residents as possible to complete the survey.

Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Anne Grigg left members and residents in no doubt of the government requirements. She said that the Government directive to the Council left it with no choice but to proceed with consultation towards a development plan for future gypsy and traveller pitches, adding that the Council continued to contest the number of pitches allocated through the East of England Regional Assembly.

Councillor Grigg emphasised that the consultation would begin on 4 November. With other councillors, she urged residents to engage with the Council, make their views known and give the Council as much evidence as possible to put before the Government via the Examination in Public.

Mrs Grigg went on to confirm that times and venues for public exhibitions had been organised across the district. Council staff will be on hand to discuss the issues with local residents and help them participate as fully as possible in the consultation process.

A number of technical amendments are to be incorporated into the draft consultation document, clarifying issues and making minor corrections to the text before it is officially published with the start of the formal consultation process on 4 November 2008.

Paper copies will be available although Mrs Grigg recommended that as many people complete the consultation forms online as possible.

Traveller and Gypsy Consultation Starts 4 November

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

The Government has given Epping Forest District Council a directive to provide an extra 49 gypsy and traveller pitches by 2012 and more after this date. Their idea is that in providing enough suitable pitches in environmentally-sustainable locations, travellers and gypsies will no longer make unauthorised encampments.

The official consultation does not begin until 4 November 2008 and will run through to 20 January 2009. Members of the Cabinet will see a first draft of the consultation document at their meeting on Monday 6 October 2008. Amendments to the draft will then be incorporated before the document is considered by the Full Council on 28 October 2008. The Council has written to all landowners of sites identified in the draft document, inviting them to look at the information and offering them the opportunity to attend a special briefing to discuss any questions they may have.

To view this webcast click on the link below and then click on the index points tab to go direct to the agenda item.

Watch the webcastCabinet meeting 6 October 2008 webcast
(opens in a new window)

The report with the accompanying draft consultation document can be viewed via the Homepage of the Council`s website. The Council anticipates a great deal of public interest and will make the final document widely available electronically or in print form.

Agenda for Cabinet meeting on Monday 6 October 2008

All local authorities are required to carry out this exercise and this Council always intended to include the accommodation needs of the travelling community in its wider consultation arising from the more general targets for housing and employment provision set out in the East of England Plan. Despite this the Government issued a Directive requiring the Council to deal separately with the gypsy and traveller issues by publishing a stand-alone plan for this by September 2009. The consultation between November and January will cover options for what the final submitted plan should contain. The consultation document identifies 27 sites across the District. Each is listed and discussed individually, with aerial photographs to show how it sits in the surrounding landscape.

The final version of the document will include a detailed questionnaire designed to help the Council understand the public views on the key options. The District has no choice but to provide these pitches but it does have a choice as to where it proposes they go.

This exercise is being jointly organised by the Council`s Planning and Housing Directorates. Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, said: At this stage the location of potential sites is primarily a planning issue but clearly the accommodation needs of the travelling community forms a part of the Council`s overall housing responsibilities. We are required to make provision for travellers and gypsies. Mistrust and misunderstanding between the travelling and settled communities can lead to friction. This process, which includes comprehensive public consultation, should help to identify a balanced solution. Hopefully if our District plans for good sites we will run less risk of unauthorised encampments and the problems these create. It should also lead to fewer unsuitable sites being granted over our heads on appeal. This puts Epping Forest back in control of events.

Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor David Stallan agrees. He said: We have legal duties of care towards everyone living within the District. As well as consulting the settled community, it is also important to talk to the local travelling and gypsy communities. Council staff will be working directly with everyone involved to make sure we get the best outcome possible.

The Government call for the provision of additional traveller and gypsy sites in the District coincides with work to deliver general Government housing targets set out in the East of England Plan. As referred to earlier, Epping Forest District Council had hoped to combine the traveller and gypsy consultation with its general consultation with residents on the up and coming Local Development Framework delivering the East of England Plan.

In so doing it hoped to incorporate some of the required traveller and gypsy provision within larger projects for private and affordable housing developments. However, the Government has insisted that the traveller and gypsy consultation should be carried out separately.

Councillor Grigg said: It seems to many of us that the best way to provide new traveller and gypsy pitches could be as part of larger new developments in much the same way as we have successfully integrated affordable housing as a requirement of all planning applications over a certain size. That might have been done as part of the Local Development Framework but the Government wants us to look at traveller and gypsy provision as a separate issue.

Councillor Grigg added: Whilst there is an under-provision of sites nationally, the Council feels that this District has been allocated too many extra pitches in comparison with some other areas. However, the Government still wants us to plan for more sites even though the final number we need to plan for has not yet been decided at a regional level. As a result we must now comply with their Directive. Even so, I must stress that no decisions have been taken and not all the sites identified would be needed. This is at a very early stage, nothing is cast in stone. We want to make sure everyone can have their say through a properly structured debate. We will obviously talk directly with the owners of the sites and people in the travelling and gypsy communities but we also welcome the views of others which will be taken into consideration.

The Council will be including an update in the Christmas edition of The Forester. The final document and consultation forms will be available on the Council website and people will be able to request printed copies. One or more public exhibitions will be held where residents can view the options and ask questions. District Council representatives will work directly with people in the traveller and gypsy communities. Town and Parish Councils will be encouraged to help provide feedback. The consultation is due to finish on 20 January 2009 with the outcome published later in that year.

To view the draft consultation document, visit the Council online at www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk . Responses can be made from 4 November. The Council will also publish a dedicated phone number for enquiries following publication of the finalised consultation document and survey form on 4 November 2008.