Food businesses go from zeros to heroes

Written on . Posted in Business, Environmental health, Food safety, Licensing, Local business, Out and about, Prosecutions, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your environment

Food Hygiene Inspectors have started the first round of revisits to those food businesses rated zero in the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Since the ratings were first published in April this year businesses have had time to improve their standards and inspectors have received a pleasant surprise.

Food hygiene ratings logoOf those visited so far, all have shown some improvement but special mention must go to the Perfect Choice take-away in Loughton, where the business has gone from a score of zero, requiring urgent work, to 5, displaying the highest standards.

The business has trained all its staff in food hygiene and thorough cleaning has been undertaken. They have introduced procedures to protect the food from contamination and are operating at a very good standard of hygiene and safety.

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Portfolio Holder for Environment said: “We are very pleased to see that businesses have taken the rating scheme seriously and congratulate those who have made great efforts to improve. This is an excellent start but we will continue to work with those who still need to make improvements.”

The Food Standards Agency are encouraging the public to ‘Look before they book’ when organising Christmas meals. Catriona Stewart, Head of the Food Hygiene Ratings Team at the FSA, adds: “No-one wants to gamble with their health when eating out, particularly when celebrating a special festive meal. Local authorities, including Epping Forest District Council, have worked with the FSA to roll-out the scheme successfully, which helps people choose where to eat. We now have an app for your smart phone which makes it even easier for people to check hygiene ratings before deciding which place to visit.”

Food Hygiene ratings can be found on the website www.food.gov.uk/ratings or the new, free FSA app can be downloaded from Google Play (food.gov.uk/app-android) or iTunes (food.gov.uk/app-itunes).

Cabinet reports to Council on 6 November

Written on . Posted in Arts, Business, Chairman, Council tax, Councillors, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Crime and safety, Democracy, Environmental health, Health, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Meetings, Museum, North Weald Airfield, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Prosecutions, Recycling and waste, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business

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.

Birchwood Industrial Estate Fire

Written on . Posted in Business, Environmental health, Regulations, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your environment

Local agencies should monitor Birchwood Industrial Estate `as closely as the law permits` according to District Councillors. Residents can help by keeping diaries and reporting problems to the Council and Environment Agency. Checks by the West Essex PCT have found no associated respiratory problems linked to the recent fires.

Asked about reduction in the amount of material kept on the site, better management in terms of security, fire breaks, water supply and other ways of reducing the impact of the site on local residents, Alex Chown of the Environment Agency replied that he was working with the operator to deliver these aims.

Councillors endorsed a joint letter from the agencies involved to residents of Nazeing setting out the issues with a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

Representatives of the Environment Agency and Council met at the Civic Offices of Epping Forest District Council in Epping on Thursday 23 July 2009 following the two Birchwood fires in Nazeing earlier in the year. Fire broke out at the wood recycling centre off Hoe Lane Nazeing in January. A second blaze occurred in May, leading to calls for the operation to close.

John Gilbert, Environment and Street Scene Director for Epping Forest District Council set the context at the Safer Cleaner Greener Scrutiny Panel. He outlined the history of the site including a wood-chipping operation for waste timber recycling. As a relatively small scale operation in comparison with other recycling facilities, he said that it did not fall within tougher regulatory powers.

Planning consent for the site had been granted by a Government Planning inspector against the wishes of the Council at appeal. The Council had had concerns about the operation including dust and the very large quantities of wood stored on site. Council Environmental Health Officers had visited the site on a number of occasions. Since the two fires, the Council has received a petition from local residents asking for the operation to be closed.

Alex Chown of the Environment Agency elaborated on how the chipping of wood on the site was exempt from the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. The Environment Agency began detailed investigations following the first fire which appeared to show the operation was running in line with the regulations. Following the second fire, the Agency considered removing the exemption and de-registering the operation.

The exemption has not been removed but the operation has been halted temporarily while the owner seeks to satisfy the requirements of the Environment Agency. De-registering remains an option.

When chipping and recycling wood, the company operated within the regulations. It could not be held legally responsible for the fires. However, it is responding to pressure by the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency. An Improvement notice has been served by the Health and Safety Executive to make the site more secure against unauthorised access.

The current national regulations are under review and central government may strengthen them next year. If that was to happen it is possible that the current operation at Birchwood would become subject to tighter regulations.

Council Apology to Epping Piano Lounge

Written on . Posted in Business, Environmental health, Food safety, Local business

Epping Forest District Council has apologised to a local business after mistakenly including the Piano Lounge in a list of premises that received Food Improvement Notices. John Gilbert, Director of Environment and Street Scene for the Council said: It was an administrative mistake on our part and we are very sorry for any inconvenience and embarrassment caused.

The Council received a Freedom of Information Act request from the Epping Forest Guardian earlier this year asking for a list of restaurants and take-aways visited by Environmental Health Officers between 2006 and 2008 where improvement notices has been issued.

Mr Gilbert said: The standards of quality and hygiene among our local pubs, restaurants and take-aways are generally very high. None of the problems found by our inspectors constituted an imminent risk to public health and wherever we asked for improvements, these were carried out without any need for legal proceedings.

However, we made a mistake on the list. All of the records are computerised. Four notices had been issued to the previous occupier of one premises, an Indian restaurant, which is now occupied by the Piano Lounge. When the Piano Lounge took over the site, our system transferred the previous occupier`s history to the new business.

None of the notices issued between 2006 and 2008 related to the Piano Lounge. We are very sorry for the mistake and we have acted as quickly as we can to change the way our computer system holds this information to ensure it cannot happen again.