Gunpowder Mills application rejected

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Chairman, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Councillors, Democracy, Media, Meetings, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council

The PGL submitted planning application for a children’s adventure holiday centre at the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey was refused at the full meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Monday 6 June 2016.

Royal Gunpowder Mills - Proposed application drawings

Referred to Full Council

The decision followed an earlier meeting of Planning Development Management Committee at which the application was provisionally approved before being referred at the request of councillors to Full Council.

A separate Listed Building planning application for the conversion, alteration and extension of several buildings to provide classroom and guest accommodation was approved.

Important heritage in the district

The Royal Gunpowder Mills is one of the most important sites of special scientific interest and heritage in the district. Gunpowder production is thought to date back to the 16th Century.

The site contains many listed buildings as well as a natural habitat of exceptional quality. The Mills is run by an RGM operating company. The original intention was to open the Royal Gunpowder Mills up to the public with the aid of a trust fund set up by the Ministry of Defence and Lottery funding.

However, in recent years, the site has been unable to meet its running costs without drawing down capital funds, leading to concerns about the long term financial security of the Mills.

PGL application

PGL has a number of children’s adventure holiday centres around the UK. The planning application proposed to convert part of the site for children’s holidays while seeking to conserve other environmental and heritage related parts of the site.

However, after a long and considered debate, councillors felt any benefits of the proposals were outweighed by the demolition of historic buildings, intensive use and harm to the heritage and environmental value of the site.

Proposed application drawings

Moving forward

Setting out their reasons for refusal, councillors said that there was insufficient reason for the demolition of the cordite factory which would severely impact the Conservation Area. They wanted to see more attention given to the visitor centre and objected to the overall increase in the footprint of new buildings proposed for the site.

Councillors recommended that any future application footprint of new build should be substantially reduced, the cordite factory should be retained and that consideration should be given to the operating company.

In the second application, councillors agreed plans for conversion, alteration and extension to a number of listed buildings for guest accommodation and classrooms.

 

New Chairman of Council – Jeane Lea

Written on . Posted in Business, Chairman, Civic events, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Elections, Leader, Media, Meetings, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council

Councillor Jeane Lea is the new Chairman of Epping Forest District Council. Outgoing Chairman Councillor Liz Webster handed the reigns over to Mrs Lea at the first meeting of the Council since May’s local elections.

Cllr Webster and Chairman Jeane Lea

To view photos in a slideshow, click on a picture below and click start slideshow.

Welcoming new Councillors

Proceedings began with a welcome by Councillor Mrs Webster to new councillors taking their seats in the council chamber for the first time with photographs of the signing of the register.

Thanks for a year of service

Business continued with Councillor Webster’s final address to fellow members as chairman. She thanked all her colleagues for their kindness, guidance and support. Mrs Webster said that she had met some amazing people during her year and thanked everyone for helping raise £4,600 for her Chairman’s Charity, the Royal British Legion.

Tributes to Liz Webster were led by Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread. His sentiments were echoed in turn by Councillor Stephen Murray, Councillor Caroline Pond and Council Chief Executive Glen Chipp.

Welcoming the new Chairman

In a warm, affectionate and funny speech, Councillor Syd Stravrou nominated her friend and fellow Waltham Abbey councillor, Jeane Lea as the new Chairman of Council. The nomination was seconded by Councillor Chris Whitbread with unanimous support from the Council Chamber.

Accepting the honour, Councillor Lea thanked fellow councillors for their kind words and promised to do her utmost to uphold the best traditions of the chairmanship. She announced that her Chairman’s Charity will be the Herts Essex Air Ambulance.

Councillor David Stallan is the new Vice-Chairman of Council.

Mrs Jill Angold-Stephens received warm applause on presentation of a long-service medal for her late husband Ken who passed away earlier this year.

Cabinet and Committees

Business continued with the appointment other councillors to official positions, committees and outside organisations.

Council Leader Chris Whitbread has a new Cabinet. Following the election of Councillor Stallan as Vice-Chairman of Council, Councillor Syd Stavrou moves from the Finance to the Housing Portfolio. Gagan Mohindra returns to the Cabinet as the Council’s new Finance Portfolio Holder.

Councillors Richard Bassett and John Philip swap portfolios. Councillor Bassett takes on the Governance and Development Management Portfolio while John Philip takes on the stewardship of the Local Plan as Planning Policy Portfolio Holder.

Other members of the Cabinet retain existing roles:

  • Councillor Anne Grigg                    Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio
  • Councillor Will Breare-Hall           Environment Portfolio
  • Councillor Helen Kane                    Leisure and Community Services Portfolio
  • Councillor Gary Waller                   Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio
  • Councillor Alan Lion                       Technology and Support Services Portfolio

Other appointments include Councillor Mary Sartin as the new Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Brian Surtees as Chairman of the Licensing Committee, and Councillor Brian Sandler as Chairman of the District Development Management Committee.

 

Heartfelt tributes at Full Council

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Heartfelt tributes were made by Councillors for the late District Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens at a meeting of council on 26 April 2016. Ken was a highly respected District Councillor with a distinguished career. He passed away on 8 April 2016 after a long illness.

Warm thoughts of remembrance were also shared for Roger Pratt, who served as Epping Forest District Council’s Standards Committee Independent Person since 2012. Roger passed away on 15 March 2016 and will be sorely missed.

Councillor resignation

Councillor Sharon Weston resigned from her post as District Councillor for Loughton Forest ward on 23 March 2016. A by-election to fill the vacancy will take place at the same time as other elections on 5 May 2016.

New constitution

The council has adopted a new constitution with immediate effect. The constitution sets out the principles, rules and protocols for the way in which the council conducts business. It also sets out the processes by which decisions are made and states who is responsible for these decisions.

Councillors reassured

Full council was reassured that the two UAV’s, purchased by the council in February 2016, are to be used responsibly and in accordance with the Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A council policy, operational manual and approved Civil Aviation Authority training need to be drafted and organised before the UAV’s can be used.

 

Youth councillors shine at O&S

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Presentations from Epping Forest Youth Councillors and Essex County Council were given to the Overview and Scrutiny panel on 19 April 2016.

Democracy live

Successful year for Epping Forest Youth Council

Epping Forest youth councillors confidently and eloquently updated the panel on their achievements over the past year.

Youth conference

The youth council’s highest profile event this year was their youth conference. This involved 90 young people from local secondary schools and was attended by guest speaker Eleanor Laing MP. Their aim was to promote Local Democracy Week, raise the profile of the youth council and involve other young people in the debate about the current issues.

Promoting mental health awareness

The young councillors explained their plans to develop mental health workshops for young people at schools within the district, promoting mental health awareness amongst young people and addressing the lack of support services for young people across the country.

The Epping Forest Youth Council have been involved in many other projects this year, including promoting youth volunteering and assisting with 14 consultations including a national consultation on the living wage for young people, racism and emotional wellbeing and mental health.

They have been representatives on various strategy groups and have organised Youth Volunteering days in partnership with the City of London. The Youth Council informed councillors that they got external funding of £6,750, enabling them to deliver high quality projects.

Highly Commended

Councillors were deeply impressed by the quality of their presentation and highly commended their many excellent achievements throughout the year.

Redesign of Children’s Centre Services

Essex County Council plans to redevelop and improve Children’s Centre services across the County, following their public consultation which ended on 10 April 2016.

Coordinated approach to support services

Chris Martin, (Integrated Commissioning Director) and Gill Holland (Lead on Children’s Centre Performance in West Essex) explained to Councillors that the changes made will improve the accessibility of children’s services across the County. They will do this by making services flexible, increasing the age range, targeting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged and by providing a more coordinated approach to support services.

Accessible ‘Family Hubs’ for each district

One ‘Family Hub’ will be introduced into each authority area across Essex. The hubs will provide children’s support services and will be open for 50 hours per week. Their opening hours will be staggered, to enhance accessibility for families that are unable to visit during normal working hours.

 

Loughton bar licence suspended

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Community, Crime and safety, Democracy, Licensing, Local business, Loughton, Media, Meetings, Out and about, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council

After an assault during the early hours on 10 April 2016, Nu Bar in Loughton High Road has had its licence temporarily suspended by councillors.

Temporary suspension of licence

A council spokesperson said: Following the incident, Essex Police submitted an application for a review of Nu Bar’s alcohol licence to the District Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee. Their application called for either the temporary suspension of the licence or the enforcement of stringent conditions in the interim period between now and a full hearing.

Councillors rejected the appeal by Greene King to lift the temporary suspension. They said that the suspension is appropriate and proportionate given the evidence submitted. The suspension will continue until the full hearing on 3 May 2016.

Robust steps taken 

Essex Police Superintendent Trevor Roe said: We are happy to support the night time economy in the Epping Forest district but when public safety, crime and disorder become an issue, robust steps will be taken to enforce the law around licensing by the licensing officers and the new community policing team based at Loughton.

 

Council pioneers drone use

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Countryside and wildlife, Democracy, Drainage, Media, Meetings, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Prosecutions, Regulations, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Stories in both the national and local media published over the last week have reported us buying 2 aerial camera systems also known as drones.

This is true but some of the stories have contained inaccuracies which we would like to put right.

DJI Phantom 3 aerial camera system

To view photos in a slideshow, click on a picture below and click start slideshow.

Cabinet agreed purchase

At a meeting of Epping Forest District Councils cabinet on 11 January 2016 it was agreed to purchase 2 drones for £5,000. This includes Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved training for staff. Watch the decision at cabinet.

This money came out of our ‘invest to save scheme’.

The drones purchased are DJI Phantom 3 and will be operated by our GIS team once trained. (GIS = Geographic Information System).

Saving money

We have been buying commercial photographs and videos for site surveys for over 50 years. This has included the hire of drones. Purchasing drones has many benefits that will save the council money and time. These include

  • Real-time surveys for planning purposes saving us having to purchase aerial photography for new planning developments and landscaping enforcement
  • Surveying roofs and guttering on council owned estates saving money and time on scaffolding and surveys
  • Identifying illegal waste transfer sites and previously unidentified unauthorised caravan encampments
  • Find out more on the cabinet report dated 11 January 2016

Generate  income

We are hoping the drones could generate the council income. We will be exploring the opportunities of shared use with other local authorities and public bodies. This will help to ensure we remain a low council tax authority (we have frozen our portion of council tax for the last 6 years).

A valuable tool

We would like to reassure residents that the drones will not be used for snooping on our residents but used as a valuable tool in the fight against environmental and planning abuses. We will not be looking into peoples back gardens.

Innovative use of new technology

This innovative use of new technology helps to save the taxpayer money and helps us to look after the environment in the Epping Forest district, in which we are proud to live, work and enjoy.

 

Cabinet 3 March 2016

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Clean for the Queen, Council housing, reopening of the Epping Forest District Museum and customer services were among items discussed at Epping Forest Districts Councils  Cabinet meeting 3 March 2016.

Clean for the Queen call at Cabinet

Councillors at Cabinet were invited to join Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Will Breare-Hall in Loughton to take part in Clean for the Queen. Councillor Breare-Hall extended his invitation to all members of the council to join him outside Epping Forest College on Friday morning. Council Leader Chris Whitbread was among those with weatherproof jackets and rubber gloves to take up the challenge.

Clean for The Queen

Historic completion of first new Council Houses in decades

Following a series of planning application approvals the previous evening, Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor David Stallan brought Cabinet up to date with latest progress of the Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee. Plans for more than 300 new homes are being developed. This is the first major expansion of the Council’s housing stock in decades including the £9million award of tender for the construction of 51 new homes in Burton Road Loughton.

Councillor Alan Lion congratulated Councillor Stallan and his team on the redevelopments at Marden Close and Faversham Hall in Chigwell Row, the first of the much-needed new homes to become available. Council Leader Chris Whitbread echoed the sentiment of other cabinet members including John Philip. Councillor Whitbread also emphasised the changes to the allocations policy designed to give local residents priority.

Lottery Funded Museum

With the reopening of Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey just a few weeks away, Councillor Whitbread also commended Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder Councillor Helen Kane, and her team for the National Lottery funded expansion and refurbishment.

Improving customer services

Two important reports on the evolution of services were introduced by Councillor Whitbread. The Transformation Programme sets a course for review aimed at improvements to customer services and best value for money.

Work has already been carried out by staff to identify a variety of ways to improve customer contact including a single reception, corporate contact team and better use of technology.  Councillors also approved proposals for appointing staff to new customer service and IT roles directly supporting transformation.

While Councillor Richard Bassett outlined the benefits transformation would bring to residents whether visiting the Council in person or accessing services online, Councillor Whitbread also noted the importance of continuing to streamline and improve efficiency as one of the key ways of keeping costs and Council Tax down.

Broadway Parking Review

Councillor Gary Waller, Safer Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder received Cabinet support for the start of the Loughton Broadway Parking Review. A targeted local approach will aim to take advantage of lessons learnt in earlier reviews. North Essex Parking Partnership are to be appointed for a scoping exercise leading to further reports on costs, timescales and the implementation strategy. £140,000 has already been identified with a further £40,000 allocation in the pipeline. Councillor Waller said that proper consultation would lead to a scheme beneficial the shoppers, traders and everyone living in Loughton Broadway.

Waltham Abbey Conservation Area

Councillors also approved the adoption and publication of the Character Appraisal and Management Plan for the Waltham Abbey Conservation Area.

Overview and Scrutiny 23 February 2016

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Travellers, hospitals, wheelie bins, youth engagement and fire stations were among items discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council 23 February 2016.

Watch our council meetings online

Basildon consults on traveller accommodation

Consultation by Basildon Borough Council on the accommodation of travellers outside its boundaries was discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 23 February. Councillors acknowledged the duty to cooperate between councils but also noted the projected requirement for traveller accommodation in Epping Forest District and the constraints of the Green Belt.

Whipps Cross Hospital Update

Senior directors and managers from the Barts Health NHS Trust returned to Epping Forest District Council for an update on the improvements to health services centred on Whipps Cross Hospital. Fiona Smith (Managing Director), Dr Heather Noble (Medical Director) and Felicia Kwaku (Interim Director of Nursing) provided a joint presentation on the Trust’s response to being placed in special measures.

Councillors quizzed the managers on seven key work streams:

  • Safe and effective care
  • Compassionate care patient experience
  • End of life care
  • Workforce
  • Emergency pathway and patient flow
  • Outpatient and medical records
  • Leadership and organisational development

Youth Council Support

The Youth Engagement Task and Finish Panel report was presented back to members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with a commentary on its progress in Cabinet by Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder Councillors Helen Kane.

Refuse contract review

The Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Neighbourhoods reported back to Overview and Scrutiny on the review of the domestic refuse and recycling contract by the Neighbourhoods Select Committee in December. Derek Macnab outlined the problems during implementation and lessons learnt for future contracts.

Recommendations from the key findings will go forward for Cabinet consideration.

View the Neighbourhoods Select Committee review

Fire service consultation

Essex Fire and Rescue service is consulting residents and councils on three proposals to reduce the number of crews and appliances (fire engines) at fire stations across Essex including Epping Forest district. Responses to the consultation must be received by Essex Fire and Rescue by 5pm on 25 April.

To take part go to www.opinionresearch.co.uk/essex .

 

Council tax frozen for sixth year running

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Epping Forest District Council bucks national and local trends by freezing its portion of council tax for the sixth year running.

The Council achieved this despite most other government services increasing Council Tax costs for Epping Forest district residents. The freeze was confirmed at the meeting of full council on 18 February 2016.

Frontline services protected

Leader of the Council Chris Whitbread said: ‘This is the sixth District Council Tax freeze that we have had and it doesn’t come easily. At a time when other Councils are making drastic savings and putting their Council Tax up, we have maintained a nil-increase for our residents whilst protecting our frontline services. We have successfully budgeted and made prudent investments and continue to make Epping Forest a better place to live and work – a place to be proud of.’

Supporting the economy and residents

Councillor Whitbread discussed the Council’s continued investments to the Town Centre Fund; which supports special events for our town centres. He explained that resources have been put into CCTV monitoring, tourism and into the renovation and reopening of Waltham Abbey District Museum, all of which support the District’s economy and benefit residents.

Lowest District Council Tax in Essex

Councillor Whitbread updated others on the plans for transformation, he said that he has ‘ambitious visions for this Council’s future’ and stated that the Council are going to maintain themselves as a ‘low Council tax authority’ and his ‘aspiration is to have the lowest District Council Tax in Essex one day.’

Council meeting postponed

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Council tax, Democracy, Media, Meetings, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

The date for the council meeting in which Council Tax rates for the Epping Forest district for 2016/2017 are confirmed, has been postponed to Thursday 18 February 2016 at 7.30pm.

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The original date of Tuesday 16 February 2016 has been changed because the precept for Fire Authority will not be available until 17 February 2016.