Learning with Countrycare

Written on . Posted in Arts, Buckhurst Hill, Chairman, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Councillors, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Doing business with the council, Epping, Health, Loughton, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Playschemes, Procurement, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Countrycare launches environmental education service to show young people the value of the green spaces and wildlife around them.

The Countrycare team is offering an environmental education service to schools that can work with their curriculum, in both science and arts, to help engage young people with the environment. Environmental education sessions can be run on Local Nature Reserves, in classrooms or in school grounds, and we cater for all ages.

We want young people to grow up not just enjoying the countryside but respecting it as well.

Learning with Countrycare

We offer a range of projects including

  • Creating wildlife sanctuaries in school grounds
  • Building bird boxes
  • Practical projects on Local Nature Reserves
  • Tree ecology
  • Tree planting
  • Invertebrate identification
  • Guided walks

If none of these activities fit in with your syllabus we can mould lessons to fit your needs.

Find out more

Download the brochure Learning with Countrycare (pdf 1MB)

For more information about the environmental education service at Countrycare and the competitive costs call 01992 788203 or email contactcountrycare@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Find out what other work Countrycare does the website at http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/

You can also follow Countrycare on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EFcountrycare/

Countrycare volunteer day Tuesday 22 January cancelled

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Due to the adverse weather the Countrycare volunteer day on Tuesday 22 January 2013 has been cancelled.

Countrycare is sorry to disappoint those of you who were intending to jump in a pond and clear some reeds tomorrow in North Weald, but the task has been cancelled due to weather conditions. We apologise to anyone who had been looking forward to an ice cold dip. Thursday’s volunteer task is still expected to go ahead.

Record year for Countrycare volunteers

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

2012 proved to be a record year for the number of volunteers attending the Countrycare Thursday working parties. For the first time ever the equivalent of over 700 volunteer days were worked during a year.

The volunteers were made up by a core team of 30, and a further 20 volunteers who came to help out on special projects. A total of 51 working days were organised, working out to be an average of 14 volunteers each day.

Countrycare volunteers at Nazeing Triangle LNR

With this number of people attending regularly Countrycare was able to tackle more ambitious work and increase the amount of management work carried out on the 9 Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) and the many other Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) in the district.

The work carried included woodland, grassland and pond management. The volunteers worked tirelessly in all weathers to help Countrycare achieve its aims. The Countrycare Team would like to express their gratitude for the effort and enthusiasm that the volunteers put in week in week out. They hope to continue to see such a good turn out on all of its Thursday tasks in 2013.Countrycare volunteer days for 2007 to 2012 - 2007 505 - 2008 571 - 2009 539 - 2010 603 - 2011 642 - 2012 733

Trees planted at Roding Valley Meadows

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Loughton, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Volunteering opportunities, Working with the council, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

750 trees were planted by local volunteers and residents of the Oakwood Hill Estate in Debden. They joined Essex Wildlife Trust and Epping Forest Countrycare to plant trees along the boundary between Oakwood Hill and Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

The tree planting is part of a larger project aimed at improving this area of the nature reserve, creating a more inviting and picturesque place for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

Over 30 volunteers turned up to help with the planting. They included local families, councillors and even Police Community Support Officers.

Earlier in the year the large patch of bramble which had grown along the boundary line was cleared, litter removed and a new post and wire fence was erected by the Reserve Warden and his volunteers. The latest stage in the project was to plant a native mixed species hedgerow along the fence line.

Species planted included hazel, field maple, hawthorn, dogwood and dog rose.

Housing Allocations Scheme review and new Tenancy Policy consultation

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Consultation, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your home

The council is seeking views on its draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme and new draft Tenancy Policy.

Housing Allocations Scheme

The council operates a housing register. This is a list of ‘homeseekers’ who are waiting to be offered a council or housing association property. We are required by law to have a Housing Allocations Scheme for

  • deciding priorities and the procedure to be followed in selecting homeseekers for council accommodation, or
  • nominating homeseekers for housing association accommodation

The council’s current scheme has not been reviewed since its introduction in December 2010 (although it was amended in September 2012 to take account of new Armed Forces Regulations). This was due to new Government guidance that we were waiting for. The guidance was issued in July 2012 and it gives councils the power to decide how accommodation should be allocated, based on local priorities. Allocations can now be made in any way the council sees fit, but the scheme must be both legal and rational.

Tenancy Policy

Social housing providers (such as councils and housing associations) must now publish clear and accessible tenancy policies. They must outline their approach to tenancy management, including actions to sustain tenancies, prevent unnecessary evictions and tackle tenancy fraud. The policy should explain how the needs of vulnerable people are taken into account, and how advice and assistance will be provided.

Our draft Tenancy Policy also sets out

  • the lengths and types of tenancies, and the circumstances under which a particular type will be granted
  • how applicants or tenants can appeal against decisions that we make
  • discretionary rights to succeed to a tenancy

The Council’s Housing Scrutiny Member Panel has considered both documents and our Tenants and Leaseholders Federation is being consulted. The final draft documents will be considered by the cabinet on 15 April 2013. If you would like to comment on the draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme, or the draft Tenancy Policy, please write to:

The Assistant Director of Housing (Operations), Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ.

You can also phone our housing consultation hotline 01992 564762 (24 hour answerphone) or email housinginfo@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Information

The information you need can be found in the following documents

Responses are needed by Thursday 14 March 2013. The Council’s Cabinet and Housing Portfolio Holder will then consider the results of this consultation. When approved, the new scheme and policy will come into force on 1 July 2013.

One Business Briefing – brimming with news for local businesses

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The January 2013 edition of ‘One Business Briefing’ is now available.

In this edition Reed in Partnership gives local businesses advice on how they can use Government funding to get staff job relevant qualifications at no cost to the employer or employee. It also introduces MP Eleanor Laing’s new Business Forum, reports on current tourism development work, including a key event on 31 January 2013 to develop tourism within the area and much more.

Read the January 2013 edition – One Business Briefing

Produced by Epping Forest District Council, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest district. The briefing is designed to report on business funding opportunities / access to finance, business support, workshops / events for business, town centre news and other local economic development initiatives.

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘One Business Briefing’ by email please email economicdevelopment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Roding Valley Meadows hedge laying project

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Loughton, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Volunteering opportunities, Your area, Your community, Your environment

On 10 October, work started on a joint hedge laying project between the Essex Wildlife Trust, Epping Forest Countrycare and the Epping Conservation Hedge layers, to restore an old neglected hedge line on Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve.

Before the work

Before the work

Hedge laying is the practice of  ‘pleaching’ the base of a tree, this allows its main stem to be laid over to one side while still remaining attached to its roots, it is then held in place with wooden stakes and bound together. By laying a hedge in this fashion, it allows fresh growth from its base creating a thick, dense hedge. This is ideal habitat for small mammals and invertebrates and also provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

The team consisted of experienced and amateur hedge layers, who, over two days laid a total of 74 yards. The project will continue next winter to complete the rest of the hedge, which can be seen running adjacent to the River Roding and Debden Sports Club.

A pleached tree

The final result

 

Benefit cap changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

From April 2013 there will be a ‘cap’ or maximum limit on the total amount of benefit that people of working age can receive. Households will have income capped to £500 per week for families and £350 for single people.

The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits including housing benefit and if the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced to bring the total income in line with the applicable cap.

How will this affect me?

If your benefits are capped this will mean you may have to pay more towards your rent than you do currently. This is a really important change because if you get behind with your rent you may risk losing your home.
The cap will not apply if you, or your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are entitled to working tax credit or receive any of the following

There will be a period where the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks for those who have been continuously in work for the previous 12 months.

The cap will apply to the combined income from:

Council tax benefit changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

Council tax benefit is changing from 1 April 2013 in line with national welfare reforms. All local councils will replace it with their own locally run service, known as the local council tax support scheme.

How is council tax benefit changing?

Epping Forest District Council will create a local scheme that is suitable for the area, working within a budget that has been reduced by over £1 million from its current spend.

How will this affect me?

This reduction in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much. This could mean that from April 2013 people who pay no council tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. We can’t say how your benefit will be affected at this stage or how much you may have to pay.

Proposals for the local council tax support include

  • The calculation of support will be based on 80% of the council tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • The calculation of support will be based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives higher council tax band, will be calculated as if their property was a band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation with a disregard of £15 per week (per family)
  • The capital limit will be reduced from the current level of £16,000 to £6,000
  • Second adult rebate will not be included in the scheme for people of working age
  • A minimum award of £0.50 per week. This is in line with the minimum award in housing benefit

Pension age people are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments under the new scheme although they may need to pay more if council tax increases.

Housing association appointed to develop new council homes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Planning, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Epping Forest District Council has appointed East Thames Group, a housing association, as development agent to deliver its new council housebuilding programme.

This is thought to be the first agreement of its type, where a council has appointed a housing association to deliver a whole development programme. East Thames will develop around 120 new affordable rented homes on behalf of the council over a 6 year period. The £1.6 million appointment follows a competitive tender process, with most of the new homes being developed on difficult-to-let garage sites in the council’s ownership.

East Thames will provide all the required development, project management and professional building services for the programme. The housing association will undertake initial development and financial appraisals, preparation of planning applications, all resident consultation and liaison and the procurement and supervision of works contractors.

“This is the right approach for us”, said Councillor David Stallan, the council’s housing portfolio holder. “The council has not built any new homes for over 25 years, so we do not have the technical expertise in-house to undertake new housebuilding ourselves. We are very pleased to announce this strategic partnership with East Thames, who we have already worked successfully with over a number years through our enabling role”. “Not only did East Thames submit the most competitive price”, Councillor Stallan continued, “their tender submission was also assessed as providing the best quality. We will continue to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in our district, with all of our housing association partners. But personally, I am looking forward to the day when we are able to build more council homes each year than we sell through the Right to Buy”.

Initially 13 organisations, comprising both housing associations and private companies, expressed interest in tendering for the role, with six shortlisted to submit detailed tenders.

East Thames will also be responsible for formulating the council’s development strategy and seeking investment partner status with the Homes and Communities Agency for the council. If successful, this would enable the Council to bid for grant funding for the new homes.

The appointment is expected to commence in January 2013, with the development of the first sites starting on site commencing in early 2014. The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a committee to oversee the housing building programme.