The High Court has dismissed the legal challenge to the Epping Forest District Council’s Local Plan Submission Version 2017 paving the way for the Council to submit the Local Plan to the Secretary of State for Independent Examination. The Court rejected all four grounds of challenge brought by property development company CK Properties (Theydon Bois) Ltd, endorsing the lawfulness of the Council decision to approve the Local Plan for 11,400 new homes over the Plan period up to 2033.
The Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder, Councillor John Philip described the Court’s decision as “good news” and the positive outcome is also seen as vindication of the Council’s approach by its Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread.
John Philip expressed his gratitude to the Court saying: “The production of the Local Plan is possibly the most difficult thing the Council has ever had to do. The issues involved in planning for growth in the District are very sensitive and, inevitably, emotions often run high, but the Court has endorsed the Council’s approach having scrutinised the decision-making process.”
Chris Whitbread was also pleased. He said: “As Councillors we take a balanced view between the protection of the character of the District we love and the need to provide decent homes for local people. We burnt a great deal of ‘midnight oil’ to understand and balance complex issues while collectively studying and guiding the evolution of the Plan through workshops, meetings and engagement before making some really difficult decisions.”
Councillor Philip continued: “I hope CK Properties will see the sense of the Court’s judgment, and pursue their arguments through the Local Plan Examination process, which has always been the proper place to air their concerns, and spare Council Tax payers any additional expense by resorting to the legal appeal process.”
Councillor Richard Bassett is the new Chairman of Epping Forest District Council.
His appointment follows the retirement of David Stallan. Councillor Ricki Gadsby is the Council’s new Vice-Chairman. Following the retirement of Will Breare-Hall at the local elections, Council Leader Chris Whitbread has added Councillor Nigel Avey to his Cabinet.
Assets & Economic Development – Councillor Anne Grigg
Environment – Councillor Nigel Avey
Finance – Councillor Gagan Mohindra
Planning & Governance – Councillor John Philip
Housing and Deputy Leader of Council – Councillor Syd Stavrou
Leisure & Community Services – Councillor Helen Kane
Safer, Greener & Transport – Councillor Sam Kane
Technology & Support Services – Councillor Alan Lion
‘What a year and what an experience’
In his closing speech to councillors, David Stallan said that he would not have missed his year as chairman for the world! Among the ‘standout’ moments of his year, Dave listed teeing off at Chairman’s Charity Golf Day, his ‘visit’ to the gym, a steam train footplate, aircraft simulator, sports events the Petanque trophy wrestled back – all in fun – two Chinese delegations, the Ongar Festival, many arts events and working with the Youth Council. As Chairman, Dave learned that a few hundred pounds can make a massive difference. Through generosity of others he raised £5,500 for local charities and Diabetes UK.
It was Dave’s sad duty to announce the passing of 11 current and former councillors during his year. Concluding with thanks to his family he noted not only ‘two great women behind me – daughter Amy and wife Sue, but also a third Pat Seager, the Chairman’s Secretary.
Praise for David Stallan
Chris Whitbread led thanks to David Stallan. During a tough year including meetings on the Local Plan, Councillor Whitbread described Dave Stallan as first class, handling himself so well as he travelled across the district by being himself and being such a ‘nice guy’.
Councillor Whitbread said: “A good chairman brings the whole council together – you had a brilliant year – thank you”.
Councillors Stephen Murray, Caroline Pond, Anne Grigg, Jon Whitehouse and Stephen Neville echoed Chris Whitbread’s words – thanking David Stallan for a brilliant year.
Communities Director Alan Hall thanked Dave Stallan on behalf of the staff recalling their years working closely together on council housing and Dave’s support for council staff.
In one of his first presentations as Chairman, Councillor Richard Bassett also had great please in presenting Dave Stallan with a long service medal for 19 years representing the residents of North Weald.
Richard Bassett’s nomination for Chairman was proposed by Councillor Mary Sartin. Councillor Bassett took on his first cabinet role in 2010 before accepting the role of vice-chairman last year. As a former Chairman, councillor Sartin assured Councillor Bassett that he would meet many wonderful people over the coming year.
Thanking fellow councillors for bestowing the honour of Chairman on him, Councillor Bassett particularly singled out Dave Stallan for his support over the year. Councillor Bassett is making small business his theme for the year. He will undertake to get out and meet as many businesses as possible.
As a trustee of Epping Forest Community Transport, Councillor Bassett also wants to raise its profile along with young people’s sports groups during his year as Chairman.
Other key appointments at Annual Council included:
Chairman Plans Sub Committee East– Councillor Paul Keska
Chairman Plans Sub Committee West– Councillor Liz Webster
Chairman Plans Sub Committee South – Councillor Darshan Sunger
Chairman District Development Management Committee – Councillor Brian Sandler
Chairman Overview and Scrutiny Committee – Councillor Mary Sartin
Council remembers Elizabeth Downes
Tributes were paid to former Nazeing ward councillor Elizabeth Downes who passed away on 7 May. As a fellow councillor from Nazeing, Richard Bassett shared some thoughts on his predecessor, remembered by local residents as a lovely lady.
At a meeting of Council on 22 February 2018, Epping Forest District Councillors made the decision to increase Council Tax for the first time since 2010, following the inclusion of law and order initiatives to improve anti-social issues in the district.
Tax levels may be set higher still as Essex County Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and some Town and Parish Council’s have confirmed increases their Council Tax share too.
An average Band D property will pay an extra £3.69 a year for their District Council Tax contribution.
Epping Forest District Councillors agreed the 2.48% increase in the District Council’s portion of Council Tax to absorb the cost of 3 extra police officers employed to work closely with the Community Safety Team. The decision was taken as residents call for more visible policing to deter and deal with cases of anti-social behaviour in local towns and villages.
Finance Portfolio Holder, Councillor Gagan Mohindra said: “This budget is a significant departure from our policy in recent years as it proposes the first increase in Council Tax since 2010/11. This change is necessary to provide additional funds to combat the scourge of anti-social behaviour. Earlier we discussed the problems being faced by our residents on a daily basis and it is vital that we act to address these. We hope that over the 3 year trial period we are providing funding for, the police will be in a better place than they are now and that it will be possible to withdraw our support.”
“This is the first time for eight years that we are increasing the Council Tax but it is for a specific reason and for a limited time period, to provide the public with additional services they have said they want.”
Derek Macnab – Chief Executive
Following the announcement that Epping Forest District Council’s Chief Executive Glen Chipp, is leaving to become Chief Executive of Horsham District Council, Council agreed the recommendation to appointment Derek Macnab as acting Chief Executive and Head of Paid Services with immediate effect.
Council Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread, thanked Glen Chipp for his service to Epping Forest District Council and its residents before welcoming the appointment of Derek Macnab.
He said: “Derek Macnab’s brief is to maintain the momentum of our modernisation and organisational development of the Council. No doubt he will bring his own personal style and approach to the process, but the drivers for change remain. We are a strong, well-managed Council moving towards a position of financial independence as central government funding ends.”
A minute for reflection
A minute’s silence was observed by Council in memory of Councillor Brian Surtees and former Council Leader Di Collins, who both passed away earlier this month.
A heartfelt speech was first given by Council Leader Chris Whitbread, offering sincere condolences to the friends and family of both former Councillors. An abundance of tributes from Councillors from all parties followed, praising and sharing kind words in memory of both Councillor Brian Surtees and Di Collins.
Simon Hill has been appointed as Electoral Registration Officer and Returning Officer for Epping Forest District Council in advance of this year’s elections, on 3 May 2018.
Mr Hill was also appointed Monitoring Officer for the Council, a role which is responsible for the governance of Council officers and elected Councillors.
Di Collins, Epping Forest District Council’s former Conservative leader and District Councillor for a total of 19 years, passed away on 13 February 2018.
We offer our heartfelt condolences to Di’s family and friends at this most sad time. The District Council flag in Epping High Street has been lowered today as a mark of respect for the former leader of Council.
Our sincerest condolences
Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor David Stallan said: “My deepest condolences as Chairman of the council go out to her family for their sad loss. It was an absolute pleasure and an honour to serve in Di’s cabinet as Housing Portfolio holder. She was well respected politically across the chamber and for her charitable work across the district.
We will be inviting full Council to stand for a minute’s silence on 22 February in tribute to Di’s memory. Her passing is awful news and she will be sorely missed across large parts of the community in Epping Forest.”
Di shaped the Council
Leader of the Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “I’m saddened to learn of Di’s passing. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very sad time. As leader, she was instrumental in shaping the Council in to what it is today and we are indebted to her for this.
She was dedicated to the people of Epping Forest and as the Chairman has said, Di will be greatly missed not only by her colleagues but for the work she has done for the people across the district.”
Di first became a District Councillor in 1991 and was elected to represent the Epping Hemnall ward, which she did until 1999. In 2001 she was elected to represent the Passingford ward and served her constituents until she retired in 2012.
She became Leader of the Conservative Group in 2004 and furthered her political success by becoming Leader of Epping Forest District Council in 2006, a role she undertook for 6 years.
She was a member of many committees and panels, she also represented the Council on many outside organisations such as, Epping Forest Local Strategic Partnership, the East of England Regional Assembly, the Corporation Board of Epping Forest College and the East of England Local Government Association.
She was known to the Council as a dedicated and compassionate fundraiser. Di supported an incredible number of local charities and community groups. Di was Chairman of the Epping Forest Primary Care Trust, where she supervised the construction of a new building at St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping.
She also held positions such as; Chairman of the Board of Governors of Epping Forest College, Chairman and later President of the Epping Forest Conservative Association and Governor of Epping Junior School.
Citizen of the Year 2013
She was a major fundraiser for national and local charities including the RNLI, Abbeyfield Society, St Clare’s Hospice and the League of Friends of St Margaret’s Hospital. So much so that in 2013 one year after she retired from her role as Councillor, she was awarded the accolade of Citizen of the Year for her commitment to the district, its people and to the Council.
District councillors approved publication of the submission version of the Local Plan at a special meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 14 December. The decision paves the way for the start of Regulation 19, a six week period during which residents and other interested parties can comment on the legal soundness of the plan before submission to the government at the end of March.
Development within Epping Forest District up to 2033
The Local Plan contains policies for development within Epping Forest District up to 2033. It includes the designation of areas for housing, employment and the Metropolitan Green Belt.
Publication of the submission version of the Local Plan was accelerated after the Secretary of State Sajid Javid warned councils to expect government intervention and significant additional housing allocations where Local Plans are not in place. Epping Forest District could see the number of new homes almost doubled if it did not submit its plan for inspection by a government-appointed inspector by the end of March 2018.
Invitation of submissions
Councillors agreed the Plan and the invitation of submissions on legality, soundness and the duty to co-operate with neighbouring councils for a six week period commencing 18 December.
The Plan and a special form designed to assist residents make submissions will be available to complete from 12pm Monday on the Epping Forest District Council website. A printable pdf version of the form will also be available to download. Reference copies of the Local Plan and associated documents will also be available to view at the following locations:
Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping
Epping Forest District Council, 25 Hemnall Street, Epping
Epping Forest District Council Loughton Broadway Housing Office
Epping Forest District Council Limes Centre Chigwell
Epping Sports Centre
Loughton Leisure Centre
Ongar Leisure Centre
Waltham Abbey Swimming Pool
Buckhurst Hill Library
Chipping Ongar Library
North Weald Library
Waltham Abbey Library
Final representations must be received no later than 5pm on Monday 29 January 2018.
Savings, efficiencies and income generation are bridging the gap as reductions in government funding of approximately £700,000 over the next 4 years are being addressed in the Medium Term Financial Strategy. Reports to the Cabinet meeting held on 7 December 2017 included cabinet committee minutes noting the phasing out of the Revenue Support Grant.
Other items on the agenda included consultation on the Local Council Tax Support scheme, additional resources for homelessness prevention and investment in Loughton Leisure Centre. The Council’s staffing structure, the Capital Review, Local Plan, additional police, support for Epping Forest District Youth Council and a ‘Behavioural Insights’ project to help residents interact with the Council also featured on a packed agenda.
No extra crèche money but investment in changing facilities confirmed
Councillors agreed not to subsidise crèche facilities at Loughton Leisure Centre. Facilities at Loughton supporting the crèche are to be redeveloped as part of wider improvements to the Leisure Centre. However, councillors were able to support improvements to changing facilities at a cost of £324,000. Epping Forest District Council is better placed than many other councils to invest in leisure facilities.
Recognising the discretionary nature of the service and the competing demands for funding, councillors regretted being unable to support the crèche. However, in addition to other improvements to Loughton, the Council is building a new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey.
Councillors backed amendments to the Local Council Tax Support scheme. Following consultation earlier in the year the scheme is being adapted to take account of Universal Credit and working practices of the Department of Work and Pensions. Councillors also welcomed government recognition of the growing demand with grant funding of an additional post within the homelessness prevention team.
Staff structures and service improvements
Councillors also approved provisional budget allocations to support long term staff realignment and service delivery. The Common Operating Model set out within the Council’s People Strategy is aiming to streamline and refocus management processes and staff. Councillors approved provisional funding for next year to meet redundancy and pension costs with commensurate salary budget savings leading to break even in a year or so and ongoing savings thereafter.
The Corporate Plan set out plans for the provision of future services based on the needs of local residents. Approval for regular satisfaction level surveys and research into ‘behavioural’ insights are set to track and accelerate improvements to services.
Working with Essex Police, councillors welcomed proposals for local funding to boost the number of police officers or uniformed presence patrolling the district. £25,000 is to be allocated for employment of Parkguard staff over the next 3 months with aspirations for more permanent recruitment of police officers to follow.
Councillors also approved a project funding budget of £8,000 for Epping Forest District Youth Council.
Strong financial performance continues to be reflected in the Council’s Capital Programme Review despite challenging circumstances. The Council is continuing to deliver commercial projects with community benefits such as Epping Forest Shopping Park and its associated highway improvement works, the new leisure centre for Waltham Abbey and the ongoing new council-house building programme.
Local Plan resourcing
Demand on the Council’s planning services is expected to increase as the new Local Plan moves forward. Councillors approved funding for the establishment of a new Strategic Sites Implementation Team with a bid for £278,000 per year over 2 years to assist the implementation of the Local Plan.
Epping Forest District Local Plan Submission Version 2017
Councillors will be asked to approve formal publication of the ‘Epping Forest District Local Plan Submission Version 2017’. If agreed, residents will be invited to make representations on the legality and soundness of the Plan during a six week period between 18 December and 29 January. Representations will then be submitted with the Local Plan for examination by a government-appointed planning inspector.
Consideration of the Local Plan has been brought forward following Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement that councils failing to submit a Local Plan for examination before 31 March 2018 could see housing allocations significantly increased. If Epping Forest District’s Plan is not submitted in time, the 11,400 new housing requirement allocated for the District could increase to 20,000 over the Local Plan period up to 2033.
Subject to Council approval, the Plan and all supporting documents will be published to its website from 18 December with a special form for residents, developers and any other interested stakeholders to complete.
The Council hopes people will use the online form specially created for the purpose.
The next stage in the process
Planning Portfolio Holder, Councillor John Philip said: “We held extensive consultation on the Local Plan last year. The next stage in the process restricts representations to legal compliance and soundness of the Plan. The online form is designed to help everyone follow the guidelines and submit comments in the right format for the planning inspector who will ultimately hold the public examination and approve or reject the Plan. Using the form will give you the best chance of ensuring the inspector takes your views into account.”
However, Councillor Philip added: “We know online forms are not for everyone. We will also provide a printable version if you prefer paper as well as accepting email submissions on behalf of the inspector.”
Watch the meeting online
The ‘Submission Version 2017’ of the Local Plan has been published online as part of the Council agenda.
Due to the nature and complexity of the Plan, the meeting is scheduled to start earlier than usual at 6pm. Limited public viewing is available in the Council chamber and the Council will also provide access via breakout TV screens in the atrium of the Civic offices.
The meeting will also be webcast and residents will be able to watch live and recorded online from the comfort of their own homes.
Councillor Philip added: “Publication over the Christmas period is not ideal but the government consultation leaves little choice if we are to hit the 31 March deadline. However, by sharing the Plan through the Council agenda as early as possible, we can effectively give people an extra two weeks to think about any comments and submissions before the formal representations period starts.”
The Council is also writing to everyone who previously expressed interest in the Local Plan.
Crime and the relationship between young people and the police focused the attention of youth councillors and delegates at the Epping Forest Youth Council Conference on Friday 3 November 2017.
Hosted by Epping Forest District Council, the conference listened to presentations from Alex Burghart MP, Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Jane Gardner, Darren Horsman and Tom Mitchell, deputising for District Police Commander Lewis Basford.
The conference then debated the question:
“This house believes Essex Police should have a dedicated Police Liaison Officer serving the Epping Forest District.”
Watch the live debate
Police Liaison Officer not the answer
Knife crime, gangs and how to tackle these issues featured heavily. Does a single dedicated liaison officer have the scope and resources to make a meaningful impact? Could they develop better understanding and give young people a clearer voice in offering solutions?
Following a full and wide-ranging debate conference rejected the motion by 62 percent to 38 percent. A dedicated Police School Liaison Officer does not seem to be the answer for the young people of Epping Forest.
Click on an image below to begin slideshow of the youth conference.
Say No to N2O
Conference also discussed the growing problem of Nitros Oxide use among young people. Earlier this year, members of the youth council collected hundreds of discarded N2O canisters across the district. Legally available for uses ranging from medicine to party balloons, in the wrong hands N2O is being seen increasingly as a dangerous recreational gateway drug.
Council Leader – Importance of young people
Winding up the youth conference, the Leader of Epping Forest District Council Councillor Chris Whitbread thanked and congratulated each of the delegates and their schools for supporting the event. He emphasised the importance of giving young people a voice. In a world dominated by older generations he approved the fresh ideas and knowledge brought to bear by involving young people in the decisions that affect the community.
Skills for work and mental health were voted top topics for future work.
Epping Forest District Council welcomed the first tenants into John Scott Court, Waltham Abbey this week.
50 guests gathered for the official opening ceremony, an event which marked the completion of Phase One of the Council’s House-building Programme to provide 23 new affordable rented homes in Waltham Abbey.
The development is named after former District Health and Housing Officer and Joint Chief Executive John Scott as a tribute to decades of service to the Council and the local community.
Guests, including John Scott, MP Eleanor Laing and local councillors joined council officers, contractors and tenants to open the nine newly built homes at John Scott Court, all of which are being let to local residents in need of housing.
Energy efficient homes
The brand new energy-efficient homes, which are built to Lifetime Homes Standards, are built on a formerly under-used garage site.
Resident delighted with her new home
One new tenant, who was delighted to move into her new home said: “I moved in last week and am so happy in my new home. I am very impressed with the size of the rooms, my son has lots of space for his toys. I’ve shown lots of friends and neighbours around my flat and they all want to live here!”
Programme of over 300 homes
The new homes at John Scott Court are the latest completions in the district-wide programme of over 300 new affordable homes to be built during the next 10 years. They will shortly be followed by the completion of Phase 2 of the Programme in Burton Road, Loughton, which is on schedule to complete by March 2018.
Proud to work with residents
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing attended the official opening and said: “We are committed to making the best use of our housing stock and are continuing to build new homes for people in housing need within our community. We are proud to be working with residents and partners, building more well-designed homes for affordable rent in our district”.
After the ceremony there was an opportunity to visit another new development of six houses and flats at Hockley court, Waltham Abbey.
A new Police helicopter base, anti- social behaviour in Waltham abbey and the Oakwood hill depot were among items discussed at Epping Forest District Council’s Cabinet meeting Thursday 7 September 2017.
North Weald set to become new Police helicopter base
North Weald Airfield is set to become a new base for the National Police Air Service. Three helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft will be based at the council-owned airfield.
Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg put forward recommendations for a 25 year lease with the helicopter service. The proposals would include a new hanger and buildings to support a range of police helicopter activities.
The Police will be joining a range of other aviation tenants including the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance which has operated very successfully from North Weald for several years. Receiving reassurances about flight lines and noise levels from members of the National Police Air Service at the meeting, councillors welcomed the report and the aspiration for continued development of aviation at North Weald.
Councillor Sam Kane was welcomed to his first Cabinet meeting as Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder by Council Leader Chris Whitbread. Councillor Kane has stepped into the role previous held by Councillor Gary Waller who recently passed away.
Councillor Kane’s first act was to deliver a strong statement regarding anti-social behaviour in Waltham Abbey.
Councillor Sam Kane’s Statement:
“Fellow Councillors will know that Epping Forest District Council is working in partnership with local residents and other organisations to improve the quality of life for everyone in and around Hillhouse on the Ninefields housing estate in Waltham Abbey.
Work has started in just the last few weeks on a brand new leisure centre. Health, housing and social facilities are coming together in a major multi-million pound investment.
The vast majority of residents in this area are the most decent and law-abiding citizens you could ever wish to meet. We also know there is an element of anti-social behaviour, a group of people who seem intent on making the lives of everyone else miserable. We are working with all our partners including Essex Police to tackle this behaviour but events in the last day or so have taken a new and very ugly twist.
Fishing line has been tied at knee height between posts and fences with the deliberate intention of tripping and hurting people. This mindless and stupid act has resulted in injury to a small child. Pictures of the serious cuts to his face have been circulated on social media.
I know this will come as a shock to you and I know every councillor would wish to send our sympathy to this innocent young child and his family.
Local residents and all right-minded people will be incensed by this latest incident. Through this meeting I want to let our residents know that we stand with them. The anti-social behaviour of the last few weeks must now stop.
A temporary dispersal order has been put in place from tonight. You will appreciate that many other things are going on behind the scenes that I cannot discuss in public.
Council staff have been working incredibly hard. Plans of action drawn up with Essex Police even before this latest event are being put into effect now. We believe we know who the perpetrators are. It saddens me to say that they are very young. We have been working with our local schools and have passed the identities of the perpetrators to Essex Police.
Enough is enough. Anti-social behaviour is a blight on our communities which must end. As the action plan goes into effect, I expect to see the situation improve significantly. I also know that you can never eliminate all crime, but with the support of my council colleagues I want to send out a clear message. We stand with all the decent and law-abiding residents of Waltham Abbey.
We will not let the few ruin the lives of the many.”
New council office and depot facilities accommodating Grounds Maintenance, Fleet Maintenance and the MoT centre opened recently at Oakwood Hill in Loughton. Latest proposals for the transfer of the Council’s Housing Repairs service to Oakwood Hill were scrutinised at Cabinet.
Proposals for additional staff car parking received particular attention. A petition opposing the use of green space opposite the new facility was delivered by Councillor Chris Roberts.
Councillors agreed the recommendations in the Cabinet report with the proviso that alternatives to the proposals of additional parking would also be investigated. Full public consultation would also take place as part of any planning application process if the proposals for parking set out in the report went forward.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread updated fellow councillors on a range of projects geared towards improving customer service including a new public customer service reception, plans for which are due to come before Cabinet by the end of the year.