Call to build local tourism economy

Written on . Posted in Business, Consultation, Councillors, Leader, Local business, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Supporting business, Travel, Your area, Your council

Businesses have been urged to tap into the tourism market after figures indicate it was worth over £180m in 2010 to the local economy.

The call to everyone associated with local tourism in the Epping Forest district – from visitor attractions, sporting facilities, restaurants, festivals and events was answered on 31 January when more than 80 delegates attended the district’s first-ever tourism workshop.

Representatives from every sector of the industry met with key policy makers from the district and neighbouring local authorities to plan the future of the tourism on offer in Epping Forest.

Visit Epping Forest website

Delegates heard from speakers setting out the current value of this sector to the local economy in terms of income and jobs and forecasts of how this might grow. Individual members of the One Epping Forest Tourism Taskforce including the Corporation of London and Epping Ongar Railway set out what they thought the key opportunities were for the district before all the delegates broke into workshops to come up with the key components of a longer-term development plan.

Chairman of the Epping Forest District Tourism Development Taskforce Councillor Tony Boyce said: “I am really impressed with the large number of colleagues from the business, voluntary and government sector who turned out today for this important event. Clearly Tourism is already a significant contributor to the economy of the district worth over £180m in 2010 but today delegates were clear that we had opportunities to bring in even more. In terms of the future, lots of new ideas were put forward, it was clear that we need a mechanism for enabling all elements of the sector to work better together and to co-ordinate promoting the whole district as well as individual attractions. I think we all know that Epping Forest district is an absolutely lovely place with bags and bags of tourism potential. Our job is to unlock fully that potential.”

Councillor Tony Boyce continued: “The Taskforce’s key emphasis is on ‘doing’. For starters, we have developed www.visiteppingforest.org to promote what the area has to offer. We are also producing a promotional leaflet, collectively promoting ourselves at trade fairs and exploring other joint working opportunities. Going forward we want and need the input of all providers locally. It is clear that our partners believe there is massive untapped potential for inward investment and jobs through greater promotion of tourism across the district.”

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council and Chairman of One Epping Forest was delighted with the response to the tourism summit. Having lived in the Epping area all his life, Chris said: “It always surprises me how much Epping Forest district has to offer. From rafting at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Abbey to our historic towns and of course the green open spaces of our beautiful Forest and the Lea Valley Regional Park, there is so much on offer for visitors to our district.”

He added: “Tourism is very important to our area. We need to build upon the Olympic legacy, the opportunities of the Tour de France coming to our area in 2014 and the canoeing world championships at the White Water Centre in 2015. We look forward to welcoming more and more visitors to our local area.”

Leader calls on residents to Shop Local

Written on . Posted in Arts, Business, Council tax, Countrycare, Democracy, Health, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Olympics, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Private housing, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Your money

Hello,

When I became the new leader of Epping Forest District Council back in the summer, the country was poised for the Olympic Games.

The Olympics proved to be the most fantastic success. As a Country, we staged probably the best Olympic and Paralympic games ever. At a time when the economy is flat and families are struggling to make ends meet, we all showed the rest of the world what Great Britain can achieve.

I am very proud to say that Epping Forest District played its part in our national success. The Lee Valley White Water Centre outside Waltham Abbey was completed on time and budget, giving thousands of people their first taste of the Olympic rapids before any of the other new venues had opened.

But this was just the platform – we helped to provide a stage but it was the people, the volunteers, the spectators, and most of all, the athletes that made the Games such a success. And as we look ahead to 2013 that is how I see the job of Epping Forest District Council – to provide the stage and the conditions in which the residents of Epping Forest can perform to their maximum potential.

So how do we do that?

To begin with we must leave as much of your money in your own pocket as possible. We are a low tax council. It is three years since the last increase in the Epping Forest District element of the Council Tax. We have one of the lowest Council Taxes in Essex.

We are pro-business. A healthy business sector means jobs and services for local people. Pay and Display parking charges in our towns are among the lowest you can find. Many car parks are free at weekends in the run up to Christmas. Working with local businesses, we promote our town centres, visitor attractions and tourism for local residents and visitors alike.

We are pro the environment. There is terrific demand on local housing because people want to live here. We do all we can to defend the Green Belt and we are trying to provide homes to meet the needs not only of people today, but our children and grandchildren in the future.

Healthy living and an active social life go hand in hand with a good life at home and work. We provide leisure centres, support a Youth Council and keep our older residents fit and active. Much of our work is supported by volunteers. Whether you are clearing country paths and coppicing trees with Countrycare or leading a walk for older people through Epping Forest or the Lee Valley Regional Park, the work of the council is magnified and enhanced by the generosity and spirit of volunteers.

Everyone has a part to play and there is never a better time than Christmas to show your support for the district. I want everyone who lives and works in Epping Forest to join with me in making 2013 the year our district takes off.

Use your local high street

One Shops Local and Visit Epping Forest are two websites designed to support local business. Created by Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, the council and other members of our Local Strategic Partnership, these sites are the place to find all the information, deals and recommendations you need to support your local high street.

If you have a few hours to spare and want to make another kind of difference, why not contact Voluntary Action Epping Forest to find out what you could do.

So next time you are thinking about a day out, looking for a good tradesperson or writing your shopping list remember the answers are all online and available on your doorstep.

On behalf of all the councillors and staff at Epping Forest District Council may I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Chris Whitbread
Leader – Epping Forest District Council

Cabinet on 3 December

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Leader, Licensing, Local business, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

Parking reviews, town centre initiatives, dog control orders and more were among the items discussed at cabinet on Monday 3 December 2012.

£35,000 for Town Centre initiatives

Councillors at cabinet on 3 December approved £35,000 to develop a range of initiatives in support of the district’s town centres. Councillor Anne Grigg, Economic Development and Asset Management Portfolio Holder announced a town team taskforce will work with local town centre partnerships to allocate the money and develop the initiatives. It will also champion the needs of local high streets, co-ordinate and promote activities across the district, innovating and testing new ideas.

Although funded by the council and chaired by Councillor Anne Grigg in her business champion capacity, the taskforce will be made up mainly of local business leaders drawn from the 6 town centre partnerships, Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, Epping Forest College and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Among the practical initiatives being considered for the taskforce to take forward are ‘High Street Hero’ awards, maximising national campaigns at local level, ‘bite-size’ training for small businesses and economic initiative grants. Linking tourism and high street promotion through the websites ‘Visit Epping Forest’ and ‘One Shops Local’ with promotional support by the council through platforms such as the Forester magazine and council website will help to support these initiatives.

 

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council is also a local business person. He strongly welcomed the proposals put forward by Councillor Grigg. Reminding councillors that 3 December is the busiest day for online shopping, he said that each of the towns of Epping Forest has excellent shops and services as well as the opportunity to reach residents.

In a further measure of support to residents and high street shops, Councillor Gary Waller announced £25,000 towards significant extension and improvement to CCTV coverage in Loughton. In response to a question he also noted improvements to CCTV coverage in Epping. Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder then went on to ask cabinet to confirm no increase in charges in the council’s town centre pay and display car parks.

Development agent chosen for council house building

Councillors have taken another major step towards starting a new council house building programme with approval to appoint East Thames Group as development agent. Cabinet approved a recommendation for the appointment of East Thames on an initial 4 year contract which could be extended to up to 7 years as the council starts to provide 20 new dwellings a year over a 6 year period.

The appointment follows a competitive tender in which the bid of £1,582,500 by East Thames Group came out as the most economically advantageous to the council.

East Thames will be responsible for feasibility, planning application, post-planning including project management and appointment of construction contractors plus other related services.

Dog control orders

Dog owners will be required to clear their dog’s faeces on public land following the adoption of dog control orders by the council. Cabinet also approved recommendations to restrict the total number of dogs that can be walked by a single person on public land to four and for authorised officers to require dogs to be put on a lead when requested.

£113,000 boost for homelessness prevention

The homelessness prevention service is to be boosted. In addition to allocating money for staffing its own service, members of the cabinet also approved funding towards the costs of debt advisers employed by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the council’s rental loan scheme assisting homeless people obtain private rented accommodation.

Prevention is a key part of the council’s strategy in dealing with homelessness. Between 2008 and 2012, 1,820 of the 2,233 homelessness cases (82%) dealt with by the council were prevented, enabling people to find or keep a roof over their heads.

Parking reviews

Lessons learnt from the Epping Parking Review will be used to improve the outcomes of the Buckhurst Hill and Loughton Broadway reviews. In particular, subsequent reviews will target the needs of specific areas rather than wider area reviews. Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder assured councillors that full consultation would be carried out as the reviews went forward.

Health summit to build healthier future

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Councillors, Health, Leader, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council

One Epping Forest successfully hosted its first Health Summit for Epping Forest. The event brought together members of local government, the NHS and local communities to discuss how One Epping Forest can jointly influence healthy living in Epping Forest. The Health Summit provided an opportunity to share learning and ideas, develop connections and build a healthier future together.Andrew Gardner, Chief Executive of Age UK Essex, said: “The event exceeded my expectations. It was a great opportunity to hear about some really practical projects that showcased Age UK’s Fit as a Fiddle initiative. From speaking with delegates I know there is a collective will and enthusiasm to involve everyone to achieve a healthier future, the challenge for us now is how we do this.”

The focus of the Health Summit was to help define local health priorities and needs, as well as engaging with a wide range of local stakeholders. Delegates were also informed about the transition from PCT to CCGs and given the opportunity to steer future health initiatives and address health inequality.  In addition delegates had the opportunity to learn about and discuss healthy ageing matters and learning from fit as a fiddle projects, in particular Epping Forest District Council’s Active Health project.

The health summit was a great success with over 50 delegates from Essex attending the event the Marriott hotel, Waltham Abbey on 12 October 2012. The day began with a Tai Chi demonstration and a welcome speech by One Epping Forest Chairman and Leader of the District Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread. Following this were a number of key speakers from across the health field.

There were opportunities to view stalls from partner organisations throughout the day and workshops were held to discuss health priorities and to explore ways of working  closer together.  The day finished with a question and answer session where delegates were invited to put questions to a number of health experts.

The health summit was jointly organised by press red, One Epping Forest and funded by Age UK.

Full Council 27 September

Written on . Posted in Business, Chairman, Commercial properties, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Our performance, Performance, Planning, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your council, Your money

Members of the Epping Forest Youth Council attended the Full Council meeting on 27 September 2012. On the agenda to be  discussed were Council Tax, the Local Plan consultation, annual accounts, the St Johns Road development and North Weald Airfield.

Watch the webcast in full

Chairman’s announcements

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council began his announcements with a special welcome to Glen Chipp. Mr Chipp is due to take up his new duties as Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council on 1 October 2012. North Weald Airfield featured prominently in the Chairman’s report of his activities during September.

The close ties of friendship between the district and the people of Norway was reinforced by a recent visit of Norwegian RAF veterans and serving members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Chairman also formed part of the welcome to serving and veteran members of No 56 Squadron RAF on Battle of Britain Sunday. 56 Squadron served with distinction, flying from North Weald during the Battle of Britain. Battle honours of 56 Squadron are displayed on its old Standard which was dedicated to St Andrew’s Church in North Weald.

Epping Forest District Council lost the Annual Petanque match with Epping Town Council. Councillor Rolfe and Councillor David Stallan represented the District Council. ‘Dubious tactics’ were alleged before congratulations were offered to the Town Council represented by dual-hatted councillors Jon Whitehouse and Will Breare-Hall.

No increase for Council Tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder, briefed councillors on future financial settlements. She left councillors in no doubt of her belief in the desirability of a zero per cent council tax increase next year.

Local Plan consultation

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder updated councillors on Community Choices. 224 formal responses have been received in response to the Local Plan consultation so far. Council staff have been meeting residents. Almost 1,000 people have attended the Community Choices meetings held across the district over the last six weeks or so.

Annual statement of accounts

The annual statement of accounts for 2011/12 was presented by the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, Councillor Antony Watts. Councillor Watts recommended interested councillors watch the webcast of Audit and Governance committee on 24 September where Finance Director Bob Palmer gave a comprehensive presentation.

Councillor Watts drew attention to a number of changes in production of the latest statement including assessments of depreciation on council assets and the pension fund. He also highlighted the major financial commitment of £185 million stemming from changes to the Housing Subsidy system. He concluded by thanking the Auditors and the Council’s own finance officers before recommending the report. Councillor Syd Stavrou responded to Councillor Watts. She assured councillors of the long term benefits to the Council by making a single one-off payment of £185 million instead of on-going annual payments to central government of £11 million.

The Council’s financial position is better than anticipated despite cuts in central government funding. Councillor Stavrou also recommended acceptance of the annual statement of accounts which met with the approval of the Council. 

St John’s Road design and development brief

Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the St John’s Road Design and Development brief to Full Council. Fellow cabinet member and Epping Councillor, Will Breare-Hall welcomed the brief as amended following consultation earlier in the summer. In particular he drew attention to the shift in emphasis from retail to leisure provision in line with the views expressed by local residents.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council looked forward to discussion based on the brief with other landowners. Ward Councillor Tony Church sought reassurance on the issue of a supermarket. Councillor Grigg responded by drawing a distinction between a supermarket which drew wide-spread public opposition and other forms of retail such as a department store which found favour with some local residents. Councillor Janet Whitehouse asserted that she would have preferred a stronger plan and abstained when councillors voted in favour of the adoption of the Brief.

North Weald Airfield

A budget of £150,000 was agreed to enable Epping Forest District Council to commission further work on the future of North Weald Airfield. Referring to recommendations by Ernst and Young, Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg encouraged councillors to approve the two-stage process looking at aviation and non-aviation options.

Cabinet discuss St John’s Road development

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Community, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Meetings, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your community

A meeting of the Cabinet, on Monday 10 September, began with a series of public questions concerning the recently-published draft St John’s Road design and development brief. Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor Anne Grigg responded to each in turn including:

  • Retail and leisure use
  • Ownership
  • Access
  • Impact on neighbouring property values
  • Character and environmental impact of options
  • Public feedback on the options in the recent consultation

View questions and the debate

Councillor Grigg reminded Cabinet of the ownership of St John’s Road, in particular Essex County Council which controls the future of the former primary school, library and registry office.

Turning to the substantive report, Councillor Grigg reported the significant public opposition to a large supermarket. She introduced Mr Steve Walker to present the Development and Design Brief prepared by Allies Morrison Urban Practitioners.

Mr Walker noted the relocation of the primary school as a driving factor and took Cabinet through a description of the recent public consultation. 4 options were tabled for public consideration:

  1. Retail led
  2. Leisure led
  3. Retail and leisure
  4. Residential

More than 800 responses were received. Online responses were particularly popular with residents. Improved sport and leisure was by far the most important consideration raised by residents. Protection of existing historic buildings and the character of town were also very important. Also provision for adult education.

Options for a large supermarket drew the most significant opposition. Retail uses could have potential, provided they complement the existing town centre.

The brief leaves open the possibility of leisure and sports provision, potentially in conjunction with redevelopment of the Hemnall Street sports centre site. Further work is being carried out to assess the viability and impact of such a proposal. Mr Walker reminded Cabinet that as the major landowner, Essex County Council is seeking to realise as much money from the sale of its land holdings as possible having provided the new school .

Councillor Will Breare-Hall recognised the value of the consultation and welcomed the inclusion of  sports and leisure in response to public wishes. Councillor Richard Bassett Planning Portfolio Holder wished to know if Essex County Council as the major land owner had acknowledged local feeling.

Responding to Councillor John Philip, Councillor Bassett, noted the links between St John’s Road and the work going on to produce a new Local Plan.

Councillor Anne Grigg summed up by saying that this was an opportunity for Epping. Subject to any further minor changes, the draft St John’s Road Development Brief will be recommended for approval by Full Council on 27 September.

Appointment of Chief Executive

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Your council

Glen Chipp has been appointed Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council. Councillors confirmed the recommendation of a special recruitment committee at the meeting of full council on Monday 18 June 2012.

A start date has yet to be confirmed, but Councillor Jon Whitehouse, who chaired the recruitment committee, reported the likelihood of Mr Chipp having to work his full notice period of 3 months with Bath and North East Somerset Council before joining Epping Forest.

In the intervening period, Derek Macnab will continue as Acting Chief Executive, before reverting back to his Deputy Chief Executive role.

Council to make decision on new chief executive

Written on . Posted in Business, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Your council

Epping Forest District councillors will be asked to approve the appointment of Glen Chipp (52) as permanent chief executive at their meeting next Monday 18 June 2012.

The appointment is being recommended by a cross-party recruitment panel following a rigorous selection process which included two days of tests and interviews earlier in June.

He was one of 5 shortlisted candidates after 43 potential candidates applied for the post back in April.

Councillor Jon Whitehouse, Chairman of the Committee for the Appointment of the Chief Executive said: “We were fortunate to be able to choose from a high quality field. All of the shortlisted candidates were of a very high calibre. After a rigorous selection process Glen Chipp was the unanimous choice of the appointment committee.”

Formal confirmation of appointment to the £112,000 post rests with a special meeting of all 58 councillors on Monday 18 June.

Glen Chipp is a chartered accountant with an honours degree in chemistry and a background in the holiday and airline business who moved into a high profile public sector role with Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Council. His CV includes senior roles with Deloitte, ICI, Whirlpool and the regional newspaper group Thomson. From there he moved to The Scotsman, one of Scotland’s leading newspapers. He entered tourism and aviation as managing director of Inspiration Holidays, became Group Aviation Director for Thomas Cook Ltd then Managing Director of Thomas Cook Airlines UK.

Glen briefly became the chief operating officer with Save and Invest Ltd. He is also a member of the board of governors at the City of Bath College. If councillors agree the recommendations of the appointment committee, Mr Chipp is expected to join the council in the early autumn. Derek Macnab will continue to act as chief executive in the interim.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “Epping Forest District Council is one of the most efficient, low-tax councils in Essex. We are looking to build on that record. The next few years are unlikely to be easy. The economy continues to struggle and there will be more savings in public spending. Glen is not a typical local government officer. He has wide-ranging private sector expertise as well as experience at the highest levels in the public sector. I am sure that if the recommendations of the recruitment committee are accepted, Glen will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to one of the most demanding roles in local government.”

Councillor Whitbread added: “I would also like to thank Derek Macnab for the terrific job he has done as acting chief executive. He is held in the highest regard by councillors and we look forward to the significant contribution he will continue to make as the council moves forward.”

Cabinet on 11 June 2012

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Your council

Planning budgets, new council housing and ride on mowers were discussed at the latest meeting of the cabinet on 11 June 2012.

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Budgets for planning

Cabinet approved budget expenditure for two key planning projects at its meeting on 11 June. First on the agenda was the St John’s Road, Epping – Development Brief. Council Anne Grigg, Asset Management and Economic Development Portfolio Holder outlined expenditure including the recent consultation which stimulated many public responses.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder then asked members to note funding estimates for the completion of the new Local Plan over the next three years. Drawing attention to the costs of the Government Direction on Gypsies and Travellers, Councillor Bassett explained how timing of Local Plan delivery and associated costs had been revised over a period of years.

It is anticipated that the draft Local Plan will go before a Government inspector at the examination in public before coming into force in 2014.

Separately Councillor Bassett presented a report proposing to publish a comprehensive timetable for the development and implementation of the Local Plan on the council website.

New-build council housing

Councillors took another step towards re-starting council house building when they approved an agreement with the Department of Communities and Local Government for the use of money received from Right to Buy sales. Under the agreement, the Council will be able to spend receipts from Right to Buy sales on building new houses rather than passing the money to the Government.

New ride-on mowers

Council operated ride-on mowers travel thousands of miles back and forth across the district keeping the verges and playing fields neat and tidy. The current five mowers are nearing the end of their operational lives. Councillors weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of leasing or buying new machines outright before agreeing to seek a supplementary capital estimate of £123,750 to buy five new mowers.

Furniture exchange

Cabinet agreed to carry forward £20,000 set aside for the new furniture exchange scheme. The scheme will aim to recycle furniture, making it available to residents on low incomes. Money was originally allocated to the scheme for 2011/12 but following delays, councillors agreed to keep the money in the budget for 2012/13. The privately operated scheme is expected to become self-financing in due course.

The Earl of Wessex visits the Epping Forest district

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Community, Councillors, Leader, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council

The Earl of Wessex, HRH Prince Edward, came to visit the Epping Forest District on Wednesday 23 November.  It was a proud moment for Zinc Arts and Tolpuddle House in Ongar and the Grange Farm Centre Trust in Chigwell, which has been hailed as a ‘great day’ for the local community.

The Earl of Wessex formally opened both facilities, with great admiration for all those who have worked so hard in bringing these delightful projects together for the people of Essex.

The Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens was also in attendance and expressed has gratitude on such a prestigious event and said: “I was hugely impressed by the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of so many people and organisations who worked together to bring Zinc Arts and Tolpuddle House to fruition.  The result is a facility of which they can be very proud and the new young residents, who all have disabilities, are clearly very excited by this new opportunity that gives them the best possible chance in life for independent living. This facility is not just for the residents of Tolpuddle House but will be a wonderful local resource for the Town as well.  We are proud of our own involvement in helping, with others, to facilitate this project”.

The Earl of Wessex, HRH Prince Edward, went on to visit the Grange Farm Centre, Chigwell which marks the completion of a £2.25m project which will benefit Chigwell and the wider community.

The occasion marked the culmination of an ambitious project undertaken by the Grange Farm Centre Trust over six years to restore land adjacent to the former Grange Farm Camp Site and which was opened by Princess Elizabeth in 1951.

On his arrival, the Earl of Wessex was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Petre and presented to Epping Forest District Council acting Chief Executive Derek Macnab and his wife Donna; Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing and Grange Farm Centre Trust chairman Alex Pelican.

The Earl of Wessex was shown the visitors’ book signed by his mother 60 years ago and was invited to sign the new visitors’ book during his 80-minute visit. He unveiled a commemorative plaque to open the pavilion officially on the site which has undergone a complete transformation since the days when it was used for camping.

Today, in addition to the pavilion, the land features a range of community facilities – one senior football pitch or two junior pitches on the top field and two junior pitches on the lower field. There is also a picnic area and ample space for parking.