Green belt debate at cabinet

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Councillors discussed the green belt review at length when Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet met on 3 September 2015.

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First stage review completed

The first stage of the green belt review for the Epping Forest district has been completed. Councillors received a report on the strategic level review which identifies broad areas for further assessment. Completion of the review and any proposals to alter existing boundaries will become a significant part of the supporting documentation in the new Local Plan.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council reported that from the analysis of the first stage, the second stage of the green belt review will identify

  • Areas where the green belt policy designation should remain
  • Any historic anomalies in the existing boundaries or locations where development has taken place, which may therefore suggest minor amendments to green belt boundaries are required
  • Areas that would be less harmful in green belt terms for potential development purposes

Identification of any parcel of land as a potential area of development does not mean that the council agrees or approves of it. Planning Portfolio Holder Richard Bassett strongly emphasised that the review does not constitute any decisions by the council.

Hierarchy and cooperation

Councillors discussed the status of various settlements within the review with debate on definitions of small villages, large villages and towns. Further discussion will take place with representatives of Buckhurst Hill and Roydon on village or town status. Further discussion will also take place with Chigwell Parish Council on the detail of their submission.

Questions were also raised about proposals to carry out the second stage review in conjunction with Harlow. The council’s legal adviser Mark Beard said that the review should be viewed as an evidence gathering process. Council Leader Chris Whitbread said the ‘duty to cooperate’ was not a ‘duty to agree’ and proposed that cabinet proceed to the second stage review independently.

Broadband

The rollout of Superfast Broadband to rural parts of the Epping Forest district was welcomed by councillors at the meeting of cabinet on 3 September. Responding to comments on the different types of broadband being introduced nationwide, Portfolio holder Alan Lion assured councillors that the fibre installations being installed by Gigaclear were of the highest quality.

£120,000 boost to help people stay in their own homes

Cabinet increased the disabled facilities grants budget for 2015/16 to £0.5 million with the inclusion of an extra £120,000, with further additional funding bids to be made for three years up to 2018/19. Grants are used to help people remain independent in their own home. Grants are awarded to eligible residents based on occupational therapist referrals to the council.

Epping Forest Shopping Park update

Epping Forest District Council completed the purchase of Polofind’s interest in the Epping Forest Shopping Park on 3 July. Asset Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg updated councillors on progress toward the development of the new shopping park including highway works, approval of the most recent planning application on 10 June, architectural drawings, utility company works, health and safety, appointment of the main contractor, marketing and letting of the units and other matters. The council aims to have the complex fitted out and occupied by tenants in time for Christmas 2016.