Ambitious council unveils plans

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Ambitious plans coordinating developments in Epping and North Weald with modernisation of Epping Forest District Council are set out in reports coming to the next Cabinet meeting on 10 December.

St Johns Road redevelopment

Councillors are being asked to approve the next steps in the redevelopment of St Johns Road, to include a new leisure centre, cinema, shops and houses. A planning application to demolish the former primary school site has already been submitted. At the same time, councillors are being asked in principle to approve the relocation of many district council staff to new offices at Blenheim Way in North Weald.

Site of the former Epping Junior School and Epping Hall

Site of the former Epping Junior School and Epping Hall

Retaining the newer part of the Civic Offices in Epping for civic, democratic and customer service functions, the proposals involve the demolition of older buildings in preparation for a new residential development identified in the draft Local Plan.

Partnership opportunities

Epping Forest District Council is keen to explore partnership opportunities with Epping Town Council and North Weald Bassett Parish Council. Epping Town Council is already considering potential office sharing. The construction of a new leisure centre at St Johns Road would also pave the way for the redevelopment of the old site in Hemnall Street for housing.

Potentially only needing the ground floor of the Civic Offices in Epping, the district council is in the early stages of informal talks with other prospective partners to lease other parts of the Civic Offices. There will be further opportunities for commercial leases to small businesses on the top floor.

Protecting the High Street economy

Protecting the High Street economy is central to the council’s proposals.

Leader of Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “Epping Forest District Council is modernising to ensure we are fit for the future. The overall number of staff we employ is reducing. Along with agile home working, we are radically reducing our need for office space.”

“Moving all but our customer facing, civic and democratic staff to North Weald will significantly reduce our office costs but that must not come at an economic price to Epping High Street. Bringing new commercial businesses and long-standing partners such as Essex Police into Epping will help to ensure a healthy lunchtime cashflow for High Street businesses. Leasing out the Civic Offices also gives the district council more income to spend on local services.”

“There will also be major investment at the other end of Epping High Street as we deliver the proposals residents said they wanted, including the new cinema and leisure centre, further boosting High Street footfall.”

“The redevelopment of the old Hemnall Street sports centre for housing, along with the residential developments at the council offices and St Johns will also make a significant contribution to meeting our housing obligations in the draft Local Plan.”

The Civic Offices in Epping

The Civic Offices in Epping

North Weald offices

On North Weald, Councillor Whitbread said: “This is also very good news for North Weald. Building offices on land we already own next to the airfield will bring new business and employment opportunities to the village. Rationalising our office needs also presents opportunities to talk to North Weald Bassett Parish Council.”

“We are already discussing office sharing possibilities with Epping Town Council at the Civic Offices that will cut everyone’s costs, particularly good news for our Council Tax payers. We will be keen to explore similar opportunities at North Weald.”

Exciting times

Councillor Whitbread continued: “It is rare for a district council to have the capacity and the ambition to deliver on proposals of this scale. Epping Forest District Council is different. Against the backdrop of falling central government spending, we have invested where it counts. We are funding additional police officers.”

“The Epping Forest Shopping Park, our brand-new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey, new council housing and new partners such as the National Police Air Service arrival at North Weald Airfield show what we can do.”

“Quietly, efficiently and effectively, we are delivering the projects and services our residents, businesses and customers want. This is an exciting time and I am very proud of the leading role Epping Forest District Council is taking in the delivery of a better future.”

Further information

Epping Forest District Council is in discussion with Epping Town Council regarding their involvement in the scheme.

As a precursor to development, a planning application has been registered on behalf of Epping Forest District Council for demolition of the former Epping Junior School and Epping Hall including adjacent ancillary buildings, fences and walls.

The locally listed former Cookery School Building and Centre Point building to be retained. Epping Town Council owns Epping Hall and they will decide whether Epping Hall will be involved in any development plans.

Negotiations are in the early stages and no decisions have been made by Epping Town Council at this stage.

Comment on the application

Residents have until 15 December to comment on the application: