The next meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s Parents Forum (Sport and Leisure) will take place at Lambourne End Activity Centre on 6 November between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Parents, guardians, carers and supporters of disabled people are invited to attend.
The Forum, which is being co-ordinated by the Community Services department of Epping Forest District Council, will be the steering group for the Epping Forest Inclusion Project. It will give people who know and understand the needs of disabled people the opportunity of having their say in the development of leisure opportunities for disabled people.
At this meeting, the key objectives of the project over the next two years will be discussed, as well as the short-term action plan. In addition, roles within the Forum will be assigned.
The Boundary Commission for England has launched an 8 week consultation on its revised proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England. Residents can view the proposed boundaries on the Commission website or at Epping Forest District Council’s Civic Offices in Epping until the consultation deadline of 10 December. The consultation is the last chance for people to have their say before the Commission prepares its final report.
The Commission has revised its initial proposals, which were published in September 2011, following earlier consultation where it received nearly 50,000 responses with people’s views. All the comments received have been considered and have contributed towards the reports and maps that were published on 16 October. People now have the opportunity to comment on the revised proposals before the final proposals are put to the Government next year.
Of particular interest to local residents will be the Commission’s preference for continuing with its proposal to transfer the Lambourne Ward to the Epping Forest Constituency from Brentwood and Ongar Constituency.
The Commission says that if they go back on their original idea and reinstate Lambourne as part of Brentwood and Ongar, this would require several other ward moves between Epping Forest, Brentwood and Ongar, Harlow and Billericay and Great Dunmow constituencies in order to ensure each remained within five per cent of their electoral quotas. It says compelling evidence provided by the District Council has swayed its view, in particular the links identified between Lambourne and Theydon Bois, local transport infrastructure and simple proximity. This was in spite of representations from some quarters that this alteration should not be made.
The review of constituency boundaries is being carried out by the independent Boundary Commission for England after Parliament decided that there should be a reduction in the number of constituencies across the UK and that there should be similar numbers of electors in each constituency. The number of constituencies in England is being reduced from 533 to 502. Every constituency must have an electorate (as at the review date) that is no less than 95% and no more than 105% of the UK electoral quota of 76,641 electors.
The Commission has published a set of regional reports and maps, which are available on its website and at the Civic Offices Epping and Ongar Library and at other councils and libraries in the eastern region. Details of the Commission’s consultation process are also available on its website and everyone is encouraged to look at the proposals and send in their views on them. Simon James, Secretary to the Commission, says the Commission is open to feedback. He continues: “We were really encouraged by the response to the consultation on our initial proposal. Now that we have published our revised proposals we continue to welcome people’s participation until the consultation closes on 10 December 2012.”
We wish to thank all of the 5,255 residents and businesses who presented their views on future housing and development before the close of the Community Choices consultation on Monday 15 October.
Since the start of the consultation on 30 July, councillors and staff have been talking, and listening to the views of, residents and businesses across the district. Planning Portfolio Holder Councillor Richard Bassett concluded his part of the marathon consultation during the last week with public local council meetings in Sheering and Nazeing.
Councillor Bassett said: “I would like to thank everyone who has taken a constructive part in the process. The more information we can gather from local people, the stronger the Local Plan will be and the better able we will be as a community to protect our district from inappropriate development. It’s a long process and there will be several more rounds of consultation before the final Plan can come into force.”
Over the course of the past 11 weeks, the Council has been doing everything in its power to engage with residents and businesses.
Councillor Bassett said: “We are pleased to report that more than three thousand people replied to the consultation. We are now starting to work through those submissions. They have been received in a variety of ways including an online questionnaire, email, exhibitions, petitions and public meetings.”
During the next phase, the Council staff will collate and sift through all the evidence working with District Councillors to produce a first draft of the Local Plan called ‘Preferred Options’. This will contain proposals for policies to meet future population, housing and development growth and it will again go out to public consultation. Many people chose to use handwritten paper forms to make their submissions. Extra time will be factored in for inputting these alongside the online submissions made via the website.
Councillor Bassett said: “This is the next part of the long process to create a formally accepted Local Plan for the District. The final version of the Local Plan has to be approved by the planning inspectorate and it is important that the widest ranges of options are considered during the total process. This ‘Issues and Options’ part of the consultation has gathered evidence that will help us reject unsuitable sites and concentrate on appropriate development opportunities.”
It will take the council many weeks to work through all the evidence submitted during Community Choices but several key themes are already clear.
Councillor Bassett said: “Very few people support the idea of development in the Green Belt. Councillors share that view but recognise that our children will need somewhere to live. We must accept that a small proportion of the Green Belt will be required to provide enough land for the population growth forecasts over the next twenty years.”
He continued: “Most people would prefer to see any new development take place on previously developed or derelict Brownfield sites. The council has worked hard to try to identify such Brownfield opportunities through the ‘Call for Sites’ exercise. However we may not have been able to identify enough of this type of land and we are appealing to anyone who thinks they may know of any Brownfield site, not included in Community Choices, to let the council know.”
Councillor Bassett concluded: “Everyone wants to protect the environment and special character of the district which makes it such a popular area in which to live. Councillors feel strongly that the district needs to be protected as much as possible. Without a Local Plan, developers would only have to satisfy the general guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework, which comes into effect in April 2013 and this may not pay regard to local concerns.”
High levels of satisfaction are reported following a survey of Epping Forest’s council tenants
The level of overall satisfaction amongst council tenants has increased by 3% since the last full tenant satisfaction survey conducted by the council – according to an independent market research company, Feedback Services. Over 1,000 tenants responded to the 2012 survey, with 88% of respondents saying they are satisfied overall with the housing services provided by Epping Forest District Council.
In March this year the council conducted a tenant satisfaction survey using a standardised questionnaire called ‘STAR’. This was developed for social landlords, including councils and housing associations, by an organisation called Housemark. The postal survey was sent to a random sample of general needs and sheltered housing tenants. Over 1,000 people responded, giving views on the council’s overall service as landlord, and on various aspects of the service.
Feedback Services gave a report on their findings, and high satisfaction ratings were given in all the following areas:
overall satisfaction with landlord services (88% of tenants that responded were very or fairly satisfied)
overall quality of repair work (90% satisfied)
quality of the home (89% satisfied)
their neighbourhood as a place to live (88% satisfied)
condition of their home (85% satisfied)
value for money, for the level of rent charged (84% satisfied)
ability of staff to deal with queries (83% satisfied)
being kept informed of things that might affect tenants (83% satisfied)
Individual aspects of the Housing Repairs Service were also highly rated, such as the attitude of workers and the speed of completion of works.
“We are pleased to see that satisfaction has increased once again, compared to previous levels that were already high” said Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder. “I would like to thank staff for their hard work and commitment in providing such a high quality housing service. We must not be complacent however. Respondents were slightly less satisfied in certain areas, and the council will need to consider if any improvement actions are needed.”
Until 2008 councils were expected to carry out a tenant satisfaction survey every two years and the results were compared nationally, using Government guidelines. The last full survey (general needs and sheltered housing tenants) was conducted in 2006, while in 2008 the Government asked councils to survey general needs tenants only. Tenant satisfaction surveys are no longer required by the Government – but with 6,500 tenants paying rent for housing services, the Council thinks it is important to continue seeking its tenants’ views. By using the ‘Housemark STAR’ questionnaire, Epping Forest’s results can be compared with the findings of other housing organisations.
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
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.
Epping Forest District and its Parliamentary constituencies are under review, with the final consultation period between Tuesday 16 October and Monday 10 December 2012.
The final stage involves increasing the number of eligible voters in the Epping Forest constituency, to equalise it with the surrounding constituencies. The review has resulted in the Lambourne Ward within Epping Forest District Council being moved from the Brentwood and Ongar constituency and re-drawn into the Epping Forest constituency, in order to increase the electorate.
The boundary directly affects the residents of Epping Forest District and this is the last stage of consultation on the draft proposals. This would therefore be the final opportunity for the public to make suggestions and amendments to the draft. Epping Forest residents should also note the Government is currently in the process of writing a piece of legislation which will enforce a fixed term for MPs.
Returning Officer Ian Willett said: “After this consultation period the public will have no further say in the matter, so make sure to express your views and suggestions before the closing date.”
The 8 week consultation period will be between Tuesday 16 October and Monday 10 December and will be reviewed by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE). The BCE is an independent and impartial, non-departmental public body contracted by Parliament to review constituency boundaries in England, proposing any recommendations and amendments back to them.
Have your final say by picking up summaries of the revised proposals and any further information about the commission. These will be available to the general public from Tuesday 16 October at the Civic Offices, Epping, Ongar library and on the BCE commission website up until the deadline of Monday 10 December 2012.
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
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:
Retail and leisure
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.
Have you had your say on localised Council Tax support? If not you only have until Tuesday 11 September 2012 to fill it in.
We are asking residents to have their say on how support for Council Tax payments will be provided to local people on low incomes. Details of the proposals can be found on our news release Council Tax Benefit reform consultation.
The Superintendent of Epping Forest, Paul Thompson was welcomed by Councillors to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council on 4 September. The meeting began with a presentation by Mr Thompson on forest management. Judy Adams, Chairman of the Friends of Epping Forest also attended the presentation. A question and answer session followed.
View the presentation and debate here.
Epping Forest is owned and has been managed by the Corporation of London on behalf of the people of London and Essex for 134 years. It covers large parts of the district as well as areas of several London Boroughs.
12 miles long from Forest Gate to Bell Common, the Forest covers more than nine square miles. Outside core forest land, the Corporation also manages thousands of acres of buffer land, much of which is agricultural. Epping Forest is London’s largest open space. It is ancient and in earlier times covered most of Essex. It inspired and today forms a key part of the Green Belt.
4.3 million visitors or around 12,000 people a day visit the Forest. The next election of the Forest Verderers is next year 2013.
As part of managing the Forest, the Conservators are charged with providing recreation and enjoyment to the public, an un-built and unspoilt forest, preserving its natural aspect and beauty. Pollarding is a major responsibility as is the maintenance of open land, heath and ancient and historic features such as Amesbury Banks and the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge. The Corporation is a guarantor of commoners’ rights.
There are many special sites of scientific interest protecting animals and plants in the Forest. There are nine reservoirs.
Dog walking is one of the most popular activities in the Forest. Horse riding is also important with a huge network of bridleways. Mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular. The Corporation also provides many football pitches, cricket pitches and several golf courses. Many people run in the forest with several Olympic hopefuls training there recently.
Education is a major element of the Corporation role including outreach and the facilities at High Beach.
Lottery support is assisting with forest management including preservation work of ‘keystone’ trees. Many of these are at risk or coming to the end of their lives but provide particularly important wildlife habitats.
Public involvement in the production of the Management Plan is hoped to give greater confidence in Corporation policies. The Plan will take up to two years to complete. It will include extensive online consultation using similar survey techniques to those used by Lee Valley Regional Park.
High-tech electronic collars are being introduced for cattle grazing within the forest as part of the environmental management. Small electric shocks, half the power of an electric fence are delivered as the cows reach otherwise invisible boundaries. Cows learn the boundaries very fast.
Further environmental management is taking place through car parking and speed restrictions.
The Friends of Epping Forest is a charity which has supported the Forest for the last 43 years. It aims to protect the Forest by raising public awareness and appreciation. It is a friend of the Conservators. It runs many guided walks, scrutinises planning applications, welcomes the Council’s proposals for dog control and supports the various fetes and festivals in and around the Forest.
Councillor David Wixley, one of the Friends of Epping Forest, asked Paul Thompson for reassurances over the future of the visitor centre at High Beach. Mr Thompson replied that it could not remain open with Corporation resources alone following the opening of ‘The View’ in Chingford. However, he was confident of finding partners able to work with the Corporation for the long term continuation of the Visitor Centre at High Beach.
Responding to another question by Councillor Alan Lion, Mr Thompson confirmed the Corporation was taking account of the current Council Local Plan consultation and would participate to ensure the protection of the Forest.
Many Forest visitors come by car. Councillor Leon Girling asked if new speeding restrictions had been assessed. Mr Thompson said it was very early days but a review would take place next year. However, evidence so far seemed to suggest speeds had dropped and he outlined plans to introduce new Shuttlebus services as the Corporation seeks to rationalise car parks.
Councillor David Wixley also raised concerns about the impact of cattle grazing in managing wood pasture. Mr Thompson explained the relationship between grazing and some of the most important trees. He felt the re-introduction of grazing to some areas would benefit habitat, restoring open vistas to something more similar to Victorian times than the more recent denser forest.
Management of the Forest population of deer was raised by Councillor John Knapman. Mr Thompson said the current population was too high, causing problems in the Forest, on neighbouring agricultural land and on local roads and needed to be reduced.
Councillor Penny Smith asked if the rules and regulations of forest use would be revised to make the notices clearer for the public. Mr Thompson confirmed new signs are planned for gateways and car parks.
Councillor Jennie Hart asked about diseases affecting Horse Chestnuts and other trees. Mr Thompson said there were a significant number of issues surrounding tree health including conditions affecting Plane trees. He speculated on a number of animals from squirrels to deer stripping bark from Silver Birch trees.
Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee thanked Paul Thompson and Judy Adams for an excellent presentation.
The issues and options consultation phase of the new Local Plan, ‘Community Choices’ runs from 30 July to 15 October. Here, Councillor Richard Bassett, the Council’s Planning Portfolio Holder talks about some of the key elements and encourages residents to become involved.
Click ‘Community Choices’ to view all the information and take part in the Local Plan consultation.