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.

Proposals for new Parliamentary Constituency boundaries

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Democracy, Elections, Your area, Your council

Epping Forest District and its Parliamentary constituencies are under review, with the final consultation period between Tuesday 16 October and Monday 10 December 2012.

Boundary Commission for England logoThe 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.

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.

Council tax consultation ends soon

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Consultation, Council tax, Residents, Your council, Your home, Your money

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.

Complete the consultation online

All residents are being invited to participate whether or not they are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit.

Forest management comes under scrutiny

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Councillors, Democracy, Meetings, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Trees and landscapes, Your council

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.

Overview and scrutiny LogoView the presentation and debate here.

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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.

Epping Forest ViewDog 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.

Epping Forest RoadManagement 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.

Residents urged to take part in consultation – Local Plan video

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Ongar, Our countryside, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your environment, Your home

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. 

 

Have your say on new dog control orders

Written on . Posted in Animal welfare, Community, Consultation, Older people, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Consultation is due to start on 2 August for 8 weeks concerning the proposed introduction of dog control orders on publicly-owned land across the district.  The council is encouraging residents of, and visitors to, the district to have their say on the proposals.

Three new control orders are being suggested under the Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. The proposals include extending the area over which failing to clear up dog fouling is an offence to include all public land within the district, including that owned by the City of London Corporation.  The council also proposes to give authorised officers powers to request that a dog be put on a lead in public areas if necessary, and to restrict the number of dogs under one person’s control in public areas to four at one time.

For  consultation questionnaire  and other information  regarding ‘Have you say on new dog control orders’ please click under-lined links, or alternatively, a copy of the questionnaire can be obtained by calling 01992 564608 or in writing to or by visiting the Council Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex. CM16 4BZ

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Portfolio Holder for the environment, said “The council receives a number of complaints each year about ‘professional dog walkers’ taking an excessive number of dogs onto recreational land and public areas.  Complaints refer to the dogs being out of control, blocking footpaths and fouling without the person responsible being able to clean up after them because of the number of dogs in their control.  “I therefore encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to return a questionnaire.”

Responses will be reported back to Councillors to assist them in making any final decisions.

Council Tax Benefit reform consultation

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Consultation, Council tax, Residents, Your money

Epping Forest District residents will have their say on how support for Council Tax  payments will be provided to local people on low incomes.

Under the Welfare Reform Act, the Government will end Council Tax Benefit on 31 March 2013 to be replaced by a Local Council Tax Support scheme (LCTS). The Government is moving responsibility for the new scheme to councils and reducing the amount of money it provides. The Government funding allocated to Epping Forest District for LCTS is expected to fall to 88% of its current Council Tax Benefit value. For Epping Forest District Council, this means a drop of approximately £1 million.

Residents will be asked to comment on the proposals stemming from the Government’s reforms. District and borough councils in the county have been working together with Essex County Council to design, develop and deliver a framework for the new LCTS schemes and tackle the reduction in funding.

Pensioners are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments. If benefit payments are to be met without significant costs to Council Tax Payers or reductions in other services, the support given to those of working age will need to be reduced.

The proposed Epping Forest framework incorporates five key principles for working age claimants:
• Calculation of support will be based on 80 per cent of the Council Tax bill rather than 100 per cent as at present.
• The calculation of benefit will be on the maximum of a Band D property. Anyone in a higher banded property will only be able to claim at the Band D rate.
• Child maintenance will be taken into account when assessing income although £15.00 per week will be disregarded.
• Anyone with savings of more than £6,000 will not be eligible
• An exceptional hardship scheme will provide a safety net for people in particular need.

Epping Forest District Council is also seeking views on whether child benefit should be included in the calculation, whether there should be a standard charge for other adults living in a property and whether any groups of people, such as disabled or young families should receive any protection. 

It is proposed that some forms of income such as Disability Living Allowance and War Disablement Pensions be excluded from the calculations to ensure the most vulnerable groups in the community are protected from the reductions.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “These are tough choices. Some people who have never paid Council Tax before will do so for the first time. We are working to ensure no-one is left unable to fend for themselves without a roof over their head. The elderly and most vulnerable groups should be protected. Working age people should be encouraged to work. Families on low incomes should receive some support and thrift should be rewarded. Nevertheless, I do not understate the potential impact on people of working age on low incomes if these proposals are adopted. It is therefore vital that people look very carefully at the proposals and reply to the consultation.”

Cabinet meeting on 23 July approved proposals for everyone in receipt of Council Tax Benefit in Epping Forest district to be contacted directly during a six-week period starting on 1 August as part of the pan-Essex consultation. At the end of the consultation period, the feedback received will be considered by the Cabinet with final approval of the new scheme planned for the meeting of Full Council on 18 December.

All residents are being invited to participate whether or not they are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit. The consultation is available here from 1 August with links to the questionnaire on the Essex County Council website.

Working Together to Reduce Crime

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Crime and safety, Older people, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your council, Your home

Consultation – Safer Communities Survey 2012

The Partnership would like to know your views.

Epping Forest District Safer Communities Partnership wants your help in identifying local issues that cause you concern. Every year the partnership looks at ways of working together to reduce crime and disorder.

We want to know if you think there is a problem in your local area (eg, vandalism, theft and anti-social behaviour etc).

The results of this consultation will help the Partnership to understand how you feel about your services eg, the Essex Police, the Health Authority, the Essex County Fire and Rescue and the local and county councils. It will also help to evaluate the current levels of service we provide and to plan and target future resources.

If you would like to get involved and help us with the consultation please follow the link below. Please take time to think about the questions on this short survey and answer them. By doing so you will have your say in the way Epping Forest District deals with the problems that concern you most.

Complete the survey online

Closing date 1 September

Thank you and we look forward to your response.

Car Parks Survey

Written on . Posted in Business, Consultation, Out and about, Parking, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Epping Forest District Council would like to know your views about the Council’s car parks in the District. This is a chance for you to have your say about your experiences of using the 18 different long and short term car parks, how well they are maintained, if there are enough parking places and parking fees etc.

We are asking car park users when they visit the various car parks over the next four weeks and we have a direct link on our website to the survey.

Closing date 20 July 2012.

The results of this consultation will help the Council to evaluate the current car parking provision, fees, safety, maintenance, customer access to information and planning future improvements.