Planning, housing and finance dominated the latest Cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council held on Monday 13 November.
Consistent and transparent Garden Town regeneration
In a report to Cabinet, Councillor Nigel Bedford outlined new Harlow and Gilston Garden Town governance arrangements through a cross-boundary joint committee to support democratic and transparent decision making.
Harlow and Gilston Garden Town is a partnership to provide 16,000 sustainable new homes and investment across East Herts and West Essex by 2033. The project includes £1.7bn of infrastructure for jobs, education, healthcare, emergency services, community facilities, open space, sports and leisure, utilities, flood defences, and transport.
A further 7,000 homes are planned beyond 2033.
5 councils are directly involved:
- East Herts District Council
- Epping Forest District Council
- Essex County Council
- Harlow District Council
- Hertfordshire County Council
3,900 of these homes are allocated at 3 strategic sites within Epping Forest district on its boundary with Harlow. The partnership is coordinated through the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Board, which includes senior councillors from each of the 5 council partners.
Cabinet agreed that this report will be heard at Full Council for final approval. Similar reports are being presented to each of the other council partners before the new joint committee working arrangements can come into effect.
Councillor Bedford also received Cabinet approval for public consultation to begin on the North Weald Bassett Masterplan. Preparations are now being made to publish the draft masterplan online. The plan outlines proposals for 1,050 or more new homes and infrastructure on the northern side of North Weald Bassett including retail, community, health and education facilities.
The consultation is due to go live in late November and will run for 8 weeks.
Epping Forest District Council provides more than 6,000 council houses, flats and bungalows to local tenants and leaseholders. Keeping tenant and landlord policies up to date is important. Cabinet approved the latest revisions to the Council’s housing allocation policies put forward by Councillor Holly Whitbread.
Cabinet Portfolio Holder John Philip presented the latest financial update to Cabinet. The slowdown in the national economy continues to have an impact on local budgets, especially income from planning application fees and charges. Inflation and high interest rates also continue to affect the council’s budgets, with Councillor Philip reporting a forecast general fund overspend of £1.3million by the end of the financial year. The Government look set to increase planning fees by 35% with effect from April 2024, which will help the 2024/25 budget.
Cabinet was pleased to accept recommendations from John Philip for the adoption of a new Local Council Tax Support Scheme, which will simplify the process for claimants and improve the efficiency of the Council. Three quarters of residents who responded to the consultation also supported the new scheme, which is generally seen as much fairer and easier to administer.
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