The latest meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet held a strong focus on post-COVID economic recovery, investment in the district and enhancement of the local environment.
New council housing
Around 500 new council houses are either built or in various stages of feasibility, planning and development across Epping Forest district. Cabinet Portfolio Holder, Holly Whitbread was very pleased to draw councillors’ attention to progress on Phase 5 sites at:
- St Peters Avenue, Shelly, Ongar
- Marlescroft Way, Loughton
- Hyde Mead & Pound Close, Nazeing
- Hornbeam Close (A), Buckhurst Hill
- Oakley Court, Hillyfields, Loughton
- Pyrles Lane, Loughton (A) & (B)
Other sites to be reviewed:
- Beechfield Walk (B), Waltham Abbey
- Winters Way, Waltham Abbey
- Barrington Close, Debden
- St John The Baptist Church, Epping
Councillors praised council officers on the development of EFDC’s new Highway Ranger Service. Since taking over responsibility and investing in the service, the new Highway Rangers have made a visible and appreciable difference by carrying out many small-scale repairs and improvements across the district.
Cabinet Portfolio Holder Nigel Avey suggested further expansion of the service, including the potential addition of apprentices, could be considered.
Overview and Scrutiny
Councillor Mary Sartin, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee reported on the last meeting to discuss the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy. Members will have further opportunity to discuss the issues at Full Council in February.
Leisure Centre and car park progress
Cabinet agreed inclusion of funding in the council’s draft medium term financial plans and capital programme. Negotiations are moving forward with Qualis and Places Leisure for the development of the new car park and leisure centre as part of the St Johns developments in Bakers Lane and Cottis Lane in Epping.
Phasing will allow construction of a new multi-level car park in Cottis Lane at the beginning to balance the subsequent building of the new leisure centre on the current car park in Bakers Lane.
Ongar Town Centre boost
Plans to boost Ongar Town Centre received Cabinet support. In the second of a series of town centre reports (the Waltham Abbey report came to an earlier meeting). Cllr John Phillip, Cabinet Portfolio Holder responsible for Finance and Economic Development highlighted the suggestion of potentially expanding services on the Epping Ongar Railway Line.
Commissioned from town centre experts Studio 3, the report draws considerably on the input of local consultation with Chipping Ongar Town Council and local businesses.
A number of quick wins were identified. The report proposes more attention to street cleaning, litter bins, redecoration and repair of street furniture, replacing and repairing damaged bollards and uneven paving, free parking for the first hour, tidying up green spaces and planters and better parking enforcement to combat overstays, double parking and parking on pavements.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread urged Councillor Phillip to bring all the main town centre reports through as quickly as possible as the council seeks to boost the post-COVID recovery of the district’s high streets.
As shopping habits change, Epping Forest District Council is developing online ways of supporting local high street businesses. Councillors supported work by officers to develop online presence for small businesses.
Linked to post-COVID recovery, Councillor John Philip sought views on a number of options for further consideration and will use feedback to help the council’s Economic Development Team take the project forward.
Tree planting strategy
Opportunities to plant thousands of new trees across the district met with approval. Trees capture and store carbon emissions. Increased capture of carbon will play a role in reaching the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 alongside carbon reduction activities.
By planting new native woodland, the council aims to boost biodiversity and help wildlife. Trees improve air quality particularly in urban areas. Reduced flooding can be another benefit where trees directly intercept rainfall, promote higher soil infiltration rates and use a greater amount of water. A greener area with trees planted has also been found to improve the mental health and wellbeing of residents.
Cabinet Portfolio Holder responsible for Planning, Councillor Nigel Bedford welcomed the efforts of Epping Forest District Council, Essex County Council, local Town and Parish Councils, volunteers and private enterprise, coming together. Thousands of trees have already been planted but Councillor Bedford said he would like to see a million trees planted in years to come.
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