Expansion of council housing and improvements to estates, help to local business bids for council contracts and an innovative new public transport trial.
These were among the highlights of the Cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 3 December.
Wellness Centre obstacle removed
The Cabinet of Epping Forest District Council has upheld its decision to grant a variation on restrictive covenants at the request of Epping Forest College. The decision was taken following a review of the decision by Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Removal of the covenants should benefit the District by allowing the College to develop a Wellness Centre while also assisting a developer to build new housing. In recommending the decision, Councillor Aniket Patel confirmed that extensive discussions had been held and additional legal advice obtained before seeking confirmation.
Council housing – purchase of street properties
Up to 28 properties could be added to the council’s housing stock. In the first of a series of reports by Portfolio Holder responsible for Housing, Councillor Holly Whitbread, Cabinet gave approval to use Right to Buy receipts for the purchase of additional properties to be let to local families from the council’s housing waiting list.
Services charges to leasehold owners of former council flats will rise in a fair and proportionate way said Councillor Holly Whitbread. Additional income will be used to maintain buildings and to improve local housing estates. Cabinet agreed to limit the increase in year 1 to no more than 40% (maximum £3.50 per week) and 70% in year 2.
Councillor Whitbread also introduced proposals to cover the administrative application costs on council and leasehold properties for:
- Front garden parking £75.09 plus VAT
- Leaseholder sublets £84
- Skip licenses £65
- Replacement key fobs £20
Key worker homes – St John the Baptist Church, Epping
A proposal to develop homes for key workers plus community space in partnership with St John the Baptist Church in Epping took a significant step forward. Cabinet approved £3,692,023 towards the building costs.
Councillor Holly Whitbread’s report said negotiations are progressing well with a mix of affordable and shared-ownership homes proposed. A bid will also be made to Homes England for a potential grant towards the cost.
Safe management of asbestos
In the final housing report from Councillor Holly Whitbread, Cabinet approved the updated asbestos management policy to minimise the risk of anyone being exposed to asbestos fibres.
2 reports by Environment and Technical Portfolio Holder Councillor Nigel Avey will help local economic and business recovery from the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Support for local business
Changes to procurement rules will help local contractors win more council business. The new procurement strategy requires a minimum of 2 local suppliers to be invited to tender wherever possible and a commitment to make faster payments to local suppliers (21 days instead of the mandatory 30).
Other steps to encourage local business includes:
- Social value and sustainability evaluation criteria to maximise the benefits to the district and ensure sustainable practices throughout supply chains
- A social value template to measure contractors on elements such as locality of their business, their supply chains, their workforce and any other benefits they can bring to the district
- Meet the buyer days or similar events to help inform local businesses of the council’s processes and help them to bid more successfully for council business
Demand Responsive Transport
In his second report, Councillor Avey presented innovative plans to trial a new public transport service. Essex County Council can no longer support the route 87 bus service. Epping Forest District Council will redirect £26,574 to a 3-month trial of a Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) bus service to be operated by Epping Forest Community Transport including as much of the current Route 87 as possible.
The project will trial a ‘hybrid’ DRT service. This is a pre booked peak hours service where passengers can check the route, availability and decide to book a seat. Off peak, a traditional timetabled service would run, including acceptance of concessionary passes.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread brought councillors up to date with progress on the refurbishment of the Civic Offices and development of partnerships with other providers including Essex County Council Library Service to create a vibrant community hub. Conversations have also taken place with Epping Forest District Citizens Advice (EFCA), Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) and early discussions with Foodbank Epping. The Council is also looking to extend the hub idea to other parts of the district.
Qualis Business Plan
Councillor Aniket Patel, Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder gained Cabinet approval to submit the Qualis Business Plan to Full Council.
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