At last some news on the St John’s Road site in Epping

For the first time Epping Forest district council has revealed proposals under discussion for the St John’s Road development site in Epping. (The site comprises the vacant former Epping Junior School site, the Centrepoint building on St John’s Road opposite the library, the Epping Hall site occupied by Epping Town Council and the district council’s housing depot site with access via the slip road to the High Street.)
Speaking at the district council’s Asset Management and Economic Development Cabinet Committee last night Chris Pasterfield, who is the officer who leads work on the council’s land-holdings, reported that proposals currently being discussed with developers Frontier Estates, include
  • a “relatively small” supermarket anchoring the scheme
  • small cinema, “probably three schemes”
  • Town Square
  • restaurants
  • some residential
  • offices (including for the town council replacing its office at Epping Hall)
  • car parking

It is clear there is still a lot of discussion and debate to be had.

Mr Pasterfield said the next stages are for the three councils involved to agree Heads of Terms with Frontier Estates, then negotiate a development agreement and then for the developer to submit a planning application.

There is a report on this going to the district council’s decision making Cabinet next Monday (21 July). It’s currently scheduled to be discussed in private session but Janet Whitehouse and I are asking for the discussion to be moved into public session given the significance of the the decision to the town. Hopefully that will bring more information into the public domain than the slightly sketchy details given above.
You can watch the report to the Asset Management Committee on the council’s webcast archive: the St John’s item is between
53:23 and 55:24 minutes. I was surprised to hear the comment about Epping Town Council as I believe a formal decision about the Heads of Terms has not been taken by the Town Council.
I hope to add more information as it becomes available.

Water supply discoloured?

Since Wednesday a few dozen residents from Coopersale, Epping and Theydon Bois have reported discoloured water coming out of their taps.

Glass of Water

This seems to be related to mains cleaning work that Affinity Water is carrying out on their distribution network. The discoloured water problem is related to manganese deposits in the water distribution system which have been disturbed by on-going mains cleaning works.

The company now thinks it has mitigated much of the problem but in some areas there are still small pockets of discoloured water. Affinity Water will continue to carry out “passive flushing” of the mains in the affected areas.

Epping Forest District Council’s water quality officer advises that the water is not unsafe to use. However residents have been advised by Affinity Water to flush all affected taps/pipework, where discolouration is evident.

Concerned residents should contact Affinity Water if they need further advice or information. The phone number is 0845 782 3333.

Epping Forest August bank holiday revised refuse and recycling dates

Because Monday is a Bank Holiday, the council will collect rubbish and recycling one day later than usual this week.

  • Monday 27 August –> Tuesday 28 August
  • Tuesday 28 August –> Wednesday 29 August
  • Wednesday 29 August –> Thursday 30 August
  • Thursday 30 August –> Friday 31 August
  • Friday 31 August –> Saturday 1 September

Back to normal on Monday 3 September.

You can find out more about the refuse and recycling service in Epping Forest at the recycling and waste section of the council’s website including details of standard collection dates.

Developers try again at Wintry Wood Service Station site

Every Friday Epping Forest District Council publishes a list of recently submitted planning applications. The first thing I do is to look for anything that affects Epping before I scan the file for any significant applications elsewhere.

Wintry Wood Service Station

The most interesting local application this week is yet another attempt to develop the old Wintry Wood service station site on the Thornwood Road. There can be no doubt that in principle the site is suitable for redevelopment. It is previously developed land which is not in the Green Belt. However earlier attempts to build flats have not found favour with the local planning committee (on which I sit) for various reasons – including the bulk of earlier designs and the impact on neighbours.

The revised application proposes twelve flats (10 x two-bedrooms, 2 x 3-bedrooms) and the plans can be viewed on the district council’s website.

The site is not as straightforward to develop as might initially be supposed because of its relationship to existing houses along Thornwood Road, its proximity to the Lower Forest and the fact it is pretty much the first bit of Epping that people see if they are entering the town from the north (from Harlow / Thornwood). This makes it a sensitive so-called ‘gateway’ site.

As a member of the planning committee I won’t take a final view until I have taken account of any representations submitted by neighbours, Epping Town Council and other interested people and considered the report which council officers will prepare. But I would be interested to know what other people think.

59-65 St John’s Road

There is a much smaller scale application which also caught my eye. An applicant in St John’s Road is seeking to install cast iron railings apparently very similar to the original walls in place of the existing mixture of boundary treatments. Again, I will need to reserve final judgement until I see any representations but at first sight it looks a positive move.

It’s especially interesting to see someone going against the common trend to demolish boundaries and pave over front gardens (in order to provide off-street parking).

Epping Forest Refuse and Recycling Collection Dates

Because of the numerous bank holidays over the Christmas period waste collections won’t be back to normal until Monday 24 January. These are the remaining revised collection dates:

  • Normal collection date –> revised collection date
  • Thursday 6 January –> Monday 10 January
  • Friday 7 January –> Tuesday 11 January
  • Monday 10 January –> Wednesday 12 January
  • Tuesday 11 January –> Thursday 13 January
  • Wednesday 12 January –> Friday 14 January
  • Thursday 13 January –> Saturday 15 January
  • Friday 14 January –> Monday 17 January
  • Monday 17 January –> Tuesday 18 January
  • Tuesday 18 January –> Wednesday 19 January
  • Wednesday 19 January –> Thursday 20 January
  • Thursday 20 January –> Friday 21 January
  • Friday 21 January –> Saturday 22 January

Epping Forest Easter bank holiday refuse and recycling collection dates

These are the revised refuse and recycling collection dates over the Easter bank holiday period:

  • Good Friday 2 April –> Saturday 3 April
  • Easter Monday 5 April –> Tuesday 6 April
  • Tuesday 6 April –> Wednesday 7 April
  • Wednesday 7 April –> Thursday 8 April
  • Thursday 8 April –> Friday 9 April
  • Friday 9 April –> Saturday 10 April

Back to normal on Monday 12 April.

EFDC sets budget but rejects Lib Dem council tax freeze

Epping Forest district council set its budget last night (meeting papers available here). When I last wrote about the budget I said I hoped there would be an opportunity to reduce the planned council tax increase below the 1.5 per cent rise discussed at the cabinet sub-committee meeting.

Thanks to a bit of work by council officers, which was shared with all groups, we were able to confirm that a council freeze this year would not put the council’s medium term financial strategy or its financial stability at risk. After a close look at the latest figures – especially by Ongar councillor Derek Jacobs and me – the Liberal Democrats were able to put forward a budget amendment incorporating a council tax freeze: i.e. a district council tax rise of 0%.

There is often an assumption in local government that council tax should always increase, but the Lib Dem group felt strongly that Epping Forest residents deserved a break from relentless council tax rises. Yesterday’s inflation figures highlighted how much household budgets are under pressure at the moment because of VAT and fuel increases. Thanks to the millions of pounds that the council has stashed away in its reserves, we were able to propose the freeze without cutting into services

Unfortunately the Conservatives (and the other groups) were determined to stick to their council tax increase so our council tax freeze was voted down. It may be some consolation to residents that the 1.5 increase agreed is still less than the 2.5 per cent increase proposed at the start of the budget process.