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.

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.

Epping in the snow

It seems almost compulsory for anyone with a website to put on show their pictures of the snow, so here is my contribution.

Trees at the top of St John's Road / Hartland Road / Kendal Avenue

If you look carefully at the top right hand photograph (Hartland Road) it shows the post and the buses operating successfully, so well done to them.

It’s a pity the police only got round to closing Kendal Avenue (bottom photos) after several utterly predictable bumps and near misses. We live in hope that one day the county council will add the road to its gritting rota, given that there are always problems on this steep hill, but at the moment it isn’t treated as a priority route despite being used as an access to Epping Station. It’s something Janet Whitehouse has raised with both the police and Highways and will continue to do so.

Council apologises for waste collection problems

Epping Forest District Council yesterday published this apology for delays to the waste collection service as a result of bad weather.

“The Council is very sorry for the difficulties which have arisen during the period 22 December 2009 through Christmas and the New Year period.”

Because of the combined effect of the revised Christmas collection calendar and the bad weather some people will go a month between recycling collections – which will not surprise anyone who has walked around local streets and seen the sacks piled high.

Recycling sacks awaiting collection in Beaconfield Road, Epping

At Monday evening’s Cabinet meeting we were told that the other collections (food waste and residual waste) should now be more or less up to date. Unfortunately it looks likely that today’s snowfall could well cause further problems.

Of course the council’s priority at the moment must be to keep the refuse collection service running and collect as much of the missed rubbish as possible. Once this has happened we have been promised that a review will take place and any necessary lessons will be learnt.

Questions to answer include:

  • What contingency plans existed?
  • What is the division of responsibility between Epping Forest district council and its contractors, SITA?
  • Was it possible to bring in any additional resources (equipment and/or people) especially when existing equipment failed?
  • Why wasn’t it possible to provide up to date information on the website or telephone enquiry line between Christmas and the New Year?

No doubt there are plenty of others so feel free to suggest them to me. I’ve asked council officers to put this issue on the agenda of the next Scrutiny Committee so that councillors can take up residents’ concerns and contribute to the review.

We are lucky to have The Box for young people

I spent an inspiring evening last Thursday at The Box in Epping High Street. Most people in Epping will have passed the premises many times and perhaps peered through the windows and wondered what goes on inside. The Supporters’ Evening was a marvellous opportunity to find out.

The Box describes itself as “a social space, information point and education centre for young people” but it was clear that activity goes far beyond this. As well as providing open drop-in sessions, The Box enables young people to access specialist counselling, health and advice services.

Trustee Alison Dolan explains the success of the Alternative Education scheme

It also delivers alternative education sessions to pupils who are unable to complete their studies successfully at school. I was  impressed to hear how many of these pupils enter college or begin paid employment thanks to the team’s work and the much valued support of some local employers.

A wide range of organisations work in partnership with The Box to help local children and young people including Connexions, Theatre Resource, East 15, Concept Fitness, Epping Sports Centre, West Essex Primary Care Trust and Essex County Council’s TASCC team (“Team Around the School, Child and the Community”).

What shone out most of all was the sheer commitment of the trustees, staff and volunteers. We are very fortunate to have in Epping such an energetic group of people dedicated to meeting the needs of local young people. And there are exciting plans for future expansion too.

The Box is currently running a Christmas fundraising campaign. Details of how to donate are at

Dragonfly artwork produced by The Box Alternative Education project for the Swaines Green Lantern Festival in September 2009

Essex County Council delivers some of the poorest children’s services in England

I woke this morning to the news that Essex County Council has, for the second year running, been rated as delivering some of the worst children’s services in England. Nine councils are rated as poor, including Essex [PDF report here] and the London Borough of Haringey, which faced massive criticism because of the way it handled the awful Baby P case.

It seems extraordinary that the Conservative councillors who run Essex County Council allowed children’s services to deteriorate so much, especially given the number of high profile child abuse cases that have featured in the national news in recent years. Effective work to protect children is difficult, expensive and unglamorous. Nevertheless it is one of the most important functions that the county council is responsible for.

Read the rest of this entry.

Allnutts Post Office re-opens at last!

This morning I attended the long-awaited re-opening of Allnutts Post Office in Epping. Even before the ribbon was cut, the first customers had arrived with Christmas cards to send abroad and parcels to post. Local residents no longer need to to trek up the steep hill and will also benefit from the excellent service provided by Shanhaz Javid and her team.

Post Office opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 9am until 1pm.

(Of course the rest of the store will continue to be open in the afternoons as well.)

Shanhaz Javid, Janet Whitehouse and Jon Whitehouse celebrate the re-opening of Allnutts Post Office
The store has been completely overhauled with a new shop-front and layout. It is a convenient stop-off for all sorts of provisions as well as for around 170 Post Office products and services. (Allnutts will provide almost all the services apart from car tax renewal. You can even order next-day delivery of foreign currency.

The re-opening is a result of much campaigning by residents and councillors, followed by meetings at the county council attended by Shanhaz and Janet Whitehouse, followed by more meetings and liaison between county council officers and Post Office managers, followed by much hard work to get ready for the opening. The official opening was performed by Colchester County Councillor Kevin Bentley (Deputy to the Leader of the County Council) with Epping and Theydon Bois county councillor Janet Whitehouse and was well attended by county councillors from Loughton, Chigwell, and North Weald as well as MP Eleanor Laing.

It was a big mistake of the Post Office to close Allnutts Post Office in the first place. The branch has been really missed since February 2008. I am sure it will now go from strength to strength.