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

Do you use non-emergency patient or passenger transport in Essex?

If you use non-emergency patient or passenger transport (such as for attending hospital or clinic appointments) the NHS in Essex would like to hear from you.

The five Essex Primary Care Trusts, Essex County Council, Southend Borough Council and Thurrock Council are looking at the provision of non-emergency transport for health and social care across Essex.  An important part of this project is gathering feedback from existing users of the services, so that this can be used to develop services for the future.

This team is interested in your experience and suggestions about anything that could have been done better.  Please send your feedback, including details of the area in which you live, to by Wednesday 22nd December.

Information from Voluntary Action Epping Forest and Essex and Southend Link

“Excruciatiating suburban” Epping

Yesterday’s Financial Times featured an interview with former Epping resident Griff Rhys Jones. He wasn’t very complimentary about the town:

His teens were spent in Epping, Essex, which he found “excruciatingly suburban … A high street full of shoe shops and very, very quiet streets where people look behind curtains at people who arrive”. He found it claustrophobic, vowing to get as close to the centre of London as possible: “I’m not a very sit-still sort of person. I tend to think ‘oh, let’s go out for lunch now; let’s go do this now’ or ‘what shall we do tonight?’.”

The shoe shops have all now gone but most streets are still pretty quiet – which I think is how most local people like it.

The attraction of Epping to many residents is that they can relish the shiny lights of London along the Central Line and also cherish the ability to return home to a quieter location with countryside on the doorstep.

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.

Lib Dems will seek lower council tax increase

The district council’s annual budget-setting process is nearly complete. I will be at meetings to discuss the budget papers tonight and on Thursday before the full council meets to debate and agree the final version on Tuesday 16 February.

Two years ago Liberal Democrat councillors unsuccessfully argued for a lower council tax rise than the Conservatives set. We would have argued for a freeze in the council tax last year if it hadn’t been for uncertainty about the money the council lost by investing in an Icelandic owned back (the final figure turned out to be £700,000).

This year the budget has been prepared on the assumption of a 2.5% increase in council tax, but I was pleased to see that tonight’s papers also show the implications of a smaller 1.5% increase. They demonstrate that a lower council tax rise is possible without putting the council’s medium term financial strategy at risk – exactly as the Lib Dems have argued previously. I hope the Conservatives on the committee tonight choose the lower increase, and I think they should look to go lower if possible given the financial pressure that many residents are under.

Read the rest of this entry.

Epping Parking Review timetable

The timetable for the Epping Parking Review has slipped again. I now understand that the Traffic Regulation Orders (official notices from the county council advertising the formal proposals) will probably be published in early February. As Janet and I reported in the most recent Epping Focus leaflet, the main way residents will know about this is from notices attached to lamposts.

Residents will be able to inspect the full proposals by looking at Essex County Council’s website or at Epping Library.

The links on the left of this page give outline details of what we expect to happen.