Agenda and minutes

Stronger Place Select Committee
Thursday, 9th July, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: V Messenger Tel: (01992) 564265  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Webcasting Introduction

This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking.

 

The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties). Therefore by participating in this virtual meeting, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes. If members of the public do not wish to have their image captured they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.

 

Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman made a short address to remind all present that the virtual meeting would be broadcast on the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.

2.

Substitute Members

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The following substitution was reported:

 

            That Councillor R Brookes was substituting for Councillor H Kauffman.

3.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Conduct, Councillor J McIvor declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda item 7, Covid-19 - Places, by virtue of owning several businesses that had received Business Support Grants from the Council.

 

(b)       Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Conduct, Councillor J M Whitehouse declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda item 13, Group company structure – Epping Town Centre sites, by virtue of living in St John’s Road and was a member of Epping Town Council.

4.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 224 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 9 December 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor J Jennings was pleased to see the new type of litter bin in the High Road, which had different compartments for different types of waste. However, with regard to the Waste Management Contract – Current Performance (Min no 29), she remarked on a recent survey that apparently showed most residents preferred recycling sacks to another bin and that the Council should take this into consideration.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the notes of the last meeting of the Stronger Place Select Committee held on 9 December 2019 be agreed as a correct record.

5.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 22 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the Terms of Reference and work programme for this select committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman apologised that there were quite a few verbal reports being given at this meeting as it had been rescheduled at short notice because of the ongoing coronavirus situation. In future, he would look forward to receiving written reports from officers, as this would allow members to scrutinise items more effectively.

 

Councillor C McCredie asked about work programme item 1, Covid-19 – Places, regarding local economic business recovery and whether traders at the Epping town market would receive business support grants. The Service Director (Customer Services), R Pavey, replied that in terms of the current scheme, the business support grant had been discretionary and market traders had not been included.

 

The Select Committee noted its Terms of Reference.

6.

Council Housebuilding Progress Report - Phases 2 - 4 pdf icon PDF 402 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee agreed to bring forward agenda item 12 at the request of the Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership).

 

The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership), D Fenton, reported on the progress of phases 2 to 4 of the Council’s housebuilding programme, for developments completed on-site and currently being procured. On phase 2 (Burton Road, Loughton - HR107), of the 51 properties, six units been delayed due to a gas supply problem but were completed and handed over on 19 March 2020. On phase 3 (Queens Road, North Weald - HR116) the original start had been delayed with the discovery of asbestos. The contractor was some four weeks behind schedule because of service utility delays, and there was also the potential for further delays caused by Covid-19 restrictions.

 

Phase 4.1 comprised 14 properties at five sites in Loughton and Ongar. The contractor had commenced works on 29 June 2020 at two Loughton sites, but would stagger starts at the other sites in August and September to comply with new working arrangements. The handover was forecast for June 2021. Phase 4.2 for 22 properties at seven sites in Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Waltham Abbey had gone out to tender and a report was due to go to the next Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee (CHBCC). Phase 4.3 for 21 properties at seven sites, one in Buckhurst Hill and six in Waltham Abbey, had gone out to tender. It was anticipated works would commence in November 2020 and complete between November 2021 and March 2022. In phase 4.4, properties at four sites in Loughton had undergone a detailed design review, which would potentially increase the affordable units by 12 to a total of 27.

 

In phase 5, a detailed review to identify several potential sites for future development was almost finished. However, a different approach would be taken by officers to include engagement and to work with local councillors to discuss and address any local issues that these development sites might have. It was anticipated that a Members Briefing would be organised to highlight this approach and present officers’ aspirations before the submission of planning applications. Once sufficiently progressed, a Feasibility Report would be presented to CHBCC for consent to proceed and progress to the planning application and delivery stage.

 

Councillor R Bassett asked about the large variation of over £1 million on phase 2. The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) replied this was in connection to the fire issue and gas works. Previously, Housing’s approach on finance had been more to do with due diligent work that had been undertaken. Housing Development Manager, J Cosgrave, was the project manager, and they were confident that going forward financial steps had been put in place to ensure the financial forecast was accurate. The Council’s Housebuilding programme was a 30-year business plan and therefore, it was vital to understand the viability of schemes.

 

Councillor S Heap was enthused by the Housing officers’ new approach and future interaction with councillors, and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Covid-19 - Places

To receive verbal updates on the impact of Covid-19 on the following areas:

 

(a)       Business support – grant

(b)       Safer spaces

(c)        General economic measures and support, and local economic business recovery.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)       Business support – grant

 

R Pavey, Service Director (Customer Services) reported that the Government had been keen for the quick distribution of the small business support grant and retail, leisure and hospitality grant, which amounted to £29 million - £30 million for the Epping Forest District. The Council had distributed 90 per cent of the grant within two weeks to businesses in the District. A mandatory requirement was that it was to help businesses cover high property costs that could demonstrate a loss of income because of the Covid-19 lockdown. An additional grant of £1.5 million had been received for another 5 per cent of businesses that had not received a grant originally and had been aimed at small businesses in shared offices spaces where they were not the ratepayer, bed and breakfast establishments and some charities. The focus had been on regular market traders with fixed property costs at covered markets where there was daily trading, rather that the District’s open markets one day / a week. There were some discretionary elements within the criteria for the grants that Cabinet had chosen to support. The Council had received 250 applications of which some had been paid a grant, some were still being processed, but some had been turned down. The Council was anticipating an underspend. After the current application phase, the Council might have other options to use the grant money.

 

Councillor R Bassett asked that as he was the trustee of a community transport charity that provided a service, could the charity apply for a grant as it had fixed property costs in St John’s Road, Epping, and paid its electric utility bills to Essex County Council. The Service Director (Customer Services) advised the charity to submit an online application via the Council’s website.

 

Councillor J McIvor was appreciative of the exceptional job officers had done in supporting businesses with the initial business grants. He asked where businesses had since ceased trading before Covid-19 but had received grants, would the Council cancel these cheque payments and how would the Council be auditing these payments in relation to fraud? The Service Director replied that the Business Rates Register had been used and a number of cheques had been returned, but work was ongoing on actions against fraud. If the Council became aware of such cases, fraud officers would investigate. This had also instigated a data cleansing exercise as well.

 

Councillor S Heap asked about small businesses with huge premises, for example at North Weald or Stapleford Abbotts, and did the Council have the discretion to assess applications? The Service Director (Customer Services) replied that the scheme had a cap on the rateable value of premises, which was £51,000. The Government would need to be asked if there was flexibility in phase 2, as it would be auditing the Council on those grants. This might also bring other properties into the scope of the grant, but the Council would have to manage the scope to remain within budget.

 

Councillor  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

North Weald Airfield Masterplan

To receive a verbal update.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Planning Services Director, N Richardson, reported that in the emerging Local Plan there was a requirement for a masterplan for North Weald Airfield (NWA) with new employment opportunities. The appointed consultants, Turner and Townsend and RPS Group, had been instructed to undertake survey work, and a viability report was being prepared. The masterplan was for non-residential use. As a designated employment area, this would create new jobs as part of the Council’s Covid-19 recovery plan in the long term. There was to be an initial contingency workshop for Cabinet members by the end of July for the masterplan site options. The Planning Team needed to get involved with the project proposals and planners had advised on a planning performance agreement template. At various stages as the masterplan progressed, the proposals would go through the Quality Review Panel. Thus, the masterplan would be in place for the site before the submission of planning applications, and all the NWA development proposals must be in accordance with the masterplan.

 

Councillor R Bassett asked if there was the possibility of tidying up and moving some of the business premises on the site as there locations were spread out across NWA. The Planning Services Director replied that Turner and Townsend and RPS would be bringing options forward, especially to the east of the runway where most of the development opportunities were to be sited. Councillor Bassett continued that some of the people looking after the aircraft there wanted to create a mini aircraft heritage site. The Service Director replied if this created employment opportunities then this could give it potential. Councillor Bassett asked about the possible Government use of the site by the HMRC in connection with Brexit. The Service Director replied that this could be the case as the special development order would finish at the end of December 2020, but there was no further information available at present. Councillor S Heap asked if the Council was paid, to which the Chief Operating Officer replied that the Council had received a reasonable rental of some £200,000 and a one-off payment of £500,000, £50,000 of which had been paid to North Weald Parish Council. Councillor Heap asked if there would be a park and ride scheme at NWA. The Service Director replied this concerned a separate planning application but was not part of the emerging Local Plan. Members were advised not to converse with the developers directly but to go through Planning.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That progress of the North Weald Airfield Masterplan be noted.

9.

Implementation of the Local Plan: Update on Progress pdf icon PDF 488 KB

To consider the draft Cabinet report attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Interim Assistant Director (Planning Policy & Implementation)) introduced the regular quarterly report that would be going to Cabinet on 20 July 2020. Following the recent Executive Briefing, the final report included a few updates, particularly to the spreadsheets. Members received regular updates on the strategic masterplans, concept frameworks, other sites within the emerging Local Plan and the schemes that would be going before the Quality Review Panels. A workshop on the draft Green Infrastructure Plan had been held last week and the consultation would end on 16 July 2020. The final Green Infrastructure Plan would go to Cabinet in October 2020 for approval. Officers continued to progress work on the Main Modifications (MMs). The third tranche of Main Modifications (MMs) had been submitted to the Inspector in early June 2020. As completion of the MMs was scheduled for the end of September, the Implementation Team expected to go out to consultation on the MMs in October 2020.

 

Cllr R Bassett referred to site LOU.R9 (Epping Forest College, Borders Lane, Loughton) and remarked that this land had previously been owned by the College, but since sold to a developer who was submitting this application for 139 residential units.

 

Councillor S Heap said he was keeping an open mind so as not to fetter his discretion, but from the way some of the applications were presented, such as the Dowding Way, it looked as if the Council wanted this rather than for it to be decided. The Interim Assistant Director replied that all current applications were on this list. The spreadsheets in the report just provided an update and information for members on what was coming forward for sites of more than six dwellings or for a certain quantum of floor space. The Implementation Team dealt with the strategic sites and the strategic implementation sites.

 

Councillor C McCredie thanked the Interim Assistant Director but had concerns on how current the report was and how relevant the figures in the report were. For the South Epping site, the Inspector wanted numbers reduced. For the Old Laundry site, Epping, currently undergoing a virtual public hearing, so the Council might lose most of those dwellings as it was up to the Inspector. On 1 Buttercross Lane, this had come before the Council twice for six apartments, but the latest application was for a house and three apartments so less than was planned for. On Broadbanks, the application for nine dwellings was not acceptable to Epping Town Council and there were other applications that recommended refusal. The Duke of Wellington PH had been recommended for refusal. Therefore, there was concern that all these potential developments as part of the Local Plan might not happen. The Interim Assistant Director replied that the full list included allocated and unallocated sites. Some of the sites you mentioned were not allocated with the Local Plan, but anyone could submit a planning application. The Council and the South Epping site promoter were in discussions on the number of units, but  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Climate Change pdf icon PDF 152 KB

(a) Climate Change and Sustainable Travel

 

To receive a verbal update.

 

(b) Update on Environmental Enhancements and Tree Planting Initiatives

 

To consider the attached report.

 

(For information: This report has been re-issued from the agenda of the Stronger Place Select Committee meeting of 24 March 2020, which did not take place because of the Covid-19 crisis).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)       Climate Change and Sustainable Travel

 

The Interim Assistant Director (Planning Policy and Implementation) reported that recruitment to both posts had been achieved. The Travel Officer had started on 1 June while the Climate Change Officer would take up this position in September 2020. There was a lot of work to be undertaken around the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), air quality issues including the draft Mitigation Strategy, as well as building on the post-Covid-19 recovery and safer spaces project.

 

The Chief Operating Officer, N Dawe, continued that next month the proposal would be developed in more detail and its status would switch from strategy to task.

 

Councillor A Heap asked about sustainable travel and buses to Epping for the Latton Priory Local Plan site as this would be required. The Interim Assistant Director replied that work had been commissioned on bus provision from Harlow and Epping. Cycling and walking would promote sustainable travel but was not an option for aged people.

 

(b)       Update on Environmental Enhancements and Tree Planting Initiatives

 

The Service Director (Commercial and Regulatory) / (Contracts and Technical Services), Q Durrani, explained that this report had been delayed when the last Select Committee meeting on 24 March 2020 had been cancelled because of the Covid-19 lockdown. The report listed the types of work that the Council’s Countrycare Team was involved with. This covered over 3,600 Veteran Trees (trees over 300 years old), plus over 1,200 ‘notable’ trees that weren’t old enough to be classed as veteran yet. The Council also managed around 15,000 public realm trees on open spaces and the public highway, but this did not include woodland. A further 119 semi-mature trees had been planted in safe locations in Chigwell Row and Epping. Tree planting was being organised for the Loughton Recreation area and the Thornwood Nature Reserve this financial year.

 

The Green Infrastructure Strategy would help to plan and facilitate the integration and expansion of tree planting in the District. Volunteers did a lot of work as did Tree Wardens, who monitored the health of trees. The Essex Forest Project to plant 375,000 trees by 2025 including flood alleviation tree planting schemes was likely to form part of this strategy, as well as the ‘Green Arc’. This was an initiative where London met the countryside (from Thames Chase through to the Lee Valley area) with the aim to plant a million trees. There would also be more tree planting opportunities in the Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces (SANG) being delivered alongside the proposed growth in the District.

 

Cllr R Bassett was impressed by the number of veteran trees that had survived the hurricane of 1987. He asked if the Council was working with Lee Valley Regional Park and Roding Valley Nature Reserve to bid for some of these trees? The Service Director replied that the Countrycare Team had a close working relationship with officers at the Lee Valley Regional Park and had bid for a £50,000 grant to plant trees. Tree-planting needed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Sheltered Housing Review pdf icon PDF 442 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Service Manager (Housing Needs and Older People’s Services), J Gould, reported that this review provided a progress report on the Council’s sheltered housing. Ark had been commissioned to undertake a review of the Council’s 12 sheltered housing schemes. As life expectancy increased, the demographic of an ageing population changed in relation to the needs for health, social care and housing. By building a comprehensive picture of performance and sustainability, as well as taking into consideration the likely future demand for accommodation, the review achieved a clear direction for accommodation to make best use of the stock to meet residents’ needs.

 

Ratings of the 12 schemes had resulted in:

 

·       green: 6 – for recommendations to continue use but explore minor remodelling to make better use of guest rooms, second lounges and disused warden accommodation;

·       amber: 4 – for recommendations to continue use as sheltered accommodation but try to improve quality, desirability and overall performance; and

·       amber/red: 2 – for recommendations to continue use as sheltered accommodation in the short term but with more targeted improvements to better meet the needs of the District’s ageing population.

 

Councillor R Bassett commented that the Council had 463 sheltered housing accommodation units but with the requirement to keep older people in their own homes, how many did the Council need to keep up with demand? The Service Manager replied that the District’s population of over 65s was expected to increase by 3% in the next decade to around 30,000 (22.5% of the District’s total population) and worked with Essex County Council (ECC) to help people to live independently. Much of the stock was pre-1970 so improvements were required as the residents’ needs changed, but great strides were being achieved for older people within the Housing and Property Directorate.

 

Councillor R Brookes commented that there was a demand for 2-bed accommodation for older people, if couples did not sleep together or as in one case for two sisters, or sometimes for a carer to stay the night, and was surprised this had not come up in the survey. There was also a tremendous demand for housing for the under 35s. The Service Manager replied that there was a need for 2-beds. Housing officers were getting to know current tenants better. Officers were incentivising tenants under occupying properties to move to more appropriate accommodation. The remodelling of some stock with retractable partitions in larger bedrooms would help focus on the needs of the residents. There were increasing amounts of young homeless people who were placed in bedsits. However, by having creative housing solutions for younger people, this would keep the flow going and help maximise stock.

 

Councillor J Jennings commented that mixed aged groups could be mutually beneficial. How many sheltered housing units were empty, and how many did not have good broadband? The Service Manager replied that she did not have the figure to hand and there were voids in the housing stock, but the coronavirus had resulted in more of this age group  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Group Company Structure - Epping Town Centre Sites pdf icon PDF 227 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

On behalf of the Strategic Director, the Service Manager (Housing Needs and Older People’s Services) reported that the interim Qualis Board and the group of companies had been established. Qualis Commercial was involved with the development of Council owned land. In April 2020, Cabinet approved the transfer of the land ownership into Qualis Commercial for the five Epping Town sites and the Roundhills site. Qualis Management expected the delivery of the Councils repairs service, and work on the Epping Town Council sites to go live in September 2020. Qualis Commercial and the Design Team were working to develop the strategic options for the five Epping Town sites – St John’s Road, Bakers Lane and Cottis Lane car parks, land by the Civic Offices and Epping Sports Centre. The Planning performance agreement that set out the approach through the pre-planning stages up to the submission of a full planning application had been agreed. To ensure stakeholder engagement throughout the planning process, a detailed communications plan would be established, to include consultation through the Commonplace online community platform. A detailed appraisal process would be followed to assess the suitability of each site to achieve a policy compliant scheme. The team was currently in the first stage of design and consultation. On the Roundhills site, stage 1 was due for completion in July, the architects had been appointed and planning submission should be achieved by the end of the summer.

 

Cllr R Bassett said that Councillor H Kauffman was on the interim Board and did he want to comment? Councillor Kauffman advised that there would be a large amount of work undertaken along with feasibility studies, dialogue with planners and was looking forward to the consultations.

 

Councillor R Brookes asked what was planned for the St John’s Road site on the proposed leisure centre as she had received many enquiries about this? When would she be able to advise them further and how would they respond to the company handling the requests? The Service Manager replied that she would ask the Strategic Director to reply to this question after the meeting.

 

Councillor A Heap commented that in respect of the planning performance agreements, it seemed that the Council was approving the Council’s progress. On artistic qualities of place making and conservation, he was not convinced that anything was particularly artistically viable, and who would be in control of this? Qualis should not just concentrate on the commercial aspects but could have an energy company and by putting solar panels on buildings, the Council should be able to benefit from this renewable energy revenue stream that could help lower Council Tax, for instance. He would submit a proposal on this in due course.

 

Councillor J M Whitehouse remarked that regarding the Commonplace consultation, there was not much information on the proposals being shared with the public, yet there had been many reports to Cabinet, and this should be explicit in consultations. Also, who was on the interim Board and when would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.

13.

Dates of Future Meetings

To note that future meetings of the Select Committee will be held at 7.00pm on the following dates:

 

·           29 September 2020;

·           12 January 2021; and

·           29 March 2021

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was noted that future meetings of the Select Committee would be held at 7.00pm on the following dates:

 

·       29 September 2020;

·       12 January 2021; and

·       29 March 2021