The Council’s rules provide for questions by any member of the Council to the Leader or any Portfolio Holder, without notice on:
(i) reports under the previous item; or
(ii) any other matter of a non operational character in relation to the powers and duties of the Council or which affects all or part of the District or some or all of its inhabitants.
The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions without notice may take the form of:
(a) a direct oral answer from the Leader or, at the request of the Leader, from another member of the Cabinet;
(b) where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication;
(c) where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner; or
(d) where the question relates to an operational matter, the Leader or a member of the Cabinet will request that a response be given direct to the questioner by the relevant Service Director.
In accordance with the Council’s rules, a time limit of thirty minutes is set for questions. Any question not dealt with within the time available will receive a written reply. The Chairman may extend this period by up to a further ten minutes at their discretion.
(a) Local Plan
Councillor Mohindra asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder to give an update on the Local Plan.
Councillor Philip advised that the interim letter from the Planning Inspector had been received. The majority of the comments were positive and there had been no indications that the Council had failed in its duty to co-operate or had been found legally unsound. There were a number of things which the Council would need to take on board and do work with, and the Council intention was to write back to advise of these actions once an agreed schedule had been agreed.
The Inspector had identified actions required to update the Habitats Regulation Assessment modelling and the impact on the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation. This required further work and it had been unfortunate that Natural England had made no indication that they were unhappy with the Council’s methodology until the deadline for the statements to support the hearing sessions for the examination of the Local Plan. Furthermore, there had been changes arising from recent court cases and updates to DEFRA guidance which would need to be taken on board. Therefore in combination with other changes required for sites at Limes Farm, Jessel Green, the convent in Chigwell, a site in Roydon, South Epping and the phasing of development of Harlow East, it had been envisaged that it may take some time to complete and he would continue to report on progress through the Local Plan Cabinet Committee.
(b) Natural England Implications
Councillor Knapman asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder when the Council would know about the air quality mitigation strategy for new dwellings in the District, as it was having a detrimental financial effect on small development businesses because of planning applications being granted but not issued.
Councillor Philip advised that he recognised the issues it had been causing local developers and the council had been working towards addressing these problems and looking at ways to grant the smaller developments and fulfil Natural England’s requirements. Although, since some of the material planning considerations had changed in between the granting of planning applications, both delegated and committee decisions would need to be relooked at before the applications were issued. If anything changed in-between now and the next Council meeting, he would advise members.
(c) Parking Issues on Cascade Road, Buckhurst Hill
Councillor Neville asked the Contract and Technical ServicesPortfolio Holder whether a solution had been found for the parking on grass verges at Cascade Road, Buckhurst Hill.
Councillor N Avey advised that he agreed with the Ward Councillor, that yellow lines in this area would not be the right answer and he would consult with officers about other solutions, previous discussed. He would also conduct a site visit.
(d) Traffic Infrastructure Considerations
Councillor Avey asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder whether he could give assurances to residents about traffic infrastructure issues in relation to sites set out in the Local Plan; and in particular the Water Lane site in Roydon.
Councillor Philip advised that this area came under both the Local Plan and the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. There had been significant work carried out and one of the visions for the Garden Town was for a corridor of sustainable transport. Its aim were to reduce of reliance on private vehicles by 60% with the infrastructure requirements being considered in relation to the cost of the developments, which would further reduce the burden on the surrounding infrastructure. In addition, infrastructure was also being considered separately in Epping Forest, Harlow and East Herts Local Plans.
(e) New Affordable Housing at Davis Court
Councillor Murray asked the Housing and Property Portfolio Holder, whether the family of the Former Councillor Joan Davis had been invited to the opening ceremony of the Council Housing at Burton Road, named in her honour.
Councillor H Whitbread advised that the family had been invited and were attending.
(f) Homelessness Conference
Councillor Bolton asked the Housing and Property Portfolio Holder for further information on the RESI (Residential Sector) Convention she had attended in relation to the Council’s approach to homelessness; and whether she had any feedback from users of the homelessness pods in North Weald.
Councillor H Whitbread advised that she had been approached by RESI to sit on the ‘trail blazers’ panel, where many ideas and solutions had been put forward to deal with homelessness issues across the country.
She advised that all but one of the pods were being used and users were finding the facilities acceptable. The pods were preferable to bed and breakfast accommodation as it allowed independent living.
(g) Waltham Abbey Recycling Centre
Councillor Dorrell asked the Contract and Technical ServicesPortfolio Holder whether he would join him and other members to make representations to Essex County Council in regards to reversing or relaxing both the reduction in opening hours and the strict controls on the permitted waste at Waltham Abbey recycle centre.
Councillor Avey stated that fly tipping was reaching epidemic levels across the District. He advised that it was strange that Essex County Council could not see the correlation between the introduction of restrictions and the increase in fly tipping and that it was counter intuitive. He thanked Biffa for the work they were doing in order to the collect the fly tipping.
(h) Accommodation Strategy
Councillor J M Whitehouse asked the Leader for an update on the feasibility of the land to the rear of the Civic Offices and the possibility of the new building at North Weald, in relation to the informal Call-In at the start of the year.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that a report would be coming forward to Cabinet on 31 October 2019, which would give members further information.
(i) St John’s Road Development
Councillor Burrows asked the Leader whether he could give a more detailed update on the St John’s Road, Epping development.
The Leader advised that the Council was making progress in consultation with other partners and the Cabinet were considering options. The consultants report would be considered shortly, and a report would be brought to the Cabinet on 5 December 2019.
(j) Permits for the Waste Recycling Centres
Councillor Plummer asked the Contract and Technical ServicesPortfolio Holder whether the Council would pursue Essex County Council for permits to allow small vans and trailers to deposit residential renovation waste at Waltham Abbey recycling centre.
Councillor Avey advised that he would pursue this idea with Essex County Council, as it would prevent the issue of fly tipping in the District.
(k) Anti- Idling
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked the Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder whether an environmental officer could be sent to Berry Road, Epping as residents were experiencing car idling at school drop off and collection times; How the educational clean air campaign was progressing; and whether he agreed that there was a discrepancy between Fixed Penalty Notices for air pollution and other Fixed Penalty Notices for litter and parking?
Councillor Patel advised that officers followed the legislation when issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for air pollution, which involved an officer being present, observing, giving a warning and then to issue the Fixed Penalty Notices to offender.
Regarding the promotion of anti-idling, the Public Health Team had five banners available that could be placed around the District and members were welcome to suggest areas. The Council would also raise the issue with schools in the District.
(l) Overcrowding on Central Line
Councillor C C Pond asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder whether the Council would meet with Transport for London regarding the over crowding issues experienced by residents on the Central Line.
Councillor Philip advised that the Council had discussed the over crowding issues with Transport for London on the Central Line. Furthermore Transport for London had attended an Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Council would continue dialog with Transport for London in the future.