Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions
1. This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking.
2. 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 other such use by 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 then they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.
In the event that technical difficulties interrupt the virtual meeting that cannot be overcome, the meeting may need to be adjourned”.
The Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.
Appointment of Chairman & Vice-Chairman
(1) To confirm the appointment of District Councillor D Sunger as the Chairman of the Committee for the municipal year, in his capacity as Chairman of the District Council; and
(2) To confirm the appointment of Town Councillor C Burgess as the Vice-Chairman of the Committee for the municipal year, in her capacity as the Chairman of the Epping Forest branch of the Essex Association of Local Councils.
(1) That District Cllr D Sunger, in his capacity as the Chairman of the District Council, be appointed as Chairman of the Local Councils Liaison Committee for the 2023/24 municipal year; and
(2) That Town Cllr C Burgess, in her capacity as the Chairman of the Epping Forest branch of the Essex Association of Local Councils, be appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Local Councils Liaison Committee for the 2023/24 municipal year.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 28 March 2023 and any matters arising therefrom.
(1) That the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 28 March 2023 be confirmed as a correct record.
Epping Forest Local Highways Panel - New Structure
(Cllr S Kane, Chairman of the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel) To notify Town and Parish Councils of the new arrangements for the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel.
The rules concerning the Local Highways Panels had changed at Essex County Council and a discussion had taken place on how the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel should operate in the future. A number of options had been considered and it was decided that no Town or Parish Council representative should be invited to future meetings, and that any representations from Town or Parish Councils should be directed through their Essex County Councillor.
Cllr S Kane, the Chairman of the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel, informed the Liaison Committee of the new arrangements for the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel. The rules concerning the Local Highways Panels had changed at Essex County Council and a discussion had taken place on how the Epping Forest Local Highways Panel should operate in the future. A number of options had been considered and it was decided that no Town or Parish Council representative should be invited to future meetings, and that any representations from Town or Parish Councils should be directed through their Essex County Councillor.
Cllr S Kane added that a new Panel had been set up, consisting of the Chairmen from each of the Local Panels across the County. This new Panel had their own budget for approving schemes, and each of the Local Panels could refer schemes to this new Panel for consideration.
The Local Councils enquired about the procedure that the Panel used to make decisions. Cllr S Kane stated that the Epping Forest Panel had a budget of £174,000 available to fund schemes across the District, but there were schemes totalling £700,000 on the work programme. Therefore, the Panel members had to review the proposed schemes with a critical eye and make a balanced decision for each scheme proposed. Schemes relating to safety issues took priority. It was accepted that the rural areas might have less schemes approved, and the advice to the Local Councils was to lobby their County Councillor.
(1) Cllr S Kane to ascertain whether the Local Councils could talk directly to the Highways Officers at the County Council; and
(2) Democratic & Electoral Services Team Manager, G Woodhall, to add the link to the Panel’s agenda and minutes on the County Council website to the minutes of this meeting:
ECC Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport - Cllr Lee Scott
(Cllr Lee Scott, ECC Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport)
To provide an update on his plans for the future of Highways in the County, and to address any areas of general concern that Parish and Town Councils may have, including the following items outstanding from the meeting of the Committee held on 5 October 2022 when Cllr Scott gave his apologies:
· The efficacy of the Local Highways Panel and the adequacy of budgets provided to them.
· The prime remit of Local Highway Panels
· What (if any) options are available for introducing traffic calming measures on rural country roads?
· The contract with Ringway Jacobs, how long this is in place for, when it is due for renewal, and whether or not they offer value for taxpayers’ money?
Cllr S Kane reported that County Cllr L Scott was unavailable for tonight’s meeting, and therefore could not provide an update on his plans for the future of highways in the County nor address any concerns that the Local Councils might have.
In relation to the four specific points raised by the Local Councils, Cllr S Kane had received the following responses from Essex Highways Officers:
(i) The efficacy of the Local Highways Panel and the adequacy of the budgets provided to them:
“Where there is a solution then the Local Highways Panel will provide one, however it’s not always practical or in some cases legal to commit to every proposal. The scheme list for each panel is generally in excess of the amount of funding available, therefore schemes are prioritised based upon the returned benefit.”
(ii) The prime remit of Local Highways Panels:
“Information on the Panels remit can be found at the following link https://www.essexhighways.org/local-highway-panels.”
(iii) What (if any) options are available for introducing traffic calming measures on rural country roads:
“Traffic calming measures are subject to the classification of the highways network. Where sections of the network allow traffic calming measures to be installed they are dependent upon the constraints at the intended location, rural roads are often subject to national speed limits making them inappropriate locations. Where rural roads pass through villages which are subject to 30mph and there are no constraints then traffic calming measures can be considered.”
(iv) The contract with Ringway Jacobs, how long this is in place for, when it is due for renewal, and whether or not they of offer value for taxpayers money:
“The Ringway Jacobs contract runs until April 2027. An exercise is underway within ECC to determine the contract type that will follow on from the Ringway Jacobs contract, so it will not be ‘renewed’ as such. It is difficult to respond to the ‘value for money’ part of question, however when the contract was originally bid, it was competitively tendered, so it is expected it provided value for money. In addition, over the last couple of years, RJ has been working closely with ECC to successfully identify significant savings and efficiencies and this will continue until the end of the contract.”
Cllr S Kane also highlighted that every scheme cost a considerable amount of money as there was validation and survey work that needed to be undertaken.
(3) Cllr S Kane to enquire of Highways Officers when better quality ‘Road Closed’ signs would be available.
To discuss the following matters raised by the local councils:
(a) At the meeting held on 28March 2023, Town and Parish Councils were advised paper copies of the Local Plan would NOT be printed, and that a copy of the whole document was available on the council’s website, with papers copies available to look through at local library’s and at the Civic Offices. There are some parishes in the District where access to a local library is not possible unless visiting a neighbouring village or town, or in areas where there is a library it may be open limited hours. It is understood that the rationale for EFDC not providing Parish and Town Councils with a hard copy of the local plan is simply one of cost. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill supports communities having more say over planning matters, and it should be recognised that providing Parish and Town Councils with a hard copy of the local plan would support this agenda and provide for increased opportunities for residents in the district by providing this additional facility. In addition, some Parish Councils are very small, with limited printing capacity. We therefore ask the District Council to reconsider providing each of the 24 Parish and Town Councils in the District with one hard copy of the Local Plan Part 1, Part 2, and Policies Map.
(b) Request that the Cllr Nigel Bedford, EFDC Portfolio Holder for Place, provides members with an update on who the Officers are on the Planning Policy and Implementation Team, and their respective roles.
(c) EFDC has indicated they will not provide training on the new planning system (Arcus) to Parish and Town Councils, despite this being requested on numerous occasions. As such, can EFDC answer the following:
(i) Does the new system allow a user of the site to identify which properties / who has been consulted on a planning application. If so, can you demonstrate how this can be done. If it cannot, why not?
(ii) The previous system allowed a user to search for the history of a particular property by using the ‘file number’. Can this be done on the new system, and can it be demonstrated how. If it cannot, why not?
(iii) Would EFDC be willing to commit to a 2 hour online tutorial with parish and town councils, showcasing the benefits of the new system and how it operates?
(d) The weekly planning list is normally distributed on a Friday afternoon, however there are occasions when this does not take place (due staff holiday, etc). On these occasions, could arrangements be made for another staff member to distribute the weekly list on a Friday afternoon to ensure continuity.
(e) Branch Members would like to invite the new Chairman of the Qualis Group to attend the meeting and provide an update on the Qualis organisation, how it supports the functions of EFDC, his role and responsibilities, and how he will improve openness and transparency for the ... view the full agenda text for item 6.
(a) Copies of the Local Plan
The Local Councils had requested the District Council to provide each of the 24 Town and Parish Councils within the District with a hard copy of Part 1, Part 2 and the Policies Map of the Local Plan.
The Service Director for Planning, N Richardson, informed the Local Councils that it cost approximately £120 to print a copy of the Local Plan, and the District Council simply did not have a budget to provide the Local Councils with a copy as requested. The documents were freely available on the District Council’s website and individual Local Councils could print off their own copy.
The Local Councils felt that the District Council should be more sympathetic over this issue as £120 was a lot of money for some of the smaller Local Councils, and there were concerns about the lack of access to a printed copy of the Local Plan.
Some suggestions were made at the meeting by District Councillors to reduce the cost for Local Councils, such as sharing a printed copy or contacting a number of different printing companies to find the best price. North Weald Bassett Parish Council offered a copy for any of the Local Councils that required one.
(b) Planning Policy & Implementation Team Officers
The Local Councils had requested an update on the Officers and roles within the Planning Policy and Implementation Team.
N Richardson displayed a structure chart showing the current composition of the Team (attached as an Appendix to these minutes). There were a considerable number of interim posts within the Team, and there were a variety of reasons for this, including:
- The proximity of London and the salaries offered by the borough Councils;
- Private sector competition;
- Insufficient Planning Officers coming through the system; and
- The increasing complexity of the planning system.
N Richardson stated that other authorities in Essex had similar issues, and the Council was looking at the possibility of shared services with neighbouring authorities.
(c) Arcos Planning System
(i) N Richardson stated that the system did not allow you to identify which properties had been consulted on a particular planning application. The Council was in discussions with the provider to add this feature.
(ii) To search for the history of a particular property using the ‘file number’, N Richardson stated that users should select the ‘Advanced Search’ function to achieve this. The Chairman, Cllr D Sunger, explained that Planning Officers had demonstrated how he could search for all previous planning applications submitted from a particular road within the District.
(iii) In respect of a possible two-hour tutorial on the system for Town and Parish Councils, N Richardson requested that if the Local Councils informed him of their issues with the system, then Officers would consider the viability of running such a session. The Local Councils felt that a two-hour tutorial would be of value, even if it would not solve all the issues with using the system, and it could ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Dates of Future Meetings
To note that the next meeting of the Committee will be held on 1 February 2024 at 7.00pm.
The Committee noted that its next meeting would be held on 1 February 2024 at 7.00pm.