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This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking.
The Chairman will read the following announcement:
“This meeting will be webcast live to the Internet and will be archived for later viewing. Copies of recordings may be made available on request.
By entering the chamber’s lower seating area you consenting to becoming part of the webcast.
If you wish to avoid being filmed you should move to the public gallery or speak to the webcasting officer”.
The Chairman made a short address to remind all present that the meeting would be broadcast on the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.
Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)
To report the appointment of any Substitute members for the meeting.
The following substitutions were reported:
That Councillor D Stocker was substituting for Councillor I Hadley; and
That Councillor J H Whitehouse was substituting for Councillor C McCredie.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To declare interests in any items on the agenda.
In considering whether to declare a personal or a prejudicial interest under the Code of Conduct, Overview & Scrutiny members are asked pay particular attention to paragraph 11 of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements.
This requires the declaration of a personal and prejudicial interest in any matter before an OS Committee which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a member.
Paragraph 11 does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an OS meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.
There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct.
(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference of the Select Committee. This is attached along with an ongoing work programme. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.
S Jevans, Interim Strategic Director, was in attendance.
The Chairman, Councillor D Sunger, welcomed members and explained that tonight’s meeting was an opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the role and work areas under the remit of this new Select Committee.
(a) The Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference set out the core areas of responsibility namely the delivery of the Local Plan, North Weald (including masterplanning), the St John’s Road development, Council Housebuilding and economic growth, skills and employment. It would also have an overview of the Waste and Leisure Management contracts, as well as the green agenda to help inform policy and to future proof the place. The actual role of the new Select Committee was set out in eight core areas but importantly, was to engage in policy review and to develop an effective work programme of the pre-scrutiny of these core areas of responsibility.
The Select Committee noted the Terms of Reference.
(b) Work Programme
The 2019/20 work programme would be updated for each meeting to reflect ongoing progress. Both the North Weald Airfield Masterplan and the St John’s Road development would be going to the next scheduled meeting on 17 September 2019.
Members were asked for suggestions for the green agenda (item 5) for officers to consider before the next meeting.
Councillor S Neville asked about progress the Council was making in withdrawing single-use bottles. Their continued usage was evident in the Chamber tonight and he looked forward to progress being made on their replacement by carafes and cafetières, as had happened in the Committee rooms. S Jevans would follow this up.
The Select Committee noted the current work programme.
North Weald Airfield Masterplan - Presentation
To receive a presentation from J Nolan, Service Director (Commercial and Regulatory).
J Nolan, Service Director (Commercial and Regulatory), was in attendance.
North Weald Airfield (NWA) was located on a 150-hectare site and was the Council’s largest land asset. It was used for general aviation and commercial purposes as well as outdoor events and leisure uses. The west side was mainly confined to aviation uses, while the east side was for non-aviation uses. NWA had been established in 1916 and had served as a frontline fighter station in World Wars 1 and 2. The RAF squadrons from the Norwegian Air Force had been based there during the second World War, and a strong officer and veteran link still remained. The Council had purchased NWA in 1979 from the Ministry of Defence.
The Council was now seeking to commission consultants to produce a masterplan to guide development to meet the requirements of the Submission Version of the Local Plan for NWA; otherwise known as Local Plan site, NWBE4. The consultants would be required to produce a masterplan to include 10 hectares of employment land, the expansion of aviation activities and space for leisure / community usage. In addition to designing an indicative layout, the consultants would also need to prepare all supporting documentation. Key non-aviation activities would have be relocated to the eastern side. A strategic expansion of the west side for aviation uses with a new control tower, would also include the construction of a new access road to the airfield from the B181 road. It was envisaged that the current Grade II Listed control tower would be reutilised, and the east-west runway developed as a taxiway for warehouses located either side. On the adoption of the Submission Version of the Local Plan, the boundary of the Green Belt Land (GBL) would be revised to lie outside NWA. However, the impact of future development on neighbouring GBL would need to be carefully considered. North Weald Bassett had a separate masterplan, but the two masterplans would complement each other. Therefore, expressions of interest were being sought.
Councillor H Kauffman was proud of the Council’s involvement in NWA. He agreed with the separation of aviation from non-aviation activities and would welcome the compatibility of uses with the airfield site. The longevity of uses that might come along over the next twenty years from the airline and delivery industries could therefore, assist in the significant future proofing and ethos of what NWA was about. J Nolan replied that members had always wanted to maintain historic links and there were heritage aircraft housed on the site, thus concentrating aviation usage on the west side would achieve this with an aviation hub.
Councillor J McIvor commented that the reorganisation of the airfield was welcomed. However, taking account of the anxiety of residents that it did remain an aviation area, he asked if there had been an analysis of what the level of aviation growth could be and its impact on noise. J Nolan replied that NWA was a very popular place. The National Police Air Service had ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
St Johns Road Development - Presentation
To receive a presentation from J Nolan, Service Director (Commercial and Regulatory).
J Nolan, Service Director (Commercial and Regulatory), was in attendance.
When Epping Primary School had opened in 2008, the junior school had become surplus to requirements. The site included the school owned by Essex County Council (ECC), Epping Town Council offices in Epping Hall and the Council’s repair depot. The three authorities had contracted town planning consultants to develop a brief for the site. Following a public consultation, over 400 responses were received that supported an improved community and leisure centre, a cinema, the retention of historic building features, a public realm and the protection of existing trees. In early 2017 a Tripartite Agreement with Epping Town Council and a developer, Frontier Estates, was in place to move this project forward. However, with still no conclusion between the parties, the agreement ended in October 2018 and ECC’s land interest was purchased by the Council.
The Cabinet had agreed that the St John’s Road development should proceed using the previously agreed development brief, and was also to include a new leisure centre (Sports England’s preferred choice as Epping Sports Centre was to close), retail space and 32 housing units. There was also the proposal to relocate Epping Town Council to 323 High Street, and monthly meetings were being held to progress this. The provision of a cinema was welcomed by young people and discussions with cinema operators were ongoing. The buildings earmarked for this would be suitable for conversion, thus historic features could be retained.
White, Young and Green had been appointed to provide project management support and tasked to present three development options to Cabinet on 5 December 2019. The consultants had been briefed on the Submission Version of the Local Plan and site surveys had been undertaken. The project had been included in the capital programme and indicative costs should be known by November 2019. A pre-application advice request was expected in October 2019 with the preparation of a pre-application advice outcome in mid-November 2019. A short video of the proposed site development was screened to members.
Members and Portfolio Holders were very supportive of this project, which would have a positive impact on Epping and be beneficial for the District’s residents. It would also be a great opportunity for young people for both employment and leisure opportunities. However, the following points were also raised:
Councillors J H Whitehouse and H Whitbread, Portfolio Holder (Housing and Property Services), shared concerns about parking for the planned leisure centre, cinema, retail outlets and homes that were being planned in this development. J Nolan replied that parking on site would be limited as under the Local Plan Submission Version there would be parking constraints as it was within three kilometres of Epping Forest and owing to the Habitats Regulations. There were two car parks nearby where parking spaces would be freed up by late afternoon and at the weekend. Councillor J H Whitehouse continued that it was unrealistic not to provide adequate parking and would be storing up future problems.
Councillor ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To receive a presentation from J Houston, Specialist Manager (Strategic Partnerships). For information: Nurturing Growth, a discussion paper to launch work on a new strategy to support economic development in the district 2019 to 2025 (see attached).
J Houston, Specialist Manager (Strategic Partnerships), was in attendance.
Nurturing Growth, a discussion paper to launch work on a new strategy to support economic development in the District from 2019 to 2025, had been published in the agenda. It put forward proposals to deliver a long term vision and plan to future proof the District’s economic success, enable entrepreneurs to become established, businesses to grown and residents to prosper. A public consultation was underway and members’ thoughts and feedback were welcomed.
Why did we need a strategy? The economy was developing and evolving but the District did not have exhaustive resources and needed to focus the District’s economic development into those areas that would give the greatest benefit, hence Nurturing Growth. It was increasingly important to attract inward investment whether that was from Central Government, local enterprise agencies or the private sector, and when bids were made that they fitted in with the District’s priorities to develop a greater value. The Council played a role to work in collaboration with interested parties, to bring investors and partners together, and that public money was used properly. Therefore, it was not just a plan for the Council, but also a plan for the place - Epping Forest District.
Nurturing Growth laid out the key aspects of the District economy, which were:
· High streets and town centres
· Tourism and visitor economy
· Infrastructure and transport
· Partnerships that deliver
· Skills and employment
· Growing our food sector
· A place for entrepreneurs and business start-ups
It prompted discussion by asking for suggestions on whether this was a priority, were these the right things to do, were there any other suggestions and was anything missing. The initial consultation had been circulated to 150 interested parties, published on the Council’s website and promoted through social media.
The feedback was varied and some people had thought the Council might be being overly ambitious and would it be able to deliver. Key feedback included comments on workforce retention in the private and public sector and was there the capacity to fill jobs on offer. Other comments were in favour of a specific rural strategy with its own set of priorities, and a specific strategy on connectivity in respect of joint working in some sectors. The Council was looking to re-instigate the consultation period and would be organising a specific stakeholder conference in the autumn to assess the extent of our ambition, the main strategies and would look at the key actions.
Councillor S Neville supported protecting the green heritage while pursuing growth but there was nothing to tackle climate change or how to achieve a zero or low carbon economy in this area, as it had not been factored in? J Houston replied that perhaps this needed to be strengthened. He acknowledged the Local Plan had addressed climate change but would not be revisiting Local Plan issues, but rather complement it. Early feedback from members had been on mitigation, an integrated strategy for alternative forms of transport. Pressure on an integrated ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Local Plan Delivery - Presentation
To receive a presentation from S Jevans, Interim Strategic Director.
T Tsui, Planning Policy Projects Officer, was in attendance.
An update on the Local Plan was received. The Council had been required to produce a new Local Plan that would set out its planning strategies for where new developments would be built until 2033 and also set out its planning policies, which would be used to determine planning applications. Large numbers of technical documents had been published and the public consulted over the last eight years. The Submission Version of the Local Plan has been published in December 2017. Ms Louise Phillips was appointed as the Inspector to carry out the independent examination of the Local Plan at the public hearing sessions that had been held from February to June 2019. The Council was awaiting the Inspector’s interim advice, which was due on 12 July 2019.
Meanwhile the Implementation Team was working on progressing the masterplan sites, which included North Weald Airfield, North Weald Bassett, Waltham Abbey, Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (3 sites – East of Harlow site, Latton Priory and the Water Lane area). A number of other applications for Local Plan sites had been granted and others were being submitted seeking planning permission. The Council was still being affected by the concerns of Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest about the potential impact of developments on the Forest (Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation), particularly local air quality. Therefore, no planning decision notices were being finalised for developments in the SAC, although the Council was working to resolve this with the stakeholders. The Council’s Planning Policy Team would be reporting back any advice received from the Inspector to members. Once a final report was received from the Inspector, the decision would be taken for the Local Plan to be presented to Full Council to be formally adopted, hopefully by early next year.
Councillor S Neville said that if the interim report was expected on 12 July, would the Inspector be issuing any further changes or would this only be known when the Inspector issued her final report on whether the Council had implemented the changes that she wanted? T Tsui replied that the Council had agreed a number of changes throughout the public hearing sessions but it was difficult to surmise what interim advice the Inspector would be providing.
To help clarify the issue around not being able to issue planning decisions, Councillor J Philip, Portfolio Holder (Planning Services), explained that Natural England’s instruction to the Council that it could not issue planning decisions was quite clear, but neither could the Secretary of State determine planning applications. Moving forward, the Council would hopefully receive a clear steer from the Inspector on the additional pieces of work required of the Council and on the major modifications to ensure the soundness of the Local Plan. By early autumn, the Council was hoping to be able to consult with the public on the modifications. The Inspector would take on board the responses from the consultation on the ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To consider the draft Statement (attached).
The revised draft Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) reflected recent changes to planning regulations. This also included a requirement to review the SCI every five years. The SCI detailed how the Council intended to involve communities and interested parties in the preparation and review of local planning policies. It also set out how they could engage to make their views known, as part of the planning process, and the feedback they should expect from the Council. Following approval by Cabinet on 13 June 2019, the SCI was published on the Council’s website for a six-week consultation, which would close on 13 August 2019.
Councillor J Philip encouraged all members and communities to take part in this consultation. It laid out what the Council had been working on during the Local Plan and how the Council would be involving communities in the planning process, so he asked all members to please make your comments known.
The Select Committee noted the Draft Statement of Community Involvement.
Council Housebuilding Programme - Presentation
To receive a presentation from P Pledger, Service Director (Housing and Property).
P Pledger, Service Director (Housing and Property), was in attendance.
In December 2011 the Cabinet had agreed a new Council Housebuilding Programme initially based on 20 homes per year for six years. These were to be allocated to housing applicants on the Council’s housing waiting list at affordable rents. This target was increased to 300 houses over a ten-year timescale. Council housebuilding was restarted after a 35-year gap in 2012 as a result of HRA self-financing and the Government’s improved discounts to tenants of properties under the Right to Buy scheme, the capital of which was ringfenced to be reinvested back into Council housebuilding, i.e. 1-4-1 receipts. However, there were a few conditions, which required 1-4-1 receipts to be reinvested within three years of receipt or they would have to be paid back to the Government with interest, and the 1-4-1 receipts could fund up to 30 per cent of the cost of a new home. The 70 per cent balance would need to be funded by the Council from its own resources through loan provision, Section 106 contributions, grants from the former Homes and Communities Agency (now MHCLG), sale of HRA land and other funding opportunities. Therefore, this had necessitated that the Council act quickly.
East Thames had been appointed the development agent on all aspects of the process from planning and building to handing over the homes. The Council had identified 69 under used garage sites on Council land which had a development potential for 227 new homes to be built. The Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee was formed in 2013 to undertake all executive decisions with the programme.
This resulted in a phased, three-year development programme for the 69 garage sites. Phase 1 covered four sites in Waltham Abbey that were developed into 23 new homes and was completed in the summer of 2017. However, the contractor (East Thames) had performed poorly and went into liquidation before completion, which led to delays and increased costs. Meanwhile, as Right to Buy sales had increased, this meant that the housebuilding programme needed to correspondingly rise to keep pace with the 1-4-1 receipts. This led to phase 2 in Loughton (Burton Road) where 51 new homes were built and occupied and phase 3 for 34 new homes in Epping, North Weald and Coopersale.Other opportunities included the purchase of eight new affordable homes at a S106 development in Roydon. Six open street properties were also purchased to overcome a rise in Right to Buy sales. Fourteen more sites were still going through the planning application process, which would deliver 48 new homes.
Regarding progress on phases 4, 5 and 6, in 2017 East Thames and London and Quadrant merged, and the development agent exercised its right not to extend its contract agreement with the Council. A rethink of the development management programme led to the setting up of a Strategic Framework Alliance of specialist contractors and consultants. The developments in these phases were repackaged. The first package would be in Loughton ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
Dates of Future Meetings
To note that future meetings of the Select Committee will be held at 7.00pm on:
· 17 September 2019;
· 9 December 2019; and
· 24 March 2020.
With the agreement of the Chairman, the meeting of the Select Committee that was due to be held on 10 December 2019 will now be held on 9 December 2019, to avoid a clash with the annual Chairman's Christmas Carol Concert.
It was noted that future meetings of the Select Committee would be held at 7.00pm on:
· 17 September 2019;
· 9 December 2019; and
· 24 March 2020.