Agenda and minutes

Stronger Place Select Committee - Tuesday 29th September 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

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No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

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 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.”

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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.


Substitute Members

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

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There were no substitutes reported at the meeting.


Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

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(a)       Pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor J McIvor declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda item 8, Covid-19 Recovery Update, by virtue of owning a shop in Epping High Street.


Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 348 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 9 July 2020.

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            That the notes of the last meeting of the Stronger Place Select Committee held on 9 July 2020 be agreed as a correct record, subject to the correction of Councillor Heap’s initial to ‘S’ at Min no 12, paragraph 4 to read: “Councillor S Heap commented that in respect of the planning performance agreements…”


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 (see attached).

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The Select Committee noted its Terms of Reference and work programme.


Stronger Place Select Committee - Corporate Programme Governance pdf icon PDF 274 KB

To consider the attached report on the internal governance that has been established to manage and deliver the programmes of work aligned to the Stronger Place ambitions in 2020/21.

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L Wade, Service Manager (Strategy, Delivery and Performance), explained that the report enabled the select committees to undertake and deliver their programmes to be scrutinised, and better aligned the Stronger ambition objectives to the relevant select committee. There would be additional projects coming along and those aligned to the Covid-19 recovery. Thus, Stronger Place had a clear project brief which would be used for the performance management accounting that went to Stronger Council. This internal governance would allow management to focus the work alignment of the individual employee, which is on the road map of the people programme. The opportunity to add additional areas of scrutiny within the work programme delivery was also an option open to members.


There were six corporate programmes for Stronger Place – economic development, District sustainability, community health and wellbeing, town centre development, planning development and improvement and council housebuilding.


The Chairman, Councillor R Bassett, was pleased with this internal governance report and that the lead officers of the corporate programmes were also identified.


Councillor J H Whitehouse said that the number of corporate work programmes for the select committees was unbalanced, as Stronger Place had six, while Stronger Council and Stronger Communities had three each. Could the number of topics be more fairly distributed among the select committees? The Chairman commented that council housebuilding was allocated to Stronger Place - the place part. Councillor J H Whitehouse said this was particularly in relation to the sheltered housing review. The Service Manager replied that she believed this decision was made last year and that maybe this was a question for the project owners themselves.


Councillor J Jennings asked why Loughton was not mentioned under the town centre development programme? N Dawe, Chief Operating Officer, replied that this was an omission as this was a draft but this should have included each of the town centres and each of the population centres. An updated version of these project plans was due to be considered by Cabinet at its next meeting in October.


Councillor S Heap asked what SLT meant, to which the Service Manager replied was a reference to senior leadership team.




(1)          That the Committee noted the internal governance that has been established to manage and deliver the programmes of work aligned to the Stronger Place ambitions in 2020/21; and


(2)          That the committee could identify any additional areas for scrutiny within the work programme delivery.


Covid-19 Recovery Update pdf icon PDF 248 KB

To consider the attached report (to follow).

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A Small, Strategic Director, reported that there were three phases to the Covid-19 pandemic – the Council’s initial response, restoration and the longer-term recovery. However, with the continued national coronavirus resurgence that was also being seen in the Epping Forest District, the Council might be moving back to a response phase if asked to by the Public Health lead at Essex County Council.


The report set out the Council’s response to the initial outbreak in March 2020 that was largely supportive of those shielding and its impact on business and relief. The Council was reorganised to focus on its Covid-19 response. As a consequence, a much better infrastructure was in place with better support lined up. Although the restoration was at the end of June / beginning of July, Council services, as well as the hospitality and high street business sectors, were moving to a more restricted phase to facilitate safe access for individuals in high streets. Community wellbeing was being monitored. Cabinet considered a report in July 2020 on the Council’s actions taken, with a longer-term outlook for local high streets. There would be a further update to Cabinet on the ongoing progress of the schemes.


Councillor R Bassett acknowledged that most Council services were online but were housing repairs being done for residents and was this working satisfactorily? D Fenton, Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) replied that repairs were continuing. Staff had PPE and additional measures were being taken, such as residents were being asked to move to a different room so that repairs could be carried out. The Council was not undertaking replacement kitchens or bathrooms, but day-to-day repairs were going ahead.


Councillor R Bassett said that some people were good at preventing risks, but others weren’t, so was enforcement being used? The Strategic Director replied that this was being discussed by the Covid recovery team. The Council had powers to ensure compliance in licensed premises. Also, by using penalty notices. Some people were still not wearing face coverings, but the Council had limited authority on this, whereas the Police could enforce this.


Councillor R Brookes commented that the Civic Offices reception had not been reopened and with this second coronavirus wave it would be foolish to do this now. However, there had been a 30 per cent increase in calls to the Council and she had experienced a long wait on some occasions. Looking forwards, what were the plans to reopen the reception, perhaps by March 2021 if the coronavirus numbers were down? The Strategic Director replied that the Council would try and meet its requirements to residents positively. There would always be groups of customers that needed to have face-to-face contact, and Housing officers were doing this now. The Council would be responsive and might do things in different ways but would not leave customers behind and rather cater for all.


Councillor S Heap acknowledged that the Council’s response had been brilliant but queried the European Economic Community bid that had been submitted for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Local Economic Business Recovery

To consider the update on the local economic development plan (report to follow).

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The Chief Operating Officer apologised for this verbal report but officers were mostly focussing their time on providing detailed updates on project briefs for the Cabinet meeting in a fortnight. Dynamic plans were being prepared, for the high street areas, including Loughton, and for other economic recovery issues, such as building on the Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) initiative and having a better digital communications platform. This item would be picked up at the next Stronger Place Select Committee meeting in January 2021 when members could look forward to receiving the Cabinet reports.


Planning Development and Improvement Programme pdf icon PDF 246 KB

(a)          To consider progress on the North Weald Airfield Masterplan (report to follow);


(b)          To consider the attached report on the progress of the emerging Local Plan and Government White Paper - Planning for the Future.

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(a)          Progress on the emerging Local Plan


The Interim Assistant Director (Planning Policy and Implementation), A Blom-Cooper, had provided the short report to update members on the progress of the emerging Local Plan.The Council’s response to the Inspector in April 2020 set out the high-level programme for progressing to the Main Modifications (MMs) consultation and the adoption of the Local Plan. This detailed the Council’s approach to matters that related to the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and updated the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and viability documents supporting the Local Plan. The Council submitted the third tranche of MMs in June 2020 and the final tranche in mid-September 2020 for the Inspector to consider and consultation on the MMs was anticipated to start from the end of October 2020.


Further information submitted to the Inspector included the revised mapping in relation to changes of the Local Plan and the draft green and blue infrastructure strategy. The Council submitted further information last week and the sustainability appraisal was also due to go to the Inspector. An updated Habitats Regulations Assessment and Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy was being finalised to take account of initial comments received from Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest that would be part of the MM consultation later this year. The Council was expecting the Inspector’s timetable next week. However, the schedule for the main plan documentation was some 300 pages, and other documents also numbered over 300 pages.


(b)          Government White Paper: Planning for the Future


The Government published this White Paper on 6 August 2020. A report on the Council’s proposed response would be considered by Cabinet on 19 October 2020.  It would significantly change the current planning system for both the nature and content of Local Plans, and the operation of the development management process. If implemented, the White Paper would introduce new planning legislation into the system to streamline the plan making process. The White Paper was proposing a zonal system where local plans designate land into three categories of land to be identified as growth areas (suitable for development in new settlements and urban extensions); renewal areas (urban and brownfield sites); and protected areas restricted areas in the green belt, conservation areas and wildlife sites etc). Local plans should state clear rules rather than general development policies,provide for greater public engagement in plan making, be subject to a single statutory “sustainable development” test and a statutory 30-month timetable for the production of local plans for local authorities and the planning inspectorate. A standard methodology for housing figures was proposed but there was also a separate consultation to amend the existing one to include affordability changes over time. Green belt constraint would be factored it but if was difficult to know how this would be mitigated.


Councillor R Bassett asked about the Office of National Statistics housing numbers and was there any difference? The Interim Assistant Director replied that the Inspector had written to the Council about its household projections and their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Draft Sustainability Guidance for the District and Harlow and Gilston Garden Town pdf icon PDF 406 KB

To consider the Cabinet report on the Draft EFDC Sustainability Guidance (report to follow).

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A presentation was received from the Planning Policy Implementation Team Projects Officer, M Anil. The sustainability guidance was supported by several policies of the emerging Local Plan. It followed EFDC’s climate emergency declaration in September 2019 to become carbon zero by 2030, as data from 2017 showed that on road vehicles and residential housing contributed to some 80 per cent of all carbon emissions across the District. The draft guidance also expanded on the work done for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) and aligned with other key documents, such as the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and Green Infrastructure Strategy. The document was split into two sections environmental sustainability and socio-economic sustainability. Its purpose was to support planning proposal considerations and provide practical and technical guidance on how relevant sustainability indicators and policies in the Local Plan would be applied to new residential and non-residential developments across the District. A suite of three sustainability documents covered Major Developments (10+ units), Minor Developments (1-9 units) and Extensions and Refurbishments. The Major Developments document was similar to HGGT, but there were changes to case studies, reference to specific policies and documents, air quality and its impact on the Epping Forest special area of conservation (SAC) as well as socio-economic sustainability, which was key for EFDC. Whilst the HGGT document focused on integration of new development with existing communities, key goals for EFDC were community resilience and social equity, especially in terms of access to facilities, health and wellbeing, public health etc.


Members had been briefed at a workshop in August, and the draft sustainability guidance would be submitted to Cabinet in October 2020 for approval for more formal public consultation. The six-week public consultation should be completed in November 2020. The final guidance draft for endorsement for material planning consideration (1) and the sustainability guidance for Extensions and Refurbishments (3) would be submitted to Cabinet by early 2021.


The Interim Assistant Director said that this was a good explanation of the work the Implementation Team had undertaken to produce the guidance and more information was given in the appendices. The report was waiting for Cabinet approval to agree formal consultation at the October meeting.


Councillor R Bassett commented that this was a very useful presentation, but a lot of technical terminology was used that needed experts to understand it and that a glossary might be helpful. Also, looking at the checklists, he wondered how developers, particularly small developers, would be able to answer all the questions.


Councillor S Heap said this was a good report. Working with heat pumps was good, delivery points for Amazon to avoid delivering to every house, more buses were required and a dedicated bus for Latton Priory was definitely needed. In the Quality Review Panel report regarding photovoltaics that solar panels would not provide enough benefit, but they would be a big enough benefit if every house had them and everyone worked together. Regarding a community park for the people and that the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.


Update on Review of Service Charges pdf icon PDF 390 KB

To consider the attached report that provides an update on the ongoing review of services charges across the District.

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The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership), D Fenton, explained that these charges were for additional tenant services, such as maintenance of lifts and cleaning etc, which were charged separately to the rent, and were taking place across the District. However, this had become challenging as some costs had risen above the rate of CPI. A recent cost analysis had revealed that the Council was in deficit to around £600,000 for 2019/20 through the under recovery of service charges. A report to Cabinet in July 2020 had recommended a review of these service charges. Housing now had a comprehensive list of these additional services and the service charges. Also, the regulations clearly stated that social housing providers needed to charge for services in a fair and consistent way that could be accounted for. This equated to charging the actual cost for the services broken down to each individual property. A final report on the options available to the Council would go to Cabinet in December 2020.


In July 2020, Cabinet recommended the Council’s proposed scheme ‘more than bricks and mortar’ moved to the development stage. This scheme was proposing that additional income raised in the first four years was ringfenced to pay for estate improvements, which would help achieve its mission to ‘create great places where people wanted to live’.


Councillor R Bassett thought that the Council should monitor and phase in the new charges. Taking into account that the Council could have a shortfall of income this financial year of some £4 million because of Covid-19, if additional income was ringfenced for four years this could amount to quite a lot of money. Also, some premises had private owners while others had Council tenants, so this needed to be addressed as the Council should not be subsidising private tenants. The Service Manager replied that the deficit was in the general fund not the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), which was ringfenced for Housing functions. It was a lot of money. However, people should go and look at our estates in relation to places where we want people to live, which would require a huge investment. It was a challenging time to create the right environment for tenants. Regarding leaseholders, this was a huge concern. Although they did pay the actual cost of the service charges, the Council could not charge any additional service charges to leaseholders. For example, if the Council had a block of flats where there was no cleaning service but wanted to introduce cleaning, the Council could not do this for the leaseholders, as the lease did not allow the Council to do this.


Councillor S Heap said that with some leaseholders who were subject to the same charges, the Council might need to think of charging for these services in a ‘pooling’ way and work out what this might be.


Councillor S Murray said it was unfortunate that the service charges review had coincided with the current economic climate on our estates, which had a very  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.


Council Housebuilding Progress Report and the future approach to site selection pdf icon PDF 399 KB

To consider the attached progress report on phases 3 and 4 and the approach to site selection of phase 5 of the Council Housebuilding Programme.

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The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) reported on the progress made across phases 3 and 4 of the Housebuilding programme that had either been completed, were on-site and were currently being procured, as well as its approach to phase 5. Future housing delivery within phase 4 stood at 84 units up to 2021/22, subject to the necessary planning consents. The Council’s retained consultant (Metaplan) was reviewing two additional sites. One was a partnership arrangement with St John the Baptist Church, Epping, that comprised 9-10 residential units for key workers and a community building, subject to planning consent. The other was an opportunity to purchase some land at below market value in Waltham Abbey to provide up to 10 affordable units, subject to planning consent.


Phases 1 to 4 had largely been located on garage sites where there had been anti-social behaviour and they were not economically viable to continue with. There were also some other large garage sites that Housing would be looking at. In phase 5, a different approach was being taken in terms of what local members and local residents wanted. This would include additional environmental options and how the area could be improved for the community, such as planting schemes, or how to reconfigure parking to benefit the residents. The Council was looking to adopt the ‘Passivhaus’ standard, ‘Fabric First’ as a minimum, to make them as efficient as possible, for example by installing heat pumps. A further report would go to Cabinet in December 2020 on how the Council would be using housing receipts. These sites would be presented at the next Cabinet to recommend progressing to full planning and the allocation of capital funding. Housing would continue to work with Finance to develop a more robust finance reporting system especially around cashflow.


Councillor R Bassett was very impressed with the number of new houses being built and the Council was one of the few councils building council house. Would target dates be impacted by social distancing at work and would Housing be invoking late work penalties? The Service Manager replied that the Queens Road, Buckhurst Hill, site was some 8 – 10 weeks behind schedule but was not going to add a late penalty. She continued that with the other phase 4 works, the Council was at the stage when the contracts were being finalised as the pandemic started, which had not impacted on the contracts.


Councillor R Morgan was pleased local residents and the parish council would be consulted because Matching had a garage site.


Councillor S Murray said he did not disagree with the Chairman’s comments, but the Council’s housebuilding programme barely scratched the surface and did not really reflect the need for social housing in the District. There had been 13,000 local authority housing units when he had started at the Council. The right to buy was a positive aspect, but the Council was desperately short of housing stock. He welcomed the community consultative approach to phase 5 and would have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.


Dates of Future Meetings

To note that the next meeting of the Select Committee will be held at 7.00pm on 12 January 2021.

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It was noted that the next meeting of the Select Committee would be held on 12 January 2021 at 7.00pm.