Agenda and minutes

Council
Thursday, 30th July, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services Manager Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

12.

Webcasting Introduction

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

 

The Democratic Services Manager will read the following announcement:

 

“The Chairman 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, the Chairman may need to adjourn the meeting.”

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Democratic and Electoral Services 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.

13.

COUNCILLOR SYD STAVROU

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was with much sadness that the Chairman informed the Council of the death of Councillor Syd Stavrou.

 

Members were informed that Councillor Syd Stavrou had been a District Councillor since 2002, representing the Waltham Abbey High Beach Ward of the District as a Conservative Councillor. She served on the Cabinet for many years holding many of the most senior positions, including Deputy Leader, Community and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder, Finance Portfolio Holder, Housing Portfolio Holder; and was a Member of various outside bodies such as the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority. Councillor Syd Stavrou was also a Member of Waltham Abbey Town Council and had served several terms as the Waltham Abbey Town Council Mayor.

 

Members paid tribute to the memory of Councillor Syd Stavrou and stood for a minute’s silence in her memory.

14.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 971 KB

To approve as a correct record and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 21 May 2020 (attached).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the Council meeting held on 21 May 2020 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

15.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct.

16.

Announcements

(a)        Apologies for Absence

 

(b)        Chairman’s Announcements

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)        Announcements by the Chairman of Council

 

Overview and Scrutiny Rule 53 (Call-in and Urgency)

 

The Chairman, Councillor H Kane advised that in accordance with the above mentioned rule, she was satisfied that the following decision of the Cabinet was reasonable in all circumstances and should be treated as a matter of urgency as any delay likely to be caused by the call-in process would seriously prejudice the Council’s interests.

 

Decision:

 

(1)        To note that the Business and Planning Bill is at Committee Stage in the House of Lords and is likely to get Royal Assent this month and that the Council should have a process in place to determine licensing applications made under the Act;

 

(2)   That in order to achieve the tight timelines for determination of Licence Applications under the new Act agree:

 

(a)   To amend the Scheme of Delegation and add decision making authority to the role of Director of Contract and Technical Service / Director of Commercial and Regulatory Services in respect of applications that do not receive any objections and those that do receive objections the Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Regulatory Services or the Leader of the Council be consulted as well as the Chair or Vice Chair of the Licensing Committee before a decision can be made,

 

(b)   That Consultations on licence applications be carried out by electronic and digital means only;

 

(c)   That the relevant ward members would be consulted on any licence application related to their ward;

 

(d)   That Licence fee will be to be set out in Resource Implication section of the report;

 

(e)   That the licence period shall be the maximum permissible under the Act currently likely to be up to September 2021;

 

(f)     That Licensing Conditions attached at appendix-1 are adopted.

 

(3)        That the Chairman of Council be requested to waive the call-in for this decision on the grounds that the implementation of these recommendations would need to be put into immediate practice as soon as the Act received its Royal assent.

 

The Chairman therefore determined that the call-in provisions of the Overview and Scrutiny Rules, which would otherwise apply, be disregarded for this decision.

17.

Public Questions (If Any)

To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within Part 4 of the Council Rules of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:

 

(a)        to the Leader of the Council;

 

(b)        to any Portfolio Holder; or

 

(c)        to the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council noted that there were no public questions under notice that had been submitted for consideration at this meeting.

18.

Questions By Members Under Notice pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within the Council’s rules in Part 4 of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:

 

(a)                  to the Chairman of the Council;

 

(b)                  to the Leader of the Council;

 

(c)                  to any Member of the Cabinet; or

 

(d)                  the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee.

 

The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions under notice may take the form of:

 

(a)             direct oral answer;

 

(b)             where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication; or

 

(c)             where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner.

 

Answers to questions falling within (a) and (b) above will be made available to the member asking the question one hour before the meeting. Answers to questions falling within (c) above will be circulated to all councillors.

 

Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Question by Councillor J M Whitehouse for the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder, Councillor N Bedford

 

What assessment has the Council made of the impact on the district of recent and forthcoming changes to use classes and permitted development rights? These changes were wide-ranging and among other revisions appear to allow, subject to certain restrictions, the construction of up to two new storeys above houses and blocks of flats (and one new storey above bungalows) without requiring a full planning application. In particular:

 

(a)             will the Council consider what steps it could take, such as Article 4 directions or similar measures, to protect streets where the current uniformity of design makes a major contribution to the special character of the area (for example The Orchards in Epping)?

 

(b)             what were the implications for policies in the emerging local plan including policy H 1 F which seeks to resist the loss of bungalows?”

 

Answer to Councillor J M Whitehouse from Councillor N Bedford, Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder

 

(a)      Several new changes were being introduced firstly, as part of the Governments stated intention for reform of the Planning System and secondly, as a response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the need to ensure that the system can continue to operate effectively and support the recovery. It was too early for an assessment to be made at this initial stage, but in the case of building up additional storey’s, a large proportion of properties in the district will not be affected.

 

For example, among the changes, it will be permitted in principle to allow the construction of two additional storeys on the topmost storey of buildings of two storeys or more, or one additional storey on a detached house of one storey, above ground level. But, not in conservation areas, areas of sites of special scientific interest, listed buildings or properties built before 1 July 1948 or after 28 October 2018. These will still be subject to the usual planning permissions and consultations. The rest would need prior approval from the Council after notifying adjoining owners or occupiers, which will consider certain matters relating to the proposed construction of additional storeys. These included:

 

·        consideration of the impact on the amenity of neighbouring premises, including overlooking, and

·        privacy and overshadowing; the design, including the architectural features of the principal elevation of the house, and of any side elevation which fronts a highway.

 

The Council could consider imposing an Article 4 direction where necessary, which basically removes the permitted changes and therefore still required planning permission. This though cannot be imposed immediately because it needed to go through a due process that can take 6 to 12 months. The prior approval though still retains the need to consider amenity of neighbours and also design, so if there were streets where the uniformity of buildings was a character of that area, then there will still be control where the neighbour raises objection.

 

In addition, the Use Classes Order was being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Reports from the Leader & Members of the Cabinet pdf icon PDF 214 KB

To receive reports and any announcements from the Leader and members of the Cabinet on matters falling within their area of responsibility:

 

(a)        Report of the Leader;

 

(b)        Report of the Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(c)        Report of the Customer and Corporate Support ServicesPortfolio Holder (attached);

 

(d)        Report of the Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(e)        Report of the Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(f)         Report of the Housing and Community ServicesPortfolio Holder (attached); and     

 

(g)        Report of the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder (attached).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council received written reports from the Portfolio Holders. The Chairman invited the Leader of Council to provide an oral report and the opportunity for other members of the Cabinet to give an update on matters concerning their relevant portfolios.

 

(a)        The Leader of Council

 

The Leader advised the Council that in recent meetings there had been various reports that focussed on the recovery from Covid-19 and many of the Cabinet reports at this meeting would touch upon this in greater detail. The Council had to start looking to the future and needed to make sure that all the plans put forward in February 2020, as part of the budget, were implemented and he stated that his report would focus on some of what had been achieved and how we as a Council would move forward.

 

At Cabinet in February 2020 the Leader reported that the Highways Rangers would be brought back to Epping Forest, recruitment had taken place and there would be two Highway Rangers starting in mid-August 2020. Additional funding had been secured and repairs to finger posts would be matched funded by Town and Parish Councils. This was a positive action during the Covid-19 lockdown, it showed that the Council had been working on moving forward.

 

The Leader advised that recently there had been some reports in the media on Qualis and he felt it was time to clarify some points that had been reported. The Qualis group of companies had been set up by the Council, they would benefit the Council in several ways and formed a key part of the medium term financial strategy and budget.

 

Through Qualis the Council were looking to achieve an improved and more efficient service to customers, for example housing repairs, which was a key driver behind the setting up of Qualis. Qualis were looking at an estimated growth investment by the Council of approximately £150 million over the next five years delivering a 3% net return across the portfolio. In real terms this would translate in a return to Epping Forest District Council of £1.5 million for the first year rising to £12 million by year five of operation.

 

The Council through Qualis was looking to deliver 300 new homes for the district, new amenities including a new leisure centre in Epping, supporting economic growth, creating new jobs and a portfolio of new investments.

 

The Council have always been open and transparent on how Qualis would operate and this had been discussed in several forums, it was critical that Qualis were allowed the space to operate commercially to achieve the industry role the Council had to rise to and ensure we have the correct skills and expertise in business.

 

In February 2020 all Members were invited to a workshop for legal advisers to go through a Shareholder Agreement and how the monitoring of the new company would be undertaken. This was followed by a Cabinet paper that agreed quarterly reports on the finance and performance of Qualis would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

Questions by Members Without Notice

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman thanked Members for giving notification of their intention to ask questions without notice.

 

(a)        Local Plan

 

Councillor S Jones asked the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder to comment on the Planning Inspector’s letter suggesting that the Council look again at the housing numbers in the light of new projections and would this have an impact on the Council’s delivery of the emerging Local Plan.

 

Councillor N Bedford referred Councillor Jones to the statement and letter he had read out earlier in the meeting.

 

(b)        Governments likely proposals for Unitarisation and Devolution

 

Councillor C C Pond stated that there was a summit meeting to be held soon of all Leaders and Chief Executives of all Councils in Essex relating to the Governments likely proposals for unitarisation and devolution. He asked the Leader as to what line he would take, how would he consult ordinary councillors and would he report back in the Member’s Bulletin as to the progress of those discussions.

 

Councillor C Whitbread advised that he would be virtually attending that meeting and would wait for the Government’s White Paper to be published in the autumn, once that was published then there would be a better idea of how to proceed. He stated that he would keep Members advised as the discussions progressed.

 

(c)        Council Housing Repairs to Qualis

           

Councillor R Bassett asked the Housing and Communities Portfolio Holder what were the benefits of moving the Council housing repairs service to Qualis.

 

Councillor H Whitbread advised that by moving housing repairs to Qualis it would make the service much more efficient with a technology app that repairs could be reported  on which would save more time with staff not having to travel from one side of the district to the other.

 

(d)        Council Housing Stock

 

Councillor S Neville stated that although the Council took great pride in building new council houses to a high environmental standard he asked the Housing and Communities Portfolio Holder what plans did the Council have in terms of retrofitting their existing housing stock to the same environmental standards.

 

Councillor H Whitbread agreed that the Council did have high environmental standards when building new Council Houses from solar panels to all modern appliances to ensure that the Councils properties are as environmentally friendly as possible. In relation to retrofitting I will have to consult with officers and put a response in the Members’ Bulletin.

 

(e)        Telecare

 

Councillor J H Whitehouse asked the Housing and Communities Portfolio Holder why Telecare was put on hold in March 2020 and would not resume until September 2020. Just after lockdown started she advised that she had referred an elderly resident to Telecare and was told installations had been suspended. Four weeks ago this 90 year old resident fell over in her garden and had to shout for help until someone found her. It seemed wrong that she and others on the Telecare list were having to wait until September to get this very important support.

 

Councillor H Whitbread  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Motions

To consider any motions, notice of which has been given under the Council’s rules.

 

Motions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reported that there were no motions to be considered at the meeting.

22.

Constitution Working Group Report pdf icon PDF 412 KB

(Councillor S Jones (Chairman of the Working Group – 2019/20)) To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mover: Councillor S Jones, Chairman of the Constitution Working Group

 

On behalf of the Constitution Working Group, Councillor S Jones presented a report regarding Constitution revisions and amendments. She advised that there were nine recommendations to be agreed.

 

Report as first moved ADOPTED

 

            RESOLVED:

 

1.       (a) That the revision to the Council’s Scheme of Delegation as set out in the report, be agreed; and

 

(b)That pursuant to Recommendation (1(a)) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution.

      

2.       That existing arrangements for public speaking in respect of planning applications remain the same for the District Development Management Committee.

 

3.       That the Developer Contributions Strategy identified infrastructure requirements for minor sites where applicable and the involvement of local councils.

 

4.       (a) That the incorporation of the revised Officer Employment Procedure Rules be approved; and

 

(b) That pursuant to Recommendation (4(a)) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution.

 

5.       (a) Recommending: that the proposed changes to the Audit and Governance Committee’s Terms of Reference be approved; and

 

       (b) That pursuant to Recommendation (5(a)) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution.

 

6.       (a) That the transfer of the responsibility for the reviewing of, and recommending revisions to, the Corporate Risk Register from the Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee to the Audit and Governance Committee be approved; and

 

(b)That pursuant to Recommendation (6(a)) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution.

 

7.       (a) That a change to the current delegations and standing financial instructions to require only one sign off signature (electronic or physical) by the designated budget holder (usually a team manager) for purchases and payments with a value of £24,999 or less that are within budget and only purchases and payments off £25,000 and / or in excess of budget requiring a second signature from a director, be approved. (This was to retain control whilst significantly reducing transaction costs and paperwork pending a major system review and change timetabled for April 2021);

 

(b)That the issues of real or virtual purchase cards to all budget holders and directors and expect all purchase below £1,000 to be made by this route and where applicable purchases of £1,000 to £4,999 to also be made by this route, be approved. (This was to retain control whilst significantly reducing transaction costs and paperwork pending a major system review and change timetabled for April 2021);

 

(c)  That pursuant to Recommendation (7(a)) and (7(b)) above, the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make necessary revisions to the Council’s Constitution; and

 

(d)That the Audit and Governance Committee review the Financial Regulations in a year’s time.

 

8.       (a) That existing arrangements remain the same for the Audit and Governance Committee and the Standards Committee with no merger; and

 

(b) That any future merger will be reconsidered by the Constitution Working Group only at the request of either of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 227 KB

(a)          To receive the report of the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and to answer any questions without notice asked in accordance with Council Rules.

 

(b)          Reports of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (if any);

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council noted the written report of Councillor M Sartin, the Chairman on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor M Sartin advised that at the meeting on 16 July 2020 the Committee had received a presentation from the Epping Forest Youth Council on the activities that they had undertaken during the last twelve months. The Committee were highly impressed by the work of the Youth Council and acknowledged that they were one of the best Youth Councils in operation in the region.

24.

Audit and Governance Committee Annual Report 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 177 KB

(Chairman of Audit and Governance Committee) To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mover: Councillor I Hadley, Chairman of Audit and Governance Committee

 

Councillor I Hadley reported that the Annual Report of the Audit and Governance Committee outlined the Committee’s work and achievements over the year ending 31 March 2020, and demonstrated to residents and other stakeholders the vital role that was carried out by the Audit and Governance Committee as well as the contribution that it made to the Council’s overall governance arrangements.

 

Report as first moved: ADOPTED

 

            RESOLVED:

 

(1)  That the Annual report of the Audit and Governance Committee for 2019/20 be noted.

25.

Joint Arrangements & External Organisations

(a)          To receive from Council representatives the reports (attached - if any) on the business of joint arrangements and external organisations and to receive answers to any questions on those bodies which may be put without notice; and

 

(b)               To request written reports from representatives on joint arrangements and external organisations for future meetings.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)        External Organisations

 

Councillor C Whitbread, Leader reported at the meeting of Annual Council an error had been made of the Member Appointment to the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Panel, Councillor H Whitbread was nominated and not as stated Councillor N Bedford. Therefore would the Council agree to this change in membership of the outside body for the remainder of the municipal year.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the Council agreed to the change in membership to the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Panel for the remainder of the municipal year.

 

(b)       Royal Gunpowder Mills

 

The Chairman, Councillor H Kane reported that she had been trying to contact the CEO of the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Stella Morris for an update. She managed to contact her on her private phone and was informed that she had left her position at the company, of her own accord. Councillor H Kane promised to inform all councillors, as soon as she had contact with the Chairman, by publishing a report  to the Members Bulletin.

 

Councillor C C Pond stated that the Council should pay tribute to Stella Morris and the work she did at the Royal Gunpowder Mills. The Gunpowder Mills should be opened as a unique facility in the world and something that is unique to the Epping Forest District.

 

Councillor H Kauffman thanked the Chairman for all her efforts in trying to get an update for the Gunpowder Mills and stated that he and Councillor C C Pond would be willing to attend any meetings with the Chairman.

 

The Chairman thanked Councillor Kauffman and advised that as soon as she had an update she would put it in the Members’ Bulletin.

 

(c)        Roding Valley Nature Reserve

 

Councillor S Murray advised the Council that he was the Council representative on the Roding Valley Nature Reserve, which was very important for the district. The Essex Wildlife Trust who manage the reserve and have a long standing agreement with us have asked for the agreement to be changed to incorporate a farm business tenancy agreement, which was motivated to source funding from the Government. He had emailed Abigail Oldham, Team Manager for the Countryside and Landscape team to obtain her professional advice on this proposal.

 

(d)       North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) 

 

Councillor S Heap requested a report from NEPP regarding the exact process they went through to get the temporary works that were put through High Beach and Theydon Bois, which included road closures and red lines that pertain to the tarmac and not the forest itself. They have spent around £80,000 and he would like to know how much money the Council contributed and how involved the Council was in the discussions.

 

Councillor N Bedford stated that this question had been asked many times by different people and advised that because of the Covid-19 restrictions, emergency powers were brought in. A conference call was held between the Corporation of London, Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Council Officers and Members and I confirm that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.