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You can keep-up-to-date with the latest news on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook page and group, on Twitter (@eefnews) and Instagram (eefnews), and via the EEF News WhatsApp group.To be added to the text your name to 07710 447868.
 
NEWS ARCHIVE: For earlier articles CLICK HERE
The Everything Local News media service - part of Everything Epping Forest and Everything Harlow - prepares and circulates news releases and pictures for local schools, councils and organisations.
Releases are sent to the media and email subscribers and are also available via Everything Local News on Facebook and Twitter (@ELNews_).
For more details about the service ring 07710 447868.
Epping Pizza

Unit 17B, Woodside Industrial Estate, Woodside, Thornwood, CM16 6LJ.


Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 4pm to 10pm.

Special offer - a 2 for £20 deal on any 12” and 15” pizzas on
GoGetters and for collection via telephone and in person orders. 

For collection orders and more details, ring 07496 201191.
For the full menu and to order online 
CLICK HERE
CLICK IT LOCAL

Support your local high street. Order your essentials and treats from local independent shops with same-day delivery.

For more details
CLICK HERE
Pixel Business Centre, Waltham Abbey

Serviced office space suitable for 2-20 people. On-site café, meeting rooms, manned reception, fully furnished and high-speed wi-fi are just some of the benefits available to our tenants.
For more details, email info@pixelbusinesscentre.co.uk or ring 01992 667700.


Website  Facebook
Oakland Care

Oakland Care’s range of care homes include Lambwood Heights in Chigwell, Woodland Grove in Loughton and Elsyng House in Enfield. All our homes offer five-star facilities and state-of-the-art features for a fulfilling and purposeful stay within our homes.
To book a tour, ring 0300 303 5445.
Website
Campling Foods
 
Campling Foods 'Meals on Wheels' service delivers hot, freshly prepared meals daily to the elderly and vulnerable in our community. Developed by our talented team, we offer a choice of comforting and familiar meals that are not only nutritious but delicious too! We also include a tasty homemade desert with every order, all for a total price of £6.99 per day, delivered.
For more details ring or message 07507 763078. 

Website  Facebook
Forest Skin Clinic

Tel: 01992 276376
Email: info@forestskinclinic.com

Website  Instagram  Facebook  Twitter
Skin Cancer and Mole Screening * Removal of unwanted skin tags, moles, cysts, lipomas, warts, verrucas * Opatra Dome Skin Analysis System Treatment of fine lines and wrinkles * SkinPen Microneedling * Thread vein treatment * Obagi Medical Grade Skin Care Products * Treatment of excessive sweating * Allergy testing * Medical rejuvenation with light * Scar treatment * Acne * Rosacea * Eczema * Psoriasis * Fungal Treatment
Essex Security Services Ltd,
154-156 Church Hill, Loughton


Tel: 020 8502 1360
Email: info@essexsecurity.co.uk

Website
Protecting People and Property. Established in 1979. 24-hour emergency service. Approved contractors for electronic security systems - intruder and fire alarms, CCTV and access control systems.
Haslers
 
Old Station Road, Loughton, IG10 4PL

Tel: 020 8418 3333
Email: advice@haslers.com 


Website
New City College | Epping Forest
(formerly Epping Forest College)

Offering a wide range of courses for 16 to 18-year-olds and adults. Epping Forest Campus achievement rates are higher than ever with a 13.6 per cent increase over 2018, making it one of the fastest and best improvements of all colleges in the country. Website
Sanuk Thai Ongar, The Street, High Ongar

Sanuk Thai Ongar offers authentic Thai cuisine. Sanuk has been in High Ongar since 2003. Sanuk Thai Ongar is the place to experience authentic Thai food prepared with the finest ingredients. Sanuk's Thai talented chefs artistically combine the ingredients to achieve the ultimate aromatic flavour in their dishes. The experienced and award-winning chef and staff are committed to giving you the best food and service. Open seven days a week. 
For more information and to book a table, ring 01277 568411 or 01277 568412. 
Website
Paul Saggers Associates
Architects and Project Managers

A long established Epping-based architectural practice offering a cost-effective service to achieve planning permission and building regulations approval for a wide range of projects.
The company prides itself on offering an attentive and professional service.
Ring Paul on 07736 922863 to discuss requirements.
Website
DISTRICT NEWS
8.31pm - December 22

DISTRICT: Epping Forest Community Transport seeks volunteers

Epping Forest Community Transport, which provides transport across the Epping Forest and Harlow districts is looking to recruit volunteers to help in various areas of the organisation as it experiences an ever-growing demand for its services.

Epping Forest Community Transport provides transport for the elderly, the disabled and those who are rurally isolated and unable to access public transport.

The charity wants to recruit volunteer minibus drivers, volunteer minibus 'buddies', volunteer car drivers and volunteer trustees.

Anyone who has a few hours to spare and would like to learn more about the roles should ring 01992 579556 for more information.

Training and support will be given.  
2.43pm - December 13

DISTRICT: COVID-19 forces cancellation of two high-profile carol services

Two high-profile carol services have been cancelled because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

A joint Epping Forest District Council and Waltham Abbey Town Council 'Celebration of Christmas' set to have been held at the Abbey Church, Waltham Abbey, last night (Sunday) was cancelled with the town council, in a December 2 message to guests who had accepted an invitation, saying: "With the increase in the number of positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron Coronavirus variant, it is now vital to limit social contact and avoid gatherings.

"Therefore, councillor Helen Kane, chairman of Epping Forest District Council and councillor Jodie Lucas, Mayor of Waltham Abbey have taken the difficult decision to cancel the joint ‘Celebration of Christmas’...

"Councillor Kane and Councillor Lucas know this is disappointing, but they hope you can understand that the steps taken will help to keep everyone safe for the festive period."

Meanwhile The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust has cancelled its carol service scheduled to take place at St Paul's Church, Harlow, this Wednesday.

The trust said: "Unfortunately, it is necessary to cancel the Christmas carol service... This is due to our updated guidance for group gatherings in response to the Omicron variant of concern."
6.48pm - December 8

DISTRICT: New Harlow hospital delayed

Plans for a new Princess Alexandra Hospital near Sheering - on land off the M11 near the new junction 7A - have been delayed, Epping Forest District Council has said.

Following a visit by hospital executives to the council's overview and scrutiny committee, a council statement has highlighted "a great deal of progress" that has been made with the scheme.

But the statement added: "Further progress has been delayed as the government assesses all hospitals in the national programme with a Design Convergence Review to promote common areas of design and similar construction methods."

The council said the review conclusions are expected in the New Year "but it does mean the New Princess Alexandra Hospital project is delayed".

Progress made with the project includes the completion of a design brief, a schedule of accommodation which has been completed and incorporated into the building design, and the completion of the procurement strategy.

A council statement added that an Outline Business Case - a "key document" in the release of funding - is "60 per cent drafted" with the council adding that negotiations for the land purchase are "also at an advanced stage following agreement of the purchase price".

Hospital executives took questions on the CQC report published in November which gave a green light to Caring Services but which stated that improvements are required in other key categories, with 'are services safe', 'are services effective', 'are services responsive' and 'are services well-led' all said to 'require improvement'.

Hospital trust chief executive Lance McCarthy and chief operating officer Stephanie Lawton outlined the pressures of trying to improve services during the Covid pandemic with councillors told that if the CQC was to visit the hospital tomorrow they would see a workforce committed to improvements and the steps to improve services for patients.
7.59pm - December 6

HIGH BEACH: Firefighters prevent blaze from spreading to horses

Firefighters have spent over an hour tackling a blaze at stables in High Beach - and prevented the flames from reaching other outbuildings where horses are stabled.

Three fire crews - from Loughton, Waltham Abbey and Epping - were called to the premises at Lippitts Hill at about 5.30pm.

Speaking at the scene, the Incident Commander from Loughton Fire Station told Everything Epping Forest the 20m x 10m outbuilding was "well alight" when the first crews arrived.

He added: "We saved the other outbuildings and the horses related to the property and managed to contain it (the fire) to the one building and keep the smoke away from the horses."
6.02pm - December 5

MP helps promote Small Business Saturday

Two Loughton businesses which together have been serving the community for more than 60 years and an Epping cafe which was started just two years ago were visited by Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing to help promote Small Business Saturday.

Dame Eleanor visited Julie's at Stonards cafe, which is run by Julie Turrell at the Stonards Hill recreation ground in Epping.

Julie's business venture has earned her a joint Epping Townspeople of the Year award from Epping Town Council.

Dame Eleanor said: "It was a pleasure to meet Julie again who I remember from her days on Epping Forest Youth Council.

"The cafe was full with customers - and lots of dogs, with their owners enjoying everything from a coffee to a full English breakfast!

"Congratulations to Julie for being such a successful young entrepreneur."

Dame Eleanor chatted to several customers, including Iris who told her that many people really depended on the cafe during lockdown because they could go there to meet friends while sitting outside.

Dame Eleanor also visited The Book Shop in High Road, Loughton, which has been owned by Tania Blundy for 31 years, and Mode Beauty Therapy in Old Station Road which has been owned by Karen Drew for more than 30 years.

Dame Eleanor said: "Both The Bookshop and Mode are great examples of local, independent businesses which play a key part in our local community and in our local economy.  

"There were a lot of people doing their Christmas shopping in The Book Shop. It's so much more fun to browse in a shop that is full of character rather than just to order online.

"And Mode have such high standards of hygiene that their customers can continue to have confidence that they can go there while the threat of Covid still hangs over us."
5.28pm - December 3

Smiley Big Ben design wins MP's Christmas card competition

A design featuring a smiley face on the clock of Big Ben has been chosen as the image for Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing's Christmas card this year.

Dozens of entries from local schools were received on the theme of 'Big Ben at Christmas'.

The winning entry, chosen by the judges, was created by Staples Road Primary School pupil Eloise Munday who received her prize from Dame Eleanor at the school on Friday.

Dame Eleanor said: "It was great to receive so many lovely designs but Eloise's picture with a smiley face on Big Ben stood out from all the others."

Some 1,000 Christmas cards featuring Eloise's picture have been printed with Loughton-based accountants Haslers sponsoring the competition by making a donation to the Chigwell Riding Trust charity.

Competition runners-up were: Eleanor (Year 5, Epping Primary School), Florence (year 3, Daiglen School, Buckhurst Hill), Jacob (Year 2, High Beech Primary School), Alicia (Year 4, Oaklands School, Loughton), Amelia (Year 6 (Theydon Bois Primary School) and Damiana (Year 6, Braeside School, Buckhurst Hill).
2.32pm - November 30

Santa and his sleigh to tour local streets

Epping Rotarians will be assisting Santa with his sleigh when he tours local streets collecting for charity.

The Rotarians will also be making bucket collections outside Greggs in Epping High Street on Saturday, December 18, and Tuesday, December 21, and at Epping Tesco on Saturday, December 18; Sunday, December 19, and Monday, December 20.

Santa's sleigh street collections will be taking place around these areas:

Monday,December 13 (evening) - EPPING - Hartland Road, Nicholl Road, Amesbury Road, Centre Drive, Centre Avenue, Western Avenue, Sunnyside Road, Springfield, Crossing Road, Charles Street.

Tuesday, December 14 (4.30pm-5pm) - NORTH WEALD - Norway House North Weald (evening) Higham View, School Green Lane, Beamish Close, Oak Piece, Queens Road, High Road, Wellington Road, Hampden Close. 

Wednesday, December 15 (evening) - THEYDON  BOIS - Morgan Crescent, Woodland Way, Baldocks Road, Purlieu Way, Harewood Hill, Dukes Avenue, Elizabeth Drive, Buxton Road, Poplar Row, Green Glade, Theydon Park Road, The Green, Woburn Avenue, Hornbeam Road. 

Thursday, December 16 (evening) - EPPING - Frampton Road, Campions, Woodberry Down, Shaftsbury Road, Beaconfield Avenue, Beaconfield Road, Coronation Hill, St John’s Road, Crows Road, Tower Road.

The Rotary Club of Epping is again holding Carols on the Green, on the Town Green, Epping, at 3.30pm on Christmas Eve.

The money raised at Carols on the Green goes to Epping St.John’s School and local primary schools to support the teaching of music in the schools. 

Money raised at other events goes to local charitable causes such as St Clare Hospice, Pony Riding for the Disabled, Epping Playground Association, Epping Forest District Museum and many others.
1.41pm - November 26

Pay-and-display car park charges set to increase

Pay-and-display parking charges are set to be increased in all Epping Forest District Council car parks from April, Everything Epping Forest can reveal.

The increases would be the first since 2015 and generate an estimated £158,000 additional income for the council (£118,000 in the first year once the £40,000 implementation cost is deducted).

The proposals include:

* Increasing the current 20p for 30 minutes charge to 30p

* Increasing the up to one hour charge from 80p or 90p to £1

* Increasing the up to two hours charge from £1.60 or £1.80 to £2.

The council says the increases will "create uniform tariffs across the district and simplify parking tariff".

Charges for over two-hour stays will not be increased while the council is set to extend the one-hour free parking on Sundays to two hours, with the 'over one hour' charge increased from £1 to £2.

Other proposals, to be considered by the cabinet, include extending the full tariff on Saturdays to all car parks across the district, removing the daily one-hour free charging in the Civic Offices car park (Sunday free allowance will remain) in consistency with other district car parks.

Full tariffs would also be introduced in the Beaumont Park Drive car park in Roydon "with a view to exploring satisfactory resolutions for demand".

Free weekend and Bank Holiday parking during December would continue while parking will remain free for Blue Badge holders and motorbikes.

The list of proposals also includes increasing the first resident's permit charge £50 to £55 a year.

The charges would apply in all car parks between 8am and 6pm.

A cabinet report states: "Changes to car park signs, replacing notice boards and system upgrades will also be required to implement the tariff changes.

"A budget of £40,000 is required to implement the tariff changes, which will be deducted from the car park income.

"The proposed tariff structure is estimated to generate an additional net income of £158,000. This is based on modelling, with assumptions including the same car park usage and that the car parks will achieve pre-Covid occupancy levels."

The Cottis Lane car park, which is to be redeveloped, has been excluded from the modelling.

The report adds: "The £40,000 required to implement these changes would be deducted from this in year 1 which would leave estimated income of £118,000."
3.23pm - November 4

LOUGHTON / ABRIDGE: Six men sentenced over cash machine raids

Six men have been sentenced for stealing £46,590 from two cash machines which were later found abandoned in Loughton and Abridge.

Three of the men gained entry to Alexandra Palace in London through the main doors using bolt-cutters in the early hours of August 19, 2019..

Once inside the building, they used power tools to sever the connections on the ATMs and detach the machines. 

A fourth man drove to the venue and the men put one of the ATMs into the back of a van while a fifth man in another vehicle acted as lookout before the group drove away.

At 4.25am, the same five men returned to the venue and detached the second ATM. 

Once again, the van pulled up outside and they all drove off with the second machine.

A sixth member of the group, Robert Neville, assisted with finding a yard to break into the machines out of public view.

Both ATMs were found separately by members of the public, in Fairmead Road, Loughton, and Hoe Lane, Abridge.

The vehicles involved in the burglaries were also found abandoned near The Croft, Chingford, by officers on routine patrol. 

Subsequent checks were conducted and the vehicles were linked to the five men.

Following a police investigation, warrants were carried out on November 20, 2019, at the addresses of the defendants. All six were arrested and charged.

They were sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday, October 29.

Aaron Noah, 32, of Harpley Square, Tower Hamlets, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary. He also pleaded guilty to a burglary at the NatWest bank in Whitechapel on June 28, 2019. He was jailed for four years and two months.

Kyle Shillingford-Small, 33, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary. He was jailed for four years and two months.

Robert Neville, 42, of Cliveden Close, Brentwood, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 80 hours' unpaid work.

The following were convicted after a trial in September:

Jason Hardcastle, 35, of Withy Mead, Waltham Forest, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and jailed for three years and nine months.

Abdirazak Yassin, 23, of Approach Road, Tower Hamlets, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 150 hours' unpaid work.

Hassan Ibrahim, 24, of Vernon Road, Tower Hamlets was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 150 hours' unpaid work.

DC Will Man, of the Metropolitan Police Service's Specialist Crime, said: "Diligent policing, thorough detective work and a strong collaboration with prosecution counsel, David Harounoff and Brinder Soora, have led to these convictions and the sentences handed down today.

"Police officers are working day in and day out right across London to ensure that criminals are caught and held to account for their actions."
1.56pm - November 4

DISTRICT: Long-serving councillor receives MBE

Long-serving local councillor Richard Morgan has received his MBE from HRH The Princess Royal at an investiture at Windsor Castle.

The parish and district councillor, who has served as a councillor for 38 years and represented the area on several other organisations, received the honour in recognition of his services to the community.

Elected to Epping Forest District Council in 1983, he was council chairman in 2004.

Throughout that time has served and represented local people in Moreton, Hastingwood, Matching and Sheering and served on Stansted Airport Community Trust Fund, Fawberts and Barnards Educational Foundation, Stansted Airport Consultative Committee (Deputy Chairman), National Housing and Town Planning Council, Sports Centre Management Committee, Ongar and District Community Association as well as numerous council committees.

Nominations for the honour were not limited to the council, with his work as a Justice of the Peace, Rotarian, Assessor for the NFU (National Farmer Union) and other local bodies, also included in the citation.
8.54am - November 1

HALLOWEEN: Fireworks launched at cars

Two drivers have recounted how a firework was thrown at their cars as they drove in Ongar and Theydon Bois last night.

One described the moment she saw a boy holding a firework "aiming it like a gun at the cars".

A number of incidents of fireworks being thrown at vehicles were reported during the evening with Everything Epping Forest alerted to youngsters throwing fireworks in Ongar High Street, North Weald High Road, Debden and Loughton Lane, Theydon Bois.

A woman, who asked to remain anonymous, was driving along Loughton Lane towards Theydon Bois with her son in the car when a firework was thrown from an oncoming car.

She told Everything Epping Forest: "I was just coming up to Red Oaks Mead and a firework come straight towards my car from a car heading towards Loughton.

"I slowed down as a car was coming out of Graylands. I looked in the wing mirror and the firework exploded right in front of the car coming out of Graylands.

"It was frightening as I had my son in the car and was shocked for it to happen."

Another woman spoke about the moment her car was targeted in Ongar High Street as she drove with three passengers.

She was by the library when a boy threw the firework from the bus stop opposite.

She said: "I was driving with my kids in the car and a boy was holding the firework in his hand, aiming it like a gun at the cars.

"Dangerous is an understatement."

A dispersal order was put in place in Theydon Bois after concerns about anti-social behaviour last night.

The order, which remained in force until 8am today (Monday), covered an area which covered the village green and shopping areas and allowed police to direct anyone suspected of causing anti-social behaviour to leave the area.
4.39pm - October 22

Council tax rise not ruled out as council looks to resolve £1.5m income-expenditure "gap"

A financial warning has been issued by Epping Forest District Council which has highlighted a £1.5m "gap" between projected income and expenditure for the next financial year.

The council says it is doing "all it can" to freeze council tax bills for 2022-23 however, as discussions are underway to set next year's budget, a first increase in a decade is not being ruled out.

The council's share of council has only increase once in the last ten years - in a "special measure" to fund additional police officers in the district.

The financial situation was outlined by finance portfolio holder councillor John Philip at the last cabinet meeting.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the council said: "For two years, the financial impact of Covid has been well managed within Epping Forest District Council’s resources."

Mr Philip spelt out the position as councillors start to consider next year’s budget and the medium-term financial plan.

The council said: "Income is down and expenses have increased despite many steps to mitigate the impact of Covid. 

"A £1.5m gap between projected income and expenditure next year needs to be bridged.
 
"Epping Forest District Council has increased Council Tax only once in the last ten years - in a special measure to fund additional police officers in the district.

"The council is doing all it can to protect residents from a Council Tax rise in 2022 but acknowledges the major financial challenge all public sector organisations are facing next year.

"As councillors do all they can to protect people’s pockets. cabinet portfolio holders and service directors have been tasked with going through all the council’s budgets over the next few weeks to see how further efficiencies can be found, front-line public services protected and the economic recovery of the district sustained."
4.45pm - October 20

DISTRICT: Nominations open for creativity and sports awards

Nominations can be made for Epping Forest District Council's creativity and sports awards which recognise up-and-coming young creative and sporting talents and help them develop their skills.

Winners, chosen by a panel of judges, will receive from £200 up to £1,000 to spend on their chosen discipline.

The creativity award can help boost creative skills while the sports award can be used for costs associated with the sporting activity.

Applicants must be aged between 13 and 25 years on December 12, 2021; live, work or volunteer in the Epping Forest district (including being at college or university and returning home to the district during holidays), demonstrate a high level of interest or skill, explain how the award will be spent and what it means to them; spend the award on activities that take place within the district or have benefit for the people of the district for the creativity award, compete at county, regional or national level in a nationally-governed sport for the sports award.

To apply for the creativity aw
ard CLICK HERE

To apply for the sports award CLICK HERE


Applications close on Sunday, December 12.

For more information, email grantaid@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.
3.29pm - October 18

DISTRICT: Death announced of former district council chairman

The death has been announced of former Epping Forest District Council chairman Harry Taylor.

Epping Forest District Council will pay tribute to Mr Taylor at the next full council meeting and hold a minute's silence.

Mr Taylor served as a Conservative district councillor for High Beach from 1974 to 1987 and then represented Waltham Abbey West from 1991 to 1995 and 1999 to 2003. 

He became council vice-chairman in 1978-79 and was elected as chairman in the 1979-80 municipal year. 
5.16pm - October 15

District's MPs pay tribute to colleague fatally stabbed at constituency surgery

The district's MPs and the leader of Essex County Council are among those who have been paying tribute to Essex MP Sir David Amess who died this afternoon after being stabbed at a constituency surgery in his Southend West constituency.

A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of the 69-year-old Member of Parliament and father-of-five.

Police say they have recovered a knife.

Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing, who is also one of the Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons, said: "The news that Sir David Amess has been killed is utterly devastating. He was such a gentleman, a principled parliamentarian, a devoted father, a devout Christian and a really nice chap. We will all miss him very much.

"My thoughts are with his family."

Harlow MP Robert Halfon tweeted: "So, so sad about Sir David Amess. He embodied Essex man. Kind, thoughtful, funny, compassionate and generous spirited. May he rest in peace."

Earlier Mr Halfon said the news of the stabbing was "truly devastating" and described Sir David as "an unbelievably kind and dedicated MP".

Brentwood and Ongar MP Alex Burghart tweeted: "So sad and angry that our friend has been taken from us."

Essex County Council leader councillor Kevin Bentley said: “It was with great shock and sadness that we learned today that Sir David Amess MP has died following a violent attack at a constituency surgery.

“We worked closely with Sir David over the years, during his period as MP for Basildon up until April 1997 and latterly as MP for Southend West within the neighbouring Southend-on-Sea Council area. 

“He was a man who was never afraid to voice his views, passionate in his beliefs and straightforward in how he articulated them. He will be greatly missed in Essex and at Westminster. Our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time."

Police were alerted at about midday when emergency services were called to Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

The North Weald-based Essex and Herts Air Ambulance was among the emergency crews called to the scene. 

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst, issued a statement which read: “This is a shocking and utterly despicable attack against somebody who was an outstanding MP and has worked tirelessly for their community for many, many years. My prayers are with Sir David’s family at this incredibly difficult time. 

"I also want to acknowledge the officers who attended the event for their bravery and courage.

“It is vital that we give the police all our support to ensure that they can do their job at this time. For anybody who has information please do not hesitate to contact the police.

"Essex Police needs anyone who saw anything or has CCTV, dash cam or doorbell footage to contact them."

* North Weald Bassett Parish Council tweeted: "Incredibly sad news about MP Sir David Amess. All local Government representatives should be able to carry out their roles without fear for their own safety. Our thoughts are with the Amess family at this time."

* The Tower School in Epping tweeted: "Absolutely shocked and saddened to hear this news. No one should lose their life going about their work. But did we learn nothing from the Jo Cox murder? Why is there not better security for our MPs?"
7.50pm - October 11

Cabinet votes for new council 'hub' space to be named 'The Civic Hub'

The new 'hub' space on the ground floor of the Civic Offices which was launched as the 'Epping Community Hub' is to be rebranded the 'Civic Hub'.

Tonight's meeting of the council cabinet voted for 'The Civic Hub' rather than 'The Civic' - supporting the name choice favoured by a council select committee.

The ground floor now accommodates the council's 'front-facing services' and community hub services operated by partner organisations.

The council says it expects the final cost of the rebranding to be "below £15,000" however a "worst case scenario" budget of £19,250 has been allocated for the work which will cover "the iterative process of the design branding, the production of the signage including highly resilient floor signposting and wall designs and the installation by technicians of the signage within the building".

A cabinet report stated: "The term ‘The Civic’ seeks to capture the use of the ground floor space in a term that is more colloquial in nature and distinguishes it from the more formal name for the building. ‘The Civic Hub’ provides a more conventional name for the area."

The name choice sparked mixed views from councillors.

Cabinet member Aniket Patel told the meeting: "I must admit I would always refer to the space as 'The Civic'. It's just something that to me rolls off the tongue and that would be my preferred option."

Councillor Stephen Murray said: "I think 'The Civic' appalls me. "It just seems to be a slightly younger approach to things.

"I'm very much happier with 'The Civic Hub'. It tells you what it is and it's function."

He added: "In the current climate with the current pressures on peoples' budget and the (Government) decision taken on October 6 regarding Universal credit, I have had a lot of negative comment on spending on this rebranding. 

"Yes, we've got to pay for the work that has been done. Hindsight is a beautiful thing... I would have suggested this was an ideal opportunity to invite our college and A-Level graphic design and art students (to come up with designs).

"I really don't think we need to be spending this sort of money on high quality signage. 

"I wouldn't call Epping Forest District Council one that's loose with money; I personally wouldn't be voting for £15,000 or £19,000 for the cost of implementation."

Cabinet member Sam Kane said "time pressures" on the rebranding exercise had prevented the council from seeking design ideas from students.

Responding to the comments about the cost, he said: "Design is only part of the cost involved" adding that the expenditure included high quality printing and laminates, including floor signage.

Councillor Richard Morgan said: "I don't like the word 'Civic' at all. This is a community area where we are going to see a lot of different organisations. 

"The first floor is the civic part of the building. This part should be named 'The Community Hub' or 'Epping Forest District Council Community Hub'."

Cabinet member John Philip said he "would definitely" prefer 'The Civic Hub'. 

"It identifies what it is. It's a hub housed in the Civic Offices," he said.

The council has stressed the new 'Civic Hub' name refers only to the ground floor with the whole building to continue to be known as the Civic Offices.
4.16pm - October 7

Nominations invited for civic awards

Nominations can be made for Epping Forest District Council's Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Volunteer Team of the Year.

The Citizen of the Year Award and Volunteer Team of the Year Award recognise people in the community who go above and beyond, making positive changes in the district.

It could be a good neighbour or charity worker, perhaps someone who runs a club for youngsters or older people or a team of volunteers who make where we live just that little bit better.

Nominees must be aged over 18 and live or volunteer in the district.

If you know someone who fits the bill and deserves to be recognised, fill in a nomination form and make sure it is submitted by Friday, November 26.

To make a Citizen of the year nominati
on CLICK HERE

The Young Citizen of the Year Award is open to 11 to 18-year-olds who have made an outstanding contribution to young people and activities in the Epping Forest district.

Further information and a nomination form can be found
HERE
6.15pm - October 6

UPDATE

College launches "full investigation" and offers "sincere apology" after students and driver rescued from minibus caught in flood

Writtle University College has told Everything Epping Forest a "full investigation" has been launched after ten students and a driver "up to their waists" in floodwater had to be rescued by firefighters.

The college has offered a "sincere apology" to the parents of the students involved in yesterday's incident and has thanked Essex County Fire and Rescue Service for their "prompt action".

A college statement said: "A University College minibus was caught in flood water when traveling via Cow Watering Lane. The minibus had been transporting students home after classes when it became trapped in water behind a broken down vehicle.

"Firefighters arrived quickly, and safely removed ten students and a driver. All those involved in the incident were wet but unharmed.

A second Writtle University College minibus transported students from the flooded area and returned them to their homes.

"Writtle University College appreciates the fast action and professionalism of the firefighters attending the scene and the responses of the students and driver. They all did an outstanding job of remaining calm in challenging circumstances.

"A full investigation is now underway to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the event."

In a letter to the parents of the students who had to be rescued, the college said it offered a "sincere apology" and added it to wanted to "assure (parents) that we are here to offer ongoing help and support" to the students involved.

The letter added: "We are proud of the calm way in which all of our students handled yesterday’s challenging circumstances and want to assure you that we will be fully investigating the issue."

It adds: "The driver had been attempting to avoid poor weather conditions and flooding on the A414 but became trapped behind a broken-down vehicle.

"The driver contacted Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and the University College.

"The firefighters responded promptly and arrived at the scene with inflatable boats to remove students from the vehicle."

The college adds that it wants to hear if any students' personal belongings were damaged "so we can discuss reimbursement".
1.34pm - October 6

EXCLUSIVE

Mother demands investigation after 16-year-old daughter and ten others "trapped up to their waists" as college minibus submerged in flood

A Loughton mother has called for a "full investigation" after her 16-year-old daughter and ten other people had to be rescued by firefighters after a college minibus became submerged in floodwater.

Students were faced with floodwater rising up over the vehicle's seats and were "trapped up to their waists" until firefighters reached them.

Margareta Bowker said what could have happened to her daughter, Kasia, and the other passengers during the "horrendous catastrophe" on the Writtle University College minibus near the Writtle campus yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) "does not bear thinking about".

Three fire crews rescued the occupants through a window and took them to safety in inflatable boats.

Margareta Bowker, in a letter to college Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Middleton, said she was writing "in absolute disgust and astonishment" about the "horrendous" incident.

The minibus was taking students on a regular route from Writtle to Epping when the incident unfolded in a ford on Cow Watering Lane.

Margareta , in her letter, wrote: "I received a text message from my daughter to say that they would be late to the drop-off point due to flooding and that the driver had decided that the Epping stop would be last instead of first.

"Within minutes my daughter started to send me photos of water inside the minibus. She told me that the water started to come in but the driver was driving on even though the level was high outside of the window and, soon after, the level rose up past the seats. 

"At what point does a driver think of the safety of the passengers he is transporting? I had an agonising wait of over an hour whist my daughter tried to message updates; one of the worst being that the driver told them to jump seats to even the weight as the minibus was floating and that he would have made it had another car not been stuck. 

"At what point did he see another vehicle struggle and put the safety of his passengers first?"

She added: "Emergency services were called and the passengers had to be taken out through a window and put into a boat and, eventually, taken back to campus - soaked through and freezing cold. 

"They were given foil blankets and later put on another bus, still wet through. I was waiting at the pick up point for two-and-a-half hours."

Margareta's letter adds: "My daughter and fellow passengers' lives have been put in danger and there was complete disregard for their safety. What could have happened does not bare thinking about and for this reason I have the right to ask for a full investigation. 

"I wish to know what training is given to the drivers responsible for our children and what safety measures are supposed to be put in place when incidents like this become apparent.

"Until I have any further update on this horrendous catastrophe and the reasons why the safety of the passengers was compromised I am left with no choice but to keep my daughter at home.

"My daughter and her friends are traumatised by what has happened (today) and we, as parents, put our trust in the hands of a driver who jeopardised their safety."

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said crews were called out at 5.15pm and found a minibus "stuck in approximately four feet of water".

A fire service statement added: "Firefighters from Leigh Fire Station who are swift water rescue trained used inflatable boats to rescue 11 people who were trapped up to their waists in water. All 11 people were rescued by 6.33pm."

Crew Manager Tom Whiteley, from Chelmsford Fire Station, said: “Please do not risk driving through flooded roads. Instead, turn around and find another route.

“It takes less water than you might think for a vehicle to float and become uncontrollable. The flow of the water this evening took the minibus downstream."

Writtle University College has been asked for a statement.
2.07pm - October 1

Woman charged over watch robberies

A woman has been charged with nine counts of robbery after a series of incidents in which high-end watches were stolen.

The incidents took place across the Epping Forest district between May 1 and September 5.

Monica Constantin, 29, of Chaplin Road, Dagenham, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (September 28).

She did not enter a plea and will next appear at Chelmsford Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on October 26.
2.55pm - September 30

HIGH BEECH: Four helicopters based at refurbished forest base

Four National Police Air Service helicopters and a 34-strong staff team are now based at Lippitts Hill at High Beech after the London service severed its ties with the NPAS base at North Weald Airfield.

In a statement, NPAS London said: "At the request of the Metropolitan Police Service, the National Police Air Service has re-established a helicopter base at Lippitts Hill, Epping Forest, Essex.

"NPAS crews, working with four EC145 helicopters, will operate 24 hours, seven days a week, from the newly-refurbished base to support the policing of London.

"The 34-strong team includes pilots, Tactical Flight Officers and Base Managers."

The statement added: "For the last two years the capital has been served primarily from the NPAS base at North Weald – although as a national service, aircraft can be deployed from anywhere across England and Wales when called upon to do so. 

"NPAS has retained its base at North Weald and crews from there continue to serve the East and South East of England, alongside colleagues based in Redhill, Surrey and Benson, Oxfordshire.

"The re-instatement of the Lippitts Hill base brings NPAS’s total number of bases to 15, with a current total fleet of 19 helicopters and four aeroplanes."
1.23pm - September 28

DISTRICT: Cable theft appeal: Reward increased to £20,000

A reward for information leading to a conviction over the "highly disruptive" theft of cabling from roadsides in the White Roding, Epping and Harlow area has been increased to £20,000.

The reward money is being offered by Openreach through Crimestoppers for anonymous information on the thefts, which left emergency services, residential premises and businesses without the use of their phones, broadband or TV services. 

It follows large sections of live cable being pulled from an underground communications network at Sparrows Lane, White Roding, on July 2 and 21.

On Thursday, July 15, a cable was cut on the B181 at Epping Upland and on July 16 on the A1025 in Harlow. 

All of the thefts occurred between 11pm and 2am.

The damage affected hundreds of Openreach customers including essential emergency services at each location. 

Significant damage was also caused to street furniture and farmland, where cables were dragged through fields.

Phil Breckon, Eastern Regional Manager at Crimestoppers, said: “The reward amount for information on these cable thefts has been increased by Openreach to reflect the huge amount of disruption caused and the importance they place on the issue. 

"The impact on local communities affected, including essential emergency services, which are life-saving, cannot be underestimated.

“This is not a victimless crime and we urge anyone with any information on those behind the thefts to speak up to our charity completely anonymously.

"We know some people feel unable to speak directly to authorities, which is why Crimestoppers is here to help. You can tell our charity what you know whilst protecting your identity and staying 100% anonymous. Always. We’ve kept that promise since we began back in the 1980s.”

Richard Ginnaw, Head of Security Services for Openreach, said: “These incidents have severely impacted the day-to-day lives of people across these areas of Essex and this is why we have increased the reward on offer.

“We are working closely with the police to catch those who are responsible and have deployed additional security enhancements across the area, but we also need your help. 

"Please be vigilant, and if you saw anything suspicious on or around the time of the incidents, please report it. If you prefer not to speak directly to police, contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously.”

Anyone with any information can ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
7.20pm - September 24

ROYDON / WALTHAM ABBEY: ​Arsonist jailed for five-and-a-half years

A ​mechanic has described his devastation after an arsonist destroyed the ​Roydon ​business he had built ​up ​over 20 years.

It took over a year to rebuild Spanners Garage in Sedge Green after Mohammed Azizi destroyed two garages and nine vehicles on​ ​July​ 1​ last year.

Azizi had denied any involvement but detectives found DNA evidence on a piece of fabric undamaged by the fire, linking him to the arson.

Six weeks after the initial fire, Azizi set fire to one of his neighbour’s cars​,​ in Bradley Road, Waltham Abbey on August​ 15​.

Residents tried to extinguish the fire while calling emergency services but the Volkswagen Polo was destroyed.

CCTV showed Azizi, 30, had set the car on fire.

A jury convicted him on June ​3 ​of arson and arson with recklessness as to whether life would be endangered following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Azizi, of Bradley Road, Waltham Abbey, was sentenced today​ (​Friday​)​ to five years and six months imprisonment.

He was also given an indefinite restraining order​ ​preventing him from visiting either of the areas where his offences were committed.

Speaking after the hearing, the owner of Spanners Garage said: “I spent my whole life building my business up for this one crime to completely destroy it - 20 years burnt down in one night.

“It was just completely demoralising and devastating. Thankfully I am quite a strong person, as I feel that would​ hav​e ruined a lot of people.

“It took over a year to get the business re-built, which is a year without income and a year losing clients to other businesses.

“In total the re-build cost me £250,000. Of this, my insurance covered just over half of it, which meant I had to pay over £100,000 from my savings, my pension.

“I previously had cancer, however I can say this crime has caused me just as much stress as battling that.

“I feel like I have to look over my shoulder now, especially as I don’t know why he’s actually done this. I’ve never done anything to him so I just don’t understand it.”

Detective Inspector Kate Murray, of Loughton CID, said: “Azizi consistently denied his involvement in both arsons, but the evidence proved otherwise.

“We will never know why he committed these crimes, which have caused a huge emotional and financial impact for his victims and fear among the local community.

“He clearly planned what he was going to do and spared no thought for the innocent people he targeted.

“I hope the community will now feel safer that he is behind bars.”
6.56pm - September 24

DISTRICT: Civic Offices 'community hub' to be known as 'The Civic Hub' with rebranding cost "below £15,000"
 
The ground-floor space at the Civic Offices in Epping which is being used as a 'community hub' is set to be known as 'The Civic Hub' with councillors having been told the rebranding exercise is now expected to cost under £15,000, lower than the previously reported £19,450 budget.

The originally stated £19,450 included design work, and modifications, as well as the production and installation of the signage.

However Customer Services service director Rob Pavey told Thursday's Stronger Place Select Committee the £19,450 figure was a "worst case scenario" and he was "confident" the final figure would be "below £15,000".

He said the branding was needed to "help showcase" the ground-floor of the building which is now where local non-council services and organisations are based on different days of the week.

Mr Pavey said: "This is a new offer to the community where services are offered in a new and collaborative way."

The area includes welcome areas, the 'community hub', a conference suite which is available for external hire, and space for Epping Library and a cafe.

The committee had been asked to decide between 'The Civic' and 'The Civic Hub' as the name for the hub area but the choice sparked mixed views, with the naming - and the cost - having come in for criticism on social media since it was revealed by Everything Epping Forest.

Loughton Residents Association councillor Judy Jennings said: "I always thought 'civic' had something to do with the City so do we have delusions of grandeur here? Also 'civic' is not a noun so we can't have 'the civic'."

She said it was a shame there was no reference to Epping Forest in the name and added: "I didn't see the design (logo) as being people, it looked like a flower to me. It didn't look like four people at all, it looked like the petals of a flower."

Council chairman councillor Helen Kane said: "Usually rebranding is a very costly project. It's not easy and it's not cheap. People rebrand because they want to show something different, to make people come to their organisation or whatever it is."

Councillor Ian Hadley said: "I don't like the word 'civic' on its own, it sounds like a theatre or a cinema."

And councillor Richard Bassett said: "Why don't we just call it what it is 'a community centre'? We've got all these community facilities in a centralised place. It's run by the community. As soon as you put the word 'civic' in there they immediately think of the council."

The committee voted for 'The Civic Hub' with the name to forward to the cabinet for final approval.
3.46pm - September 22

DISTRICT: District council budgets over £19,400 to rename part of Civic Offices

Epping Forest District Council has earmarked over £19,400 to rebrand the part of the Civic Offices in Epping now being used as the 'Epping Community Hub'.

Following the £8.5m refurbishment of the building, the ground-floor is being used by a range of local organisations and services.

Now councillors are being asked to decide whether they favour the name 'The Civic' or 'The Civic Hub' for the space.

A council report states: "Initially, it is important to stress that this report is not proposing a re-naming of the Civic Offices. Instead, this report asks members (councillors) to consider the re-branding of the Civic Offices ground floor to promote the area as a new destination where Epping Forest District Council services work collaboratively with partners to provide wraparound solutions for residents and wider community activity".

The report adds: "The ground floor of the refurbished building now operates as a hub for council front-line services operating with a wide range of partners to provide joined-up solutions for the community with the aim of providing added value and improved outcomes for those who visit the new facility.

"This is a real step-change for how the council works with partners and uses the asset that is the Civic Offices to provide services to the community.

"The ground floor comprises a general Welcome Area for the whole building, including for those visiting commercial tenants and is resourced by Epping Forest District Council staff from Customer Services supported by the Concierge Service.

"Around the Welcome Area is a general customer lounge for waiting and more informal conversations, private interview rooms, self-serve customer terminals and the Community Hub room.

"The flow of the ground floor takes you from the Welcome Area to the Conference Suite. This area whilst available for Epping Forest District Council activity is also a facility which can be hired by partners to use and wider community activity.

"Leading on from the Conference Suite is the café area and potential location of the Epping library.

"There is common activity that the library engages in that closely relates to the services provided by the other partners on the ground floor, notably well-being and digital inclusion.

"Again the Conference Suite is available to support any joint activity for events or other activity... Signs currently exist in a temporary format but a more suitable solution is needed to improve the visitor experience.

"The close proximity and integration of the ground floor and activity within it lends itself to one common branding. Initially a separate brand was to be developed for the Community Hub itself but given the flow and connectivity between the areas it has been concluded that a single branding incorporating signage be used for the ground floor.

"The branding needs to reflect that it is not a single organisation-based area but instead demonstrates the collaborative nature of the activity - one customer visiting multiple services in one space.

"Work has been taking place over the summer developing what the branding could look like. Two options have come forward for what the ground floor can be termed as ‘The Civic’ or ‘The Civic Hub’.

"The term ‘The Civic’ seeks to capture the use of the ground floor space in a term that is more colloquial in nature and distinguishes it from the more formal name for the building. ‘The Civic Hub’ provides a more conventional name for the area."

The report states that the cost of the branding exercise is £19,450, including design and installation with the cost to be met from an existing budget.

The favoured name will go before the council cabinet next month.
8.30am - September 10

DISTRICT: County councillor marks 999 Day

Ongar & Rural Division Essex county councillor Jaymey McIvor has thanked Essex Police, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, the NPAS helicopter service and the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance on 999 Day.

He said: "We have more than 999 reasons to thank our emergency services. They are our calm in our moments of challenge.

"Every day we should salute the work of these incredible selfless individuals but today seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the time to thank the teams in Ongar and North Weald.”

He added: "I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all the people I represent when I thank our heroes who are ready to serve us 24/7."

Councillor McIvor gifted a thank you balloon and card which read: “Thank you for all you do for us on the ground and in the air. We are grateful for all you do today and every day”.

The balloon and cards are located in the staff rooms of the facilities visited by councillor McIvor.
6.08pm - September 6

EPPING: Civic Offices refurbishment cost over £8.5m, report reveals

The refurbishment of the Civic Offices in Epping cost over £8.5m - some £460,000 under the agreed budget, a district council report reveals.

Several walls have been removed to create open space areas with mechanical, electrical and plumbing services upgraded to fit the new layout.

New toilet and kitchen facilities have been installed, the main atrium lighting and link building rooflight renewed and new air conditioning units installed.

Cabling has been replaced, the fire alarm system improved and solar panels installed.

The building has also been redecorated with new furniture, fixtures and equipment installed.

The work - which has now been completed with the new-look offices set to be officially opened in October - includes a new ICT workstream including a new Visitor Management System, Microsoft Teams enabled meeting rooms, 'bring your own device' (BYOD) conference suite rooms that adapt into larger conference spaces, technology to enable collaborative working, digital signs and a resource/room booking system.

An accommodation project report prepared for the council's cabinet states: "The agreed budget for the project was approved at £8.979m which was split across both capital and revenue. 

"In addition to this was a contribution received from ICT within the capital budget for a further £15,000. This meant the project had an overall total committed budget of £8.984m.

"To date there has been an actual spend of £8.523,698 across both capital and revenue leaving a current variance of £460,302 against the committed budget."

The report highlights a number of "clear benefits defined to support environmental gains throughout the delivery of the project".

These include the new solar panels, a reduction in gas usage through more efficient boilers, a reduction in electricity usage through a combined heat and power installation, reduced water consumption and the a new lighting control system to increase efficiencies. 

Various "project benefits" detailed in the report include expected income of about £500,000 in rent from the new housing proposed for the site of the Conder building.

The council has sold the Conder building land into Qualis Commercial for £14.6m. 

The report adds: "These properties will be available for rent and so will provide a long-term revenue income of c£500,000 per annum to the council.

There is also an expected revenue saving of £200,000 for the overhead maintenance costs in the reduction of office space by losing the current Conder building, the report adds.

The report states: "The refurbishment of the Civic Offices commenced on-site in July 2020 when construction contractor mobilisation and full strip-out of existing internals started... The project was completed on-plan in April 2021 and the building formally handed over to EFDC."
5.08pm - August 30

DISTRICT: Virgin Media customers without services for five days

Virgin Media customers are waiting for answers from the company - and the reconnection of their services - after parts of the district have been without TV and internet services for five days.

A Virgin Media spokesman told Everything Epping Forest a "small number" of customers in the Nazeing and Waltham Abbey areas are "experiencing issues with their services".

However it appears the issue is affecting a large number of customers.

Everything Epping Forest is also aware of issues in the Theydon Bois and Ongar areas bit it is not known if the breakdown in services in all areas are because of the same issue.

It is understood roadworks on Honey Lane, Waltham Abbey - near the Jewish Cemetery - are linked to at least the Waltham Abbey and Nazeing problems.

No time has been given for when services will be restored.

Karen Walker, who lives in Nazeing, told Everything Epping Forest her Virgin Media broadband went down at about 10am on Thursday.

Virgin Media customer Wendy Shirley, who lives in Nazeing, told Everything Epping Forest: "I've had no phone or broadband since last Thursday.

"My neighbour also has Virgin TV. Virgin need to be honest about how long the repair will take rather than raising our hopes with constant time updates."

Marian Marsh told Everything Epping Forest: "It seems Virgin Media think this is a bit of a laugh, no phone, TV, internet or mobile, all with Virgin, since Thursday morning. 

"All updates apparently say engineer is on his way. Joke number one.

"Then the time it would be fixed goes up by two hours. Now it seems it goes up by 24 hours.

"I can't even get into my account  as it says I am not the main account holder."

Christopher Jones, writing on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group, said: "I'm in Theydon Bois. We too have been affected. Basically running my business by hot spotting from my mobile. 

"Tried phoning Virgin Media numerous times, just get automated options and no person to speak to!"

Claire Robinson, also commenting on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group, said: "Why don’t they just be honest and say they don’t know when the problem will be fixed? Constantly sending messages saying it will be fixed at different times during the day isn’t right. 

"I also think it’s quite a lot of customers and not just a few!

"People have been without phone, internet and TV since Thursday, a much-needed lifeline for many."

A Virgin Media spokesperson told Everything Epping Forest: “Due to a third party damaging our cables, a small number of customers in the Nazeing and Waltham Abbey areas are currently experiencing issues with their services.

"We are working closely with the third party involved to ensure we can restore services as quickly as possible.”

The company has been asked to clarify the number of customers affected and also to give an update on the situation in the Theydon Bois and Ongar areas.

 
1.39pm - August 11

DISTRICT: Housing numbers reduced in Local Plan amendments

The number of homes earmarked for parts of the district in the yet-to-be-adopted Epping Forest District Council Local Plan has been reduced, consultation documents reveal.

Documents currently out for consultation show a reduction of 596 homes in Epping (down from 1,305 to 709) and a figure for Loughton which is down 566, from 1,021 to 455.

The Main Modifications document also shows a drop in housing numbers for Waltham Abbey, down from 858 to 836, while the figure for Chigwell is down from 376 to 206.

Nazeing's housing number has been reduced from 122 to 118 and the number for Roydon is down from 62 to 48.

The overall number of new homes for Coopersale, Fyfield, High Ongar, Lower Sheering, Sheering and Stapleford Abbotts has been reduced from 175 to 161.

Areas that remain unchanged are 'sites around Harlow' 3,900 homes, North Weald Bassett 1,050, Ongar 590, Thornwood 172, Buckhurst Hill 87 and Theydon Bois 57.

Tuesday's Epping Town Council meeting heard criticism of the consultation document which, according to a resident, runs to some 2,704 pages in 30 documents.

It was statedthe number of documents and the way the Main Modifications are worded make it difficult for people to understand what the changes are that are contained in the papers.

Councillor Hugh Pegrum said: "You would need days to read through this (all the documents). The overall impression was that it was a done deal and it was going to happen and this was just occupying peoples' time and nothing else.

Councillor Christine Burgess said: "I read it twice and couldn't make sense of it either time. I thought it was so involved that a normal person couldn't understand it. It needs to be simplified."

Councillor Barbara Scruton said: "As town councillors we should be supporting our residents and enabling them to know what the modifications are. It's another case of the town council being sidetracked again."

She added: "If it isn't a consultation document it will just go through without the residents being able to say something. 90 per cent of our residents won't (go through all the documents). The town council should have more say on these matters."

The views will be forwarded by the town council to Epping Forest District Council.

Councillor Cherry McCredie expressed concern over school provision in the South Epping area, where new housing is proposed off Brook Road, and the impact new development would have on Ivy Chimneys Primary School.

The meeting heard that an initial proposal for a new bridge over the railway had now been dropped.

Councillor Simon Baker said: "Epping will now have fewer houses than Waltham Abbey and North Weald."

Details on the consultation being carried out on Main Modifications to the emerging Local Plan can be found at https://www.efdclocalplan.org/local-plan/consultation-on-main-modifications/
9.21pm - August 4

Two people arrested over watch thefts

Two people have been arrested in connection with a series of high-end watch thefts and attempted thefts.

Loughton CID officers are investigating a number of reports of robbery, attempted robbery, theft and attempted theft across the district.

The incidents took place between Wednesday, May 19, and Sunday, July 4.

Victims have reported a woman approaching them and engaging in conversation about finding work.

It is then reported that she has shaken the victims’ hand, grabbed hold of their wrist or pushed herself up against them in order to steal their Rolex watches.

In several cases, she has been successful.

As a result of proactive patrols by Community Safety Team officers, a man and a woman were arrested after officers spotted a vehicle in a car park "acting suspiciously".

The man and woman, both aged 29 and from Chigwell, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit theft.

The man was also further arrested on suspicion of driving without insurance.

They have been released under investigation while enquiries continue - this means they are actively being investigated in connection with a number of crimes.

Officers in Loughton CID are aware of similar reported offences elsewhere in Essex and have been considering these alongside the investigation.

There may also be other victims, either in the Epping Forest district or elsewhere in the county, who have not yet come forward.

Anyone who has any information on the thefts and attempted thefts or who believes they may also be a victim should submit a report online or use the 'Live Chat' button to speak to an online operator between 7am-11pm.

Information can also be given by ringing 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
4.51pm - August 1

Town council victorious in annual petanque challenge

​For pictures CLICK HERE

Epping Town Council has retained the trophy following a 13-5 victory over Epping Forest District Council in the annual petanque challenge match held at the Stonards Hill recreation ground in Epping.

It takes the overall number of victories in the annual encounter to 15-15.

Epping Town Mayor Michael Wright and Deputy Town Mayor Barbara Scruton represented the town council with councillor Sam Kane and councillor Les Burrows playing for the district council.

The match was hosted by the Epping Horizons Petanque Club.
6.26pm - July 30

Councillor highlights low take-up of COVID-19 jab among younger adults

The low take-up of the COVID-19 vaccination among younger adults has been highlighted by North Weald district councillor Jaymey McIvor.

Speaking at Thursday's full district council meeting, councillor McIvor asked community and regulatory services cabinet member Aniket Patel what the district council was doing to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Councillor McIvor said: "With the UK's vaccination programme proving to be such a huge success across our district and our county and the country, does the portfolio holder agree with my concerns, and indeed the concerns of national government, at the lack of take-up of the vaccination with the under-30s in particular?

"This may be due to large amounts of incorrect and inaccurate information that is shared online particularly among my age group which sadly people seem to put before their own safety and the safety of others.

"I would be interested to know what steps this council will be taking to encourage all adult age groups but in particular the under-30s to get vaccinated so we can very quickly go from pandemic to endemic."

Councillor Patel said it was always thought it would be difficult to get the younger members of the population vaccinated and he highlighted the myths being circulated about the vaccinations.

He added there was "myth-busting" content online, including on the district council's website, and he suggested a promotional video featuring some of the younger councillors who have been vaccinated.

Councillor Patel added that various publicity had been circulated to councillors to help spread the word.

He said: "We, as councillors, have a role in circulating this information. We were also given posters which we could display on noticeboards around our towns and parishes.

"The key to this is working together. I don't think there's one person responsible. It's a collective 'we'."
2.28pm - July 30

Council to get "significant income" from Civic Offices space lease

The second floor of the Civic Offices in Epping has been leased out by Epping Forest District Council - a move which will generate "significant income" to the council.

Finance, Qualis Client and economic development cabinet member John Philip reported the agreement to Thursday's council meeting.

He said: "We made the decision to lease out the second floor of this building to a franchisee for Regus ​(Seed Space 1 Limited for a serviced office and trading as a franchise of Regus) over a ten-year lease, a very good deal for us covering both rental and service charges - significant income coming into the council. It's really good news."

He added: "The second floor of this building was never intended to be a money-making exercise when we started it but because of the increased flexibility in working we have now been able to make a significant contribution towards our accounts from that."
1.46pm - July 30

District council wards to be reviewed ahead of 'all seats' election in 2024

A review of Epping Forest District Council ward boundaries is to be carried out, resulting in all councillors to be up for election in May 2024.

Council leader Chris Whitbread said the council had been contacted by the Boundary Commission to say the authority is "overdue" a review which will include the size of council wards.

Mr Whitbread said the review would commence "very, very shortly" - along with similar reviews of five other Essex districts - and result in an "all out election" in May 2024. 
8.14am - July 27

Council warns refuse and recycling collections could be reduced

Refuse and recycling collections could be reduced because of a shortage of drivers and the number of collection staff being 'pinged' because of the COVID-19 pandemic, councillors have been told.

While collections are continuing as normal for the time being, it is possible that collections could have to be cut back from mid-August, the council's cabinet has been told.

Environmental and technical services cabinet member Nigel Avey told Monday's meeting: "Biffa at the moment are looking at driver shortages caused by general lack of drivers and also by the 'pingdemic' that we have at the moment. 

"They are managing to cope with the situation however I would think by the middle of August it may get worse in which case we may be faced with a decision about reducing services. 

"Obviously if we come to that I will come back and report accordingly but they are doing a good job of coping with the shortage of drivers that they have at the moment.

"I think in other areas such as Harlow they have already reduced services because of that same issue."

Council leader Chris Whitbread said: "Biffa in the first part of the pandemic did a brilliant job of keeping everything running while others were failing so I think we should bare that in mind.

Loughton Independent councillor Stephen Murray described the announcement as "a bit of shock" and asked that all councillors be kept informed of the situation.

He said: "It's a frontline service, absolutely the key frontline service... and our phones and our emails will be ringing like mad if it doesn't operate in the way it should."
6.43pm - July 26

Third deal takes Qualis's property purchases to over £30m

Qualis Living - one of the Qualis Group companies wholly owned by Epping Forest District Council - has confirmed its third property acquisition, the £9m purchase of office space in Coventry.

It takes spending on the Qualis investment portfolio to over £30m in eight months.

Greenfields House on Westwood Business Park in Coventry has been let as the head office for the Camping and Caravanning Club since 2006.  

It was purchased by Qualis Living for £9m at a net initial yield of 7.23 per cent and increases the portfolio value to in excess of £30m, Qualis Living said.

It follows the purchase - already reported by Everything Epping Forest - of an office building in Leatherhead, Surrey, and a retail warehouse occupied by DIY chain Wickes in Maldon, Essex.

A Qualis Living statement states: "As an intrinsic part of its Four-Year Business Plan, Qualis Living’s strategy is to build a high performing portfolio of investment properties across a mix of locations and asset classes. This will provide secure positive yields and allow reinvestment of funds to both Epping Forest District Council and Qualis Group as the company grows."

Group Operations Director Paul Hewitt said: "We are delighted to have recently completed the purchase Greenfields House, a well located office building let to a great tenant. 

"As with our last two acquisitions, we were diligent in our approach and kept to our criteria. 

"The investment portfolio provides surplus income that improves the financial strength of the Group and supports our regeneration and community activities within Epping Forest district."

Last December Everything Epping Forest reported that Qualis had spent almost £20m on a "trendy" office building in Surrey and a building rented to DIY chain Wickes in Maldon, Essex.

The Birchwood Building in Leatherhead has been described as a newly refurbished multi-let 34,939sq.ft office building with 154 car parking spaces next to the international headquarters of Unilever.

The property was fully-let to two multi-national tenants - Zoetis UK and Hyundai Motor UK - generating income to Qualis of £916,389.75 per annum, the report stated.

The other earlier acquisition was a purpose build stand-alone 28,199sq.ft retail warehouse occupied by DIY chain Wickes - and 149 parking spaces - in Maldon, Essex, which is generating £457,000 a year in gross income for Qualis, the report said.
4.12pm - July 22

MP delighted at 'no change' to local Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System

An NHS England decision to maintain the existing boundaries for the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System has been welcomed by Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing.

Hertfordshire and West Essex ICS was one of 18 such organisations formed in May last year.

The ICS has the over-arching responsibility for ensuring the Hertfordshire and West Essex population gets the most from a £3.2bn combined health and care budget.

With a 56,000-strong workforce, the ICS provides clinical and professional leadership and ensures organisations pull in the same direction to help everyone - residents, service users, patients and staff - achieve their potential.

The ICS is responsible for setting the strategy and goals for improving health and care in the area and overseeing the quality and safety, decision making, governance and financial management of services.  

The decision to maintain the existing boundary for Hertfordshire and West Essex ICS was announced today after a review across the country with some ICS boundaries altered to be more aligned with top-tier local authority areas.

Minister of State for Health Edward Argar said it had been decided to exempt the East of England region from the "principle of coterminosity".

Dame Eleanor said "I am delighted that the Minister has listened to the points that my colleagues and I raised in the House of Commons and that there will be no changes made to the Hertfordshire and West Essex ICS which is already working hard for the people of Epping Forest, most recently on the amazing COVID-19 vaccination rollout."

Dame Eleanor added: "I have heard nothing but praise for the smooth running of the COVID-19 vaccination centre at The Murray Hall in Loughton and I can only echo these comments as I received both my vaccinations at the centre.

"The success of this is down to the ICS, and my thanks go to the ICS as well as the local partner organisations including Loughton Town Council, New City College, and the numerous vaccinators and volunteers who have all come together so well."
2.42pm - July 21

Council decision to no longer give out recycling sacks from Civic Offices a "retrograde step"

The decision taken by Epping Forest District Council to no longer give out clear recycling sacks from the new-look Civic Offices has been described as a "retrograde step".

Councillor Jon Whitehouse highlighted the matter during a debate over the refurbished offices which reopened to the public on Monday - but from where recycling sacks can no longer be collected.

Councillor Whitehouse asked Tuesday's Stronger Council Select Committee: "What's the logic behind no longer distributing recycling sacks from the Civic Offices.

"There was a message (council news release) which went out last week saying the improved Civic Offices are opening but you will no longer be able to get your rubbish sacks from it.

"I fail to see how that's an improvement. It's one of the basic services - waste collection, recycling - that the council provides.

"If we're looking for increased footfall (through the Civic Offices) why withdraw the service? How is that an improvement? It seems to me to be a retrograde step, and what's the logic behind that decision?"

Strategic director Andrew Small said: "It's my understanding the number of centres or locations where you can collect sacks from has increased and so we didn't need the Civic Offices as a location. 

"There's plenty of provision around the rest of the district as it is."

Councillor Whitehouse replied: "I would have thought the more provision the better, as long as people are only taking one (roll) at a time. 

"It's a convenient location. There's House2Home down this end of town. It just seems to me a basic service and it seems odd you can get it (the clear sacks) everywhere apart from the organisation that provides the service."

Committee chairman Peter Bolton replied: "Point taken."
2.41pm - July 21

Senior council officers unable to shed light over council "hostel reprovision" project

Senior district council officers have been unable to shed any light on the inclusion of a project for the "re-provision" of a hostel in the district.

Two senior officers who attended the Stronger Council Select Committee were asked about the project, but neither could say which 'hostel' was being referred to in a report updating councillors on 'key strategic projects'.

The 'reprovision of hostel' is one of several 'amber' items - council projects "at risk of missing milestones".

Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked Tuesday's meeting: "Which hostel are we talking about? Are we talking about Norway House or Hemnall House or somewhere else?"

But neither service director Maryvonne Hassell, who presented the document to the committee, or strategic director Andrew Small could answer the question.

Maryvonne Hassall told the meeting: "I don't know the answer to that. Does anybody else know the answer to that?"

Committee chairman Peter Bolton said: "I don't know..."

Strategic director Andrew Small told the meeting: "I haven't got a definitive answer. 

"I think it's one of those we will have to take back again. I had in my mind it was provision of a new hostel but I don't want to give you an answer here and now because I don't necessarily think it will be a correct answer. So I will take that one away and come back to you (councillor Whitehouse) with a written response."

Councillor Steven Neville said: "If we are going to say 're-provision of hostel' we don't want such generic titles because it doesn't tell us anything. And how can we scrutinise anything if it don't know what we are talking about?"

The document states the project is "currently in concept with proposed documentation being completed for governance group discussion and agreement in September 2021."
4.48pm - July 18

DISTRICT: New-look Civic Offices reopening

The refurbished Civic Offices in Epping High Street - the new Epping Community Hub - reopen tomorrow (Monday) with "new and better ways" of accessing services.

Visitors are asked to continue to observe social distancing, if others request it.

There will be hand sanitiser stations across the building and while masks are not essential, the council asks visitors to consider the needs of others when making your choice of whether to wear one. 

Anyone who suspects that they may be infected with COVID-19 is asked to stay away from the offices and follow guidance.

Enquiries can still be directed to the council's Customer Contact Centre on 01992 564000.

You can make payments, report an issue, apply for a service and book events online from the council's website homepage www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

There is a new Welcome Area at the Civic Offices.

If you make an appointment with an officer, you can book in via a new touch screen kiosk when you arrive.

There are new seating areas including private rooms for confidential discussions, informal sofas and chairs for less formal meetings.

For payments, the Broadway cash office in Debden is open Monday and Tuesday 10am to 2pm and payment kiosks are available at Waltham Abbey Library and the Civic Offices.

Clear recycling sacks will no longer be available from reception at the new Civic Offices but sacks can continue to be collected from 80 sites across the district.

The Civic Offices are open Monday-Thursday 9am to 5.15pm (Friday 9am to 5pm).

Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau, Epping Forest Foodbank, Changing Pathways and Voluntary Action Epping Forest are among council partners that will be joining the Epping Community Hub which is due to open shortly.

Qualis, the council-owned private companies, will also be based in the offices.

The meeting and conference facilities are available for hire, accommodating meetings ranging from just a few people up to 200 seated theatre-style.

The top floor of the building is being marketed as office accommodation for private businesses, paying rental income which the council says can be reinvested in public services.

The council is a signatory to the Emergency Climate Change Declaration as the council supports the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and impact on the local environment.

A council spokesman said: "Reducing our emissions is one reason why we are taking our staff off the roads. Nearly all our office-based staff are now able to use other ways of working.

"We don’t need large office space anymore. Homeworking means less of us are driving our cars, congesting our roads and polluting the environment.

"We need fewer parking spaces, and our smaller offices require less lighting, heating and water.

"The refurbishment also means more low energy LED lighting, and better insulation. Our computers and screens are more energy efficient, drawing less electricity. We have started to replace old petrol and diesel vehicles with low emission electric vehicles.

"And our new ways of working will reduce your carbon footprint too. Our digital and remote working also means you can take fewer car journeys to see us, saving you the time and expense of driving to Epping. Our aim is to become Carbon Neutral by 2030."

The spokesman added: "New ways of working, renting out spare space and reducing our impact on the environment produces real cost savings. Epping Forest District Council has only increased its share of the Council Tax once in the last ten years, and we continue to invest in frontline services.

"As we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic, the efficiencies and savings we have achieved can be pushed into the recovery of our community and our local economy."
2.28pm - July 13

DISTRICT: Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics now open

Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics are now open at four venues across the Epping Forest district - in Chigwell, Epping, Loughton and Waltham Abbey.

They are open to all aged 18 and over for first or second doses (with the second dose eight weeks after first dose).

No appointments are necessary, and no ID is required.

Those attending do not need to be registered with a GP.

For more details, ring the helpline on 0344 2573 961 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm).

The vaccination clinics are at:
 
* Chigwell: Hindu Temple, Mandir Lane
Sunday, July 18 (10am to 4)pm - Pfizer

* Epping - Spencer Close, St Margaret's Hospital
Tuesday, July 13 (8.30am to 6pm) - Pfizer
Saturday, July 17 (8.30am to 3.30pm) - Pfizer
Sunday, July 18 (8.30am to 3.30pm) - Pfizer

* Loughton - Murray Hall, Borders Lane
Tuesday, July 13 (8.30am to 4.30pm) - AstraZeneca
Wednesday, July 14 (8.30am to 4.30pm) - AstraZeneca
Thursday, July 15 (8.30am to 4.30pm) - AstraZeneca
Friday, July 16 (8.30am to 4.30pm) - AstraZeneca

* Waltham Abbey - Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre, Hillhouse
Friday, July 16 (12.30pm to 7.30pm) - Pfizer
Saturday, July 17 (12.30pm to 4.30pm) - Pfizer

More details - and times for walk-in clinics in Harlow and Waltham Cross at https://www.myhealthessex.co.uk/walk-in-centres

The Murray Hall in Loughton will cease to be used as a COVID-19 vaccination centre on July 26.

The NHS has told Loughton Town Council: "We have had a very good run at Murray Hall for Phase 1 and 2 of the vaccination programme and are now moving on to Phase 3 and have had to consolidate sites across all areas of Herts and west Essex as we do not require the same level of services." 
9.33pm - July 5

Councillor lays flowers to remember NHS staff who have died due to COVID-19

Ongar & Rural county councillor and North Weald district councillor Jaymey McIvor marked the 73rd anniversary of the NHS to remember NHS staff who have died due to Covid-19.

Councillor Jaymey McIvor laid flowers at the Debt of Honour in North Weald and at the war memorial wall at Ongar and District War Memorial Medical Centre in Fyfield Road today (Monday) in memory of those who have died of Covid-19 whilst serving on the NHS frontline.

He said: "Whilst many key frontline workers have passed away from Covid-19, today’s 73rd year anniversary of the National Health Service seemed the appropriate time to take a moment to remember those who have died on the frontline during this pandemic.

“We owe a huge debt to the men and women of our NHS who fight for us daily, both during and long before the pandemic."

He laid pink roses, which are symbolic of thankfulness, and white roses, which are a symbol of eternity.

Councillor McIvor said: "The combination of white and pink roses was a way to show eternal gratitude to our NHS."
8.15pm - June 26

Epping Forest Conservatives Annual General Meeting

Epping Forest Conservatives held a carefully planned, socially distanced AGM at Theydon Bois Village Hall. 

Conducted by President Valerie Metcalfe, the association elected Jonathan Hunter as Chairman and thanked retiring Chairman Les Burrows for all his hard work over the last three years. 

Randolph Churchill continues as Patron and John Padfield was made an Honorary Vice President in recognition of his exceptional service to the Party for many years.
2.52pm - June 23

Three charities receive £2,650 from Haslers Foundation

Three local charities have received funding from the Haslers Foundation - the in-house charity of Loughton accountancy firm Haslers.

Epping Food Bank receives £1,250 while the Police Community Clubs of Great Britain gets £700 to support children through its projects which include outreach work with Thomas Willingale and Limes Farm junior schools.

Accuro has received £700 for its weekly Loughton Youth Group for young people with disabilities aged 11 to 19.

The money will be used to purchase gaming equipment and pay for an end-of-term celebration.
8.21am - June 12

Queen's Birthday Honours List

Ashraf Patel, associate specialist in breast surgery with The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Mr Patel has been recognised for services to funding and research for breast cancer.

And Joyce Obaseki, the founder of the Grant A Smile charity, who lives in Loughton, receives a British Empire Medal for services to vulnerable people and the community in Loughton especially during Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Patel has worked at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, and Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, since 1993. 

Prior to this he completed his medical education at Grant Medical College and surgical training at Tata Memorial Hospital, both in Mumbai.

At the Breast Unit, with the support of his patients, their families and friends and partner charities, he has helped to raise more than £4.5m for The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Charity.

This money has funded improvements including breast cancer clinical trials, specialist equipment and health and wellbeing programmes, benefiting patients with breast cancer.

Mr Patel said: “I am delighted and humbled to be awarded an MBE. This award is also a recognition of the immense work put in by our charity, research, clinical, administrative and management teams at PAHT.

“I am lucky to be surrounded by hard working team members trying at all times to do their best for our patients.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends, my colleagues at work, the advisory board members and my patients.

"Special thanks go to the executives and PAHT trust board for their support of research and letting it flourish and the trustees of all the charities that support our work in the Breast Unit; The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Charity, Quest Cancer Research, Together in West Essex, The Maria Falco Memorial Trust and The Kerrie Fitzjohn Memorial Trust.”

Lance McCarthy, chief executive of The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Congratulations to Ashraf on this wonderful, well-deserved accolade. 

“I’m absolutely delighted for him and the recognition for his outstanding work to support our patients with breast cancer over many years.

"Everyone at PAHT is extremely proud to see his dedication to improving the experience and lives of our patients recognised in this way.”
1.03pm - June 11

HIGH BEACH: Council appeals to Commissioner to reconsider decision to locate helicopters back at Lippitts Hill

A letter has been sent by Epping Forest District Council to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick appealing for her to reconsider the decision to locate helicopters back at High Beach.

As exclusively revealed by Everything Epping Forest, the Met is to return to its air support unit base at Lippitts Hill later this summer - having been based at North Weald Airfield for the last two years.

Council leader Chris Whitbread and chief executive Georgina Blakemore have sent a joint letter on behalf of the residents of the district expressing "serious concerns" about the proposed relocation.

Everything Epping Forest is awaiting a statement from the Metropolitan Police Service following its exclusive report last month.

The letter states: "We strongly oppose the proposed relocation and appeal to you to reconsider the decision.

"Epping Forest District lies on the borders of London in the county of Essex. Today, the district is served by the Essex Police Service, but parts of the district have long historic ties with the Metropolitan Police.

"At one time the Met served areas of our district including Chigwell, Loughton and Buckhurst Hill.

"There are a number of historic legacies associated with our connection, including the former helicopter base at Lippitts Hill.

"Lippitts Hill lies within the heart of Epping Forest. The forest is a sensitive and delicate natural environment. It is a Special Area of Conservation of global significance, being one of the few remaining areas of original deciduous woodland left in the UK. The delicate eco-system of Epping Forest including special and rare species, plants and fungi is particularly vulnerable to air pollution.

"The forest is a source of great pride and concern to our local residents. Statutory regulations and strict oversight by the Corporation of London are designed to protect and preserve it, not only for the people of Essex. It is a place of peace and wellbeing enjoyed equally by our close neighbours in London. However, the environmental pressures on the forest are severe. 

"Pollution levels are too high. The district council, working in conjunction with local residents, the Corporation of London and other stakeholders is doing all we can to protect and preserve our Forest for future generations.

"The environmental impact of helicopter operations speaks for itself.

"The current NPAS base at North Weald is at a long-established airfield shared with other notable aviation operators including the Herts and Essex Air-Ambulance.

"The airfield is owned by Epping Forest District Council and we have worked in partnership with NPAS to support the construction of a brand new helicopter facility. 

"While our major concerns are not financial in this case, NPAS has a long lease with the council and will continue to provide air support for other police forces. It cannot be good value for the tax paying residents of either London or Essex, for the Metropolitan Police to leave such a recently delivered new facility.

"Our other main concern is for those residents living near Lippitts Hill within Epping Forest, High Beach and Waltham Abbey.

"It is one thing to buy a new house or home next to an existing airfield - you know what you are getting with aircraft coming and going before you purchase. However, many of the residents in and around Lippitts Hill have had no such choice. Many will have bought their homes in good faith and the understanding that helicopter operations had ceased with no reason to expect a return.

"The consequential noise, pollution and general disturbance associated with these helicopters at Lippitts Hill would be very hard to justify.

"If the historic legacy did not exist, it is almost inconceivable that anyone would consider Epping Forest to be a suitable location. 

"If planning permission was required, the district council, supported by the Corporation of London, environmental groups, other stakeholders and local residents would almost certainly turn any application down. 

"As such the Metropolitan Police has an ethical and moral duty as well as a legal ability to consider in taking this decision.

"We do not presume to advise you on the operational requirements of the Metropolitan Police Service. As a district council we have a strong and active partnership with the Essex Police Service. 

"We actively fund additional police officers and provide accommodation along with day to day support.

"We fully support the difficult and sometimes dangerous role the police perform in maintaining our safety, rights and freedoms. However, if the operational requirements of the Metropolitan Police require a better alternative to North Weald, we respectfully say that Lippitts Hill is not the answer.

"There are many other potential aviation locations both in and around London that would serve the Metropolitan Police Service just as well if not better than Lippitts Hill.

"If you are determined to find an alternative, please take a closer look at some of the other alternatives and help us to protect and preserve Epping Forest now and for the future."
6.09pm - June 7

MP praises NHS staff and volunteers as The Murray Hall COVID-19 vaccination centre passes milestone of 15,000 jabs

Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing has praised everyone involved with the success of the COVID-19 vaccination centre at The Murray Hall, Loughton - which has passed the milestone of 15,000 vaccinations.

Dame Eleanor, who recently received her second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca at the centre, has thanked the NHS staff and volunteers working at the centre which is being run by Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust.

It was set up with the support of various bodies, including Epping Forest District Council and Loughton Town Council with its vaccinators including officers from the Air Assault Brigade based at Colchester while volunteers have included the St John's Ambulance representatives, and Epping Forest College which is continuing to provide free parking a short walk from The Murray Hall.

Loughton Town Council has given its approval for The Murray Hall to continue to be used as an NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre until next February.

Dame Eleanor said: "The success of the centre is the result of a real community effort where everyone - from NHS bosses to the Army and local volunteer organisations - have come together. I have heard so many comments from people who have really appreciated being able to have their vaccinations close to home, without having to travel out of the local area potentially twice for their jabs.

Dame Eleanor added: "I visited the centre shortly after it first opened and was there to receive my first vaccination and I continue to be really impressed by the efficient way that everything is running and the high number of people who have been vaccinated."
9.06am - May 29

EXCLUSIVE PICTURE: All set for new M11 bridge work

A series of overnight motorway closures will begin next week so a bridge can be lifted into place across the M11 near Sheering as part of the new Junction 7A works.

Everything Epping Forest's exclusive drone picture, provided by a reader, shows the road - running Harlow to Cambridge from left to right - with the route of the new road leading into Harlow clearly visible at the top of the picture.

The bridge which will be lifted into place during the closure is already on site and can be seen just off the London-bound carriageway

The closures between Junction 7 (Hastingwood) and Junction 8 (Bishop's Stortford and Stansted) will be in place between 9pm and 5am from Tuesday (June 1) each evening for up to seven weekday nights.

Original planning permission for the new junction was granted in July 2017. 

Work began last summer and is expected to be completed and the new junction opened by 2022.

There will be slip roads on and off the M11 for both northbound and southbound traffic with traffic travelling from the new M11 junction towards Harlow using the two new roundabouts, on either side of the M11, and travel along the new wide two-lane link road to The Campions roundabout.

The planned new Harlow hospital is earmarked for land close to the new junction.
7.37pm - May 25

DISTRICT: Death announced of former district council chairman

The death has been reported by Epping Forest District Council of former district council chairman Brian Hudspeth at the age of 88.

Mr Hudspeth, who was council chairman in 1991-92, represented North Weald for more than 12 years as a district and parish councillor.

Councillor Stephen Murray described Mr Hudspeth as "an excellent example of political participation" who was "always co-operative and friendly.

"I know how much he was respected in the village."

His death was announced at tonight's Annual Council Meeting - 30 years after he ended his chairmanship of the authority.

Councillor Richard Morgan, who knew Mr Hudspeth from the start of his council career, described him as "a great councillor" who had served on most committees.

He added: "He was a great ambassador for the council when he was chairman. He visited all over the district and spread the word about Epping Forest."

Mr Morgan also highlighted his work with Harlow Rotary Club.

Councillors and council staff held a minute's silence at tonight's Annual Council Meeting.
7.36pm - May 25

DISTRICT: District council chairman and vice-chairman re-elected

Epping Forest District Council chairman councillor Helen Kane has been re-elected for a second year.

Mrs Kane was nominated by council leader Chris Whitbread who said a second term would give her the opportunity to go around the district meeting people, something she had been unable to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added: "This has been a year like no other and hopefully we won't have another one (like it) again."

Councillor Whitbread described Mrs Kane as "not only a hardworking councillor but a unifying councillor".

He added: "I look forward now for you to have the opportunity to take the warmth of your character out to our communities."

Councillor Jo Share-Bernia was re-elected as vice-chairman having been nominated by fellow Buckhurst Hill councillor Aniket Patel.
12.32pm - May 25

ONGAR: Diabolical" kerb repairs are "urgent make-safe" temporary measure - Essex Highways

Work carried out on kerbstones in Ongar is an "urgent make-safe" repair, Essex Highways has said, after the work was described as "totally and utterly diabolical" and "disgustingly chronically bad" by Everything Epping Forest Facebook group members.

Several locations where lorries have damaged kerbs were reported to Essex County Council highways after residents contacted Ongar Town Council.

Now some work has been carried out sparking the criticism on social media.

Similar work where asphalt has been used to secure loose kerbstones rather than the kerbstones being replaced has been reported elsewhere in Ongar and elsewhere around the district.

A spokesman for Essex Highways told Everything Epping Forest: “These are examples of urgent 'make-safe' repairs where we respond urgently to reports of loose and perhaps dangerous kerbs or missing kerbs. 

"We fill in with asphalt as a temporary repair until we can return as soon as possible to repair the kerb permanently with similar kerbstones."

The spokesman added: "It may be that we need to source the correct kerbstone, or that to do a full repair by digging out the existing surface to fix the new kerb is a longer job needing full crew and equipment and/or if it is on a faster or busier road we may need to 'book roadspace', that is to secure a permit to close a lane or the road while we carry out the full repair safely."

No timescale was given in the statement regarding when the "full repair" to the Ongar roads will be carried out.
7.23pm - May 10

DISTRICT: Loughton councillor leads new Opposition group on county council

A 'non-aligned' group of Essex county councillors - with Loughton Residents Association county councillor Chris Pond as group leader - has become the new official opposition group on Essex County Council.

The group has ten Independents, resident association, Green Party and locally-focused representatives.

It is larger than the Liberal Democrats (eight councillors) and Labour (five councillors).

Dr Pond told Everything Epping Forest: "Our group will stand up for communities throughout the county when their interests are threatened, and will advocate localism in the face of big-party dogmatism. We will be tireless advocates of local people."

He added: "When the administration do something right we will support them. When they do not, we will be in the first rank of resisting them."

Dr Pond's appointment comes 40 years to the day that Loughton Residents Association's first councillor, Howard Kleyn, took his seat at County Hall, Chelmsford.

Dr Pond was re-elected to the Loughton Central division seat with two-thirds of the vote.
1.11pm - May 10

DISTRICT: Councils return to face-to-face meetings

North Weald Bassett Parish Council will be the first council in the district to return to face-to-face meetings following the Government's decision that virtual meetings should end from May 7.

However some councils have said they will still continue with Zoom meetings while others have decided to defer meetings until the situation becomes clearer and further COVID-19 restrictions are lifted - currently set for May 17 and June 21.

North Weald Bassett Parish Council's COVID-secure face-to-face meeting takes place at The Parish Hall, Thornwood, at 7.30pm tonight.

Epping Town Council will return to face-to-face meetings tomorrow when the planning and general purposes committee meets at Epping Hall at 6.30pm to discuss various planning applications, including the three schemes for housing in the town - at the St John's Road site, current Epping Sports Centre site and the site of the Conder Building at the Civic Offices.

Stanford Rivers Parish Council will meet on Thursday (5.30pm) but has decided to continue with a virtual meeting.

Epping Forest District Council is set to return to face-to-face meetings, in the refurbished Civic Offices.

A council spokesman told Everything Epping Forest: "It looks like most of our meetings can be accommodated safely within the council chamber but our new open plan configuration for our ground floor meeting rooms (we will have five with sliding panels allowing us to open up a very large space) should enable us to hold full council meetings. 

"We are working on the details at the moment. And of course we will continue to encourage social distancing by providing the full webcasting service of all our meetings to public and press."
6.23pm - April 30

MP hails "inspirational" refurbishment of Civic Offices
 
The refurbishment of the Civic Offices in Epping has been hailed as an "inspirational development" by Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing who says the project will save taxpayers' money and improve services.

Dame Eleanor said: "I was delighted to visit the new look Epping Forest District Council offices today.  

"Looking to the future, the council leaders have reconfigured the entire building to make better use of resources and to look forward to new ways of working.  

"They have freed up space on the site which will be used for much needed affordable housing and a large section of the Civic Offices building will be rented out to local businesses.

"Their plan to bring all services under one roof will mean massive improvements for local people. I am really impressed by the way in which this inspirational development will save tax payers' money while at the same time improving services.

"I really look forward to the opening of the building once COVID-19 restrictions allow."

Epping Forest District Council has said the refurbishment has been completed on time and within budget.

The transformation of the building is part of the council's investment in the future and the council's aim to become Carbon Neutral by 2030.

The council says marketing of the top floor to commercial businesses has sparked major interest from not just local companies but those from further afield looking to grow their enterprises in an Essex location with excellent transport links into London, further afield and internationally. 

Viewings are ongoing and conversations are taking place with a number of interested parties. 

The council’s strategy is to deliver services as close to the customer as possible and the new 'Community Hub' on the ground floor will be much more than just a place for district council services. 

Other public and voluntary organisations will be working side-by-side with district council officers and alongside Essex Police which already shares the Civic Offices.

Qualis - the council-owned private companies - will also be taking up residence in the new offices.

New meeting and conference facilities will be available for hire, accommodating from just a few people up to 200 seated theatre-style.
6.01pm - April 20

DISTRICT: Walk-in first COVID-19 jabs available tomorrow only

A COVID-19 vaccination bus will be in the Tesco car park, Sewardstone Road, Waltham Abbey, between 9am and 2pm tomorrow (Wednesday) giving walk-in vaccinations to people aged 45 and above, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and health and social care workers aged over 30.

The bus is only operating for one day. There is no need to book. 

People attending will need their NHS number (which can be found via the NHS website) and give their full name, date of birth and address. If people do not have an NHS number, they can still be vaccinated.
1.04pm - April 19

DISTRICT: District council yet to secure any tenants for revamped Civic Offices 'Community Hub'

Epping Forest District Council is yet to secure any tenants for the revamped Civic Offices 'Community Hub' office space which is being made available to businesses, a council report reveals.

Space on the second floor of the Civic Offices continues to be marketed with the area available for viewing.

However a report to this month's council meeting states: "The marketing campaign for the second floor of the civic offices continues.

"There has been interest from a number of companies looking to establish or grow their operation into the building.

"The council has received offers however none of those have as yet matched the council’s commercial rental valuation."
1.32pm - April 12

DISTRICT: The district comes out of hibernation on the 'Glorious Twelfth'

David Jackman reports...

Today could well be remembered as the 'Glorious Twelfth' - not the start of the grouse shooting season, in August, but the day some COVID-19 'lockdown' restrictions were lifted and a return to 'normal' began.

Epping High Street has the feeling of a town coming out of hibernation.

Wander along the High Street and the usual obstacles are back. Negotiating elderly shoppers pulling or pushing their shopping trolleys and small groups blocking the pavement to chat has not been an issue in the town since last December.

Many of the shops have been closed since before Christmas.

You can overhear conversations which start with phrases such as 'hello, haven't seen you for ages'.

Some people admit to their long-absent friends that it's the first time they've been out for ages - in many cases it could well be months - as non-essential shops and businesses reopen.

Epping Market - recently described by operator Epping Town Council as a 'key part of Epping life' is back in full swing.

At Chaps Barbers the constant clicking of scissors is interrupted by customers coming in eager to get their locks trimmed.

"Got an appointment?" is the often heard question as customers seek their first haircut for months.

The well-thumbed appointments pad - a list far longer than some of the hair being cut - is checked, and more names added.

One elderly gentleman proudly displaying his new 'post-lockdown' look, which includes a trimmed beard, asks the barber to take a picture so he can send it to his granddaughter.

Across the district, cafes with outside seating areas welcome their first seated clients for months.

Loughton High Road is also buzzing again as long-shut shops and cafes have reopened.

Pubs with specially-erected, marquee-type facilities are welcoming customers for their first outdoor pint for longer than the drinkers dare to remember.

In Ongar, a three-man queue is seen outside the Turkish barbers in the High Street.

There's a queue of cars at the hand car wash opposite the Two Brewers pub at the bottom of the town.

One social media post reported "35 cars" waiting for the hand car wash in Thornwood - surely an exaggeration?

But one thing is for sure, it will still be some time before any sort of 'normal' fully returns.

Epping Forest District Council - which today announced free parking in its pay-and-display car parks until Sunday - is urging people to take care and continue to follow the Hands, Face, Space rules, and only meet family and friends outside.

The council says COVID Ambassadors will be out and about in town centres across the district offering advice and support on COVID secure measures and helping businesses and shoppers understand the new rules.

Council officers will be working alongside local policing teams to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the guidance.

And there are words of warning from Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex County Council’s Director of Public Health. 

He said: "While infection rates will inevitably rise as restrictions ease, I urge everyone to be as careful as possible and not risk losing the freedom we are all looking forward to enjoying again."
8.24pm - April 1

HASTINGWOOD: Registration open for St Clare Hospice's Winter Walkies


Registration is open for St Clare Hospice's 5km Winter Walkies on Sunday, May 23, after the event was postponed from February. 

Organisers hope more than 200 walkers and their four-legged friends will take part. 

The hospice is again hosting its ‘Cutest Canine Competition’ with the charity calling on dog owners to enter their favourite photograph of their pet to win a hamper of doggy goodies and the chance to officially start the event. 

Voting will run from April 19-23 on the hospice’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

All entries are due by noon on Friday, April 16. Entrants must have registered for Winter Walkies 2021 to be eligible for the competition.  

Registration costs £10 for adults, £5 for children and £27.50 for a family (two adults and two children) which includes free soup, dog rosette and certificates for children.

The route is not suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. 

For more information and to register, ring Emma Broadbent on 01279 773754, email emma.broadbent@stclarehospice.org.uk or visit https://stclarehospice.org.uk/event/winter-walkies/ 
8.35am - March 23

DISTRICT: Police renew appeal one year on from theft of James Bond firearms

Police have renewed their appeal for information one year on from a high value burglary in Enfield in which a number of firearms from various James Bond movies were stolen.

One of the firearms was later found in a field in Roydon.

Police were called to reports of a burglary in progress at an address in Aldersbrook Avenue, Enfield, at 8pm on Monday, March 23 last year.

The suspects had fled when police arrived after being disturbed by neighbours. They had jumped through a window before fleeing in a silver vehicle.

The burglars had broken into the rear of the premises and stole five genuine deactivated firearms.

The stolen weapons are described as:

* One Beretta ‘Cheetah’ Auto Pistol, Serial number H02641Y which featured in 'Die Another Day'
* One Walther PPK, serial number 146872 which featured in 'A View to a Kill'
* One Revolver Smith and Weston 44 Magnum, serial number N60304 which featured in 'Live and Let Die'
* One Beretta ‘Tomcat’ Auto pistol, serial number DAA264306 which featured in 'Die Another Day' and has a laser / silencer attachment
* One Llama 22 cal. Serial number 271915 which featured in 'Die Another Day'.

The suspects are described as three white men with Eastern European accents. They were wearing dark clothing and face coverings.

Police have released CCTV which shows a vehicle in the run-up to the burglary parked on the street where the offence took place. This vehicle has been identified as a Vauxhall Miverna which appears to be silver in colour.

One of the firearms has been recovered. Members of the public found the yellow-handled Llama pistol used in ‘Die Another Day’ in a field near to Roydon Station last April.

Detective Inspector Paul Ridley, from North Area CID, said: “It has now been a year since the burglary and only one of the firearms has so far been recovered. Sadly this has been severely rusted due to being exposed to the elements outdoors and its integrity destroyed.

"We have released images of a vehicle that was parked near to the scene of the crime and appears to be carrying out reconnaissance in the area. In scenes reminiscent of a James Bond movie you can even see the flash of a camera from the occupant engaged in the surveillance.I believe these individuals were involved in the crime, it was only a matter of minutes prior to the raid.

"The firearms which were stolen are very distinctive and bespoke to particular James Bond movies, they will almost certainly be recognised by the public and any persons offered for sale.

"The owner of these unique items is still completely devastated, particularly in terms of the sentimental value; they were due to be showcased on display as part of a national exhibition. He is determined to see the return of the items.

"I have provided photographs of the stolen firearms and provided the unique serial numbers. Many of these items are very unique. For example the Magnum is the only one in the world ever made where the whole gun is finished in chrome. It has a six-and-a-half inch barrel and wood grips. 

"The Walther PPK was the last gun used by Roger Moore in 'View to a Kill' in a famous scene with Grace Jones who descends the Eiffel Tower on a parachute."

He added: "I would urge any members of the public that may have witnessed the burglars arriving and leaving, know where the firearms are now or may have been offered these stolen items for sale to come forward to my investigation team as a priority.”

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is urged to contact North Area CID via 101, or by tweeting @MetCC quoting CAD 5890/23MAR20.

Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

No arrests have been made.
12.34pm - March 20 

DISTRICT: Policing update - incident latest

HIGH ONGAR

A suspect arrested at a property in High Ongar early on Wednesday morning as Metropolitan Police Service officers carried out a series of warrants in connection with the theft and fraudulent sale of at least 70 high-value vehicles has been bailed pending further police enquiries.

Five other people arrested at properties in Essex, London and Hertfordshire have also been released on bail.

Three men have been charged with conspiracy to acquire / use / possess criminal property, namely a large volume of motor vehicles, between November 17, 2019, and February 26 this year.

CHIGWELL

A man has been charged with interfering with a motor vehicle following an incident in Chigwell in the early hours of Monday morning. 

Police officers were called to the Mount Pleasant Road area just after midnight following reports that a man appeared to be stealing from a vehicle.

A 19-year-old man, from Ilford, was arrested by local policing team officers on suspicion of interfering with a motor vehicle.

He is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates Court on April 14.

CHIGWELL

A man has been charged with six offences after police officers were called to reports of a smashed window and a man using racially abusive language in Chigwell on Wednesday afternoon.

A man was located in the area and arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and criminal damage.

A 38-year-old man, from Chigwell, was charged with two racially aggravated public order offences, two public order offences, racially aggravated criminal damage and criminal damage. 

He was remanded in custody and was due to appear at Colchester Magistrates Court yesterday (Friday).

LOUGHTON

A 37-year-old man has been charged following a shoplifting incident at the Morrison's supermarket in Loughton High Road on Tuesday morning when a man tried to leave without paying for alcohol worth a three-figure sum.

It is also alleged that a member of staff was assaulted during the incident.

The man, from Ilford, has been charged with theft from a shop and common assault and is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on June 9. 
4.36pm - March 17

DISTRICT: Fly-tipper given suspended prison sentence

An unlicensed waste carrier who fly-tipped in Ongar and Stapleford Tawney has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £2,600 in costs after admitting seven offences.

Behnam Dehghani, who is now living in Ilford, pleaded guilty to seven offences at a court hearing in February last year but due to COVID restrictions he was not sentenced until this month.

Evidence gathered by Epping Forest District Council's Environment and Neighbourhood Team led to the prosecution.

Magistrates sentenced Dehghani to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, a three-month curfew between 7pm and 7am, a 12-month driving ban, ten-year Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO), and told to pay the council's £2,600 prosecution costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

The CBO prevents Dehghani from running or being involved in any waste disposal business, or advertising such services.
5.39pm - March 1

DISTRICT: Online public meeting with Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner

An online public meeting with Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex Roger Hirst and District Police Commander Chief Inspector Ant Alcock will be held on Wednesday, March 10 (7pm-8pm).

Residents of the district can post their questions live to Mr Hirst online via the Facebook live session.

The question time session will be chaired by Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Jane Gardner.

Mr Hirst and Mr Alcock will be joined by Epping Forest District Council community cabinet member Holly Whitbread, and a senior member from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

Residents can watch live via Facebook on the night and post questions in the comments, or they can submit questions in advance by emailing pfcc@essex.police.uk

Head over to @PFCCEssex on Facebook for more information and visit www.essex.pfcc.police.uk for details of the Police and Crime Plan and Fire and Rescue Plan.

Since the introduction of social distancing measures due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has held 19 online public meetings covering a range of districts and topics across Essex, including one with a special focus on matters affecting the county’s rural communities.
1.46pm - March 1

DISTRICT: Under-threat butterflies found at local reserves

Two species of butterflies identified as under threat in the UK have been found at the nature reserves in Bobbingworth and North Weald.

The nature reserves are at the centre of a butterfly census carried out by Epping Forest District Council's Countrycare team over several years.

The survey has revealed that 27 of the 59 species of butterfly present in the UK have been identified at the Bobbingworth Nature Reserve and Church Lane Local Nature Reserve in North Weald.

Two species - Small Blue and Small Heath - are listed as likely to be threatened in the near future.

Church Lane flood meadow was created in 1989 as part of the North Weald Flood Alleviation Scheme while Bobbingworth Nature Reserve is on a former landfill site which in 1989-90 was capped with clean clay.

Since 2015, Countrycare has been conducting the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme at the sites between April and September when butterflies are more likely to be active.

Year-on-year, Church Lane records a greater population of butterflies with 2017 being its best year with a total count of 1,756.

In comparison. 2018 was the most successful year for Bobbingworth with a total of 927.

The Meadow Brown is the most abundant species on the sites while Church Lane has recorded the Large Skipper every year since the survey began. 

There are healthy positive trends evident in the White family, with both sites showing increases in population.
8.41pm - February 25

DISTRICT: District council approves "real challenge" budget
  
A budget which includes a freeze on the council's share of council tax bills has been approved by Epping Forest District Council.

Finance portfolio holder John Philip told tonight's full council meeting that setting the 2021-22 budget had been "a real challenge" but added: "We have been able to balance our budgets and maintain frontline services without any (council tax) increase."

Spending plans for the coming years highlighted by councillor Philip include £91.5m on the council's ongoing council housebuilding project, £25m for the new leisure centre in Epping, a £1.5m project to create a community hub in Waltham Abbey involving the Epping Forest District Museum and Waltham Abbey Library and the redevelopment of the business units in Cartersfield Road, Waltham Abbey.

Mr Philip said the budget had been achieved by "minimising fees and charges (increases) where possible" with no increase in parking charges.

Council housing rents will increase by 1.5 per cent from April.


Independent councillor Stephen Murray said he was "really glad" the council had been able to freeze its share of council tax bills while maintaining frontline services and said he could support the budget "100 per cent".

Housing and community portfolio holder councillor Holly Whitbread welcomed the zero per cent rise in council tax and highlighted the council's housebuilding project, the council-funded Essex Police officers and earmarked funding for the new Epping Leisure Centre.

She said: "This has really been an extraordinary year. This council has shown why we are here and play a real community role during that time."
2.50pm - February 17

NORTH WEALD: New air ambulance base to be operational in summer

The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance has taken possession of its new purpose-built airbase at North Weald Airfield.

The new facility will have space for two helicopters and two of the charity's rapid response vehicles. 

The helipad has underground heating to keep it free of snow and ice while the building will have an interactive visitor centre and areas for training, mentoring, patient liaison and fundraising.

The building has been designed with `green’ issues including charging points for electric cars and photovoltaic roof panels which will generate electricity with any excess supplied to the National Grid. 

There is bicycle parking for staff and as much waste as possible will be recycled. 

The building has been well insulated to retain heat and reduce noise pollution and will make as much use as possible of natural light to save on electricity. 

Work has begun on the internal fit-out with the facilities scheduled to become operational by June.
5.23pm - February 16

DISTRICT: MP joins youth councillors for virtual discussion

A range of issues were raised when Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing joined Epping Forest Youth Councillors for an online discussion.

Dame Eleanor said: "They are a great bunch of young people representing all the senior schools in the Epping Forest constituency.  

"We discussed everything from vaccinations to campaigning for equality to quantitative easing.  

"I was particularly interested to hear how they are coping with studying online.  

"They were brilliantly upbeat about the challenges they face and told me that their schools have been very understanding about how to structure lessons online, building in breaks and other activities to try to balance their work and plan their days."

Dame Eleanor added: "This generation of young people are having a much more difficult time than any other in recent years but I have every confidence that they will make the best of the challenges they face and will flourish."

Youth councillor Bianca  Nedelcu, who represents Roding Valley High School, said: "Dame Eleanor was glad to hear that our schools are very supportive in these unprecedented times and how they give us necessary breaks.

"It was a pleasure to speak to her about our achievements within the Youth Council. Her answers were very informative and she seems like a wonderful person."

Youth Councillor Martin Prinsloo, who represents Davenant Foundation School, said: "Dame Eleanor Laing reached out and connected with us, she was interested and listened. I am proud to call her our MP as she has a lot of experience and works very hard.

"It was great to talk to our MP about our work at the Youth Council."
7.15pm - February 15

DISTRICT: More than 1,000 fines issued to forest 'Red Route' drivers

More than 1,000 fines have been issued against vehicles parked on the double red line 'Red Routes' through Epping Forest since the restrictions were introduced last May.

Epping Forest District Council has said North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) is regularly patrolling daily with additional patrols at weekends and Bank Holidays. 

A report to next week's full council meeting states: "Since the introduction (of the Red Routes) well over 1,000 PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) have been issued. NEPP are also using the CCTV enforcement car."

In one visit alone some 154 illegally parked cars were logged.
7.53pm - February 12

DISTRICT: District council's council tax freeze is result of "prudent financial management"

A proposed freeze in the district council's share of council tax bills for 2021-22 is a result of "prudent financial management", council leader Chris Whitbread has said.

The proposal - which would see the district council's share of bills for  a band D property remaining at £152.46 - will go before the full council on February 25 for approval.

Epping Forest District Council has not increased its share of the council tax since 2010 - except for a one-off increase in 2018 to fund three Essex Police officers.

Mr Whitbread said: "The council tax freeze comes against a background of financial challenges and restrictions brought about by COVID-19. However prudent financial management, including reserves accumulated over many years, not only means council tax can be frozen but also means the protection and retention of all our frontline services for our residents.

"We are proud to maintain one of the lowest, if not the lowest council tax levels in Essex while continuing to provide the excellent frontline services that our residents value."

The budget was presented to last night's cabinet by finance and economic development portfolio holder John Philip who emphasised the importance of economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: "We have tried to do more than just leave money in people’s pockets with a zero council tax increase. This comes after a huge emergency grant initiative during the pandemic to support local businesses. 

"As we move from emergency to recovery we are now budgeting for major investment in our local economy and town centres, protecting jobs and improving wellbeing.

"The council’s income has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Pay-and-display parking and leisure centre income has been badly affected as well as lower collection rates for council tax and national non-domestic rates compared to normal years.

"However, the council is pledging to maintain the low 20p parking charge in all its council-run car parks until at least June as part of its ongoing support for local high streets."

He added: "This is alongside a programme of town centre studies designed to support high streets to get back on their feet. 

"Investment in Highway Rangers is also paying dividends, carrying out repairs and improvements around the district."

Mr Whitbread said: "Customers tell us that recycling collections, leisure centres and car parking are important to them, and the council’s primary aim is to secure those frontline services. 

"I am excited to see that despite the financial challenges of COVID-19 we still have money secured for a brand-new Epping Leisure Centre including the swimming pool and sports hall residents said they wanted.

"We reduced the charge in our car parks to support our town centres, our waste contractor, Biffa, hardly missed a single collection due to COVID-19 last year and we are one of the few local authorities forging ahead with building new council housing for local people."

The council is continuing to work with Essex Police through its Community Safety Partnership including dedicated funding for additional police officers in the district.

The council policies has also pledged to become carbon neutral, is investing in its current housing stock and building new council housing.
3.39pm - February 10

EPPING: Lights go out at Civic Offices following refurbishment work

Lights at the Civic Offices in Epping - which have been on overnight during part of the ongoing refurbishment - will now be turned off 'out of hours' now that "testing and commissioning" has been completed.

Work is still taking place on the ground-floor lighting system but that should be completed by the end of the week.

Numerous comments have been posted on social media, and questions put to Everything Epping Forest, regarding why the lights have had to be left on at night.

A council spokesman told Everything Epping Forest: "The lighting system is now fully installed to all floors of the Civic Offices with testing and commissioning complete on the first and second floors. This means lights will switch off out of hours and will only switch on if motion sensors are triggered.

"Testing and commissioning to the ground floor controller is still ongoing but is expected to be fully functioning by Friday of this week at the very latest.”
10.14am - February 9

DISTRICT: Clean Air Zone and road charging remains a possibility - unless other ways are found to improve air quality in forest

A Clean Air Zone and possible road charging scheme for some roads through Epping Forest remains a possibility - but could be avoided if Epping Forest District Council can find other ways to improve air quality in Epping Forest.

An extraordinary district council meeting was called by five non-majority group councillors to discuss the cabinet's adoption of an Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy.

Councillors, at the end of Monday's two-hour meeting, voted to form a cross-party portfolio holder advisory group that "could work with council officers to identify where further initiatives not currently in the strategy could be brought forward to advance air quality improvements with the objective of removing the need for a CAZ (Clean Air Zone)".

The group will also provide "democratic oversight" of the development of any CAZ before it goes through the formal decision-making processes and public consultation, if it is deemed a CAZ is still required.

The meeting heard arguments between protecting the forest from further pollution and the impact of new developments, for which planning permission has been in abeyance until the strategy is adopted.

Councillors were warned any delay in adopting the strategy could see the Government impose housing numbers for the district, increasing the number from 11,400 to about 21,000 new homes. 

Councillor Chris Pond said: "The future of one of the finest forests in the country and continent is at stake."

He said "parts of it are dying" as a result of "bad air caused by thousands of cars and gas boilers owned by people who live near the forest".He added the situation "will be made worse by Epping Forest District Council proposing thousands of new homes near the forest".

Mr Pond said: "The Epping Forest area is geographically large but the majority of development has been chosen to go into the southern part (of the district). Houses are built right up to the forest edge and new ones are proposed very near to the forest.

"It is already under stress and it will become under worse stress if Epping Forest District Council's plan to grant planning permission is allowed."

Mr Pond said a solution was not to introduce a CAZ but to delete ten of the sites allocated for housing in the emerging Local Plan - including the Epping South site earmarked for 950 dwellings "only the width of the M25 away from one of the most sensitive sites of the forest".

Epping Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Whitehouse said one result of introducing a Clean Air Zone would be to divert traffic onto residential roads. He said "very real problems" would be caused by a charging zone.

"Any charging scheme would divert traffic to roads in Epping and Theydon Bois with some traffic travelling further to avoid the charges."

He said the end of last year was the best time for an advisory group - as proposed in the late amendment - not now.

"Here we are trying to rush it through, first in December, then January."  

Cabinet member Nigel Bedford, with responsibility for planning, said there was no reason why the Interim Pollution Mitigation Strategy should not be adopted to allow planning permissions, which have been delayed, from going ahead.

He said no design work or charging fee level for a Clean Air Zone had been agreed, and hoped the need for a CAZ could be avoided through other mitigation measures to improve air quality.

He urged councillors to "come together to achieve this".

Mr Bedford said there were 150 planning applications that had not been released - impacting on new homes as well as tradespeople with a knock-on impact on local business.

Councillor Sheree Rackham said that not only were some people NIMBYs but some were 'Bananas' - people who want to "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody".

Loughton Residents Association councillor Michael Owen said the forest is "highly vulnerable" and asked how could the council allow the building of hundreds of homes next to a forest that is already under threat.

He said: "All sites of mass development near our beautiful forest must be removed."

Buckhurst Hill Green Party councillor Simon Heap asked: "What can we do now to protect the forest, it is in a bad state? We can move (new) building away (from the forest)."

Cabinet member Holly Whitbread said: "I have no doubt the majority of councillors passionately care about their local community."

She said she opposed a Clean Air Zone adding: "It's something I do not want and I want to avoid, and I hope to be one of the main voices to do everything we can to avoid this (a Clean Air Zone)."

She added: "Without a strategy (an Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy) we lose our voice and control."

North Weald Conservative councillor Jaymey McIvor said the strategy's opponents were looking to "cause as much uncertainty to Epping Forest's economy".

He added the Plan was "oven ready and full of opportunity for the people of Epping Forest".

He said the delay in planning permissions was impacting on "people and lives" adding: "Surely as councillors it is our duty to act in the best interest of residents."

Council leader Chris Whitbread warned councillors any delay in the Local Plan process could see a much higher number of new homes being imposed on the district by the Government.

"A CAZ is not yet set out. We have not set out how it would be designed, what vehicles would be included and any charging strategy".

And he added any CAZ would not be implemented until 2025 "if at all if I had it my way".

Loughton Residents Association councillor David Wixley voiced concern over any road charging, including the impact it would have on tradesmen who would have to pass on the charge to their customers. He said there was no indication on how much the charge would be.

He was also concerned about the prospect of people avoiding the charging zone and taking other routes and polluting other areas, particularly if the alternative routes took them past schools.
 
Councllor Bob Jennings called on the council to "stop and reconsider" so we can all go forward "as one council together".

A report to the meeting stated: "The council can only grant planning applications that comply with the Habitat Regulations. 

The Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy, as adopted, enables the council to properly approve any planning application that it can demonstrate will have no adverse effect on Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation. This means the council meets the requirements of the Habitat Regulations.

The council has worked hard to develop a strategy that meets the requirements of the Habitat Regulations and Natural England has advised that it considers the Interim Strategy would provide a sound basis for avoiding or mitigating the air quality impacts that result from plan led development. 

Natural England will only confirm that the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy meets the requirements if it includes reference to a Clean Air Zone. It should be noted there is already a range of other mitigation measures in the strategy which are sufficient to mitigate the impacts of growth up to at least 2025.

"Adoption of this Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy allows for the immediate release of withheld planning decisions. 

"The specialist legal advice received by the council is that once the Interim Strategy has been adopted there is no legal reason why the council must wait for the examination of the emerging Local Plan before it can release withheld planning decisions.

"In the face of this specialist advice, a decision by the council to delay the release of planning decisions once the Interim Mitigation Strategy has been adopted places the council at significant risk of legal challenge by delayed applicants and runs the risk of significant awards of costs against the council.

Epping Forest District Council says it has to ensure all development, including housing and employment use, is "measured and sustainable" as well as "providing for commensurate improvements in infrastructure such as schools, hospital, public transport, and the environment in general".

It adds the heritage of Epping Forest needs to be protected however the forest habitats are already suffering from vehicle emissions and, even without any further development, the council needs to address the issue and make sure any development does not add to the concerns around the forest's future.

The council has worked with Natural England to prepare a series of actions to address air quality issues in the forest.

One action is a Clean Air Zone which may or may not be required subject to continued environmental measurement and the detailed work-up of all schemes on the list.

The council says that to make sure the Local Plan can be "found sound" it needs an Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy to allow measured development which will enable the council to be able to determine planning applications and support the emerging Local Plan.

If the council does not properly plan to meet its housing requirement then the Government Planning Inspector can find the Local Plan unsound. 

The Government has imposed deadlines for the adoption of the Local Plan and if the council does not meet these the Government can remove the council’s planning powers and decide itself where it wants development to take place.

The Local Plan details sites for 11,400 homes in the district. If the council has to stop the Local Plan process and start again, this target will increase to nearly 21,000 homes, the council says.

When the council submitted its draft Local Plan, Natural England raised concerns about the cumulative air quality impact on the forest of current and new development proposed within it. 

The Inspector said more information was needed to understand the issues. This "created a pause" which meant the council could not issue planning permission for new development that may adversely affect the forest.

This will remain the position until the council agrees a strategy that limits the increase in air pollution from any new development.

The council has worked with Natural England to develop an Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy that sets out how the council would mitigate the impact of new developments on the air quality in the forest in a way that did not make the current position worse.

The strategy sets out actions the council will take to facilitate housing, employment and other development to meet the identified needs of the district without causing an adverse impact on the forest. 

The council stresses that most of the housing sites in the emerging Local Plan are well away from the forest. 

The council adds that a Clean Air Zone, which could include road charging for certain roads through the forest, cannot be ruled out absolutely but says there are a number of reasons that may mean it would not be necessary. 

These include the Government's commitment to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol engine vehicles from 2030, and changing working patterns which would reduce vehicle journeys.

"Prior to any implementation there are many checks and balances which would need to be worked through... This would include a full consultation exercise with everyone affected," the council said.

Until the Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy is adopted, the council cannot issue planning permission for any new development that results in an increase in the amount of traffic using roads in Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation or in close proximity to the EFSAC. 
12.35pm - February 6

DISTRICT: Prepare for 'Storm Darcy'

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is warning people to be prepared for heavy snow and ice for the next few days. 

The warning comes after Met Office UK issued weather yellow and amber snow and ice warnings from 11pm tonight (Saturday) through to midday next Wednesday.

Storm Darcy, named by the Dutch Met Service KNMI, is also set to bring plummeting temperatures and strong winds.

Dan Bailey, Community Development and Safeguarding Team, said: “With the weather feeling exceptionally cold, people will probably be looking for ways to keep their home warm. 

“If you're using electric heaters make sure you turn them off when you leave a room, keep them away from anything flammable and don't cover them with anything.

“If you're using an open fire ideally you should have had it swept recently, but also make sure you use a fireguard, you don't stack it too high, keep anything flammable away from it and you let it burn down completely before you go to bed.”

During times like this, ECFRS’s priorities are continuing to respond to incidents and, wherever possible, supporting partners.

ECFRS takes steps to make sure it can maintain a consistent operational response, including using Ranger vehicles where needed, which are designed to overcome adverse conditions.

Despite Essex gritters working throughout the county, salt becomes ineffective in low temperatures and icy conditions so residents are being warned to stay at home if possible, and if they must go out, to follow important road safety advice. 

Mr Bailey added: "Weather conditions can play a part in the number of accidents on the road. Consider if your journey really necessary and in very bad conditions, please avoid driving completely. 

“If you do have to drive, please make sure your car is roadworthy – your tyre condition is good, lights are clean and working, your windscreen is clear and blades are working. Make sure the washer bottle is full with screen wash, and you have an ice scraper in your vehicle.

“Slow right down, and only travel at speeds at which you can stop within the distance you can see.” 

Current forecasts predict snow and ice easing from Wednesday, but with the ground already saturated, it is likely to leave areas of localised flooding in its wake. 
5.06pm - February 4

DISTRICT: Could virtual council meetings be coming to an end?

Local councils will return to "physical meetings" for council business after May 7 - unless the Government extends legislation which allows for virtual meetings to continue.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has told local authorities "the government is not currently planning to extend the remote meeting regulations beyond May 7".

NALC and other local government bodies are continuing to press for an extension. 

Meanwhile, the NALC is "preparing guidance for local councils on preparing for and managing the return to physical meetings in May and beyond”.
1.19pm - February 2

DISTRICT: Housing rents and district council share of council tax set to rise

A £5 per household increase in the district council's share of council tax bills for the next financial year is a possibility in the council's 2021-22 budget.

The figure - thought to refer to band D equivalent households - was referred to in a council committee meeting when councillors were told such a rise would generate £270,000 for the council in the next financial year. 

Council cabinet papers also refer to a proposed 3 per cent increase in trade waste charges - and a freeze in car parking charges.

Housing rents are facing a 1.5 per cent increase which complies with the legal Rent Standard that registered providers of social housing must comply with, the report states.
5.39pm - February 1

Cost of Civic Offices refurbishment now over £7.5m

The cost of refurbishing the Civic Offices in Epping to create a community hub with rentable office space for local businesses, a public cafe and a possible new home for Epping Library - is now put at over £7.5m, an overspend of some £273,000.

Latest costings are detailed in district council cabinet papers which describe the work as "the largest General Fund project in 2020-21".

The "core project budget" figure is reported as £7.242m, excluding IT costs. 

The report adds: "As at December 31, 2020, just over 60 per cent of the allocated budget had been spent, and the new facility is expected to be available for occupation in March 2021 (subject to Covid-19 restrictions)."

The document adds: "The core budget consists of contracted works, which are currently expected to underspend, and additional costs for furniture and equipment.

"The overall forecast out-turn at this stage is £7.515m, which would result in a small overspend of £273,000; this is attributable to consultancy and contractor costs required to deliver the project, which could not be provided by in-house staff, and was not included in the original business case.

"There is an additional budget allocation of £0.907m for IT costs, which form a major part of the fit-out stage of the project. 

"A marginal underspend of £7,000 is currently forecast on IT costs."
1.35pm - January 29

ONGAR: Car abandoned in flood water

More pictures CLICK HERE

A car was abandoned in flood water at Hallsford Bridge, Ongar, this morning after the driver became stranded.

Another driver and passenger had to push their car out of the water while 4x4 drivers managed to negotiate the flooding on Stondon Road.

Mill Lane - on the other side of Hallsford Bridge - is also flooded but the other usual 'hotspots' in the area are clear.

They include the A414 Epping Road at Ongar and Bobbingworth; and the A113 London Road at Stanford Rivers (by Traceys Farm).

Heavy surface water is again reported on Ongar Road, Abridge - between Passingford Bridge and Abridge village.
3.42pm - January 27

DISTRICT: Parking charges to be introduced in forest car parks

Parking charges are to be introduced at more than a dozen car parks in Epping Forest from the Spring.

The decision has been taken by the City of London Corporation's Epping Forest and Commons Committee. 

The proposals are open for public consultation until Monday, February 15. For more details
CLICK HERE

The fees have not been confirmed but the City of London has said all the income, less the costs of maintaining the scheme, will be reinvested in the forest.

The cashless charging system will be phased in across the forest's car parks with 14 car parks "that currently experience the most parking issues" to be in the first phase.

They include:

Chingford Hub: Bury Road, The Caddie House (Chingford Golf Course), Connaught Water, Barn Hoppitt (including seasonal overflow) and Connaught Tennis Club.

The committee says this will tackle commuter use at Bury Road and Chingford Golf Course car parks and prevent consequent displacement to Barn Hoppitt, Tennis Club and Connaught Water.

High Beach: Pillow Mounds, Generals Ride & High Beach Visitor Centre with the committee saying this will tackle the over capacity use of the area.
 
Payment will be by card or mobile phone with the charges reflecting the most common length of time visitors spend in the forest, at one to two hours. 

Parking for Blue Badge holders and motorbikes will be free.
2.50pm - January 26

DISTRICT: Police reveal COVID-19 regulation breaches

Police have revealed two incidents - in Epping and Hastingwood - where people breached COVID-19 regulations.

Two people were stopped by officers in Epping, on Tuesday, January 12, after they had travelled from Grays to High Beech.

The pair - one adult and one juvenile – told officers they made the 25-mile journey to go for a jog. The adult was issued with a fixed penalty notice.

In another incident, last month when Essex was under Tier 4 restrictions, roads policing officers stopped four performance cars at the A414-M11 junction at Hastingwood.

It was then confirmed that the vehicles had travelled from the London and Hertfordshire areas for a car cruise.

Eight people were dealt with for breaches of coronavirus legislation.

Each driver was also issued with Section 59 warnings for anti-social (inconsiderate) driving which means that should the driver drive that same or any other vehicle in a similar manner again within 12 months of receiving the warning, the vehicle can be immediately seized by police.
1.46pm - January 26

EXCLUSIVE

DISTRICT: Number of district council staff paid £50,000-plus more than doubles in a year

The number of Epping Forest District Council staff receiving salaries and allowances totalling £50,000 and over has more than doubled in a year - with one getting between £230,000 and £234,999 in the year to March 31 last year, Everything Epping Forest can reveal.

Council accounts released to Everything Epping Forest show the number of staff receiving £50,000-plus a year rose from 23 in 2018-19 to 48 in 2019-20.

Loughton Residents' Association councillor Chris Pond described the number of "very highly paid people in a small district council" as "excessive" and added: "Who, I wonder, is worth £234,000 a year to the people of Epping Forest, or about £1.80 per year per head?"

The council told Everything Epping Forest the remuneration figures include salaries, pension contributions, any redundancy payments as well as allowances such as standby / call-out arrangements, car allowances and overtime.

The number of employees receiving between £50,000 and £74,999 rose from 14 in 2019 to 36 in 2020 while the number in the £90,000 to £94,999 bracket increased from one to six.

A council spokesman said: "The banding thresholds have not been changed since their introduction, approximately ten years ago, meaning that as pay rises are implemented the bandings will capture more employees.

"As the remuneration bandings include Employer Pension Contributions these tip employees into higher bandings than the actual salary and allowances they receive."

In a statement, the council said: "The 31 March 2020 figures include the Council’s Common Operating Model for Management / Specialist roles implemented through the 2017-20 People Strategy. 

"As a result, the overall management / supervisory figures reduced from 150 leader / management / supervisory roles to 82 leader / manager and 11 technical specialist roles.

"At the same time the council moved to a new locally determined pay structure the aim of which was for the council to retain and attract a workforce that can deliver the council’s Plans and Projects. 

"Also, our pay, grading and terms and conditions needed to be competitive in the relevant job markets and we recognised that expertise should be valued as much as management responsibilities. 

"Both of these factors moved some roles over into the £50,000-plus bandings.

"The figures include five roles in receipt of a redundancy payment, two roles employed by the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project and two roles working in Housing Repairs on the standby / call out rota."

Councillor Chris Pond told Everything Epping Forest: "This is part of the 'corporatisation' of Epping Forest District Council which has seen people hired in who know little of the district, but who are supposed to be very skilled at management. 

"We have also lost any amount of local knowledge and experience. Forty-eight very highly paid people in a small district council is, in my opinion, excessive."

He added: "Who, I wonder, is worth £234,000 a year to the people of Epping Forest, or about £1.80 per year per head?

"At that rate, the head of Essex County Council would get over £2 million a year. This is residents' money."

* Figures included in draft council accounts - which the council has told Everything Epping Forest were incorrect - showed the number of staff receiving £50,000 and over had increased from ten (at March 31, 2019) to 47 (at March 31, 2020).
4.33pm - January 22
 
DISTRICT: Date set for extraordinary district council meeting

The Extraordinary Epping Forest District Council meeting to discuss the Interim Air Mitigation Pollution Strategy which includes a Clean Air Zone and road charging plan will be held on Monday, February 8 (7pm).

Buckhurst Hill Green Party district councillor Steven Neville has said he has been told members of the public will not be able to speak at the meeting but will be able to watch the live webcast.
4.39pm - January 21
 
LOUGHTON: College holds virtual open day

Some 10,000 people 'visited' New City College's (Epping Forest College) website for its virtual Open Day with some 1,400 registered attendees to online subject sessions.

Visitors signed in to watch and listen to presentations by teachers on Microsoft Teams and to ask questions about the college and the courses on a live Chatify platform.

There was also a chance to get advice on supported learning, careers, university progression and financial support.

One of the most popular sessions was 'Ask Your Peers' where current student ambassadors were online answering questions from prospective students about college life.

Other popular sessions included Health and Social Care, Construction, Sport, Creative Arts and A-Level Biology, Psychology and Law.

People who missed sessions or did not register on the day can still request to view subject presentations by emailing marketing@ncclondon.ac.uk

Group marketing director Nell McCreadie said: “It was a highly successful event with a wide variety of interesting presentations for students considering coming to study at New City College.

"We have a huge range of subject choice and we welcome students of all abilities. There were some excellent questions during the sessions and some very positive comments from guests about the smooth running of the day.”

The next open events are on February 9, 10 and 11 and Saturday, March 20.

For more information visit https://nccopenevents.co.uk/
3.29pm - January 21
 
Herts and West Essex tops table for COVID-19 jabs

The most locally-available statistics for the number of COVID-19 vaccinations given to patients aged 80+ show that 115,304 doses have been administered in the Hertfordshire and West Essex area, which includes Epping Forest - the highest in the East of England.

The Hertfordshire and West Essex area figure (13,995) for the number people 80+ to have received both doses is the fifth highest in England.

Meanwhile the total number of doses administered in Hertfordshire and West Essex (115,304) is the 12th highest in England, with Cumbria and the North East topping the list with 271,536 doses. 

The numbers for west Essex are included in figures published today for Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System and the Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.

They show that between December 8 and January 17, a total of 115,304 doses were administered in the Hertfordshire and West Essex area.

Mid and South Essex has the second highest total with 80,211 doses.

The breakdown of the Hertfordshire and West Essex statistics show 47,623 first doses have been given to patients aged under 80 (and 50,815 to patients aged 80-plus) while 2,871 under-80s have received their second dose (and 13,995 patients aged 80-plus have had their second dose).
1.33pm - January 20

New members wanted for Essex Police's local Independent Advisory Group

New members are wanted for Essex Police's Brentwood and Epping Forest Independent Advisory Group.

Essex Police wants to increase membership and improve representation of the diverse communities across the area. 

District Commander Chief Inspector Ant Alcock, who is leading the initiative, is encouraging people to sign up.

He said: "We are looking for individuals who are under-represented in the usual decision-making processes within the police and who may not ordinarily have a voice in conversations that will affect their communities.

"The IAG will discuss hate crime, significant local incidents, procedural changes and any other policing matters that are important to you. 

"Any number of decisions made within policing can have unforeseen impacts on the community and as a member of the IAG you will be able to help us understand these issues and find ways to address them."

For more details
CLICK HERE
12.49pm - January 20

DISTRICT: County council budget - "an investment in the people of Essex"

Essex County Council's share of council tax bills for the next financial year will increase by £19.80 (band D property equivalent).

The council has put forward a 0% council tax increase with a 1.5% increase from the Government’s Adult Social Care precept - half of that available. 

This means for an average Band D property household, the county council element of council tax will increase by £19.80 (38p per week).

Finance cabinet member councillor Chris Whitbread said: “There is no doubt that this last year has been one of the most challenging that our county has ever faced. 

"Today (Tuesday) I am pleased to have agreed a responsible, sustainable budget that will help our economy to recover, that will protect and support our residents and that minimises the impact on council tax, while ensuring essential services continue to be delivered."

He added: “This budget represents an investment in the people of Essex; we have a responsibility as a local authority to achieve the best value for money for taxpayers, while ensuring we help and support all our residents, particularly those that are vulnerable, to live the best life they possibly can.

“It also represents an ambitious investment in our economy, including in our schools, roads and homes now and into the future, due to a significantly increased investment – 50 per cent - in major projects, so that we can build back better.

“In addition, the budget outlines our ongoing investment and commitment to the environment and climate action, including planting more trees, investing in flood defences, and investing in sustainable solutions for our future.  

"Essex County Council continues to make sound financial decisions, as evidenced by approval at today’s (Tuesday) cabinet meeting. 

"We have a strong track record to be proud of, despite the increased pressures faced by the public sector in recent years and should take great strength from this. 

"We have thought very carefully about this budget and have the foundation and agreed plans that will enable us to invest in the future and support Essex to recover and grow.”

The council says it will be investing an additional £33m across its portfolios, with the majority invested in adult social care services to support some of the county’s most vulnerable individuals and those that care for them.

In addition, the council is continuing to grow its investments, with a £1.3billion capital strategy and continued investment in road maintenance and footways, waste and children’s services.
5.59pm - January 19

DISTRICT: Special council meeting will debate Clean Air Zone

The Clean Air Zone and potential road charging plan detailed in Epping Forest District Council's cabinet-approved Interim Air Mitigation Pollution Strategy will be discussed at a special full council meeting.

The meeting was requested by five non-Conservative councillors amid growing concern over the strategy, and the possibility of a road charging scheme for some roads through Epping Forest being implemented in 2025.

Independent Loughton councillor Stephen Murray, who is one of the five councillors who requested the meeting in a letter to council chairman Helen Kane, said: "This is a great step forward."

He said a date for the meeting would be set in the next week.

Loughton Residents Association councillor Chris Pond, who drafted a motion to be considered at the Extraordinary Council Meeting, said the request had been made "to give the whole council an opportunity of deciding on the distribution of development and its effects on the SAC and to give voters the chance to see their councillors' vote on the questions of releasing planning consents and the CAZ".

The Buckhurst Hill Residents' Society committee today said it strongly supported and agreed with Loughton Residents Association saying: "We believe the proper course would be for the council to have raised the Interim Strategy, and the CAZ, as part of the ongoing discussions on the draft Epping Forest Local Plan where the proposals could be fully and publicly discussed and consulted upon, and the proposal (if agreed by the independent Inspector) could then integrated into the provisions of the Local Plan."

The committee added it "would like to express its concern at the way in which the strategy and possible Clean Air Zone for 2025 was passed.

"We feel this is such an important subject it needed public consultation before not after it was put to a vote by the council".

Deputy council leader and planning cabinet member Nigel Bedford has said the cabinet had upheld the decision to adopt the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC) adding "it will allow careful and considered developments in the district to proceed with the appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts on air quality in Epping Forest of any development and the current backlog of planning decisions to be released in the coming months".

Mr Bedford added that how the CAZ will work, charges for the zone and "other issues around its implementation" will require further work over the coming months and years. 

He said: "The most important thing is that my decision both allows a considered approach to development to occur now, whilst consideration is given to what measures are needed to protect our environment and the forest for decades to come."
5.15pm - January 19

DISTRICT: Questions asked over COVID-19 vaccination programme

For the second successive morning the vaccination centre at St Margaret's Hospital in Epping has stood empty.

This morning - and it was the same yesterday- the direction signs were out but the building at Spencer Close - which has been vaccinating people since before Christmas - was not being used.

But why?

West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is refusing to say how many people have received COVID-19 vaccinations locally and why some patients - some in their 80s and 90s - are being invited to travel to the Excel Centre in London or elsewhere, such as Stevenage or Ipswich, for their first jabs - while the St Margaret's Hospital centre is closed.

Locally there are only two "GP-led" vaccination centres in the Epping Forest district - the one at Spencer Close at St Margaret’s Hospital and Buckhurst Way Clinic in Buckhurst Hill.

James Beaver, writing on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group, said the Buckhurst Hill centre was also closed yesterday (Monday) and today.

Everything Epping Forest has submitted a number of questions to the CCG which issued a brief statement in response.

It stated: “West Essex has had a really positive start to the vaccination programme and lots of sites are already up and running with more coming online across the coming weeks, providing extra capacity to give people who need it that crucial first dose - which the evidence shows gives you the vast majority of your protection from the virus - as quickly as possible.”

However the fact is that there are still only two centres in Epping Forest, as stated in an NHS coronavirus update posted online last weekend. You can read the article
HERE

There are five centres in total in west Essex with the other three in Harlow, Stansted and Saffron Walden.

Background information provided by the CCG states "more sites will be launched in the coming weeks, including some in west Essex".

It adds: "People who fall into the priority groups will be contacted directly by the NHS to book into one of these sites when the time comes. We’ll share details of the sites in west Essex when they go live.

"If you can’t travel or you would rather wait for an appointment closer to home, you can choose to do that, and your local GP-led service will be in touch soon to offer an alternative."

The information adds: "The new guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Chief Medical Officers on the period between doses also means that we will be able to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time. 

"As the Chief Medical Officers said... this ‘will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS and equivalent health services’. 

"Anyone who needs to have their second vaccine appointment rearranged will be contacted directly. Patients still need to receive their second vaccine at a future date, and it is important that they attend their second appointment once scheduled."

The vaccination centre at St Margaret’s Hospital is continuing to offer first doses to priority groups but the background information adds: "Vaccines are delivered in a phased roll-out and through a planned supply delivery schedule which means some sites might not be vaccinating every day."

Everything Epping Forest has asked the CCG what is preventing the Epping centre from operating additional days and whether the issue relates to staffing or whether there is a limit to how many vaccine doses are being allocated or requested.

Comments on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group have praised the efficient running of both the Epping and Buckhurst Hill centres, and at the Excel Centre.

Nicky Kelly wrote: "My mum had her vaccination there (Epping) on Friday and the car park was really busy with people queuing to go into the building. Mum was happy with how she was dealt with whilst there. It appeared efficient but most of all she felt comfortable."

Jean Welsby described the situation regarding the number of days the Epping centre is operating as "disgusting" while Paulene Brace wrote: "Think of the amount of people who could get vaccinated. More people and a faster way of clearing all the lists."

Hollie Middleton, whose grandmother had her vaccination at the Excel, wrote: "What a joke, when she could have gone 15 minutes down the road but instead (it took) an hour."

Gloria Yell wrote: "I feel for the people who don’t have a family who can take them to the Excel or Stevenage, or the disabled, or the ones who can’t stand for long in a queue."
6.47pm - January 17

DISTRICT: Five non-Tory councillors demand special council meeting to discuss CAZ plan

Five non-Conservative district councillors are calling for a special full council meeting to discuss the controversial Clean Air Zone plan which includes charging drivers to use certain roads through Epping Forest.

The 'group of five' are Loughton Residents' Association councillor Chris Pond - who has composed a suggestion motion for any extraordinary meeting - Loughton Residents Association councillor Michael Owen, Independent councillor Stephen Murray, Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Whitehouse and Green councillor Steven Neville.

The five have today written to Epping Forest District Council chairman Helen Kane demanding the extraordinary meeting. They believe it is the first "requisition" in 40 years "such is the importance of the matter".

 
The Motion states that "the council hereby declares it will determine planning applications only on the basis of the law, including the NPPF and other National Planning Guidance, the 1998 Local Plan, and the latest iteration of the new local plan, incorporating provisions which have been approved after consultation with the public and examination by the Inspector. 
"The Interim Air Quality Strategy December 2020,  and any prospect of a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) made under it, unless and until it has been approved and so incorporated by her, together with evidence the CAZ can be implemented prior to the erection and completion of any new housing, cannot carry any material planning weight and should be treated as wholly null and void".

 
The Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest has been adopted by the district council cabinet after a 'call-in' by Loughton Residents Association and Green Party councillors.

Planning cabinet member Nigel Bedford, who this afternoon told Everything Epping Forest he was unaware of any letter or meeting request, has said the cabinet had "upheld the decision to adopt the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC)" adding: "It will allow careful and considered developments in the district to proceed with the appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts on air quality in Epping Forest of any development and the current backlog of planning decisions to be released in the coming months."

One of the measures in the strategy is that a Clean Air Zone is considered for implementation in 2025.

In a statement, Mr Bedford said how the CAZ will work, charges for the zone and "other issues around its implementation" will require further work over the coming months and years. 

In his statement, issued through the council, Mr Bedford added: "The most important thing is that my decision both allows a considered approach to development to occur now, whilst consideration is given to what measures are needed to protect our environment and the forest for decades to come."

Waltham Abbey Town Council discussed the CAZ issue on Wednesday when town mayor Antony Watts described the proposal as "bunkum".
10.51am - January 14

DISTRICT: Clean Air Zone road charging plan is "bunkum" and "beggers belief" - Waltham Abbey Town Council

A plan to charge drivers to use roads through Epping Forest covered by a planned Clean Air Zone "beggers belief" and has been described as "bunkum" by the mayor of Waltham Abbey who thinks it might infringe the Epping Forest Act.

Waltham Abbey Town Council is opposing the proposals which could be introduced in 2025.

The council's policy and resources committee is to call on Epping Forest District Council to subsidise a local bus route  which uses for proposed CAZ roads to mitigate the impact of the scheme on local residents.

The council has also highlighted the lack of north facing slip roads at Debden as a key factor stating that if they were to be introduced then a significant amount of traffic wanting to head north on the M11 would not need to travel through the forest to junction 26 of the M25 to then join the M11 at junction 27.

Mr Watts told the meeting the proposed CAZ roughly covered a triangle betweeen the Wake Arms roundabout, Robin Hood roundabout and the middle of Loughton.

He said: "I think it's important to understand that this is being imposed on Epping Forest District Council from what I can understand by the environmental lobby in order to allow Epping Forest District Council to get their Local Plan through.

"The joke is that any CAZ will not be implemented by Epping Forest District Council because they don't have the legal authority to do so. It will have to be done, I believe, by either Essex County Council or as a separate Act of Parliament.

"It has has many hurdles to go through. We know what will happen. We know everyone will just avoid it."

He added: "It might even infringe the Epping Forest Act because on the road that goes from the Robin Hood roundabout into Loughton there are at least two car parks which in effect you would charging people to have access too. 

"Whether they can do that under the Epping Forest Act is an interesting point."

Councillor Liz Webster said the CAZ plan "beggers belief" and highlighted the north facing slips roads issue onto the M11 at Loughton which she said could ease the problem of drivers from Woodford and Chigwell using forest roads.

She said: "If we go back a few years when the M11 was built, in their wisdom they had south facing slip roads so people could access the M11 to go into London. They never built the north facing slip roads at that time because the Bank of England was there.

"If they had opened up the north facing slip roads people in Chigwell, Woodford and places like that who wanted to get on the M11 would go on those north facing slip roads straight up onto the M11.

"Now lorries and HGVs have to come through the forest to get down Woodredon Hill to pick up junction 26 on the M25 and take the first turning off onto the M11.

Mr Watts said: "Basically it's just bunkum."

He said Epping Forest District Council should subsidise the 66 bus route to an equivalent charge to the average mileage charge for motorists to travel between Waltham Abbey and Loughton Station, for example, during any period that the CAZ was in operation.

Mr Watts said: "If you are going to be stupid enough to try and implement this sort of thing, this is the stick but you must also give people a carrot. 

"We've all been talking about better public transport and that would be an ideal opportunity for Epping Forest District Council to show they are backing the use of public transport. 

"Heaven knows you might even then be able to influence enough people that you get this ten per cent decrease in vehicle useage over the period.

Mrs Webster added: "We have very little public transport and it puts us in a worst position."

The town council said it would work with Loughton Town Council to oppose the proposals.

___

Epping Forest District Council planning cabinet member Nigel Bedford has said the adoption of the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation by the council cabinet "will allow careful and considered developments in the district to proceed with the appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts on air quality in Epping Forest of any development and the current backlog of planning decisions to be released in the coming months".

He confirmed one of the measures being considered is a clean air zone with various issues such as how the zone will work and the charging system to be worked on "over the coming months / years". 

Mr Bedford added: "A suite of other measures will be introduced earlier to achieve a ten per cent conversion of petrol cars to Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2024-25.

"Proposals such as the clean air zone will require detailed consideration and consultation which will include aspects of charging. 

"The most important thing is that my decision both allows a considered approach to development to occur now, whilst consideration is given to what measures are needed to protect our environment and the forest for decades to come." 
2.02pm - January 13

VOTE 2021: Government announces local elections to go ahead as scheduled

The local (parish, town, district and county council) elections and the election for a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex will go ahead as scheduled - although the Government has said it will keep the matter "under review".

In confirming that the Government intends that the elections will go ahead as planned on Thursday, May 6, Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith has told the House of Commons: "Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of any democracy."

She highlighted that many elections had already been delayed from May last year and said: "There should be a high bar for any delay."

Locally there will be elections for seats on Epping Forest District Council (postponed from May 2020), all seats on Essex County Council and for some local parish and town councils.

There is also the election of a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex.

Ms Smith added that a "strong set of measures" would be in place for the elections and stressed the various options open to the electorate.

She said additional measures were planned for voters to have a proxy vote while there was still also the option of postal votes.
12.42pm - January 13

DISTRICT: Online group opposing possible road charging scheme nears 2,000 members

An online group opposing a district council strategy which details a charging scheme for drivers using some roads through Epping Forest is gathering momentum.

Almost 2,000 people have now joined the SAY NO TO - EFDC - CAZ (Clean Air Zone) group on Facebook, which was set up after the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest was adopted by the cabinet after a 'call-in' by Loughton Residents Association and Green Party councillors.

The Facebook group is inviting opponents to email their district councillors and MP in a bid to get the possibility of a 'congestion charge'-type scheme dropped.

Epping Forest District Council planning cabinet member Nigel Bedford has confirmed the cabinet decision to adopt strategy.

He said: "We have upheld the decision to adopt the Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy for Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC). 

"It will allow careful and considered developments in the district to proceed with the appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts on air quality in Epping Forest of any development and the current backlog of planning decisions to be released in the coming months.

"The Interim Air Pollution Mitigation strategy identifies as one of the measures that a clean air zone is being considered for implementation in 2025. 

"How this clean air zone will work, charges for the zone and other issues around its implementation will of course require further work over the coming months / years. 

"A suite of other measures will be introduced earlier to achieve a 10 per cent conversion of petrol cars to Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2024-25.

"Proposals such as the clean air zone will require detailed consideration and consultation which will include aspects of charging. 

"The most important thing is that my decision both allows a considered approach to development to occur now, whilst consideration is given to what measures are needed to protect our environment and the forest for decades to come."
9.31am - January 10

DISTRICT: 'Congestion charge'-type plan to drive through parts of Epping Forest

Motorists could have to pay a daily 'congestion charge'-type fee to drive through parts of Epping Forest under a Clean Air Zone scheme supported by Epping Forest District Council.

The council's Interim Air Pollution Strategy includes a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charging scheme for petrol and diesel vehicles from 2025.

Loughton Residents Association (LRA) which, with Green Party councillors, demanded a 'call-in' of the adoption of the strategy, told Everything Epping Forest a CAZ would be similar to the London Congestion Zone with most petrol and diesel private and commercial vehicles entering a zone around and including the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation facing a similar charge.

LRA councillor Chris Pond told Thursday's overview and scrutiny committee, which heard the call-in, that it could mean a £12.50 charge to drive from Theydon Bois to Epping.

An LRA statement, issued after the call-in was defeated 7-5 with five abstentions, stated: "The council is trying to avoid the effect of laws which prohibit the building of new homes if the effect of the extra residents (singly or along with other new homes) would adversely affect the EFSAC (Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation). 

"A backlog of planning applications for developments large and small has built up over the last 18 months, and understandably those developers affected are putting pressure on the council to resolve the issue.

"By introducing an Interim Air Pollution Strategy and committing themselves to introducing a CAZ in 2025 the council are aiming to resolve the situation. 

"However, it does not lie wholly in the council’s power to introduce a CAZ - they will need to get various other bodies to agree, or in order to do so alone they may need to put a Private Bill through Parliament. All this without any apparent public consultation.

"Our understanding is that, without any absolute certainty that the CAZ will in fact be introduced, the Interim Strategy may not meet the relevant legal requirements for protecting the EFSAC."

The main routes affected by the CAZ would be the A121 (High Road/Goldings Hill), A104 (Epping New Road), A121 Woodredon Hill and the A1069 (Rangers Road).

The LRA statement added: "LRA believes the principal way of preventing further damage being done to the forest should be severely restricting extra housing near the forest, not by a cumbersome charging system which would be in danger of diverting traffic into residential areas and alienating residents’ support."

A council report on the adoption of the strategy states: "The introduction of a CAZ (Clear Air Zone) covering the SAC (Special Area of Conservation) from 2025 would involve charging people driving certain types of vehicle through the zone based upon the age and type of their vehicle. 

"The aim is to encourage motorists to replace older vehicles with newer vehicles compliant with the latest emissions standards, and in particular Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs), through a graduated charging system (for example, zero charge for ULEV owners or an increased charge for petrol car owners). 

"It would potentially also encourage those motorists who were able to, to use other routes instead of using roads in close proximity to the Epping Forest SAC."

The report adds: "The council recognises that the implementation of a CAZ will not come without some impact on residents and businesses across the district but it also has a legal responsibility to ensure that it can support the delivery of new homes and jobs without having an adverse effect on the integrity of the Epping Forest SAC."

Speaking during the call-in debate, LRA councillor David Wixley said: "I think it's unfortunate that this has come about this way. If ever a document warranted a briefing for all members to attend it would be this document."

Councillor Steven Neville highlighted issues with the feasibility of electric charging points at residents' homes and the fact that any CAZ would require Government consent and would have to feature in the council's Local Plan.

LRA councillor Howard Kauffman said the issue is "so fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our residents" adding: "It's a matter of great gravity".

He added: "The forest is 90 per cent of our district. The forest is massively suffering from pollution but I do feel this issue should have been dealt with in a more transparent and collegiate manner."

Councillor Sheree Rackham said it was a "big" issue but something "we need to look into deeply and implement".

Councillor David Dorrell said there was a "pressing need" for a "meaningful consultation" rather than "just impose it on them (the electorate)".

In reply to a question from Mr Dorrell about planned consultation, Nigel Bedford, portfolio holder for community and partnership services,  said there would be consultation "on the final scheme" while planning officer Alison Blom-Cooper added there would be consultation at various stages.

Mr Bedford said: "I dare say some residents will object to it (a Clean Air Zone)."

Independent Loughton councillor Stephen Murray highlighted the lack of consultation with all district councillors over the draft strategy and defended the call-in which had been criticised in a council media release. 

"The call-in is the only mechanism for this discussion. We have all benefited from the discussion (at overview and scrutiny committee) but it wouldn't have happened without the call-in."

He said: "We all understand the importance of the SAC (Special Area of Conservation). We love our forest. That's one of the reasons why people want to live in Epping Forest.

"The SAC is regarded as one of the most important in western Europe.

We have more ancient trees in Epping Forest than they have in the whole of France. 
"We are talking about something that is really significant."

A Facebook group has been set up to oppose the idea
CLICK HERE
1.51pm - January 8

DISTRICT: COVID-19 fast testing centre opens at Theydon Bois Village Hall

A fast testing centre for Epping Forest district residents who do not have Covid-19 symptoms has opened at Theydon Bois Village Hall. 

Results are given in about 30 minutes. 

Tests are by appointment only and can be booked online
HERE

Anyone unable to book online can ring 0333 772 6144 to arrange an appointment. Lines are open 8am-8pm daily.

You can also email booking.confirmation@nhs.net and a member of staff will contact you to arrange an appointment.

The centre has been opened in response to the current infection rate in the district, now reaching 1321.9 cases per 100,000 population (according January 7 data). 

As at December 31, Epping Forest had the highest case rate in Essex.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "Infection rates in Epping Forest are rising rapidly and local NHS services are coming under significant strain as a result of the new variant of Covid-19. 

"A ‘critical incident’ was declared last week with critical care and bed capacity rising as well as high staff sickness and self-isolation levels.

"This additional testing centre will allow us to test even more people in the worst affected areas where we continue to see worryingly high rates. 

"We know over 5,000 people have already been tested at the first three fast testing centres which we have opened.

"Testing people who feel well will help identify the hidden cases in the community – people who may be unwittingly infecting others. 

"If you test positive with one of the new fast tests, you will be asked to self-isolate, and take a further test to confirm the initial result."

Councillor John Spence, cabinet member for Adults and Health at Essex County Council, said: “We are absolutely determined to do all we can to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in Essex, especially in the areas like Epping Forest where we are seeing cases continue to increase considerably as a result of the new variant.

“Targeted testing programmes are one part of how we will continue to tackle the virus, in addition to everyone playing their part in following the latest lockdown rules to limit the spread. 

"An appointment to carry out a Covid-19 test will count as an essential journey under the lockdown rules.”

Epping Forest District Council leader Chris Whitbread said: "It’s great news that we have another resource in the district to help us beat the spread of this dreadful virus.

"The tests are quick to do, with results in around 30 minutes. 

"The rate at which this new strain is spreading in our communities is frightening. Whereas in the first wave it seemed that we did not know many family, friends or colleagues who were infected, now there are dozens and some are very poorly indeed.

"We must do all that we can to stop the spread and this includes the simple practices of wearing a mask, washing our hands and staying at least two metres apart.”

* Anyone with symptoms should book a test via the NHS Test and Trace App or at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
12.43pm - January 8

DISTRICT: Home testing COVID-19 kits available from 'collect and drop-off' venue

Home testing COVID-19 kits for people without symptoms are available from the Lindsey Street Community Association in Frampton Road, Epping.

Anyone visiting the site should collect the kit, take it home, register a home test kit at GOV.UK, do the test and drop it back to the collect and drop-off venue at Lindsey Street Community Association, correctly packaged as instructed.

A courier collects completed tests each day. 

Tests must not be put in the post.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is available to anyone living or working in a highest alert area, who do not have COVID-19 symptoms.

The site is open Monday to Wednesday 9.30am to 4.30pm and Thursday 9.30am to midday. It is closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Test results are managed by the NHS Test and Trace system and results are usually back within 24 to 48 hours via email, text message or telephone.

Anyone with symptoms must not attend the Frampton Road site and should book a COVID test online.

It is advised not to take a test if you have previously tested positive via a PCR test in the last 12 weeks as this could give a false result.

On-site employees are not able to interact with people returning completed tests and attendees are responsible for securely packaging their own completed tests.
6.39pm - January 7

DISTRICT: District council given funds to pay to people self-isolating

Epping Forest District Council is receiving £266,220 from Essex County Council to pay to residents, in £500 one-off grants, who are self-isolating and ineligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment from the Government.

The £3m funding given to the county council from the Government's Contain Outbreak Management Fund is to ensure that those that must stay at home are given the financial means to do so.

The £500 grant per resident will be a one-off payment to cover the two-week self-isolation period.

People may not qualify for Government support because, for instance, they are on zero hours contracts, self-employed and trading for less than one year or self-employed without access to support because of low trading returns.

The funds can be accessed by residents by making an application on the Epping Forest District Council website.
3.28pm - January 5

Confusion over second COVID-19 vaccinations

Patients are confused over what is happening locally with the second COVID-19 vaccinations.

The first vaccinations were given at the vaccination centre on the St Margaret's Hospital site in Epping three weeks ago, with patients scheduled to receive their second jab this week.

NHS guidance released last week stated that the second Pfizer vaccination can now be given up to 12 weeks after the first, with health trusts looking to give as many people in the top priority group their first vaccination which offers a high level of protection against COVID-19.

However the issue has been complicated following reports that second vaccinations are still being given in some parts of the country, including Redbridge and Ilford.

Relatives of people scheduled to have their second vaccination this week have posted their concerns on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group.

Debra Feldman wrote: "This is all really confusing. I’m aware of three people in Redbridge who had their second jabs cancelled by text but received calls yesterday (Monday) to say they’re going ahead as planned - some areas clearly going with the Pfizer three weeks apart guidelines."

Mark Cadman wrote: "My relative in Southampton had their second jab today so local decisions on the second jab."

Debbie Clayden wrote: "It must be very confusing for the age group involved. 

"My mother has an appointment for tomorrow (Wednesday) but it has not been cancelled and have read that second jabs are still being given in some areas."

A woman who emailed Everything Epping Forest wrote: "I have been trying to find out about the second vaccine appointment for my mother who is due her second jab tomorrow but has not been notified that it is cancelled.

"St Margaret’s (hospital) car park will be chaotic if lots of elderly patients are turning up for new appointments and second ones, only to be turned away."

Maria Shepherd, writing on the Everything Epping Forest Facebook group, said: "Some areas are doing the second vaccination on the original timescales to those who had already had the first, before the policy changed."

And Karen Pitcher wrote: "In Ilford second jabs are apparently going ahead as planned."

However it is unclear what the situation is in west Essex.

Everything Epping Forest asked West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group to clarify the position and was emailed an NHS letter sent to all health trusts and trust chief executives explaining the 12-week interval guidance.

A further request for a statement has been made to the CCG, and Stellar Healthcare which arranges patients' appointments, asking whether west Essex patients who have already had their first vaccination will get their second as scheduled, and how are they will be contacted if their appointment has to be rescheduled.

Everything Epping Forest has also asked why no vaccinations were taking place at the 'vaccination centre' at Spencer Close on the St Margaret's Hospital site today given that the Government has said the vaccination programme is being ramped up as it hopes to see two million vaccinations given each week nationwide.
1.05pm - January 3

DISTRICT: Publican offers closed pubs as COVID-19 vaccination hubs

Publican Adam Brooks, who runs the Three Colts pub in Princes Road, Buckhurst Hill, and the Owl pub at Lippitts Hill, High Beach, has contacted health chiefs at West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) offering his pubs as vaccination hubs as the COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues.

Mr Brooks is awaiting a response from the CCG.
3.59pm - January 1

DISTRICT: Hospice's bereavement support helpline gets £100,000 boost

St Clare Hospice has secured £100,000 from Barclays Bank to continue its Bereavement Support Helpline for a further year.

The helpline is run by a team of hospice staff and volunteers, trained to deliver immediate emotional support and practical guidance for those who would like extra support after the loss of someone close. 

The helpline - 01279 967670 - operates between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

The service was launched last June in response to a community requirement for immediate emotional support, information and guidance as the number of people experiencing bereavement has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
For more details CLICK HERE
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