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Hills to get 20mph speed limit ‘by default’?

by admin on March 18th, 2021
Clockwise from top left: Cllrs. Chris and Caroline Pond, Bob and Judy Jennings, Michael Owen and Stephen Pewsey who between them sit on the three local authorities of Town, District and County. They were joined by chief Epping Forest constable Martin Whitfield.

A 20mph speed limit on York Hill, Baldwins Hill and Staples Road and surrounding roads campaigned for by Hills Amenity Society for many years is in sight. Meeting with six local councillors in a virtual Forum, residents from the more than 60 households signed up for the meeting heard County Councillor Chris Pond say that he thought it was now attainable.

The 20mph limit was most recently the subject of a meeting organised for the Society by Cllr. Chris Pond with County Highways boss Cllr Kevin Bentley in July 2019. Speed tests which followed by agency NEPP had sadly not met the average speeds required for special speed restrictions. A further letter signed by society chairman Toby Scrutton to Councillor Bentley last September argued for speed restrictions around the two schools in Whittakers Way, Baldwins Hill and in Staples Road based on a recent County Council rethink. 

The news was welcomed by Toby Scrutton who chaired last evening’s 2021 Councillor Forum organised by Hills Amenity Society. A Baldwins Hill resident had describing in a written question how that day they had “nearly been mown down by a GTI going backwards and forwards at speed along the hill multiple times”. Cllr Pond told the meeting progress could be hoped for with 20mph speed limits becoming the default on roads such as the Hills.

In addition to the blight of speeding, issues raised at the forum ranged from drug abuse, blocked drains and the removal of the much loved seats on York Hill Green and litter problems to the perceived imbalance of spending from the minimal on North Loughton compared to lavishly on Epping 

The panel of local representatives comprised (pictured from top left) Cllrs. Chris and Caroline Pond, Bob and Judy Jennings, Stephen Pewsey and Michael Owen who between them sit on the three local authorities of Town, District and County. They were joined by Epping Forest constable Martin Whitfield.

Parking was an issue raised by residents across the Hills.  Residents’ parking permits as a means of addressing “manic parking” along the length of Baldwins Hill was, according to Cllr. Michael Owen’s own research, well short of the 70 per cent majority support required for a scheme to be considered. The issue, while not confined to Baldwins Hill, had been considerably exacerbated by displacement parking during lockdown followed by five miles of double red lining on forest roads and probably shortly to be made even worse with paid parking schemes on main forest car parks.  

School run parking remained an issue for Staples Road and York Hill.  Cllr. Judy Jennings responded to Diane Rhodes’ question that the almost agreed plan for free school-run parking on Traps Hill car park was not yet in place.  Negotiations would hopefully be successfully concluded before the announced retirement of headteacher Jane Harvey who had been extremely supportive. Martin Whitfield said an Epping Forest scheme was being prepared for logs to deter parking on School Green on the Queens Road/ Staples Road/York Hill junction.

Blocked drains were a concern for all Hills roads, particularly following last summer’s flooding in Loughton High Road. The issue was raised by a number of questioners including Hills Amenity Society committee member Kevin Little who described his contact with the County Council chief executive, former councillor Diane Rhodes said she had written to the County several times and Ali Trauttmansdorff (York Hill) similarly. Was County Hall aware of the problems of a forest “sponge” and steep hills?

The meeting was assured by Epping Forest’s Martin Whitfield the removal of the York Hill benches was a temporary arrangement.  Cllr Chris Pond endorsed the hope the benches could be returned when lockdown and a reduction in anti-social behaviour allowed in more normal times.  Security might be helped by CCTV cameras at the Gardeners Arms leading to questions on the legality of road scanning by residents.  Following a recent conviction, new era video entry systems might also aid security beyond the household. But gatherings to take and deal in drugs in addition to Stony Path, “a big problem” according to Cllr. Stephen Pewsey, were raised by a number of questioners, particularly in relation to the top of York and Woodbury Hills. Cllr. Pewsey will be standing down at May’s election having moved from the area.

Problems highlighted by Stony Path residents engendered robust debate including the dangerous state of handrails (pictured) on the steep slope down to the almshouses, on which Cllr. Chris Pond promised further pressure for action by Essex County Council and the Highway Rangers under their highways responsibilities plus flooding at the lowest levels.

Photos submitted by a resident with a number of issues for concern in Stony Path

The perceived imbalance of funding for Loughton and North Loughton in particular compared to Epping and Buckhurst Hill was raised by resident Kevin Storey, suggesting Loughton Residents Association should become Epping Forest Residents Association to gain decision-making control.

Thanks were in order to the small but effective army of litter pickers in all areas of the Hills who, despite the vastly increased number of visitors and accompanying litter over the last 12 months, had worked so hard to keep the problem under control.  Chairman Toby Scrutton thanked the council members for agreeing to take part in the Forum and for their contribution to it.  As Stephen had moved away, this would be his last forum after 17 years on the Town Council. Thank you, Stephen…

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