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Mar 18 21

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

by admin
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…

Mar 2 21

Loughton Police launch local newsletter plus ne date for online meeting

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Remember “Coffee with Cops” in St. Mary’s meeting room opposite Loughton Police Station? Apparently these may return in time. Meanwhile we welcome a local newsletter from Loughton police HQ – and the next Facebook Live meeting on 10 March at 3pm. Contact: eppingcommunitypolici ngteam@essex.police.uk

Feb 19 21

Hills Crime figures for December 2020

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Not the worst…but not the best would be a fair summary of the crime log of 14 incidents for the Hills in December. The tally according to the latest Essex Police statistics at https://www.police.uk/pu/your-area/essex-police/loughton/…was Baldwins Hill (inset in illustration) 3 (2 anti-social behaviour – ASB – and 1 vehicle crime); top of York Hill 7 (6 ASB, 1 violence/sex offence); bottom of York Hill 3 (1 criminal damage/arson, 2 ASB); Queens Road 1 (ASB).

Feb 19 21

Benches removed from York Hill Green after complaints about noise and behaviour

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There they are………gone!

The popular (for many) benches on York Hill Green opposite the Gardeners Arms have been removed. According to Cllr Chris Pond: “The City of London, who are the landowners, have insisted on the removal of the two benches overlooking the big panorama over London and Kent at the top of York Hill. This is because of incidents of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and to stop people assembling during lockdown and annoying residents, who have justifiably complained. The seats will be put back, we are told, when the ASB stops and things quieten down. All enquiries to the Forest direct 020 8532 1010.”
Cllr Judy Jennings adds that Loughton Town Council was instructed to remove its bench which “was removed today and is going to the cemetery to be stored.”
A glance at December’s figures (below) for crime in the area show the number of incidents recorded at the top of York Hill but the removal of the benches will be probably be welcomed and regretted in equal measure.
Feb 16 21

Hills Councillor Forum 2021

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Wednesday 17 March at 7.30pm on Zoom

All Hills residents are invited to join the Hills Councillor Forum hosted by the Hills Amenity Society on Wednesday 1 March starting a 7.30pm.
To ut a question to the Councillors and to register the receive the link CONTACT:

Email: hillsamenitysociety@gmail.com
via HillsWatch on Facebook
Text 07710099343

TELL US WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT:  

Speed limits? We still want to secure a 20mph speed limit for the Hills.

Forest ULEZ Zone? This could mean paying for every journey for some. Why is it justified?

Forest parking charges? The fear is these will drive even more cars to park in our roads.

Problem parking? Has parking pavements become a driver’s right?

Crime? Anti-social behaviour, drug use and theft of and from vehicles monthly top the list. What can we do?

Planning: Erratic and dramatic decisions by EFDC. Thousands of new homes planned for Epping Forest District

Litter? Blocked drains? Lighting? 

What is your issue?  Contact hillsamenitysociety@gmail.com

Sep 18 20

Whose front garden is the fairest of all in 2020?

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Sep 9 20

Request for action on fallen York Hill tree

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The fallen tree obstructing the footpath on York Hill Green has become something of a saga with the District Council insisting this is the responsibility of the owner of the property bordering the Green. However action may now be on the way…..

Cllr Bob Jennings is still on the case of the fallen tree across the footpath on York Hill Green (see report in Open Forum from May), demonstrating that patience is a prime requirement for the role of local councillor. He has shared a letter from Stephen Cozens, the District Council Arboriculture Officer, dated 3 August.

Good morning: We have been contacted by Councillor Jennings regarding an overgrowth of vegetation obstructing a footpath to the side of 1 Woodbury Hill, Loughton. As you can see in the photos attached, the vegetation is below 2.5m and does cause obstruction to any pedestrians walking on that pathway. Highway records have confirmed that the obstructing vegetation is an historic boundary feature and the responsibility of the adjacent land owner (1 Woodbury Hill).

As you are aware EFDC (Epping forest district council) do not have any enforcement powers with regards t//o footpaths or the public maintainable Highway, and therefore cannot serve the necessary 154 notices to any property owners. Please can you contact the resident of 1 Woodbury Hill and inform that they have a duty of care when it comes to vegetation and trees on their land, which cause hazard or risk to the surrounding area. The trees may also be under a TPO or within a conservation area, the residents should confirm with the EFDC planning team on ContactTrees@eppingforestdc.gov.uk if such a preservation order is in place, details of what to do next will be provided by the planning team if necessary.

Kind Regards

Stephen Cozens
Arboriculture Officer

In a later post on HillsWatch District Council Tree Officer Robin Hellier states:

Apologies for the delay in reply but the trees you have photographed appear to be privately owned TPOs. I will pass on your concerns to our Grounds Maintenance team, who ensure rights of way are free from obstruction or imminent danger. I will indicate that the works are exempt for safety reasons and ask that they are inspected.

Regards


Robin Hellier Dip. Arb. (R.F.S)
Tree and Landscape Officer
Planning Services
Epping Forest District Council

Sep 8 20

How could this have happened?

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Hills letter to Prince of Wales on ‘out of character’ Woodbury Hill development

The development of the Woodberrie site on Woodbury Hill has been highlighted in a Hills Amenity Society letter to be sent to Prince Charles, famously the scourge of developments he considers “carbuncles”.

The Hills Amenity Society, Loughton, Essex

Heritage property close to Saxon fort under threat – Epping Forest planning application (Ref EFP/3407/16)

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

Dear Sir,

With knowledge of your interest in and care for our countryside and protected buildings we are writing to seek your advice and assistance in a situation that has arisen concerning one of the properties in a local conservation area.

The area is within Epping Forest and our Hills Amenity Society works throughout the year to protect the very special environment in which we live, the Hills Conservation areas of Loughton, and provides a forum for local residents to voice their views and concerns about relevant issues.

We have contacted the Planning and Enforcement Departments of Epping Forest District Council, our MP, Mrs Eleanor Laing as well as the responsible Secretary of State but have had no response.

The property is situated in the centre of the York Hill conservation area on the corner of Woodbury Hill and Kings Hill, 500 yards from an ancient Saxon fort in Epping Forest. It was an attractive ‘Arts and Crafts’ style locally listed structure surrounded by trees and hedges.

An extension under planning application EFP/3407/16 has been built (which) is extremely high and completely out of character with the surrounding area.

We appreciate that you have an extremely busy life but hope that, through your staff, you may be able to offer some guidance on how to proceed.
Yours Faithfully,

Toby Scrutton


Chairman
The Hills Amenity Society, Loughton

Sep 8 20

Social disruption on York Hill

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As crime figures for July 2020 make all too clear (see chart and link to police figures) the top of York Hill has been a crime hotspot in the Hills this summer, peaking in July with, at this date, figures for August still awaited. In this post are also a letter to Hills Chairman Toby Scrutton from the EFDC Licensing Compliance Officer and comments to HillsWatch from a resident about the problems being encountered during the warm evenings.

Crime figures for Baldwins Hill (2) and York Hill (15) contributed the bulk of the 24 offences for the three Conservation Areas in July 2020. In more detail there were 15 offences at the top of York Hill, 13 of which were anti-social behaviour, one public order and one violent or sexual. Four at the bottom of York Hill included two vehicle crimes, one anti-social and one criminal damage/arson. The three in Queens Road were all anti-social behaviour while just two offences were recorded on Baldwins Hill. View Police statistics here.

Following a meeting of the Hills Amenity Society in July, at which a delegation of residents from around the top of York Hill were invited to put their case, a complaint was lodged by the HAS Committee in the name of chairman Toby Scrutton with EFDC licensing team. Mrs Handan Ibrahim responded.

From: Handan Ibrahim 
Sent: 28 July 2020 10:02
To: Toby Scrutton, Chairman Hills Amenity Society

Dear Mr Scrutton, 

Thank you for submitting your online complaint which was raised by members of Hills Amenity Society,  regarding antisocial behaviour, drug dealing and underage drinking, and social gatherings during COVID 19 at The Gardeners Arms York hill Loughton. Following on from our telephone conversation yesterday, as agreed I am sending you this email to summarise the points we discussed.

I spoke to the licensee of The Gardeners Arms,  Mrs Tracy Roberts regarding the above issues, Mrs Roberts proposed to promote challenge 25  with staff checking IDS at entry to the pub. This is in order to discourage younger clientele entering the pub, I need to stress however that this is not a condition of The Gardeners Arms Licence this is purely a proposal made by the licensee to show compliance and eagerness to resolve the issues raised by residents.

With regards to social gatherings Mrs Roberts advised that she is promoting the following:  only two people to stand at the bar to make orders at any one time, no persons to sit at the bar. People are asked to stay in their bubble. The Licensee is considering increasing outside seating in order to comply with social distancing, which is encouraged by the government. I will ask our Environmental Health Team to engage again with the Mrs Roberts to ensure she understands her responsibilities under the current Covid Regulations.

With regards to groups gathering outside and on the green Mrs Roberts has advised that many of these groups are young people that are not being served at the pub, they are gathering on the green and bringing their own drinks. Mrs Roberts says that after the pub closes her staff check the green area and clean up any bottles or rubbish that is left, even though this is predominately rubbish left by people not being served by the pub.

Finally as you are aware Essex Police were called to Gardeners Arms, Loughton several times Friday and Saturday evening. All the calls were from residents, and the complaints included drug dealing, fighting, anti-social behaviour, and underage drinking . We have been advised by the police that there was little (if nothing) from a licensing perspective as none of the reports could be substantiated.  However, it was clear that the premises was busy with groups inside and outside, and no obvious signs of social distancing. This has been raised with the Licensee (please see above) and as stated I will ask our environmental health team to contact Mrs Roberts to go over social distancing during Covid 19.

To summarise I am aware that residents are deeply concerned about the current antisocial behaviour and mass social gatherings that have been reported to us. However after speaking with the licensee and the licensee agreeing to adhere to the above to minimise and try to stop any future disturbances to residence no further action will be taken at present. However I will continue to monitor the situation going forward. I also advise that residents continue to monitor and either gather evidence themselves or contact our out of hours noise team or the police who will record all  complaints which can be later used if needed for a review of Gardeners Arms Licence.

I have also attached for your information guidance and a review application form if you wish to pursue this matter further going forward.

As a final point I would also like to point out a possible mediation between the residents committee and the licensee of the gardeners arms, I will be happy to initiate this if it’s something the residents would consider doing to help the flow of communication and raising concerns direct with the licensee of The Gardeners Arms.

I trust the above is satisfactory, please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further assistance.

Mrs Handan Ibrahim

Licensing Compliance Officer, Licensing Team, Regulatory Service, Commercial and Regulatory Service Directorate 

The following two contributions to HillsWatch from a local resident describes their experiences at the end of July/beginning of August

“Residents at the top of York Hill, Pump Hill, Wallers Hoppet and Woodbury Hill are very much affected. The loud shouting, screaming and swearing could be a casting meeting for “Eastenders”. One of the good folk living opposite the Green told me they dread forecasts of good weather !
“I …have used an online form on the EFDC website for reporting noise nuisance; if any HAS members or neighbours wish to do the same, it’s quite easy to find and use, and it’s confidential!
And again:
“Since my email to you there have been developements. On Friday 31 July at around 8 pm a lady from EFDC knocked on my door to ask if it was OK to park outside my house (it was) and told me she was going to the Gardeners Arms to investigate complaints. When she returned, she said that in her opinion the noise level was unacceptably high (I told her she should come back at 10 pm) and that there was no enforcement of “social distancing” rules. Shortly after, four Police cars arrived.” 

This resident and several others have commented with regret on the departure of long-term Gardeners’ evening manager Geoff, admired for his efforts to maintain order and especially his famous”swear box”.

One of the actions taken by Gardeners Arms responding to complaints has been to erect a fence along the forecourt boundary
Sep 6 20

Meeting with Chief Forest Ranger – Aug 2020

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Clogged with cars parked on footpaths and verges and with (the one) bin overflowing it’s been a tough time for the residents of Baldwins Hill

This is the report of a meeting held in August 2020 between Marcus Warren, a resident of Baldwins Hill and a member of the Hills Amenity Society Committee, and Martin Whitfield, Chief Forest Ranger employed by the Corporation Of London which owns and manages Epping Forest.  Martin has worked here for 26 years.  

Points raised by residents are italicised and direct questions from local residents are in bold.

  1. Most residents would like to see more bins in the local area (currently there is one bin opposite the green on Baldwins Hill which is regularly overflowing) both for dog waste and for general rubbish (including the small aluminium gas cannisters). This is a constantly recurring theme amongst locals and really does need addressing to stop general rubbish and dog waste bags being left on the ground. I understand that there may be a dual responsibility here because the bins may have to be located on C of L land, but be emptied by council employees.

Martin said that he has worked in the Epping Forest area for 26 years and said that more bins would worsen the litter problem. He said that it makes a focal point out of a particular area, the bins overflow, people put litter by the bins when full and it blows everywhere in the wind. He said that the C Of L did not have the resources to regularly empty the bins too.

He said that local residents could volunteer as local rubbish collectors, the C of L would provide them with bags, a rubbish grabber stick, some labels and a stapler. Once the rubbish is in the bags they can be left somewhere and after a call to the C of L their van would pick up the bags.

2“Not anti-social behaviour related and from a resident in Queens Road: Do the Forest Keeper’s think the condition of Clay Ride is acceptable? Because I really don’t”

The C of L have someone who deals with the state of the bridleways and paths. He has been off for a few months but has just come back. Martin will ask him about plans for Clay Road (Gate 73) and Woodbury Hill bridle path. I did not get a name of the person but will follow up in a week to see what the response was.

3. “It can be lethal down the Clay Path and round Baldwins pond when it is wet underfoot”. During the winter months this pathway becomes like a quagmire and is very slippery, leading to people finding other routes through the nearby forest causing all sorts of additional erosion and damage to vegetation.

I emphasized how muddy Clay Road was during the winter and it caused people to find alternative routes through the trees which was bad for erosion etc. awaiting response (see point 2 above).

4. “Perhaps Woodbury Hill bridle path could also be mentioned. Hasn’t been touched in 20 years and is used by parents taking their children to Staples Road school. Very muddy and slippery when wet and many potholes”.

As per point 2 answer

5. “I wrote to CoL some weeks ago re the cars parking on the forest verges along Baldwins Hill, suggesting that logs might be placed along the edges to prevent this, but no action so far. I’m not convinced the red lines painted on the roads in other parts of the forest have had a direct effect on the number of visitors to Baldwins Hill. It’s the pubs that seem to be the focal points for the crowds meeting up in the forest”. Some local residents have suggested a permit scheme, yellow lines on the road, and as a minimum, the marking of bays on the pavement near the Foresters Arms pub so that only half of the pathway is covered by cars allowing pedestrians and parents with prams access. 

Martin said that the Forest bylaws allow people to park on the Forest land.up to 45 feet from the road. It is only when they damage the land (ie. Create tyre furrows or any other form of damage) that he or his rangers can put a ticket on the vehicle. He said that the C of L therefore not put up barriers or logs. When asked why they did it in High Beach during lockdown, Martin said that this was in response to specific request from the Police due to the Raves and large gatherings of people. The red lines that have been put on the roads in High Beach are for a period of 18 months and will be reviewed thereafter.

By putting parking bays marked out on the pathway near to Foresters, Martin said that he would have to look to see where the C of L boundary was bordering that of EFDC. He said that marked bays would involve consultation with C of L and if the council wanted to widen that part of the road near to Foresters and put in some parking bays then that would involve C of L giving permission (this was just an idea that I mooted with him to allow easier traffic flow and room for pedestrians to walk past parked cars which can sometimes be difficult.

6. On areas of the Forest (Ash Green and opposite the Foresters pub) could some barriers or even just logs be laid on the grass to discourage cars from parking on the forest land. This causes track furrows when it is wet and causes unnecessary erosion to the land.

Unlikely due to byelaws allowing people to park on forest land up to 45 feet from roadside.

7.“LRA Cllr Chris Pond tells me he met the Highways officers re bridlepaths 13 and 14 (Woodbury Hill) only last week Re. the Clay Road, Chris says that the CofL may have to surface that one with hoggin etc if and when they use it as a lorry route to repair/reconstruct the Baldwins Hill Pond dam”.

Martin was unaware of the plans to surface the Clay Road and use it as an access through to Epping Road. He aid that the repair to Baldwins pond dam was part of the “100 year plan” and was simply a precautionary plan that in the event of a massive flood ( a potential very rare 100 year event), could Baldwins dam withstand the pressure. In his view this was not a priority.

8. Drug dealing in Baldwins Hill near to No.2 Baldwins and other locations in the Forest. This seems to come in fits and starts, but there was a request that perhaps we could have a couple of cameras put up to monitor traffic flow and speeds, and also to discourage fly tipping and this antisocial behaviour ?

This is not something covered by C of L but should be raised with EFDC and / or the Police.

9. Noise from Fireworks and antisocial playing of loud music at Forestside – A local resident has complained three times of people letting off fireworks/bangers, but has had no response. I believe that this is on C of L land.

If the noise was created on Forest land then the C of L should be contacted. If not then the noise abatement department at EFDC.

10. Speed at which cars are travelling, especially along Baldwins Hill – Numerous residents have complained that it is only a matter of time before someone gets badly injured or worse. Some residents have suggested a variety of options including speed bumps, chicanes to slow the cars, cameras etc. I believe that this point in particular falls outside your remit but your comments would be appreciated. 

Not his remit. Speak to EFDC or Police.

11. It has been noted by a number of residents that bicycles in the Forest can appear out of nowhere at a tremendous speed. This will cause an accident soon, either to a person or to an animal. Is there any way that the C of L can put up signs or warnings that cyclists should have a bell and should not travel at excessive speed especially when their line of vision is restricted?

The C of L is looking at various different means to curtail the speed of bikes. He would not expand but said that plans are being considered.

12. Some animals have been taken ill after swimming in Goldings Pond. Are the ponds tested for poisonous algae ?

No they are not. Apparently the Forest byelaws forbids dogs from swimming in the ponds anyway !! There are 164 permanent and seasonal ponds in the Forest. The algae that is poisonous is not permanent and can come and go so it is very difficult to provide protection against it. The Environment Agency website keeps a track of any bodies of water that have poisonous Algae and members of the public can update it.

Finally, I mentioned that the Hills Amenity would like to initiate a quarterly or twice yearly meeting with all of the these bodies (Cof L, EFDC, Police, Highways etc) and local residents in order to provide the latter with an opportunity to meet their local representatives so as to allay their concerns and to encourage their participation as stakeholders in maintaining the beautiful surroundings of Epping Forest. 

My thoughts were that if we could get a local Councillor (possibly Chris Pond), and some of the other parties that have responsibility for the local area (Police, EFDC etc.) in one room together (possibly the Community centre at St. Johns church), the HAS Could promote the event, thereby raising our profile and encouraging more local resident participation. Martin said that he would definitely attend such an event. What are the views of other Committee members ?