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May 15 18

Hills issues raised at meetings with the police

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Police Commissioner hears message loud and clear

Both impressive and a bit depressing was the verdict of the meeting with the Police and Fire Crime Commissioner for Essex with Police and Fire colleagues at EFDC council chamber. Impressive because the commitment to get things right came through strongly. A bit depressing that with their resources the police can only ever hope to target prio

rities. Impressive because they caught a pest who had been breaking into cars along Baldwins

Hill. Depressing because he got nine weeks in jail…suspended. Impressive – and hopeful – because the Commissioner is dedicated to raising the number of volunteer ‘specials’ to bring back local policing, so he has heard the message that we feel neglected when victims of crime and no one takes any notice. Depressing because so few of us went to Epping to deliver the message that we care. So let’s try and do better next time!

Street lights ‘no crime impact’

Apparently turning off street lights in the small hours has not affected crime levels according to a report prepared for Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex Roger Hirst (pictured). Full report on http://www.essex.pfcc.police.uk

Drugs, car theft and parking

Drug dealing, car theft and parking emerged as the three top concerns of residents who attended the meeting with Loughton Neighbourhood Police at St. Mary’s Church. The meeting, impressively led by PC Mark Arnold, was an opportunity for Loughton residents to share their concerns and for the police team of PC Arnold and two PCSO colleagues to explain the daily challenge of their small team dealing with an average seven calls a day, seven days a week. The need to prioritise was obvious and calls involving threat or harm to life had to come first – unless the duty team was directed to a major incident elsewhere in Essex. To scale the problem,

the 197 calls one recent month in Loughton and Debden compared with 141 in Waltham Abbey, 115 in Epping and 51 in Ongar.
The consensus of the meeting was this was a highly committed team determined not to be overwhelmed by the size of the challenge facing them and to focus on the things which were causing greatest distress. PC Arnold and his colleagues received well-deserved applause. We heard that publi

c nuisance offences  – youths cycling dangerously along pavements, jostling, disturbance and the like – had subsided with the colder weather and following the closure of two trouble spots in the High Road.The idea of more match-funded or group funded specials for areas where there is a special need for more policing is there on the table. ..oh and we learned that the car thief apprehended and convicted after a long-running spate in Baldwins Hill had apparently moved to Debden with his suspended sentence. Hopefully a sufficiently long walk from the Hills!

 

May 15 18

Speeding: Your bin can be in the front line

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Speeding: Your bin can be at the front line

While we continue to press for a 20 mph speed limit, here is a simple idea for traffic calming which may appeal to Hills residents concerned about the seemingly increasing speed of so much local traffic, especially along those lengths with no footpaths – and pavements blocked by parked vehicles. Hills Amenity Society is purchasing stickers which can be placed on wheelie bins and act as a reminder one day a week that many of our local roads are shared by vehicles and pedestrians.  To apply for your FREE sticker please email The Hon. Secretary on hillsamenitysociety@gmail.com with your name and address and one will be delivered to you.

 

May 15 18

Hills open meeting and AGM – all welcome

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Hills open meeting and AGM – all welcome

Hills open meeting and AGM will be held on Tuesday 22 May 2018 at the Gardeners Arms at 7.30pm followed by a talk by County Councillor Chris Pond whose talk will be entitled Old as the Hills – Local issues over the last 30 years as I saw them. All residents of the Hills Conservation Areas and adjoining roads are most welcome to attend.

 

Nov 1 17

Blue Plaque Heritage Trail

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There are 11 Blue Plaques dotted around the three conservation areas of Staples Road, York Hill and Baldwins Hill marking former residences of famous people. Make that 12 – which we do – if you include the one for Ruth Rendell – she of the mysteries – in Millsmead Way, just off Baldwins Hill on the way down towards Homebase.

We have put together a heritage trail in the form of a walk around the three conservation areas which can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

 

 

Nov 1 17

HillsWatch now active

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A Facebook Page has been created for HillsWatch, the neighbourhood watch scheme for the Hills Conservation areas of York Hill, Staples Road and Baldwins Hill.

May 13 17

Stony Path and Wroths Path

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For our Spring/Summer 2017 Newsletter we invited local councillor Stephen Pewsey to comment on our story concerning the corner of the two roads following a picture submitted by a local resident.  Councillor P{ewes responded, but his contribution was too late to ben included.  Here is what he says:

“Firstly the verge. I’m not sure when the photo was taken but the greenery has since re-grown with considerable vigour (I don’t know anybody who’s successfully killed a determined clump of green alkanet!) and it looks pretty much back to normal. You might not be aware but Wroths Path residents have for years regularly cut back and reduced the shrubs at this corner as it’s otherwise difficult to spot cars coming up Stony Path when you’re trying to turn out of Wroths Path.

“On the fence itself, which is within the conservation area, I believe the owner was informed that he had breached CA guidelines and was advised to apply for retrospective planning permission. This he did, and the application was turned down, and the issue is now with the enforcement team although, as is so often the case, they may decide to take no action. The fence was of course installed following an evening of arson attacks in the area by a marauding gang of teens known as the “Cottage Loaf Mob”. Although most of the fires they lit around the town were small-scale, this one did burn down the chap’s conifer hedge.

“On the external damage caused by contractors, a request for a permanent new street nameplate has been made to ECC Highways, as has the damage to the road/pavement surface. Although the nameplate will be replaced in due course, repairing the surface damage is far less certain. As I’m sure you know, there is a great deal of this sort of thing going on across the town (I have had my eye on a very bad example in Forest View Road where about 50m of pavement has been completely wrecked by builders). In theory, Highways inspectors are meant to check sites where planning permission has been granted before and after work has been completed, and bill the contractor for any defects, but in practice they are overwhelmed with work and too few in number, so this rarely happens.”

Dec 8 16

Local Plan – make your views known

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Hills Amenity Society has been largely silent on the Local Plan and the massive changes proposed by the Epping Forest District Council because no part of the plan directly impacts on the three Loughton conservation areas.  Individually your committee members all have their own views – some strong – about the loss of car parking space, intensification of development and loss of amenities which the plan, if implemented, will mean to the Town.
However it has been pointed out to us that the plan is silent on the fact that part of Queens Road (that is, all but the bottom end adjoining York Hill) is currently an Area of Townscape Merit.

Your committee feels that this is unfortunate and that the Draft Development Plan should specifically include the status of Area of Townscape Merit for Queens Road. We have accordingly made representation through the Local Plan consultation process and do please make your views known through
The consultation period ends on 12 December so this is a final call to make your views known. The plan can be found at http://eppingforest.consultationonline.co.uk and the consultation link is http://eppingforest.consultationonline.co.uk/feedback/
The Hills submission states:

Draft Development Plan –  Area of Townscape Merit Queens Road, Loughton

The Hills Amenity Society, the organisation for the York Hill, Baldwins Hill and Staples Road Conservation Areas, Loughton, wishes to express concern over the position of Queens Road, Loughton, in the plan. Part of Queens Road is included in the York Hill Conservation Area and part, currently, is designated an Area of Townscape Merit.
The Heritage Assets Review EFDC in 2013 recommended the designation of Areas of Townscape Merit for areas – which included Queens Road and the Uplands in Loughton – that did not meet the criteria for Conservation Area designation but which still merited planning protection.
This has been omitted from the draft local plan and largely overlooked so far in the conservation area process and we now formally ask for the designation of Areas of Townscape Merit to be reinstated into the plan with proposed policy DM7.

 

May 21 16

Town Mayor talks of ‘her year’ to Hills Society AGM – and urges closer cooperation

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Councillor Judith Jennings, a York Hill Resident, spoke of her year as Loughton’s Town Mayor at the annual meeting of Hills Amenity Society held at Gardeners Arms, York Hill on Thursday 19 May and urged closer co-operation between the Town Council and the Society.

In his report the chairman, Stephen Cohen, highlighted the work of the society on planning issues, street lighting, parking, litter and community building through the autumn lunch, this year attended by more than 40 residents, and the picnic on York Hill Green.

A highlight of the year had been the joint project between Essex County Council, Loughton Town Council, the City Corporation and the Hills Amenity Society to erect an orientation plaque at the top of York Hill Green – a project proposed by the Society to mark its formation 40 years earlier.  The plaque had both a civic and a society unveiling, the latter performed by Councillor Jennings before the autumn lunch at Gardeners Arms (pictured).

 

Perhaps the greatest disappointment had been the Inspector’s overruling of district council rejection of plans for a new development adjacent to Woodberrie, the prominent corner site of Woodbury and Kings Hill.  Proposals to develop the site with four houses in 1972 had been the spur to form the Society following a number of unpopular hoping developments in Baldwins Hill and York Hill during the 1960s.

Treasurer Peter Wynn reported that a series of unusual items, including a dip in subscription revenue,  had combined to create a small deficit in the year’s accounts for the year ends 31 March 2016.  However subscription revenue looked more promising this year and had already exceeded last years’ figure.

He reported:

Income from subs last year was £373.00 and has been gradually declining over the last 3 or 4 years. However to date this year we have had subs payments from 80 residents amounting to £413.00 with a couple paying a supplementary donation and a couple paying the old amount of £4.00.

Expenditure for the year was rather more than usual due to various factors- an increase of 25% in cost of insurance,  rather more printing costs than in previous years, purchase of a printer for use of the planning representative to name a few.

We are very grateful and fortunate that the newsletters are produced free of charge by one of our residents, Marcus Warren of the OMM group. Without this assistance the newsletter would be a much less attractive production so thank you indeed Marcus.

The committee will be looking into ways of either reducing expenditure or generating more revenue to ensure continuity of the society.

In her address Councillor Jennings said:

 

What Does the Mayor Actually Do?

My name is Judy Jennings and I am the current Mayor of Loughton. I am a Loughton Town councillor and last May I was elected to be Mayor by the other members of the Town Council. I have been the Mayor for eight months and during that time I have carried out 68 engagements, not a bad record, but people have often asked me “but what does the Mayor actually do?” so I will try to give you a brief explanation of what goes on in a Mayor’s year.

My first role is to chair Council meetings. I make sure that all councillors are involved in the discussions and that they have an opportunity to speak and keep to the point (sometimes a challenging task). I have to ensure that the decisions taken by the council are lawful and effective.

I also represent the Council at official events such as those put on by the City of London, Epping Forest District Council, and other neighbouring local councils.

You may have seen me in all my finery at official functions in the town or spotted me shopping in the High Road or having a cup of coffee with a friend in one of our many cafes or bistros. What a contrast! I look quite different!

And no, there is no clothes allowance or official limo. It is lucky I like to walk!

As Town Mayor I have attended many local charitable events and also represent the Town Council at important ceremonies that the Town organizes for its residents.

Many Charities benefit from a visit by the Mayor enabling them to raise their profile in the community.

I have attended events organised by the St. Clare Hospice, Chigwell Riding Trust, Restore Centre, Abbeyfield Society, Loughton Voluntary Care and the Jack Petchey Awards.

The Town Council and the Loughton Residents Association Councillors make sure that they support the local community and in addition to their other duties they organise many important events where the Mayor takes a central role representing the Council.

This year’s events have included Remembrance Sunday, the Dedication of new names on the War Memorial and the Commemoration of the falling of the first bomb in the London Civil Defence Area, which was marked by the dedication of a lovely planter in The Drive.

These events mean so much to Loughton families and I am glad to be able to show my respect by attending and saying a few words at these moving ceremonies.

The Town Council also organizes a number of local competitions, such as Best Allotment, Best Christmas Card design, Best Christmas Window Display in a local Shop and these are great fun for the Mayor as I get to go around Loughton meeting people and finally helping to judge the winners and award the prizes.

In the Spring I lit a beacon for the Queen’s birthday on the 21st April and also dedicated a plaque in memory of Ruth Rendell, the author of the famous Inspector Wexford stories.

I am also busy making final preparations for the annual Civic Awards Service when we honour Loughton’s Citizen of the Year in a very unique ceremony with guests including the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, a soprano soloist, a Brass Band Ensemble, a children’s choir and of course our local citizens.

And so you see that the Town Mayor’s role is not just to cut silken ribbons and pat little babies on the head. I look forward to those things very much but it has not happened yet.

I chose The Lopping Hall and Loughton Voluntary Care as my Mayor’s charities and also raised funds for St. Clare’s Hospice. This was raised as part of Loughton Town Council’s Charity events that I attended.

I write my own speeches for the events that I attend. I prepare for Council meetings by liaising beforehand with the Town Clerk and making notes on what I am going to say.

I read the agendas carefully and note who might like to speak and make notes on any questions that might arise during the meetings.

I also read the briefing notes on the events that I am to attend so that I understand what the event is about and so that I know whom to to greet when I arrive and whom to thank when I leave.

I do like to prepare for each event carefully as I know what hard work goes into these events and how important it is to the organisers that these things run smoothly are enjoyed by everybody.

You have asked me about the role of HAS in relation to the Council

The HAS can play a vital role in the future of Loughton by contributing to the Local Plan.

The Town Council needs your contribution by perhaps a membership survey or by setting up a workshop to put forward what your vision for the future development of the area might be.

Members of HAS or their representative are welcome to attend Planning meetings and are able to speak at meetings for a maximum of three minutes providing they make sure they inform the Town Clerk before the agenda is set.

The Town Council would like to hear your views on the Local Plan

 

 

 

 

 

May 1 16

Juggernaut chaos goes on

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Despite some optimism that new signage may be working, sadly not in this case.  Writes resident Peter Wynn, who took the pictures: “More nonsense …….at York Hill/Queens Road/Staples Road junction last Tuesday morning (26/4).  Irish Reg on trailer, Dutch reg on tractor and Rumanian driver! Proper united nations”

Apr 6 16

As two big projects are refused Inspector overrules on Woodberrie: what does this mean?

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In recent weeks planning applications have cast their shadow over the green green Loughton Hills with a score of two refusals – and one landmark appeal which gave the go-ahead for development after some 46 years.

The first refusal at appeal was for the development of a 10 home housing estate on the site of Trevelyan House, Arewater Green, abutting the Loughton Potato Fields with access off the A121 opposite Englands Lane.

The second refusal, this time by the local authority, was for a new house on land to the rear of 25 Staples Road, rejected “by reason of the location, design, height and bulk of the proposed new house, the proposed dwelling would fail to complement or enhance the Staples Road Conservation Area or respect the street scene which consequently would be harmful to the character and appearance of the locality. The proposal is therefore contrary to Policy CP2, DBE1, HC6 and HC7 of the Adopted Local Plan and Alterations (which are consistent with policies contained within the National Planning Policy Framework).”  This application may yet go to appeal.

The shock was the overturning of 46 years of opposition by the local authority to the development of land adjoining Woodberrie, a landmark house on Woodbury Hill.  Hills Amenity Society was formed in 1972 following the development of five chalet-type houses on the corner site of Woodbury Hill and York Hill followed by an application for four properties on the site of Woodberrie, which occupies the next corner of Woodbury Hill and Kings Hill. A number of applications over the ensuing 40 years were successfully opposed by Hills Amenity Society, local residents, town and district councils.  A recent application was taken to appeal for a new house to the east of Woodberrie and this has been upheld by the Inspector giving the go-ahead for a new property.  Is this the end of the story – or just the start of a new chapter?  And what does it mean for the future of the Hills.

County Councillor Chris and Councillor Mrs. Caroline Pond assess where we are:

The Government is very pro-housing-growth, and successive ministers have tweaked the planning laws to favour development rather than the prevention of development. Conservation areas are still protected, but the likelihood still is that, whatever local councillors decide, a challenge may be mounted with the Planning Inspectorate, and that is ever more likely to be successful. Local planning officers may also be more inclined to recommend an application (say, for an additional house on a large plot or a massive extension) for approval, which means the job of those resisting it, whether resident/amenity groups or cllrs, is made more difficult.

Needless to say, if an application is approved, those who were against it have no right of appeal. This is an inherent unfairness in the system.

As far as the Hills’ three conservation areas are concerned, there are two main dangers. These are infilling of spare and side plots, and the development of the Green Belt parcels to the west of Woodbury Hill, those large gardens abutting the Forest. A third might be added, which is the planting of buildings of design unsympathetic to the genius loci (sense of place) of the area.

Infilling

The 2016 inspector’s decision to allow a new house approximately on the site of Woodberrie’s garage was an example of this. With Loughton land values established at £4 million an acre (by the sale of the RVHS tennis courts elsewhere in the town), the value of a side or corner plot is now immense. New houses tend to have pocket-handkerchief sized gardens because of this high land value, so that means the sense of spaciousness established by what 100 years ago were ordinary gardens of a sixth of an acre or more is compromised. The new house to be built next to Woodberrie was not of an offensive design, but it would arguably still detract both from the amenity of neighbours, by its relative proximity, and from the general pleasantness of the area. There is a current proposal to build in the CA in what was the rear garden of 25 Staples Rd. That was refused by an inspector once before; we shall have to see what happens to this application, which is without vehicular access, given the recent changes in planning law.

Land to the west of Woodbury Hill

The Government seem to be keen at present on additions to built up areas. The very large plots of houses on the west side of Woodbury Hill, from Woodbury Hollow to Dryads Hall inclusive, are in green belt. They were lands enclosed from the Forest in the early 19c, possibly illegally, and some are still heavily wooded. The reasons for maintaining land in Green Belt are established in planning law, and include “protecting the setting of historic towns” – but unfortunately not the setting of a conservation area. These lands are therefore vulnerable, and their loss would greatly affect the setting of the York Hill CA.

Buildings of unsympathetic design

Architects at present seem to be following a fashion for bizarre buildings. You can of course get more for your money by building a concrete and glass construction than by traditional methods, especially as bricklayers are a shortage trade. Because the Hills areas, with the exception of Staples Rd, are a real mixture of styles, it is difficult to resist a building on the grounds of incongruent style. Whilst one can accept that in every generation there may be a building of real merit and real novelty erected, the run of the mill modern building is likely to be an intrusion in the design of the Hills CAs, but it can be very difficult to convince the Conservation Officer and planning inspectors of that.

With the two new buildings added to Staples Rd school, the firms of architects concerned did try to adapt and reflect the styles of the CAs, with (eg) pitched roofs, polychrome brickwork, and diapered tile hanging. The 2015 building won the Loughton Design Award on the basis of being a modern variant on the traditional idiom. The fallback position is that conservation area status does not preclude new development, but it should always “conserve and enhance” the area.

The Hills have always been active on planning matters, and have a good reputation with EFDC. The price of conservation is eternal vigilance!