Waltham Abbey Town Partnership

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Minutes of Meeting held Tuesday January 12th. 2021

(This was a virtual meeting)

Present:  Cllr.H.Kane, Cllr.S.Kane, J.Law, R.Walters, D. Bensted, T.Gurnett, C.Simpson, T.O’Connor, C.Hammond, B. Elliott, D. Evans C. Sumner. C.Simpson M.Sheffield. V.Wood, H. Wilson, D.Jackman, D.Hodges, P.Clegg, S. Smith, S.Silver, C. Tarrier.

Apologies for absence. M Horton

Chair Paul Violet

Minutes taken by Paula Violet

Paul thanked everyone for attending and welcomed those for whom it was their first Town Partnership meeting. He gave the opportunity for new attendees to introduce themselves. Paul extended a special thank you to Cllr Helen Kane and Cllr Sam Kane for their attendance. He appreciated their attendance especially as they had been so unwell recently. 

Minutes of the December meeting were agreed. All Matters Arising are in hand.

Treasurer’s Report

The treasurer confirmed the Accounts will be submitted for auditing today.

There will be a charge for the auditing of accounts, bill to come.

Sub Committee Reports

Museum The Museum remains closed. The Wildlife exhibition has been postponed until 2022. The Cultural Festival will take place virtually from January28th until April 17th. 30 Groups have expressed an interest in taking part. The Museum has been awarded a £35k. grant from the Art Fund. It is planned to use this to develop an app for Primary and EYFS children. There is a project currently in place to relocate some of the Museum stored artefacts.

U3A Photographic group is still popular, with 30 entrants for the competitions. There is an exhibition being planned of wildlife in Waltham Abbey taken during lockdown.

Historical Society Members are kept in touch with a Newsletter and shared contact details 

are enabling members to be informed of activities in local areas.

Tourism A new interim Manager had been appointed at the Royal Gunpowder Mills, who is working on plans for re-opening.   

LVRPA  White Water has to close again. Rafting and the Terrace Bar and Café will not open until 2021.   Booking was starting for several events including 10K and Half Marathon runs starting in March.   A 2- day Music Festival is to be held on the Showground in August 2021.

The Christmas Lights had been well received by residents, although disappointment that the Cavalcade of Light and the Christmas Market could not take place.

Waltham Abbey Tapestry  –  several ladies are working on the backing pieces at home. The projected finish date of the end of 2020 was not met because of COVID-19.

King Harold Festival  –  it is hoped to have at least a ceremony at the Memorial in 2021.   

The ambulatory play “The Falcon’s Flight” is planned to be held on four days in April with afternoon and evening performances each day, and possible school visits on two of the mornings.   If this is not possible, then there will be a virtual production.

EFDC Tourism Development Manager  –  said visitor numbers to the Visit Epping Forest website were down.

Discount Voucher package planning is taking place. 

LVRP The refurbishment of the Midnight Chapel  and the Wheelhouse will resume as soon as possible.  A plastic shield is hoped to be put into the Midnight Chapel to prevent litter from being thrown in there. Parks are being well used but it is imperative that visitors adhere to COVID-19 regulations. It is still uncertain as to when venues can reopen.

Christmas Windows 

A report and pictures of the award of gifts to the three winners of the Christmas Windows Competition by the Mayor was submitted by Richard to the Guardian and Mercury. The email to Hannah Hastings, the Guardian reporter, bounced back (although she is still shown in the paper as the contact for this area!). It was then forwarded to Lewis Berrill, the Chief Reporter, but no reply was received, and nothing has appeared in the paper nor apparently on the website. Better luck with the Mercury, however – pictures and report appeared in the issue of 24th December. They also featured on In Your Area a couple of days before. This also showed the Town Partnership’s Christmas card, which sadly did not make it into the paper. Paul’s report failed to indicate that the three winners were ranked 1 to 3 so that Abbey Flower Designs, which was the winner, was unfortunately not pictured in the reports.

David Jackman offered to publicise events in “Everything Epping Forest” to centralise and co-ordinate the activities of the various groups in the Town. Paul suggested this could be an item on the next month’s Agenda.

Waltham Abbey Church

The Abbey Church is currently closed to the public except for funerals by arrangement with the Parish Office and with attendance limited to 30. The decision to close was made by the clergy and churchwardens, acting on advice from the Diocese of Chelmsford, when Epping Forest entered Tier 4. The closure will continue during the current lockdown, though subject to review as the situation develops. A rainbow flag flies from the church tower in gratitude for the work of the NHS and other key workers in supporting the community through the pandemic. The Sunday 10.30am Eucharist service is filmed in advance each week and streamed on the Services page of the Abbey Church website (www.walthamabbeychurch.co.uk), where it remains for the subsequent week. There are two Eucharist services by Zoom at 9am and 10.30am on Sunday morning hosted on behalf of the benefice by Upshire and High Beach churches and open to all to join.

EFDC Waltham Abbey Development Plan

Cllr. Sam Kane reported that the Council have been working hard on plans the need for which have been further highlighted due to the Coronavirus situation. Plans are being worked on for when we come out of lockdown, which will be mainly driven by the Vaccination of all “at risk” groups having received it by mid-February. All Town Centres in the District are being reviewed, but Waltham Abbey is the top priority followed by Ongar.

Paul Messenger compiled a report from the views of all stakeholders involved in every aspect of WA. This highlighted where the Town is now and where it needs to be. Cllr Kane asked Paul if he would distribute this report to the group?

EFDC have 3 Major decisions prioritised as Bronze , Silver & Gold,  funding for which has been taken from various sources. The Bronze category covers those initiatives that can be done immediately to make the Town more attractive. This has covered repairs of benches./ painting railings/ replacement of trees/ new gates for Market Square to prevent vehicle access. Within the budget is funding for two Town Centre Project Managers who will be employed to drive forward the recommendations. It is hoped applicants will come from people who have an understanding of Waltham Abbey. This will involve an effort to renovate and rejuvenate the High Street although 50% of retail is now online. The focus will be on Eating / Socialising and Community. To be successful there will need to be the co-operation and involvement of the whole Community. Cllr S.Kane set up a FB page aimed to gather ideas and aspirations from as many people as possible. He was encouraged by the range and number of ideas suggested and would welcome an interim meeting for these to be shared and discussed. Paul to arrange, with Cllr Kane, a meeting.

There has been a £1.5 million investment for the Town to develop a Community Hub with the Museum and Library combining to build a central focal point for the Town. It is envisaged that this will also encourage families into the Town.  It would be appreciated for the Museum to have a time when they can share the proposals to date.

Cllr Kane welcomed questions. Will the plans enhance Tourism? Yes, but a collaborative approach is needed to develop historical aspects of the Town, Church, and surrounding areas. Could Shop rates be reduced ? Private landlords own the shops not the Council, but the Rates could be used to lever the types of shops that can be opened. How can cars be kept from using the Town Square? This is an ongoing problem which needs stricter enforcement. This must be done before the new gates are sited. It was suggested that the enforcement needs to be ongoing to be effective.

Heritage Trail group have been working on signage and information boards for some time. Will the planned signage overlap this initiative? The signage considered is around information such as No Cycling / No Parking / Pedestrianised area. 

S.Silver commented he felt there should be some aspect of Entertainment / Theatre in the plans. He would be willing to support this.

AOB

J. Law has submitted a document that clearly states the Market Square must be clear of vehicles except for loading / unloading. As discussed above this will need some form of strict enforcement.

The Wool Show is to be held virtually this Sunday January 17th. Access to it will be on 

www. walthamabbeywoolshow.co.uk

Paul thanked Cllr Kane for his time and valuable input this morning. He also thanked everyone for their attendance at what he hoped they felt had been a useful and informative meeting.

Date of next meeting   Tuesday February 9th. 9.30am.