Previous councillors fought hard to introduce a free yellow bus service to Chigwell, we must fight to retain their legacy!
Dear Chigwell neighbours,
I write to you to make you all aware of the potential loss of our community bus in Chigwell Row, if more of us do not take action.
The service started in September 2018 after councillors agreed to push through plans for the two bus service while still awaiting £800,000 from a section 106 agreement (legal agreements between local authorities and developers to pay towards community infrastructure) with Chigwell Primary Academy (CPA).
The bus service was meant to be funded by several S106 agreements but after CPA's planning application was refused, to meet deadlines for the S106 obligation parish councillors agreed to subsidise the service through their General Reserve.
To cut a long story short a new planning application was submitted by CPA who again agreed to the £800,000 commitment. But Epping Forest District Council (EFDC)has sat on the Parish approved application which should have been ratified within a matter of weeks without any reason simply stating 'We are in negotiations'.
It is believed this delay is based on a desire to force the Parish Councillors to end the free bus service. Parish councillors have been forced into a decision to conclude their agreement with community transport charity, Epping Forest Community Transport (EFCT) to stop the hemorrhaging of their General Reserve at just over £6000 a month.
EFCT have continued using the buses during the COVID-19 lockdown as a dial-a-ride service and have also restarted the service since 5th September to help the community. They will not be paid for this period. However, from October 5th the service will operate as a Demand Responsive Transport service and will charge user £4.20 one way and £6 return for adults and a more favourable £1.50 one way and £2 return cost for children. Former Councillors were very in favour of making sure the service became free after a transitional free period while waiting for the £800,000 from S106.
Here is the tricky bit some of the current councillors do not want to continue the yellow bus service and have even stated the bus is not being used, despite very substantial evidence to the contrary. Some of the councillors sit on both the Parish and District Council and are deliberately allowing allegiance to their paid role over local priorities.
Worse still Epping Forest District Council can refuse transfer of the S106 agreement based on the fact that the original application has been changed and may use it for affordable housing priorities, such as social housing on the Grange Farm site which is a listed priority on their Local Plan. By delaying the ratification of CPAs Parish approved planning application they are placing us in a position where usage of a former free service may drop making the service financially viable. Or if it can be proven that a pay-for service can survive without the funding they may refuse on these grounds. So we are damned if we do or damned of we don't. This is the most flagrant case of politicking I have ever seen.
Chigwell people need to stand up to this, here is why:
1. If we lose the £800,000 agreement that money becomes Epping Forest District Council's and not ours. We lose a free bus service they can use the funds for their purposes which will include social housing in our community.
2. The bus provides the only public transport that links Chigwell Row to the rest of Essex. Every other service leads to London.
3. I have evidence from private communications that the bus is used by young children, the elderly and the disabled (our most vulnerable of communities) loss of the service hits the most needy who we need to protect.
4. The identified development of Grange Farm and potentially further development of Limes Farm, cannot be sanctioned if we do not have any community infrastructure. Therefore this bus service must be retained and other progress made to make this viable.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to expedite the Chigwell Primary Academy Planning application EPF/1681/19
Please email your councillors and ask them to support the free yellow bus and to be unswerving in their commitment to obtain £800,000 agreement.
Given that it was supposed to run for 10 years on the money already allocated, it is unacceptable to cancel it.
Chigwell Row is an isolated part of Chigwell and without better transport for members of it's community, it will be difficult for it's residents to do anything without using a car.
In today's environmental climate, that is not acceptable.
Better regular timetabling and better advertising/availability of the timetable would be a huge help.
Thank you for raising this issue, which is close to my heart. I do hope some awareness of it's part in the community is raised."
We petition Chigwell Parish Council to terminate any plans to alter the existing yellow bus route without a proper consultation with the community, unless designed by Epping Forest Community Transport.
We demand that Epping Forest Council expedite the planning application for Chigwell Primary Academy ensuring £800,000 is given to Chigwell parish council towards the Yellow Bus Service.
We seek assurances from Chigwell Parish Councillors that they will do all they can to regain the £800,000 originally earmarked for the yellow buses via the S106 agreement for Chigwell Primary Academy School, signed in August 2019.
We call for an ensure plans to charge for the service till CRRA remain a temporary measure till S106 funds are secured to fund the bus as per the original vision.
We demand a reversion of the service to a fixed route and schedule once the funding is received. Any alteration of the chedule to make the service more useful to local people, must be approved via local residents association and Parish Council working with Epping Forest Community Transport (EFCT).
We call on Epping Forest District Council to review how this yellow bus service relates to both necessary transport infrastructure and Climate change Policy within their Local Development plan.
We call for Essex Council to ensure that Freedom Pass subsidies and School travel entitlement agreements are set with the current yellow bus service, to ensure that the most needy continue to receive a free service.
The Stop changes to yellow bus service in Chigwell petition to Chigwell Parish Council was written by Wilson Chowdhry and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.