Building a new leisure centre and retail park in Epping will be vital to the economy’s post coronavirus recovery, the council leader has said.

Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) leader, Cllr Chris Whitbread, believes developments such as the building of a new leisure centre and retail park in St John’s Road, Epping, will be “fundamental to driving forward the district over the coming years”.

Plans at St John’s Road include a 25m swimming pool, gym and sports hall, a cinema, a 2,500 square foot retail park, a residential area of up to 70 apartments and a public realm area.

Cllr Whitbread made the remarks at last night’s (June 1) virtual council meeting as EFDC assessed the financial impacts of Covid-19.

He said: “We have never seen anything like the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis in our lifetime.

“Recovery is one of the most important things this council is going to be doing in the years ahead and we want to be on the side of local businesses, the high street, and encouraging jobs and opportunity within the district.”

The council is currently losing over £900,000 a month in revenue with business rates, council tax, leisure income and car parking income all suffering.

Some costs are offset by government grants, however EFDC is forecasting a loss of income amounting to £6m by the end of the year.

Cllr John Philip, emphasized the council must focus on delivering “as good an economic climate” as possible.

However, he conceded the financial realities imposed by coronavirus meant there would be less funding available.

He said: “We will not be able to do everything that we would like to do, there just will not be enough money to do that. We are going to have to make some decisions some of which will be quite difficult going forward.”

The reopening of Epping town market on Monday, June 1 – with fewer stalls and social distancing measure sin place – was hailed by Cllr Nigel Avey as “he first small step to the recovery of the local economy in Epping town.”

He added: “The market, albeit in a much smaller size, was successful and there were no real issues with crowding. People were using their common sense and keeping distances. I think it was rather successful.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

For more breaking news, local headlines and features, ‘like’ our Facebook page.

We also have a Twitter account: @EppingFGuardian

Follow us to keep up-to-date with news in Epping Forest.