Epping Forest District Council has voted through plans to start building on projects led by Qualis earlier than originally planned to help offset the financial impacts of Covid-19.

The council-owned development company – Qualis – has brought forward construction on five large projects as the council looks to aggressively tackle the post-coronavirus economic climate proactively.

At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Cllr John Philip, finance and economic development portfolio holder, said: “We do not have enough money to do everything that we would like to do. We may not even have sufficient amounts to do everything we ought to do.

“So we need to focus our efforts particularly on those things that we think will give the most benefit to our district and to our residents.”

Read more on the council's plans to rely on Qualis profits to recoup coronavirus losses

The Epping and St Johns development – which would see construction of a 25m swimming pool, gym, cinema, retail park, and up to 70 apartments – will be ‘accelerated’.

Epping Forest Guardian:

An artists impression of The Epping and St Johns project. Photos: EFDC/Qualis 

Unlike other proposals, a fast-tracked-date for completion was not established.

Council officials estimate an initially investment of £85 million for the scheme will see returns of 12 – 15 per cent and trickle-down profits in business rates, council tax increase Increased visitor spending.

Qualis’ estimated £60m investment to develop North Weald Airfield with business and engineering units has seen its completion date brought forward to March 2023 – a year earlier than originally planned.

The company is also hoping to address the current under-investment in Waltham Abbey in terms of housing, employment and retail including hospitality with an estimated £60m of investment fast-tracked two years to be completed in March 2023.

Epping Forest District Council has failed to rule out raising council tax as a result of coronavirus - read more

Proposals to reinvigorate Ongar town centre and its leisure centre have also been fast-tracked two years. The estimated £60m scheme is now expected to be delivered in March 2024.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Ongar Leiure Centre has long been under consideration for improvements

An estimated £25m project to improve housing, retail and hospitality in Loughton High Street and Centric Parade is now expected to be deliver in March 2021.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Centric Parade, Loughton, has been identified as a site for investment. Photo: Google Maps

A £1m scheme to convert Epping High Street spaces into offices and reduce the need to commute into London will have a full proposal published in August of this year.

Similarly, a £300k plan provide travel options for the district’s villages and towns off the Central underground line will have a proposal published in August; council officials are targeting return of six per cent on the initial investment.

To help achieve these expedited aims, the council will second a strategic director to Qualis as managing director to “save on recruitment costs but also provide a person with a wide knowledge of the company, able to start work immediately and hit the ground running”, a council spokesperson said.

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