Coronavirus (COVID-19)

See our dedicated coronavirus webpage for changes and updates to our services, how to get help in your community and support and advice for businesses.

All coronavirus information
Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Service changes and updates

Changes to the delivery of our services during the coronavirus pandemic

As a result of government instructions to stay at home, we have changed the way we deliver our services. We will be updating this page and our social media channels if there are any changes to our services as soon as possible.

As you can imagine we are currently experiencing a high volume of calls. We know this is a hard time for our residents, businesses and communities, and we are working as quickly as we can to disseminate information as and when it is available.

Benefits

Struggling with paying your rent

You can apply for Universal Credit for income support. You can find out more information and how to apply via our website. Please note we only wish to receive information electronically.

You can also find more information from The Department for Work and Pensions about Coronavirus and claiming benefits on their website. 


Sharing information electronically

Due to the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) we only wish to receive information electronically. Therefore you will be unable to come to our offices to hand this information in person.


New benefit claimants

New benefit claimants for help with housing costs: if you want to make a new claim for Housing Benefit you will have to claim Universal Credit using GOV.UK Universal Credit services


Revised Local Housing Allowance Rates 2020-2021

The Local Housing Allowance determines the maximum amount of rent payable to private sector tenants through Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit. Enhanced financial support is being provided to claimants by increasing the maximum amount of weekly help they can receive towards their rent from 1st April 2020.

Find out more information on our benefits page.

Bins and Recycling

Garden waste collections to resume on a four-weekly cycle

Published 11th May 2020

Braintree District Council is partially reinstating the garden waste collection service, initially on a four-weekly cycle and is due to restart on Monday 18 May.

If you have received your postcard and reference code, you can view your next garden waste collection dates via this link.

During the coronavirus outbreak, the Council has been following the government guidance to protect both the public and bin crews working on the front line. This meant that the garden waste collection service had to be suspended and staff redeployed to ensure priority collections could continue while enabling the crews to work in line with social distancing measures and stay safe.

We have kept this situation under review and with current resources and vehicles, we will soon be able to deliver a four-weekly garden collection to households. This will enable our staff to maintain social distancing whilst still providing a service to customers.

Residents will be notified by a postcard to advise them of their first collection date over the next couple of weeks. Subsequent collections will be four-weekly thereafter on a recycling week, so residents’ collection days will not change (with the exception of bank holiday changes). Collections of grey bins/black sacks, food bins and recycling sacks remain unchanged.

Please avoid ringing us to check your collection date before you have received your postcard, as our phone lines are very busy at the moment and we are trying to keep them available for residents who do not have access to the internet.

Residents are advised to disinfect bin handles and to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds each time the bin is put out and taken back in.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the service suspension and would like to thank residents for bearing with us during this difficult time. We will continue to keep the service under review and adapt in accordance with our government’s guidance.

For further updates to the Garden Waste Collection Service, please continue to check this web page and look out for further announcements on our social media channels and printed on our Council Page in the Braintree & Witham Times and Halstead Gazette.


Clothing/textile recycling banks

All our textile banks will not be emptied until further notice.

We have received notice from LMB, our textile recycling bank contractor that they have closed their operations due to a decrease in market value, and textile banks will not be emptied. 

Please store your unwanted clothing and textiles at home. We will keep residents updated when the banks re-open. 

Please do not attempt to use the banks or leave any unwanted items next to them or bags on the floor as this is classed as illegal fly-tipping, meaning items will not be recycled or reused and adds further pressure to our waste teams.

We are still continuing to collect glass bottles and jars from recycling banks and have even increased our collections, but if you do notice the bin is full, please help us by not leaving them on the ground and take home until your next visit.


Recycling Sacks

To help us manage this service, please only request additional clear sacks if you do not have enough to last you until your next collection date. We have plenty of stock and will get deliveries out to households within 10 working days.

The annual delivery of recycling sacks is due to commence in June. In the meantime if you need more sacks please fill out our online form.


Bulky Waste Collection Service – service will resume

We are pleased to announce that we are now in a position to reinstate the bulky waste collection service as from the week commencing Monday 1 June.

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we had to temporarily suspend the service in March, in order to follow the government guidance. Staff resources were redeployed to concentrate on the delivery of the critical waste services, being the collections of grey and food bins, recycling sacks, communal bins in flats and the local recycling bring bank sites. We now have more staff available and able to reinstate the service.

For more information, please visit our Bulky Waste Collection page.

To book a Bulky Waste Collection, please contact our Customer Service Team on 01376 552525.


Recycling centres

Recycling Centres for Household Waste

Braintree and Witham Recycling Centres for Household Waste are now open. Visiting these sites is only essential where there is no alternative available.

Please expect long queues and delays. For amended opening hours and site restrictions, please visit the Love Essex website.


How to dispose of waste if you are self-isolating or have Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you are self-isolating, either as a precaution or because you are confirmed to have Coronavirus (COVID-19), you should follow this advice:

  • Double bag all personal waste such as used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths, securely in plastic bags or bin liners
  • Store these bags separately to other waste for at least 72 hours before placing in your general rubbish collection
  • Regular household recycling and waste should be treated as normal. Please note that you cannot place tissues in your recycling.

For more information on the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on recycling and waste visit the Love Essex website.


Social distancing measures

In order to follow the government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance regarding social distancing, we have introduced new measures to help support and protect our recycling and waste collection crews.

The typical number needed for a collection crew that is assigned to a vehicle is usually three, however, this number has been reduced to a maximum of two in a vehicle at any one time. The third crew member will join the collection vehicle using a separate, smaller council vehicle or in some cases, two collection vehicles will be used at the same time.

Bonfires and the burning of garden waste

Please do not burn your garden waste

Updated Tuesday 26th May 2020

The Essex County Council’s Recycling Centres have reopened and our garden waste collection service has resumed on a four-weekly cycle, so there is no real need for garden bonfires.

In view of the health implications linked to Coronavirus (COVID-19) (respiratory condition), we are asking residents NOT TO BURN their garden waste, or any other waste.

Smoke from bonfires is anti-social and can cause problems for neighbours and we will continue to investigate any complaints we receive and will take formal action where appropriate. The surrounding local air quality can be affected by increased burning and problems may arise for people such as those with asthma, other breathing-related illnesses and children (who are particularly vulnerable to air pollutants).

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service are also requesting that you do not burn waste as there has been a 100% increase in call-outs mostly caused by fires which have got out of control.

Please home compost your waste or store it in your garden until collections are resumed. Visit the Love Essex website to find out how to make great compost and for other useful tips. Please do not fly-tip any waste as this is an offence and offenders will be prosecuted.

For bonfire help and advice, visit our bonfires webpage.

Car parks

Free parking for NHS and key workers

In the face of this global pandemic, it’s essential that NHS staff and critical key workers are able to carry out their vital work without worrying about paying for car parking.

Working in partnership with the North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP), a digital permit will allow NHS and key workers to park in Braintree District Council’s Pay & Display car parks free of charge. Permits will be valid until 30 September 2020 and will be reviewed regularly taking into consideration any national guidance.

Applying for a free permit

Any NHS staff and critical key workers may apply for this permit. For more details and to find out how to apply, please visit the North Essex Parking Partnership website.

Whilst many councils are suspending parking charges for key workers as part of the national effort to tackle coronavirus, please note that we will continue to carry out crucial parking enforcement locally to ensure the public are kept safe and that the roads remain clear for emergency vehicles and essential services.

For more information about car parking, applying for permits and how NEPP is responding to the coronavirus pandemic, please visit: http://www1.parkingpartnership.org/north/

George Yard Multi Storey Car Park

Closure of upper floors and lifts: In the interest of public safety, we have decided to close access to the upper floors of this car park and so the lifts will not be available to use.

All our other car parks are open as usual. Halstead Town Council manages the car parks in Halstead and is also offering free car parking for NHS and Key Workers. For more information, visit https://www.halsteadtowncouncil.org.uk/

Closure of council buildings

Following Government advice to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have decided to close all Braintree District Council public buildings to the public from Monday 23rd March 2020 until further notice. This applies to:

Whilst public buildings are being closed to the public, our other services are continuing to run as normal. For changes to our services, please keep updated via our website and social media channels.

Braintree Town Hall

Following the Government’s announcement on the 23rd March regarding gatherings of more than two people are not permitted, the Town Hall and Registration Service are now unable to support any wedding, civil partnership at this time.

Those with ceremonies booked at the Town Hall and needing assistance please email [email protected], please do not call the Town Hall. A member of the Team will be in touch.

Closure of cemetery chapels

All three of our chapels (Braintree, Bocking and Witham) are now closed for services until further notice in line with the government guidance on social distancing. Our cemeteries do remain open.

The Cemeteries team are happy to offer a memorial service for the deceased at a later date, if required, for family and friends. You can contact the team at [email protected] for queries.

We will continue to offer graveside services and committals, in line with the guidance on social distancing, so following guidance from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICMM), we will be asking only close family to attend. This does not include Ministers, Conductors and Bearers.

Following government guidance on social distancing to minimise public contact with families and our staff, we are only offering ‘Next in Line’ graves for upcoming burials. This means we are unable to meet families on site to choose a grave location and they will be offered our next numerical grave space.

How to contact us

If you need to contact us, you can access our services online or email our Customer Service Centre at [email protected].

We will be reviewing these closures regularly and will look to reopen them as soon as possible depending on Government guidelines regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we will of course keep you updated.
 

Alternative arrangements are in place for usual drop in visitors to Causeway House who need assistance with services:

  • As usual, anyone who does not have access to the internet or would like assistance with filling in housing applications online, can contact our Housing team by emailing [email protected] or for those that do not have internet access, they can call 01376 552525
  • For those customers who are already receiving Housing Benefit, if you have had a change in your financial circumstances, please contact the Benefits team via email [email protected] or telephone 01376 557852, or send in your evidence via email or post
     
  • For licensing applications, most can be submitted electronically at www.braintree.gov.uk/licensing. Where this is not possible applicants should contact the Licensing team on 01376 557790 to make specific arrangements.
     
  • For people who may wish to drop off documents or payments i.e. planning applications or council tax payments by cheque to the Council offices, there is still the opportunity to post these through our letterbox which will be regularly collected.

Closure of leisure centres

Following the Government directive to closure all leisure facilities, Fusion have now closed all four of our leisure centres until further notice.

The following centres this applies to are:

  • Braintree Swimming & Fitness
  • Braintree Sport & Health Club
  • Halstead Leisure Centre
  • Witham Leisure Centre & Witham Sports Ground

Keep updated with the latest news via Fusion’s website and social media channels.

Committee and panel meetings

Braintree District Council will hold its first virtual public meeting on Tuesday, 12th May.

The government has temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic, and have brought in regulations that allow local authorities to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology.

Virtual meetings will enable councils to make effective and transparent decisions to ensure that local democracy can continue during the pandemic. Virtual meetings will ensure that councillors, staff and the wider public are able to follow government advice by staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives while being able to participate in the meetings.

The first virtual meeting will be a meeting of the Planning Committee on Tuesday, 12th May at 7:15 pm.

If the public wish to participate in any meetings, guidance can be found online.

Members of the public will be able to view and listen to the virtual meetings live via YouTube.

Other meetings of the council will take place virtually and more information will be available shortly. If you have any enquires, please contact our Governance and Members Team by emailing [email protected]

Council Tax

We understand the unprecedented situation we are in is a worrying time for residents and businesses. We are committed to doing everything we can to support you all through this period. Like everyone else the council itself is facing an impact on its finances meaning we cannot currently provide reductions or so-called holiday from the council tax. If we receive additional Government funding to do so we will pass this on.

We collect Council Tax on behalf of Essex County Council, Essex Police and Essex Fire and Rescue Service, along with all of the parish councils across the district. These organisations are all providing a vital role in keeping critical services running, keeping you safe and looking after our most vulnerable people. Only 10p in every pound comes to Braintree District Council.

If you are experiencing financial problems as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) there are some options open to you:

  • If your household is on a low income, your Council Tax bill could be reduced through the Local Council Tax Support (LCTS). You can see if you are eligible for this and get more information on the range of support available on our apply for council tax webpage (Please do not apply if you have savings of over £16,000)

  • If you are eligible for Local Council Tax Support, you may also be entitled to further assistance under the recently announced Hardship Fund set up by Central Government. We are awaiting further details on this so please bear with us.

  • To help reduce your monthly payments you might prefer to pay your bill over 12 months as opposed to over 10 months. If you would like to do this please call 01376 557755

  • Universal Credit can help you with your living costs if you’re on low income or out of work. Find out if you can apply on the GOV.UK website.

  • If you still need have a question which isn’t answered above please contact our council tax team by email at [email protected]. Our council tax team is receiving a high number of calls as a result of COVID-19 so please bear with us. We deal with emails in date order and we will contact you as soon as we can.

Environmental Health

Allotments

Our allotments have remained open for tenants to visit as part of their daily exercise however, we would ask you to visit for as shorter time as possible and observe the following:

You should:

  • follow government guidelines for handwashing, social distancing and avoid any non-essential travel.
  • use hand sanitiser before opening and closing any gate locks
  • keep hand sanitiser in your shed and clean your hands regularly

You should not:

  • use water troughs for washing hands
  • share tools or produce
  • offer each other cups of tea or coffee
  • use allotments for social gatherings
  • do not light bonfires

Enforcement of business closures

The government has announced new regulations that certain businesses and premises must now close until further notice.

These closures are now enforceable by law due to the threat to public health. Any business operating in contravention of the new regulations will be committing an offence.

You can report incidents of businesses breaching the regulations in our district by calling 01376 552525 during normal office hours, report via email or complete our online form.

There is also an out of hours service on Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm–2am which will deal with calls relating to businesses operating against the coronavirus regulations, but will also respond to noise complaints.


Food Hygiene and Health & Safety

Following Government advice we have restricted our food hygiene visits at the current time. Anyone wishing to start up a food business at this time must register and contact the department to discuss how they intend to operate and what they wish to sell. Please contact the Food Safety Team at [email protected] or call 01376 557790.

For the latest Coronavirus information for food businesses, please visit our dedicated webpage.


Pest control

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, we have made some changes to our pest control service. We are still operating external treatments within your property boundary, however, we have suspended all pest control visits that involve entering a resident’s home.

Contract work is continuing where social distancing, suitable protective clothing and equipment, and good hygiene is being practised in order to carry out the treatment as safely as possible. Where treatment is still in progress, we will re-schedule visits to your home as soon as we are able.

You can still book an appointment for external pest issues in the same way via our Customer Services on 01376 552525.

If you would like some advice on any pest matter, you can contact the team directly at [email protected]

Handyman service

This service has been suspended for 3 months to maintain social distancing with elderly and vulnerable residents following Government guidance. Existing appointments will still take place.

Housing

Housing Enquiries

The Housing Team is responding to housing enquiries as usual but we are very busy and it may take us longer than normal to respond: please bear with us.

Risk of Homelessness

If you think you are at risk of homelessness, please contact the Housing Options Team as soon as possible. It would help us if you could complete this form:- Housing Enquiry/Referral Form 

If your enquiry is urgent or you are unable to complete the form please phone:- 01376 552525 and ask for the Housing Options Team.

Rough Sleeping - If you are concerned that someone may be rough sleeping please report it via Streetlink as soon as possible.

The Housing Register - If you want to apply for housing please refer to the Gateway to Homechoice website where you can complete an application online

If you need help completing the application please phone 01376 552525 and ask to speak with a member of staff in the Housing Assessment Team.

Please note that at this time the partner organisations in Gateway to Homechoice have reluctantly decided to suspend the advertising and allocation of properties through Gateway to Homechoice. The website explains in detail why this decision has had to be taken at this time.

Licensing

Following Government guidance to ensure social distancing, we have stopped our proactive licensing visits until further notice.

Special Treatments (tattooing, ear piercing, body piercing, micro pigmentation, acupuncture, electrolysis, semi-permanent skin colouring) should not be carried out at this time and no new applications will be accepted until further notice.

We will be responding to any enquiries by phone or email. You can contact Licensing by emailing [email protected] or call 01376 557790.

Whilst our offices are shut, special arrangements are in place for driver and vehicle renewals. Please contact a member of the licensing team for further information.


]

Vehicle and driver licences

We are increasing the term of all vehicle and driver licences that are due to expire between 1st April 2020 and 30th June 2020 by a period of 6 months.

In the event where a vehicle licence has been surrendered or not re-licenced since the introduction of the government’s current lockdown measures and the 30th June 2020, we will relax the requirement that places an age limit on vehicles as follows:

  • Private hire vehicles and hackney carriages to be no more than 5 years old at first registration
  • Wheelchair accessible vehicles of any type to be no more than 8 years old at first registration

This relaxation will only apply to vehicles that were already licensed by us before the lockdown procedures were introduced.


Temporary Events Notices

Where an event has been cancelled due to COVID-19, we will accept a Temporary Events Notice for a future date without further charge.

We are sending letters out to those affected.

If you have any questions relating to the above, please get in touch with our Licensing team by emailing [email protected]

Markets

Traditional Market

The weekly markets will reopen to traders in a phased approach, following the recent government announcement about re-opening outdoor markets.

  • Witham from Saturday 6th June
  • Braintree from Wednesday 10th June

We are working with traders on the preparations needed to work safely and measures they need to follow to keep customers safe. This includes making changes to the stalls layout, hygiene facilities and signage to remind customers how to stay safe when waiting to be served, including:

  • Keeping 2m apart when queuing and shopping
  • Washing hands regularly and thoroughly once home
  • Browse but please do not touch items on the stalls until you are purchasing
  •  

    Traders will be invited back to the market in a phased approach, to ensure adequate space for customers and the traders to shop and browse safely.

    We are doing what we can to make the town centre safe for people to visit, however it is still people’s responsibility to be sensible and safe and keep following the government guidance.


    Street markets

    The street markets scheduled for Braintree and Witham are still cancelled until further notice, due to difficulties ensuring that social distancing guidelines are maintained to protect shoppers and traders.

    We are keeping this under review and will update residents and traders updated when we are able to re-introduce them.

Planning

Due to the ongoing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the measures announced by the government on 23rd March, we have had to make a number of changes to our planning service:


Pre-Application advice

The Planning team will continue to offer a pre-application service. We have had to make some changes to the methods and range of advice we are able to offer at the current time.  Full details of the changes can be found on our Planning advice webpage


Applications

We are unable to commence public consultation on certain applications received from 24th March 2020 i.e. send notification letters to neighbouring properties, display a site notice(s) or advertising in the press (if applicable). This is also relevant to a small number of applications received prior to this date. We will be keeping this situation under regular review  however, due to the above, there will likely be a delay in determining certain applications. The Planning Officer will keep applicants and agents updated.

People will be given the full statutory time period to consider applications and submit any representations or comments. Applications will be held in abeyance until such time as the public consultation on the application can commence.

People are able to comment on applications prior to public consultation. Any comments should be made online via our website. In order to comment, you will need to complete a short registration process. Once registered you will be able to make your comments as well as tracking the application until this has been determined. Download our Public access user guide for further guidance.

Where public consultation has already been undertaken on an application, we will continue to issue decisions on applications where possible. 

Post

People can post us through our Causeway House letterbox, which will be regularly collected. However, you can also e-mail any correspondence to [email protected] or if you are submitting representations on a planning application please use our public access website.

Street Naming & Numbering applications

We are currently unable to complete site visits and display site notices at this time. Once the nationwide shielding and social distancing restrictions have been lifted, the display of site notices will start as soon as possible. All other work that can be completed remotely will continue, including the processing of card payments. Royal Mail have not indicated any delay to issuing postcodes at this time but this is subject to change. Please contact the Street Naming & Numbering department for further information ([email protected])


Duty Planning Officer arrangements

Due to the ongoing public health situation with regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19) we have had to revise the arrangements for our Tuesday and Thursday mornings Duty Planner Service.

Going forward customers will need to e-mail [email protected] with some brief details of their enquiry and details of name, address and a contact telephone number.  A Planning Officer will then ring you within the allotted times (09:30 to 11:30) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Digital Planning Meetings

Braintree District Council will hold its first virtual public meeting on Tuesday, 12th May.

The government has temporarily removed the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic, and have brought in regulations that allow local authorities to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology.

Virtual meetings will enable councils to make effective and transparent decisions to ensure that local democracy can continue during the pandemic. Virtual meetings will ensure that councillors, staff and the wider public are able to follow government advice by staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives while being able to participate in the meetings.

The first virtual meeting will be a meeting of the Planning Committee on Tuesday, 12th May at 7:15 pm.

If the public wish to participate in any meetings, guidance can be found online.

Members of the public will be able to view and listen to the virtual meetings live via YouTube.

Other meetings of the council will take place virtually and more information will be available shortly. If you have any enquires, please contact our Governance and Members Team by emailing [email protected]

Play areas and public spaces

All our play areas and outdoor gyms are closed until further notice to maintain social distancing and to help limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This closure includes all play areas and outdoor gyms owned and maintained by us.

Signage will be up in all play parks to make people aware of these closures.

We are keeping our public spaces open at the moment, to give people space to walk, exercise once a day, and to help their mental wellbeing. If you visit one of our public spaces, please do follow the Government’s social distancing guidance.

We will update you when they are open again.

If you have concerns about people congregating, please call the local police on 101 who have been given temporary powers to disperse people in any public areas.


Dog walking and owner’s advice

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.

However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day and you should combine this with walking your dog.

Please use the following guidelines in order to stay safe:

  • stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily
  • when you are walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should keep your dog on a lead to ensure you can safely remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household, in keeping with the social distancing measures
  • In doing so, it is important that you minimise the time spent outside of the home.

You can find further guidance for pet owners via the GOV.UK website.

There’s also guidance on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others.

Public toilets

Page updated 29th May 2020

As of Monday 1st June, the single cubical public conveniences in Witham located in Lockram Lane and Maldon Road will be re-opening with arrangements in place to undertake extra cleaning throughout each day. Please note that the urinals at Lockram Lane will remain closed due to not being able to introduce social distancing measures.

Schools and libraries

We are not responsible for schools or education, as this comes under the remit of Essex County Council. They have also closed all libraries for a period of up to three months in response to the coronavirus situation. The closure took place on (Friday 20 March). Keep updated with the latest information via their website. 

Stay updated

To be kept updated with the latest information, please keep an eye on these webpages. If your enquiry isn’t already covered, we would encourage you to contact us using our online forms or email us at [email protected].