The leader of the council has made his case for building new offices out of town.

In the days after proposals were made public to relocate all but 40 of Epping Forest District Council's staff to a new building in North Weald Airfield, leader Chris Whitbread explained some of the reasoning behind the proposals.

The council has plans to harness technology to improve its customer service, he explained.

"Much of the technology now available to us was unheard of when the Civic Offices were built 30 years ago," Cllr Whitbread said.

"Staff who used to bring hand-written notes back from off-site meetings can now complete reports and work tickets on-site and in real-time without having to come back to the office at all.

"Similarly, residents who used to come to the council to pay their rent or rates in cash, now pay by direct debit.

"Almost everyone now has a phone and even that is increasingly being replaced by online access to services via our website – available all day and all night 365 days a year."

The changes would see a centralised, technology driven customer contact centre deal with routine enquiries, allowing technical staff to focus on their specialities.

Cllr Whitbread continued: "Computer systems are also helping us to automate many more of our processes, meaning we can invest our time and people more productively. At the same time we still need to be accessible through more traditional methods.

"Epping will remain open for face to face services to those, such as older residents and people with less IT skills who still value the human touch."

While the Lib Dems and LRA were less than impressed with the proposals, Cllr Whitbread said they represented the council's proactive and positive approach.

He added: "We are also thinking more strategically about Epping.

"Changes to the Civic Offices and the development of housing on the rear of the site are being coordinated with the exciting new plans for St Johns Road and the eventual replacement of the old sports centre in Hemnall Street.

"We are bringing millions of pounds of economic investment to the town as well as taking substantial steps towards meeting the housing needs identified in the draft Local Plan."