A Tale of Two Villages

December 21, 2009 by  

Cheer up, you guys run the country..Whilst the title of this article is an opportunistic pun on the Dickens’  Classic, Tale of Two Cities,  the story here in Rochford could be a tragedy of epic proportions for two villages in Rochford District if Government Planning Inspectors allow the two appeals in Stambridge and Hawkwell. 

Also at risk is the whole strategic housing and development plan (Core Strategy) which is being put forward by Rochford District Council to another Planning Inspector the same time.

So why are two big developers challenging RDC through planning applications rather than the Core Strategy Consultation and Public Examination?

 Both developers have something to lose.

And so has Rochford District Council if an Appeal is allowed and an application for costs upheld.  These could run to 10’s of thousands if not much, much more and the Council Tax we all pay either goes up or services are cut.

At Coombes Farm in Rochford/Stambridge the preferred Location in the Core Strategy does not appear to even include that site.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 326 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.  

In Hawkwell the Christmas Tree Farm site could be chosen in the preferred Location called South Hawkwell but RDC only want to see 175 dwellings.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 155 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.

A total of nearly 500 extra houses. And Stambridge would merge with Rochford and Hawkwell with Hockley and Ashingdon.

You would hope, wouldn’t you that the Government would not allow developers to confound a democratic process of agreement of a Core Strategy by allowing developers to get round the system.  The Government should not and it could stop this nonsense if only it were to appoint the same Planning Inspector who is to examine the Core Strategy to also decide on these two planning appeals and hold the Planning Appeals to coincide with the Core Strategy Examination in Public. Will this happen?  Not unless enough residents write personally to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and get the public support of David Cameron and appeal for common sense.

If common sense does not prevail then all that is in prospect if these planning applications are approved at Appeal is another run of planning applications from developers deciding where they want to build not where RDC determines.

The Rochford District Council Core Strategy would be effectively in tatters because all this could happen and be decided before a General Election tipped for May/June. Even though the Conservative Party, if returned to Government, promises to repeal all of the housing targets then this would mean nothing.  So if refused planning applications were already approved in Appeal these could not be stopped. And there might be others with a “Leave to Appeal” which might also get through.

It is hard to avoid the sneaking conclusion that those with development interests don’t already realise this.

The Government and the Conservative Party, Brown and Cameron, need to focus less on the General Election which will not help us in this invidious situation and get the Planning Inspectorate to tie all these decisions together and stop this exploitation of the system.   

Will anyone listen?  Only if you make them listen.


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