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Councillors may call for a Local Plan Referendum

December 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Tumisu / Pixabay

So if it looks that the Council is not listening to residents in the public consultations on the Second Local Plan for 7500 new dwellings 2017-2037 then we will step in and raise a petition for residents to call for a Referendum before it is adopted by Rochford District Council.

We know that a Referendum on a Local Plan is not included in the list of those which must be approved by the Council but why would such a Referendum NOT be approved if the appropriate number of residents had called for it in a Petition? The cost of a Referendum would be in the region of £90,000 but that could easily be found from the New Homes Bonus from the first Local Plan in Reserves.

From the Echo

Councillors in Rochford have called for a petition to be drawn up to hold a referendum on the district’s second local plan.

In a written statement, councillor John Mason, leader of the Green and Rochford District Residents Group said that during the early stages of the new housing plan, residents have complained “they feel that they will not be listened to” about their council and councillors.

Mr Mason said: “We promise our residents that we will, whether we are Councillors at that time or not, put forward a Petition to Residents to call for a Referendum on the Second Local Plan before it is adopted by the Council.

“It is the future of our District and what we do, both councillors and residents, with it that counts. No excuses.

Residents have a right to be listened to.”

A resident added: “Don’t bother lobbying your district councillors, they will not oppose any plan unless it is in there own back yard.

“They will tell you what you want to hear but will not take any positive action.”

The second plan currently aims to create an unrestrained 7,500 new dwellings in the Rochford district across Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Hockley, Hullbridge, Ashingdon and Rochford.

Consultations have begun for the second plan which on top of the first housing plan, aims to create a total of 10,000 new homes in Rochford by 2037.

Despite support from councillors throughout the district, the council are confident the process for the new plan’s consultation is going to be effective and that resident’s concerns and ideas will heard.

Rochford District Council’s assistant director for planning, Matthew Thomas, said: “Although this is an interesting suggestion, there is no provision for a referendum in the legislation governing the preparation of a local plan.

“The council intends to ensure residents are offered substantial opportunities to participate in the plan making process and we recently sent a leaflet to all households in the district to advise of the current consultation on the issues and options stage.

“The timetable for the preparation of the local plan envisages a report from an inspector on the soundness of the plan in 2021, so there is much work to do before a plan emerges that can be considered for adoption.”

Councillors have rallied to the support of Mr Mason’s statement and they hope it will encourage more residents to become involved in the issue.

Michael Hoy, Deputy Leader of the Green and Rochford District Residents Group, said: “I fully support the statement and I believe in democracy.

“I think people have the right to say which quite often they feel their views are ignored and this is a way to show their views are not ignored, especially when it comes to one of the biggest decision in the area for the next 15 years.”

Adrian Eves, Rochford District Residents councillor for Hockley, added: “I think the actual proposal is completely unsustainable.

“When you look at the problems we have with infrastructure, we are getting power outages and losses of water pressure in Hockley.

“All we can do it be noisy as possible to get the government to learn.”

Neil Hookway, leader of the Ukip group, added: “Having local referenda in regards to housing is Ukip policy, so we will always support that, but this is something that effects the whole district and that is very important.”

 

New Hawkwell Homes “Out of our Reach” is quite true

September 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

echo hawkwell 300913

The Echo published an Article today headed “Hawkwell homes “out of our reach”.

You can read it here.

 We have approximately 600 registrations on the Council’s Housing Register in a hierarchy of bands that are eligible for housing in our District.

 We hoped that the 35% Affordable Homes, presumably sold at rock bottom prices to Registered Social Landlords (RSL), would enable some of those residents that are on the Rochford District Council Housing Register to be housed at last.

 Councillor Keith Hudson, in charge of planning at Rochford, said to the Echo that he expected first time buyers would look to buy at the site, but would encourage people to use the shared ownership options available as a way of getting on the housing ladder. He added: “It’s an excellent way to get on the ladder. You share the burden with the housing association.“You can have a shared equity situation where you can buy a percentage of the property, and then pay a smaller amount of rent.”

 HERE IS THE WHOLE STORY.

 What Councillor Hudson did not say was how few of the Affordable Houses were available to be sold with “shared ownership”.

 It is only 20%. …………………….  Only 20% of the 35% Affordable Housing 

 Putting this into perspective this means for Hawkwell 20% of 62 Affordable Houses making just 12 available for Shared Ownership.

 Of the 35% Affordable Housing the rest, 50, are for rent only.

 According to Council Officers the Shared Ownership will be 50:50.  So, on a property of £300,000 a first time buyer of an Affordable Home would have to raise a Mortgage of £120,000 (80% of £150,000) and provide a cash deposit of £30,000 as the Government Help to Buy Scheme for 5% will not apply, plus continue to pay rent on the other 50%.

 “Out of our reach” is quite true.

 Buying a new home direct from a developer under the Government “Help to Buy Scheme” you look at, even with the 5% cash and the remaining deposit of 15% Guaranteed by Mr. Cameron announced today, you still need an 80% Mortgage.  Even with a property costing £300,000 you still need a Mortgage of £240,000.  Plus £45,000 provided by the Government on the 15% Deposit making a 95% Loan of £285,000. Can young adults with or without  University Debts of £ 20,000 – £40,000 EACH afford a Loan of £285,000 on top?

 How can these new houses be for our kids?

 “Out of our reach” is quite true.

Planning Positives or Planning Negatives?

June 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Choices



Despite our recent experiences with Planning Conditions on the David Wilson Homes/Barratts planning permission not all the results of our negotiations are negative.

With the David Wilson Homes/Barratts development there was even the potential of Community benefits through a Public Open Space if Rochford District Council, Hawkwell Parish Council, and The Hawkwell Residents Association had the same vision as ourselves, HAG and CTFDAG. A Private Open Space isolated from the Spencers Park Open Space, which is owned by Hawkwell Parish Council, is not a Community benefit. We negotiated for the provision of a bridge to join the two spaces, to be paid for by the developer but as permission by Hawkwell Parish Council was refused this cannot go ahead. So there are no benefits there which seems hardly reasonable given the loss of greenbelt.

But there are the benefits required by a Planning Inspector and embodied in the Section 106 Legal Agreement. In this case the retention of the ‘Paddocks’ as a green buffer zone.

Okay part of the Paddocks, The Christmas Tree Farm, is being used as a builders yard/ compound, contrary in our opinion to the Legal Agreement, but we have asked our Head of Planning to see if something can be done bearing in mind the estimated 5 year build/sales time and the adverse effect on the scene from the road which was not expected by the Planning Inspector. No response as yet from Shaun Scrutton.

It is argued that there is tangible benefit to the Community by provision of 60 new homes as affordable housing stock. We will let you decide if that is a positive or a negative.

The New Homes Bonus (£200,0000 from the Government to compensate the Community), which we had hoped would be used primarily for the benefit of those adversely affected residents could have been another plus but no benefit for Hawkwell. Unfortunately this money is expected to go into the general Rochford District Council “pot” to enable the Council Tax for the whole District to be kept lower. Again we will let you decide if that is a positive or a negative.

It was a regrettable decision, in our opinion, of Rochford District Council (we voted against) to allow two David Wilson Homes/Barratts commercial sales and marketing offices in a residential area but it should bring in additional business rates as Non-Domestic Rates, or business rates, are collected by local authorities. This is how businesses using non-domestic property contribute.

Under the business rates retention arrangements introduced from 1 April 2013, local authorities keep a proportion of the business rates paid locally. We have alerted our Head of Finance at Rochford District Council and she is going to take the necessary action to bring these Offices into the business rating list. This would not have been captured as a positive if your Ward Members had not raised this opportunity with the Council.

On a smaller but equally important scale when as Ward Councillors when we are made aware of potential problems with Planning Applications we can ask for Conditions to be put in place that protect the affected parties as far as possible.

Conditions are only of use in this way if they are known about and communicated so we do try and ensure that those potentially involved know about the restrictions.

On one property recently, with an issue of overlooking where windows not shown on the original plan had been incorporated, a simple condition requiring the retention of the dividing fence to prevent potential future overlooking resolved the issue and ensuring the affected neighbour was aware of the Condition will hopefully prevent any future disputes.

On a similar small but important build the neighbour concerns about bulk and potential ungainly effects of a fence on what had been an attractive green vista was overcome by the simple addition of a condition requiring a small fence wall with evergreen planting to soften the impact.

Neither of these interventions would have occurred without action  by your Ward Councillors.

Our main concern is that the Planning Officers do ensure that the Planning Conditions are kept and whilst we are busy looking at the DWH/Barratts site more than others at the moment we do keep our eye on the small developments as well.

“To Condition or Not to Condition” – Planning

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason

The Path Most Traveled

Planning is probably the one issue that is always most controversial and creates strong opposing opinions and yet one of the most Government regulated areas of Rochford District Council’s powers and responsibilities.

Planning Applications are determined within an accepted and published set of procedures. Most of these decisions are delegated to the Council’s experienced Planning Officers but some are referred to the Council’s Development Committee for decision.  Once a PlanningApplication is Approved it usually has a series of conditions attached to it, some of which are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off and agreed by the Council’s Officers before any building commences.

However there is nothing to prevent a developer commencing building works even when there are outstanding conditions to discharge. It is always disappointing when this is the case, but any developer progressing a scheme in this way does so at their own risk and the remedy of such a breach is subject to the laws of planning enforcement of the Condition by the Council.

On larger developments, formal legal agreements are often referred to as S106 agreements which detail any contribution required by a developer towards the infrastructure and other community costs that the development may create and deliver e.g. costs towards schools, road and junction improvements and even bus services.  Otherwise Conditions can be anything from a simple ‘sight splay’ preventing high planting and fencing to ensure safe visibility for traffic to the details of design and materials and working practices.  Needless to say all Conditions are important is as the act of ensuring that they are carried out.

It has been reported in the National Press hat some Council’s fail to ‘collect’ the agreed financial contributions under Section 106 Agreements in the time frame reported and therefore lose the community benefit that had been negotiated.  RDC keeps a very close watch on these.

Other more usual Conditions that are equally as important as the financial ones are those that seek to prevent an unreasonable impact on neighbours whilst the development is in progress. These often detail times of work, storage of materials and parking arrangements.

Not very exciting but if flouted can have a disproportionately negative effect on the locality.

One of these that I have received most complaints about in my short time on the Council are those regarding parking of operatives vehicles whilst construction is in progress.  Mostly these are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off by the Council before any building commences.  The agreement to be met between the Council and the Developer usually states that the storage of material and parking arrangements should be agreed prior to commencement of the building works.

Unfortunately the Officers have to rely on the developer contacting them as they do not have the time to check on when a development starts and to a great extent there is a large element of trust placed onto the builder’s integrity.  This sometimes works but when it does not the disruption to the neighbouring properties, pedestrians when vehicles are parked on the footway and possibly to the traffic flows on the more main through roads is unacceptable.

At the moment Rochford has just under 500 enforcement cases outstanding. There are delays in proceeding these because of sheer numbers versus the resource of available Enforcement Officers!

Once the Council is aware that planning conditions are breached it can take enforcement procedures.  Unfortunately this can take months to pursue, especially if there is a back log and by the time these procedures are enacted the situation is past and there is no redress on the builder for failure to comply but the Council has often still incurred costs, and ultimately the Council Tax payers foot the bill!

Damage to the footway is a charge to Essex County Council unless watchful Councillors and residents inform ECC so that it can recover costs from the developer, if not again it is the Council Tax payers who foot the bill.

So whilst we can inform the Council of a pre-condition breach that is causing residents problems it may be that nothing is actually done in practice.  So what was the point of all the effort in making such a pre-condition?

None.  The proposal for storage of material and parking arrangements should be examined carefully before planning permission is given and if satisfactory arrangements are not possible then planning permission should be Refused.

Alternatively perhaps Government should find a way of giving Council’s Planning Authorities the power to invoke punitive fines when such breaches occur to ensure compliance?

I see no point in having a situation where the remedy for failure to comply is for further costs to be placed onto the victim (the Council and the Council Tax Payer) and the offender receives no penalty for ignoring an agreement that is made in the public interest.

DWH Starts on Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road – Monday 7 January 2013

January 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

My in-law's tree farm

Some Residents have received a Letter – DWH Starts on Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road – Monday 7 January 2013

John

Will The Pickles Letter and Abolition of the RSS Actually Matter?

June 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

DEVELOPERS have won a legal battle to build more than 300 homes on Green belt land at East Tilbury, prompting a leading local councillor in Thurrock to say he fears the “floodgates” are about to open.

Whilst back in Rochford in an email to a resident representing the West Rochford Action Group (WRAG) (and openly copied with no restriction to all Members of Rochford District Council) Portfolio Holder and Cabinet Member, Councillor Keith Hudson writes I must profess disappointment and not just a little concern with respect to the planning appeal in East Thurrock towards the end of last week, the detail within the report is worth careful consideration.”

The scheme for up to 315 homes was opposed by both Thurrock Council and Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation but Communities secretary Eric Pickles has given the green light for the development on appeal.

In his Decision Letter the Secretary of State concluded that the appeal proposal would cause harm to the Green Belt “by reason of inappropriateness and that there would also be harm to the purposes of the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness and loss of openness”.

However, the Pickles Decision Letter went on to say that because there was “a need for more land to be brought forward for housing in the Thurrock area”, Pickles gave “significant weight to the quality of design of the proposed scheme and its sensitivity to its setting”.

He concluded that “these together amount to very special circumstances sufficient to justify allowing the appeal”.

My concern as a Ward Member for Hawkwell West, where there is an Appeal against a proposal for 330 houses in green belt is that, remarkably, this has already been given a green light for 175 by the Council allegedly in evidence to the Coombes Farm Appeal.  All that  notwithstanding the fact that the Council has in the words of The Portfolio Holder reported by the Echo  [the abolition of the RSS] “It’s something we’ve been banking on ever since we embarked on the core strategy”.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Council wish to see a housing estate in Hawkwell come what may.

In the meantime I continue to encourage residents to write to Mr. Pickles and the Council to express their views.

Indeed the Hawkwell Action Group has picked up on my suggestion in a leaflet to Hawkwell West residents providing a suggested letter to Mr. Pickles even at the eleventh hour.

But HAG could not have known about what Mr. Pickles was about to do in East Tilbury.

There are some remarkably similar issues which were considered by the Inspector.  Indeed in the Coombes Farm Appeal and the David Wilson Homes Appeal both developers submitted evidence in respect of their view of the 5 Year SUpply of Land provided by Rochford District Council.

The matter of the 5 Year Supply of Land is something that Conservative Rochford District Council has had complete administrative control over since, I think, May 2002.  My maths makes that a full 8 years of power. If these two Appeals in Rochford and Hawkwell are Allowed then residents should think very carefully about who to put their trust in next year at the Local Elections.  Especially as Conservative Candidates at the 2010 Local Elections inferred that abolition of the RSS was the key to the new Conservative Government in delivering both National and Local promises on overdevelopment of the Green Belt.

So what is there to concern residents of our district in the East Thurrock (Tilbury) decision in the detail of the Pickles Decision Letter?

In his Decision Letter Eric Pickles says that he took into account his own letter of 27 May 2010, The Pickles Letter, in which he promised to abolish the RSS (top down housing targets) and instructed decision makers to regard this a material planning consideration.

Did it work for East Tilbury ?  Whether it needed legisation or not, No, it did not !!

What Eric Pickles wrote was actually this;

“However, he [Mr. Pickles] does not consider it necessary to refer back to parties on the implications of this change of weight before reaching his decision as he would anyway have granted planning permission for this proposal for the reasons given in this letter.”

He goes on;

“The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s reasoning and conclusions that this shortfall represents a failure to deliver a flexible and responsive supply of housing in relation to the housing targets required by the EEP. He considers that this is a material consideration in favour of the appeal proposals and that, notwithstanding the fact that the weight he affords to this matter is tempered by affording less weight to the housing figures set out in the EEP than formerly, it needs to be considered in the overall balance.”

“While he agrees with the Inspector that there are more sustainable locations for housing development in Thurrock than East Tilbury, he also agrees that the location offers a reasonable range of community facilities and reasonable access to jobs, key services and infrastructure and that the proposal would therefore perform well in broad terms against the requirements of PPS1, PPS3 and PPG13.”

And he also says;

“More significantly, he agrees with the Inspector (IR362) that the quality of design of the proposed scheme and its sensitivity to its setting weigh in favour of the scheme. He gives significant weight to those considerations and considers that these tip the balance so that the very special circumstances necessary to warrant allowing the appeal can be demonstrated.”

The decision on the Coombes Farm Appeal is expected on or before 26 July and Hawkwell on or before 5 August.

Let us hope that Rochford District Council has not already let residents down in the way that it has managed the housing development strategy over nearly the last decade  by following political objectives rather than the interests of residents. And that in Hawkwell and Rochford residents can still have a say in the future of housing development given that the new Government has promised to give this back local control.

What local councils could do to stop an existing or emerging Core Strategy

June 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council says in its Press Release that it has to continue to proceed with its Core Strategy (CS) because although the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has announced the new Government’s intention to abolish the Regional Housing Targets (RSS) it has not passed legislation.

It has been said by other planners that Section 79 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 sets out the Secretary of State’s reserve power to revoke a regional strategy where the Secretary of State thinks it, necessary or, expedient to do so.

So if the Council wishes to deliver the promise of reduced housing development, especially on green belt, then why does it not lobby Eric Pickles, David Cameron and Nick Clegg for the use of Section 79?

Until the existing emerging Core Strategy is officially placed under revision those areas with large housing developments currently scheduled in the first 5 Years are, in my opinion, vulnerable to new, existing and revised planning applications on dismissal of appeals which none of us want in green belt.

These areas are as follows; (from the Core Strategy Submission Document)

West Rochford 450
West Hockley 50
South Hawkwell 175
East Ashingdon 100

There is already a planning application for 600 dwellings at Hall Road and one for 150 in the vicinity of Brays Lane, Ashingdon under ref 10/00374/OUT which will be approved or refused by the Council on 19 August 2010.  The DWH Appeal in Hawkwell for 330 could still be Dismissed but a new planning application for 175 submitted very quickly.

But the Council might consider in strategic policy that even if the RSS is abolished by force of law that it cannot produce an assessment of local housing needs per se or sufficiently quickly so as to re-denominate the 5 Year Supply of developable land thus leaving a planning policy vacuum. Under these fragile circumstances The Council might have little choice but to stick with the higher targets of the RSS as the only fallback that the Council has if it is avoid a deluge of planning applications and/or appeals with the associated high cost regime.
 
Indeed if you look at the structure of the CS it is really hard to see how it could reduce the emphasis on the development of green belt immediately as encouraged by Conservative Party policy which is now emerging as new Government policy.  It is not possible to bring forward development of brown field sites because these need to be vacated first !!
 
There would appear to be concern in the Council about how to conduct a local housing assessment because it has never done it before and in its Press Release dated 17 June the Council admits to be waiting for further guidance from Government. This is disappointing because I would have hoped that the Council would see this as a challenge and embark very quickly to adopting suitable methodology. 
 
There is talk in the Council that it seems to hope that the Government will require Essex County Council to be setting housing targets again when actually a radical re-assessment of local housing needs is required by our most local planning authority (LPA) as enabled by radical political change supported by local voters.  

An alternative might be to create a local housing assessment consortium with Council neighbours Chelmsford, Castle Point and Southend. A sort of sub regional housing target to replace the RSS when abolished.

If you live in Rochford, Hawkwell or Ashingdon then you might wish to ask your Council to lobby for Eric Pickles to use Section 79 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 sets out the Secretary of State’s reserve power to revoke a regional strategy where the Secretary of State thinks it, necessary or, expedient to do so.

And in readiness for legislation create a local housing assessment consortium with Council neighbours Chelmsford, Castle Point and Southend. A sort of sub regional housing target to replace the RSS. ON that basis the Council might be able to not just resist some planning applications but the ones that residents voted in the General Election and Local Elections that it did not want.

You might wish to read a more detailed review of the Implications of the Pickles Letter for the Rochford District Core Strategy which might be helpful to those people who have been asked by the Planning Inspector (letter here)conducting the Public Examination of the Rochford Core Strategy to comment further.

New Homes Start in Rayleigh

June 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Carter and Ward, owner of the site opposite Rayleigh Cemetery, in Hockley Road, Rayleigh, won planning permission to build 65 two, three and four-bedroomed houses on the land in the late Seventies.

Planning law says if a development is started within a set period of time, the planning permission remains valid.

The full article from the Echo on 11 June is here carterward

Government Planning Inspector says that Pickles’ Letter is Material

June 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

PUBLIC scrutiny of Castle Point’s housing proposals has been postponed following the Government’s announcement it will return planning powers to local communities.

The change comes after Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed the Government planned to scrap Labour’s housing targets.

Government inspector Paul Crysell, who will be carrying out the examination, said: “Because the Government intends to abolish  regional  spatial strategies, this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans.”

“For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing into the Castle Point core strategy until clarity is provided in a formal ministerial statement.”

The Planning Inspectorate has issued a Guidance Note which is here for all Planning Inspectors.

Here is the full article which apopeared in the Echo on 11 June 2010 by Sarah Calkin  “Housing ruled out of blueprint public scrutiny”

PUBLIC scrutiny of Castle Point’s housing proposals has been postponed following the Government’s announcement it will return planning powers to local communities.

The public examination of the council’s core strategy is due to start in two weeks, and the dossier will still include new health and leisure plans, plus proposed improvements to transport and infrastructure.

However, housing, the most controversial aspect of the long-awaited blueprint, will not be discussed.

The change conies after Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed the Government planned to scrap Labour’s housing targets, which required the borough to find space for 5,000 homes by 2026.

Government inspector Paul Crysell, who will be carrying out the examination, said: “Because the Government intends to abolish  regional  spatial strategies, this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans.”

“For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing into the Castle Point core strategy until clarity is provided in a formal ministerial statement.”

The hearing into housing is due on June 29.

Time has been set aside on Wednesday, July 7, the penultimate day of the hearing, for the issue to be discussed          if the Government has clarified the situation. But a Bill is not expected until after the summer recess.

Simon Hart, of Thundersley and Daws Heath-based Hands Off Our Green Belt, welcomed the news.

He said: “We are pleased it has been postponed to wait for the Bill.” “Developers would not have been able to look at building on green belt if it was not for the housing targets. This is good news for the whole borough.”

Southend Airport Expansion – Project Dates

June 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Some readers have asked if The Rochford Independent knows when the various parts of the Southend Airport Expansion Project will be delivered.

A quick email to Airport Managing Director, Alastair Welch retrieved the following up to date information.

  • New Railway station and airport car park completes in August, opens in the Autumn 2010
  • New Control Tower operational in February 2011
  • New passenger terminal completes late Summer 2011
  • Runway extension scheduled to open for winter season 2011
  • New hotel at airport entrance scheduled to open Spring 2012

I asked the same question of RDC but asking what project milestones applied from the public side, like road infrastructure changes and development of the new industrial estate which will adjoin.

The first response was as follows;

“It is anticipated that the JAAP will be submitted to government by the end of this year or early next year, assuming the current arrangements for plan making continue.  The aim would be to see the plan adopted in 2011.”

That concerned me because the Airport sees the runway being open in say Sept/October 2011 for the Winter Season.

So I asked again to be shown the document which contained the milestones and this is the reply I received.

“It would be the Local Development Scheme, but we are revising at the moment.”

I have the uncomfortable feeling that with fundamental documentation for the public side still not even finalised that the aspirations of the Airport for 2011 might not be met?

 

The Pickles Effect – And Castle Point throws out a Planning Application

June 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Originally reported here at the Echo (520 homes and business park rejected on Thundersley Plotlands)

and Commented upon by Simon (assumed to be Simon Hart Vice Chairman of Hands off our Greenbelt Action Group)

I would like to say a THANK YOU to every one involved Publicly as I have done via email already.

To Barry Braizier who has fought for this land for many many years with the support of the local and wider area residents.
To the Councillors of Castle Point for Listening to the residents of the Borough it was fantastic to see unity in the Council Chamber over a topic that is so important to everyone with constructive objections to the Barratt’s application. This action of unity sets out the Councils Stance on development to all Developers setting out to submit plans to Castle Point.

Thanks also to Rebecca Harris (MP ) for actively perusing the Conservative Party before the election and the Coalition after the election and for Eric Pickles for issuing a formal letter of intent for the abolishment of Spatial strategies, which will remove the threat of enforced development on protected greenbelt land like Canvey and Daws Heath.

 The Kiln Road site needs to be allocated a new status that is outlined in the new Local Government Bill a site of local and wildlife interest. Thanks to Bob Spink for his support, and the Echo for keeping the story alive in the local press.

In regard to housing in Castle Point do not forget that the Council located nearly 4000 sites for homes that were not on Green Belt , that still a huge amount of homes for the infrastructure to support .

A big thank you goes to everyone who wrote in and objected or turned up to the meeting .

Once again every one WELL DONE, Castle Point has made a massive leap forward.

What other Councils have done;

Taunton Deane Borough Council: reduced its housing target from 18,000 to 14,000 a year
Cotswold District Council: cut its housing target from 345 to 300 homes a year
West Oxfordshire District Council: stopped work on preparing its core strategy
South Oxfordshire District Council: stopped preparing core strategy
Telford & Wrekin Council: ripping up its housing targets
Castle Point Borough Council AGAIN !!: planning inspector scrapped hearing on housing numbers
Bristol City Council: planning inspector holding a slimmed down session on housing targets
Dacorum Borough Council: taking advice from the Planning Inspectorate
South Northamptonshire Council: delaying decisions on large scale housing developments pending further guidance

Will the Rochford Core Strategy Remain Unchanged?

June 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Currently, under existing Legislation, no local authority can avoid the targets set out for it in the RSS (regional spatial strategy), as the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 strengthened the powers of the previous Secretary of State over local planning authorities.

The LDF (local development framework) and the Core Strategy, which the Rochford District Council has produced, must be in general conformity with the regional spatial strategy and is currently before an examination in public by a planning inspector before approval. That planning inspector can recommend changes and, hopefully, Miss Laura Graham, the planning inspector, will make the changes that were sought by residents at the Hearing on 12 May 2010.

Surely this does not matter now given that the Conservative Party has formed a Coaltion Government with the Lib Dems and the Coalition Agreement includes a pledge to abolish the RSS?

The problem is that I do not think that there is any intention to abolish the Core Strategy.

The only promise for rapid change is to abolish the bureaucratic and undemocratic tier of local planning. That will include the abolition of the regional spatial strategies, the regional planning boards and national and regional targets.

At the present time we can only anticipate seeing primary legislation sometime in the first year of the new Coaltion Government.

We do not know in which Session of Parliament that will see the Decentralisation and Localism Bill take passage through the Commons and the Lords. I have asked Mark Francois MP to find out what he can for residents.
 
But it could be that prior to such legislation, The new Secretary of State could use executive powers to revoke the regional spatial strategies in whole or in part.

The recent Letter from Eric Pickles to chief planners at all local councils in the UK is not viewed as a Order or Directive with legal force but it is a signal to local councils that the regional spatial strategies and the targets will be abolished soon.  (When?)

It is unlikely that his expectation that his Letter will be taken as a material planning consideration by a local planning authority as a defensible reason for Refusal of a Planning Application.

That brings us neatly on to Appeals against Refusal.

There are two in Rochford District where decisions are expected at the end of July and early August.  These are Coombes Farm, Rochford (326 dwellings) and The Christmas Tree Farm [330](Rectory Road/Thorpe Road), Hawkwell.   

Residents of Rochford and Hawkwell, to their great credit, have shown that activism is not dead in the 21st century. The people who live in these areas have organised themselves and expended huge amounts of time and energy defending their interests and those of their communities in order for sense to prevail.

Eric Pickles has also addressed his Letter to Chief Planners to The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) whose planning inspectors heard both Appeals in April. It is difficult to see The Planning Inspectorate taking the Pickles Letter as being a material planning consideration.  The Pickles Letter is just “material” not a “material planning consideration” which is significant.

It is surprising that Eric Pickles is seeking planning decision recommendations from PINS on the premise that the Pickles Letter is a material planning consideration  because, actually, he has the final decision on each Appeal anyway.  It seems to suggest that unless PINS recommend Dismissal (Refusal) that there might be a problem here?

I personally fear that there will is a big risk here unless Mr. Pickles can issue an Order very soon under the executive powers of the Secretary of State to abolish the RSS because both Appeals revolve around housing targets in many ways, including the 5 Year Supply Rule from PPS3.  In any event, Coombes Farm is not even proposed in the Core Strategy and Hawkwell is proposed for 175 and not 330 as in the planning application.

I would recommend to all the action groups involved to write to Mr. Pickles to lobby him to dismiss the appeals and to make the abolition of the RSS of legal force before decisions are forced to be taken by him and the Coalition Government.
   
We can now get conveniently back to the issue of what really needs to be done.

The core of the issue is that if the current framework for planning applications remains in place developments will be imposed on other communities with little or no regard to the feelings of the local people who have to live there or to their livelihoods.

Housing must reflect the real needs of real people, which is why developments such as those proposed for Hawkwell and Coombes Farm must be stopped before they are begun. There is insufficient flexibility in existing legislation to deal with these problems which I dare say is replicated in other parts of the country.

Rochford District Council has found itself at the receiving end of a huge tide of local anger, and the situation has been compounded by communication and consultation issues.

I was hoping to have read in the Coalition Agreement that the Core Strategies themselves will be abolished rapidly too.  I don’t think that they will although a new national planning framework is promised except that this will be in the long term. Professional planners think it unlikely that the Coalition Government can actually dismantle the whole LDF structure and maintain any momentum in house building which is forecast at a significant level to meet the births and death dynamics of the existing population, ignoring immigration.

I do not know if immigration is a significant factor in population increase forecasts for Rochford District but it could be, and probably is, for nearby Southend.

So the Rochford Core Strategy stays.

Just tinkered with. 

Is that what you thought when you voted in the General and Local Elections?

What does this mean for Rochford District? 

You could feel very disappointed if my concerns are fulfilled.

My concerns are the following;

  • that district councils do not have the resource, skills and expertise to assess local housing needs and that the responsibilty for this will be passed  back to Essex County Council in the form of the previous Structure Plan methodology……….which means that these will still not be local needs assessed and set locally

  

  •  the new housing targets that are set will not change the development locations or numbers of houses proposed to be built in the first 5 years (2011 – 2015) of the existing Core Strategy and these will still go ahead……….why?

 

  •  the original proposed development block quanta in 2011-2015 would stand because house builders will argue that smaller blocks are uenconomic and undeliverable

 

  • and  the building of a significant number of houses (775) on green belt between 2011 and 2015 is unavoidable because the existing Rochford Core Strategy does not allow building on any brown field sites UNTIL between 2016 and 2025 AND THIS CANNOT BE BROUGHT FORWARD  

  

  • so this would mean that although the RSS housing targets had been abolished, a lower target based on local needs would not be deliverable at the revised applicable annual rate…………..in other words houses would be built at a higher rate than necessary and in the first instance on green belt.

 

  • that the reduced housing needs would be delivered at the expense of saving brown field sites instead of green belt in the second of the 5 Year Periods

 

  • that this would be a significant departure from the long eschewed principle at RDC that additional housing would be delivered across the district on a “Fair Shares For All” basis because only developments in 2016 to 2025 would be cancelled.

If you think that this is fanciful thinking then I would ask you to look back at an article that was published in the Echo as long ago as July 2009 and I referred to in Exposing the Rochford Core Strategy  .

This is the plan that I think that Rochford District Council will deploy unless the residents and action groups, together with the individual Parish Councils get together and demand that the Rochford Core Strategy is re-written and not just tinkered with.

I would also like to mention the Hall Road Planning Application. A PPA or Planning Performance Agreement has been entered into by the Council and according to that plan the Planning Application will not be decided upon until February 2011. Which is a lot of time for new legislation and the Pickles Effect. But will it be enough time?

And just may be perhaps, Miss Laura Graham, the Government Planning Inspector, conducting the Public Examination of the Core Strategy, might order some big changes in the Core Strategy?

But in the meantime expect, for the reasons above, for Rochford District Council to plough on with its Core Strategy as already submitted to The Secretary of State

You expected change, you wanted change. But will there be real change in Rochford District?

Unlikely in my view because the Core Strategy was probably designed to be like this as was already realised in July 2009.

But change is happening elsewhere.  For example South Oxfordshire, Castle Point, Forest Heath, West Midlands, Peterborough and The Cotswolds to name just a prominent few.

Local Coalition MP’s elsewhere are enthusiatically encouraging their local authorities to make the changes necessary. 

But we have heard nothing encouraging from Rochford District Council or the local MP’s, Mark Francois and James Duddridge.  

Housing must reflect the real needs of real people which is what the Coalition Government wants to happen but a Conservative Rochford District Council might not, if I am right, deliver that preferring to meet the needs of developers by providing large housing developments rather than a appropriate lower rate of delivery on smaller sites spread right across the district.

Since writing this Article, Rochford District Council has spoken to the Press…….

The Echo says…….Meanwhile, Rochford’s planning councillor has urged the new coalition Government to change the law as soon as possible.

Keith Hudson said he welcomed the Government’s intention, but wanted it to act straight away, otherwise the district was still vulnerable to large-scale developments.

Rochford District Council has to built 5,500 new homes before 2025 as part of its core strategy plan, which has just been the subject of a public planning inquiry.

Mr Hudson said: “It’s something we’ve been banking on ever since we embarked on the core strategy.

“We need it to happen now, otherwise we are obliged to continue on the route we have.

“We have a lot of residents who are unhappy and need some certainty.”

Mr Hudson said he was aware of major planning applications being drawn up by developers to take advantage of the current housing targets.

Other councils have reportedly already taken steps to abolish their regional targets, such as South Oxfordshire District Council, which has withdrawn plans showing where 5,000 new homes would be built across the district.

Is this the end for green belt housing in south Essex?

No, I don’t think so………… but Rochford District Council suggests that it is only waiting for the Coalition Government to formally change the Law. 

Spin or Truth? 

Time will tell !!     

The Pickles Effect – Forest Heath throws out planning application in Newmarket

June 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

BBC Look East carried a story tonight with presenters in Suffolk and in London stating that this was the first planning test of the Coalition Agreement ‘s declaration that the RSS housing targets would be abolished and the controversial letter that was issued by Eric Pickles on 27 May to all council chief planners in the UK.

Tonight BBC Suffolk carries the decision at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/10221305.stm

Here is an extract of  Forest  Heath District Council’s Report Update to Members dated 1 June including Counsel’s Opinion 

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has issued a letter dated 27th May 2010 addressed to all Council Leaders. This is also enclosed with this update. The letter sets out the coalition government’s intention to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies “rapidly”. Your Officers have sought Counsel advice on the implications of this letter, in respect of its impact upon the proper determination of the Hatchfield Farm application, and what material weight can be attached to the letter.

The opinion advises that “the policy support for housing development at Hatchfield Farm is no longer something that is ‘just’ based on Regional Strategy: this is not the case, for example, where a council has rather out of date development plan documents but a high unmet demand for housing provision based on the (shortly to be abolished) Regional Strategy.

In Forest Heath’s case there is a specific, extremely up to date, locally approved part of the statutory Development Plan documentation which expressly supports the principle of development at Hatchfield Farm. I refer of course to the freshly adopted Core Strategy, a planning policy document produced by the Council itself, which has gone through the statutory process. While it is of course fair to say that that policy document was produced against the background of regional strategy and numerical allocation requirements which prevailed at the time, it is still a very recently (and locally) approved part of the formal statutory development plan.

I am not aware of the new Government having said anything about an intention to ‘unpick’ locally approved development plan documents. Accordingly, as a matter of professional judgement I would have to say that, even with the new Government’s policy announcement about regional strategies, I would not expect the Council to be successful in upholding on appeal a refusal based either (or both) on the review of targets etc. which it has just ordered, or on the impending disappearance of the Regional Strategy which underlay elements of the Council’s Core Strategy. Things have gone too far at Forest Heath for matters like that to be a tenable basis for a refusal being upheld, in the face of the new Core Strategy itself, which can be seen as specifically supporting the principle of the development.

However, Counsel does advise on one further potential hypothetical argument as a result of the Secretary of State’s letter, albeit “it is not the view which I would professionally advise.”

“What it would involve would be arguing that the whole recent process leading to the Core Strategy was totally predicated on the need to meet the numerical requirements of the relevant regional strategy; the new Government has now indicated that it is wrong for councils to have these requirements imposed on them from on high, and is committed to abolishing that system. Local Planning Authorities and the Inspectorate have been asked to have regard to this change of stance by the Government in current decision making – and that is what the Council is doing here. To this extent the aspects of the new Core Strategy which were based on the discredited Regional Strategy should be discounted. But the Council is not just ‘sitting on its hands’ and hoping the problem will go away. Immediately after the change in Government, and at the same time as feeling obliged to adopt the Core Strategy which it had previously promoted, once that had been approved by the Inspector, the Council set in train a review process aimed at establishing appropriate new housing targets etc. on a local basis. So it would be wrong in these circumstances, at this time, to approve large scale development at Hatchfield Farm, even though it might appear to be consistent with the Core Strategy.

If a set of arguments like that can be mounted, with the addition of various other important matters not yet having been satisfactorily resolved, in my view that could be seen as amounting to at least a valid and arguable basis for refusal now – whatever might be the eventual decision on an appeal.

Members will note the advice that this latter argument is not one which Counsel professionally endorses but it is a matter which Members should have regard to in reaching a decision.

According to this web site   

“The 1,200-home scheme called Hatchfield Farm near Newmarket was turned down last week by Forest Heath council, in part on the basis of Pickles’ letter.”

A statement by Forest Heath said that “in view of this [Pickles’ letter] and in advance of our forthcoming review of housing figures, it would be inappropriate to approve this application.”

Furthermore up to 40 councils have taken action to halt schemes, change planned housing numbers or delay planning inquiries since the government wrote to them two weeks ago effectively telling them to ignore regional plans, according to the House Builders Association (HBA).

 

Eric Pickles’ Letter

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Having taken advice on behalf of concerned residents………..

“Ministerial proposals do not have legal force until the necessary legislative provisions have been enacted, the statement and the weight to be attached to it as a material planning consideration have to be viewed in this context.”

Sent to all Chief Planners on 27 May 2010 by The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

I am writing to you today to highlight our commitment in the coalition agreements where we very clearly set out our intention to rapidly abolish Regional Strategies and return decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. Consequently, decisions on housing supply (including the provision of travellers sites) will rest with Local Planning Authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.

I will make a formal announcement on this matter soon. However, I expect Local Planning Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to have regard to this letter as a material planning consideration in any decisions they are currently taking.

Read on here………http://www.plan-it-law.com/

Plan-it Law is written by planning lawyers from Mills & Reeve LLP. Our team is (mostly) based in Cambridge, England. We write about the latest legal and policy developments relating to planning.

Extracted nuggets from that web site…….

“……it is clear that RSS will be revoked as soon as possible, presumably meaning the Secretary of State will use powers under s 10 of  the 2004 Act to achieve this.”

“The abolition of RSS will feature in the Decentralisation and Localism Bill but, meanwhile, Eric Pickles has written to all local planning authorities confirming the proposals for RSS and making it clear that this committment to abolish should now be regarded as a material consideration in any current application. The same letter appears on the PINS website (click here for the link).”

“So it is clearly intended that local planning authorities (and Inspectors) should feel able to disregard RSS in current determinations. Given that RSS will continue to be part of the development plan until abolished, and that local development plan documents might give effect to RSS in any event, it will be interesting to see which decisions come through which fly in the face of the development plan citing this letter as material.”

Illegal Banners, Mobile Hoardings and other Advertising Posters

January 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The principle that RDC stated in its interview with the Echo is correct but why, oh why, does it let the mobile hoardings that permanently live alongside and on our roads stay there and why does it not take down ALL the flyposting? Other indentifiable advertisers should be prosecuted for planning violations and fined. 
Christmas lights banner row

Echo 5th December 2009
A COUNCIL employee has been criticised for taking down banners promoting a Christmas lights launch ceremony.

Rochford Parish Council put up three banners on November 26 in Bradley Way, Cherry Orchard Road and the junction of West Street and Hall Road, announcing the display in the Market Square this Sunday.

But the next day, Friday, November 27, they noticed the banners had all been removed.

A Rochford District Council officer had taken them down because they did not have permission to go up.

Parish council chairman Maureen Vince said: “I’m disappointed they didn’t get in touch with us first to say they were taking them down.

“It would have been a bit more of an amicable approach.”

Mrs Vince said the parish council would put the banners back up again, but was worried about the district council removing them again just days before the switching-on ceremony.

She said: “That would be extremely disappointing so close to the ceremony.”

She admitted the parish council did not have permission, but there had never been a problem in previous years.

The district council’s head of planning, Shaun Scrutton, said: “Whatever the organisation and whatever the event, adverts which are displayed on the public highway require consent before they can be displayed.

“This consent is obtained through a simple process by applying to the local planning authority, who assess the location of the advert based on issues of visual amenity and highway safety.”

Mr Scrutton said to put up an advert or sign, organisations must apply to the planning department to get an application form and must also send in plans and drawings and pay a charge.

Car Wash Outrage In Hockley

December 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Echo Report 21st December 2009 – Outrage as car wash is built without approval

A car wash is being put up without planning permission in Hockley.  Rochford District Council has called on those building the car wash, at the site of a former vehicle rental firm in Alderman’s Hill, to stop work immediately.  But yesterday the Echo saw workers continuing the development and digging a drain.  Residents got suspicious after a 12ft sign went up outside the site advertising James Hand Carwash and Valeting Service.  One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It is an outrage this is still being built. It is on top of a hill, so our concern is the water and chemicals will run off into the drainage system.  “It will be dangerous at this time of year, creating black ice.  “Also, the emergency services use this as a main route into Hullbridge, causing further concern over accidents from the slippery conditions the valeting service will create. If there is an accident on the road caused by the valeting service, will it be to blame or the council?”  A board has been put up around the site, with work going on behind it.  Shaun Scrutton, the council’s head of planning and transportation, said: “The operator has been informed that works on the site are unauthorised and undertaken at their own risk.  “It has been recommended all works cease until planning issues are resolved. The council has been told a planning application is being prepared for the use of the site as a car wash, and consent will also be sought for the erection of a wall alongside Folly Lane.  “It is understood the underground petrol tanks have been filled with foam and made safe to the satisfaction of the petroleum officer.”  The Echo tried to talk to the workers yesterday, but our questions went unanswered. Residents with concerns have been told to contact the council’s planning department by email, letter or phone.

Clear Distinction between Core Strategy and Planning Application

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Dear Councillor Mason
 
To confirm our discussion and my advice to you which John Honey as Monitoring Officer has affirmed, there is a clear distinction between Council Members’ participation in the Core Strategy deliberations and the consideration of a subsequent planning application.  The key issue for the purposes of the code of conduct is that you keep an open mind in respect of the planning application and do not made public statements on those proposals, in advance of the formal consideration, that gives the appearance that you have already made up your mind on that matter. In the circumstances I do not consider you would be precluded from participating in the determination of the planning application .
 
Kind Regards
 
Albert Bugeja

Head of Legal Services
Rochford District Council
and Deputy Monitoring Officer

The Council is required by law to appoint one of its employees as its monitoring officer. Rochford’s Monitoring Officer is:

John Honey, Corporate Director (Internal Services)

The Monitoring Officer has a statutory role, with a number of specific functions including issues relating to ethical standards. Rochford’s Monitoring Officer works closely with the Chair of the Standards Committee.

The Monitoring Officer acts an adviser to the Standards Committee, which involves:

•Making sure that the Standards Committee understands its powers and procedures;
•Making sure that the procedure for dealing with complaints is fair and efficient;
•Making sure that the councillor who is the subject of a complaint understands the procedures the Standards Committee will follow;
•Providing advice to Standards Committee about law and procedures when complaints are being dealt with.

Teen Shelter at Clements Hall

June 25, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

DSC03201Hawkwell Parish Council has obtained permission from Rochford District Council to site this new development near the skate board ramp in the playing fields.  Residents at the Central Area Committee held at Hawkwell Village Hall last year voiced their concern but the consultation conducted in the Parish Council Newsletter did not raise any objection.  The Parish Council has the funding and it is now going ahead.

A resident has, however, found out that another teen shelter of a particular design has run into big problems and has had to be removed.  I have asked Hawkwell Parish Council to check this out before going ahead.

From the village of Milton

The site we chose is well away from neighbours at the back of the recreation ground, and beside the skate ramps. So neighbour nuisance has never been a problem. Supervision is minimal there, but there is a light on the adjacent basketball court.

We had suggested to them open shelters like the Ogilvie Engineering one (which I think I would personally recommend).

They wanted something more enclosed, and we ended up with Urban Engineering’s shelter, which was like a nissen hut in perspex, with bench seats inside.

From the start some young people (a minority …) unbolted the fixings, we had to get the manufacturers to put in tamper-proof bolts. The shelter was sold as ‘vandal resistent’ which proved to be an overstatement of the truth. Then the perspex was smashed. It was sharp and dangerous, and to be fair it took a sledge hammer to smash it. We had some metal cladding which the manufacturers had put on at first (not what we had ordered), and in the end we replaced the perspex with metal. Not ideal as the inside was then not visible from a distance.

This lasted for a few years.

Then they started jumping on the roof, and the cladding on the roof was bent up alarmingly. Some of the bolts were hack-sawed off, and it was reported that the shelter was in danger of collapse if any more bolts were removed. At this point the Parish Council decided enough was enough and removed the shelter. It was removed last week.
 
We are in a village location where policing has not usually been an issue. However it is reported that youths from the nearby outskirts of Cambridge may have been responsible for the damage. Whether this minority is from Milton or from Cambridge, we were clearly unwise to choose such a vulnerable shelter.
 
The Ogilvie Engineering designs are in cast iron – we have used their seats for about a decade now, and they seem pretty indestructible.

Is Rochford Brickworks a site for 200 houses?

June 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Coastline near Southend-on-Sea:  approaching London City AirportAt the Public Meeting in Hawkwell a resident asked me to explain why this has not been considered in the planning for the strategic housing development plan for Rochford District whereas it was include in the London Southend Airport Report (JAAP)?  The Brickworks Site could support 200 new houses.

The detailed position is as follows.

The formal consultation period on London Southend Airport Report (JAAP) started on the 24 June.  If you look at the four possible development scenarios you will see that a mixed development scheme is suggested for the old brickworks site under Scenario 3.

This is simply a consultation on issues and options and no decisions whatsoever have been taken about the development that might ultimately be agreed in the area of the Action Plan.
 
The JAAP stands on its own as a development plan document, though Rochford District Council will be referring to it, as you might expect, in the revised version of the Local Development Plan Core Strategy.

The Brickworks site is about 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres).  However, you may recall there is a company pushing for the development of a retirement village on the site together with surrounding scrubland – if included, this would make the site about 4 hectares (10 acres).  The boundary shown on the issues and options document is the larger area. This would support 200 houses.

New Hawkwell Housing – How to Protest

June 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Bloor Street Corridor Visioning Study Kick-Off Meeting, Walmer Road Baptist Church Upper Gym, Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 267Having seen the huge turnout at the Hawkwell Action Group’s Public Meeting many of you asked how you could object.  Rather than wait for an official public consultation you can protest now especially as it is known that the Planning Policy Committee has reviewed the sites.

Here is the draft of a letter you could send to the Council, Click here.

365 new houses is the biggest threat to the lives of residents in Hawkwell West for 20 years. Is it a real threat?  Yes, because the people who want it to happen went to the trouble of meeting in secret and then gave an “exclusive” to the Echo to publish it.  Who are these people?  Are they greedy land owners?  No these are the people who residents across the district elected to run Rochford District Council.  The powerful councillor who wants this is your “neighbour” in Hockley where he demands only 36 new houses against the 365 for Hawkwell West.

The infrastructure in Hawkwell West has not changed in over 80 years……and why should it, if the residents don’t want it? The biggest change in the last 20 years was the decision to site the then biggest leisure centre in the East of England in Hawkwell West and that was a mistake.  It has brought too much traffic to Hawkwell.  Ashingdon Road cannot cope with the huge housing developments in East Hawkwell and Ashingdon and now we find that Rectory Road is a rat run with the bottlenecks at St. Mary’s Church and Nursery corner leading to the new Cherry Orchard Lane link to the A127.

Hawkwell West does not have the infrastructure to sustain 365 houses on any of the sites put forward.  And the infrastructure cannot be improved without totally ruining the area.  Neither does Essex County Council have any plans to do so.

So if the houses are built then it will be a disaster. One site is on the flood plain. Another is in the Roach Valley Conservation Zone.  And the last is believed to be a place where rare plants and animals have lived undisturbed for centuries.

As your independent district councillor and I promised to fight for our Green Belt.  I have represented you in successful campaigns since 1994 and I have already been fighting this proposal in Council and Public Consultations for 18 months.

I was delighted when the campaign gave birth to the Hawkwell Action Group and I joined with these residents immediately to help. At two public meetings you have said that you do not want 365 new houses in Hawkwell West.

What you need to do now, because the sites have already been visited by councillors and we are told that the decision will be made in the Autumn is for you to write personally to protest about this before it is too late. PLEASE WRITE NOW.

John Mason, Independent District Councillor for Hawkwell West

 

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