Exposing the Rochford Core Strategy

July 4, 2009 by  

As regular readers will know  I  have  been  helping  residents  and the Hawkwell Action Group fight against  the  imposition  of new houses on green belt in Hawkwell West because the majority said at three well attended public meetings that they don’t want it.

The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) has asked me to explain comments that have been made on the local press about house building plans being put on hold.

Yes, informed sources [of the Southend Standard] have already suggested the delays on the more controversial schemes mean they may never happen.

This means, quoting from the Southend Standard, “Land  between  London  Road,  Rawreth  Lane  and  the  old  A130  was originally due to be developed as part of the East of England Plan between 2010 and 2015.” “However, councillors voted to put back the scheme, as well as plans for 985 homes in West Rochford, West Hockley, South Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Canewdon and East Ashingdon.”

Yes,  it  says so quite clearly that development in South Hawkwell was put back. But I can tell you that Councillors have NOT voted to put back 985 homes in West Rochford, West Hockley, South Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Canewdon and East Ashingdon.

On 9th September the the Core Strategy Submission Document, June 2009, will be presented to Full Council with the recommendation that it is accepted and passes to the Secretary of State following a six week consultation period to obtain Residents’, Partners and Stakeholder’s views. There is, I understand, no intention to change something as fundamental as housing quantum or location or implementation.

Confused?  You are entitled to be.  But this is politics and the run up of spin to a General Election which must take place before June, 2010.

The Southend Standard also says “If the Conservative Party wins the next general election, it is committed to scrapping the East of England Plan and the linked housing targets.”

But does that mean that no houses will ever be built?  No, many houses will still be built.

The Conservative Party promises to give you greater local decision making and do away with the present regional housing target based system.

But there will be different rules. But they do not say what they are going to be which has given respected bodies such as the Planning Officers Society and The PPS Group grounds for some concerns.


One rule which seems destined to remain in my view is the “5 Year Rule”. This is the rule which local councillors quote when they explain that if they decide not to produce a policy, because they disagree with the Government, this will kick in and work to the complete disadvantage of all residents of Rochford District.

If only the Conservative Green Paper Number 9 had said that this would be repealed if they came to Government then there would be no need to go through the farce of producing costly policies which they are going to scrap. But are they really going to do this?  Read on.

Because the Green Paper does not scrap this rule  we have to assume that the “5 Year Rule” will remain under a Conservative Government.  So what does it say and what does it mean if the Rochford Core Strategy goes forward?

If Rochford District Council does not put forward a Core Strategy then the Council will not be in a position to deliver even existing rates of housing until a new land supply is established through the Local Development Framework. Consequently, in the period where there is no Core Strategy, the Council could challenged by developers pursuing development on unallocated sites on the basis of the lack of a five-year supply. Basically they could build anywhere they wanted.

So that is why local councilors say that the locations of housing targets MUST still go ahead. And the “5 Year Rule” is unlikely to be repealed in 2010 by the new Conservative Government because there simply isn’t time after the General Election to do so and they have already justified why these must be built anyway in the Core Strategy put forward.

So those land allocations in the LDF for 2010 to 2015 will go ahead anyway because they are justified on the needs for new housing to match the new jobs at the expanded Southend Airport and affordable housing needs.  This includes Hawkwell West, 175 houses.

The only ones which could be stopped are post 2015 like Rayleigh.

So HAG needs to keep asking you to maintain your objection even though the local papers through their informed sources have got it very wrong. Cynically it is the worst possible political spin just to get your vote.

Existing rates of housing growth for Rochford District under the “5 Year Rule” are as follows;

PPS3 states that LPAs should identify sufficient specific deliverable sites to deliver housing in the first five years.  In the latest Annual Monitoring Report published in December 2008 RDC included a table (Table 4.10) that lists the expected dwelling completions in the district over the five years 2008-2014 (assuming the adoption of the Core Strategy).  This indicates that 1376 units should be provided in five years and set against the annual target of 250 units (1250 in five years) indicates there is a five year supply.


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