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Is there an Alternative Housing Development Strategy for Hawkwell?

December 7, 2009 by  

Published by The Rochford Independent for Councillor John Mason

As I have said in another recent article my congratulations  to residents in achieving firstly, a reduction in the proposed quantum from 330 to 175 in the Core Strategy and secondly, by convincing Rochford District Council to refuse a subsequent planning application for 330.

But there is much, much more to do if the wishes of the majority of residents are to be finally achieved .

Rest assured that I will continue to use every opportunity in Council to represent the interests of the majority of the residents of my Ward. 

There are things that I think that our local residents groups could decide to do now and over the coming months. 

I would welcome their continuing support.

The Submission Version of the Core Strategy has been subject to Public Consultation and it proposes a quantum of 175 dwellings.  I realise that many residents wish to see a Zero option.

Whilst the Council could make changes to the Core Strategy before it is submitted to The Secretary of State I consider it improbable that this will be amended.
 
The Council will publish its Allocation DPD soon which will declare specific sites for the quanta put forward in the Submission Version of the Core Strategy. This should be subject to public consultation and this should be an opportunity for residents to put forward their views on the chosen site or sites.  But if residents disagree then the best approach would be a professionally prepared and argued essay on why the site or sites put forward in our area are not the best sites which should be chosen in our area, recommending others in our area or recommending that there is a replacement site elsewhere which is more suitable or sustainable.

I have made suggestions in meetings of the Council’s LDF Sub Committee (Planning Policy) but these have not been supported and I believe that without overt and active public support the alternatives will not be considered again.
 
Assuming that “The Residents Group” still have sufficient funds available from those raised from the public to fight the DWH Planning Application they might like to consider commissioning work by their planning consultant.

I wonder if they have considered the following strategies?
 
If it is not possible to come up with an alternative placement of the allocation for Hawkwell elsewhere I would prefer to see no further large single development in Hawkwell because of infrastructural issues and rather see the 175 quantum spread in smaller developments.
 
Could the planning consultant suggest a more sustainable site elsewhere in the District? 

Or be asked to come up with a series of sites in Hawkwell to accomodate 175? 

Hawkwell Parish Council could be the sounding board for suggestions. There is also the emerging Hawkwell Village Plan Group which meets on 15 December.
 
But time is very short because the Allocations DPD will be published soon.
 
If a single site strategy is preferred then please read on.
 
Is the Magees Mushroom Farm a better site for 175 dwellings?  The site was put forward in response to the Council’s Call for Sites so it could be chosen by the Council without having to exercise compulsory purchase provisions.  It is arguably a brownfield site.  Brownfield sites should be given priority for development according to the Core Strategy. Currently I understand it is used mostly as an industrial multi tenanted site where ECC is quite happy with the access. But Residents in nearby Windsor Gardens and Rectory Road should  be consulted before a planning consultant was asked to undertake an evaluation.

What else could happen over the next few months?
 
David Wilson Homes could formally Appeal against the decision for Refusal.  This Appeal will be heard, most likely at a Public Inquiry, which will last as long as 5/7 working days or more, at which “The Residents Group” could commission a professional to represent the community again and make a submission of evidence and argument against the Grant of Planning Permission on Appeal.  The Council will defend its Decision but it will help if “The Residents Group” having taken such a prominent role will also defend the position.
 
The Applicant could submit a revised Planning Application.  There is no way of knowing what, when or how.
 
Finally there will be the opportunity for “The Residents Group” to commission a professional to represent the community and make a submission of evidence to the Public Inquiry which will be held next year as a public examination of the Core Strategy.

The following paragraph was edited on 11 December when Shaun Scrutton sent me an email pointing out that a Parish Plan was not a DPD as I had previously thought and had misunderstood.

One further thought.  There is now, I understand, a Committee of residents who volunteered to take the responsibility for producing a Hawkwell Parish or Village Plan.  This will chart the future vision of development in Hawkwell.   There is a public meeting I think on 15 December but Hawkwell Parish Council can provide anyone interested with the details.

A Parish Plan cannot have the status of a DPD.  LPAs should pay close attention to the contents of a non-statutory plan produced by local communities as part of community involvement process, and Parish Plans may be adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents if the body preparing the plan works closely with the LPA from the outset, but they cannot become DPDs.

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