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Proposed Large Housing Development in Hawkwell – Update

April 25, 2009 by  

What is going on with the proposal to build 330 houses in Hawkwell?   Something that hundreds of residents of Hawkwell wrote to Rochford District Council about last November and to say “No”.  As it happens The Hawkwell Action Group and I are just about ready to deliver a new “Newsletter”.  Well here it is !!  It’s a bit long but we think that residents of Hawkwell will want to know the full story and be able to decide themselves what they want to say in the next consultation.

My name is John Mason and I am one of two people who have been elected to represent you on Rochford District Council.  I am an independent because I have never stood for election for a major political party and I represent you, the residents without any political interest.

I have been one of your district councillors for 9 years and my position is up for re-election next year in 2010 because there are no district council elections in 2009. I have pledged at each election to protect green belt and with the help of many residents I have successfully campaigned against the threat of loss of green belt in Hawkwell West over this period.

I have made myself directly available to you at two public meetings to tell you about the proposal to build 330 new dwellings in our Ward, Hawkwell West.  I have told you in public that I am against that proposal and I have been working with the Hawkwell Action Group (HAG), a pressure group which was brought into being by public assent, at the first public meeting. 

Through leaflets distributed by HAG, residents were encouraged to attend a public council meeting in Hawkwell.  Many of you attended and the vast majority continued to object.  And many wrote to the Council in the public consultation to object.  So the Council knows how you feel about the proposal. 

But will it change its mind?

The simple answer is NO and I wanted you to know this and why there will most likely be a large housing development in Hawkwell West whatever you have said so far. 

I have an email from the Cabinet Member responsible for planning which says the following;

Councillor Keith Hudson wrote “It is my intention, and always has been, that each conurbation supports the needs of its own community, as far is practically possible given the not inconsiderable natural constraints of our district.”

“Geographically Hockley and Hawkwell are the same conurbation. It is the responsibility of the planning sub committee to identify the most appropriate location/s for new homes within or adjacent to any given conurbation. It would not be my intention to trade between conurbations, that would undermine the basis of my assessment, unless of course a particular conurbation requested more than was deemed absolutely necessary.”

Clearly the Council has decided not to continue to recognise the individual legal Parishes of Hockley and Hawkwell as separate geographical areas for strategic planning purposes. But the Government expected that Hawkwell and Hockley would have separate, and certainly not joint or coordinated, Village Plans that would be recognised as planning documents. This RDC action sounds wrong to me.

But Rochford District Council has also “shot itself in the foot” because if it insists that Hockley/Hawkwell is a combined “conurbation” as a result of this strategic development plan then it will exacerbate the coalescence which it is supposed to resist and certainly not create.

The 330 houses proposed in the consultation in November/December 2008 represented, apparently, a quota increase of around 8% for the Hockley/Hawkwell conurbation taken as a whole.

But as I say Hawkwell and Hockley are seperate settlements and certainly not a CONURBATION which actually means places like Greater London, Glasgow etc., ……… so the use of the term “conurbation” is a nonsense.

What is definitely not fair is that all of the houses would be built in Hawkwell, and just one Ward at that, representing a 20% increase.

This is just not acceptable and I will continue to lobby the Council to formally in public session assign at least 150 of this quota in the Town Centre Plan to Hockley to be built on a the Eldon Way Industrial Site, a brown field site, in the submission of the local development plan which will go before the Council in July 2009.

This approach will continue to allow Hockley and Hawkwell to be recognised separately for all purposes as is the wish of all residents of both.

But this would mean that the Hockley Industrial site would have transfer to a new industrial site at the expanded Airport if it is given the go ahead, which does seem to me very likely despite the traffic problems it could create for Hawkwell. My call is that if it does go ahead then Essex County Council MUST improve the road infrastructure to take it away from the B1013 and keep it away !!

But this still leaves 180 houses in Hawkwell as a “fair shares for all” quota and nearer 11% than 8% perhaps?

Do you think that a “fair shares for all” approach is the right way to approach a strategic plan?  It is certainly not a strategic approach.  More like a political solution.  But you may favour it too. What concerns me is that this “scatter gun” development approach across the whole of Rochford District has not, so far, taken an overall view of the cumulative effects on roads, especially the B1013. Will they cope?  When will we hear from Essex County Council as Highway Authority?  I am taking steps to make sure that this is not missed or glossed over.

The Hawkwell Action Group has steadfastly represented the view of the majority of residents which is to have no more houses in Hawkwell.  I will continue to do all that I can to enable them to sustain their opposition on your behalf.

That will mean proving that every potential site in Hawkwell is unsustainable in respect of material planning reasons which will be recognised and supported by a Government Planning Inspector at a Public Inquiry.

At the same time Rochford District Council must make a convincing planning case to the Inspector to allow hundreds of additional vehicle movements to access Rectory Road between the two bottlenecks of the single lane traffic controlled junction at the Railway Bridge near St. Mary’s Church and the problems at the mini roundabout near Foxhunters which is also known as Nursery Corner.

The alternative, of course, is to make sure that access is only direct from Main Road Hawkwell, known as the B1013, and not to and from Rectory Road. But that too might have adverse planning implications.

We won’t know what approach the Council might take and on what site in public for some time, perhaps October 2009, and what material planning objections might be available to us to object with.

My concern is that, having had 9 years experience on the Planning Committee at the Council, I have seen many planning applications across the district where developers have used tried and tested engineering solutions that have been “just” acceptable to Council Planning Officers, Essex County Council (Highway Authority), The Environment Agency (Flooding) and Natural England (Wildlife & Nature).

As one of your District Councillors I will keep faith with the majority of residents who do not wish to see any further development on our green belt and continue to work with residents on the Hawkwell Action Group.

I would like to think that as the Council and Essex County Council decided a few years ago, on two planning applications for “Change of Use”, that the junction of Windsor Gardens with Rectory Road was suitable for a volume of commercial traffic, including juggernauts, then they might also consider the Magee’s site suitable for residential development if it became available because it has been put forward as a site for consideration.  There is also the flood risk but civil engineering might be able to deal with this issue.  The traffic is already running to and from the site through the Rectory Road bottlenecks and at least it is a brown field site and not green belt.

I would be interested in hearing your views on traffic access points and volumes and anything else that you would like to say about these issues.

But please don’t forget to write in the public consultations that will be coming up again in the Summer and late Autumn.

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