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NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

Rochford District Council is holding a number of community engagement workshops this summer to give local people a say on planning matters. These will be interactive events and a chance for residents, businesses and the local parish council to feed information into the Local Plan process. The new Local Plan is a document which will set the strategy for future development of the District beyond 2025 (which is when the current plan finishes).The workshops will include a ‘walkabout’ in the villages in order to identify the needs of the community, local issues and opportunities for growth and development.

The Canewdon and Rochford workshops have already been held but parish councils in Hockley, Hawkwell and Hullbridge are already in discussion with RDC on dates. I believe that Rayleigh Town Council is also likely to participate.

Just a few days after the Local Elections, 5 May 2016, a very influential document (SHMA – Strategic Housing Market Assessment) was published by consultants on 10 May concerning the number of houses which were needed in our District based on Government assessment rules looking at trends and forecasts on such issues as affordable housing need, population demographics, the housing market and local economics. The housing needs forecasts do not take into account availability of brown field sites, loss of green belt and infrastructure/environment.

I have carried out this review personally with no additional input from Rochford District Council and I think that residents need to be given information now (transparency) notwithstanding the fact that there is still a long way to go.

The Core Strategy approved in December 2011 required Rochford District Council to deliver 250 houses per annum up to 2025.  Because it ended earlier than the Government required, which was 2031,  The Government Planning Inspector required there to be an early Revision of the Core Strategy.  The Council has just started to assemble evidence of which the SHMA is part.

So a new housing target?

Yes.

312 pa min and 392 pa max but consultants recommend the upper end.

Many residents have observed that Rochford District Council has been very good at meeting Government targets and its requirements for house building taking very little notice of the views and concerns of residents from consultations. (Rayleigh and Hullbridge have been prominent in the Echo, social media and blogs but other areas in the District as well have had Action Groups) and unlike Castle Point,  RDC seems to have very little regard so far for the constraint of green belt.  Equally Essex County Council has not raised any systematic issues of the impact of this level of house building on highway constraints but have been content to tinker with junction improvements on a piece meal basis application by application post  the Allocations DPD.

So if constraints on this figure are not forthcoming what COULD this mean?

The 392 is to start retrospectively in 2014. So there is an addition of 142 in the number of houses required for the plan period 2014 to 2025 from the agreed 250 over 12 years.

So that is 1704 more to add to the planned 2785.

The Council needs to extend the 2011 Plan from 2025 to 2031.  That means 6 years at 392 which is an additional 2352.

Over 2011 to 2031 that is an additional 4056 over the planned 2785 in the Plan to 2025.

That makes a total of 6841 over 2011 to 2031 which is an increase of 4056 by this new housing target (1704 plus 2352 as calculated above).

At the Council’s policy rate of a minimum of 30 houses per hectare this implies the release of another 135.2 hectares of green belt.

I am telling you this so that residents and residents action groups who attend the local workshops have an informed view and afterwards can prepare to form or recall local Action Groups to raise material planning considerations as to why the loss of green belt and infrastructure are constraints and the unconstrained new target is not supportable.

 

John Mason

Rochford District Residents

an important document on future housing numbers not been published

May 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Why has an important document on future housing numbers not been published even though the target date was December 2015? No explanation has been given to Members of the Rochford District Council who have asked via the Review Committee.

I think that you might know the answer…………Elections??

Basildon Council has been forced to do so because it is in a public consultation on its Core Strategy.

Castle Point is also in consultations but it has not been published (and CP is in charge of the project for all of our local councils).

Rochford District Council has not published this information even though it has formally commenced its long awaited Revision of the Core Strategy.

“The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is a technical study intended to help the local planning authorities understand how many homes will be needed in the period to 2031 and may be beyond. It also considers the housing needs of specific groups such as older people, minority groups and people with disabilities.

The housing figures included within the SHMA constitute an objective assessment of housing need in line with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework.”

A total of 275,000 homes are now planned for England’s green belt

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

CPRE MAP SOUTH EASTThis new report from the CPRE has a map showing all the local authorities planning to release green belt.

http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/housing-and-planning/green-belts/item/download/4485

A total of 275,000 homes are now planned for England’s green belt – an increase of nearly 200,000 since 2012, according to research by countryside campaigners.

This map alone says everything that residents have been concerned about ever since the Core Strategy was adopted in 2011.

And now we have the Revision of the Core Strategy for an unspecified extra number.

By entirely circling London and for good measure an extended strip across South Essex it supports either an exodus from London or London coming out to meet us to form a wider Greater London.

If you are concerned about this please share as widely as possible before Voting in the Local Elections on 5 May.

And from the PlanningResource Web Site

According to figures published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the number of homes planned for England’s green belt increased by 50,000 in the last year to hit 275,000.

It added that 11 local authorities finalised green belt boundary changes to accommodate development in the year to 2015.

According to CPRE, green belt policy is “gradually being weakened through loopholes in planning guidance”.

“Under pressure from government to set and meet high housing targets, councils are releasing green belt for new development through a misappropriated ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause,” it added.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at CPRE, said: “Councils are increasingly eroding the green belt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets. The government is proposing to encourage further development in the green belt.

“Our green belt is invaluable in preventing urban sprawl and providing the countryside next door for 30 million people. We need stronger protection for the green belt, not just supportive words and empty promises. To build the affordable homes young people and families need, the government should empower councils to prioritise the use of brownfield sites. Brownfield land is a self-renewing resource that can provide at least 1 million new homes.”

 

Why local elections could be influenced by housing hostility

April 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rdr

Rochford District Residents has been afforded a rare but very important interview with the national professional planning web site PlanningResource. Here are just the excerpts that apply to Rochford District. 

22 April 2016 by Joey Gardiner

Opponents of controversial housing developments are standing in next month’s local elections in order to fight what they see as the over-development of their areas.

With polling day for local and mayoral elections less than two weeks away, planning issues – particularly in the form of opposition to development – have the power to shake voters out of their traditional political allegiances.

“The job of a local politician is to try to buck the national trend,” said Martin Curtis, associate director at stakeholder engagement consultancy Curtin & Co and a former leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. “Development is one of those key issues where people will vote for a different party locally than nationally. Therefore some politicians looking to make an impact will always look in that direction.”

Assessing the impact planning will have on next month’s poll, in which four city mayors and councillors in 124 constituencies are up for election, is not easy. Received wisdom has it that local elections are primarily won and lost on national issues, but with public faith in the established Westminster political parties at a low ebb, some believe that could change this year.

Certainly there are a number of examples where planning issues seem to likely to affect the way people vote. In Conservative-run Rochford Council in south Essex, opposition to two controversial 500-home developments in Rayleigh, both of which have received outline consent, has been harnessed by vocal grassroots action groups. This anger is also feeding into the council’s current local plan review process, and contributing to support for a new independent party, Rochford District Residents, which, while not officially a single-issue party, is strongly campaigning to limit the number of homes allocated to the area.

Working with residents’ action groups and in formal coalition with the Green Party, it already has enough councillors to be considered the district’s official opposition, and is fielding eight more candidates this time. The maths are against it taking away the incumbent party’s majority, but party leader, councillor John Mason, maintains it is possible. “Residents want these issues raised,” he said. “On the doorstep people talk about flood risk and the lack of infrastructure. They don’t believe the council is representing them on these concerns at all.”

 

It may be no surprise that planning is the subject of heated election debate, but those who earn a living helping developers communicate their plans say these examples show how, in the age of social media, ward-level wrangles can become much bigger issues. In Rochford, for example, the Rayleigh Action Group now boasts a 5,000-strong Facebook group of supporters.

 

What does the Census 2011 tell us about our future housing needs?

September 12, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Essex Coastal Scene

The recently published Census 2011 data suggests to us that we did not need 175 new houses in Hawkwell for our children and grandchildren as the Council suggested to residents when they protested.

Nor perhaps the housing estate developments proposed in the rest of Rochford District.

With the age group 0 to 18 having increased across the whole District by only 186 over 10 years we leave it to you to decide about that.

Even if the birth rate in Rochford District shoots up from 2012 onwards as predicted these youngest children will not need new houses until earliest 2031 which is almost outside of the house building plan period.

With 0-18’s remaining around 17,000 over 10 years it is evident that the 1,828 new dwellings built in the District over 2001 – 2011 contributed adequately to their housing needs and other age groups. That is on average 183 new houses per year against the 250 per year which has been forced on our District by the last Labour Government and the new Coalition Government.

So if new estates numbering thousands in the District are to be built then many of these new homes must be for new residents to the District.

We are promised new jobs. When will the new jobs be created?

As the majority of the 6% population increase for Rochford District in the Census was in the over 60’s then instead surely we will need retirement villages to release “secondhand” family homes instead of new housing estates for a phantom birth rate or incomers to the area.

We adopted this policy as Independents several years ago.

On 9 April 2011 we wrote to Miss Laura Graham who was the Goverrnment Planning Inspector responsible for making a Decision on the Rochford Core Strategy.

“You should be recommending that the LPA should, therefore, take the existing CS away and press ahead without delay in preparing up dated development plans to respond to Planning for Growth and the LPA should use that opportunity to be proactive in identifying, driving and supporting the type of housing growth that this district really needs.

Instead of building new homes for families the housing strategy should focus on releasing smaller parcels of green belt in appropriately strategic locations to accommodate the needs of our aging population in terms of retirement villages which use a smaller footprint of green belt and release over housed family properties for re-use on sale.

Indeed Planning for Growth says “LPA’s should make every effort to identify and meet the housing, business and other development needs of their areas, and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth, taking full account of relevant economic signals such as land prices. Authorities should work together to ensure that needs and opportunities that extend beyond (or cannot be met within) their own boundaries are identified and accommodated in a sustainable way, such as housing market requirements that cover a number of areas, and the strategic infrastructure necessary to support growth.  I do not believe that the CS meets these requirements.”

We were interviewed by Rochford Life;

“Interestingly enough, when I mention retirement villages, I was quite heartened that in this Thames Gateway draft that the consultant have been putting together, that issue seems to be coming back, so maybe the noise we made, and the noise we made to the Inspector on the Core Strategy, has been read by someone and maybe this is the way our ideas come back and come into fruition.

I don’t honestly understand why the Inspector, when looking at the Core Strategy and looking at the potentials, didn’t turn round under the subject heading of housing and housing types, didn’t actually introduce that into the debate. If she had brought that idea forward with the developers, we may have found that many of them would have put their hands up and said, what a great idea, we can do that and it’s highly profitable and it’s socially sensible, it’s entirely engaging because it releases less Green Belt, so why don’t we do that. It’s a mystery to me.”

But today the Telegraph publishes that there is now support for this policy from a respected think tank report.

Pensioners stuck in family homes

A report from Demos has claimed that millions of pensioners face growing old in social isolation because they are trapped in family homes which they cannot leave. Pensioners who would like to downsize are sitting on a stockpile of properties with an estimated value of £400bn, the reports says. However, a shortage of smaller homes suitable for retirement means that more than three million over-60s are unable to move, it adds.

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank. We have spent 20 years at the centre of the policy debate, with an overarching mission to bring politics closer to people.

The Government’s response to the housing crisis is a focus on increasing home ownership among first-time buyers. Our latest report argues that building retirement properties for older people keen to move could free up over 3 million family homes.

The District of Rochford is part of the Thames Gateway Housing Market which comprises Rochford, Castlepoint, Southend, Basildon and Thurrock. This is a “Strategic Housing Market” and we are part of that “SHMA” (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) which will be published again by the end of 2013.

As with the Labour legacy of the Regional Spatial Strategies, it would appear that the number of new houses required to be delivered in Rochford District will not be decided solely by Rochford District but by consultants partly paid for by the Council and possibly by adjoining Councils under the “duty to co-operate” who would like us to take part of their quotas.

Will the new SHMA increase the yearly requirement from 250 per year in RDC?

According to the experience of the last 10 years according to the Census 2011 perhaps that figure should have been reduced already to the original 190 per year?

To justify 250 per year or more we need explanations and furthermore justification why we cannot have less.

[Notes: Rochford District Council provided the metrics referred to above and as such were verified and validated by the Council. The base information has since been requested and provided by the Council although Councillor John Mason has simplified the spreadsheet to allow the comparison between 2001 and 2011 to be seen at a glance here.]

Rochford Core Strategy Costs Already at £2.1 Million

August 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

George Osborne in Beijing

£2.1 million of Public money has been poured into R&D costs of Developers which they do not pay for.

You did !!

Surely the Coalition Government should have found some sort of mechanism for this public money to be recouped from the profits made by each developer?

Rochford District Council has spent £2.1m plus over the past 7 years to April 2013 on the Core Strategy.

Within that £350,000 to Consultants.

£1 million came from Council Tax and £1.1 million from Government Grants making £2.1 million overall.

All money paid by you in Taxes.

How do I know? Because as Members of Rochford District Council (independents) Christine and I asked the question on behalf of residents.

If you want to see the full information supplied to us go here.

How do we see things?

  • The Conservative Party promised to reduce the extent or even stop unwelcome development in their manifesto for the 2010 General Election.
  • The National House Building Federation lobbied the new Government over many months and The Chancellor of the Exchequer reversed the manifesto promises by creating a policy for economic recovery based on house building; boom and bust repeated.
  • Localism was promised in 2010 with local communities having a say in development was promised but all it meant was that Conservative controlled Councils would decide instead.
  • The views of local communities calling for a stop were ignored.
  • The reductions proposed by the Conservative Administration of Rochford District Council in mid 2012 were rejected and RDC now has yearly targets based on the Labour Regional Spatial Strategy coupled with a legally obligated Review for more years and more houses to meet the shortfall for adopting the Plan too late and finishing the build profile in the Plan years too early.
  • The Conservative Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, failed to dismantle the Regional Housing Policies (RSS) of the previous Labour Government until January 2013. Too late to matter as the Rochford Core Strategy was Approved by a Government Inspector and Adopted in December 2011 at 250 new houses p.a. rather than the preferred RDC number of 190 p.a.
  • So why has RDC not used the change in the law to revert to 190 p.a.?
  • Surely residents would have expected the Council to have reduced the number of houses in the Allocation of Sites which is in Public Inquiry in September?
  • The Hawkwell West development at The Christmas Tree Farm (Clements Gate) went ahead despite the fact that there has been no formal decision on the site at the Public Inquiry. So the Allocation of Sites could have been pulled until the numbers could have been reduced without opening the District up to the promised free for all from developers building even more houses.
  • Too late for Hall Road (600), Brays Lane (100) and Hawkwell (175) where plans are already passed but a benefit of reduction in Hullbridge and Rayleigh.

An Interview With The Rochford Life Magazine – John & Christine Mason

May 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Update Number 1 on planning problems at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pioneer Tree Farm

As your Ward Members we ended up voting for refusal of each of the three planning applications at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road, Rectory Road, Christmas Tree Farm, Hawkwell).  On two we were successful but on the last in September 2012 the Development Committee approved the application.

We were concerned that despite previous assurances from the Council Leader, Terry Cutmore, that the public open space would more likely be a private open space for the new estate rather than one owned by a local council. RDC refused to take ownership and Hawkwell Parish Council, despite owning and maintaining acres of public open space already at the public expense with publicly owned machinery, also refused and went even further stating that it would not even talk about it. Furthermore a bridged connection between Spencers Park (Hawkwell Parish Council land) and the new public open space at Clements Gate, which was to be paid for by the developer, was also refused by Hawkwell Parish Council rendering the new public open space a private open space.

Of the residents groups Hawkwell Residents Association (HRA) backed the Hawkwell Parish Council decision which was hardly surprising given that the HRA has a Parish Councillor.  But both the Christmas Tree Farm Development  Action Group (CTFDAG, Richard Hill) and The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG, Carol Dutton) backed our request to the Developer for a further meeting.  Despite some “thank you for your patience” noises from the developer via its external communications consultant nothing has happened.

So with the construction having commenced on 7 January we decided to talk direct to the developer about various material complaints coming from residents.  Things went quite well until the developer decided to have all communications via  its external communications consultant and that as District Councillors we must put everything through Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation at Rochford District Council. This dismayed us but as Independents we decided to go our own way and pursue residents’ complaints in whatever way we felt appropriate.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and our computers have been humming with our demands and negotiations on behalf of residents.  Once a planning application is passed various Conditions are attached to it by the Planning Authority.

We expected that all those restrictions that the developer had put forward in the planning application would appear as restrictions and that if a long road closure had been sought then it would have been applied for in the planning application.

NOT SO.

Naturally with such a large site as DWH/Barratts we were concerned that the necessary disturbance to the area is kept to a minimum and that the conditions are put in place to ensure that this is so. But not all of the issues that may arise come under planning; some for example may be Environmental Health, (which is a 9-5 Monday to Friday service as we found out when we recently had a problem ourselves!)

To this extent it is important that problems are raised as soon as possible because of the inevitable slow pace of action of any resolution and to prevent the situation getting worse.

Since construction operations started in January we have had many issues raised and below I list some of them and the state of play now:

Road Closure – For vehicles 6 months

We have an reached agreement that although Thorpe Road will be closed to traffic pedestrian access will be maintained even if the route has to be varied on occasion as previously reported ‘DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.’

We have asked Essex County Council to incorporate this agreement in the Decision Notice and have yet to hear if this will be done.

Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to?

After some representations we have received the following from Mr Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC who we understand is the decision maker on this matter.

‘It’s now been possible to check the Construction Management plan submitted for the discharge of conditions 11,15 and 26 and this does confirm the working times to be 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 4pm on Saturday, with no working on Sundays or Bank Holidays, though this may be varied in exceptional circumstances subject to approval by RDC and notification to the residents in writing at least five days in advance.

Deliveries are specified to be between 08.00am – 17.30 pm Monday to Friday and 09.00am – 15.30 pm on Saturdays.  Again no deliveries or collections allowed on Sundays or bank Holidays unless otherwise agreed in writing by RDC.’

We have requested further information and clarity regarding the Delivery aspect and await a response.

Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to:

Reply from Mr Scrutton (Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC)

“I have asked for our arb. chap to make a visit to the site to check on the situation and I am waiting for feedback.  However, I understand he has actually made at least one visit to the site and confirmed afterwards that more trees were being retained than shown on the approved plan, so I am not anticipating any issues.

As soon as I get a further update I’ll let you know.”

We will monitor this.

Request for ‘no exit/access to construction traffic’ notices at the Thorpe Road end of the unmade road to prevent mistaken exits onto Rectory Road

In place – installed by DWH at our request

Request for residents only parking notice as originally requested by Hawkwell Action Group but not responded to.

Agreed by Highways with the assistance of the County Councillor Tracey Chapman and DWH have agreed to procure and fund but residents are still waiting implementation.

 Excessive noise from tree felling

Activity ceased before this could be investigated

Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

DWH have ‘baited’ but the problem persists.

Burning of waste on site

Being investigated by Environmental Health RDC.

Planning Issue raised by CTFDAG

“DWH went to great lengths to assure us that whilst the site offices would be behind the houses in Thorpe Road and so the sub contractors would use Thorpe Road to access the off road parking facilities around the offices, the plant and delivery lorries would be directed to an entrance in Rectory Road and subsequently Clements Hall Way so as to avoid any such vehicles using Thorpe Road for access, other than in the very initial stages of the development, whilst the site offices, yard and access road were put in place.”

CTFDAG are dealing with this matter themselves and have a meeting with the developer on 12 March.

Please let us know if you are aware of any problems and copy us into your communication with the authorities so that we can see if the issue is a one off situation or a wider issue.

We will help you as much as we can but we can only do so if we are kept informed. If you write to or email anyone about a concern or complaint please copy us in.

Also for your information there are two more planning applications pending for this site from David Wilson Homes.  One, 13/00035/FUL  is to vary condition No 4 to application 12/00381/FUL and the other, 13/00109/FUL is to Demolish Existing Dwelling and Construct Single Storey Part Pitched Roofed Part Flat Roofed Sales Building and Car Parking Area.  Any comments on these please write to Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation but please send a copy to your Ward Councillors.   

Residents opposed to the development have rather pointedly sent us this link http://www.mydavidwilsonhome.co.uk/

We obviously can make no comment.

Part Closure of Thorpe Road, Hawkwell

February 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

It will only be part of the unmade part.

The currently made up part will not be affected by any closure and residents with homes on the unmade part at the Rectory Road end will also be unaffected.

As your District Councillors we were aware that there may well be difficulties and concerns for our community and asked DWH to meet with us.

John and I have met today, 19 February, with Terry Armstrong (DWH) and Rob Ruffy (DWH) to explain the concerns and issues that have been put to us by residents over the past few days in respect of Thorpe Road and the other matters raised since the start on 7 January.

We have been very concerned that the Thorpe Road Closure proposals were not included in the planning application. We only learnt about this last Thursday and immediately protested in the strongest possible terms to the Managing Director.

But we are pleased to be able to advise you that DWH have taken the problems and concerns that their construction is causing seriously and DWH have put forward certain arrangements that will hopefully ease the disruption and perceived potential problems as far as possible.

Whilst DWH have applied to Essex County Council Highways (not Rochford District Council) to ‘stop up’ close the road for six months this is a worse case scenario and DWH do not anticipate needing all that time.  DWH intends to start work on the Thorpe Road access road in April and anticipate this will be closed to vehicle traffic for three months between April and June.  However they have taken on board the problems pedestrians, wheelchair and mobility users, cyclists and horse-riders face with no feasible alternative to Thorpe Road for many.

DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.

DWH are also going to make Essex County Council aware of their intentions so that if possible the retention of the pedestrian and other usage passage can be incorporated into the Decision Notice.  Once the Road surface and drainage is completed, the road will be open to all as before, hopefully by the end on June 2013.

We have also discussed the time span and other aspects that may impact on residents during the building of this large development and made a plea for local labour and trades to be used as much as possible.  Also they are recruiting two apprentices for this site so if you know of any local teenager who may be interested please make sure they are aware of this possibility.

We are unable to give much further detail here but we have requested that DWH confirm their intentions in a Newsletter and DWH has agreed to do this shortly.

If you have any further specific worries or enquiries please let either John or I know so that we can take them forward for you as we are going to have regular meetings to represent local concerns.

 

Christine Mason, District Councillor for Hawkwell West

Hawkwell Neighbourhood Plan – Better Late Than Never?

January 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Casino Chips with houses on top

Christine and I went to a Hawkwell Parish Council Meeting in August 2011 to explain that the findings of the Hawkwell Parish Plan could be taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan (“NP”).

All of this is about more houses for Hawkwell and the views residents made clear in the Survey ” residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt”.

We saw this as an urgent matter because we foresaw that the Core Strategy (“CS”) would have to be revised or reviewed by the District Council because it was going to be late in providing the target required by Government and that it did not comply with the NPPF (” National Planning Policy Framework”) or the Government Policy “Planning for Growth” (means more houses).

We wrote to Hawkwell Parish Council again in March 2012 urging that they got involved in a Neighbourhood Plan quickly because RDC (“Rochford District Council “) had already a Committee Meeting which decided on how the Revised Core Strategy would be taken forward.

We told Hawkwell Parish Council;

“It seems to us that every Option, regardless of which might be chosen, has the risk of additional housing being required in the Core Strategy Location of South Hawkwell which is actually Hawkwell West Ward. Or indeed a new additional Location in Hawkwell Parish?

It occurs to us that your Council, on behalf of the Parish whose views are expressed in the Hawkwell Parish Plan which your Council has adopted, may wish to now formally consider whether there is any significant requirement/need/capacity in sustainability/opportunity for additional housing by producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Whilst it is known and accepted that a Neighbourhood Plan, as provided for by Law in the Localism Bill, could not change the position on the 175 dwellings already in the Core Strategy we believe that with careful thought a Neighbourhood Plan produced now might prevent significant addition.

This could allow any future decision to be directly influenced and formed by the residents of Hawkwell rather than by any other means or other bodies, which would appear to have been the case, in my opinion, to the Core Strategy adopted on 13 December 2011.”

But it was only at Full Council for Hawkwell Parish in January 2013, almost another year later and eighteen months after we had personally been to talk to them, that the Appointment of Councillors to a Neighbourhood Plan Working Group took place.

The Clerk to Hawkwell Parish Council writes “Full Council didn’t initially specify a report back date to the Working Group as the Chairman indicated that the matter is incredibly complex with numerous issues to be taken into consideration. At the Full Council meeting it was reported that a NP can take anything from eighteen months to two years to complete……….”

Is it too late?

Probably because in our view  Rochford District Council will have already decided well within eighteen months to 2 years time.

How do we know?

In July 2012 RDC published a revision of the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) which identified further sites for potential development in Hawkwell. (See our Article)

The SHLAA report was linked to Options to proceed the Inspector’s requirement of initial approval of the CS for a Revision of the Core Strategy to plan, inter alia, for a shortfall of 402 from 2006 to 2011 and to extend the CS from 2025 to 2031 at a probable minimum of 250 per year.

This potentially adds up to an additional 2000 dwellings for the district as a whole if windfalls do not extinguish at least the shortfall of 402 houses.

My question is what effect does the revised SHLAA have on any intention of Hawkwell Parish Council to put in place a Neighbourhood Plan and secondly what is the effect of a Revision of the CS which is already underway by RDC on the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan.

Here is a comment that we obtained from a professional planner;

“A Neighbourhood Plan can allocate sites for development as it wishes, with the SHLAA being a key evidence document to inform that process.”

“In respect of the revision of the CS, the Neighbourhood Plan must seek to be “in general conformity” with the CS.

So the NP cannot be seen as a tool to try and undermine what the adopted CS is trying to do, or what the revised CS is seeking to achieve either.

So with Rochford DC seeking to take forward a revised CS and Hawkwell potentially looking at an NP, it will be important to ensure that the two try – as far as is possible or necessary – to push in the same direction.”

BUT………………….

It is important to recognise that Hawkwell Parish Council has NOT YET DECIDED to produce a Neighbourhood Plan .

The Hawkwell Parish Council says “The Working Group has been set up to consider a Neighbourhood Plan taking into account potential costs, resource requirements, support within the community and outcomes of other Councils who have gone down the NP route, etc.,”

Unfortunately it might now be too late for a Neighbourhood Plan to have the desired benefit for residents.

But could it still be ” better late than never” ? Hawkwell Parish Council has a difficult decision to make.

Our view is that once again any opposition will have to be mounted by your District Councillors and any residents action group that decides to wade in with energy to hold public meetings and leaflet (1800 for just every house in Hawkwell West or over 5000 for the whole of Hawkwell. We do not know whether the existing HAG or CTFDAG will perform this role or whether residents need to set up a new Action Group.

According to the HPPG (Hawkwell Parish Plan Group) residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt.

We believe that no further encroachment on existing Green Belt boundaries should take place. Existing boundaries should be retained and, in determining the number of new houses that are needed in Hawkwell, to take account of the views of the residents of Hawkwell. Residents must not be dictated to by other authorities in isolation and without taking full account of the effects on the local environment, heritage and infrastructure for existing residents.

Please feel free to contact Christine or I if you wish any further clarification. 

 

Affordable Housing in the new Housing Developments

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Many residents expressed their concerns about the affordable housing requirements to us during the consultation on the three planning applications (2 refused) submitted by David Wilson Homes.

As your District Councillors we listened to your concerns and within what we could do in the planning process we ensured in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder that the affordable housing, 35% of 176, meaning 62 houses, were not to be provided just in one part of the development but in both parts of the development and spread throughout.

We also had significant input into the design of the houses in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder including making sure that the affordable houses had the same design attributes as the larger more expensive houses.

As Rochford District Council’s Core Strategy requires 3,500 new homes to be built before 2025 this will result in 1225 affordable dwellings in the District as a whole we feel that this needs to be managed carefully by all Members of the Council so that all of these homes are built and and gardens provided to the same standard as fully privately owned property to maintain the same high standard of living for all residents.

We recognise that there remain concerns and we have discussed various aspects with the Council Officers already because some residents have recently found it necessary to complain about some existing occupants of social housing in Hawkwell.

We recognise that this is a very sensitive subject but we have a duty as District Councillors to inform all residents.

These answers from Council Officers are our findings regarding Social Housing.

When we have a deficit of housing for residents of our District why would residents from outside of our District receive housing in our District?

The demand for housing, as evidenced through the housing register,is not only from residents of the District but others who have a local connection with the District through past residence, family or employment. (At present Rochford District Council can nominate some allocations (75%) and the Housing Association allocate the rest.)

• Why do we not have 100/nil if favour of Council allocation? Can it be changed? What will be the ratio on the DWH site?

The 75/25 split for nominations is the standard agreement between Councils and Registered Providers (RPs) and is also reflected in the LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary Transfer agreement between Rochford District Council and The Rochford Housing Association). For new build schemes however we would normally try to secure 100% nomination rights for the first lets and accept 75/25 split for subsequent lets.

What is the Council and Rochford Housing Association (RHA) policy on “sensitive lets”? Please define that term and advise the policies.

We do not have a policy as such on sensitive lets and I cannot answer for RHA. If a situation requires a “sensitive let”, when deciding whether to nominate an applicant we will take into consideration a number of factors including age, medical conditions, previous tenancy record (if applicable) and other aspects such as any record of anti social behaviour etc., We will provide RHA (or indeed any other RP) with the relevant information we have but ultimately it would be for them to decide whether to accept the nomination.

How can residents living nearby protect their own interests in respect of anti social behaviour emanating from residents of social housing as compared to private rental and owner occupier tenures.

Where residents incur issues of an anti social behaviour nature from any other residents, whether this be in relation to social housing, private rental or owner occupiers, these issues can be reported to the Council’s Community Safety Team. Or Essex Police in extreme situations. They will then look into the issues raised and endeavour to find a solution to the problem and where the perpetrator is in social housing, the Community Safety Team will work with the Registered Social Landlord to find solutions. With regard to social housing, the residents can if they wish go direct to the Registered Social Landlords. Another source of help is RDC Environmental Health depending on the nature of the complaint. 

Hopefully all new residents will settle into their new homes quickly and enjoy their new local communities.

Please let us know if you wish to comment by contacting your local Councillors,  John Mason at john.mason@bigfoot.com or Councillor Christine Mason at Christine.Mason@Rochfordessex.net.

Despair in Hullbridge Against the Imposition of 500 Houses

January 4, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

People learn

Christine and I went to the Hullbridge Community Centre last night, 3 January, to demonstrate our support to the residents of Hullbridge and District Councillors Michael and Diane Hoy (The Green Party). We also wondered if we would find any “magic bullets” in Hullbridge which could be of benefit to nearby Hockley who we are supporting in their objection to the Hockley Area Action Plan otherwise known as the “HAAP”.

Michael presented the position very well to over 100 Hullbridge residents who attended the hastily organised public open meeting. He explained what they could or could not do in the Public Consultation on Hullbridge SER6 in the Allocations Submission document. There were a huge number of questions which Michael answered very well in a very polite and well ordered meeting.

First of all we learnt that some of these houses were actually to be buillt in Rawreth and not Hullbridge. Two of the fields which made up 1/6th of the site were in Rawreth. But will Rawreth be holding a public meeting? How will the residents know?

This is not the first time that the Local Development Framework Sub Committee has allowed misleading information to come forward; our Ward of Hawkwell West constantly being called South Hawkwell in the Core Strategy? Hullbridge also felt that public consultations earlier in the Core Strategy process had not been fairly promoted or communicated within Hullbridge. Was the Statement of Community Involvement fulfilled? They think not. Is the resultant policy for Hullbridge Legal? Or Sound? These are the only valid objections that residents can raise now.

Michael reminded residents about what the Council said constituted a Sound plan.

“Rochford District Council states in its Public Consultation that to be Sound the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development”
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The conclusion was the same as already reached in Hawkwell and Hockley;

That the Allocations Submission Document is not Sound as the Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts on the Rochford Core Strategy through the Local Transport Plan because the information quoted by Essex County Council has not been published in the Evidence Base. The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites Development Planning Document (DPD) comes from the Core Strategy and that renders the Allocation of Sites DPD Unsound because it, and the strategic development proposed in the Allocations of Sites DPD, is not supported by sustainable evidence from a cumulative traffic assessment for Rochford District.

Residents came up with a whole list of sustainability issues that they would wish to raise in the Public Consultation. Here is a brief list which Michael will no doubt expand upon on his own web site;

http://mikehullbridge.wordpress.com/author/mikehullbridge/

  • sewerage at capacity
  • creates a new community out of cohesion with Hullbridge
  • the development offers youth provision where it is not needed
  • the development offers more A1 Retail where it is not needed
  • access over Malyons will create congestion
  • Watery Lane improvements will be 10’s of £M – economically viable?
  • Flooding issues to be dealt with by major engineering offsite in the Rawreth area creating further development
  • This site is not viable and nor are the alternatives which suffer from the same issues
  • Surface water flooding issues are assessed on insurance claim criteria – not assessed because there are no insurance claims for flooding in green fields
  • Tidal reflux in 3 rivers has effect on flooding – will affect Hockley and other areas upstream

The public was encouraged to tick the box to go to the Public Examination, attend and have their say.

A good meeting which brought the public together to support and inform.

 

 

Revision of the Rochford Core Strategy – How many more in Hawkwell?

January 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Targets - 2

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West?

In Hawkwell West we already have 176 approved which is an increase of over 10% of our housing stock in a relatively small area.

Read on………………..we will explain.

Background

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025.

The Government Planning Inspector required Rochford District Council to undertake a revision or review of the Core Strategy to take into account a shorthfall in target numbers and years together with compliance with Government policy called the The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the housing building policy “Planning for Growth”.

The Core Strategy is the main policy document that provides a future new housing development framework for our area; generally the release of Green Belt for new housing. Rochford District Council had hoped that promises to change Government Policy following the General Election would permit only 190 per year. This did not happen and the total number remained unchanged in the CS with the end date stretched to 2025. I believe that this means that the total number allocated to sites runs out in 2025 against a required extension to 2031. ( 190 x years now 250 x years end 2025 not 2031 as required by Government)

This implies to us the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for in our area at some point.

In July Rochford District Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) forms part of the Council’s evidence base that informs the new Local Development Framework or Core Strategy.

The Core Strategy really means “Government House Building Targets” which have not been withdrawn as promised by the new Conservative Government (whoops sorry, The Coalition Government of Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats).

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on……….we will explain some more

There is also a shortfall of 402 dwellings across the District is mainly due to the recession which resulted in a significant drop in housing completions, and the delay in the adoption of the Core Strategy.

Option A is to address housing shortfall up to 2011 by allowing a nominally higher quantum of development within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy, above that which has been assumed in the SHLAA Review. In other words instead of say 500 on a particular site increase the density to say 550. It is therefore necessary to consider whether there is potential for the quantum of development necessary to meet housing shortfall backlog to be developed within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy.

This would appear to be 5% in the sites put forward in the Allocations Submission Document which is subject to Public Consultation until 25 January 2013.

When I asked questions I obtained the following statement from a The Portfolio Holder ??? Council Member “The sites that are not preferred [in the Allocations Submission Document] will not come forward for further consideration.”

Do we think that that is likely to be true? Otherwise how is the shortfall of 400 plus 1500 making nearly 2000 to be met?

Option B, which we consider the more likely option, is that as the SHLAA simply suggests that any housing shortfall could be addressed through the Review of the Core Strategy, i.e. at point of the review, if the shortfall is X number of dwellings, the Core Strategy review could set out how X number of additional dwellings are to be provided in the District in the future. Would there be further public consultation on this aspect? Yes, hopefully.

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on…………here are the numbers and the possible new sites

In “South Hawkwell” as Rochford District Council repeatedly and confusingly insist on calling Hawkwell West, there are six proposed future sites in the SHLAA.

One of the sites, Potash Garden Centre, does not give the number of homes but it consists of 1.17 hectacres.

The other five sites propose a maximum of 124 new homes.

Four of these sites are in Ironwell Lane with 78 new homes proposed the fifth being land adjacent to The Old Rectory on Rectory Road with 46 new homes proposed.

Ironwell Lane (with 600 houses adjoining it in West Rochford already and given planning permission) seems part of a hidden agenda as on the “West Rochford” page calls for future sites Meadowbrook Farm at the bottom of Ironwell Lane proposes 31 new homes.

And to add to good measure 29-35 are proposed for the AutoPlas site on Main Road, Hawkwell.

Our concerns for unsustainable development in Hawkwell West with permanent loss of Green Belt and lack of identity by coalition are far from over.

It seems very short sighted not to provide a substainable infrastructure framework before allocating any proposed building sites and a further policy for more that just increases the already difficult conditions that we experience.

The loss of Green belt for homes should be a last resort and take account of OUR local housing needs, not national ones to rescue the Economy or those required by our Neighouring Councils in Southend, Castle Point, Basildon, Chelmsford and even Maldon.

The present core strategy has 250 new homes per year up to 2025.

Could we assume the number of new homes in the next core strategy of 2026-2040 will also be 250 per year?

The years up to 2040, “27 years”, are a mere blink in time before it is here along with the new homes/cars.

And will there still be no adequate Highways and other infrastructure?

When you get the chance to make comment on any of The Core Strategy by Public Consultation please say what your concerns are.

Further Public Consultation on the Core Strategy

January 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Happy New Year 2013.

This brings a further opportunity for residents to comment on the Rochford Core Strategy. This ends on 25 January 2013.

We have already raised our concerns about the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) and now we turn to the Allocations Submission Document.

http://rochford.jdi-consult.net/ldf/readdoc.php?docid=178

With planning permission having already been given for a new 176 dwelling estate in Hawkwell, despite huge objection by residents, residents groups and your two Independent District Councillors, you might think that this is the time for “no comment” from Hawkwell.

We think otherwise. We would encourage you to read our Article and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also wish to object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

We have been informed that the response from the Housing and Development Section of the Hawkwell Parish Parish Plan (HPPG) Questionnaire was mainly against further house building with a weighting of opinion that the area is full up and cannot even take the current volume of traffic in a satisfactory manner.

In the Traffic and Highways Section 71% said that there was excessive traffic congestion.and 77% said that Tidal traffic congestion leads to gridlock.

There were 136 comments made freely on the questionnaires which all directly relate to housing and development and 60 of which related to roads and or infrastructure.

We understand that the roads have not been improved since green-space separated all towns and villages on the Shoebury peninsular (for want of a better name). The development of Cherry Orchard Way (B1013) resulted in Hawkwell West getting true through traffic avoiding the A127 congestion for the very first time.

The HPPG is so concerned that it has suggested to Hawkwell Parish Council that a Rochford Bypass should be reconsidered when planning to improve the current inadequate road infrastructure.

This concern regarding traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure is not new and I had already raised this issue in the Core Strategy.

In May 2010 at a Public Examination about the Core Strategy in front of a Government Planning Inspector I raised concerns about the level of housing development and whether the roads could cope with the additional volumes.

I was assured that this matter would be looked at when the Essex County Council Local Transport Plan was reviewed in 2011.

Councillor Michael Hoy and Councillor Chris Black were both present at the PE in 2010.

Strangely Rochford District Council still agrees in 2012………….according to RDC (Minutes of Council 27/11/12); “Responding to a supplementary Member question relating to the cumulative effect of all the proposed development on the local highways, officers advised that the Highways Authority was looking strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts through the Local Transport Plan; in addition, the emerging community infrastructure levy should facilitate strategic highways improvements.”………but there is not a Traffic Assessment of the District (TEMPRO) in the Evidence Base as far as I can see.

The Member asking the question was myself, Councillor John Mason.

But in 2012 as explained by ECC, “the current Essex Local Transport Plan (LTP) was developed in line with Department for Transport Guidance on LTPs. This LTP represents a significant change from previous LTPs. It is not a 5 year plan that sets out a specific programme, instead it is a long term document that provides the framework within which transport programmes can be developed.”

There are 3,500 new dwellings agreed in the Rochford Core Strategy. Already 976 have been given planning permission in the Central part of the District.

Councillor Michael Hoy has posted on Facebook that a Public Meeting is being held on Thursday 3rd January at the Hullbridge Community Centre, in Pooles Lane. The meeting is to start at 7.30pm. This meeting is for residents to discuss and decide what they can say to the consultation, being held by the District Council, about the 500 houses planned for Hullbridge.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements.

Rochford District Council states in its Public Consultation that to be Sound the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.

Essex County Council stated in an email to me on 21 December 2012 “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

I conclude that the Allocations Submission Document is not sound as the Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts on the Rochford Core Strategy through the Local Transport Plan because the information quoted by ECC has not been published in the Evidence Base.

The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites DPD comes from the Core Strategy and that renders the Allocation of Sites DPD Unsound because it, and the strategic development proposed in the Allocations of Sites DPD, is not supported by sustainable evidence from a cumulative traffic assessment for the District.

The Planning Inspector is asked to reject the Allocations DPD and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic cumulative effects of all developments contemplated by the Core Strategy on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC in accordance with the LTP 2011.

Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP)

December 30, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

HÅP

We are formally objecting to the Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP) which is published at the link below.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

As District Councillors we believe that this plan will have adverse effects on the residents of our Ward, Hawkwell West Ward which adjoins The Hockley Village centre.

UPDATE – HERE IS A SYNOPSIS OF WHAT Councillor John Mason told the Planning Inspector at THE HEARING ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2013

I suggested yesterday at the Hockley Hearing that if the “up to” 3000sqm Supermarket/Retail scheme was not viable then a Retirement Village might be ideal instead and meet the rising needs of the over 60’s who have no smaller housing unit provision in the Core Strategy. More on this at http://rochfordessex.com/ in the article on the Census 2011. The Council suggested that 3 bed “lifelong” properties would remove the need to downsize……………nope !!

 

When I said that there were no new properties being built at one and two bedrooms that older folk could buy to downsize to the Council representative at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday said that older people were also eligible for rentable affordable housing if they wished to downsize. Don’t think the Social Landlords would agree.

 

The B1013 was running at 73% when I asked Essex County Council in 2008. Apparently the free flowing practical % only runs to 85% so I wonder where we are now? No answer from Highways at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday because they have decided not to do a Traffic Assessment. So is the Hockley Village Centre scheme viable?

 We are supporting the Hockley Residents’ Association whose Chair, Brian Guyett has had input into this article.

We would encourage you to read the HAAP and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

Anyone who either shops or drives in Hockley should be concerned with the District Council’s recently published proposals for regenerating the centre of Hockley which is called the HAAP.

There is the likelihood of a new “medium” sized supermarket of up to 3,000 sq metres (that nearly six times the size of the existing Co-op). There are concerns that a supermarket this large will overwhelm the existing shops and result in less competition and, in turn, higher prices. It is also contrary to the Council’s own experts, who recommended that Hockley should be redeveloped along small, “boutique” lines.

There are also plans for a public square, with an evening culture of bars and cafes, and around 100 new homes. Clearly this will all change the character of the ‘village’ against the wishes of residents.

This makes 150 new dwellings in Hockley made up of 50 recently given planning permission in West Hockley and the 100 in the Centre. (We thought there would only be 50 according to an election leaflet circulated in Hockley in 2010.)  So with the 976 dwellings already given planning permission in the Central part of the District the additional 100 takes the total well over 1000 (1026). There are 326 new dwellings just for Hockley and Hawkwell.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements and from what Councillor Chris Black has said in Council there are the same concerns in the West of the District.

Christine and I pledge to continue to campaign for highways infrastructure improvements.

However, the main concern on the HAAP is the impact on traffic and parking. The Council has repeatedly promised that highway considerations would be included in the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) but, in a the last minute U-turn, did not do so arguing that it could save money leaving it to a planning application to pay for this.

But

Essex County Council, advises that “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

The Council “considers” that the Spa Roundabout could be improved through the provision of 3 slip lanes and a wider pavement beside the Spa pub. There is no evidence to support this view or whether it is even physically viable. The Council has only allowed £2-300K for the cost of this work, which looks optimistic given that they allowed up to £2M for the same work in the Council’s costings for the Core Strategy.

The Council also proposes to move the Hockley Station car park in to Eldon Way, and build more houses on the existing car park. Whilst this has some attractions, it would reverse much of the traffic flows under the railway bridge and, again, the Council say they have not modelled the impact. So it is not known how this will change traffic flows through Hockley, including extra volumes from all the new housing in the West of the District.

Parking also looks very tight with just 211 places proposed for shopping and 72 for the Hockley Rail Station. The Rail Station Car Park is often almost full with 159 places so how is just 72 sustainable?

The Council states that to be Sound the plan (HAAP) should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.

As stated earlier Essex County Council, advises “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

As the HAAP is a proposal for strategic development then according to ECC this must be accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.

The Planning Inspector is being asked by us to reject the HAAP and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic effect of such proposed strategic development on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC.

If you also wish to object then please submit your own by 25 January 2013.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

John and Christine Mason

Another View – What Could Really Happen to Our Green Belt?

November 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Houses
Photo by bangli 1

The Liberal Democrat Group in Rochford has published an interesting article called “What Could Really Happen In Our Green Belt” at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11420  “OnlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District”.

OnlineFOCUS said that the latest new housing allocation document says these are only minimum figures, the Council may allow more housing if required to meet our Five Year Housing Supply.  The five year supply is a rolling figure (5 X 250 houses per year) that is assessed and the result published annually each December.  OnlineFOCUS concluded that if houses don’t get built in one Preferred Location they may get built in another!

The new ‘maximums’ are substantially higher and create uncertainty and concern for residents.

What we hope will become clear in our Article is that the RDC policy on housing development is multi layered and not as transparent as we would expect to be presented to residents.

But the Lib Dems helpfully published a list of Preferred General Locations and the extra numbers of houses each could get based on the published Maximums.

 – North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of   550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

– South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

The total increase which could be allowed is 1060 which would have alarmed many residents. The percentage increases range in each Preferred Location varies from 122% to 185%.

But I understand from one of our Planning Officers that restrictions were recommended at the LDF Sub Committee.

“The Allocations of Sites document recommends exactly where the Minimum houses will be built. Whilst a higher maximum was proposed for each General Location Members of the LDF Sub-Committee on 30 October recommended to the Council that the Allocations DPD restrict the quantum of development within each of the new residential allocations that are on land currently allocated as Green Belt to the figure specified in the Core Strategy as a maximum, but that this figure could be increased by up to 5% subject to the following criteria:”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings are required to maintain a five year-land supply;”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings to be provided on the site is required to compensate for a shortfall of dwellings that had been projected to be delivered within the settlement.” 

This would appear to be good news as the Maximum is not to be used.

However the question remains then why was there a Maximum in each Preferred General Location?

I will try to explain where we Independents think the Maxima will come into play.  We said earlier that the RDC Policy on housing development was complex and multi layered.

Read on………….This is obviously a sensitive political issue which might upset the peoples’ voting intentions if the implications were to be told in one place at one time.

I will have a go………………….I estimate that I am attempting to summarise the 2000 pages Councillors are expected to read and understand in just 3 ½ pages of A4.

So let us look beyond all that “smoke and mirrors”.

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025. This is the main policy document that provides a future new housing development framework for our area; generally the release of Green Belt for new housing. The Council had hoped that promises to change Government Policy following the General Election would permit only 190 per year. This did not happen and the total number remained unchanged in the CS but only stretched to 2025.  I believe that this means that the total number allocated to sites runs out in 2025 against a required extension to 2031.

This implies to me the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for at some point.

In July the Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

Did anyone else read this?

What was it for?

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March 2012 by the Government requires each local planning authority to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to assess their full housing needs and to establish realistic assumptions about the viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. It also provides some key changes to housing policy, differing from the previous Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).”

“A comprehensive review on the SHLAA is therefore necessary to provide more up-to-date information on the sites previously included in the SHLAA and any new sites that have emerged since the previous assessment. The findings will be used to inform the preparation of Local Development Framework documents.”

Two Options were recommended in order to proceed to identify where any additional houses need could potentially be built.

At the time of adoption of the Core Strategy in December 2011, the shortfall carried forward from 2006-2011 was already 402.

Option A is to allow a greater quantum of development through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

See the OnlineFOCUS list above for where the Preferred General Locations are in our District.

Option B is to make up the historic shortfall of 402 through the review of the Core Strategy. This will be dependent on the nature of the Core Strategy review.  One way to make up this shortfall of 402 – as discussed at the LDF Sub-committee in March – would be through the review of Core Strategy policies for housing 2021-2031 – a review which the Government Inspector’s required as a condition of adoption, given the delays.  The shortfall could then be made up over this period. However, in the March LDF sub-committee Members expressed a preference for a review of the Core Strategy which focussed on Policy H3 – only the Preferred General Locations for Housing post-2021.

In other words rather than look at the area as a whole again the Council will most likely only look at those sites that land owners have already put forward for development and have been assessed already.

It could be, of course, that the 402 shortfall might be cancelled out by small building developments over the period to 2025 or even 2021.

But spare a thought for the following areas which are scheduled for development post 2021.

If this shortfall is not made up these areas that follow will have to take the 402.

 – South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

But if we ONLY needed 1500 more houses from 2025 to 2031 this would still give only 322!!

So Option A would be to allow a greater number of dwellings through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

So expect the other Maxima to be used perhaps;

– North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of 550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

Another 738! Now making only 1060!! 1500 needed. (plus 402?) Oh Dear. But there could well be additional sites in the SHLAA 2012 which could provide additional dwellings.

Where could the1060 actually be built?  I believe that the additional alternative sites not already chosen in the Allocation of Sites or those in the SHLAA would come into play.

Take a good look at these now because if you do not object at the outset there will be NO CHANCE of changing things.

 You might like to think about this when the Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites takes place.

The sites currently rejected might well come back later, if the scenario of Option A  above comes into play, which we believe it might.  If you object to any of them say so now before it is too late.

The dates for the Public Consultation are yet to be agreed by the Council but it will be finalised at a Council Meeting on 27 November.  It is likely to be for 6/8 weeks from mid December.  Watch this web site for details later. 

Other looming pressures on the District might mean that new Laws could compel Rochford District to take on house targets from Southend, Castle Point, Basildon or even Maldon!!

The SHMAA was last reviewed in 2010.  Expect a new one early in 2012.

What is it?

The Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment

The study is likely to tell us how many Affordable Houses we need to provide in our District and being a standard 35% of each new development this might mean we need many more houses just to meet this target for the homeless and population growth and migration to our District.

As Independents we try to tell residents about what is happening about Green Belt and New Housing, warn and suggest what you can do before it might be too late.

Our message is to have your say in the upcoming Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites. 

Comment on all of them not just the one chosen to meet the Minimum in your area but also the Maximum for that site or Preferred General Location which we believe will inevitably be coming later. 

The David Wilson Homes Development in Hawkwell

October 7, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

By Councillor Christine Mason

For the last few years Hawkwell West has had the uncertainty created by the David Wilson Homes application to build a new estate in our midst, on land confusingly called South Hawkwell (and not Hawkwell West as it should be) by Rochford District Council. For those residents who attended last week’s Development Committee (and for those that were unable to do so) on 27 September, there were heated exchanges and contradictions that centred around the Public Open Space therefore I thought we should explain the importance of this relatively small but vital part of the development.

Green belt is I feel important to everyone in an area such as ours, especially when we are compelled to sacrifice some of it for housing. An area of planning called the Section 106 formalises the benefits the developer will provide for the area in respect of payments for sports facilities, education, health, highways, transport and other improvements to the area affected by the development. The District Council often request an area of Public Open space as a buffer. The Council also acquire a New Homes Bonus which one would hope would be similarly used although I believe that the Conservative led administration has yet to decide if this will go into the general pot. Expect a decision in the October Meeting of the Executive (Tory Cabinet Members only can speak and vote.)

In Hawkwell West we have quite a few Open spaces – White Hart Green, Clements Hall, Glencroft and Spencers being the ones most people know well. Public Open space is just that – Open space in the Public ownership for the use of all the public.

Generally speaking Public Open Space is ‘owned’ by a public body such as either the District Council or Parish Council and maintained out of the District or Parish rate. This protects the land from future development and also ensures public accessibility. We understand from the Press that Hawkwell Parish Council maintains 100 acres of public open spaces such as Glencroft, Spencers and also Magnolia Park. A significant part of their budget (the Precept or Council Tax that you pay to the Parish Council) is consumed by the equipment, labour and administration of these spaces and the Parish Council carries out an important role enabling local people to determine their own needs. We understand that both the Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group and The Hawkwell Action Group wished to see Hawkwell Parish Council take over this space on behalf of the whole community.

The difference with the David Wilson Homes development is that despite the Conservative Council Leader stating in the July FULL COUNCIL “he saw no reason for any new public open spaces created to remain with developers,” is that David Wilson Homes could either form a management company to own and maintain this space and pass the costs onto the new householders or pass Management and/or ownership to Hawkwell Parish Council with Hawkwell Parish Council negotiating for funding.

Management companies often experience difficulty both with obtaining finance from changing owners and the perception of the householders is that as they are paying for this it is in effect private open space, which can cause social and neighbour problems which we were anxious to avoid.

Hawkwell Parish Council approved the following Motion on Monday, 1 October.

“That this Parish Council write to Meeting Place Communications informing them as far as Hawkwell Parish Council is concerned we do not wish to partake in this project and will not give access to our land”.

Hawkwell Parish Council have by this motion closed any discussion with DWH and denied access to Spencers Park via a footbridge linking Spencers Park and the new Public Open Space to ensure accessibility for all. The Developer had provided a budget of £10,000.00 for this so the cost to the community would have been nil and the footbridge would have linked the two areas of open space which otherwise can only be accessed from the new Estate itself.

What we as your District Councillors asked for at the Development meeting was for Rochford District Council to step in and negotiate with David Wilson Homes to prevent future problems for our community in line with their own publicly stated policy. The vote was narrowly lost 10/12. That is why we voted against the development despite all the many, many hours of work we have both put in to improve the design of the estate.

You can read another account of this at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11061 which is the Rochford Liberal Democrat Web Site. They are equally concerned over the principle of the matter.

This is what HAG has said.

“David Wilson Homes now have their planning permission and we are very disappointed to hear that Hawkwell Parish Council (who look after every other public open space in Hawkwell), and the Rochford District Council have declined to take over the public open space that runs right through the proposed development. This leaves it in the hands of developers and vulnerable to even more development!! “

As your District Councillors we will now attempt to meet David Wilson Homes with CTFDAG to see what can be done about the Public Open Space despite the decision of Hawkwell Parish Council. We will keep you informed.

Why was the Council overruled on housing development in Hawkwell?

September 2, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Both John and Christine Mason were present and gave evidence to the Appeal Hearing and will now take a closer look at how the Inspector made his decision.

The Inspector explains why the preferred strategy of Hawkwell Parish Council could not have been included in the Core Strategy because it would not have complied with new Government Policy.

The new Government National Planning Framework (NPPF), which only came in late last year, certainly featured in the Inspector’s decision made in favour of the developer but there would also appear to have been lapses in the planning policies of Rochford District Council where Councillor Hudson is the Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation.

We made our Ward Member case that the Allocation of Sites Consultation should be held first but to no avail because the inspector decided that this did not matter in his decision.

Substantial weight was attached to the delivery of the level of affordable housing in this scheme.

So did the Inspector ignore Essex County Council’s, Essex Design Guide?

The Inspector said “The Council identified in the reason for refusal nine failings with regard to advice in the Essex Design Guide. That document is described as Supplementary Planning Guidance, having not been through the process to be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document under the 2004 Act. Policy CP1 of the Core Strategy refers to guidance not being overly prescriptive.”

No, it would appear that due to lapses and failures of administration at both Essex and Rochford that the Essex Design Guide does not have prescriptive status in our Core Strategy, as Members expect, and the Rochford Core Strategy says that Policies with the status Guidance are ONLY just that – guidance.

There was a further big issue indentified by the Inspector against the Council Statement on Refusal “The statement goes on to say that the proposal is a lost opportunity to provide a development of a high standard and an exemplar of good design.”

The Inspector concluded;

“[The] Framework (NPPF) contains at sections 6 and 7 the need to deliver a range of high quality homes and the requirement for good design, and Core Strategy Policy CP1 contains similar requirements for good, high quality design.

“The use of the word exemplar is not backed by policy and is more usually reserved for developments that ‘point the way’ in technical or design features. Whilst there is no harm in development of this type aspiring to this status, it is not reasonable to expect it.”

The Inspector also went on to disagree rather fundamentally with the Essex Design Guide Team findings.

Another issue of great concern to us is the prospect of even more houses being determined by the Council for Hawkwell West.

How could that happen I hear you ask?

“Housing Shortfall Backlog”.

The Rochford Core Strategy was formally adopted on 13 December 2011.

Following recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) as part of the examination process the Council has made a commitment to undertake an early review of the Core Strategy because of the need to ensure compliance with the NPPF, Government Planning for Growth strategies from the Treasury and the shortfall in the total caused by having to revert to 250 per year and a longer time profile.

It is therefore necessary to consider whether there is potential for the quantum of development necessary to meet housing shortfall backlog to be developed within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy. A general location is Hawkwell West.

We will continue to work for you and your family and oppose any increase to the detriment of Hawkwell.

Update on the Christmas Tree Farm/Rectory Road/Thorpe Road Hawkwell Development

June 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

 Thanks to the technicians at our web host this site has been recovered. We have tested the functionality we are pleased to be able to resume publication.  
 
This is a long article which is designed to bring residents up to date with development in Hawkwell.
 
 The story in the Echo dated 6 May 2012 by Emma Thomas entitled “Developer ramps up plan for homes on green belt in Rochford” sums up the present situation quite well and being in the public domain enables us to comply fully with the Code of Conduct  which determines what we can say legally as your Ward Members.

You might have missed the article because it was filed under Southend and Hawkwell was missed from the headline.  So we are going to repeat most of it here so that you can be informed.

A DEVELOPER has made another bid to build 175 homes on green belt land.

Rochford District Council vetoed proposals for an estate on Christmas Tree Farm, between Main Road, Rectory Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell, in December last year.

Councillors agreed the houses could be built there, but said the plans were not of a high enough standard. They asked David Wilson Homes to go back to the drawing board and come up with new designs.

[The Minutes said “Mindful of officers’ recommendation to approve the application, Members nevertheless considered that the application should be refused on the grounds that the appearance, design and layout of the proposed scheme was out of keeping with guidance contained within the Essex Design Guide.”]

The developer has put in an Appeal, which will be heard on June 26, but a second application is also being prepared which addresses the councillors’ concerns.

[Mr Richard Hill, Chairman of The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group] had met with David Wilson Homes to discuss the new plans.

The Hawkwell Action Group, [Hawkwell] Residents’ Association and [Hawkwell] Parish Council has also met the developers to share their views.

Mr Hill, 58, said residents were resigned to the houses being built, but wanted to get the best design possible.

He said: “I am pleased they have listened and taken notice. The only caveat to that is if they win the Appeal and don’t do anything, it is all a waste of time.

“Generally, we are against the development, but we accept it is going to happen and we are pleased David Wilson Homes has listened and taken notice of our concerns. It is the best we are going to get, I think.” If the Government Inspector finds in the developer’s favour, then the decision could be overturned and the houses would be built according to the first set of plans.

Keith Hudson, Tory councillor in charge of planning at Rochford Council, said he wanted a new plan.

He said: “I would much prefer the developer to put in a new application and take into account all the things members were concerned about.

“We will end up with a better development that we can all be proud of.”

Nikki Davies, spokeswoman for David Wilson Homes, said it would wait for both decisions and then decide which design to build.

She added: “We are focusing a lot of effort on the revised application. We are still pursuing both lines of action.”

What is not mentioned in the Echo is that there have been three Pre-Application Advice meetings which have directly involved both of your Ward Members, John and Christine Mason.

One of these meetings has been subject to a fee being paid by the developer to RDC where the charges came into force only on 1 April 2012.

Here is the “official line” direct from the Council’s Web Site explaining how these meetings fit in. 

Planning Pre-Application Advice

Rochford District Council welcomes and encourages discussions before a planning application is submitted. Such discussions can assist in better quality applications, which stand a better chance of a successful outcome. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the Council to apply a charge for this service.

Meetings with Members

“In accordance with the Council’s protocol, pre-application meetings can involve Council Members. The charges for meetings that also involve Members will be as per the charging schedule. Feedback from such meetings will be in the form of a written note of the meeting plus together with any additional information requests agreed at the meeting.”

Disclaimer

“You should be aware that any advice given by the Council in relation to pre-application enquiries will be based on the case officer’s professional judgement and will not constitute a formal response or decision of the Council with regard to any future planning applications. Any views or opinions expressed, are given without prejudice to the consideration by the Council of any formal planning application, which will be subject to wider consultation and publicity. Although the case officer may indicate the likely outcome of a formal planning application, no guarantees can or will be given about the decision that will be made on any such application.”

In addition John sucessfully moved in December that the Council would be expecting the developer to put its hand into it’s own pocket and fund a series of community based improvements called a Section 106 Agreement.

From the Minutes of Development Committee dated 15 December.

“During debate, concern was expressed about the future management of the proposed open space. Members emphasised that this should be properly reviewed with a view to robust arrangements being developed for the future management and maintenance of such open space, with a preference being expressed for the open space to be transferred to a public body with appropriate financial support for long-term management and maintenance.”

“The importance of re-siting street furniture and seeking from the developer the provision of a bus subsidy of around £100k was also highlighted.”

The Hawkwell Action Group and The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group are encouraging the developer to make formal proposals for management of the proposed Open Space with Hawkwell Parish Council who already manage the public open space at Magnolia Road, Spencers and Glencroft. The Council has its own groundsman and appropriate equipment that has been purchased from Council Tax already.
 
From the Hawkwell Parish Council Newsletter of February 2012 the Council said “By examining each line of our budget your Parish Council has managed to hold it’s precept (our share of your Council Tax) at the same level as last year, £30.30 for a Band ‘D’ property, without the subsidy offered to District and Borough Councils by central government.”
 
 
Hawkwell Parish Council writes “For less than 60p a week we can continue maintaining nearly 100 acres of parkland on three sites, Magnolia, Spencers and Glencroft, to the standard that’s come to be expected, all of the bus shelters in the Parish and almost 200 street lights.”
 
Hopefully the developer and Hawkwell Parish Council can agree on a scheme hich will protect the land from future development and maintain it for use by the whole community.
 
As District Ward Members for Hawkwell we are also encouraging Hawkwell Parish Council to produce a Neighbourhood Plan which will help protect the rest of Hawkwell from inappropriate housing developments but although we raised this with HPC in August 2011 they will not meet to discuss this until September 2012 !! 
 
If you have any questions please contact us.

An Outsiders View of the Rochford Core Strategy Suspension

August 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Planning guru, Andrew Lainton, takes an interest in the Rochord Core strategy.

He writes in response to the Article that John Mason wrote in whiche he wondered if certain legal issues, namely a High Court case called CALA II could impact on the Council’s request for Suspension.

Interestingly John spoke of his concern in the Council Chamber even then about the further potential delays which might be caused by the Government having to conduct Regional Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) to finally abolish the Labour Housing targets (RSS).

Andrew talks about the third option that John also put forward which was withdraw and re-submit when the legal uncertainty was over.

Finally Andrew has advice for Local MP, Mark Francois, who is a senior government whip who wrote a letter of support to the Planning Inspector on behalf of the Council.

Over to you Andrew Lainton.
 
“It is not that simple, in CALA II one of the key issues was to do with the law on whether or not administrative degree could overcome the will of parliament.  After Royal Assent the will of parliament will be clearer.

But none the less as the junior minister Bob Neill has consented to there will be no revokation until the SEA process has been completed, consulted on and responded to.

Until then the RSS remains the development plan and the legal requirement for general conformity remains.

A material consideration can never trump a legal requirement, this is not a matter for weighing and balancing.

Suspension now of the examination could be challengable as it would be prejudging the outcome of the SEA consultation, indeed imprudent remarks from Ministers have made a challenge on grounds of the Seaport case (a NI SEA case in the European Courts) inevitable, which will take at least two years to conclude.

What is more statements by government payroll members (such as the local MP who is a whip) that after the royal assent the RSS should be disregarded (see letter) could be regarded as prejudicial to the SEA process, the MP needs to keep a judicial silence as his action is likely to be quoted in court as evidence of government prejudice – he could have led to the RSS being given life until conclusion of judicial process.

If the Inspector suspended the EIP (Examination in Public) it would be prejudging, the outcome of an SEA process and consultation that hasn’t even begun.  She should carry on and determine the plan of the basis of what is and not what might be in six months or two years – indeed they have a legal duty to. 

The situation of EiP examinations lasting over a year – when they used to last only a few days or weeks prior to May 2010 – has become a joke which discredits the whole process.

If Rochford was not happy with this they could always withdraw and resubmit later.

Of course on re-submission if they propose building much less than SHMA assessed need and without ‘duty to cooperate arrangements to cope with the housing they would displace beyond the green belt they would not just have a potentially unsound plan they would (after royal assent) have a potentially unlawful one.”

http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/rochford-asks-for-core-strategy-examination-to-be-suspended-in-light-of-nppf-and-cala/

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