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Could there be a Reduction in House Building Targets in Rochford District

July 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, there could be, but many residents who listened to and read the promises made about over development of the green belt at the General and Local Election in 2010 think that the new Government has stopped all building on green belt.

No that is not the case, far, far from it.

Well the RSS Housing targets have been revoked. What does that mean then?

It could mean this;

-10.9%
East of England Regional Assembly (EERA)
23,900 local authority option one figure
26,830 current RSS figure

[Source http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6508627]

The difference represents an attempt by the now defunct EERA to impose housing targets of 250 dwellings per year in the development time line from 2025 to 2031 which the Council had already rejected !

In other words NO CHANGE ?

Did you expect a reduction immediately in the proposed losses of green belt 2011 to 2015 that feature in the many planning applications that developers have put into Rochford District Council?

Whilst the Council can set its own housing targets it is still heavily constrained by the RSS and the other recent housing studies.

So why might there be no reduction in housing development and loss of green belt?

What are the issues?

The Government has instructed Council’s to place a zero council tax rise in their 2011/2012 Budgets. As the Rochford Independent has already reported this will, in all likelihood, mean a loss of income of £300,000 in the first year and cumulatively £1.5m over 5 years.

The only viable alternative is to cut services or to recoup this over each year of lost cash flow with income from another source.

Hey presto, here is what Eric Pickles will do to plug that gap.

“Imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of building. The coalition agreement makes a clear commitment to providing local authorities with realincentives to build new homes.”

“…..those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions. Because we are committed to housing growth, introducing these incentives will be a priority and we aim to do so early in the spending review period.”

Other issues could revolve around what are referred to as “Option one numbers”.

Eric Pickles says “Authorities may base revised housing targets on the level of provision submitted to the original Regional Spatial Strategy examination (Option 1 targets), supplemented by more recent information as appropriate.”

All local planning authorities were required to project the number of homes they believe are needed to meet their requirements by 2026. Known as Option one numbers, these figures were submitted by local councils themselves to regional development agencies, with both parties negotiating over the number of homes to be included in the regional spatial strategy.

As I understand the position the figures put forward under Option one by RDC, except those for 2025/2031, are those which were in the RSS and are in the Core Strategy anyway.

So no help there perhaps.

And the Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMA) and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAA) for Rochford District could be just put forward as local housing needs assessments which have already been produced and only relatively recently.

But the Council does need to review all of these to ensure that these are really all minimum local housing needs.

Representations to The Planning Inspector examining the Core Strategy by both residents groups and developers are united in saying that much, much more work needs to be done to justify the Locations chosen. Such an irony where the same approach is being deployed by residents and developers to the Core Strategy but with completely different end game objectives if it is thrown out at this point.

At least that could mean that there will be the chance for residents to be to be consulted on the price THEY are prepared to pay in terms of reduced budget at RDC in return for less loss of green belt?

Unless the annual target of 250 dwellings is reduced by the Council then 1250 dwellings will be built between 2011 and 2015. And each 5 years thereafter. It would seem that the only real reduction might only be seen in 2025!!

Where are the outstanding planning application decisions?

  1. Residents of Rochford (326) and Hawkwell (330) wait for Mr. Pickles’ decision on the two Appeals at the end of July/beginning of August.
  2. Ashingdon waits for the Council’s Decision on the Brays Lane Planning Application (150) on 19 August.
  3. Residents of Rochford also wait for the Council’s Decision on the Hall Road Planing Application (600) due in February 2011 under an agreement between the Council and the Applicant (PPA).

It would seem that it has been suggested to residents concerned about the Hall Road planning application that if the Council is minded to approve the outline planning application next February, the release of the greenbelt land that is the subject of this planning application will need the approval of the Secretary of State.

So is it certain that this planning application will be Called In by the Secretary of State and referred to a Government Planning Inspector?

Well No, because it is thought that the Direction made by the Government in April 2009 that many such planning applications must be notified to the Secretary of State for consideration of Call In might, if as thought, the Direction is removed by the New Government then no referral or notification is required.

And, in any event,given the new Government’s policy of localism I think that such applications will not be Called In in future as relatively rare as it was anyway before the General Election.

This might be particularly pertinent if in the Brays Lane application if there is a resolution to grant consent for the development in the Report to the Development Control Committee approved by Shaun Scrutton.

Here is an update from the Planning Inspector’s Office which is administrating the Public Examination on the Rochford Core Strategy which I have obtained from the Council dated 2 July before the announcement of Revocation of the RSS on 6 July.

“Obviously the situation is still very uncertain with regard to policy changes by central government and she thinks it is likely that there will have to be a further hearing on 8 September (the day after the affordable housing hearing) to deal with that.”

“Her latest estimate for the production of her draft report to the Council is around 29 October, with the final report being available around the end of November.”

Rochford Core Strategy Housing Location Hearings

June 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

With all the recent talk and focus on the The Pickles Letter it has been easy to forget that the Public Examinaton of the Rochford Core Strategy is still continuing under the direction of Government Planning Inspector, Miss Laura Graham.  Indeed the Hearing on Housing that was attended by many residents and residents groups was only on 12 May 2010.

During the Hearings many questions were asked and challenges made of the Council.

Miss Graham asked the Council to provide the following additional information by 11 June.

  • Vision
  • Housing location audit trail
  • Record of correspondence between ECC and RDC about the transport infrastructure
  • Missing line from para 3.8 of Topic Paper 1 (Sequential test)
  • Additional text to explain purpose and content of Transport Strategy SPD

Respondents at the Hearings were invited to look at the new information and make any comments available to the Programme Office by 5.00 pm on 28 June.   I have looked at the information on behalf of residents of Hawkwell West and it confirms my contention that the CS is UNSOUND.
Is this important? Yes.  Because if we can now demonstrate that in the Rochford CS that there are substantive objections then, if the Planning Inspector were to agree in her Recommendation due to be made at the end of September, then the CS could not be used to push planning applications through before it is either revised or replaced with a fresh local plan because of the eventual abolition of the RSS.
So pushing for the CS to be declared UNSOUND can be helpful to residents. At least it counteracts the unhelpful opinion provided by the RDC Planning Policy Team Leader who Colonnade Land LLP say in their letter of 16 June that he confirmed at the Coombes Farm Appeal ” that the Council could not resist applications for residential development at the broad locations in the CS”.
But according to the Blyth Case no weight can be attributed to an emerging core strategy in the light of substantive objections.
Here is the submission I sent to Miss Graham today;
 
Date: 26 June 2010

Miss Laura Graham BSc MA MRTPI

Planning Inspector

C/O Programme Office

RDC

 Dear Miss Graham

 I have read the additional information provided by the Council at your request and which was posted on the Council’s Web Site on 12 June 2010.

 I was hoping that this would answer some of the questions, issues and challenges that I raised and you noted on 12 May 2010.

 I am afraid that for my part the additional information does not assist me in that respect. 

 You have invited comments from Respondents who attended the PE Hearings on the additional information you requested from the Council by 17.00 hrs on 28 June 2010. This letter sent by email to your Programme Office at RDC complies with that requirement. 

 I have looked through the Audit Trail and I cannot find a trail to the actual evidence that the Council has undertaken a comprehensive and detailed (in planning terms) comparative assessment of the impact of the CS Locations, in that they are identified for places of housing growth, in terms of the impact on green belt, the effect on the landscape and highways.

 I raised with you on 12 May, at the first day of your Hearing on Housing, my concerns about the lack of a comprehensive assessment in highway impact in terms of ALL of the proposed developments on the entire highway network by cumulative effect.  Neither does the additional information provided by the Council specifically on Transportation provide this necessary evidence.    

 Also of great significance I cannot locate in the Audit Trail a detailed consideration of the impact and harm of ALL the development sites on the Hockley Woods SSSI.

 I also raised with you my opinion of the unsustainability of South Hawkwell in particular and spoke about the consideration of alternative Locations.

 It seems to me having looked through the Audit Trail as a definitive source of additional information to the Public Examination of the CS that there is no actual evidence that the Council has undertaken a detailed objective assessment, in planning terms, of reasonable alternatives to the Locations which have been put forward in the CS. 

 Indeed prior to identifying the Locations to the public at all the Council should have carried out an assessment of reasonable alternative Locations that was conducted in full, in a detailed and objective manner in planning terms and, above all, visibly to the public.

 In my view SOUNDNESS of the CS may have been compromised and that these are substantive objections to the CS and, therefore, it should not be recommended for adoption following the PE as it is UNSOUND.

 Indeed according to the Blyth Case I believe that no weight can be attributed to an emerging core strategy in the light of substantive objections?

 If you not minded to observe that it is UNSOUND then the emerging CS will continue to be presented in planning applications which are premature in terms of PPS3.

 What is of great concern to me is that in a letter of objection dated 16 June 2010 submitted to the Council in respect of the Hall Road Planning Application (10/00234/OUT), Colonnade Land LLP allege that in evidence to the Coombes Farm Appeal that the [RDC] Planning Policy Team Leader confirmed that the Council could not resist applications for residential development at the broad locations in the CS.  

 I would urge you to find this CS UNSOUND and allow the substantive objections to require that the emerging CS is revised by the Council and, in any event, probably replaced by a fresh local plan in accordance with the written intentions of the new Government as put forward by Secretary of State, Eric Pickles in his letter dated 27 May 2010.

 There is a final matter that I wish to draw to your attention.

 There would appear to be gap in the Audit Trail between the LDF Sub Committee Meetings which are referred to on 9 February 2009 and 1 July 2009.  The Reference points are Pages 36 and 37.

 There was a meeting of the  LDF Sub Committee which is not reported upon and for the sake of completeness I am informing you accordingly because it was a significant decision making occasion.

 As a Member of the Council I was invited by an Officer by email only to attend a meeting of the LDF Sub Committee on 1 April 2009 where all Members could attend to discuss the Allocation of Sites.

 It was a meeting where Minutes were NOT published to my knowledge with just Shaun Scrutton attending other than Members.

 It was not summonsed by a Council Agenda or advertised to the public that a meeting was to be held by the LDF Sub Committee on the Allocation of Sites.

  This part of the CS process should have been made visible to the public with a record of the explanations for the basis of the assessment undertaken and the detailed planning reasons for promotion or rejection of sites disclosed when the Allocations of Sites DPD was put to public consultation in March 2010.

 There were some reasons given in the Allocation of Sites DPD but the quality of these is very poor in my opinion and I have concern that the Council has not undertaken a comprehensive and detailed (in planning terms) comparative assessment of all of the sites promoted and rejected by the Council.

 Sincerely

Councillor John Mason BSc FLS ACIB

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

June 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Pickles’ Letter

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

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

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

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

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

Extracted nuggets from that web site…….

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

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

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

Pickles makes a first move on The Core Strategy

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I have asked RDC for a legal opinion on the following letter.

What legal status does this letter have to determine a course of action by a Planning Authority? 

Or is it only an informative?

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

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

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

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

PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS BELOW from The Planning Officers Society

The Planning Officers Society (POS) has criticised the letter. President David Hackforth expressed “Great disappointment that the government has taken this step without proper transition and with no provision for strategic planning.”

John Silvester, spokesperson for the Society added: “In determining planning applications until such time as extant RSSs are formally expunged from the record then they stand as prevailing policy. Furthermore, the evidence  on which they are based remains valid and ought to be taken into consideration.”

The view of The Rochford Independent is that developers will be seeking a Judicial Review on any Decision on Appeal made by the Secretary of State until the Bill goes through Parliament. 

The Secretary of State might consider making this Law instead by a PPS or PPG but again expect legal challenges until a Bill is made in Parliament.

So when is the Bill on Decentralisation and Local Government going to be tabled?  Which Parliamentary Year and Session?

FURTHER COMMENT FROM THE PLANNING BLOG

http://planningblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/opinion-rapid-regional-strategy-repeal-risks-recovery/

No More Info on Housing Allocations likely before Local Elections

February 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

I believe that one of my roles as a District Councillor is to communicate as often as I can so that residents are informed.

Sometimes you have to ask some questions about upcoming issues.

The Rochford Lib Dems suggest that two LDF subcommittee meetings for April have been cancelled by the Conservative Group. 

But my enquiries show that there are still two dates in April set aside for LDF subcommittee meetings.  If the meetings were to be cancelled and the agendas had not already been published then information in the form of the strategic sustainability review will be exempt information provided in confidence by the consultant. It is information that will inform a report intended to be published at a future date and is therefore not available under Freedom of Information legislation or the additional rights of access available to a Member.
 
In addition the position might well be affected by election purdah period which this year runs from around 20 March. My enquiries reveal that the following case is might have a bearing on whether the meetings go ahead anyway.

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/bulletins/Planning-Resource-Daily-Bulletin/News/775859/Election-planning-decision-ruled-unlawful/

The view now seems to be that whilst originally purdah related to publicity for individuals or political parties before an election it may be that Councils can do nothing controversial or politically overt in the purdah period.

So it seems that there will be no more information on housing allocations until May.

No more homes for Hawkwell – The Rochford Independent’s Letter in the Echo

February 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

As a District Councillor for Hawkwell West I have a duty to represent my Ward as well as the District.  I am not doing this to preserve my re-election chances. I promised residents that I would protect green belt and I will do my best.

No more homes for Hawkwell

I am campaigning against the housing allocation for Hawkwell.

If an additional 365 homes were to be built in the village the road infrastructure in would have to be improved to cope.

In addition there are many more homes to be built in Rochford district where car movements could cause those people to travel through Hawkwell.

If the road infrastructure were improved in Hawkwell I can foresee additional roads being built to bypass existing bottlenecks, causing the loss of green space together with the cost of road-widening schemes.

That would make Hawkwell a place I would not like to see. It would be unacceptable.

My proposal is to say no to the additional 365 homes and no to any enabling infrastructure.
John Mason
Independent Councillor, Hawkwell West
Englefield Close, Hawkwell

Would Rochford Square Pedestrianisation Close Shops?

February 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Echo Story – Rochford Market Square pedestrianisation hope

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/rayleigh/display.var.2024476.0.rochford_market_square_pedestrianisation_hope.php

Council leader Terry Cutmore said: “In Rochford, many people would like to see a central area free from traffic and we are looking to pedestrianise Market Square.

The Rochford Independent Comment

I think that the Council Chief has either made a mistake with this one or he is simply trying to get a front page story. I think that its the latter because he surely can’t have forgotten that just about 5 years ago now, that as an independent councillor, I put the idea forward at a town centre sub committee that not only could it be pedestrianised but also it could be made as attractive as a town square in France. I wished that I hadn’t by the time of the next meeting when the shop owners had come forward to protest because they benefit from the “free parking trade” and many felt that they would have to close without it. This sort of publicity will give the Council Chief a higher profile and stimulate unproductive protest rather than constructive debate. He will regret saying this when it is remembered at the May elections.

Rayleigh Homes – No Change Says Tory Leader

February 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

From the Echo – 8 February

Rayleigh homes row

LIB Dems on Rochford District Council have been accused of scaremongering by suggesting 1,800 new homes could still be forced on Rayleigh.

The Lib Dem Focus website, run by group leader Chris Black, is claiming ruling Tories may revise the current suggested figure for the number of homes the town must take to meet Government housing demands.

The website says: “It’s possible officers might suggest a variation of the 740 figure for Rayleigh. “The Conservative group could backtrack. After all, there’s been no council vote on their figures, just a publicly stated proposal. “Once the elections are over, the Tories will have some new members, replacing old ones. They might well have a new leader.”

However, council leader Terry Cutmore said: “As far as I am concerned, the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by the Conservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.

“Obviously, there is still a long way to go and there is going to be more consultation starting after the elections, after all the representations have been studied and sites identified.

“Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.” 

The Rochford Independent Comments:

There are some intriguing  political positions emerging in the public debate over new homes in Rochford District and where they should be built.

Hawkwell Parish Council contacts the Echo and suggests 2,200 new homes should be built in a new town in West Rayleigh. The announcement was made by former Lib Dem District Councillor, Vic Leach supported by former Labour District Councillor Myra Weir.

Just before Christmas I had a private conversation with an Executive Member of Rochford District Council whose view was very similar to that put forward by Hawkwell Parish Council.

But the Tory Leader, coming up for personal re-election in May, now accuses the Lib Dems of scaremongering but makes some reassuring noises to Rayleigh.

But some of the things he has said have either been misreported or, if they are pukker, then I am afraid they are too cryptic  for me.

What does the construction around “finally” mean in “Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.”?

And the words “As far as I am concerned” could mean that the party whip is in because whatever he says the rest must follow or that it is purely a personal view?

In the full context the quote reads “As far as I am concerned the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by theConservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.”

One thing I do know is that neither of the two main political parties on Rochford District Council have come up with a thought out and formally presented strategic plan for the District. The Tories have the responsibility as majority party to come up with a proper plan; Fair Shares for All is a political fudge and it does not do any justice to the accountability for proper planning.The Lib Dems have no strategic plan for the District either but with the party only having seats in Rayleigh you can at least understand their policy of just seeing reductions in Rayleigh and the expedience of a plan that is Fair Shares for All. It is going to be a complete mess with blotches of houses here and there based on a piecemeal assessment of the individual sites that have already been put forward with no joined up thinking or rhyme or reason for the future.

In the forthcoming consultations in June the public should demand to see what the strategic planners do recommend (even though the Councillors may reject the proposals) because whatever the professionals say it will make much more sense than Fair Shares for All which is no strategy just a political expedient.

Allocation of new homes in Rochford District

January 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford Independent has seen the article by Geoff Percival in the Echo.

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.1992104.0.0.php

I would invite you to read this if you have not seen it. 

I am an independent district councillor for Hawkwell West and I have been campaigning with residents against the housing allocation for some months now. The support from Hawkwell Parish Council is welcomed.

If an additional 365 homes were to be built in Hawkwell then the road infrastructure in Hawkwell would have to be improved to cope with the number of additional cars per household multiplied by the number of average car movements per day. In addition there are many more homes to be built in Rochford District where car movements could cause those people to travel through Hawkwell on the feeder routes to the “A” Roads.  That number of additional vehicle movements would run into thousands.  If the road infrastructure were “improved” in Hawkwell to cope with that then I could forsee additional roads being built to bypass existing bottlenecks causing the loss of green space in itself together with the cost of road widening schemes.  That would make a Hawkwell a place that I would not like to see.  It would be unacceptable.  So nobody should be suggesting that Hawkwell could have the 365 homes if the infrastructure is improved.  I don’t want to the developers and the planners challenged into going ahead and making the bid for big infrastructure changes for Hawkwell in the decision process.

The report from the strategic sustainability review will be available shortly at the District Council and I have been personally invited by the Chair of the sub committee to attend.  It is premature to try and guess the recommendations but it is up to Councillors to consider what sort of policy makes sense and what doesn’t.  (Let’s hope that the strategic planners don’t now come up with a plan that will improve the infrastructure in Hawkwell.  That would ruin the environment may times over the actual impact of the allocation of the houses.) 

My proposal on behalf of the residents of Hawkwell is to say “NO” to the additional 365 homes and “NO” to any enabling infrastructure. I would appreciate the views of residents on this through our Contact Page. 

But the housing allocation for Rochford District must be formally planned for and it makes more sense strategically to put this allocation wherever the infrastructure is already and not where building new infrastructure would be an even bigger blight on the District.

As for a new “town” out to the East, in association with a Southend/Rochford Relief Road or By Pass, I understand that the sustainability figure for developers to provide that major road would have to be in the region of 12,000 additional houses in Rochford District which is many times higher than the proposed allocation. So the most likely place is in the West.  

The professional approach to strategic sustainability planning is about an objective analysis and assessment based on data and information.  It does not start with a notion of “Fair Shares For All” nor does it end with it and it does not appear in the middle either.

My view is that the abrupt decision made by the Rochford District Conservative Group to significantly reduce the number of new homes that the District Council might propose to be allocated in Rayleigh was an expedient decision to quell the internal concerns of the Tory Rayleigh Councillors who were being tormented by the Rochford Liberal Democrats. And there was the real prospect of a loss of Tory seats.  But will the next public consultation on the Local Development Framework be before or after the May Local Elections?  I can’t answer that but one can speculate.

Getting back to strategic sustainability planning. Let’s face it any new big enabling infrastructure is going to be very expensive.  It takes a lot of new houses to pay for what is necessary.  So I expect that the professional study will recommend building any lower level infrastructure on the existing higher level infrastructure.

A major build of infrastructure in the East is only really sustainable at 12,000 new homes.  So the probability comes back to the West, around Rayleigh. There is no point in “improving” the low level infrastructure to enable 300 houses here and 500 houses there to be built when the traffic they generate will run into a bottleneck just round the corner. My view is that the “Fair Shares For All” approach to the allocation of new homes will be recognised very soon as a political expedient and some serious planning analysis, tied to sane economics, will show the only way that makes every sense STRATEGICALLY is to develop the West with around 2,500 new homes. 

Hawkwell Parish Council – 2007 to 2011

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Local Government Elections in May 2007 saw “No Contest” for any seat on Hawkwell Parish Council.

There are 17 seats on Hawkwell Parish Council but only 14 of those are filled. Consequently there was little change.

There are 3 Vacancies which the Council will have to try to co-opt.

Half of the 14 Councillors represent registered political parties:

4 Labour Councillors, 1 Conservative Councillor, 2 Hawkwell Residents Councillors

I’ll bet that most readers think that I have made a mistake with the last entry.  Hawkwell Residents is a Registered Political Party in England and Wales.  It is sponsored financially by the Hawkwell Residents’ Association that goes to such lengths to publicly state that it is a non political organisation. If the candidates had wanted to represent the Hawkwell Residents’ Association then they could have done so at Parish Council. It’s a bit of a sham really, isn’t it?

The other 5 Councillors represent main political parties and all have served or still serve at Rochford District Council.  One has served on Essex County Council. Whilst this provides great experience it does mean that Hawkwell Parish Council cannot say that it is wholly a non political council. 

Elections – Did you know this?

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Just a reminder if it comes up again !!  

Section 106, Representation of the People Act 1983, Crown Prosecution Service Special Cases Division

Criticism of public acts, even if extravagant and perverse,or of a person’s political career and conduct, does not fall within the Section.

All is fair in love and war and, well, that’s politics !! 

 

Financial Concerns over Parish Council Decision

September 19, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Some years ago the council tax raised by Hawkwell Parish Council was much lower than it is now.  If memory serves me correctly it was about £50,000 per annum and when the Spencers and Magnolia Open Spaces were taken over the  costs increased to the high 80’s and now over 100,000.

So when the Council decided to take over the Glencroft Open Space, I was concerned that the costs were fully understood before the land was taken over rather than discovered as the project proceeded.

When Hawkwell Parish Councl took the decision to take over the Glencroft Open Space on 12 June 2006  this was made without any presentation of the way it was to be managed and by implication the costs that will be incurred on a permanent basis together with those additional capital costs of plant and equipment that will be required,

As the Open Space is being taken over from Rochford District Council it would have been appropriate to find out exactly what current costs are being incurred by RDC.  This has not be done.

I supported, with another 6 Councillors, a Motion on Notice to rescind the Council decision made on 12th June regarding the Glencroft Open Space.

Unfortunately the vote to protect your financial insterests was narrowly lost 8/6 and the project will proceed on a hand to mouth basis with the Parks Committee asking for money as required.  What this will do to the figure raised as council tax I do not know.

This is the letter I sent to all councillors before the meeting in an attempt to get them to not commit unless the costs were known. Read more

Rochford District Residents is Independent

September 16, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

It has been pointed out to us that Hawkwell Residents’ Association say on their web site and in their newsletter that “The Association has been contacted by a number of members who are confused as to whether the Association is linked in some way to Rochford Residents. The Association has no links to this political party.”

I think that now is the time to clear some air.

Rochford District Residents is a registered local political party and we say that upfront on this page. We have two Councillors. Christine Mason has a seat on Hawkwell Parish Council and John has a seat on both Rochford District Council and Hawkwell District Council.

We do not have any current links with the Hawkwell Residents’ Association.

I left the Hawkwell Residents’ Association and the political party, Hawkwell Residents that it controls because the Hawkwell Residents’ Association had changed too much for me from the basis it had in 1994.

I was told that I could only represent as a Councillor what the Committee agreed using as an example about such issues as a new major road through the green belt of Rochford District. I had taken my “authority” to oppose this from the Constitution which simply required the Association to protect green belt.

Indeed the Association’s Constitution now only speaks about local green belt and has dropped coalescence which means that they would not mind if Rayleigh, Hockley, Hawkwell and Ashingdon was joined up with no green gaps into one urban sprawl.

Neither was I prepared to abandon the interactive community web site, that the Committee had previously agreed to, to one where the committee supplied the content and did not let the community feedback !!

Personally, despite having worked so hard for the Association over 10 years, I felt that I was being hounded out of the Hawkwell Residents’ Association because this was an abrupt and unsignalled change in committee policy which was communicated only in the Minutes.

I should, perhaps, have not been surprised about that because this change of policy preceded some personal difficulties with two Committee Members.

What is surprising is that the Committee of Hawkwell Residents’ Association says that it is still a non political organisation in its Constitution when it controls a political party called Hawkwell Residents !! And it has three Hawkwell Parish Councillors representing that political party.

Would it be misleading for the Hawkwell Residents’ Association to claim that it is a non political organisation?

Could standing as candidates in the elections be deemed to be inconsistent with the Association’s constitution that states that the organisation will be non-political?

Clearly this should have been changed when the next revision of the Constitution took place following the creation of the political party because the Hawkwell Residents’ Association is clearly political if it controls a political party.

Barrier at the end of Hawkwell Park Drive

May 20, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

This was discussed at Hawkwell Parish Council and passed back to John.  With the Police and RDC it has now been decided to resolve the issue with a new barrier and fencing.

While I was out meeting people during the election the feedback I got was that the recent changes had been for the worse because the motor cyclists just roar down the road now and straight onto Clements Hall.

When I contacted RDC they said that this had been at the request of The Hawkwell Residents’ Association residents to let prams through.  

John Mason

What goes on in the Local Elections?

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

So what does go on in the Local Elections that shouldn’t and you don’t get to hear about? Read on to discover the level of activity that was undertaken against myself, an independent candidate in the 2006 Local Government Elections. Read more

Abolition of The District Councils

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

John Prescott now longer has the ODPM and David Miliband has moved on. Several senior civil servants are no longer involved.  It is rumoured that the Government does not wish to take on some County and District Councils.  The White Paper will now be published towards the end of October.



Recent election candidates for District Councils might find that the losers have the last laugh almost immediately as their office will most likely abolished with the District Councils as early as 2008 by the Labour Government.

The Labour Government is even thinking of calling off the next District Council elections due in 2007 to make way for early abolition of the District Councils. Read more

Anti Social Behaviour and Vandalism

May 18, 2006 by · 5 Comments 

I recognised the issue of policing in my election address as a matter of concern not just for Hawkwell but the whole Rochford District. This is not just an issue for Hawkwell or its representives to address alone.

The situation will not be improved across the District unless the whole District Council acts and obtains the level of policing we require from the newly merged Rayleigh and Southend Division. As I said in my election address the Council is still awaiting the Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Folkard to come to a Council Meeting and explain the basis of resourcing we have and challenge that is insufficient.

In the meantime I have advised Essex Police again, and just a few weeks ago, of the concerns of residents about young people coming into Hockley and Hawkwell by train because they have been dispersed by law from Rochford. There have been joint operations between the Transport Police and Essex Police at Hockley Rail Station in the past and I have asked that this operation be renewed. I have also asked Essex Police to increase patrols in Hawkwell. Read more

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