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RESULTS – BUDGET POLL – AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

January 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Rilsonav / Pixabay

All Polls ‹ The Rochford Independent — WordPress

Use the link above to see the FULL results.

134 residents (thank you) completed our Budget Poll.

What have residents said that the Council should listen to?

That residents are tired of add on “top up” taxes like special charges for green bins, car parking charges or even an extra charge for street lighting.

Whilst a majority did not want to see a Council Tax increase, which is understandable, those who preferred a Council Tax increase, rather than top up charges, were only just behind the No’s.

Interestingly residents were more in favour of using New Homes Bonus Grants to meet any shortfall in income rather than put it into reserves.

For the Investment Board residents were in favour of capital projects to develop land assets for development for affordable homes for social rent, a homeless shelter and an investment in a solar farm.

There was an overwhelming view from residents that the Cabinet with over £100,000 of allowances should go.

Rochford District Residents Candidates 2016

April 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rdrOur Rochford District Residents Candidates are standing in the following Wards;

Downhall and Rawreth – John Chaffin
Sweyne Park and Grange – Toby Mountain
Lodge – Richard Lambourne
Hockley – Adrian Eves and Irena Cassar
Hawkwell East – Elliot Mason
Hawkwell West – Christine Mason and John Mason

Please Vote for them on 5 May !!

Results may not be in until mid morning 6 May.

Reflections on the Local Elections – with just 4 days to go!

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason – Independent District Councillor for Hawkwell West

OpenClips / Pixabay

Seeking election or re-election is probably the most daunting job interview that you can experience.  I certainly felt nervous and uncertain when attending work interviews.  It takes a certain courage, or insanity, to multiply this activity a hundred-fold and effectively have a panel of examiners that cover every house and road, every opinion and point of view and to explain your perspective.

John and I are fortunate in that the community we live in seems to appreciate the work we do and often acknowledge it.  They may not always agree with us but hey! – that’s democracy.

Sometimes I think we are mad to work so hard but in truth when we are able to resolve a problem or help someone in need it makes it all worthwhile.  In some ways it is similar to having a large extended family, something I would have loved.

The banter of electoral debate heats up as we get closer to Polling Day.

Unfortunately this year has seen some difficulty where inappropriate and inaccurate statements have been made by canvassers and John was so upset that he reluctantly had to make formal complaints.  This type of unnecessary unpleasantness is hard to stomach and impossible to counter.  One thing we will not do is retaliate by descending to that level to win at all costs.

We have just 4 days to Polling Day and the difference the Postal Voting has made to the election process is very noticeable.

Friends who are away have been able to vote despite their absence (for any person of their choice of course), the issue of the weather affecting turn out is less of an issue and the constant ‘busing’ of people by the large political groups to the Polling Station is less obvious.  Another surprise was yesterday when out shopping someone called out to John that he had already voted for him.  Not only did it cheer John up remarkably but it brought to mind that voting now is a more continual process due to this facility.  I am sure it makes for a lot of hard work for our electoral staff but I observed some of their work and was highly impressed at the meticulous efficiency.

Certainly I endorse any effort to encourage more people to vote.  I have always felt it regrettable that turnouts are relatively low when I reflect on the history of one man one vote and the sacrifice by both suffragettes and our soldiers to obtain and preserve our democracy.

So please vote on the 22nd May.  I would naturally prefer you to vote for John but the really important thing is that you make your vote count.

Rochford District Council Subsidises Gala Dinner

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The confusion over the Rochford District Council Annual Civic Dinner persists, but we seem to finally be getting a truer picture of the event.

According to latest information from The Chief Executive it would appear that;

  • 47 guests paid for their tickets at £40.00,
  • Also 16 guests, including three RDC Councillors, received ‘free’ tickets
  • And 11 ‘chauffeurs’ dinners were provided;
  • 7 at the reduced price of £10
  • the other 4 free for RDC Operational Staff.

(Not quite sure what the difference between the chauffeurs’ dinner is other than price.)

£90 is still owed by someone.

Confusion reigns because there does not seem to be any reconciliation between the number of tickets and the income and accounts are presented without the VAT element.

My maths calculate a gross income of £1950 and gross expenditure £3920. This of course excludes any staff costs as RDC do not appropriate such overheads to individual events.

This results in a loss of £1970 for the 47 paying guests, or alternatively a subsidy of about £42 per full priced ticket, meaning that the full cost should have been £82 instead of £40.

There are of course many other ways of looking at this.

But however you look at it the event makes a loss and is a drain on the public purse.

Multiply this across every Council in England and the potential cost could be substantial.

If RDC wish for a Civic Dinner perhaps they should ensure that it is cost neutral, or even better raises money for the Chairman’s Charity.

Certainly most organisations would not run a loss making event year on year and since the Recession in 2008 the cost to the community is over £16,000.

A little bird tells me that they might seek a Sponsor for next year’s do.

Perhaps we shall see a menu with builders’ soup, highway congestion of mixed vegetables and a large slice of humble pie.

Personally I think the answer is simple – raise the ticket price to cover all of the costs.

What do you think?

Email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Comment on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rochfordindependent

Free dinner guests below:

• Chairman, Councillor Mrs B Wilkins
• Mr Martin and Mrs Julie Butler (Citizen of the Year Winner and wife)
• The Rt. Hon Mark Francois MP (Guest Speaker)
• James Duddridge MP and Mrs Katy Duddridge (wife)
• Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex
• Mr and Mrs Julia and Charles Abel Smith (High Sheriff of Essex and husband)
• Mr Nick and Mrs Pippa Alston (Essex Police & Crime Commissioner)
• Rev. Alun Hurd (Chairman’s Chaplain)
• Mr Malcolm and Miss Rosanna Hiscock (South East Essex Symphony Orchestra – one of the Chairman’s Charities)
• Leader, Councillor T Cutmore (hosting a table)
• Councillor Mrs Mockford (hosting a table)

John Mason – Local Elections 2014 – Hawkwell West, Essex

April 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Why John Mason is asking you to Vote for him on 22 May 2014 at the Local Elections in Hawkwell West, Rochford District Council

Why You Should Vote For John Mason on 22 May

April 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

[evp_embed_video url=”http://rochfordessex.com/rol/images/Elections2014.mp4″ width=”500″ height=”400″]

VOLUNTEERS WANTED TO HELP WITH FLOOD PREVENTION IN RECTORY ROAD

October 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Discussing Water Rights.preview30TH November: 10 am

1st December: 10 am

Meet at junction of Windsor Gardens & Rectory Road

The Problem: In August our area suffered flooding when the Hawkwell Brook overflowed as a result of the heavy rain and high tide.  Many of those worse affected were frail or elderly and have become fearful of a repeat situation.

The Situation: Generally, the owners of the land adjoining a watercourse are responsible for keeping the passage clear.  In the past the Water Authority cleared this on occasion but in recent years they have left this to the adjoining landowners.  Unfortunately, many landowners are unaware of their responsibility or are unable to deal with the debris and growth.

The Resolution: We are asking residents to come together and help clear the vegetation around the Brook, starting at Windsor Gardens and working back to Clements Hall. Once the vegetation has been cleared, this should allow water to flow more freely to where it passes onto farmland and no longer threatens property.

Equipment Needed (Please raid your sheds!)

∙ Thick Gloves ∙ Secateurs ∙ Shears ∙ Sacks ∙ Wheelbarrows/Containers

If you can help please call 01702 204377 or write to us at Wistaria Cottage.

The Planned Action:

∙ Mick Purkiss (the farmer) has offered to remove as much vegetation as possible during November with his hedge cutter.

∙ Rochford District Council are providing large bins for us to fill with green debris

∙ Rochford Hundred Rugby Club and a local Church have offered their help

∙ We ask for your help cutting back vegetation or transporting it to the bins

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: When working in areas such as the Brook there is always a risk of Weil’s Disease. Please be aware and take precautions, you may also want to check your tetanus is up to date. Sensible footwear is a must.

 PLEASE BE AWARE THIS ACTIVITY IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Let us all work together and show that Hawkwell still enjoys a real community spirit.

Review of the 7 and 8 Bus Services

September 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

bus

Essex County Council would like to hear your views as it starts a review of its Bus Strategy and how it provides financial support to local bus services.

In this challenging economic climate it is very important that we focus our expenditure where it is really needed to ensure value for money for residents.

This review will help to ensure that the bus services provided by the County Council meet, as far as possible, the essential needs of Essex. The outcome of the review will help to decide what types of service will be supported in future.

This first consultation stage is designed to help us understand which types of supported bus service you value most. Individual services are not being considered for change at this stage. You will have the opportunity at a later stage to give your views on any proposed changes to individual services that may result from the review.

To respond online, please click here to answer the survey. The Survey is open until 9 December 2013.

 

PLEASE NOTE THAT A BUS SUBSIDY OF £100,000 HAS BEEN AGREED TO BE OBTAINED FROM BARRATTS  FOR CLEMENTS GATE. THIS IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL.

Here is an extract from the Section 106 Agreement;

“The County Council hereby covenants with the Owner and the Developer to place the Contribution [£100,000.00] into the Contribution account and to utilise the principal and interest solely to subsidise the provision of a bus service between Rochford and Rayleigh passing the Application Site on Rectory Road as the Engineer considers necessary or other bus service connecting Hawkwell with one or more of Rayleigh Rochford or Southend (in respect of which the Engineer shall consult with the Developer before making his decision) the unexpended balance of principal and interest on which account at the tenth (10th) anniversary of the receipt of the said Contribution in cleared funds after appropriate provision has been made for sums committed to be expended by the County Council prior to the said anniversary but not yet paid on the said anniversary shall be returned to the Payers”

If Essex County Council remove or reduce the subsidy on the Number 8 Service then we would expect ECC to use the above funding in substitution.
With regard to the 7 Service running through Hawkwell South or Hawkwell North Wards we will support any initiative taken by Hawkwell Parish Council or the District Ward Members for Hawkwell South or Hawkwell North to keep subsidised services.

Information on bus services from http://onlinefocus.org/
In Hockley, Hawkwell and Ashingdon Essex County Council subsidises the following services:

Monday to Saturday

7  – ECC subsidises three services per hour between approx 0900 and 1500 to extend from Ashingdon Schools to Hockley Spa

8 – ECC subsidises one service per hour between approx 0900 and 1500 to extend from Golden Cross to Hockley Spa

If subsidies for extending weekday bus services beyond Ashingdon Schools / Golden Cross were cut there would only be an hourly service on the number 8 via Hawkwell and a half-hourly service between Hockley and Southend compared to every ten minutes at present.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE SURVEY IF YOU WISH TO SAVE THESE SERVICES

Sundays

7 – ECC subsidises the 1829 (1820) journey from Rayleigh to Southend

If this was cut there would be a one and a half hour gap between the last number 8 and the next number 7, or a two hour gap between services if the number 8 service were also cut.

8 – ECC subsidises the whole number 8 timetable between Southend and Rayleigh.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE SURVEY IF YOU WISH TO SAVE THESE SERVICES

and

email your County Councillor cllr.Terry.Cutmore@essex.gov.uk

 

 

 

A new local community website for The Rochford District

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Streetlife-Characters-LogoStreetlife.com, the local social network, has a simple aim: to help people make the most of where they live by connecting with their neighbours.

It also gives you the chance to ask open questions of the District Councillors for your Ward.

If you live in Hawkwell , for example there are three Wards, Hawkwell North, South and West.

The Rochford Independent” web site is run and owned by John and Christine Mason who are Independent District Councillors for Hawkwell West Ward.

John and Christine will continue to publish their Articles on their own web site but will also be publishing these on streetlife.com and will be happy to have your feedback on their new Page.

Rochford District Residents 

John and Christine also see streetlife.com as a sort of online Ward Surgery on another Page.

Hawkwell West Ward

………………but please bring any confidential matters directly to us by phone, letter or email.

This is what streetlife.com has to say about themselves.

 

The website provides a free and easy streetlife.com place to share local news, views, recommendations and resources, enabling people with busy routines or reduced mobility to keep in touch with their community.

 

Conversations started on have helped unite lost pets with owners, expose doorstep scammers, save threatened public services and recall local history.  The site is also encouraging real-world friendships, with neighbours sharing gardening equipment, IT advice and dentist recommendations, organising craft groups, street parties and book clubs.

 

streetlife.com has just launched in Rochford,and everyone – residents, groups, local government representatives and businesses – is invited to share their knowledge, discuss the local issues they care about, and help build a stronger, better connected community.

 

Get involved!

  • Sign up at www.streetlife.com with your postcode and email address
  • You’ll automatically be linked to the people and conversations where you live
  • You can post messages, events, polls and pictures, and locals will be able to respond
  • You can customise your account so you control how often you receive local updates

 

Sign up and join the local conversation on streetlife.com.

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.]

Tree Preservation Orders – Do they work?

September 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Written and edited by Christine and John Mason

4989 Stoke Lodge Lucombe Oak T1 - Quercus x hispanicus

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an Order made by a Council in respect of a tree(s) because the tree is considered to bring amenity value to the surrounding area. The Order makes it an offence to cut down, uproot, prune, lop or damage the tree in question without first obtaining the Council’s consent. A TPO can apply to a single tree, a group of trees or woodland.

Often such Orders are stimulated by planning applications when local concern is focused on an area under threat of change.

If a protected tree is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of a TPO it is the duty of the landowner to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species, at the same place, as soon as he/she reasonably can.

But who ‘polices’ these actions and what penalties can occur? The Local Planning Authority is responsible for issuing a TPO, initially a provisional one that is then either confirmed to provide long term protection, not confirmed or modified. The penalties for contravention, on conviction in a Magistrate’s Court, is a fine of up to £20,000, and could be unlimited if taken to a higher Court.

This would indicate that TPO’s are seen as an important piece of legislation that should be taken seriously. Whilst the public seem to rely on TPO’s do the Council’s that are charged with carrying out the administration of such Orders actions actually match up to these expectations?

There have been four local occasions in my memory where a TPO has been the cause of controversy locally. One 20/30 years ago in Hockley, where if memory serves me correctly, the builder removed trees with TPO’s to facilitate a planning application and was served a hefty fine. Another more recently in Hawkwell where the land owner correctly applied for permission to cut the canopy but the work was allegedly unsupervised and resulted in a visual damage that will not be corrected by nature for many years. The resultant diminished canopy helped permit a planning application for buildings to be agreed.

Again in Hawkwell, this time on the David Wilson Homes/Barratts Site a protected tree was cut down in January. Despite our requests to Council Officers to arrange for a replacement tree of appropriate size and species to be planted in the same place nothing has yet been done. The TPO legislation states that the replacement should be planted as soon as it reasonably can. Our understanding is that this has not been undertaken nor has any penalty been applied for.

More recently a provisional TPO has been placed on an Oak Tree on the boundary of 169/177 Main Road due to concerns of neighbours who feel that a planning application may threaten the tree in question. John and I are concerned that should work be undertaken on the travelling canopy, with permission, that the Council’s own tree specialist is present to ensure the work is performed to a suitable standard and so that errors of the past are not repeated. You can’t stick branches back on! Whilst the owner is always responsible for looking after a protected tree the local authority should be able to offer help and advice on how the tree/s are managed.

Generally speaking permission is always needed from the local planning authority to work on a tree covered by a TPO order unless it comes under the one of the special exceptions.

However John and I both remain concerned that although “the words” of TPO’s would seem to protect these special trees this does not always happen in the way it should.

If you think a tree needs to be protected or a tree with a TPO is being worked on please call us or Brian Clary at Rochford District Council.

 

Love thy Neighbour

August 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Rectory Road Hawkwell

Despite our concerns about the new Barratts/David Wilson Homes development when an invitation to their new Show Homes launch arrived in the post unexpectedly we decided to be open minded and as a family member is house hunting for such a property Saturday morning saw us at the Sales Office (still no permission for the copious advertising and lighting but that is another story).

It was pouring with rain but the car park was full, including of all things an ice cream trolley and some tables, indeed the only umbrella on site appeared to be the one protecting the ice cream container!

Nevertheless we persisted and parked in Thorpe Road – sorry residents – braved the torrential rain and darted along the path to the sales office.  Had we an appointment?  No!  Alas I had failed to turn the card over and see that we were invited to call and make an appointment………..Nevertheless we were advised we could look around the Show Homes and told to follow the path.  We did.

The first house was a three bedded one (nice, neat and well presented) but the rain appeared to make a weird glugging sound emit from the plug hole in the kitchen which caused some confusion and hilarity.

By now we were so wet that we decided we may as well drip over the other house as well.  Four bedded and again well presented although a bit unnerving that the electrics kept switching on and off on their own accord, however teething problems that I am sure will be corrected.

Back to the Sales Office where tea and cup cakes seemed to be the order of the day; but not for us.

hmm, some sort of raspberry cupcakes

Perhaps you needed to have an appointment to be offered those!

Soaking wet we had to run back to the car and return home for dry clothes.  Note to Barratts: perhaps a few brolly’s for use of customers  might be a good investment if you are expecting potential buyers to undertake unconducted viewing in wet weather.

Our day meandered as most Saturdays do via food and shops but when we returned home we were concerned to see that the Brook behind our house was over the bank and up to the fence and our neighbours had potential issues as part of Rectory Road is very low and the torrential rain plus high tide (the Brook eventually runs into the sea and is consequently affected by the tides).

Several properties were affected and some flooded.

John could not get through on the Council’s emergency number  and the emergency services were inundated and only concerned if there was risk to life.  Although the Police agreed we could ask drivers to turn back due to the problems the wash was causing although they did imply people might be difficult.  Surley not thought I, homes at risk, potential untold distress and misery, no one would be that callous.  Wrong.

Rectory Road was flooded at the junction with Windsor Gardens and for some considerable length and the water levels rising.  Unfortunately motorists driving through the flood waters aggravated the problem sending the flood waters back towards the properties in a strong surge.  Some properties had air bricks covered and were literally an inch away from flooding.  Some have flooded.  My heart goes out to those residents affected.

Local residents were doing all that they could to support each other but the motorists seemed to be in their own protective bubble, more concerned with their own journey and some obviously relishing the mess and mayhem that they were creating.  One (local) tractor came tearing along and when asked to slow down speeded up creating a wave of over 6 inches (I know my wellies got flooded).  After that we discovered another property under water.  Generally though most motorists understood and were helpful, a big thank you to those drivers who offered to park up and walk or turned around.   After a while the water started to recede and we merely had to ask traffic to drive slowly.  A big thank you to all those neighbours who tried to help each other and themselves and for those who thought it did not matter remember it could be you needing help another time………..

Hawkwell Flooding 2013

Hawkwell Flooding 2013

Rectory Road Hawkwell

Rectory Road Hawkwell

Appointment of New Chief Executive to Rochford District Council

August 2, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Polyethylene Diffusion Series II

As your Ward Councillors we found the overall situation most unsatisfactory. We decided to “stay away” from the decision making Council Meeting because we regarded the options of FOR, AGAINST or ABSTAIN equally unsatisfactory.

Press Release by Councillor John Mason, Councillor Michael Hoy, Councillor Diane Hoy and Councillor Christine Mason

Immediate, 1 August 2013

Appointment of Chief Executive to Rochford District Council

Residents and Green Councillors were disappointed that the Conservative Administration of Rochford District Council only invited one candidate to make a presentation and take questions from all Members of the Council on 30 July.

Whilst all Members were initially promised that they would have a choice from more than one candidate this was changed to a presentation from a single candidate by the Conservatives.

The Conservative Administration of the Council had made it clear at the Extraordinary Council to receive the retirement announcement of Paul Warren that Green and Residents representatives would not be invited to join the Appointments Sub Committee who would interview candidates. This was despite the Intervention of the Lib Dems to no avail given that all previous senior appointments at the Council were by full cross party interviews.

One Tory Member who asked his Group why the Residents and Greens had been excluded was reportedly told “it would be like BP (The Conservative Administration) appointing a CEO where SHELL (Residents and Greens) would also be on the Appointments Committee.”

This analogy unreasonably suggests that Residents and Green Councillors are, according to the Conservatives, not part of a wider representation of the interests of the people of Rochford District.

This has been a political appointment without choice being offered to all Members of the Council.

Note for Editors:

John Mason and Christine Mason represent Rochford District Residents in Hawkwell West

Michael and Diane Hoy represent The Green Party for Hullbridge Ward

Michael Hoy is also the County Councillor for Rochford West Division representing The Green Party

Planning Problems

February 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

 My in-law's tree farm

The Christmas Tree Farm Development, is now renamed Clements Gate, off Thorpe Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell.

Before the vote in September 2012 on whether to grant planning permission, Ward Councillor John Mason had an Officer read aloud from one of the planning application documents submitted by Barratts/DWH.Two of the items read out related to days and hours of working and construction access as these issues had created the greatest concern and distress to residents. This was done before the Application was voted on.

There was to be no Sunday Working.

Yesterday the 27th February, The Rochford District Council Planning Department wrote to both Ward Councillors, John and Christine Mason as follows;

“Sunday working” “there are no restrictions on hours of working”.

On something else The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group (CTFDAG) allege that they had agreed a different construction access arrangement to those that Councillor Mason had read out by an Officer prior to the vote in September.

We hope that CTFDAG will team up with us and Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) to deal with both matters.

As your District Councillors we are now concerned as to the fate of Thorpe Road and non vehicular movements during closure. We have already
asked County Councillor Tracey Chapman to clarify this.

Finally all the residents at the Rectory Road end of Thorpe Road want is for Barratts to pay for a sign that the residents have permission from ECC to erect. But Rochford District Council wants to check that this permission has been given. A copy of the email from County Councillor Chapman had to be supplied.

 

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. 

 

“To Condition or Not to Condition” – Planning

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason

The Path Most Traveled

Planning is probably the one issue that is always most controversial and creates strong opposing opinions and yet one of the most Government regulated areas of Rochford District Council’s powers and responsibilities.

Planning Applications are determined within an accepted and published set of procedures. Most of these decisions are delegated to the Council’s experienced Planning Officers but some are referred to the Council’s Development Committee for decision.  Once a PlanningApplication is Approved it usually has a series of conditions attached to it, some of which are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off and agreed by the Council’s Officers before any building commences.

However there is nothing to prevent a developer commencing building works even when there are outstanding conditions to discharge. It is always disappointing when this is the case, but any developer progressing a scheme in this way does so at their own risk and the remedy of such a breach is subject to the laws of planning enforcement of the Condition by the Council.

On larger developments, formal legal agreements are often referred to as S106 agreements which detail any contribution required by a developer towards the infrastructure and other community costs that the development may create and deliver e.g. costs towards schools, road and junction improvements and even bus services.  Otherwise Conditions can be anything from a simple ‘sight splay’ preventing high planting and fencing to ensure safe visibility for traffic to the details of design and materials and working practices.  Needless to say all Conditions are important is as the act of ensuring that they are carried out.

It has been reported in the National Press hat some Council’s fail to ‘collect’ the agreed financial contributions under Section 106 Agreements in the time frame reported and therefore lose the community benefit that had been negotiated.  RDC keeps a very close watch on these.

Other more usual Conditions that are equally as important as the financial ones are those that seek to prevent an unreasonable impact on neighbours whilst the development is in progress. These often detail times of work, storage of materials and parking arrangements.

Not very exciting but if flouted can have a disproportionately negative effect on the locality.

One of these that I have received most complaints about in my short time on the Council are those regarding parking of operatives vehicles whilst construction is in progress.  Mostly these are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off by the Council before any building commences.  The agreement to be met between the Council and the Developer usually states that the storage of material and parking arrangements should be agreed prior to commencement of the building works.

Unfortunately the Officers have to rely on the developer contacting them as they do not have the time to check on when a development starts and to a great extent there is a large element of trust placed onto the builder’s integrity.  This sometimes works but when it does not the disruption to the neighbouring properties, pedestrians when vehicles are parked on the footway and possibly to the traffic flows on the more main through roads is unacceptable.

At the moment Rochford has just under 500 enforcement cases outstanding. There are delays in proceeding these because of sheer numbers versus the resource of available Enforcement Officers!

Once the Council is aware that planning conditions are breached it can take enforcement procedures.  Unfortunately this can take months to pursue, especially if there is a back log and by the time these procedures are enacted the situation is past and there is no redress on the builder for failure to comply but the Council has often still incurred costs, and ultimately the Council Tax payers foot the bill!

Damage to the footway is a charge to Essex County Council unless watchful Councillors and residents inform ECC so that it can recover costs from the developer, if not again it is the Council Tax payers who foot the bill.

So whilst we can inform the Council of a pre-condition breach that is causing residents problems it may be that nothing is actually done in practice.  So what was the point of all the effort in making such a pre-condition?

None.  The proposal for storage of material and parking arrangements should be examined carefully before planning permission is given and if satisfactory arrangements are not possible then planning permission should be Refused.

Alternatively perhaps Government should find a way of giving Council’s Planning Authorities the power to invoke punitive fines when such breaches occur to ensure compliance?

I see no point in having a situation where the remedy for failure to comply is for further costs to be placed onto the victim (the Council and the Council Tax Payer) and the offender receives no penalty for ignoring an agreement that is made in the public interest.

Problems at Christmas Tree Farm Site?

January 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

On Christmas Tree Farm

Residents have asked us who they should contact if there are problems or breaches of planning conditions during the build/construction phase of the new estate.

We hope that there are none because we took a great deal of trouble to discuss all of the potential big problems we could all forsee and make enforceable conditions with DWH before planning permission was finalised.

Having said that the build will take several years.  DWH say that there will be a Help Line provided to residents.  We have not been informed of the phone number yet.

If you encounter problems then we think that the Council ought to know and take action.  The Planning Case Officer is Mike Stranks and he can be contacted at RDC on 546366 or email mike.stranks@rochford.gov.uk

If you email the Council or Essex County Council or even DWH themselves please copy us in at Cllr John Mason <CllrJohn.Mason@rochford.gov.uk> and Cllr Christine Mason <CllrChristine.Mason@rochford.gov.uk>, although living close to the site ourselves hopefully we might have also already taken action.

 

 

 

 

 

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”
.
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.

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