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Councillors may call for a Local Plan Referendum

December 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Tumisu / Pixabay

So if it looks that the Council is not listening to residents in the public consultations on the Second Local Plan for 7500 new dwellings 2017-2037 then we will step in and raise a petition for residents to call for a Referendum before it is adopted by Rochford District Council.

We know that a Referendum on a Local Plan is not included in the list of those which must be approved by the Council but why would such a Referendum NOT be approved if the appropriate number of residents had called for it in a Petition? The cost of a Referendum would be in the region of £90,000 but that could easily be found from the New Homes Bonus from the first Local Plan in Reserves.

From the Echo

Councillors in Rochford have called for a petition to be drawn up to hold a referendum on the district’s second local plan.

In a written statement, councillor John Mason, leader of the Green and Rochford District Residents Group said that during the early stages of the new housing plan, residents have complained “they feel that they will not be listened to” about their council and councillors.

Mr Mason said: “We promise our residents that we will, whether we are Councillors at that time or not, put forward a Petition to Residents to call for a Referendum on the Second Local Plan before it is adopted by the Council.

“It is the future of our District and what we do, both councillors and residents, with it that counts. No excuses.

Residents have a right to be listened to.”

A resident added: “Don’t bother lobbying your district councillors, they will not oppose any plan unless it is in there own back yard.

“They will tell you what you want to hear but will not take any positive action.”

The second plan currently aims to create an unrestrained 7,500 new dwellings in the Rochford district across Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Hockley, Hullbridge, Ashingdon and Rochford.

Consultations have begun for the second plan which on top of the first housing plan, aims to create a total of 10,000 new homes in Rochford by 2037.

Despite support from councillors throughout the district, the council are confident the process for the new plan’s consultation is going to be effective and that resident’s concerns and ideas will heard.

Rochford District Council’s assistant director for planning, Matthew Thomas, said: “Although this is an interesting suggestion, there is no provision for a referendum in the legislation governing the preparation of a local plan.

“The council intends to ensure residents are offered substantial opportunities to participate in the plan making process and we recently sent a leaflet to all households in the district to advise of the current consultation on the issues and options stage.

“The timetable for the preparation of the local plan envisages a report from an inspector on the soundness of the plan in 2021, so there is much work to do before a plan emerges that can be considered for adoption.”

Councillors have rallied to the support of Mr Mason’s statement and they hope it will encourage more residents to become involved in the issue.

Michael Hoy, Deputy Leader of the Green and Rochford District Residents Group, said: “I fully support the statement and I believe in democracy.

“I think people have the right to say which quite often they feel their views are ignored and this is a way to show their views are not ignored, especially when it comes to one of the biggest decision in the area for the next 15 years.”

Adrian Eves, Rochford District Residents councillor for Hockley, added: “I think the actual proposal is completely unsustainable.

“When you look at the problems we have with infrastructure, we are getting power outages and losses of water pressure in Hockley.

“All we can do it be noisy as possible to get the government to learn.”

Neil Hookway, leader of the Ukip group, added: “Having local referenda in regards to housing is Ukip policy, so we will always support that, but this is something that effects the whole district and that is very important.”

 

Rochford District NEW Local Plan 2017 – 2037

December 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

IF YOU WISH TO HELP JUST CONTACT US here.

A NEW LOCAL PLAN FACEBOOK GROUP is here.

As many residents will already know Rochford District Council is about to launch a public consultation on a SECOND Local Plan for 2017 to 2037 focusing on a maximum of ANOTHER 7500 dwellings. With the FIRST local Plan 2011 to 2025 came committed approval for 2785 dwellings so together this makes over 10,000 !!

As you might expect the Council is required to ask Landowners and their Agents to formally notify the Council if they wish their land to be considered (for obvious reasons but some might not be so obvious and the Council assumes that each has a REAL intention to see development on their site.)

The information on the land available is publicly available on these maps (https://goo.gl/grJe3A). And there is even more information here (https://goo.gl/JNVBhv).

NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE. YOUR VIEW IN THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION COMING SOON WILL COUNT.

So what will your District Councillors be doing? I can’t speak for other political groups on the Council but I can say what The Rochford District Residents and Green Group propose.

We will leaflet all homes our Wards drawing attention to the questions and options put forward by the Council and how residents can comment on the Evidence put forward.

I shall also be asking our Councillors to work with residents to create a sustainability profile for the sites that landowners have put forward in their Wards and submit these in the Public Consultation.

How? Our approach is attached.

sustainability analysis template 2017

We will welcome all other political groups, action groups and residents’ associations/community groups if they decide to join in this way.

 

Is Our Green Belt Safe under our Council?

September 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

"Safe Under Us?"

http://www.cprelondon.org.uk/resources/item/2339-safe-under-us

THIS IS ABOUT ROCHFORD DISTRICT and we provided a contribution to this report which will be “news” for everyone who is concerned about the further loss of Green Belt in our revised Local Plan where there is a Council public consultation running at this moment.

This is what the Council has not told you.

There are some scary numbers coming forward as evidence from consultants such as 392pa instead of 250pa over the district. That COULD mean another 4000 over the existing building target of 2785!

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

“The government’s planning framework states that only ‘exceptional’ circumstances should allow building on Green Belt land. However, unclear national planning guidance and confusing government messages are causing councils to believe that in order to gain national approval of their Local Plans, they must meet higher targets. This is causing them to look at Green Belt land to meet housing growth figures.”

The Council is running a LIMITED public consultation right now. I say LIMITED because it does not comply with the recently approved NEW Council Policy on Community Involvement because the methods of engagement are not deep, wide or diverse enough for full engagement with residents. And the rate of response is not being monitored by channel for intervention if the response rate is low because of the lack of Council resources. This was specifically added to the Policy in just July. Needless to say I have complained to the Council.

 

NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

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

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

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

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

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

So a new housing target?

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John Mason

Rochford District Residents

The Battle for Rochford District is on 5 May !!

May 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

5 mayThe Battle for Rochford District is on 5 May !!
 
There is a battle on 5 May when 53 hopeful “non conservative candidates” take on 39 Conservative Candidates at the Local Election Polls.
 
There are 8 Independent Candidates (Residents BEFORE Politics) representing Rochford District Residents.
 
rdr vote2Please Vote for them………………
 
happy 5 MayBut What is Cinco de Mayo?
 
Literally “the Fifth of May,” Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican Holiday celebrating the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862.
 
The results of the Rochord Battle will not be announced until 6 May.

this is what we will do if elected…………

May 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

emblem1In less than 250 words this is what we will do if elected…………

This is the “common ground” between all of our independent candidates.

Rochford District Residents is a voice of 8 candidates calling for open, transparent, representative local government.

The Cabinet System which has cost over £500,000 will be abolished.

We have a long-term commitment to a sustainable community with necessary infrastructure improvements put in place before construction developments. Rochford District needs an Infrastructure Champion.

With the Re-Cycling Service that we are all proud of costing £440,000 a year this needs a full review so that it also the best value for money as well as top of the league. We do not think that an extra £40 a year charge for the Green Bins is the answer.

Public Toilets – Rochford District Residents believe that public toilets are a basic necessity and will do all we can to ensure that they are NOT closed.

Council Tax Support – Rochford District Residents will make sure that there is a further review at a local level to re-dress the recent reductions in support for the disabled.

Rochford District Residents will press for changes in the housing building policy with a consultation on retirement villages, a balance between both starter homes and those for rent and a reduction in the house annual house building quota for 2025 to 2031.

Instead of homeless families, including children, being sent to temporary accommodation in the notorious York Road, Southend we want the re-purposing of surplus council buildings to provide emergency accommodation right here in our District.

emblem1

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.

THE LOCAL ELECTION BATTLEGROUND IN ROCHFORD DISTRICT

April 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rdrThere are 39 Conservative Candidates for the District Local Elections on 5 May. This is an ALL OUT Election and the Conservatives could lose control of Rochford District Council.

But this is not news for our local papers who have failed to tell readers that there even IS an Election.

How could control be lost? With just 20 non Conservatives being elected.

 

21 Labour candidates
9 Liberal Democrats candidates
8 UKIP candidates
8 Rochford District Residents candidates
4 Green Party candidates
2 Independent candidates

There are 52 non Conservative Candidates.

If only 20 were to be elected then RDC would be in No Overall Control leaving the road clear for a Rainbow Administration.

If only 50% were elected, 26, then there could be a comfortable majority for a Rainbow Administration.

This is NEWS. But not something that the Echo wishes to run even in the public interest.

Or do residents wish to see the Conservatives to continue to be in Overall Control or even have a LANDSLIDE VICTORY?

 

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

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from the PlanningResource Web Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why local elections could be influenced by housing hostility

April 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rdr

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

22 April 2016 by Joey Gardiner

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Would Ukip represent you locally when it matters?

January 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In the Echo today “Ukip suspends four councillors” – Ukip has suspended four of its Southend councillors because they disowned the party’s parliamentary candidate.

In Rochford District we ask would Ukip represent you locally when it matters?ukip

The Leader of Ukip on Rochford District Council, Councillor John Hayter, writes “Normally I should have been only too pleased to serve, but at present I am heavily committed to the General Election as the UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Rayleigh and Wickford, and am not in a position to do justice to the position.”

Very little work by local Councillors gets headlines but do people want to vote for a party locally that seems only interested in using your vote as a platform for greater political power?

Let me explain;

During the whole of last week Councillors and Staff were working together in a Selection Assessment Centre to appoint staff to new new positions established in the Organisational Re-design of the Council.

At the last Full Council a Chief Officers Appointments Committee was set up to take this forward. Political Parties have seats on Committees based on the number of Councillors each has of the total number of Councillors on our Council.

There was no surprise when the Conservatives had 5 Members on the Chief Officers Appointments Committee, The Green and Rochford District Residents, Liberal Democrats and Ukip one place for each. Each Party accepted the places allocated to this important task.

On the day that Members met for briefing and training, 8 January, for the “selection week” Ukip were unable to participate further. (And of the two remaining Ukip Councillors it would seem that neither was able to take up the place.)

Why?

Here is the email from the Ukip Group Leader, Councillor John Hayter, explaining why to the CEO of RDC.

“I write as UKIP leader. It is with regret that Ukip will not be able to take up the appointment on the Assessment Committee.”

“I should very much liked to have continued on the Committee today. However I did not appreciate the level of commitment that the position entails. Normally I should have been only too pleased to serve, but at present I am heavily committed to the General Election as the UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Rayleigh and Wickford, and am not in a position to do justice to the position.”

“May I wish the Committee all the best in their endeavours.”

It would be fair to conclude that Ukip in Rochford District may prefer to prioritise its own interests ahead of representing residents, playing their part in managing the Council and ultimately the running of the District.

Another 37 New Houses in Hawkwell !!

January 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

houseAnother 37 New Houses in Hawkwell !!

No planning application has been received by RDC but the Agents are seeking feedback from the public at this stage through a statement of community involvement to be submitted alongside the planning application.

Re-development of land at 90 Main Road, Hawkwell (Site Locationhttp://goo.gl/Q4yWcz)

 

Google Map here

Extracts from Letter to your District Councillors (http://goo.gl/jyzef2)

“Strutt & Parker are acting as planning consultants on behalf of Marden Homes Ltd with regards to the above site. It is planned that the current uses on the site are to relocate and this brownfield site will therefore become available for redevelopment. We have been instructed by Marden Homes to prepare a planning application for residential redevelopment.”

“The application will seek permission for the development of approximately 37 high quality homes to meet local needs. The
proposed new homes will be a mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraced properties, along with private amenity
space and parking.”

Site Layout http://goo.gl/kT83F1

“The site at 90 Main Road is within the existing urban area and was allocated for residential development within the 2006 Rochford District Local Plan, to support the housing needs of the district.”

 

Rochford District Residents now 7 Councillors with Greens

January 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Green and Rochford District Residents Group on Rochford District Council grows today to 7 Members of The Council.

Originally the Group had 4 Members; John & Christine Mason (Hawkwell West) and Michael and Diane Hoy (Hullbridge) yet the Group was still the largest Opposition Group on the Council.

They are now joined by 3 more Independents; Councillor Toby Mountain (Sweyne Park, Rayleigh), Councillor Phil Capon (Hawkwell South) and Councillor Tracy Capon (Ashingdon and Canewdon).

The Group Leader in Council will continue to be John Mason and the Deputy Group Leader will continue to be Michael Hoy.

John Mason said today “We welcome Phil, Toby and Tracy joining us. All 3 are very experienced Councillors who are respected in their Wards for the work they do for residents. Rochford District Residents already covers the whole of the Rochford District but with the additions to the “Team” we will have widened our coverage to having a representative in Rayleigh in the West of District. Furthermore there will be closer shadowing overall of the Conservative Cabinet”.

All 3 will be joining Christine Mason in seeking re-election in May for Rochford District Residents.

Phil Capon said “I have chosen to stand again in Hawkwell South after being approached by a number of residents. I feel that by joining Rochford District Residents, I can best represent the people who live in the ward without being bound by national party policies. I look forward to working with the other members of the Group whose sole aim is to do what is best for the district and not for one party.”

Tracy Capon commented “Now I have taken time to think of recent events, I have decided that the residents of the Ashingdon and Canewdon ward deserve to be represented by a Councillor who is not bound by national party politics and the whip during council meetings. By joining Rochford District Residents, I will be able to act in a way that is best for all concerned and I look forward to standing in this seat in May and giving voters a viable alternative to party ‘yes men (or women)’ whose sole aim is self promotion and toeing the party line.”

Toby Mountain said “”Since leaving the Conservatives and becoming an Independent I have been included in several open forum, round table political discussions with the Rochford District Resident’s Group. We share the same belief with regard to openness and transparency and an engagement with residents in the decision making process. Uniting to create a strong and effective non-whipped group of residents representing residents, willing and able to challenge the current administration, presents a fresh choice at the local elections in May 2015. Residents in Sweyne Park Ward will now have the option to vote beyond the traditional narrow perspective of party politics and choose a local free speaking candidate to properly represent them.”

Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt

October 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

JuergenGER / Pixabay

Our Local Conservative Councillors have been telling residents for years that they have to remove Green Belt protection when drawing up their Local Plans, in order to meet [housing] demand.

Conservative Government Minister Eric Pickles has now stepped in to say that the Government did not require this and the move will be seen as a pre-election pitch by the Conservatives to win round rural Tory supporters who are furious about new development.

“Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt in Hawkwell, Ashingdon and Rochford for 1000 houses where it has not been proven that these are required to meet local housing needs” said Residents Councillors John and Christine Mason.

They went on to ask “So will there be a change of mind on another over 1000 houses in green belt in Rayleigh and Hullbridge?”

“The Government seems to be blaming the local Conservative Councillors who were in charge of local planning policy which is what local residents have been saying for a long time.”

“This “volte-face” by the Government is too late to save them in the local elections unless big changes are made in the Core Strategy before May 2015 and any promises will be seen as “just election promises as usual” !!

The Conservatives promised at the 2010 General Election to reverse Labour Housing Targets and give decisions on planning to Local Residents. All that happened was the concentration of planning decisions in Conservative Councils which followed a house building diktat from the Conservative Government without any challenge to Government despite the views of local residents.

Whatever way you look at it the Conservatives are to blame. If houses have been built on Green Belt despite your wishes then you will know already how to vote.

Specifically the new guidance makes clear that councils do not have to build on the Green Belt just to meet the locally set five-year housing targets.

The new planning guidance states explicitly for the first time that “once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances”.

Councils will have to “take account of any constraints such as Green Belt which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need”, it says.

 

New protections for England’s Green Belt unveiled by Eric Pickles – Telegraph
www.telegraph.co.uk

Official in the ECHO ‘You don’t have to build on green belt’

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

blue-352470_1920Well worth reading what the Government Planning Inspector said about Green Belt which goes against the edict which has been put out by RDC for years !!

Michael Hoy and I put forward a Motion to say that housing numbers must be assessed on LOCAL NEEDS years ago and the Tories were scathing in their rejection. But now they say that local needs are the key !!

In the Echo Today, an Exclusive from Jon Austin, “GREEN belt land in south Essex could be spared from thousands of homes being built after a senior planning inspector said it was a matter for local councils to decide. Keith Holland, an inspector for the department for communities and local government, is shown on video telling Castle Point councillors they would not be forced to release green belt to meet housing targets. His assurance, made in a video leaked to the Echo, is at odds with what Castle Point, Basildon and Rochford councils have told residents while they prepared local development plans for the next 20 years.” In the video, he also says councils will not be forced to build the homes if flooding is an issue,such as happened recently on Canvey and across Rochford.”

Again in the Echo A Castle Point Tory councillor at the inspector’s briefing, said: “This is the complete opposite of what planning officers have been telling members, which is that if we don’t designate enough house building sites, then they will be imposed on us by the Planning Inspectorate, but here the inspector could not have been clearer this is not the case.”

Sounds to us Independent Councillors exactly the same message we have been hearing from Rochford Conservatives for years!!

Councillor Ward , Cabinet Member for planning at RDC said in the Echo last week blaming the Conservative Government, “We might not like it, but we have no choice” and “We are following the law of the land, set out by Government”.

MP Rebecca Harris told the ECHO “Frankly I was fed up with the Government’s view being misinterpreted. I am grateful that the planning inspector spelt it out in crystal clear terms.”

But Councillor Ward has now changed his mind by saying in today’s Echo “Rochford’s sensible, pragmatic approach to identifying land for development to meet the needs of the district in a planned way is the correct approach to fulfilling the requirements of the national planning policy framework.”

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE 250 HOUSES PER YEAR for 20 YEARS MAY WELL BE IN EXCESS OF OUR LOCAL NEEDS AND THIS HAS NOT BEEN ASSESSED ON A LOCAL BASIS BUT PART OF A REGIONAL NEED !!

Rochford District Council Budget 2015/16 – Have your Say !!

September 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dollars-31085_1280Rochford District Council Budget 2015/16 – Have your Say !!

WE NEED YOUR HELP !!

Council Members have been invited to an All Party But PRIVATE Away Day at the Freight House on 4 October to discuss the ideas that the Conservative Cabinet Member for Finance has on next year’s Budget.

Whilst the Public will be asked by the Council later for their views on the DRAFT Budget we wondered if residents would like to make their ideas known right now on what should be cut and what should be increased.

These ideas will can then be put forward at the Away Day by The Green and Rochford District Residents Group as an alternative “RESIDENTS BUDGET”.

So do you wish to see a FREEEEEEEEZE on Council Tax or a minimum of a 1.5% increase which has already been factored into the Council’s projections?

If there is a DEFICIT GAP of say £100,000 to £500,000 what would you wish to see cut? Or would you say just increase other charges, like car parking again, or just increase the Council Tax to meet the DEFICIT.

Please email to john.mason@bigfoot.com

Flooding Risk in Rochford District made a political football by former Conservative candidate !!

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

DSCF0638floodYou can read the Letter published in Friday’s Echo here.

Mr. Webb wrongly accuses  your two Independent Councillors of not attending a Council Meeting.

A Local resident has emailed to say that he has written to the Echo about Mr. Webb’s views that a cross party Flood Committee should now deal with with past and future local flooding events “This is the same party who voted to cover thousands of acres of land with concrete to build houses on which commonsense says will cause more flooding. Mike I live on planet earth where do you live?.”

Officers of the Council advised that The Flood Forum is technically an Advisory Group to Council Leader Cutmore who is the Decision Maker. BUT Council Leader Cutmore appointed ONLY Conservative Councillors to be Members of the Flood Forum. And any decision he makes on the advice given by his Conservative only Councillors cannot now be even “Called In” to Full Council for discussion.

So much for a “Cross Party” Committee as called for by Mr. Webb !”!”

Is Mr Webb saying that all 39 Members MUST attend, without fail despite illness, family and personal needs, every single Council Committee and Advisory Group Meeting, regardless of whether they are actually APPOINTED BY THE COUNCIL to those committees?

That would make every type of Council Meeting a FULL Council meeting where by COMPULSION all 39 attend?

That would make the CABINET system DEFUNCT saving may about £100,000 in ALLOWANCES for ONLY Conservative Councillors !!

Popular with Independents and the public but may be not so popular with the Conservative Party Mr. Webb !!!

 Here is the reply from the Independent Councillors to Mr.Webb and the Echo;

Wistaria Cottage
Hawkwell

29th August 2014

The letter from Mike Webb is breathtaking in the inaccuracies it contains. I totally agree that ‘all parties should be working together to try and resolve the problem’ of local flooding. Perhaps Mr Webb would have been better advised to ask this question of the Leader of the Conservatives at Rochford District Council who determined that the Flood Forum would only have Conservative members.

Rochford District Residents have not waited a year to hold a local meeting as have the Conservatives. Instead they led a well supported community initiative to clear the watercourses that were responsible for the flooding last August in Hawkwell West, last November. Indeed Mr Webb briefly turned up to assist on one of the days and used a photograph of his participation to aid his (failed) attempt to be elected to Rochford District Council for the Conservative Party. Not only that but Rochford District Resident’s Councillors filed a report to Rochford District Council last year detailing work the Council needs to do on its own land in relation to flood prevention. Despite reinforcement of this by the Environment Agency, a year later and still no work has been carried out to our knowledge.

Over the last few months both John and Christine Mason have been in regular contact in the form of site meetings and detailed discussions with the Environment Agency over the issue of implementation of the Surface Water Drainage scheme on the David Wilson Home site (which also abuts the water courses that flooded last year) and through our endeavours this has been checked and compliance with approvals ensured. All done prior to the postponed Flood Forum meeting! (Postponed due to further flooding that did not, thankfully, occur in Hawkwell West where the preventative work led by Rochford District Residents took place.)

If Mr Webb wants to criticise perhaps he could check his facts first? Out of 21 Council Wards how many did The Conservative Party agree could be represented on the Flood Forum and participate as full Members? Why only attack one Ward’s representatives? Why not include the other political groups i.e. Green Party, Labour, Liberal etc., why single out only Rochford District Residents? Or does a political motive have precedence over accuracy? If Mr. Webb intends to stand in Hawkwell West again in 2015 he should declare this so that this inaccurate attack be seen in its proper light.

Christine Mason,
District Councillor for Hawkwell West Ward
Notes:

As the General Public can attend any Council Meeting it follows that any Member of Rochford District Council can attend but each Advisory Group/Committee etc has appointed Members who ONLY have a RIGHT to speak and participate.

All Members of the Council COULD attend, like the Public, but all Members were not INVITED to attend as Members of the Flood Forum and to say this would be INCORRECT.

 

Electoral Ward Review – Rochford District

August 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

LATEST UPDATE:

electoral ward review

Rochford District Council will be considering, and voting on, the model presented in the map above on 4 September. (just click on the map to see it full screen.)

If you wish to read all of the Council’s working numbers then you can download it here.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is conducting an ‘Electoral Review’ to look at ward boundaries in order to shape Rochford District Council for the future.

The first Public Consultation is taking place right now from 22 July to 29 September to determine ward boundaries across the Rochford District.

These new wards will be for all District Councillor elections from 2016.

The Commission has also announced that it recommends that the Council should have 39 councillors in future, the same number as in current arrangements. The Commission wishes to see 13 by 3 Member Wards making 39 and as close to an equal number of electors for each ward (5400) and each Member (1800).

https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/3536

If approved by Rochford District Council the above map will be presented to the Commission as the Council’s preferred model which the Commission will consider and, if necessary, the Commission will present its own model for further consultation with the public in December.

If you have any comments before the Council’s Meeting on 4 September then please email us at john.mason@bigfoot.com.

We have a few tweaks in mind to present to the Commission before 29 September because the model presented here corrected an earlier Officer error and because of that we think that some further small changes in Hawkwell are necessary.

If you submit information to the Local Government Boundary Commission athttps://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/3536 unlike other consultations no one else will see what you said until AFTER the first Consultation closes.

 

Holding Decision Makers Accountable

July 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Why hasn’t Rochford District Council made  Press Releases  or given prominent publicity on its Web Site or in Rochford District Matters to  “Holding Decision Makers Accountable”?

We are going to run a series of posts over the year to tell you how the powerful Review Committee will be holding Council decision makers accountable.  It is led this year by the Green and Rochford District Residents Group i.e. US!

The Review Committee of Rochford District Council is empowered by Law to question elected members who sit on the Council’s Cabinet, Council employees, and representatives of other organisations involved in carrying out the Council’s responsibilities.   Review Committee is able to investigate any issue which affects the local area, or the District’s inhabitants, whether or not it is the direct responsibility of the Council’s Cabinet.

Members of the Public are welcome at most Review Committee Meetings and may be invited by the Chair to speak if they wish to. We will advise you when the “big issues” are in play so that your point of view may be reflected.

Hot Off the Press it has been recommended that the Committee will also look at the Council’s Budget proposals on 2 December in order to get direct feedback from residents and “To put rigour into the proposals”!

So what is this powerful Committee going to look at this Year?

  1. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA): changes in policy and the Council’s annual usage of RIPA.

The Council often works in partnership with Essex Police, and this will sometimes involve the use of CCTV. CCTV evidence can be used as long as the correct procedure has been followed. RIPA applies to covert surveillance, whereas the Council will generally use overt surveillance to address any persistent/on-going issues around, for example, fly-tipping. Covert surveillance can be used, once authorised, if this approach is unsuccessful.

  1. Car parking charges

A  review around whether there has been a change in income as a result of increased charges and to see if Budget expectations at the time charges were increased have materialised.

  1. Rochford District Matters (RDM)

Information generated by an internal Council review of RDM to be available to the Committee prior to the review taking place.

  1. ICT Contracts

A  review to include any contracts within the overall service, including an assessment of value for money and any issues that have arisen within the main contract.

  1. Building control

A review to cover the future of the service,  including the options of shared services with neighbouring authorities, withdrawing the service altogether or offering just a residual service.

  1. ECC financial contribution to cutting verges

It was agreed to wait until October to see if there is any change in the remuneration the Council will receive from ECC before commencing this review. (In addition a review the possible pollutant and blockage effect of Council Grass Cuttings adversely affecting surface water drainage has been requested.)

  1. Highways/Potholes –

An invitation to County Highways to attend either the September or October meeting of the Committee.

  1. Treasury Management Review
  2. Community Safety Partnership (CSP)

This is scheduled to take place at the November meeting; specific invitees from the Police.

  1. Dog Fouling – (Review to be scheduled.)

The next Meeting will be on 8 July in the Civic Suite in Rayleigh when the Review Committee will be receiving a Report on ICT Contracts – “A  review to include any contracts within the overall service, including an assessment of value for money and any issues that have arisen within the main contract.” from Shaun Scrutton. Members will be asking an initial set of fact finding questions in order to decide how to take this review forward.

The Infrastructure Bill – What it means locally……….

June 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As we posted a shared link to the Infrastructure Bill on Facebook we felt that we should look into this new legislation further particularly as it did not feature in recent compulsory Member Training from Rochford District Council on Planning. (We had a repeat subject session on The Duty to C0-operate and the Community Infrastructure Levy.)

The Infrastructure Bill covers various areas including planning, housing, fracking, reforms to the Highways Agency and some worrying changes to the Land Registry.

The Headlines in the link were “The Government plans to order local authorities to make 90 per cent of its brownfield sites (a designation that apparently includes parks, allotments, gardens as well as former industrial sites) available to be transferred to the Government quango the Homes and Communities Agency, which was established in 2008. The HCA can then pass it on to developers without any of tiresome planning restrictions.”

But as local Members delving further there is even more of concern in the detail.

We oppose the proposals for deemed discharge of planning conditions.

Why?

Deemed discharge of planning conditions is treating planning conditions as approved where a planning authority has failed to discharge a planning condition on time and has held up a development. Joint working between councils and developers is the most effective way of dealing with any concerns about planning conditions.

Currently we seem to have a confusion with The Environment Agency about where a new surface water drainage ditch is to be located. As local Members trying to head off this worrying situation we have supplied The Environment Agency with documents indisputably referring to the eastern boundary in the planning permission condition. If it were a deemed discharge then could the surface water drainage ditch be put in the wrong place? Potential flooding affects all of us and surely great care needs to be taken by all concerned, not only in this respect but in many other aspects of development that affect the local community!

Clause 23 of the Bill, which transfers the responsibility for local land charges to Land Registry, should be deleted from the Bill. The land charges service to businesses and residents can be improved locally, instead of going through a national transformation that is likely to have a negative impact on the system.

The proposal will separate Local Land Charge searches from additional land searches (known as CON29 searches) which local authorities will continue to provide. Councils will still need to employ people to collate information locally to supply data to the Land Registry, but will lose the income they now have as the Land Charges Fees which will be nationalised. This means that there will not only be cost implications for transforming the service into a national one, but more importantly costs to councils in managing data co-ordination and inquiries locally. Therefore the proposals risk stripping our Councils of income, while leaving our Council with many of the current costs making an increase to Council Tax.

Allowing councils to set out permitted development rights locally.

New national rules were introduced in 2013 by the Government here.

Extensions more or less got carte blanch to the potential detriment of the locality.

But under the New Infrastructure Act Local permitted development rights would give councils the powers to improve their locality and attract investment whilst tackling local issues such as clustering of, charity, coffee and fast food shops. As this issue continuously arises with objections from residents to planning applications and there is little currently that Councillors can do about it this change will be welcomed and we look forward to receiving the appropriate training from RDC so that Members are appropriately briefed when it comes to making a decision on our new local framework.

However the concern over Clause 23 is a real one and we would urge you to write to your MP if you share our concerns.

It will be too late once the Bill is receives the final Royal Assent.

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