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Rayleigh Homes – No Change Says Tory Leader

February 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

From the Echo – 8 February

Rayleigh homes row

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rochford Independent Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Residents in Hawkwell Meet to Oppose New Housing

October 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The meeting was so well attended that the organisers, Jamie Popplewell and his neighbours in Mount Bovers Lane, asked Belchamps if they could move the meeting to the larger upper hall.  Luckily, Belchamps were happy to do this otherwise about 90 people would not have been able to get in because the small hall only held 60.

Over 150 concerned residents attended mainly because of the possible threat of new housing being allocated to the Mount Bovers field but also the threats to land at Thorpe Road and behind Rectory Road adjoining Windsor Gardens and Clements Hall.

Some residents had attended the RDC Central Area Committee which was held on 24 October to ask questions about housing allocations to Hawkwell but the Chair and Councillor Hudson really didn’t want to discuss the subject pushing this out to the next public consultation in the Spring of 2008.  But he said that they would listen and would consult again and again if residents felt that they had got it wrong. 

Councillor John Mason gave a presentation of what was happening at the District Council and how the proposal for 365 new Houses in Hawkwell and only 36 in Hockley had come about.  That upset a number of staunch Conservative supporters in the audience but it was quite true.  That proposal was made by the Conservative Party in a private political meeting following which the Councillor Hudson, Deputy Leader of the District Council (and Member for Hockley), wrote an open letter to the Residents of Rochford District containing these figures which was published in the Echo. 

Not too difficult to find the smoking gun !! It is a pity that this meeting coincided with the Executive Board of the District Council meeting on the same night because a representative was not there to explain why they thought 365 houses in Hawkwell was justified and how they arrived at this proposal. 

Nevertheless to ensure that there was political balance, John invited local resident and Labour Parish Councillor, Myra Weir to speak and for the Conservatives there was a heckler and former Tory District Councillor John Sheaf. 

Concern was expressed by many residents that the infrastructure of roads,sewerage, water, refuse, dentists, doctors, schools was not up to supporting 400 new houses in Hawkwell.  John advised that sustainability consultants were looking at these issues before the next public consultation in the Spring of 2008.

The Government has forced the District Council to consult again because the first without likely sites and justification was unacceptable.

Residents did not seem to know about the original consultation in June anyway and it came as a relief that there would be another !!  Residents decided that they wanted an Action Group to oppose all the potential sites in Hawkwell and 365 new houses anywhere. 

Volunteers came forward to run a campaign from now and until the proposal was withdrawn. They were encouraged that Rayleigh had won a reduction of 1800 to 740 by strong opposition and the fact that the Conservatives have said publicly at the Central Area Committee on 24 October, held in Hawkwell Village Hall, that they would listen and if the public said that they had got it wrong then proposals would be changed and there would be new consultations.

One resident said that he had telephoned RDC that day and been advised that “in relation to the LDF Core Strategy and the allocation of new housing, that the land already notified to RDC at Mount Bovers Hawkwell, was in a conservation zone, that it could never be built upon, that it was designated Common Land, and was SACROSANCT from any development.”

NOT TRUE SEE BELOW.

John Mason has contacted The Head of Planning at RDC, Shaun Scrutton, and the reply is in the Comment below:

John,

The land referred to is shown on the ‘call for sites’ map, stretching from Main Road in the east and bounded by Mount Bovers Lane to the north and Gusted Hall Lane to the south.

This area of land is within the upper Roach Valley and is identified within the adopted Local Plan (policy NR1) as a special landscape area.

The Council has indicated that it does not want to see any development in the upper Roach Valley and certainly there has been no proposal presented to me to suggest the site proposed is one that is justified to be considered as being suitable for housing.

Therefore, the response to questions about the possibility of this land being developed in the future is to the effect that it is likely protection will remain as per the preferred approach set out in the Local Plan and reflected in the draft Core Strategy.

I should say, that having spoken to the policy team, I am told that words like as “sacrosanct” or “common land”, have not been used in providing a response.

The Head of Planning at RDC, Shaun Scrutton does not agree that the RDC had said that the Mount Bovers Land could be described as “sacrosanct” or “common land” as claimed by a resident at the public meeting at Belchamps.

Newly co-opted Parish Councillor Bob Mitchell attended the meeting.  Well done Bob and thank you. 

The Echo weren’t overkeen to attend and presumably did not because they said “nothing is concrete with that area yet”

Apart from John Mason no other District Councillor for Hawkwell (there are six !!) attended.  There were enough posters around but I suppose if they did not live in Hawkwell, then they would not have been aware !! 

The Hawkwell Residents’ Association did not appear to attend. 

Hopefully it never will be “concrete” and if it is then it will be no thanks to the ECHO (who everyone thinks is a Tory Line paper). 

If you wish to join the Action Group then please email us through our Contact page.

Likely next steps are:

  • an email to all District Councillors expressing opposition 
  • further leaflet publicity
  • letters to Shaun Scrutton and Councillor Keith Hudson who is the Cabinet Member in charge of the LDF
  • meeting with Hawkwell Parish Council
  • meeting with the Chair of the Hawkwell Residents’ Association

 

 

Overworked Rochford Police are asking public for help

July 3, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

POLICE officers are searching for volunteers to give up a few hours of their time to help free up police in their area.

Chief Insp John Walker, of Rochford police, said civic-minded people of all ages could make the most of their skills, whether they are in accountancy, human resources or manual labour, by helping police with small tasks.

They could even spare just a few hours to water the window boxes, wash police cars or help with administrative tasks.

Mr Walker said: “One of our big drives is about engaging with the general public, making sure we work closely together to improve the community.

“We are asking the public to work locally with us, to free up officers to concentrate on higher priority issues.”

The scheme will allow volunteers to work any number of hours, and would suit people from all walks of life. Volunteers are even invited to come up with their own ideas of how to help their station.

Call Rayleigh police on 01268 775533.

The Conservative Policy on Housing in Rochford District

June 30, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Local Tory Manifesto says ” Housing – Rochford Conservative Councillors will forever be the guardians of our most precious resource; our countryside, our green and pleasant land. At the same time we recognise the needs of our growing population. We will always ensure that we make the best possible use of the land that is available to us for the benefit of our residents and their children.”

Fine words, just that, and only that, unless residents see that the ACTIONS they want are being taken to back this up; not just promises.

But instead the Conservatives are just blaming the Labour Government as we have already seen in the Echo from Executive Councillor Mavis Webster. It is the obvious excuse for failure. Perhaps it is time for the electorate to elect politicians of status, people who will campaign for our District? The Conservative Party has financial resources, the County Councillors and the MP’s but they are evidently not working on this grassroots problem.

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Hudson, representing Hockley, has replied to my letter published in the Echo on June 26.

Yes, the Tories continue to blame the Labour Government and do not appear to be doing much else but preparing residents to accept what they clearly do not want.

” Its not our fault”.

Let me quote from Councillor Hudson’s Letter.

” the procedures required to be adopted by all Planning Authorities in England by this Labour Government, specifically from the pens of John Prescott and Ruth Kelly, and the subsequent contortions of bureaucracy that we are obliged to labour under, are extraordinarily complicated.”

” Its not our fault”.

“The present Labour Government has made it perfectly clear that there is no money for the improvement of our road system; they suggest that we make better use of public transport; let’s face it, with the present provision in this area the suggestion to use public transport is quite laughable.”

” Its not our fault”.

Councillor Hudson, what are the Tories doing about providing better local public transport? It’s not even in your Local Manifesto !! 

He goes on to say “The map which we are required to use and include in the core strategy is termed the “key diagram” and it is intended to provide a simple representation of the locations for development, it is based on the Ordnance Survey map for our area, but it is not intended to show the detailed web of roads and tracks and minor features; it does, however show principle features including the positions of all of our towns, villages, hamlets and minor settlements.”

” Its not our fault”.

But Tory Policy in Rochford District is as per Councillor Hudson’s Letter …we have to look to areas which are best served by our existing road structure and not to the areas that are served the worst.”  

If the planning strategy for these house allocations is the use of the best existing roads then this is what the consultation map surely needs to show; the roads, so that the Conservative Strategy can be judged. It is nonsense to do otherwise and we expected our Conservative Administration to do better for us by at least getting this requirement amended for the Consultation rather than just whine about it when I challenge what is happening.

” Its not our fault”.

Also on the Rayleigh Conservative Party Web Site, Councillor Hudson says “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are talking in terms of months for these documents to be compiled and presented for examination in public, not years. I cannot over emphasise the urgency to have your say now.

” Its not our fault”.

But the Chief Executive of the Council, Paul Warren has written in an email to me that the Consultation runs in stages to 2009, which is years NOT months? Who is right? Does it mean, if you believe Councillor Hudson, that this Consultation is the defining point?  If so it should have been far better presented to the public. 

 

 

Hawkwell Parish Council – No Village Plan When Needed

May 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Planning : Matter of Concern Number 5, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

In 2003 I was elected by you as a Member of Hawkwell Parish Council.  One of the priority projects was the development of a village plan. This is one of the projects that I wished to see taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council 2003 – 2007.

One of the big questions is development, what is going to happen to Green Belt?  Houses or not?

What happened over 2003-2007?  Council assigned this task to the Planning Committee chaired and led by Labour Councillor Myra Weir.  Labour Councillor David Weir was also on that Committee as was a Parish Councillor representing the Hawkwell Residents Political Party.  For some unknown reason the Hawkwell Village Plan was not progressed. Council then again directed The Planning Committee to take this forward.  Still no action so in my last year of office I joined the Planning Committee and pushed the Village Plan into life.  That was then the early summer of 2006 and it still took until January 2007 to have a public meeting. BUT it was already TOO LATE !!

This was reported in the February Minutes as follows:

“Report on the Public meeting re Village Plan:

The draft report had been circulated. Cllr Patient noted that the meeting was reasonably well attended and had identified some interesting matters including some that the Parish had not previously considered, the process had been extremely useful. He had been very impressed with the RCCE representative Stella Meesters and he felt she had managed the meeting very professionally.He suggested that Members should pass on their thanks to Stella at RCCE.This was agreed. The next step was to agree a meeting date and set up a steering group from those who indicated a willingness to attend.Cllr Mrs Keenan expressed her frustration with one of the comments made inthe report about PCSO’s patrolling in pairs feeling that single patrols wouldresult in higher visibility of the police.”

By May 2007 a Steering Committee had still not been formed and the next meeting to do this is not until 25 June.

But Why was it important to start this in 2003 and not 2007?

Because the District Council was to commence its Local Plan Replacement Review, which was superseded by the requirement by Government to create a Local Development Framework, it was an important opportunity for Hawkwell Parish Council to consult with the community on a Village Plan. More importantly the Hawkwell Village Plan could be legally admitted as a pivotal Local Development Framework Document.  And before the District Council got to the point of determining its preferred options for how the Hawkwell Parish is to develop over the next 14 years !!   An array of issues need to be decided, including the general locations for new housing, areas to be protected, future employment provision, affordable housing, the approach towards tourism and leisure, and more.

Unfortunately Hawkwell Parish Council has over four years not engaged residents to create a Hawkwell Village Plan and it has no Hawkwell Village Plan to offer on behalf of residents under the Rochford District Core Strategy consultation on the allocation of new housing to Hawkwell.

This is one of the projects that I wished to see taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council 2003 – 2007 and why I have left that Council to concentrate on District issues and make sure that you are represented and informed in the allocation of our green belt.

There is now no need for Hawkwell Parish Council to bother with that part of a Village Plan that deals with housing. The Steering Committee will not be formed until 25 June. It will be all over anyway by 2 July 2007 when the vital consultation on the allocation of additional housing development closes and if there has not been objection Hockley and Hawkwell (mostly Hawkwell) will get an additional 400 houses.
 

Litter,Litter,Litter – Hawkwell West

May 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Litter : Matter of Concern Number 3, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

Former Liberal District and County Councillor for Rayleigh, Richard Boyd is now a neighbour in Hawkwell.

He has sent me an e-mail talking about the amount of rubbish and worse that Former Labour District Councillor, Myra Weir, collects up every day as a public spirited duty in Hawkwell Parade and The Clements Hall Area.

It is a disgrace that Myra, a resident, should have to do this daily.  It is what we pay RDC Council Tax for.

I have written to RDC Corporate Director Graham Woolhouse and asked for his employee team to take over from Myra on a daily basis.

I will let you know what happens. 

 

 

 

 

Hawkwell Parish Council – 2007 to 2011

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

Half of the 14 Councillors represent registered political parties:

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

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

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

NEW HOUSING FIGURES REVEALED FOR ROCHFORD DISTRICT

March 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW HOUSING FIGURES REVEALED FOR ROCHFORD DISTRICT

“The Council sets out a policy allocating the total number of housing units to the top tier (90 per cent) and second tier (10 per cent) settlements , to gain a smaller number of large sites which will deliver the greatest number of infrastructure improvements. The split is as follows:

Completions 2001 -2006: 900

Rochford/Ashingdon : 1000

Hockley/Hawkwell : 400

Rayleigh : 1800

Smaller Settlements 500

====

TOTAL : 4600
(By “1st Tier ” this means towns and large villages – Rayleigh, Rochford, Ashingdon, Hockley and Hawkwell. By “2nd Tier” this means Hullbridge, Canewdon and Great Wakering. “Completions 2001-2006″ means houses already built.)

Despite Hawkwell coming out of this quite well, I decided to vote against this proposal which will mean a wholesale loss of green belt in the District as a whole.  The 3700 new homes are a Labour Government dictat not a rational view of the desires of local people or logical professional planning.  The East of England Plan does not deal with the infrastructural requirements to support an extra 4600 houses and residents.

As Rochford Officers had not put the planning reasons for choosing the allocations into the policy for review by Councillors I could not approve the draft.

The Liberals have said this on their web site:

“Independent councillor John Mason asked the most penetrating question. The government was forcing us to allow the building of 4600 houses in the district but where did the figures of 1800 for Rayleigh, 1000 for Rochford/Ashingdon come from? He wanted to know what was the logic behind these figures. The answer from the Head of Planning , Shaun Scrutton, was that Officers had come up with these figures. This was done partly by giving the most housing to be biggest towns and villages, and partly by judging what the capacity was around the edge of each of these places.”

Prior consultantion with the public had made it clear to the Council that the basis of allocation now presented was not favoured and that development should take place in the East of the District.  But the Council had made no attempt to explain why this was not possible and a logical basis put forward for the proposed allocation.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF CONSULTING WITH THE PUBLIC IF THEIR VIEWS ARE NOT TO BE FOLLOWED OR ANY EXPLANATION PROVIDED WHY THEIR VIEWS CANNOT BE FOLLOWED. ALL THAT WILL HAPPEN IS THE PUBLIC WILL BECOME DISENFRANCHISED AND PUBLIC CONSULTATION WILL NOT BE RESPONDED TO IN FUTURE. 

The Liberal Leader, Chris Black joined me in voting against. The Conservatives won the vote, 4 to 2. The 4 voting for were Terry Cutmore, Phil Capon, James Cottis and John Pullen.

Another example of the Tory Party Whip because James Cottis had previously said in the debate that the District would grind to a halt because of the extra development.

Mavis Webster, also Tory County Councillor, decided to ABSTAIN. That means to not make any decision.  What was the point of attending? This is not representation.  It is ABDICATION.

When it goes to the new super executive cabinet councillors after public consultation the policy will no doubt be voted through again by THE TORY PARTY WHIP. 

When Rochford District Council has an executive cabinet we will not even be able to try to stop these policies.

What goes on in the Local Elections?

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Abolition of The District Councils

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

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



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

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

Anti Social Behaviour and Vandalism

May 18, 2006 by · 5 Comments 

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

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

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

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