Housing Strategy Motion put to Full Council (RDC) on 27 July

July 8, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Councillor Michael Hoy (Hullbridge) and Councillor John Mason (Hawkwell West) have given notice for a Motion to be put to Full Council on 27 July.

“Pursuant to the Parliamentary Statement made by The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 6 July 2010, this Council agrees to carry out a housing needs study for Rochford District and adjust the housing allocations proposed in the Core Strategy to satisfy the minimum needs of our community.”

The Motion was Lost.

This what I actually said in Council.

Since I joined Councillor Hoy in putting the motion forward the Council has made a Statement on housing following revocation of East of England Plan.

The Council has already made a decision that should be subject to further study and research in the form of a local housing needs assessment. 

A lot of residents hoped that when the previous government left office, this Council would listen to local people. They expected the Council to reduce the amount of green belt that would be swallowed up.

Many residents contacted me this weekend when they realised that despite the Hawkwell Appeal being dismissed that 175 will most probably still go ahead even when they say that such a development is not welcome or needed in Hawkwell West.

What the Council is proposing is to adopt the housing figures put forward to the previous government in the form of the draft review of the East of England Plan (RSS31).  This means building the same number of houses but over a longer period and I cannot see that any green belt will be saved.

My concern is that even the reduced targets of the previous government represent the provision of housing significantly in excess of local needs.

The two SHMA studies are put forward as evidence.

The date of the latest SHMA is as at January 2010 under the previous Government but it was not published until May 2010. These assessments are a “housing market assessment” which says to me that the figures not only include needs but also demand as promoted by growth targets in the Thames Gateway.

By giving up determination of housing development strategies to local people the new Government is saying that there is no need any more for Rochford District to simply give up green belt to satisfy this demand for construction growth from the Thames Gateway or London. Residents realise from the past that this sort of so called economic growth does not benefit our district and leaves us with growing district wide infrastructural problems that are never solved.

When the Core Strategy was debated in Full Council before submission last September I raised the issues of the district wide infrastructural issues and I recall that the Leader of the Council echoed my concern as did many other Members but reflected that this is outside of our control.  So it is and with the Spending Cuts we cannot expect the district wide infrastructural needs referred to in the Core Strategy to be delivered especially for new public transport initiatives.

On that basis I feel that we need to cut out all the house building that represents housing market growth that is greater than our local needs.

I have asked our Officers a series of numerically based questions and I was referred to study the SHMA’s. I could find any direct answers in terms of housing numbers to the questions I had asked.

We also have the enigma of the SHMA 2010 recommending that 196 affordable houses are required annually for Rochford District but at the annual level of total house building by the Council is only 190 inferring only 60 affordable units will be built each year. This needs to be examined critically because I have no wish to consign people to being homeless in our district if the 196 is right. Furthermore I note the comments in the SHMA about the increasing need for single homes for older people and I hope that all Members viewed the evidence put forward by Panorama last night. Both concerns are inherent in the Motion.

So Members if we want to be sure that we are really making the right decision then I would say that we need to commission GVA Grimley to delve further into their research and extract figures and recommendations having carried out a housing needs study for Rochford District and adjust the housing allocations proposed in the Core Strategy to satisfy the minimum needs of our community.

Council Must Publish All Spending over £500

June 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council in common with all councils, will have received a letter  from Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, urging them to publish details of all spending over £500 in full and online.

In the letter Mr Pickles makes clear that transparency and openness should be the default setting for the way councils do business and calls on councils to speedily adopt this new approach. Councils are further encouraged to also publish information on salaries, job titles and allowances and expenses.

By September councils are expected to publish details of all spending on goods and services that fall above £500 for the public to see – ‘from car hire to consultancy fees and from software to storage costs’. This should be a matter of course from the start of next year including publishing invitations to tender and final contracts over £500.

Hawkwell and Coombes Farm – Possible Tests of a A New Government?

January 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

I have had several conversations with local residents this weekend asking what they can do about the Planning Appeals in Hawkwell, Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road and Coombes Farm,Rochford/Stambridge.

Public Comments close on both Appeals on Wednesday, 27 January 2010.

Both Appeals will be heard by Public Inquiry in April following which the Secretary of State makes a decision based on the Planning Inspector’s report.

You could contact Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP because she could decide the fate of Coombes Farm if the Conservatives win the election as the future Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.

It looks to me as if  Hawkwell and Coombes Farm will effectively be Test Cases for a new Government.

Could Caroline Spelman dismiss the Appeals?  Yes, but it depends if Government Guidance on Planning Policy or the regional housing quotas are going to be changed by the new Secretary of State within 16 weeks of the conclusion of the two Public Inquiries.  Coombes Farm commences on 13 April and Hawkwell on 27 April.  Both are not likely to take longer than 4 days.

With the General Election most likely to the held on 6 May, or latest 3 June, there certainly appears to be time for a new Secretary of State to make the decision but there might not be enough time to make changes. 

It is entirely possible that the “old” Secretary of State could make the decision if General Election was held on 3 June and The Planning Inspector had submitted the report very quickly !!

Hopefully Caroline Spelman will be kind enough to look at the position and let us know.  It would be helpful if people write to copy in Mark Francois MP for Hawkwell and James Duddridge MP for Coombes Farm so that they can lobby Caroline Spelman to do the best she can for us if the Conservatives win the election and she is the future Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.

It might be that there would not be enough time for the new Secretary of State to make the changes necessary changes to save the green belt at Coombes Farm and in Hawkwell which would be a dreadful shame.

What residents do deserve is a clear answer; Will she change Government Guidance on Planning Policy Yes? or No? Will there be time to dismiss these Appeals.  Yes? or No?

We can’t ask if Ms Spelman will dismiss the Appeals because she cannot pre-determine this……………..but she could indicate whether it could be possible or out of the question?   

That seems perfectly reasonable for residents to ask for before they vote in the General Election of course !! And remarkably local with a direct immediate effect on peoples lives for a change given how remote national politics can appear to be.

Interesting challenge I think.