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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.

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.

 

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.

 

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?  Can YOU assist your neighbours to find the right route to resolve a problem? If so Rochford District Residents needs YOU.

Rochford District Residents is a local political party that has its roots in Residents Associations.  Run and administered by John and Christine Mason who represent their Ward – Hawkwell West – on Rochford District Council the aims are simple:  To achieve the best possible results for the residents they represent in local matters.

Many national political parties, but not all,  set their policies focused on Parliament and Parliamentary seats and these are cascaded down from the top to the local political groups. Rochford District Council (RDC) seats come under two different Parliamentary Constituencies and the Leader of the RDC group ensures that both National and Local (Conservative) Policies are adhered to by use of the Whip. (Nothing to do with black leather (!!) but to do with ensuring that members of that group vote as instructed by the Leader of the Council.)

Rochford District Residents  are unlike national political parties as there is NO whip nor will there ever be.  We believe that everyone has a view that they are entitled to put forward and after a debate a vote should be taken on the merits of the points raised, discussed and debated.

Unfortunately at present the local administration have a different policy, their whip ensures that their Councillors vote in line with the party instructions regardless of whether it is right or wrong for your area.  The craziness of this was demonstrated by the recent Conservative led hike in car parking charges when 10 Conservative councillors disobeyed the Whip and abstained.  Yes, abstained because they were ‘not allowed’ to vote against the Conservative Policy.  Had they had the courage of their convictions and voted against the rise we would not be facing this increase, which is yet to be implemented. (Delayed from the beginning of April.)  These ten became nine etc and only one of the original ten has had the courage to continue to reject the Whip, becoming an Independent Conservative .

We are not anti- conservative, or anti-labour or anti-liberal for that matter.  We just believe that local people should have an independent  voice in local issues.  In many ways we are Independents under a Heading to allow voters to identify with us and our aims.  We had hoped that the much publicized Localism Act would create more democracy at a local level but unfortunately this has not been the case. Nor will it – ever.

Next May thirteen RDC seats are up for election, one in each of Ashingdon and Canewdon, Barling and Sutton, Foulness and Great Wakering, Hawkwell North, Hawkwell South, Hawkwell West, Rochford, Hullbridge, Hockley Central, Grange, Lodge, Sweyne Park, Downhall and Rawreth (Rayleigh Wards).

Christine will be standing in Hawkwell West seeking re-election.

Would you like to join her and stand in one of the other wards?

Even if you do not wish to use our heading of Rochford District Residents and wish to stand as an ‘Independent’ we are more than willing to help and advise you on the complexities of seeking election and representing your area and your views.

It may seem a long way till May 2015 but we feel it is best to get to know your potential ward well in advance of an election which enables you to go to the electorate with a track record and a clear understanding of the commitment you may be making.

Contact John or Christine on john.mason@bigfoot.com

Strategic Planning at Castle Point in a Spin

September 29, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Council fears for a concrete jungle futureCouncillors are saying “We do not want Castle Point to be turned into a concrete jungle, but don’t know how to stop it !!”

“The Government wants to see more development in South Essex and has got us over a barrel.”

What do outsiders think?

It seems surprising that Castle Point Councillors have chosen to question the Conservative led Government especially when the Council has a Conservative Administration.

One wonders what they expect to achieve because most District Councils are managing to avoid a clash with Government by putting house building plans in place to avoid planning powers being effectively taken away from the Council.

But as Castle Point Council is so against the new house building targets as a resident you would have to agree that the Council is doing the right thing.

If Castle Point truly do not know what the heck to do then perhaps the Leader of The Council should be making an urgent appointment in Westminster to tell David Cameron and Eric Pickles that Conservative Government Policy is not for Castle Point.

It is all a bit of a mystery why all the Conservative run Councils in South Essex have not got together and challenged Pickles and Osborne because they all must know that saying to residents that they had no choice but to follow Conservative Government Policy will not rub on the doorstep.

Perhaps with Campaigning for the 2015 General Election already underway there might be change in Government Policy to let Castle Point off the hook?

As regards the Rochford Core Strategy speaking to residents of Hawkwell recently identified to us some significant flaws in what is happening.  They want to know that if their children, as young adults, wished to stay in the area then they could find housing to rent or buy.  They do not understand the term Affordable Housing.  Residents think that this means that there will be one and two bedroom houses to buy at prices they can afford.  Not so. Affordable Houses means that these houses are made available for rent from a Registered Social Landlord.  Unfortunately, there are more than enough people on the Housing Register to take these up already.

Whatever Government “Help to Buy Scheme” you look at, even with the 5% cash and the remaining deposit of 15% Guaranteed by Mr. Cameron announced today, you still need an 80% Mortgage.  Even with a property costing £300,000 you still need a Mortgage of £240,000.  Plus £45,000 provided by the Government on the 15% Deposit making a 95% Loan of £285,000. Can young adults with University Loans of 20,000 – £40,000 EACH afford a Loan of £285,000 on top? 

How can these new houses be for our kids?

If the houses for sale are too big and too expensive then young adults will have to leave the area which is what the Rochford District Census 2011 suggests has happened and will no doubt continue. Perhaps this explains why the Rochford District Census 2011 also shows that there has been no increase in 0-18 year olds over 10 years.

As regards our aging population Council Officers told us at a Hearing that if older people wished to downsize then they could also apply to rent Affordable Homes from Registered Social Landlords.  But why would they want to rent 3 bedroom homes even if the Registered Social Landlords could ignore the waiting list on the Housing Register?

There is something fundamentally wrong here if residents think that the young (children) and old (parents) are not properly catered for in Council Housing Strategies for the local communities that they serve.

The housing in Rochford District has increased at average of 183 per year (2001 – 2011 by Council figures) and apart from the housing stock for rent by Registered Social Landlords this has met the needs of all age groups.

Perhaps Castle Point has more to concern itself with before it decides whether to buck Government Policy or not.

And Rochford District needs to consider these facts and trends in its Revision of the Core Strategy which starts again in January 2014.

If you want to read the Echo Article (27 September 2013) entitled “Council fears for a concrete jungle future” then it is below;

CONCERNS have been raised that the future development of thousands of homes in Castle Point could be left in the hands of the Government.

Castle Point Council is in the process of creating a new Local Plan which will act as a blue-print for where new homes could be built in the borough over the next 15 years.

It is the authority’s third attempt at putting together the housing strategy, as the original proposals were rejected by a Government inspector in 2010 and again in September 2011, following opposition from residents and backbench councillors.

Now, councillors are claiming the new draft document, which is yet to be completed, might not get voted through as it bears too much resemblance to previous plans.

If the new plan is rejected at full council, councillors fear the Government’s Planning Inspectorate would intervene and take the decision-making powers away from the local authority.

Alf Partridge, Conservative councillor for St Mary’s ward, said: “When I last saw the latest scheme I was not happy with it because it would still mean seeing the demise of green belt. I cannot see any difference between this plan and the last one.

“Council officers are making a valiant effort to try to rescue us from a ridiculous situation and find new ideas of where to put these homes, but what the heck can we do?

“The Government wants to see more development in south Essex and has got us over a barrel. It was talking about 200 homes a year and now its 250 homes. I am not happy to commit to such high numbers of new houses.

“But if we do not come up with a practical plan to allow a certain number of homes to be and members at the moment as we try to agree something. There is a good chance of the Government coming in and taking over. ”

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said: “The council has found itself in a difficult position. If everyone doesn’t agree this time round, the Government could come in and decide things for us.

“I don’t think the Tories will vote it through because they are looking at a lot of development on the mainland which could lose them voters. But they have to make tough decisions.”

However, Tory councillor Bill Sharp said a new committee of six councillors has been put together to scrutinise all the potential development sites in the next few weeks.

He also said new sites have come to light, such as the Blinking Owl site off the A127, which could help relieve the pressure on the major green belt sites.

Mr Sharp said: “The Blinking Owl site has been left out in the past, but already has around six or seven entrances from the A127 and could be a suitable site. While I am concerned, I am not as concerned as I was a few weeks ago.

“I am confident we can come to a decision that will not see us lost our virgin green belt sites.”

 

 

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.]

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.

 

“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.

Affordable Housing in the new Housing Developments

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

42-15243430

Many residents expressed their concerns about the affordable housing requirements to us during the consultation on the three planning applications (2 refused) submitted by David Wilson Homes.

As your District Councillors we listened to your concerns and within what we could do in the planning process we ensured in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder that the affordable housing, 35% of 176, meaning 62 houses, were not to be provided just in one part of the development but in both parts of the development and spread throughout.

We also had significant input into the design of the houses in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder including making sure that the affordable houses had the same design attributes as the larger more expensive houses.

As Rochford District Council’s Core Strategy requires 3,500 new homes to be built before 2025 this will result in 1225 affordable dwellings in the District as a whole we feel that this needs to be managed carefully by all Members of the Council so that all of these homes are built and and gardens provided to the same standard as fully privately owned property to maintain the same high standard of living for all residents.

We recognise that there remain concerns and we have discussed various aspects with the Council Officers already because some residents have recently found it necessary to complain about some existing occupants of social housing in Hawkwell.

We recognise that this is a very sensitive subject but we have a duty as District Councillors to inform all residents.

These answers from Council Officers are our findings regarding Social Housing.

When we have a deficit of housing for residents of our District why would residents from outside of our District receive housing in our District?

The demand for housing, as evidenced through the housing register,is not only from residents of the District but others who have a local connection with the District through past residence, family or employment. (At present Rochford District Council can nominate some allocations (75%) and the Housing Association allocate the rest.)

• Why do we not have 100/nil if favour of Council allocation? Can it be changed? What will be the ratio on the DWH site?

The 75/25 split for nominations is the standard agreement between Councils and Registered Providers (RPs) and is also reflected in the LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary Transfer agreement between Rochford District Council and The Rochford Housing Association). For new build schemes however we would normally try to secure 100% nomination rights for the first lets and accept 75/25 split for subsequent lets.

What is the Council and Rochford Housing Association (RHA) policy on “sensitive lets”? Please define that term and advise the policies.

We do not have a policy as such on sensitive lets and I cannot answer for RHA. If a situation requires a “sensitive let”, when deciding whether to nominate an applicant we will take into consideration a number of factors including age, medical conditions, previous tenancy record (if applicable) and other aspects such as any record of anti social behaviour etc., We will provide RHA (or indeed any other RP) with the relevant information we have but ultimately it would be for them to decide whether to accept the nomination.

How can residents living nearby protect their own interests in respect of anti social behaviour emanating from residents of social housing as compared to private rental and owner occupier tenures.

Where residents incur issues of an anti social behaviour nature from any other residents, whether this be in relation to social housing, private rental or owner occupiers, these issues can be reported to the Council’s Community Safety Team. Or Essex Police in extreme situations. They will then look into the issues raised and endeavour to find a solution to the problem and where the perpetrator is in social housing, the Community Safety Team will work with the Registered Social Landlord to find solutions. With regard to social housing, the residents can if they wish go direct to the Registered Social Landlords. Another source of help is RDC Environmental Health depending on the nature of the complaint. 

Hopefully all new residents will settle into their new homes quickly and enjoy their new local communities.

Please let us know if you wish to comment by contacting your local Councillors,  John Mason at john.mason@bigfoot.com or Councillor Christine Mason at Christine.Mason@Rochfordessex.net.

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.

Further Public Consultation on the Core Strategy

January 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

661daed29911cdbef6141c4bb1ab9bdcb4bb31cd

Happy New Year 2013.

This brings a further opportunity for residents to comment on the Rochford Core Strategy. This ends on 25 January 2013.

We have already raised our concerns about the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) and now we turn to the Allocations Submission Document.

http://rochford.jdi-consult.net/ldf/readdoc.php?docid=178

With planning permission having already been given for a new 176 dwelling estate in Hawkwell, despite huge objection by residents, residents groups and your two Independent District Councillors, you might think that this is the time for “no comment” from Hawkwell.

We think otherwise. We would encourage you to read our Article and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also wish to object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

We have been informed that the response from the Housing and Development Section of the Hawkwell Parish Parish Plan (HPPG) Questionnaire was mainly against further house building with a weighting of opinion that the area is full up and cannot even take the current volume of traffic in a satisfactory manner.

In the Traffic and Highways Section 71% said that there was excessive traffic congestion.and 77% said that Tidal traffic congestion leads to gridlock.

There were 136 comments made freely on the questionnaires which all directly relate to housing and development and 60 of which related to roads and or infrastructure.

We understand that the roads have not been improved since green-space separated all towns and villages on the Shoebury peninsular (for want of a better name). The development of Cherry Orchard Way (B1013) resulted in Hawkwell West getting true through traffic avoiding the A127 congestion for the very first time.

The HPPG is so concerned that it has suggested to Hawkwell Parish Council that a Rochford Bypass should be reconsidered when planning to improve the current inadequate road infrastructure.

This concern regarding traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure is not new and I had already raised this issue in the Core Strategy.

In May 2010 at a Public Examination about the Core Strategy in front of a Government Planning Inspector I raised concerns about the level of housing development and whether the roads could cope with the additional volumes.

I was assured that this matter would be looked at when the Essex County Council Local Transport Plan was reviewed in 2011.

Councillor Michael Hoy and Councillor Chris Black were both present at the PE in 2010.

Strangely Rochford District Council still agrees in 2012………….according to RDC (Minutes of Council 27/11/12); “Responding to a supplementary Member question relating to the cumulative effect of all the proposed development on the local highways, officers advised that the Highways Authority was looking strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts through the Local Transport Plan; in addition, the emerging community infrastructure levy should facilitate strategic highways improvements.”………but there is not a Traffic Assessment of the District (TEMPRO) in the Evidence Base as far as I can see.

The Member asking the question was myself, Councillor John Mason.

But in 2012 as explained by ECC, “the current Essex Local Transport Plan (LTP) was developed in line with Department for Transport Guidance on LTPs. This LTP represents a significant change from previous LTPs. It is not a 5 year plan that sets out a specific programme, instead it is a long term document that provides the framework within which transport programmes can be developed.”

There are 3,500 new dwellings agreed in the Rochford Core Strategy. Already 976 have been given planning permission in the Central part of the District.

Councillor Michael Hoy has posted on Facebook that a Public Meeting is being held on Thursday 3rd January at the Hullbridge Community Centre, in Pooles Lane. The meeting is to start at 7.30pm. This meeting is for residents to discuss and decide what they can say to the consultation, being held by the District Council, about the 500 houses planned for Hullbridge.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements.

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.

Essex County Council stated in an email to me on 21 December 2012 “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

I conclude 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 ECC has not been published in the Evidence Base.

The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites 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 the District.

The Planning Inspector is asked to reject the Allocations DPD and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic cumulative effects of all developments contemplated by the Core Strategy on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC in accordance with the LTP 2011.

Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP)

December 30, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

HÅP

We are formally objecting to the Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP) which is published at the link below.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

As District Councillors we believe that this plan will have adverse effects on the residents of our Ward, Hawkwell West Ward which adjoins The Hockley Village centre.

UPDATE – HERE IS A SYNOPSIS OF WHAT Councillor John Mason told the Planning Inspector at THE HEARING ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2013

I suggested yesterday at the Hockley Hearing that if the “up to” 3000sqm Supermarket/Retail scheme was not viable then a Retirement Village might be ideal instead and meet the rising needs of the over 60’s who have no smaller housing unit provision in the Core Strategy. More on this at http://rochfordessex.com/ in the article on the Census 2011. The Council suggested that 3 bed “lifelong” properties would remove the need to downsize……………nope !!

 

When I said that there were no new properties being built at one and two bedrooms that older folk could buy to downsize to the Council representative at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday said that older people were also eligible for rentable affordable housing if they wished to downsize. Don’t think the Social Landlords would agree.

 

The B1013 was running at 73% when I asked Essex County Council in 2008. Apparently the free flowing practical % only runs to 85% so I wonder where we are now? No answer from Highways at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday because they have decided not to do a Traffic Assessment. So is the Hockley Village Centre scheme viable?

 We are supporting the Hockley Residents’ Association whose Chair, Brian Guyett has had input into this article.

We would encourage you to read the HAAP and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

Anyone who either shops or drives in Hockley should be concerned with the District Council’s recently published proposals for regenerating the centre of Hockley which is called the HAAP.

There is the likelihood of a new “medium” sized supermarket of up to 3,000 sq metres (that nearly six times the size of the existing Co-op). There are concerns that a supermarket this large will overwhelm the existing shops and result in less competition and, in turn, higher prices. It is also contrary to the Council’s own experts, who recommended that Hockley should be redeveloped along small, “boutique” lines.

There are also plans for a public square, with an evening culture of bars and cafes, and around 100 new homes. Clearly this will all change the character of the ‘village’ against the wishes of residents.

This makes 150 new dwellings in Hockley made up of 50 recently given planning permission in West Hockley and the 100 in the Centre. (We thought there would only be 50 according to an election leaflet circulated in Hockley in 2010.)  So with the 976 dwellings already given planning permission in the Central part of the District the additional 100 takes the total well over 1000 (1026). There are 326 new dwellings just for Hockley and Hawkwell.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements and from what Councillor Chris Black has said in Council there are the same concerns in the West of the District.

Christine and I pledge to continue to campaign for highways infrastructure improvements.

However, the main concern on the HAAP is the impact on traffic and parking. The Council has repeatedly promised that highway considerations would be included in the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) but, in a the last minute U-turn, did not do so arguing that it could save money leaving it to a planning application to pay for this.

But

Essex County Council, advises that “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

The Council “considers” that the Spa Roundabout could be improved through the provision of 3 slip lanes and a wider pavement beside the Spa pub. There is no evidence to support this view or whether it is even physically viable. The Council has only allowed £2-300K for the cost of this work, which looks optimistic given that they allowed up to £2M for the same work in the Council’s costings for the Core Strategy.

The Council also proposes to move the Hockley Station car park in to Eldon Way, and build more houses on the existing car park. Whilst this has some attractions, it would reverse much of the traffic flows under the railway bridge and, again, the Council say they have not modelled the impact. So it is not known how this will change traffic flows through Hockley, including extra volumes from all the new housing in the West of the District.

Parking also looks very tight with just 211 places proposed for shopping and 72 for the Hockley Rail Station. The Rail Station Car Park is often almost full with 159 places so how is just 72 sustainable?

The Council states that to be Sound the plan (HAAP) 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.

As stated earlier Essex County Council, advises “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

As the HAAP is a proposal for strategic development then according to ECC this must be accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.

The Planning Inspector is being asked by us to reject the HAAP and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic effect of such proposed strategic development on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC.

If you also wish to object then please submit your own by 25 January 2013.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

John and Christine Mason

Another View – What Could Really Happen to Our Green Belt?

November 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Houses
Photo by bangli 1

The Liberal Democrat Group in Rochford has published an interesting article called “What Could Really Happen In Our Green Belt” at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11420  “OnlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District”.

OnlineFOCUS said that the latest new housing allocation document says these are only minimum figures, the Council may allow more housing if required to meet our Five Year Housing Supply.  The five year supply is a rolling figure (5 X 250 houses per year) that is assessed and the result published annually each December.  OnlineFOCUS concluded that if houses don’t get built in one Preferred Location they may get built in another!

The new ‘maximums’ are substantially higher and create uncertainty and concern for residents.

What we hope will become clear in our Article is that the RDC policy on housing development is multi layered and not as transparent as we would expect to be presented to residents.

But the Lib Dems helpfully published a list of Preferred General Locations and the extra numbers of houses each could get based on the published Maximums.

 – North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of   550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

– South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

The total increase which could be allowed is 1060 which would have alarmed many residents. The percentage increases range in each Preferred Location varies from 122% to 185%.

But I understand from one of our Planning Officers that restrictions were recommended at the LDF Sub Committee.

“The Allocations of Sites document recommends exactly where the Minimum houses will be built. Whilst a higher maximum was proposed for each General Location Members of the LDF Sub-Committee on 30 October recommended to the Council that the Allocations DPD restrict the quantum of development within each of the new residential allocations that are on land currently allocated as Green Belt to the figure specified in the Core Strategy as a maximum, but that this figure could be increased by up to 5% subject to the following criteria:”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings are required to maintain a five year-land supply;”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings to be provided on the site is required to compensate for a shortfall of dwellings that had been projected to be delivered within the settlement.” 

This would appear to be good news as the Maximum is not to be used.

However the question remains then why was there a Maximum in each Preferred General Location?

I will try to explain where we Independents think the Maxima will come into play.  We said earlier that the RDC Policy on housing development was complex and multi layered.

Read on………….This is obviously a sensitive political issue which might upset the peoples’ voting intentions if the implications were to be told in one place at one time.

I will have a go………………….I estimate that I am attempting to summarise the 2000 pages Councillors are expected to read and understand in just 3 ½ pages of A4.

So let us look beyond all that “smoke and mirrors”.

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025. This 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. The 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 but only 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.

This implies to me the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for at some point.

In July the Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

Did anyone else read this?

What was it for?

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March 2012 by the Government requires each local planning authority to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to assess their full housing needs and to establish realistic assumptions about the viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. It also provides some key changes to housing policy, differing from the previous Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).”

“A comprehensive review on the SHLAA is therefore necessary to provide more up-to-date information on the sites previously included in the SHLAA and any new sites that have emerged since the previous assessment. The findings will be used to inform the preparation of Local Development Framework documents.”

Two Options were recommended in order to proceed to identify where any additional houses need could potentially be built.

At the time of adoption of the Core Strategy in December 2011, the shortfall carried forward from 2006-2011 was already 402.

Option A is to allow a greater quantum of development through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

See the OnlineFOCUS list above for where the Preferred General Locations are in our District.

Option B is to make up the historic shortfall of 402 through the review of the Core Strategy. This will be dependent on the nature of the Core Strategy review.  One way to make up this shortfall of 402 – as discussed at the LDF Sub-committee in March – would be through the review of Core Strategy policies for housing 2021-2031 – a review which the Government Inspector’s required as a condition of adoption, given the delays.  The shortfall could then be made up over this period. However, in the March LDF sub-committee Members expressed a preference for a review of the Core Strategy which focussed on Policy H3 – only the Preferred General Locations for Housing post-2021.

In other words rather than look at the area as a whole again the Council will most likely only look at those sites that land owners have already put forward for development and have been assessed already.

It could be, of course, that the 402 shortfall might be cancelled out by small building developments over the period to 2025 or even 2021.

But spare a thought for the following areas which are scheduled for development post 2021.

If this shortfall is not made up these areas that follow will have to take the 402.

 – South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

But if we ONLY needed 1500 more houses from 2025 to 2031 this would still give only 322!!

So Option A would be to allow a greater number of dwellings through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

So expect the other Maxima to be used perhaps;

– North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of 550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

Another 738! Now making only 1060!! 1500 needed. (plus 402?) Oh Dear. But there could well be additional sites in the SHLAA 2012 which could provide additional dwellings.

Where could the1060 actually be built?  I believe that the additional alternative sites not already chosen in the Allocation of Sites or those in the SHLAA would come into play.

Take a good look at these now because if you do not object at the outset there will be NO CHANCE of changing things.

 You might like to think about this when the Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites takes place.

The sites currently rejected might well come back later, if the scenario of Option A  above comes into play, which we believe it might.  If you object to any of them say so now before it is too late.

The dates for the Public Consultation are yet to be agreed by the Council but it will be finalised at a Council Meeting on 27 November.  It is likely to be for 6/8 weeks from mid December.  Watch this web site for details later. 

Other looming pressures on the District might mean that new Laws could compel Rochford District to take on house targets from Southend, Castle Point, Basildon or even Maldon!!

The SHMAA was last reviewed in 2010.  Expect a new one early in 2012.

What is it?

The Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment

The study is likely to tell us how many Affordable Houses we need to provide in our District and being a standard 35% of each new development this might mean we need many more houses just to meet this target for the homeless and population growth and migration to our District.

As Independents we try to tell residents about what is happening about Green Belt and New Housing, warn and suggest what you can do before it might be too late.

Our message is to have your say in the upcoming Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites. 

Comment on all of them not just the one chosen to meet the Minimum in your area but also the Maximum for that site or Preferred General Location which we believe will inevitably be coming later. 

NEW Local Highways Panel

June 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The NEW Local Highways Panel, consisting of some District Councillors, has asked Shaun Scrutton to find out from other Members what new highways schemes they would like the  NEW Local Highways Panel to consider using the £427,808 budget available from Essex County Council.
 
Prior to the abolition of the Area Committees all Councillors, including those from the Parish Councils, had a direct input to argue the case for their areas.  But not now.
 
The Local Highways Panel is a forum for county and district Members to jointly consider and prioritise elements of highways spend in the district.

For 2012/13, a total of £427,808 has been allocated to Rochford by County Highways covering the following capital budget lines:

traffic management improvements;
tackling congestion;
safer roads (including casualty reduction);
public rights of way schemes;
cycling schemes;
passenger transport improvements; and
minor highway improvement schemes.
 
The Rochford District Residents Group, Christine and John Mason, representing Hawkwell West, has put forward a list of needs which had been been drawn to their attention by ordinary residents over the last few years and remain unfufilled. Read more

An Outsiders View of the Rochford Core Strategy Suspension

August 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Planning guru, Andrew Lainton, takes an interest in the Rochord Core strategy.

He writes in response to the Article that John Mason wrote in whiche he wondered if certain legal issues, namely a High Court case called CALA II could impact on the Council’s request for Suspension.

Interestingly John spoke of his concern in the Council Chamber even then about the further potential delays which might be caused by the Government having to conduct Regional Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) to finally abolish the Labour Housing targets (RSS).

Andrew talks about the third option that John also put forward which was withdraw and re-submit when the legal uncertainty was over.

Finally Andrew has advice for Local MP, Mark Francois, who is a senior government whip who wrote a letter of support to the Planning Inspector on behalf of the Council.

Over to you Andrew Lainton.
 
“It is not that simple, in CALA II one of the key issues was to do with the law on whether or not administrative degree could overcome the will of parliament.  After Royal Assent the will of parliament will be clearer.

But none the less as the junior minister Bob Neill has consented to there will be no revokation until the SEA process has been completed, consulted on and responded to.

Until then the RSS remains the development plan and the legal requirement for general conformity remains.

A material consideration can never trump a legal requirement, this is not a matter for weighing and balancing.

Suspension now of the examination could be challengable as it would be prejudging the outcome of the SEA consultation, indeed imprudent remarks from Ministers have made a challenge on grounds of the Seaport case (a NI SEA case in the European Courts) inevitable, which will take at least two years to conclude.

What is more statements by government payroll members (such as the local MP who is a whip) that after the royal assent the RSS should be disregarded (see letter) could be regarded as prejudicial to the SEA process, the MP needs to keep a judicial silence as his action is likely to be quoted in court as evidence of government prejudice – he could have led to the RSS being given life until conclusion of judicial process.

If the Inspector suspended the EIP (Examination in Public) it would be prejudging, the outcome of an SEA process and consultation that hasn’t even begun.  She should carry on and determine the plan of the basis of what is and not what might be in six months or two years – indeed they have a legal duty to. 

The situation of EiP examinations lasting over a year – when they used to last only a few days or weeks prior to May 2010 – has become a joke which discredits the whole process.

If Rochford was not happy with this they could always withdraw and resubmit later.

Of course on re-submission if they propose building much less than SHMA assessed need and without ‘duty to cooperate arrangements to cope with the housing they would displace beyond the green belt they would not just have a potentially unsound plan they would (after royal assent) have a potentially unlawful one.”

http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/rochford-asks-for-core-strategy-examination-to-be-suspended-in-light-of-nppf-and-cala/

Rochford District Council – Suspension of Core Strategy

July 31, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Councillor John Mason’ s Speech in Full Council on 21 July 2011 opposing Suspension

Open Letter 1 following Full Council Decision to request Suspension

Open Letter 2 following Full Council Decision to request Suspension

The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, Councillor Keith Hudson, very kindly sent all Members of the Council two letters on Friday, 29 July.

  1. The Council’s Letter requesting Suspension
  2. A Letter from Mark Francois MP supporting the request

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/Letter_to_Inspector_re_suspension.doc

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/Letter_to_Laura_Graham_-_from_Mark_Francois_MP_29.07.11.pdf

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/minutes%20rdc%2021072011.pdf

The full story is in the Council’s Letter and the Minutes above.

The Council has quoted three precedents in its letter to Government Planning Inspector Ms. Laura Graham.

From the above Minutes “The situation the Council was in was not unique, the approach being suggested reflecting that taken by Inspectors in some other parts of the country.”

Had these been quoted in the Report making Recommendation which was debated in Council on 21 July I should have liked to have spoken about these before the Council made its written request.

Yes, they were all suspensions but you need to look at the detail.

South Wiltshire Core Strategy suspended August 2010 !!

Cllr John Brady, Cabinet member for economic development, planning and housing, said: “I am delighted the inspector has recognised that we find ourselves in highly unusual circumstances with the abolition of the RSS taking place towards the end of the Examination of the South Wilts Core Strategy. His agreement to suspend his report to allow us time to reassess our situation is most welcome.”

Note in 2010 !! Different circumstances to RDC and before any of the Cala Court Cases.

Surrey Heath Core Strategy suspended (est. March 2011)

“The planning inspector considers that there is insufficient justification to support the Council’s departure from the South East Plan’s housing requirement for the Borough. Bearing in mind the substantial level of housing need identified in the SHMA, the inspector considers this to be a potentially serious failing. In response, Surrey Heath has requested a suspension of the examination to enable more work to be undertaken.”

Again different circumstances to RDC. And before Cala II.

Luton/South Beds Core Strategy Examination suspended ( est. July 2011)

http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/the-legal-problem-that-got-the-lutonsouth-beds-core-strategy-examination-suspended/

Reading the above link and according to Andrew Lainton “The final point is a killer. The Joint committee had proceeded on the basis that the abolition of the RSS was material. At the time Mr Village wrote his letter we didn’t know the outcome of the Court of Appeal in Cala II. Now we do know.”

“The lesson is clear any LPA which has submitted a DPD taking into account the proposed revocation will be contrary to CALA II.”

Note before Cala II.  This looks critical according to Andrew Lainton who is a planning consultant.

This is the critical Para 24 from Cala II;

“It would be unlawful for a local authority preparing, or a Planning Inspector examining, development plan documents to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies”.

My thoughts below;

Essentially, if the Inspector agrees to the suspension, she could be viewed as being in direct contravention of the principle established in the Cala II Appeal [para 24] as she would, in effect, be encouraging the authority to have regard to the proposal to abolish the Regional Strategy.

Should prove very interesting !!

Rochford Core Strategy – Revisited 2011

July 24, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

The Rochford Independent stopped publishing Articles for a time because we wished to be less of a “publisher” of news and to concentrate on the primary objective of being District Councillors.

Christine was elected in May to also represent the Hawkwell West Ward in the second of the two seats. I have been naturally acting as her mentor and I am pleased to tell you that she is already acting for residents and making efforts to influence change in the District.

But we have come to the point where we have to publish an Open Letter which both explains our current views of the Rochford Core Strategy alongside that of emerging Government policy which we believe will not deliver the promises made at elections.

Here is the Letter.

Dear Editor

The District Council decided at Thursday’s Council meeting on 21 July to ask the Government’s Planning Inspector to Suspend the Public Examination of the Rochford Core Strategy until December 2011.

But before the vote many Councillors showed a direct interest in the views of Rochford District Residents on strategic planning.

Residents across the district have been opposed for years to the housing targets imposed by the Labour Government and were promised big changes by the Conservatives. 

However we think that many residents are unsure as to what the Conservative Party policies are both nationally and locally.

On national policy the Conservative Party promised at the General Election to do away with regionally imposed Government house building targets and replace these with local targets set locally by residents under the philosphy of Localism. 

But the Conservative Government has suffered a remarkable failure to abolish the regional targets inherited from the previous Labour Government.

And then came along in the last Conservative Budget, Planning For Growth which at least one Planning Inspector expects to see now incorporated into strategic planning or core strategies.

“On the final day of the Examination in Public for the Central Lancashire Core Strategy , the planning inspector announced that he is likely to find the Central Lancashire Core Strategy unsound and will be recommending that it be amended to include the adopted RSS housing targets as a minimum. In making that recommendation he had regard to the Government’s growth agenda which recognises the clear link between housing development and economic growth.”
  
In launching the Planning for Growth Directive the Conservative Government also said “Local planning authorities should therefore press ahead without delay in preparing up-to-date development plans, and should use that opportunity to be proactive in driving and supporting the growth that this country needs.”

How strange that a Conservative controlled Council, like Rochford District is asking a Planning Inspector to Suspend decision making on its Core Strategy when the Conservative Government tells them to “press ahead without delay”. 

Even stranger in the light of Conservative Government policy that the Rochford Core Strategy has not been examined as to whether it delivers Planning for Growth.

But the Thames Gateway strategic housing studies quoted at Thursday’s Council meeting generates, according to the Council’s Portfolio Holder, a requirement for over 13,000 new houses!!

It is no suprise that these figures are being rejected by all parties.

The evidence for the local Conservative alternative 3800 new homes over 20 years seems to reside in the almost 1200 people who are on the Council’s Housing Register where if each housing development delivers 30% affordable homes that neatly comes out at 60 per year over 20 years out of a total of 190 per year over 20 years. Certainly one Member quoted that figure to me during the debate.

The risk is that if you project the decision of the Planning Inspector for Central Lancashire then the minimum number of houses for Rochford District may go back to 250 per year (the Labour or RSS target) or 5000 over the same 20 years. And according to a leaked Government documents perhaps by an additional 20% to 6000 !!

But there is an alternative if only the Council would look at its own figures. The Portfolio Holder for Planning stated that our District’s new housing requirement was determined by local needs.

I have an Officer Report of Rochford District Council which sets out our local housing needs for affordable homes which in turn seems to generate the total build figure dictated by the Government (30% of all housing developments must be affordable homes by virtue of Government Policy).

I referred to this report when I was challenged in Council to advise what new housing figure I would wish to see but only two other Councillors had apparently seen this.

The Report headed “Information Re The Approval of the new Allocations Policy” dated 21 June 2011 states;

“Under the new banding system,there will be 593 applicants who it is deemed have no housing need.” 

That leaves by numerical deduction from the total number of applicants on the Council’s housing register that are eligible to be housed at 576.

So RDC has no need to build affordable houses for 593 Applicants only 576 to meet our local needs.  

Bearing in mind that 3800 houses over 20 years seems to relate to the whole housing list of 1200 then because there are only 576 who need homes that seems to suggest just 29 affordable houses need to be built each year for 20 years rather than 60 which is 50% against a total number of houses of 1920 over 20 years rather than 3800.   

Looking at it again for clarity the total over 20 years, based on the 576 being 30%, generates 1920 new houses instead of 3800 proposed by the Council against the previous housing targets of 5000.

So my figure is 1920 based on real housing needs in the Council’s Housing Register whilst the Council still sticks to 3800 based on what we see as incorrect numerical evidence which surely the Inspector for Rochford must reject. 

But in rejecting this must she just replace that with 5000 or 6000 based on the new Government’s policy in replacement for the previous targets? That is what seems to be happening in Central Lancashire. 

No Change………… but Change was promised at the General Election.

With the Council proposing to plough on with figures that will inevitably be rejected our party could not support the waste of time and money that would result in following the recommendation put forward.

The latest Court Case referred to by the Inspector for Rochford says ( her letter dated 2 June 2011);

“”You will be aware of the recent High Court judgement in the Cala Homes case. At paragraph 24 it says “It would be unlawful for a local authority preparing, or a Planning Inspector examining, development plan documents to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies”.””

The words which still ring in my ears are “It would be unlawful for a local authority preparing………..to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies.”

But the Council is continuing to do that and just asking for a Suspension of the Public Examination does not, in our opinion, change this act of continuing to prepare its Core Strategy having regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies, as it evidences from its published Core Strategy Timetables, from being unlawful to lawful.

Personally, seeing that this position remains I do not think that the Inspector should agree to the Suspension because in doing so she would surely be facilitating something contrary to general direction of Court, in having seen the Council’s intention to continue on an unlawful course despite what the Court ruled, “that it is lawful to continue to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies in preparing a Core Strategy.” 

If agreed the Suspension will prevent further input from residents as to their views on emerging Conservative Government Policy as it affects house building and just prepares the ground for the inevitable rejection of the Council’s current proposals by the Planning Inspector on resumption and decision making following suspension.

An Unsound decision will be disastrous for Rochford District.

What the Council needs to do is return to the public as soon as possible with proposals backed by a local housing study that residents will accept and request a Re-Examination.

If the Council does not do this then I fear the ultimate  imposition of 5000 or even 6000 new homes when we may only need 2000 if the Council’s Housing Register figures are correct.

Yours

Councillor John Mason

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