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The Rochford Core Strategy in a Nutshell – Is it time to move out of the area?

October 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Core Strategy in a Nutshell can be seen in two documents; the first a table of numbers which was produced by The Hockley Residents’ Association (Chair, Brian Guyett) and the second a graphical representation of the district showing the same thing as produced by Rochford District Council.

If you don’t like what you see for your immediate locale then think of moving out fast !!

There was a very poor turnout of Members for the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 14 October to discuss amendments to the Core Strategy. One assumes seasonal maladies for most of the large number of absences. Even then I think that there were only 5 speakers; Councillors Hudson, Cutmore and Glynn for the Conservatives, Chris Black for the Lib Dems, Michael Hoy for the Greens and me, John Mason as an independent for Hawkwell West. 

Background

When the new Coalition Government gave local councils the power to re-state their own house building targets Rochford District Council had the opportunity to make a strategy and plans to meet local needs and respond to what local residents wanted. David Cameron keeps telling us that local views will be followed and he urges us all to get involved in his new idea, The Big Society.

The residents of Rochford District have embraced involvement in local issues for decades and long before David Cameron thought that his new Government would give power and choices back to local residents as something new.  I think that he thought that this would be new because Conservative run local councils have in the process of creating a Core Strategy said that this is nothing to do with us; we have to do it by Law because of the Government; if only we were in power then things would be different.

The only problem is they are now in power and nothing has changed.  In fact the Cabinet Member who was solely responsible for using the new local power stated at the Extraordinary Council Meeting held on 14 October that the Council had to follow  the housing needs study that has been put forward by the Thames Gateway by Law instead of a new local housing needs study for Rochford District as proposed by The Green Councillor for Hullbridge and myself.

Well there has been an amendment to the Core Strategy. Rochford District Council did not want a Public Consultation on this but has been forced by Ms Laura Graham, the Government Planning Inspector, to conduct a consultation between 18 October 2010 and 30 November.

What has changed? 

Not much which is disappointing given that residents wanted less development in the centre of the district, Rochford, Hawkwell, Ashingdon and Hockley because of the difficult systemic bottlenecks and the limited capacity of local roads for increased traffic. Residents wanted more development on brownfield sites and where possible these brought forward in preference to green field development.

What we get is the same number of houses across the whole district , 3,800 but spread over a longer period, another 5 years, to 2031 which results under Government rules for less affordable homes, 50% less, being delivered each year at a time when mortgages are not available to the most demanding group, the 34’s which is said to drop off in later years.

The only residents that have been listened to it seems are those in Rayleigh where their protests have been ably represented by the 5 Liberal Democrat Councillors for Rayleigh who won at the outset a reduction from 1800 houses to the mid 700’s with 150 being deferred until the last 5 years by which time that need will probably have been extinguished by windfall developments over the first 15 years.

Also in the last 5 years, 2026/2031 are the 500 for Hullbridge and 250 for Great Wakering.

What are the chances of the Council listening to you?  Very little.  But your representations get looked at by Ms Laura Graham, The Government Planning Inspector, again at Hearings starting on 17 January 2011 which, if you do participate in the Council’s Consultation, might give you the right to speak.

If she hears enough from many residents then she might order some changes.

The Central Area of the District, Rochford, Hawkwell, Ashingdon and Hockley has in the plan around 1000 new dwellings to be built in just 10 years with no prospect of any systematic improvement to the road capacity being made by such developments.

So why are Hullbridge and Great Wakering deferred for almost 20 years leaving the poor infrastructure in the central part of the district to take all of the early development?

Here is what I had to say at the Extraordinary Council Meeting;

1. Green Belt

a) para 4.23 of the published Core Strategy states that the Council will prioritise the redevelopment of brownfield sites to minimise green belt release. This is still not the case in the amended proposals under consultation.

b) Windfall sites will be too late to save green belt which has already been built on.

c) There is now no proposed development proposed for Rayleigh over first 15 years yet according to the published Core Strategy (para 2.38 page 30) dealing with housing need states that based on the housing waiting list the greatest demand for housing was in Rayleigh at 44.4% of the District’s total. There is something wrong here.

d) The older component of our population is said in the Council Paper to be a block on the release of “previously owned homes” and yet the Council has no proposals to release the blockage by requiring the provision of smaller homes in developments like Coachman’s Court (Rochford, Sheltered/wardened Flats for over 55’s). If this were part of the Core Strategy then much less green belt would need to be released.

e) Noting that there is a high demand from the 34’s and noting that the paucity of mortgage funding it is surprising that the Affordable Housing quantum is being reduced from 131 per annum to just 60 which is more than a 50% reduction 

2. Highways and infrastructure

Development proposals for the first phase are concentrated in the centre of the district- the infrastructure cannot cope with existing traffic – there are a number of bottlenecks across this part of the District and being systemic in nature will not be improved by the relatively small improvements provided by the developments proposed.

Is it time to cut and run from the area?  Perhaps………..you have been warned and hopefully you have a choice !! 

Yet More Electricity Outages

December 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

From Brian Guyett, Chairman of  The Hockley Residents’ Association

The Hockley/Rochford area (postcodes SS4 and SS5) has had 7/8, fairly brief, power cuts over the past three evenings.
 
EDF say the problem its likely to be a loose connection or a snow-laden tree brushing against overhead wires tripping a circuit breaker.  Their priority is people still cut-off since Thursday(!) and they have no one at present to walk the lines to check for a fault.
 
Anyone who spots a possible problem to report it to EDF (08007 838 838).

A bad year for EDF see also 3258 houses without power in November http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local_news/rayleigh/4731428.3_258_homes_left_without_power_after_electricity_fault/

 

Is there an Alternative Housing Development Strategy for Hawkwell?

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Published by The Rochford Independent for Councillor John Mason

As I have said in another recent article my congratulations  to residents in achieving firstly, a reduction in the proposed quantum from 330 to 175 in the Core Strategy and secondly, by convincing Rochford District Council to refuse a subsequent planning application for 330.

But there is much, much more to do if the wishes of the majority of residents are to be finally achieved .

Rest assured that I will continue to use every opportunity in Council to represent the interests of the majority of the residents of my Ward. 

There are things that I think that our local residents groups could decide to do now and over the coming months. 

I would welcome their continuing support.

The Submission Version of the Core Strategy has been subject to Public Consultation and it proposes a quantum of 175 dwellings.  I realise that many residents wish to see a Zero option.

Whilst the Council could make changes to the Core Strategy before it is submitted to The Secretary of State I consider it improbable that this will be amended.
 
The Council will publish its Allocation DPD soon which will declare specific sites for the quanta put forward in the Submission Version of the Core Strategy. This should be subject to public consultation and this should be an opportunity for residents to put forward their views on the chosen site or sites.  But if residents disagree then the best approach would be a professionally prepared and argued essay on why the site or sites put forward in our area are not the best sites which should be chosen in our area, recommending others in our area or recommending that there is a replacement site elsewhere which is more suitable or sustainable.

I have made suggestions in meetings of the Council’s LDF Sub Committee (Planning Policy) but these have not been supported and I believe that without overt and active public support the alternatives will not be considered again.
 
Assuming that “The Residents Group” still have sufficient funds available from those raised from the public to fight the DWH Planning Application they might like to consider commissioning work by their planning consultant.

I wonder if they have considered the following strategies?
 
If it is not possible to come up with an alternative placement of the allocation for Hawkwell elsewhere I would prefer to see no further large single development in Hawkwell because of infrastructural issues and rather see the 175 quantum spread in smaller developments.
 
Could the planning consultant suggest a more sustainable site elsewhere in the District? 

Or be asked to come up with a series of sites in Hawkwell to accomodate 175? 

Hawkwell Parish Council could be the sounding board for suggestions. There is also the emerging Hawkwell Village Plan Group which meets on 15 December.
 
But time is very short because the Allocations DPD will be published soon.
 
If a single site strategy is preferred then please read on.
 
Is the Magees Mushroom Farm a better site for 175 dwellings?  The site was put forward in response to the Council’s Call for Sites so it could be chosen by the Council without having to exercise compulsory purchase provisions.  It is arguably a brownfield site.  Brownfield sites should be given priority for development according to the Core Strategy. Currently I understand it is used mostly as an industrial multi tenanted site where ECC is quite happy with the access. But Residents in nearby Windsor Gardens and Rectory Road should  be consulted before a planning consultant was asked to undertake an evaluation.

What else could happen over the next few months?
 
David Wilson Homes could formally Appeal against the decision for Refusal.  This Appeal will be heard, most likely at a Public Inquiry, which will last as long as 5/7 working days or more, at which “The Residents Group” could commission a professional to represent the community again and make a submission of evidence and argument against the Grant of Planning Permission on Appeal.  The Council will defend its Decision but it will help if “The Residents Group” having taken such a prominent role will also defend the position.
 
The Applicant could submit a revised Planning Application.  There is no way of knowing what, when or how.
 
Finally there will be the opportunity for “The Residents Group” to commission a professional to represent the community and make a submission of evidence to the Public Inquiry which will be held next year as a public examination of the Core Strategy.

The following paragraph was edited on 11 December when Shaun Scrutton sent me an email pointing out that a Parish Plan was not a DPD as I had previously thought and had misunderstood.

One further thought.  There is now, I understand, a Committee of residents who volunteered to take the responsibility for producing a Hawkwell Parish or Village Plan.  This will chart the future vision of development in Hawkwell.   There is a public meeting I think on 15 December but Hawkwell Parish Council can provide anyone interested with the details.

A Parish Plan cannot have the status of a DPD.  LPAs should pay close attention to the contents of a non-statutory plan produced by local communities as part of community involvement process, and Parish Plans may be adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents if the body preparing the plan works closely with the LPA from the outset, but they cannot become DPDs.

Hawkwell Planning Application Refused

December 4, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The Rochford Independent congratulates the individual residents who made written representations to Rochford District Council and to the organisations which ran campaigns of objection, namely The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) and The Hawkwell Residents Association.

The David Wilson Homes Planning Application was Refused Permission last night, 3 December 2009, by the unanimous recorded vote of District Councillors present at the Development Control Committee.

One of the Ward Councillors, John Mason, led the debate having heard a presentation by Officers, and speeches by Mr. Hull on behalf of the Applicant, Parish Councillor Myra Weir on behalf of Hawkwell Parish Council and John Dagg QC on behalf of The Hawkwell Residents Association.

The leading speech given by John Mason is published here.  Around 60 residents from Hawkwell including Committee  Members of The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) and the Chair and Vice Chair of The Hawkwell Residents Association were present to hear the debate.  

Speech

Thank you Chairman. Thank you for recognising my very early indication that I wished to speak on this application.

I would like to acknowledge and thank so many residents from Hawkwell especially for coming along tonight and see how decisions are made on planning applications. I am going to speak about the planning application tonight and not the detail of the Core Strategy.

I assume that most people are here because they object to this proposal.  I have received nearly three hundred communications in the form of letters, emails and telephone calls as well as a petition. Only two were in favour and one of these was anonymous and unsigned.

The main reasons from objectors are as follows;

Travel
– limited public transport
– increased car use causing heavy congestion
– inability to improve highways
– distance from shops
– distance from rail stations

Environment
– semi rural location unsuitable for large development
– complete loss of character
– loss of green belt
– loss of wildlife

Some of these have been carried through to the Recommendation from Shaun Scrutton for Refusal.

We have heard from John Dagg QC tonight who has been engaged by The Hawkwell Residents Association and I am sure that all Members have appreciated the additional input to the decisioning process.

Mr. Dagg referred to the concept of separation of settlements. I am greatly interested in this concept which I have recognised over many years as coalescence.  Do we have a policy on preventing coalescence of our villages by development?  I thought we had but I cannot find it.  Or do we need a new policy in our Core Strategy?  I would ask Mr. Scrutton to tell me the policy reference.

There are some other issues that I wish to raise which have concerned me when I was analysing the proposal.

The first concerns the Traffic Asssessment.  It does not take into account the additional impact on the roads directly affected by this application by the expansion of Southend Airport and the other developments proposed in the Core Strategy which will send traffic down these roads. I am told by Shaun Scrutton that this is the way that all Traffic Asssessments are conducted and that they all have this caveat. I think that is wrong and at some stage I expect to be able challenge a Planning Inspector to consider this as being a flaw in the British Way.  It is nonsense to my mind.

The second is that I am surprised that there is no reference in the terms for Refusal to PPS3 – The Government Panning Policy on Housing. I have read this cover to cover. I did not think that the application was wholly compliant with PPS3 in several material ways. But I am not a qualified professional planner and I have to be guided on technical matters by our Officers. These are the areas.

PPS3.  Is it easily accessible and well-connected to public transport?

My emphasis is on well-connected.  Hawkwell West is not by bus, by cycle paths (what is the point of cycle paths on a development if they connect to nothing) 20 minutes walk to a rail station so people use cars and increase car journeys.

PPS3. For smaller sites, the mix of housing should contribute to the creation of mixed communities having regard to the proportions of households that require market or affordable housing and the existing mix of housing in the locality.

Mr. Hull for the Applicant referred to the fact that Council must comply with policy to provide affordable housing.  I will talk about this too.

The position is that this community of Hawkwell West does not have need for a “mixed use and high density development” and the evidence for this is that the proportions of households (from The Office of National Statistics) indicate that 66% are unlikely to require market or affordable housing based on the population profile and projected needs.

I would ask Shaun Scrutton to advise why these are not included in the Report.

I was also particularly concerned about the “Village” part of the development which proposes densities much higher than the surrounding area and in my judgement PPS3 does give us some arguments about non compliance here in PPS3 .  But the idea of a number of buildings throughout the development over two storeys is of greater concern and I am pleased that these are a reason for refusal.  If that is also the way that community benefit can only be provided in the terms of doctors, dentists, health centres then that is inappropriate and unwelcome.

The ECC Urban Design Consultant is still against the revised outline design put forward.

Whilst I congratulate the Officers for their excellent report there is a material matter in terms of History which has not been cited or explained.  I have seen a letter from RDC to a resident which confirms that at the time of the Inquiry which led to the agreement of access to CHLC creating Clements Hall Way that the Planning Inspector decreed that there should be no development of green belt directly to the West of Clements Hall Way.  Why has this not been mentioned?

At the same time it is inferred from the anonymous letter that I received that a Local Plan Inquiry in 2005 found that this land met all the criteria for release from green belt for 365 dwellings.  Is this true?  What is the status of that? 

With regard to flood issues I cannot argue with the findings of the Environment Agency which are now apparently withdrawn but I’ll keep my rubber dinghy in the shed in case I have to rescue anyone if this turns out to be wrong.

The anonymous person who wrote to me thinks that the land has no intrinsic agricultural value.  That might be so or not so but that is no reason just to accede to development and there are alternative uses in spatial planning terms.  Not least of these is to promote and conserve biodiversity, and rural/semi rural characteristics which is valued by residents.  Some could describe this land as derelict but even the applicant recognises the extent and value of the biodiversity it supports.

I wish to thank the Applicant for agreeing with my private capacity approach to them to save 20 non indigenous deer on the site and to provide additional warm nurseries for the bats in new buildings should any development proceed in the future.

Once again I reiterate my comments about coalescence and I see that it is very appropriate to see our village settlements remaining separate, unique communities within the umbrella of the Rochford District.

I leave it to Shaun Scrutton and the Portfolio Holder to deal with the challenge made by Mr. Hull for the Applicant in his speech about the 5 year supply of developable land.
 
I am now going to formally move the resolution for Refusal as set out in the Addendum and I hope that there is a seconder.

Councillor Chris Black seconded.

As Councillor Cutmore said on another application “we are the place shapers for Rochford not greedy developers” and there is no doubt that this application is premature in terms of the Core Strategy and a primary reason for Refusal which can be used as determined by PPS3 provided that there are other material reasons.  This is a speculative action by the developer but it could also be described as greedy.
 John Mason
3 December 2009

Extra NHS Dentist Surgery

April 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Hockley Residents’ Association has informed the “Independent” that The White Hart Lane Dental Surgery, Hockley has been given increased NHS capacity and are opening an additional treatment room with effect from 6th May.
 
It will be open 4 days a week and will allow many more people access to an NHS dentist.  People needing an NHS dentist should ring the surgery on 01702 206640.

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