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No More Info on Housing Allocations likely before Local Elections

February 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

I believe that one of my roles as a District Councillor is to communicate as often as I can so that residents are informed.

Sometimes you have to ask some questions about upcoming issues.

The Rochford Lib Dems suggest that two LDF subcommittee meetings for April have been cancelled by the Conservative Group. 

But my enquiries show that there are still two dates in April set aside for LDF subcommittee meetings.  If the meetings were to be cancelled and the agendas had not already been published then information in the form of the strategic sustainability review will be exempt information provided in confidence by the consultant. It is information that will inform a report intended to be published at a future date and is therefore not available under Freedom of Information legislation or the additional rights of access available to a Member.
 
In addition the position might well be affected by election purdah period which this year runs from around 20 March. My enquiries reveal that the following case is might have a bearing on whether the meetings go ahead anyway.

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/bulletins/Planning-Resource-Daily-Bulletin/News/775859/Election-planning-decision-ruled-unlawful/

The view now seems to be that whilst originally purdah related to publicity for individuals or political parties before an election it may be that Councils can do nothing controversial or politically overt in the purdah period.

So it seems that there will be no more information on housing allocations until May.

Allocation of new homes in Rochford District

January 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford Independent has seen the article by Geoff Percival in the Echo.

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.1992104.0.0.php

I would invite you to read this if you have not seen it. 

I am an independent district councillor for Hawkwell West and I have been campaigning with residents against the housing allocation for some months now. The support from Hawkwell Parish Council is welcomed.

If an additional 365 homes were to be built in Hawkwell then the road infrastructure in Hawkwell would have to be improved to cope with the number of additional cars per household multiplied by the number of average car movements per day. In addition there are many more homes to be built in Rochford District where car movements could cause those people to travel through Hawkwell on the feeder routes to the “A” Roads.  That number of additional vehicle movements would run into thousands.  If the road infrastructure were “improved” in Hawkwell to cope with that then I could forsee additional roads being built to bypass existing bottlenecks causing the loss of green space in itself together with the cost of road widening schemes.  That would make a Hawkwell a place that I would not like to see.  It would be unacceptable.  So nobody should be suggesting that Hawkwell could have the 365 homes if the infrastructure is improved.  I don’t want to the developers and the planners challenged into going ahead and making the bid for big infrastructure changes for Hawkwell in the decision process.

The report from the strategic sustainability review will be available shortly at the District Council and I have been personally invited by the Chair of the sub committee to attend.  It is premature to try and guess the recommendations but it is up to Councillors to consider what sort of policy makes sense and what doesn’t.  (Let’s hope that the strategic planners don’t now come up with a plan that will improve the infrastructure in Hawkwell.  That would ruin the environment may times over the actual impact of the allocation of the houses.) 

My proposal on behalf of the residents of Hawkwell is to say “NO” to the additional 365 homes and “NO” to any enabling infrastructure. I would appreciate the views of residents on this through our Contact Page. 

But the housing allocation for Rochford District must be formally planned for and it makes more sense strategically to put this allocation wherever the infrastructure is already and not where building new infrastructure would be an even bigger blight on the District.

As for a new “town” out to the East, in association with a Southend/Rochford Relief Road or By Pass, I understand that the sustainability figure for developers to provide that major road would have to be in the region of 12,000 additional houses in Rochford District which is many times higher than the proposed allocation. So the most likely place is in the West.  

The professional approach to strategic sustainability planning is about an objective analysis and assessment based on data and information.  It does not start with a notion of “Fair Shares For All” nor does it end with it and it does not appear in the middle either.

My view is that the abrupt decision made by the Rochford District Conservative Group to significantly reduce the number of new homes that the District Council might propose to be allocated in Rayleigh was an expedient decision to quell the internal concerns of the Tory Rayleigh Councillors who were being tormented by the Rochford Liberal Democrats. And there was the real prospect of a loss of Tory seats.  But will the next public consultation on the Local Development Framework be before or after the May Local Elections?  I can’t answer that but one can speculate.

Getting back to strategic sustainability planning. Let’s face it any new big enabling infrastructure is going to be very expensive.  It takes a lot of new houses to pay for what is necessary.  So I expect that the professional study will recommend building any lower level infrastructure on the existing higher level infrastructure.

A major build of infrastructure in the East is only really sustainable at 12,000 new homes.  So the probability comes back to the West, around Rayleigh. There is no point in “improving” the low level infrastructure to enable 300 houses here and 500 houses there to be built when the traffic they generate will run into a bottleneck just round the corner. My view is that the “Fair Shares For All” approach to the allocation of new homes will be recognised very soon as a political expedient and some serious planning analysis, tied to sane economics, will show the only way that makes every sense STRATEGICALLY is to develop the West with around 2,500 new homes. 

It’s Half Time on The NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council

October 25, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

We looked at the NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council about six months ago.

http://www.rochfordessex.com/rol/a-politico-blog-on-the-rdc-new-structure/

Here is the evidence that it does not work

At the Cabinet Meetings no one else can speak, not even the Ordinary Councillors that you elected to represent YOU, and you can’t even hear what was agreed.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=867 Grange Community Centre : Liberal Democrats : Uh Oh, Looks Like Chris Misunderstood.

Heaven forbid if the nine super councillors in the Cabinet get executive powers over budget and personal decision making in 2009 !!

The gang of 5 Liberal Democrats have now been reduced to having to table written questions in order that Ward Councillors are consulted.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=873 Liberal Democrats: Our Questions To Council.

And there will only be “potted” answers from Cabinet Members – but no debate of course.

But

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=874 Grange Community Centre Liberal Democrats Call In DEcision made at the Cabinet last week.

Proposals for new housing, which were only consulted upon in May and June 2007, are subjected to material change in Conservative Party Meetings held in Private and then announced to the public by a letter to the Echo.  No explanations for the changes, except to respond to political pressure from the Lib Dems in Rayleigh, and when the public come to the new Community Forums, they are denied answers and discussion.

Verdict from the Public

Residents in Hawkwell, who got no answers at the RDC Area Committee, call their own public meeting to find out about the proposals about 365 new houses proposed for their area. They decide to form an Action Group to fight the Conservative Council.

Residents in Hullbridge who wanted the same answers at the next RDC Area Committee decide to walk out in disgust having told the Chairman that no one will turn up next time !!

The Council’s Review Committee, who are reporting on the NEW Political Structure, need to talk to the public not other Tory Councillors who have done nothing to date to stop this farce.

 

 

Residents to Give Evidence on Climate Change to Council Committee

October 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford District Council Review Committee is to take evidence from the public following the intervention of independent councillor, John Mason. 

Officers presented a project plan to the last Review Committee which had not been tabled on the Agenda.  One Tory Councillor was concerned that this had not been drawn up by Members and the obvious unseen nature of the proposals.

Councillor John Mason stepped in and swiftly proposed vital changes to the project plan to include taking evidence from the public and commerce before the Review Committee makes recommendations to the Executive Board in the New Year. He also made a recommendation to visit the Borough of Merton which has reportedly angered the Government by insisting that all new housing developments have a significant percentage of sustainable energy sources on site.  John said “Given that the Council is proposing building 3300 new houses in larger developments across the district then this will be a very important policy to consider.”

Meanwhile the Committee has the following to go on from nearby districts; 

In 2005 the South East Essex Green Party released the results of the public opinion poll on climate change they conducted in Southend and Castle Point.

Most people (177 out of 200) believed climate change caused by human activity is happening. Nearly half (91 out of 200) had made lifestyle changes to try and stop it, including three who had given up their cars. However, many people would do more if they knew more about how to live a Greener lifestyle and it was made easier.

The majority (170 out of 200) thought politicians were not doing enough and particularly singled out American politicians for criticism. Our politicians pay lip service to the problem of climate change, but their actions will make things worse. 

Questions that were used for the survey;

1 Do you think that climate change is happening because of human activities?

If yes 2 Have you changed anything in your lifestyle based on this view?

If no 3 why you have this opinion? A) Media B) Part of the natural cycle C) Politicians

If don’t know 4 What would convince you that it is happening? A) An event B) Arguments

5 Do you think politicians are doing enough?

Results-

Southend

Question 1-86 Yes 6 No 2 Partly 3 Possibly 3 Don’t Know
Question 2-45 Yes. 45 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-1 Said A. 3 said B. 2 said C.
Question 4-4 said A. 2 said B.
Question 5-77 No. 4 Yes-Rest (19) 1 said OK. 7 don’t know /do what they can. 1 could do more. 1 no idea. 1 not bad. 1 should concentrate on other things. 5 not sure/ don’t know. 1 possibly. 1 Environmentalists create unnecessary panic
Castle Point
Question 1-91 Yes. 1 No Idea. 3 Probably. 5 No.
Question 2-46 Yes. 48 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-4 Said B. 1 Said A.
Question 4-No Answers
Question 5-93 No. 4 Yes. 3 Don’t Know. 

 

  

Options for Housing Allocation – Rochford District

September 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Shaun Scrutton
Head of Planning and Transportation
Rochford District Council
Dear Shaun

Options for Rochford District Core Strategy – LDF Consultation

You asked me to submit any Options that Rochford District Residents (RDR) had on the LDF before 30 September.

In terms of the Options put forward by the Conservative Party, RDR would like to see a copy of the proposal together with all supporting papers if this has already been received by the Council before the deadline of 30 September.  If the proposal is not complete then I would like to receive a copy on 1 October please.

I am the Party Leader of Rochford District Residents which is a Registered Political Party which has the same status as The Conservative Party.  I am expecting that the Council will afford RDR equal status with The Conservative Party in considering the Options put forward.

I understand that Go-East is broadly supportive of  a new outer relief road for Southend, though it stresses this would need to be built in partnership with the County and Rochford district councils and might be privately funded.

On the basis that Go-East has already signified that such Option should be included in the next Option Appraisal for the LDF, RDR formally requests that Rochford District Council considers this infrastructural change, which has publicly stated Government support, in the way that it might affect Rochford District and the spatial housing planning allocation in relation to such infrastructural development and in particular that the whole requirement of circa 3,300 houses can be placed in the Eastern part of Rochford District in the LDF Core Strategy.

This request does not imply in any way that RDR is supportive of such Option.  It believes that such an Option cannot continue to be excluded from the next LDF Core Strategy Consultation.

RDR does not believe that the Option for Affordable Housing includes sufficient identification of the ownership models that exist to ensure that Affordable Housing is retained in that status over the coming 50 years.

RDR wishes to point out to Rochford District Council that Local authorities usually use policies within the LDF (sometimes with the proviso that if it could be demonstrated that developments serving the greater interest of the authority for example financing key infrastructure projects could not sustain affordable housing then an ‘open book’ approach is used with a claw back clause enabling the authority to receive commuted payments towards off site affordable
housing).  However there are other mechanisms as well. The Green Paper on housing delivery picks up on the responsibility of housing delivery and the penalties for inadequate supply.

RDR also wishes Rochford District Council to discuss this aspect in detail with the Peer Group Review Team when it visits the Council in October and report in the LDF on the content of such advice.

Councillor Hudson, Deputy Leader of the Council announced at the Central Area Committee on 20 September that the next Public Consultation on the LDF Core Strategy will take place in the Spring of 2008.  It is of regret to RDR that Rochford District Council has not given the Party more time to research and consider the Options for the LDF.

Yours sincerely

 

John Mason
District Councillor for Hawkwell West
Party Leader, Rochford District Residents

Is this the big debate that is needed in Rochford District?

July 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you know someone who is finding it difficult to rent or buy their own home in Rochford District, or know someone who has had to move from the District to find a home? Most likely, Yes. But what is Rochford District Council going to do?  It has been reminded that it must look at the following data so by the IDeA Review Team this week.

A Housing Needs Survey was completed in 2004 and it identified that 67% cannot afford private rental and home ownership is beyond the reach of 75% of concealed households, even though nearly 40% of them earn over £25,000 p.a.The Survey established an outstanding net total need for 291 affordable homes per annum. This calculation took into account the Council’s waiting list, homeless and concealed households, and requirements emanating from demographic changes. It is clear from the study that there is too little affordable housing in the district to satisfy local needs. Over 15 years that means 4,500 affordable homes. The current Government target for Rochford District for the same period is an additional 3700 houses. But the Rochford District Council is only proposing 30% of that figure based on each new development over 25 houses contributing 30%. There will be an affordable homes deficit of around 3,300 homes.

The two public consultations on the “Housing Target” (LDF) have shown that the public is overwhelmingly against further loss of Green Belt. But did they realise that 67% of the population of Rochford District cannot afford private rental and home ownership. Most likely, No. (Here are the latest consultation results.)

But it is clear from anouncements this week from Gordon Brown and David Cameron that this issue must be faced up to by Rochford District Council.

Gordon Brown has put affordable housing at the top of his Government’s agenda by announcing plans to build three million new homes by 2020. He told MPs that the number of new homes to be provided each year would be raised by 40,000 to 240,000 a year. He promised to “protect robustly” the green belt but left the door open to some limited building in it, saying that “principally brownfield land” would be used for the new programme. But there appears to be little brownfield available in Rochford District.

David Cameron has warned his party it may need to drop its opposition to new housing so don’t expect the Conservatives at Rochford to be able to protect Green Belt. Read more

2 Hours on What Needs to Change at Rochford Council

July 14, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Tory Councillor Heather Glynn said “how sad it was that only 3 (of the 9) Executive Councillors attended.” Those absent included the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council.

All Councillors were invited to attend the initial feedback.  Important because it was fresh with direct explanation from the whole Review Team.  Apart from many staff only 7 Councillors attended.  Tory Executive Councillors Seagers, Starke and Stansby.  Ordinary Councillors Humphreys, Glynn and Cottis for the Conservatives and myself, John Mason an Independent representing Rochford Residents.   

A written report which will be made available in August and a Presentation will be made just by the IDEA Member of the Review Team in September. Let’s hope the  Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council and the rest of the Executive Councillors fully understand what is required of them to improve the Council  and get an assessment of better than POOR in the official inspection by the Audit Commission in 18 month’s time.

But already Rochford Council has missed the boat in my view.  The IDEA Team Leader, himself a Chief Executive of a successful District Council, explained that his Council had adopted a cultural organisational change theme called “One Team” but this had taken 2 years to establish. And having just split the Members into Executive Councillors and Ordinary Councillors with definitive political polarisation then the Council will find that it will take much more than this to create a “One Team” at Rochford.

I know from personal contact with Pam Challis, The Castle Point Borough Council Leader, that neighbour Castle Point is already a long way through a cultural change programme there but the Rochford Council Executive Councillors are content to only discuss matters such as Handymen, Play and Weddings !!

There were some really positive findings about Rochford Council but the focus of the Audit Commission will have changed by the time the official inspection takes place and there is a huge amount of work to do if Rochford is to get away from being assessed as a POOR Council.

Here are what I think are the most important matters to be tackled from a presentation lasting two hours;

  • The Review Team stated at the outset that Rochford District Council has all of the necessary components in order to create significant improvements; green attractive environment, airport, railway, bus network etc., There is no reason why Tourism, regeneration and a vibrant market town cannot be established but there needs to be a clear strategy with established timed expectations and outcomes.
  • Council needs a cultural identity or ethos which can be embraced by all polititical parties, residents and the staff of Rochford Council
  • there is no focussed vision of what the Council will be doing – the public do not understand what the Council vision is
  • Community Strategy and the Corporate Plan are only loosely connected
  • there is an over dependence on the Local Development Framework (LDF) to deliver the overall Council strategy
  • the public do not understand the LDF and what a spatial planning strategy is
  • 67% of the population of Rochford cannot afford rented/private housing accomodation (figures from RDC Housing Needs Study 2004) so much more, even all, of the new 3700 housing allocation must be allocated to affordable housing.  In the words of the IDEA Team Leader “This will be a testing decision because residents do not wish to see new building on green belt and business are looking for initiatives too”. “Roads are congested due to residents moving out of the area for work, so more work needs to be established in the District.
  • there is only some recognition of residents opinions in developing projects, they appear to have already been decided at consultation
  • Council projects do not have firm delivery targets or stated outcomes which are tested post delivery
  • Overview and Scrutiny does not examine, challenge or relate to the vision and objectives of the Council
  • Council Staff want to know who the Executive Councillors and Councillor Champions are and what they are doing
  • there is little evidence of Members involvement in the Corporate Plan and Economic Strategy
  • area profiles do not have clear input into decision making and no devolved decision making and budget
  • no evidence of political commitment to address the needs of hard to reach groups
  • Residents do not understand what is included in Paper kerb side recycling – an example of poor communication
  • the CDRP (Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership chaired by Chief Inspector and Rochford District Commander, John Walker) needs to be less operationally focussed and focussed more on strategy – Safer by Design and Youth Engagement are examples

 

 

 

IDeA Peer Review – 2 hours on what needs to change at Rochford Council

July 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

During the week a review team made up of Councillors and Officers from other local authorities visited Rochford District Council. The review team undertook a review, not an inspection and sought to help the Council to recognise where it is strong and to identify areas for improvement, in particular, so that it can improve the assessment of POOR from the last Audit Commission inspection.  Please see the report below.

Review of Taxi Licence Conditions NOW Underway

June 28, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

I raised this issue with the Leader of the Council on 16 June 2007 by letter.

http://www.rochfordessex.com/rol/rochford-district-council-executive-board/

There has been no reply, of course.

But the RDC “Taxi Talk” Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 12 that was issued today, 28 June 2007, contains the following;

taxitalk

Page 6

Conditions Update

A full review of Licence Conditions is underway. 

A successful outcome, and although the Conservative Administration is going to suggest it was already happening, clearly it was not without the intervention of an Ordinary Member !!

Arriva No 8 Bus – Improvements sought by RDC

June 25, 2007 by · 3 Comments 

Planning Policy & Transportation Committee – 3 April 2007
Review of Bus Services

Resolved
(1) That County Highways be asked to:-
– Explore with the local residents ways in which the transport link between the Dome and Hullbridge could be improved.
Planning Policy & Transportation Committee – 3 April 2007
-Explore ways of improving evening services generally.
-Explore the possibility of reinstating the No. 8 service from Hawkwell to Rayleigh during the week.
-Explore with the local residents ways in which the local bus services could be expanded to cater for people wishing to visit places of recreation from the Rochford District.
(2) That Central Government be lobbied to increase its funding to support subsidisation of the bus services in the county.
(3)  That Arriva be lobbied via Essex County Council to improve the condition of their buses and make them more user friendly.

Update

Shaun Scrutton, The Head of Planning and Transportation at RDC has written to Essex County Council Highways Department requesting that this matter be investigated.

Following the report Cllr T Livings has had a meeting with a representative from Essex County Council to discuss the recommendations at which time Cllr Livings again mentioned the No 8 Bus Service and whilst he was advised that the extension from Hawkwell to Rayleigh is a long outstanding request that Arriva are well aware of, Essex CC have said they will raise it again with them at their next meeting.

Rochford District Council – Executive Board

June 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

If you want to read a report on the first Executive Board Meeting then you can find one on the Lib Dems site together with some relevant comments from residents.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=670#comment-18795 

I did not attend because I had already been advised that I could not speak and I knew that I would be completely sidelined.

The following letter is, I think, now the only way that I can represent residents on policy matters – I hope that this example proves that important matters of policy can still be influenced by ordinary councillors rather than the just the highly paid nine RDC Executive Councillors – but who knows?

Technically I could be invited to speak by Councillor Cutmore but this is unlikely because the CEO, Paul Warren, advised me in a Members Training Session that once this is allowed the precedent is made and he would be strongly advising Councillor Cutmore not to agree to any request. 

Even then the “super nine” would appear, from e-mails that I have received, to be instructed on policy by a prior Tory Group Meeting which is held privately away from the public.

I will provide an update on the response I get and what action is taken but I suspect that the issue will be directed to the Review (or investigations committee) which is led by the Opposition or a Lib Dem Councillor. I had already raised the matter with the Review Committee leadership but the subject did not appear in the working group list.  Perhaps it will now as an emergency item because of neglect by the administration?

Dear Councillor Cutmore
 
I am writing to you formally as the Leader of the Council and Chair of the Executive Board.
 
I am sure that you also received a copy of Graham Patchings’ letter regarding Taxi Licensing/Regulations.

I  telephoned the Officers at RDC to ascertain what is happening regarding Graham’s letter. I was advised that the matter would be considered at the Executive Board.

The Officers also advised that ALL the conditions are “way out of date but they do not have the resources to undertake a review and update which they agree needs to be done.” There are insufficient resources.
 
I am unable to speak at the Executive Board and under the circumstances I can only ask you to deal with my representation to you in this respect, namely that the Council engages immediately, sufficient resources to undertake such a review of all taxi conditions and regulations and present new taxi conditions within 12 months.

Bearing in mind that this is a major responsibility of RDC which seems to have been neglected and there is no plan to up date and there are insufficient resources any way will you please advise me what action you and the Conservative Group is going to take in respect of the present status of the taxi regulations in Rochford District.
 
I have referred to the Conservative Group making a decision because you will recall that reference was specifically made to this prior policy making procedure by John Honey,Councillor Hudson and Councillor Seagers all in e-mails that were widely circulated.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Councillor John Mason

 

 

 

Overview and Scrutiny – Rochford District Council

June 10, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

I am a Member of the Review Committee.

Full Council had already asked that this “investigations” Committee look at the following:

1. Understanding of Planning Appeal Procedures

From what the Chief Executive had to say this sounded more like an internally facing review rather than something that will directly affect residents.  My guess is that the Officers want Members to understand more about the cost and causes of Appeals, especially when the Development Control Committee goes against the recommendation of Officers and cause an Appeal.  But I could just be a cynic.

2. Mental Health Provision with reference to the emerging new facility in Rochford

Essex County Council are the statutory authority for this and we have to ask their permission.  But it seems likely because Essex want to use us as a consultancy anyway.

3.  Operation of the New Political Decision Making Structure

Lets hope that the Conservative Party Members who brought this in will be critical.  If they are not then I will challenge their report in Committee.

4.  Implications of Global Warming in Rochford District and the role that RDC might play

The most important of all the topics. 

I will update this site as the reviews proceed. 

 

Meeting with Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Carmel Napier

May 31, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Anti Social Behaviour : Matter of Concern Number 1, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

I undertook a visit to Essex Police Headquarters as part of the Anti Social Behaviour Review being undertaken by Rochford District Council.

We met Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Carmel Napier who is in charge of Neighbourhood Policing.  Rochford Area Commander, Chief Inspector John Walker reports to Mrs Napier.

Armed with our 2007 Residents Survey from Hawkwell West, I set the scene by advising how residents see Anti Social Behaviour as their number one concern, where this is supported by your view that the quality of policing still needs to be improved.  Your view on safety coincided with many of the views that essentially we live in a safe place but that anti social behaviour needs yet still more attention.  I said that Neighbourhood Policing was a strategy that was working but we needed more of it to improve the quality of policing.

Mrs Napier confirmed that her strategy for Neighbourhood Policing was long term with even more resources to be redirected to the community.

I reiterated your concerns about evenings being the priority.

I also learnt that Parish Councils could now fund a PCSO for their area and more or less have this resource ring fenced.  So come along Hawkwell Parish Council, we have had several public meetings about Policing and Anti Social Behaviour and the time has come to spend our Council Tax on something REALLY IMPORTANT to all of us.

That afternoon Mrs Napier was meeting with John Walker to talk about his plans for improving the quality of policing and she asked for a copy of our 2007 Residents Survey from Hawkwell West. 

What Mrs. Napier did say in response to my request was that the Local Commander, John Walker, would be producing a plan to reduce the incidence of Anti Social Behaviour over the coming summer months which almost always sees an increase.  His team will be targeted by Nrs Napier to reduce demand – basically less calls from you and I. 

Hawkwell Parish Council – No Village Plan When Needed

May 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

This was reported in the February Minutes as follows:

“Report on the Public meeting re Village Plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woes of being a Tory Councillor

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Tory raps ‘lazy councillors’

From the Echo  Monday 23rd April 2007

A FORMER council leader has claimed his own colleagues are more concerned with their allowances than working for their constituents.

Tory Rochford district councillor Peter Webster launched an astonishing attack on his fellow members who, he claimed, were “too lazy” to fill in a questionnaire about how the authority worked.

The questionnaire was sent to all of the 39 councillors, asking for their views on the workings of the review committee during its first year of operation.

 However, only 22 members replied to the questions posed, even though they did not have to give their names.

Mr Webster, who was the council chairman last year and previously led the controlling Tory group, told the committee: “Quite frankly, I feel this is a damning indictment on some members of the council.

“It seems to me that all they are interested in is the amount of money they get at the end of each month.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Webster said the workload on some councillors was becoming heavier and heavier, especially with the Government demanding the council takes on more responsibility.

He added: “But it is a fact there are others who are doing very little, either to contribute to the working of the council or to look after the interests of their constituents.”

He would not name any member but said: “They know who they are and they could easily lose their seats if there was strong opposition”.

Mr Webster’s wife, Mavis, is currently the chairman of the district council and also serves as a Rayleigh county councillor.

Chris Black, leader of the minority Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: “When you get a party with a massive majority on any council you will have a few who do very little, which is not fair to their constituents or to the members of the minority party.

“I would add there are some Rochford district councillors who aren’t even known in their own wards.”

Taxi Owner says – Taxi Licencing Regulations in Rochford are out of date

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Alerted by a letter of complaint from an individual taxi owner about Taxi Licencing Regulations, John called the Council to ask how this was to be dealt with.

Whilst this complaint will be dealt with in June the officers advised that all the conditions are way out of date but they do not have the resources to undertake a review and update which they agree needs to be done.  There are insufficient resources.

Because of the parlous state of public transport in Rochford District this is a major and responsibility of RDC which seems to have been neglected and there is no plan to up date and there are insufficient resources.

John has asked this to be subjected to Overview and Scrutiny.

What is Overview and Scrutiny?
The Overview & Scrutiny function at Rochford District Council is carried out by the Review Committee.
 
The Committee reviews areas that have been suggested or are causing concern with respect to the operation of the Council, and that of its Partners, brought to its attention by the Public or Members (Councillors) and officers of the Council or, indeed, the Council’s Partners. It can also scrutinise decisions made by the Council’s Policy Committees to ensure that best practice and best value is provided at all times for the benefit of Council Tax Payers, and develop recommendations relating to Council Policy and activity.
 
Councillors appointed to overview and scrutiny committees are expected to adopt a deliberative, investigative and evidence based approach while casting aside party politics. Scrutiny should work in an open, transparent, inclusive, and accountable manner adopting an outward looking focus.
 
Who is on the Review Committee?
 
The Review Committee is primarily comprised of 8 Councillors: Cllr Mrs J R Lumley (Chairman), and Cllrs.Mrs L M Cox, Mrs H L A Glynn, Mrs S A Harper, T Livings, J R F Mason, P R Robinson, Mrs C A Weston. Other interested parties may be invited to act as advisers to assist with the review of a particular subject as appropriate.

Central Area Committee – Hawkwell, Hockley and Hullbridge – RDC

May 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

As the Chair had been appointed and the first meeting was due on 12 June, I wrote to Derek Stansby and asked how the public could participate.  These new Area Committees are about consultation with residents but no details were available to advise residents.

I sent the letter and the by the afternoon of receipt by Derek Stansby, it had been passed to Rochford District Council Officers to ascertain how the Area Committees were to work!! I thought that these “super councillors” on the Area Committees and Executive Board were paid additional allowances for additional responsibilities.  If they are going to use the old ruse of asking the Officers what to do then why do we need executive councillors who are paid?

LETTER

I have been asked by residents to ascertain how they may arrange to speak at the Central Area Committee.  What will the environment be like?  Standing or Sitting?  Delivered to the Committee from what situation?  In what format?  How long?
 

The request is for the first meeting of the Central Area Committee on 12 June and I understand that those who wish to speak may wish to call an Officer from Essex Police in support.
 

How will such matters be taken forward.  Will there be debate on the night?  Can the residents join in the debate?
 

Do I as a Member have any rights to place items on the Central Area Committee Agenda.  Please advise the procedure and the basis of determination if an item is to be admitted to the Agenda.
 

You will recall that the latest report on the matter of the Local Development Framework was rejected by Full Council for further review.  This will now be undertaken by the Local Development Framework Sub Committee of which you are a Member by virtue of being the Chair of the Central Area Committee.  Given that further review has being determined by Full Council I wish to know whether the subject of the Local Development Framework will be reviewed by the Central Area Committee before the Local Development Framework Sub Committee reconsiders the matter?
 

As there is such little time before the summons is issued for the 12 June Meeting of the Central Area Committee my own view is that the matter has some urgency especially as residents have expressed an interest in the Central Area Committee.
 

    

 

Rochford District Council is Weak – Audit Commission

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Audit Commission assesses the performance of councils and the services that they provide for local people.

The way that Rochford District Council is run and the delivery of services has been assessed as weak (on the scale excellent / good / fair / weak / poor).

Quote: Its priorities are not based on a clear understanding of the needs of local people.
Rochford District Residents still does not believe that this is being dealt with.

Did the needs of local people include as priorities the early introduction of a new political structure or the increase in members allowances?

Rochford District Residents will maintain this as a page which is always at the top of our site to remind the Council that it is weak and why that it so.

Here are some matters that Rochford District Residents are going to try to get treated as priorities;

1.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Taxi Licencing Regulations in Rochford are out of date – this is a major responsibility which has been neglected.

2.  “understanding of the needs of local people” – Greater use of consultation by the Residents Panel – including a review of new political structure and feedback on members allowances and value for money.
 
3.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Saving the Planet – What is Carbon Profile of the Council and how it will be actively managed to lead the District in the fight against global warming and climate change?

4. “understanding of the needs of local people” Members to significantly reduce use of paper and use electronic copies at home and in Council.

5.  “understanding of the needs of local people”  Cost Cutting Programme. Is there one? How is it deployed? Targets? Performance. More of it because the Council is strapped for cash !!

6.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Complaints – Council is only concerned about the formal letters but the Council must log all complaints received over the telephone or from callers at the Offices – Definition to be as FSA – Any expression of dissatisfaction fully logged and with action plan for service improvement.

We will let you know what happens !!

NEW HOUSING FIGURES REVEALED FOR ROCHFORD DISTRICT

March 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW HOUSING FIGURES REVEALED FOR ROCHFORD DISTRICT

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

Completions 2001 -2006: 900

Rochford/Ashingdon : 1000

Hockley/Hawkwell : 400

Rayleigh : 1800

Smaller Settlements 500

====

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

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

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

The Liberals have said this on their web site:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Concerns over Parish Council Decision

September 19, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Some years ago the council tax raised by Hawkwell Parish Council was much lower than it is now.  If memory serves me correctly it was about £50,000 per annum and when the Spencers and Magnolia Open Spaces were taken over the  costs increased to the high 80’s and now over 100,000.

So when the Council decided to take over the Glencroft Open Space, I was concerned that the costs were fully understood before the land was taken over rather than discovered as the project proceeded.

When Hawkwell Parish Councl took the decision to take over the Glencroft Open Space on 12 June 2006  this was made without any presentation of the way it was to be managed and by implication the costs that will be incurred on a permanent basis together with those additional capital costs of plant and equipment that will be required,

As the Open Space is being taken over from Rochford District Council it would have been appropriate to find out exactly what current costs are being incurred by RDC.  This has not be done.

I supported, with another 6 Councillors, a Motion on Notice to rescind the Council decision made on 12th June regarding the Glencroft Open Space.

Unfortunately the vote to protect your financial insterests was narrowly lost 8/6 and the project will proceed on a hand to mouth basis with the Parks Committee asking for money as required.  What this will do to the figure raised as council tax I do not know.

This is the letter I sent to all councillors before the meeting in an attempt to get them to not commit unless the costs were known. Read more

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