Top

“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.

Against Homes Development Proposals in Rochford District

May 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Emma Thomas (emma.thomas@nqe.com) wrote a great double page spread in the Echo entitled “United Against Homes Proposal” which reported on the representations that were made by many residents’ groups across Rochford District to a Government Planning Inspector.

As an objector myself (district councillor John Mason) I came away feeling so proud that there were so many people in our community who were prepared to enter a public inquiry to make their views so well known.

But I have pondered on the question of was that enough for common sense to prevail?

As this is an inexorable legal process driven by the national planning system of the previous Government I came to the conclusion, having spoken to planning professionals, that nothing will stop this happening against the wishes of the people unless many more residents directly call for it to be stopped and a binding re-assessment conducted by local people.  

Now is the time for Rochford District to call for help. Delay and it will be too late quite soon.

Why?

An environmental catastophe will definitely hit the Rochford District in 2011 and the “development storm” will continue unabated for a decade or more unless you act now.

Everyone living in Rochford District has known about this for years and it is something that residents have been shouting out about at public meetings to try to get someone to listen for 3 years. 

The response from local politicians has been “Yes, OK, we know” but the Law stops anything from being done about it.

But now is our chance. A chance of a lifetime because, suddenly, the Law can be changed.  Who can change it and stop an Environmental disaster even at the eleventh hour?  Well you can because we have in the UK a Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government and David and Nick are up for change.

Still not sure what I am on about? Yes you do. 

Do we really need 1250 new dwellings to be built in our district from 2011 to 2015?  It is claimed that these are for people coming into our district to take up newly created jobs? Has this been realistically assessed as a true local need? Or is it a justification for just building houses to meet imposed targets?

And for each five years thereafter another 1250 and so on.

What are our real local needs?

Your local council has known for some time that the infrastructure cannot cope and this was admitted openly by many at a council meeting a year or so ago.  But the same council has put forward proposals that are not even properly assessed against the existing poor district wide infrastructure.

The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government promises to put forward a national planning statement for ratification to Parliament.  But it is right at the bottom of the page !!   Does that imply a low priority and delays in change?  

Rochford District is already threatened with planning decisions for at least 1460 dwellings from proposals put forward by developers who are determined to force the hand of the new Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government with decisions on two Appeals which are due on 26 July and 5 August.

This will be before a decision on the Core Strategy due at the end of September.

So will The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government abolish this whole process by making a new national planning policy in time to save Rochford District from the impending environmental disaster that we ALL forsee?

YES, eventually, but too late, probably, for Rochford District

You must bring this directly to the attention of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.  It will be too late unless you act now, right away.

Don’t leave this to your local council because councils tend to obediently await process to take its course rather than be proactive.  That is part of the problem.  A slavish desire to follow process because they dare not challenge that process does not deliver change when it is desperately needed. Rochford District Council got us into this mess and I can’t see them being able to deal with it unless you show them how.

If you are too busy to write a long letter yourself then you could  just copy and paste this article and write to David and Nick telling them that we in Rochford are desperate to avoid an environmental and democratic disaster and we need their help as our Government of Change.

Letters rather than emails have the greatest effect.  Details of who to write to below in order of influence. 

To ensure a reply to your postal correspondence please include your full name, address and postcode.

Write to Number 10

You can write SEPERATELY to the PM (David Cameron) and The Deputy PM (Nick Clegg) at the following address asking them to make sure that their Government takes urgent action to safeguard Rochford District; it’s an emergency !!

10 Downing Street,
London,
SW1A 2AA

Write to your MP, either Mark Francois or James Duddridge asking them to personally lobby Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps on behalf of their constituents.

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Write to Eric Pickles who is The Secretary of State who is making decisions on two planning appeals (Coombes Farm and DWH Hawkwell) and the Core Strategy asking him to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Cabinet Office
70 Whitehall
London SW1A 2AS

Write to Grant Shapps who is The Minister of State who is responsible for the new National Planning framework asking him to take whatever action is necessary to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SWIE 5DU

Rochford District Housing Development Consultations

March 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council is holding two further major consultations on its Housing Development Strategy (Core Strategy).  The public is being encouraged to comment online via its web site, by email and letter. The consultation period is 17 March to 30 April 2010.

If you are just interested in Hawkwell you can download just those sites here.

This is a surprising choice given that it is increasingly likely that the General Election will be well underway during this period.  If the Council has no choice but to do this now then these should have been conducted earlier to avoid such a distraction and possibly a low response because there are expectations of repeal if there is a change of Government.

At the same time there will be local elections on 6 May.

The first is the Allocations DPD which sets out the options for siting the Council’s preferences for the housing target allocation across the district.

I suggest that you look at these as seperate outline planning applications and comment on those that you prefer over the others in each area.

The document is here on my space and can be downloaded; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocations.pdf

There is an Appendix which lists the others sites which have not been put forward; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocationsappendix.pdf

The second consultation is on Development Management which sets out the policy on how development takes place in our District; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/developmentmanagement.pdf

I hope that you find this article helpful.

Just to remind you that there is the DWH Hawkwell Appeal which commences on 27 April and The Coombes Farm Appeal commences on 13 April.

After the local elections on 6 May there is the Public Inquiry on the Core Strategy which commences on 11 May.

Conservative Party Green Paper on Planning

February 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

In an effort to be first with an informed review of the latest NEWS in planning , I am publishing my immediate reaction to the new Conservative, shadow policy, on Planning.  It was published just this afternoon, 22/2. It was an interesting read of just 20 or so pages.  (That’s quite good in itself actually.) 

I think that many residents in Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Rochford and Stambridge were hoping that the Conservative Party nationally would be the “white knight” which would promise to save their green belt if only they returned a Conservative Government.  May be…. may be not…. do read on.

Whilst the Conservative Party Green Paper, will undoubtedly encourage many residents to hope that this will be outcome for their cherished area the policy actually has the clear objective of increasing the delivery of housing and other development.

There are financial incentives for Councils and this was expected. Why? Read on. 

Councils will be legally enabled to revise Core Strategies but with national Conservative Policy, then in the capacity of a  “New” Government, Councils might find it difficult to deliver cuts in housing targets which have significance for delivering tax revenues to meet tough national debt repayments !!

With the promised abolition of regional housing targets while simultaneously shifting control to the local level, this is formidable challenge in terms of delivery. To avoid the electorate drawing cynical conclusions too early will be another hard trick to pull off.   

But there is a presumption that a planning application will be approved if it conforms to a new, simpler and rationalised, national planning policy framework and the development is,……….. err, sustainable.

Nothing new here. Just like PPS3 and PPS12. 

How do you actually define “sustainable”? It is very difficult because there can be no numeric criteria.  It is a judgement, currently without even a tick list of criteria which need to be met being provided by anyone.

Residents are trying to get across their judgement on this in Hawkwell West at the moment in the DWH Appeal and to the Council itself who both want housing estates of 330 or 175 dwellings respectively.  Some residents have even decided to “club together” and hire a planning expert and a barrister. To the extent that it has come to this sorry state of affairs, planning is crying out for reform.

So sustainability will be a double edged sword giving loopholes on one side or rigidity on the other depending on how Councils wish to play in a specific site situation that is not as clear cut as others. Could that mechanism give local councils a particularly wide discretion on making what decision they like ? …..err…yes, sure…. and if rules on appeals were to be curtailed then these decisions will “stick”. 

The provision of affordable housing becomes a local decision unless the applicant is a local housing trust and then approval is almost presumed. And there is a financial incentive for a Council to approve affordable housing.

The notion of developers having the legal right to almost negotiate (?) local consent with neighbours ahead of a even a planning application is novel but fraught with danger as locals could be split in personal or collective negotiations and misunderstood promises.  Under this model residents will want to make sure that they vote for a council candidate who actually, really, does live in their Ward and that they have the skills to help make this difficult scheme deliverable and justifiable to all residents. And with Parish Councils getting involved as a party to be negotiated with who is on the Parish Council suddenly becomes something that might really matter.   

The prospect of residents being able to appeal decisions is ground breaking but I cannot see that surviving the protest of developer federations.  Can you? 

If the reforms go through it will not be a day when residents can take their eye off the ball for one second !!   But with the return to localism where the Local Plan returns supreme with locally assessed housing targets, residents must make sure that their voices are heard even louder !! And a harder deal  for political party councillors to sell or justify.  Up to then it will have been too easy to blame the other party !!  

To read the whole paper go here….http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/02/~/media/Files/Green%20Papers/planning-green-paper.ashx

Rochford to Southend Relief Road – Is it Back?

July 5, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_0008There were renewed calls in the Echo on 4 July for a Southend Relief Road because of recent closures of the A127. Southend notables were interviewed and they saw no point in road improvements in Southend which would link up with the A127. A suggestion was of a new road going North of Shoebury.  Nobody actually said that there should be a Rochford Southend Relief Road but how long will it be before this gets back into play following the retirement of Southend MP Sir Teddy Taylor who campaigned relentlessly for a major road through Rochford District. 

If readers want to know the history of Southend/Rochford Relief Road then please look at this web site. 

http://eerasouthendreliefroad.org.uk/

Is Rochford Brickworks a site for 200 houses?

June 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Coastline near Southend-on-Sea:  approaching London City AirportAt the Public Meeting in Hawkwell a resident asked me to explain why this has not been considered in the planning for the strategic housing development plan for Rochford District whereas it was include in the London Southend Airport Report (JAAP)?  The Brickworks Site could support 200 new houses.

The detailed position is as follows.

The formal consultation period on London Southend Airport Report (JAAP) started on the 24 June.  If you look at the four possible development scenarios you will see that a mixed development scheme is suggested for the old brickworks site under Scenario 3.

This is simply a consultation on issues and options and no decisions whatsoever have been taken about the development that might ultimately be agreed in the area of the Action Plan.
 
The JAAP stands on its own as a development plan document, though Rochford District Council will be referring to it, as you might expect, in the revised version of the Local Development Plan Core Strategy.

The Brickworks site is about 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres).  However, you may recall there is a company pushing for the development of a retirement village on the site together with surrounding scrubland – if included, this would make the site about 4 hectares (10 acres).  The boundary shown on the issues and options document is the larger area. This would support 200 houses.

New Hawkwell Housing – How to Protest

June 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Bloor Street Corridor Visioning Study Kick-Off Meeting, Walmer Road Baptist Church Upper Gym, Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 267Having seen the huge turnout at the Hawkwell Action Group’s Public Meeting many of you asked how you could object.  Rather than wait for an official public consultation you can protest now especially as it is known that the Planning Policy Committee has reviewed the sites.

Here is the draft of a letter you could send to the Council, Click here.

365 new houses is the biggest threat to the lives of residents in Hawkwell West for 20 years. Is it a real threat?  Yes, because the people who want it to happen went to the trouble of meeting in secret and then gave an “exclusive” to the Echo to publish it.  Who are these people?  Are they greedy land owners?  No these are the people who residents across the district elected to run Rochford District Council.  The powerful councillor who wants this is your “neighbour” in Hockley where he demands only 36 new houses against the 365 for Hawkwell West.

The infrastructure in Hawkwell West has not changed in over 80 years……and why should it, if the residents don’t want it? The biggest change in the last 20 years was the decision to site the then biggest leisure centre in the East of England in Hawkwell West and that was a mistake.  It has brought too much traffic to Hawkwell.  Ashingdon Road cannot cope with the huge housing developments in East Hawkwell and Ashingdon and now we find that Rectory Road is a rat run with the bottlenecks at St. Mary’s Church and Nursery corner leading to the new Cherry Orchard Lane link to the A127.

Hawkwell West does not have the infrastructure to sustain 365 houses on any of the sites put forward.  And the infrastructure cannot be improved without totally ruining the area.  Neither does Essex County Council have any plans to do so.

So if the houses are built then it will be a disaster. One site is on the flood plain. Another is in the Roach Valley Conservation Zone.  And the last is believed to be a place where rare plants and animals have lived undisturbed for centuries.

As your independent district councillor and I promised to fight for our Green Belt.  I have represented you in successful campaigns since 1994 and I have already been fighting this proposal in Council and Public Consultations for 18 months.

I was delighted when the campaign gave birth to the Hawkwell Action Group and I joined with these residents immediately to help. At two public meetings you have said that you do not want 365 new houses in Hawkwell West.

What you need to do now, because the sites have already been visited by councillors and we are told that the decision will be made in the Autumn is for you to write personally to protest about this before it is too late. PLEASE WRITE NOW.

John Mason, Independent District Councillor for Hawkwell West

 

Bottom