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

January 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting challenge I think.

A Tale of Two Villages

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Cheer up, you guys run the country..Whilst the title of this article is an opportunistic pun on the Dickens’  Classic, Tale of Two Cities,  the story here in Rochford could be a tragedy of epic proportions for two villages in Rochford District if Government Planning Inspectors allow the two appeals in Stambridge and Hawkwell. 

Also at risk is the whole strategic housing and development plan (Core Strategy) which is being put forward by Rochford District Council to another Planning Inspector the same time.

So why are two big developers challenging RDC through planning applications rather than the Core Strategy Consultation and Public Examination?

 Both developers have something to lose.

And so has Rochford District Council if an Appeal is allowed and an application for costs upheld.  These could run to 10’s of thousands if not much, much more and the Council Tax we all pay either goes up or services are cut.

At Coombes Farm in Rochford/Stambridge the preferred Location in the Core Strategy does not appear to even include that site.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 326 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.  

In Hawkwell the Christmas Tree Farm site could be chosen in the preferred Location called South Hawkwell but RDC only want to see 175 dwellings.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 155 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.

A total of nearly 500 extra houses. And Stambridge would merge with Rochford and Hawkwell with Hockley and Ashingdon.

You would hope, wouldn’t you that the Government would not allow developers to confound a democratic process of agreement of a Core Strategy by allowing developers to get round the system.  The Government should not and it could stop this nonsense if only it were to appoint the same Planning Inspector who is to examine the Core Strategy to also decide on these two planning appeals and hold the Planning Appeals to coincide with the Core Strategy Examination in Public. Will this happen?  Not unless enough residents write personally to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and get the public support of David Cameron and appeal for common sense.

If common sense does not prevail then all that is in prospect if these planning applications are approved at Appeal is another run of planning applications from developers deciding where they want to build not where RDC determines.

The Rochford District Council Core Strategy would be effectively in tatters because all this could happen and be decided before a General Election tipped for May/June. Even though the Conservative Party, if returned to Government, promises to repeal all of the housing targets then this would mean nothing.  So if refused planning applications were already approved in Appeal these could not be stopped. And there might be others with a “Leave to Appeal” which might also get through.

It is hard to avoid the sneaking conclusion that those with development interests don’t already realise this.

The Government and the Conservative Party, Brown and Cameron, need to focus less on the General Election which will not help us in this invidious situation and get the Planning Inspectorate to tie all these decisions together and stop this exploitation of the system.   

Will anyone listen?  Only if you make them listen.