Appointment of New Chief Executive to Rochford District Council

August 2, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Polyethylene Diffusion Series II

As your Ward Councillors we found the overall situation most unsatisfactory. We decided to “stay away” from the decision making Council Meeting because we regarded the options of FOR, AGAINST or ABSTAIN equally unsatisfactory.

Press Release by Councillor John Mason, Councillor Michael Hoy, Councillor Diane Hoy and Councillor Christine Mason

Immediate, 1 August 2013

Appointment of Chief Executive to Rochford District Council

Residents and Green Councillors were disappointed that the Conservative Administration of Rochford District Council only invited one candidate to make a presentation and take questions from all Members of the Council on 30 July.

Whilst all Members were initially promised that they would have a choice from more than one candidate this was changed to a presentation from a single candidate by the Conservatives.

The Conservative Administration of the Council had made it clear at the Extraordinary Council to receive the retirement announcement of Paul Warren that Green and Residents representatives would not be invited to join the Appointments Sub Committee who would interview candidates. This was despite the Intervention of the Lib Dems to no avail given that all previous senior appointments at the Council were by full cross party interviews.

One Tory Member who asked his Group why the Residents and Greens had been excluded was reportedly told “it would be like BP (The Conservative Administration) appointing a CEO where SHELL (Residents and Greens) would also be on the Appointments Committee.”

This analogy unreasonably suggests that Residents and Green Councillors are, according to the Conservatives, not part of a wider representation of the interests of the people of Rochford District.

This has been a political appointment without choice being offered to all Members of the Council.

Note for Editors:

John Mason and Christine Mason represent Rochford District Residents in Hawkwell West

Michael and Diane Hoy represent The Green Party for Hullbridge Ward

Michael Hoy is also the County Councillor for Rochford West Division representing The Green Party

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.  


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;

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

– 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