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The David Wilson Homes Development in Hawkwell

October 7, 2012 by  

By Councillor Christine Mason

For the last few years Hawkwell West has had the uncertainty created by the David Wilson Homes application to build a new estate in our midst, on land confusingly called South Hawkwell (and not Hawkwell West as it should be) by Rochford District Council. For those residents who attended last week’s Development Committee (and for those that were unable to do so) on 27 September, there were heated exchanges and contradictions that centred around the Public Open Space therefore I thought we should explain the importance of this relatively small but vital part of the development.

Green belt is I feel important to everyone in an area such as ours, especially when we are compelled to sacrifice some of it for housing. An area of planning called the Section 106 formalises the benefits the developer will provide for the area in respect of payments for sports facilities, education, health, highways, transport and other improvements to the area affected by the development. The District Council often request an area of Public Open space as a buffer. The Council also acquire a New Homes Bonus which one would hope would be similarly used although I believe that the Conservative led administration has yet to decide if this will go into the general pot. Expect a decision in the October Meeting of the Executive (Tory Cabinet Members only can speak and vote.)

In Hawkwell West we have quite a few Open spaces – White Hart Green, Clements Hall, Glencroft and Spencers being the ones most people know well. Public Open space is just that – Open space in the Public ownership for the use of all the public.

Generally speaking Public Open Space is ‘owned’ by a public body such as either the District Council or Parish Council and maintained out of the District or Parish rate. This protects the land from future development and also ensures public accessibility. We understand from the Press that Hawkwell Parish Council maintains 100 acres of public open spaces such as Glencroft, Spencers and also Magnolia Park. A significant part of their budget (the Precept or Council Tax that you pay to the Parish Council) is consumed by the equipment, labour and administration of these spaces and the Parish Council carries out an important role enabling local people to determine their own needs. We understand that both the Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group and The Hawkwell Action Group wished to see Hawkwell Parish Council take over this space on behalf of the whole community.

The difference with the David Wilson Homes development is that despite the Conservative Council Leader stating in the July FULL COUNCIL “he saw no reason for any new public open spaces created to remain with developers,” is that David Wilson Homes could either form a management company to own and maintain this space and pass the costs onto the new householders or pass Management and/or ownership to Hawkwell Parish Council with Hawkwell Parish Council negotiating for funding.

Management companies often experience difficulty both with obtaining finance from changing owners and the perception of the householders is that as they are paying for this it is in effect private open space, which can cause social and neighbour problems which we were anxious to avoid.

Hawkwell Parish Council approved the following Motion on Monday, 1 October.

“That this Parish Council write to Meeting Place Communications informing them as far as Hawkwell Parish Council is concerned we do not wish to partake in this project and will not give access to our land”.

Hawkwell Parish Council have by this motion closed any discussion with DWH and denied access to Spencers Park via a footbridge linking Spencers Park and the new Public Open Space to ensure accessibility for all. The Developer had provided a budget of £10,000.00 for this so the cost to the community would have been nil and the footbridge would have linked the two areas of open space which otherwise can only be accessed from the new Estate itself.

What we as your District Councillors asked for at the Development meeting was for Rochford District Council to step in and negotiate with David Wilson Homes to prevent future problems for our community in line with their own publicly stated policy. The vote was narrowly lost 10/12. That is why we voted against the development despite all the many, many hours of work we have both put in to improve the design of the estate.

You can read another account of this at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11061 which is the Rochford Liberal Democrat Web Site. They are equally concerned over the principle of the matter.

This is what HAG has said.

“David Wilson Homes now have their planning permission and we are very disappointed to hear that Hawkwell Parish Council (who look after every other public open space in Hawkwell), and the Rochford District Council have declined to take over the public open space that runs right through the proposed development. This leaves it in the hands of developers and vulnerable to even more development!! “

As your District Councillors we will now attempt to meet David Wilson Homes with CTFDAG to see what can be done about the Public Open Space despite the decision of Hawkwell Parish Council. We will keep you informed.

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