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Update on the Christmas Tree Farm/Rectory Road/Thorpe Road Hawkwell Development

June 16, 2012 by  

 Thanks to the technicians at our web host this site has been recovered. We have tested the functionality we are pleased to be able to resume publication.  
 
This is a long article which is designed to bring residents up to date with development in Hawkwell.
 
 The story in the Echo dated 6 May 2012 by Emma Thomas entitled “Developer ramps up plan for homes on green belt in Rochford” sums up the present situation quite well and being in the public domain enables us to comply fully with the Code of Conduct  which determines what we can say legally as your Ward Members.

You might have missed the article because it was filed under Southend and Hawkwell was missed from the headline.  So we are going to repeat most of it here so that you can be informed.

A DEVELOPER has made another bid to build 175 homes on green belt land.

Rochford District Council vetoed proposals for an estate on Christmas Tree Farm, between Main Road, Rectory Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell, in December last year.

Councillors agreed the houses could be built there, but said the plans were not of a high enough standard. They asked David Wilson Homes to go back to the drawing board and come up with new designs.

[The Minutes said “Mindful of officers’ recommendation to approve the application, Members nevertheless considered that the application should be refused on the grounds that the appearance, design and layout of the proposed scheme was out of keeping with guidance contained within the Essex Design Guide.”]

The developer has put in an Appeal, which will be heard on June 26, but a second application is also being prepared which addresses the councillors’ concerns.

[Mr Richard Hill, Chairman of The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group] had met with David Wilson Homes to discuss the new plans.

The Hawkwell Action Group, [Hawkwell] Residents’ Association and [Hawkwell] Parish Council has also met the developers to share their views.

Mr Hill, 58, said residents were resigned to the houses being built, but wanted to get the best design possible.

He said: “I am pleased they have listened and taken notice. The only caveat to that is if they win the Appeal and don’t do anything, it is all a waste of time.

“Generally, we are against the development, but we accept it is going to happen and we are pleased David Wilson Homes has listened and taken notice of our concerns. It is the best we are going to get, I think.” If the Government Inspector finds in the developer’s favour, then the decision could be overturned and the houses would be built according to the first set of plans.

Keith Hudson, Tory councillor in charge of planning at Rochford Council, said he wanted a new plan.

He said: “I would much prefer the developer to put in a new application and take into account all the things members were concerned about.

“We will end up with a better development that we can all be proud of.”

Nikki Davies, spokeswoman for David Wilson Homes, said it would wait for both decisions and then decide which design to build.

She added: “We are focusing a lot of effort on the revised application. We are still pursuing both lines of action.”

What is not mentioned in the Echo is that there have been three Pre-Application Advice meetings which have directly involved both of your Ward Members, John and Christine Mason.

One of these meetings has been subject to a fee being paid by the developer to RDC where the charges came into force only on 1 April 2012.

Here is the “official line” direct from the Council’s Web Site explaining how these meetings fit in. 

Planning Pre-Application Advice

Rochford District Council welcomes and encourages discussions before a planning application is submitted. Such discussions can assist in better quality applications, which stand a better chance of a successful outcome. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the Council to apply a charge for this service.

Meetings with Members

“In accordance with the Council’s protocol, pre-application meetings can involve Council Members. The charges for meetings that also involve Members will be as per the charging schedule. Feedback from such meetings will be in the form of a written note of the meeting plus together with any additional information requests agreed at the meeting.”

Disclaimer

“You should be aware that any advice given by the Council in relation to pre-application enquiries will be based on the case officer’s professional judgement and will not constitute a formal response or decision of the Council with regard to any future planning applications. Any views or opinions expressed, are given without prejudice to the consideration by the Council of any formal planning application, which will be subject to wider consultation and publicity. Although the case officer may indicate the likely outcome of a formal planning application, no guarantees can or will be given about the decision that will be made on any such application.”

In addition John sucessfully moved in December that the Council would be expecting the developer to put its hand into it’s own pocket and fund a series of community based improvements called a Section 106 Agreement.

From the Minutes of Development Committee dated 15 December.

“During debate, concern was expressed about the future management of the proposed open space. Members emphasised that this should be properly reviewed with a view to robust arrangements being developed for the future management and maintenance of such open space, with a preference being expressed for the open space to be transferred to a public body with appropriate financial support for long-term management and maintenance.”

“The importance of re-siting street furniture and seeking from the developer the provision of a bus subsidy of around £100k was also highlighted.”

The Hawkwell Action Group and The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group are encouraging the developer to make formal proposals for management of the proposed Open Space with Hawkwell Parish Council who already manage the public open space at Magnolia Road, Spencers and Glencroft. The Council has its own groundsman and appropriate equipment that has been purchased from Council Tax already.
 
From the Hawkwell Parish Council Newsletter of February 2012 the Council said “By examining each line of our budget your Parish Council has managed to hold it’s precept (our share of your Council Tax) at the same level as last year, £30.30 for a Band ‘D’ property, without the subsidy offered to District and Borough Councils by central government.”
 
 
Hawkwell Parish Council writes “For less than 60p a week we can continue maintaining nearly 100 acres of parkland on three sites, Magnolia, Spencers and Glencroft, to the standard that’s come to be expected, all of the bus shelters in the Parish and almost 200 street lights.”
 
Hopefully the developer and Hawkwell Parish Council can agree on a scheme hich will protect the land from future development and maintain it for use by the whole community.
 
As District Ward Members for Hawkwell we are also encouraging Hawkwell Parish Council to produce a Neighbourhood Plan which will help protect the rest of Hawkwell from inappropriate housing developments but although we raised this with HPC in August 2011 they will not meet to discuss this until September 2012 !! 
 
If you have any questions please contact us.

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