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“Estate Agents” Office Approved in Established Residential Area

April 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Summary extracted from Council Officers Report

The sales building would occupy that part of the site shown in the re-development scheme for a pair of three-bedroomed semi- detached houses to plots 78 and 79 in Thorpe Road. The proposed sales building can be compared with an estate agency office. Whilst this type of office use to visiting members of the public is normally located within town centres, it is, however, common practice for larger housing developments to include a sales presence often making use of the show homes or other buildings forming the development.The sales building will give rise to visiting customers looking to view the show homes and often outside the working hours of the site in the evening and at weekends. No hours restrictions are therefore put forward in this application as the sales activity would not fit with the construction activity on the site and it would be expected that sales would open at weekends and bank holidays when buyers are able to view.In this case the applicant is requesting a period of two years. It may be that if sales are slower than expected, that period could be increased.

There was NO objection from Hawkwell Parish Council. There were NO objections from any resident of Thorpe Road on any adjoining Road. There was no objection from Hawkwell Residents Association, The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group and Hawkwell Action Group.

As Ward Members we had concerns on behalf of residents and we objected as follows in a speech at Committee.

A Show House is one thing but the plot is zoned residential and this is a proposal for commercial use in a well established residential area and not on the new estate.

I intend to vote against The Recommendation for Approval.

I would like to explain why.

  • In my opinion the more common arrangement is for a Show House on the new estate to be used.
  • However the phasing from the Developer already shows a proposed build rate of over 3 years and 3 years is not a temporary situation in my view.
  • As a commercial building this would be visually intrusive per se to the street scene as will the commercial hustle and bustle that it creates
  • The proposed advertising and sign boarding on and around the building is unacceptable in a residential area
  • If a resident were to apply for such use then such application would very likely be refused. So what is the very special case here?
  • A commercial use in a residential area will be detrimental and damaging to residential amenity
  • The restrictions put forward by the applicant in the approved planning application was for No Sunday Working which implied that the additional traffic down Thorpe Road would be almost none relating to the development on Sundays.
  • This proposed commercial use will increase the traffic and diminish the benefit of an amenity of quiet enjoyment.
  • Residents already have disruption from the building which will continue for years rather than months and the proposed Sales Office will eliminate the small respite they are expecting in the evenings and Sundays.
  • Of major concern is that there are no proposed restrictions on days and hours of use each day will be 10 till 6; this is unacceptable.

IT WAS APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF COUNCILLORS PRESENT.

 

Stop Press……………..Extensions without Planning Permission

Home extension plans amended

Government plans to ease planning rules in England for three years have been amended to give neighbours the right to be consulted on building work. It comes after 26 coalition MPs voted against the Government on Tuesday. The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has written to MPs setting out a “light-touch neighbours’ consultation scheme”. He said he wants to tackle concerns about the effects the plans would have on “neighbours’ amenity” head on. Under the revised scheme homeowners wishing to build extensions under the new powers would notify their council with the details and the local authority would then inform the adjoining neighbours. If the neighbours do not object, the development can proceed, but if they do raise concerns the council will have to consider whether it had an “unacceptable impact on neighbours’ amenity”. The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith – a leading critic of the Government’s proposed changes – welcomed the watering down of the plans, calling it a “sensible approach”. He added: “The red line for me was maintaining a neighbour’s right to object. The Government has taken on board what we said, they’ve definitely listened.” Meanwhile, Tim Harford writes in the FT that perhaps we should scrap planning permission altogether. He says another more reasonable solution, would be to allow councils to reap the financial benefits of granting planning permission.

Financial Times, Page: 4    Financial Times, Page: 12     The Times, Page: 4    The Daily Telegraph, Page: 12   Daily Mail, Page: 6    Independent I, Page: 9    The Sun, Page: 2   BBC News

 

 

Update Number 7 – DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

April 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Last Week we delivered our Newsletter to ALL residents houses in the affected area.

This Week the update is from Barratt Eastern Counties, Barratt House, 7 Springfield Lyons Approach, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 5EY

We have received a copy of Hawkwell Focus. We received our copy by email and we are not sure how many residents receive these.

If you wish to see it you can download it below.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1063718/Hawkwell%20Focus%2C%20April%202013.pdf

However please note that we may not necessarily agree with the comments made by the Developer.

We will welcome your comments on the Hawkwell Focus from David Wilson Homes, they are very important to us.

If you have any comments or future complaints please pass these to us rather than to the email address for the PR Company on the DWH Newsletter.

We can assure you that ALL complaints will be pursued by us vigorously with Barratts/DWH, Rochford District Council, Essex County Council or Essex Police. We will involve the appropriate authority to ensure that urgent action is taken and that it does not happen again and there is a clear log of problems and issues.

Did you know that “Focus” is the name attached to many Lib Dem Newsletters across the UK and there is a Rochford Lib Dem Group that coins “Focus” for its Newsletters.  There is a Lib Dem standing for Rochford North in May.  Confusing?

Essex County Council Elections – 2 May 2013

April 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

By John Mason

Essex County Council Building

We had contemplated standing in the County Council Elections but to be honest Christine and I are too busy sorting out issues caused by the DWH Development for all residents.

We are only representing you as Independents at the District Council because we are local residents who care about our local surroundings and environment and we will continue to speak out for you.

What has stimulated this Article?

The Liberal Democrats have published their “Priorities” for candidates standing for Election to Essex County Council across the whole County of Essex.

(http://onlinefocus.org/?p=12668 “Essex Liberal Democrats – Our Priorities for the 2013 Elections”)

All the County Wards or Divisions in our District are in contest from a wide range of candidates.

I am personally a voter in Rochford North which covers Hawkwell. Here is what I would wish ALL of the candidates looking for my vote to address.

There are 3,500 new dwellings agreed in the Rochford Core Strategy. Already 976 have been given planning permission in the Central part of the District.

Voters cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements.

Essex County Council is the Authority responsible for Highway improvement planning.

I do not know of a single other subject that ALL voters in our District want to see addressed as a Priority by a newly elected Administration at Essex County Council, whatever the political balance at the end of the election.

The roads in the Rochford District have not been strategically improved since green-space separated all towns and villages on the Shoebury peninsular (for want of a better name).

The development of Cherry Orchard Way (B1013) resulted in Hawkwell getting true through traffic avoiding the A127 congestion for the very first time.

The Hawkwell Parish Plan Group is so concerned that it has suggested that a Rochford Bypass should be reconsidered when planning to improve the current inadequate road infrastructure. I understand that many voters in Hawkwell support this. What are the County Council Candidates views on this?

As explained by the current Administration at ECC, “the current Essex Local Transport Plan (LTP) was developed in line with Department for Transport Guidance on LTPs. This LTP represents a significant change from previous LTPs. It is not a 5 year plan that sets out a specific programme, instead it is a long term document that provides the framework within which transport programmes can be developed.”

The current Administration at ECC Essex County Council stated in an email to me on 21 December 2012 “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

The Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts of planned development through the Local Transport Plan and The Highways Authority will only address improvements in a limited piecemeal fashion on each planning application for development.

This is not good enough and voters will want to hear what the Parties contesting the County Council Elections are going to do about it.

Let us hope that it is not “Nothing” !!

Update Number 6 – DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

April 11, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Adolescent Trees

The David Wilson Homes/Barratts development, which was opposed by residents and us, your Independent Ward Councillors, commenced in January 2013.

Since then we have received numerous complaints from residents that have ranged from using the unadopted part of Thorpe Road from Rectory Road as a construction access, mud on roads, road closure and rodent infestations. These problems have kept us very busy working for ALL residents. With regard to rodent infestations we have helped arrange for affected residents to have access to a prevention scheme funded by the developer. 

Proposals from the developer to close the unmade part of Thorpe Road for through traffic and pedestrian access for 6 months was opposed by your Ward Members at Essex County Council and we are pleased to say that we were successful in demanding that pedestrians must have through access at all times.  

On construction access residents of the adopted part of Thorpe Road thought that all construction access would be via Clements Hall Way (off Rectory Road) but that too has changed. The adopted part of Thorpe Road will take construction traffic initially.  But instead of Clements Hall Way Officers of Rochford District Council have agreed to the use of the direct access to The Christmas Tree Farm from Rectory Road despite our formal objections. We have also been concerned that the “green strip” known in the planning application as “The Paddocks” which adjoins Rectory Road is being used not only for access but also for parking and storage of building materials.  The Agreement states “The Owner shall only use the Paddocks for agriculture, horticulture, forestry, grazing or as open land so as to ensure that they remain un-built upon except for any buildings ancillary to such permitted use and provide open space which mitigates the visual impact of the Development on the area in which the Site is situated.” Despite our objections Officers of the Council have decided “As these areas are within the application site and this use is permitted by the General Permitted Development Order 1995, it is lawful to use the areas for these purposes during the construction works.”

All we can say is that Officers did not advise Members that this current use could be permitted when the idea of a Legal Agreement was put forward in the planning application. We have always feared that a Legal Agreement between the Council and the developer might not protect the interests of residents and our request for this to remain green belt was turned down by Deputy Council Leader, Keith Hudson.  The Council is under the control of the Council Leader, Terry Cutmore.

In line with our election pledge as your Independent District Councillors we will continue to speak out against decisions by the Conservative Administration which are not in the best interests of our residents. Web Site http://rochfordessex.com

IF YOU HAVE NEIGHBOURS WHO ARE NOT ON THE INTERNET PLEASE PRINT THIS SHORT UPDATE FOR THEM

 

Update Number 5 – DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

April 7, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

DSCF0417David Wilson Homes/Barratts  Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell) UPDATE No 5

Could we start by putting what has been said in a leaflet which has put through our doors this weekend into a local perspective?

Rochford District Council attempted to reduce the overall number of houses to be built in our District but it failed because the Conservative Government failed to be able to do away with the house building targets of the previous Labour Government.

In numerous articles on our web site we have warned and proved that there are many more developments to come in Hawkwell in Green Belt over and above the 176.

As regards Hawkwell, Rochford District Council put forward in its own plan (not from a developer at that time) a requirement for 300++ new houses for Hawkwell West in 2008.  Councillor John Mason responded with a 17 page analysis which took over 360 hours of work to produce which showed that such a number was unsustainable. It was only after this and protest from residents that RDC reduced the requirement to 175.

There were three Planning Applications by Barratts/David Wilson Homes two of which were Refused as put forward by Councillor John Mason and then with Councillor Christine Mason. Both of your Ward Members have spent time representing residents at the two Appeals.  The final Barratts planning application was passed in September 2012 but your two Ward Councillors voted against this.

According to residents there has been some misleading material published at past District Council elections and more importantly at the General Election about reducing development and Localism.  None of these promises have been fulfilled.

We had contemplated standing in the County Council Elections but to be honest we are too busy sorting out this mess rather than further our own political careers.  We are only representing you as Independents at the District Council because we are local residents who care about our local surroundings and environment and we will continue to speak out for you despite the attacks we frequently get in the Council Chamber from  a national political party.

So even if you had elected a Conservative to represent Hawkwell West then we think that they would not have had any say against the “Under my control” syndrome which has been published so widely and publicly over this weekend.  So much for Democracy and Localism!

Update Number 5

As District Councillors we expected that the detailed work with large scale planning applications would be carried out prior to Approval of the Planning Application.

Certainly our formal Pre-Application discussions with Officers and the developers indicated that.

Legal Agreements, formal traffic management agreements, hours of work, delivery routes, building materials etc., were all discussed before the Application was put to the Development Committee for a vote.

If an application is passed, as this one eventually was, then the Officers flesh out the Agreements and Conditions many of which should be in place before commencement of work.

We were concerned and perturbed to find that work commenced before these Agreements and Conditions were finalised and we are having to constantly re-negotiate these on behalf of residents with our Officers.  In our view this should not have happened.

Here is another quick update on specific issues.

Thorpe Road Closure – Planned Road Closure for 6 months – unmade part

Although the closure notice states 1st April this has still not been implemented as we understand discussions over signage with ECC are still taking place. However we expect this to be implemented sooner rather than later with the pedestrian access remaining open at all times.

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Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to? 

We have finally had assurance that no deliveries should take place outside the hours of working other than by formal prior notice and certainly not on Sundays and Bank Holidays. There are alleged instances reported to us where this has occurred so we hope that these were just initial mistakes.

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Christmas Tree Farm “Vega Nurseries Gate” Access in Rectory Road

Despite the RDC Planning Department asking residents for Breaches of this Condition to be logged it would appear that RDC Officers are going to authorise the actions that the developer is taking.

Rochford District Council Officers have the power to alter and override Conditions and Restrictions agreed at Development Committee and in The Section 106 Legal Agreement. Once Planning Permission has been granted Members are excluded from future decision making.

We now understand that officers are minded to approve this access for a temporary period.  We have asked for clarification of ‘temporary’ which we are informed is 12 weeks.  As we are aware that the developer is using this access already we have asked for an end date to be put in place by Officers.  We await a response.

We think that this is fundamentally wrong and that when planning applications are passed by the Development Committee with proposals by the developer attached that these proposals should be honoured by all parties unless there is a supervening reason why they should not be met.

In response to the decision of a Planning Inspector at the first Appeal a strip of land called the “Paddocks” was established along Rectory Road where all development was to be prohibited bar the addition of one house and the retention of 352 Rectory Road because it houses a bat roost.

Our initial approach was to have this protected as Green Belt but this was rejected by Councillor Keith Hudson and Officers under the leadership of Terry Cutmore.  As Members we have spent many hours in meetings ensuring that this prohibition was delivered by an alternative means and this was incorporated into a legal agreement called a Section 106 Agreement.

‘3.2.3 The Owner shall only use the Paddocks for agriculture, horticulture, forestry, grazing or as open land so as to ensure that they remain un-built upon except for any buildings ancillary to such permitted use and provide open space which mitigates the visual impact of the Development on the area in which the Site is situated.’

 We have objected to the Paddocks being used for parking and compounding for the storage of materials, plant and machinery which was not declared on the plans approved at Development Committee.

Shaun Scrutton has written to us as follows when we objected to the use of the Paddocks.

‘Plant, machinery, moveable structures, etc., – Planning permission granted for operational development of land conveys permission for carrying out all necessary operations.  That being the case, there a compound is permitted development (Sch2, Part 4, Class A of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995).’

We have formally objected to this in writing to Albert Bugeja, who is the Head of Legal Services at RDC.  He will make a decision early this week.

Depending on how strongly you feel about this as a resident you also have the option of complaining to:

 The Chief Executive of RDC, paul.warren@rochford.gov.uk  Or: Terry Cutmore, Conservative Leader of Rochford District Council,  CllrTerry.Cutmore@rochford.gov.uk  or Keith Hudson  CllrKeith.Hudson@rochford.gov.uk, Conservative Deputy Leader of the Council who both lead the Administration.

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Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

RESULT!

Despite the PR Company employed by Barratts/David Wilson Homes stating that residents could send DWH a bill for the work for them to consider we felt that this was not good enough when we have vulnerable residents in hardship situation facing a situation outside their control.

Christine wrote to our Health and Safety Officers because of the Public Health issues.

‘The rodent infestation resulting from the disturbance to the DWH site will I fear be an ongoing issue as the site is in the middle of a predominately residential area and even baiting the perimeter, whilst helpful is a bit like shutting the gate after the horse, or in this case rodents, have bolted. 

One of the affected residents has commented that bait boxes maybe a more effective way of dealing with this but I leave the detail up to you and other experts to deal with.  However it would, as you suggest, be helpful to know where they are treating as this may help us reassure those affected.

The concern here of course is not just the immediate one of the residents around the perimeter being affected but that there is a risk this problem could persist into the new properties once built if not adequately dealt with and amongst those we do have affordable homes whose tenants may not have the resources to deal with this situation.  That said this is a potential problem and we need to have the existing one dealt with as a matter of urgency from both a public health perspective and to alleviate unnecessary distress.

Whilst  Nikki Davies has agreed on behalf of DWH that residents in affected properties may send the invoice for treatment to them ‘to consider’, which is not as clear cut as I would have liked but at least shows an intention of accepting responsibility, this will not be achievable for those in a hardship situation. 

I recall from our budget meetings that RDC has a small contingency fund to assist in cases of hardship when infestation is present.  However I do not think that the District as a whole should pay for the results of a Developers’ actions.

May I suggest that where residents have a hardship situation that RDC initially funds the treatment on the understanding that the resident will approach DWH for reimbursement and once received, reimburse the Council.  Or an alternative administrative method that assists those in need at the same time as ensuring that the final cost is recovered from DWH.

It is important that this area is clearly addressed to avoid financial hardship as well as the other difficulties these people are facing, through no fault of their own.

I would like a response to the way forward on this by the 3rd April, so that, where necessary, we can inform residents of their options.

I cannot stress strongly enough how upsetting this is for those affected and I do fear that some incidents are not being reported due to the fear of costs of rectification.  I do know that a property in Rectory Road had been affected but it has not been formally reported.  I doubt that this is the only unreported incident.

We are pleased to say that our Public Health Department and its Officers have negotiated successfully and DWH will instruct and pay for these infestations to be treated.  Please do let us and/or our Officers know if you have a problem because this needs to be resolved sooner rather than later for everyone’s sake.

CllrJohn.Mason@Rochford.gov.uk and/or CllrChristine.Mason@Rochford.gov.uk or Martin.Howlett@Rochford.gov.uk

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Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to and query over correct removal of hedgerow.

We have received an acknowledgement from Mr Scrutton that an oak tree has been incorrectly felled after previous assurances from the expert Officers involved– surprising what happens when Ward Councillors state they will check once the site is open!

However the reply from Mr Scrutton does not fill us with confidence of an equitable outcome.

‘With regard to tree works, it’s now been possible to check on the situation and it does appear that an Oak tree identified for retention has been removed.  We’re in contact with DWH for an explanation and I’ll let you have an update when we receive a reply’.

Whilst we have not seen a reply from the Developer we have continued to object to the way that this has been handled.  Shaun Scrutton replies as follows;

“You’ll understand that I want to hear from DWH before determining a way forward on this issue, and if a replacement tree is required, as seems likely, we’ll want to see that planted with the landscaping scheme for the site later on rather than insisting on a tree being planted that will need to be maintained during construction.  Leaving the timing aside, the advice from our arb. officer is that we can ask for a 12-14cm girth or 16-18cm girth (or even larger) tree if we think the replacement should have more instant impact; I’m guessing that would be your preference.  These larger trees are containerised so in theory they can be planted most times of the year, though the best time to plant is during the dormant season.” 

Thank you everyone who is keeping us informed, much appreciated.

Please keep us advised of any developments and copy us in if possible.  On behalf of all those affected residents, thank you for your continued help.   Regards John and Christine

Update Number 4 – DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell) No4

 

We were hoping things would quieten down and the disruption would be contained within the areas agreed by Development Committee.  Unfortunately they have not.

On Christmas Tree Farm

However it is not all bad news we do have some, most importantly –

Thorpe Road Closure – Planned Road Closure for 6 months – unmade part

With the support of our County Councillor Tracey Chapman and the MP we have been successful in getting the pedestrian access included in the Decision Notice which is posted in Thorpe Road.

No traffic lights or gates were included to keep traffic flowing through although it should be noted that very few vehicles travelled through to Rectory Road whilst the “track”, for that is how it appears on the Ordnance Survey, was deeply rutted, muddy and overgrown!

We are, however, concerned that the 6 months seems to have been extended to 18 months and that no effective action was taken by RDC or ECC to prevent the road being blocked prior to the Closure Notice taking effect on the 1st April.

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Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to? 

Still no response to our enquiry of Mr Scrutton (restricting there to be NO Deliveries on Sundays and Bank Holidays) since the 8th March and he is now out of office again till the 2nd April !!

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Christmas Tree Farm “Vega Nurseries Gate” Access in Rectory Road

Despite the RDC Planning Department asking residents for Breaches of this Condition to be logged it would appear that RDC Officers are minded to authorise the actions that the developer is taking.

Rochford District Council Officers have the power to alter and override Conditions and Restrictions agreed at Development Committee and in The Section 106 Legal Agreement at their discretion. Once Planning Permission has been granted Members are excluded from future decision making.

We think that this is fundamentally wrong and that when planning applications are passed by the Development Committee with proposals by the developer attached that these proposals should be honoured by all parties unless there is a really important, unavoidable supervening reason why they should not be met.

 We have called for RDC to be very clear now which restrictions and conditions as approved by Development Committee will be either completely waived or temporarily waived by Officers?

 We have demanded a definitive statement from RDC Officers in order that residents of our Ward may be advised very quickly of the decisions that have been taken on their behalf by Officers (not Members).

Surely a developer of this size and experience should know what to put forward in a planning application the first time round with regard to what accesses to the site are required?

 You might be interested in seeing an email sent to RDC by ECC. We think it says it all!!  (The spelling mistakes were made by ECC not us and the bold emphasis is OURS.)

“Then developer is reusing a formed access which I assume meets the highway requirements onto rectory road.”

 “The decision with enforcement lies with yourselves however, I understand RDC want to progress this development and this would facilitate the process for what would only be a temporary arrangement construction arrangmetn with all the relevant protocols in place until such time as the new access from clements hall road is formed.”

Depending on how strongly you feel about this as a resident you do have the option of complaining to:

 The Chief Executive of RDC, paul.warren@rochford.gov.uk  Or: Terry Cutmore, Conservative Leader of the Council, CllrTerry.Cutmore@rochford.gov.uk  or Keith Hudson  CllrKeith.Hudson@rochford.gov.uk, Conservative Deputy Leader of the Council who both lead the Administration.

Please continue to keep us in the’ loop’.

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Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

We have received even more reports of properties being affected and the original affected properties ones are still not free of infestation.  Rodents are burrowing under gardens and into their houses Thank you all for keeping us updated on this.  Today Christine wrote to Barratts/DWH as follows;

I would ask DWH to treat these properties as a matter of urgency because of the distress and health risks that DWH’s neighbours have been exposed to.  My understanding is that the worst affected properties are those in the unmade part of Thorpe Road where the rodents are burrowing under lawns into sheds and houses and similarly in Royer Close following the work at that end of the site.

We are concerned that it would appear that DWH have already been asked to undertake this work and do not appear to have responded.

I am sure you will appreciate the urgency of this situation and I would appreciate a reply today so that we can put a positive response in our weekly update.  If DWH are prepared to meet the costs we need details of how and when as some of these residents are on very limited budgets and need reassurance on more than one front.

We have been successful because the reply received is as follows;

’ residents are invited to arrange treatment and send DWH a bill for the works which they can then consider. Please invite residents to send the bill to me (c/o DWH) which I can then ensure gets to the right people within the organisation. ‘

The Address is: Nikki Davies, Associate Director, Meeting Place Communications , Lyttleton House, 64 Broomfield Road, Chelmsford CM1 1SW Tel: 01245 218160 / 07883 504 644

Please continue to keep us in the’ loop’.

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Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to and query over correct removal of hedgerow.

We have received an acknowledgement from Mr Scrutton that an oak tree has been incorrectly felled after previous assurances from the expert Officers involved– surprising what happens when Ward Councillors state they will check once the site is open!

However the reply from Mr Scrutton does not fill us with confidence of an equitable outcome.

‘With regard to tree works, it’s now been possible to check on the situation and it does appear that an Oak tree identified for retention has been removed.  We’re in contact with DWH for an explanation and I’ll let you have an update when we receive a reply’.

Thank you everyone who is keeping us informed, much appreciated.

Please keep us advised of any developments and copy us in if possible.  On behalf of all those affected residents thank you for your continued help.

Update Number 3 – DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

one never notices the little things

DWH Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

We are still getting phone calls, e mails and verbal reports about issues at this building site apart from things we have seen ourselves so here is a quick update of the situation to date.

 

 

Thorpe Road Closure – Planned Road Closure for 6 months – unmade part

Still awaiting ECC decision notice and whether or not they will incorporate the pedestrian access.

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Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to?

We have requested further information and clarity regarding the Delivery aspect (same exception as above for Sundays and BH’s) and await a response to e mail sent 8th March to Mr. Scrutton once he returns to Office on the 25th March.

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Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

We have received further reports of properties being affected and the original ones are still not free of infestation despite the steps taken by DWH. We asked Rochford District council’s Environmental Health Officers to investigate and they have advised as follows:

‘It was apparent that DWH had reached an impasse internally regarding rodent treatment on the site because of concerns about secondary poisoning of non-target species. I therefore wrote to DWH in direct terms this morning and they have now contracted Rentokil to bait the perimeter of the site, taking in to account where complainants reside and the locations of badger setts on the site. Officers will monitor the sufficiency of the baiting programme during the course of the development.’

We trust that this action will resolve the problem but please continue to keep us updated either way.

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Update from CTFDAG

DWH did apologise and explained that due to circumstances beyond their control, DWH cannot have access into the site from Rectory Road and that the Gas Board will not allow DWH to drive their plant over the large Gas pipe through the site. DWH did advise us that DWH are trying to find a solution which would bridge the gas pipe and that they are in the process of opening the access into Clements Hall Way as a starting point to such access.

DWH assured us that their preference is to enter the site via Clements Hall Way and that this should be the case by the end of September, although DWH will endeavour to bring this forward.

Whilst it is now clear that Thorpe Road will be the main access road for the summer, we will have to reluctantly accept this position.

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Wheel cleaning arrangements/mud on road

As Ward Councillors we saw mud left in Rectory Road, Main Road and Thorpe Road on 18th March John and I immediately, (the wonder of mobile telephones), reported this to RDC Officers who liaised directly with the Highway Authority to resolve this.

We were however concerned at the health and safety of a DWH operative using a broom and dodging traffic and we understand that since then a mechanical road cleaner has been in regular use.

We have also asked RDC Officers to ensure wheel cleaning arrangements are embedded in conditions and imposed on site with immediate effect.

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18th March – Unofficial, unenforceable 10mph Road signs erected in Thorpe Road

Police and RDC notified and signs removed.

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Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to and query over correct removal of hedgerow.

We have again approached planning officers to ensure that the hedgerow has been correctly removed and as with the trees we will as soon as the site is open for access check these ourselves.

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On a more serious note there have been reports of alleged breaches of conditions with delivery vehicles parked in Rectory Road before 8.00 am, site vehicles using the Rectory Road end of Thorpe Road and the Christmas Tree Farm access in Rectory Road being used when this is not permitted.   

Our Officers have been very supportive and proactive in asking for conditions to be adhered to but do need your help. If you observe any of these actions please log them, and by this we mean note date and time and also if possible without risk the registration number. This will enable our enforcement officers to take action and increase their chances of success.

Please keep us advised of any developments and copy us in if possible. On behalf of all those affected residents thank you for your continued help.

 

Update Number 2 on planning problems at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 17, 2013 by · 2 Comments 



Frustration
Update on planning problems at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

Thankfully for all it has been a slightly less busy and problematic week for complaints.

We shall briefly update the issues outstanding.

We have been concerned by a suggestion from Rochford District Council that problems and complaints on Environmental Health could be directed by residents in the first instance to an organisation other than RDC or Ward Members.

“you may wish to pass on the details of Meeting Place Communications to your constituents so that they may direct any queries or complaints they may have to them in the first instance.”

“Meeting Place Communications are the complaints handling firm employed by David Wilson Homes”.

We do not agree.

It is important that all complaints are logged at RDC, investigated by RDC and any action necessary is taken in accordance with planning regulations and environmental health legislation.

Please feel free to contact us on any subject.

Or phone Shaun Scrutton (Planning or Highways) or Richard Evans (Environment) on 01702 546366.

The more precise the details residents can provide, exact time, date and place, the easier it will be for us to pursue the matter at hand. 

Here is the current situation as far as we are aware on the issues raised already.

Road Closure – Planned Road Closure for 6 months

Christine informed Mark Francois MP of the action we had taken.  We have scanned in his response below for your information.  Let us hope that with all your representatives asking for the same thing we will succeed.

From: Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford

“Closure of Thorpe Road

Thank you for copying me in on your email about the proposed closure of Thorpe Road and the outcome of your meeting with David Wilson Homes.

This information was most helpful but I wanted you to know that as I have received a number of representations about this I have also raised the matter with County Councillor Derrick Louis, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation.

I will, of course, let you have a copy of his response.”

Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to?

The hours of working are still being reviewed by Shaun Scrutton but we cannot see a problem with most of this issue now that we have received the reassurance from Shaun Scrutton that we published last week.

However, despite requesting clarification and reassurance on the Deliveries on a Sunday from Mr Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC on the 8th March we have yet to receive a response and he is out of the office until the 25th March.

Deliveries are specified to be between 08.00am – 17.30 pm Monday to Friday and 09.00am – 15.30 pm on Saturdays.

Again Ward Members want there to be NO deliveries or collections allowed on Sundays or Bank Holidays unless otherwise agreed in writing by RDC by at least 5 days Notice in writing to Residents.

Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to;

This is how we pursued this matter;

“Would it be possible for the Council Officer to confirm that all trees required to remain, do remain?  I am sure that residents are looking for this assurance and as a Member that is the only test of Compliance that I find acceptable.  I look forward to hearing from you.”

Reply from Mr Scrutton (Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC)

“As you will appreciate, unless there is an officer permanently camped on the site, I can’t give you any absolute assurances of the situation with regard to trees but what I can tell you is that the tree officer visited the site today and is content that all is well at this point in time.”

We will continue to monitor this. When the site is open to the public we, as Ward Members, will go round with the Tree Plan submitted and tick off every tree that was required to remain.  And expect penalties to be levied for any unauthorised removal.

Request for residents only parking notice as originally requested by Hawkwell Action Group but not responded to.

Still awaiting implementation! Despite Essex County Council having given permission, which was argued about by RDC and DWH, apparently RDC is now insisting this is now subject to Advertising Regulations. Like the colour of this text RED TAPE!!

Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

DWH have ‘baited’ but the problem persists. We will pass on the addresses of affected residents to RDC once we have their permission to do so.

Burning of waste on site

Being investigated by RDC Environmental Health.

Both the above items are still being investigated as Environmental Health who have been unable to locate the DWH Site Manager in the last few days for clarification.

Planning Issue raised by CTFDAG

We are waiting for CTFDAG to let us know if they have any outstanding issues after their Meeting with DWH on 12 March.

Wheel cleaning arrangements

We have asked our officers to check that this is being carried out satisfactorily; please inform us if there is any mud left on any road.

Please continue to let us know if you are aware of any problems and copy us into your communication with the authorities so that we can see if the issue is a one off situation or a wider issue.

We will help you as much as we can but we can only do so if we are kept informed.

Also for your information there are two more planning applications pending for this site from David Wilson Homes.  One, 13/00035/FUL  is to vary condition No 4 to application 12/00381/FUL and the other, 13/00109/FUL is to Demolish Existing Dwelling and Construct Single Storey Part Pitched Roofed Part Flat Roofed Sales Building and Car Parking Area.  Any comments on these please write to Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation but please send a copy to your Ward Councillors.   

Update Number 1 on planning problems at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pioneer Tree Farm

As your Ward Members we ended up voting for refusal of each of the three planning applications at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road, Rectory Road, Christmas Tree Farm, Hawkwell).  On two we were successful but on the last in September 2012 the Development Committee approved the application.

We were concerned that despite previous assurances from the Council Leader, Terry Cutmore, that the public open space would more likely be a private open space for the new estate rather than one owned by a local council. RDC refused to take ownership and Hawkwell Parish Council, despite owning and maintaining acres of public open space already at the public expense with publicly owned machinery, also refused and went even further stating that it would not even talk about it. Furthermore a bridged connection between Spencers Park (Hawkwell Parish Council land) and the new public open space at Clements Gate, which was to be paid for by the developer, was also refused by Hawkwell Parish Council rendering the new public open space a private open space.

Of the residents groups Hawkwell Residents Association (HRA) backed the Hawkwell Parish Council decision which was hardly surprising given that the HRA has a Parish Councillor.  But both the Christmas Tree Farm Development  Action Group (CTFDAG, Richard Hill) and The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG, Carol Dutton) backed our request to the Developer for a further meeting.  Despite some “thank you for your patience” noises from the developer via its external communications consultant nothing has happened.

So with the construction having commenced on 7 January we decided to talk direct to the developer about various material complaints coming from residents.  Things went quite well until the developer decided to have all communications via  its external communications consultant and that as District Councillors we must put everything through Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation at Rochford District Council. This dismayed us but as Independents we decided to go our own way and pursue residents’ complaints in whatever way we felt appropriate.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and our computers have been humming with our demands and negotiations on behalf of residents.  Once a planning application is passed various Conditions are attached to it by the Planning Authority.

We expected that all those restrictions that the developer had put forward in the planning application would appear as restrictions and that if a long road closure had been sought then it would have been applied for in the planning application.

NOT SO.

Naturally with such a large site as DWH/Barratts we were concerned that the necessary disturbance to the area is kept to a minimum and that the conditions are put in place to ensure that this is so. But not all of the issues that may arise come under planning; some for example may be Environmental Health, (which is a 9-5 Monday to Friday service as we found out when we recently had a problem ourselves!)

To this extent it is important that problems are raised as soon as possible because of the inevitable slow pace of action of any resolution and to prevent the situation getting worse.

Since construction operations started in January we have had many issues raised and below I list some of them and the state of play now:

Road Closure – For vehicles 6 months

We have an reached agreement that although Thorpe Road will be closed to traffic pedestrian access will be maintained even if the route has to be varied on occasion as previously reported ‘DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.’

We have asked Essex County Council to incorporate this agreement in the Decision Notice and have yet to hear if this will be done.

Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to?

After some representations we have received the following from Mr Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC who we understand is the decision maker on this matter.

‘It’s now been possible to check the Construction Management plan submitted for the discharge of conditions 11,15 and 26 and this does confirm the working times to be 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 4pm on Saturday, with no working on Sundays or Bank Holidays, though this may be varied in exceptional circumstances subject to approval by RDC and notification to the residents in writing at least five days in advance.

Deliveries are specified to be between 08.00am – 17.30 pm Monday to Friday and 09.00am – 15.30 pm on Saturdays.  Again no deliveries or collections allowed on Sundays or bank Holidays unless otherwise agreed in writing by RDC.’

We have requested further information and clarity regarding the Delivery aspect and await a response.

Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to:

Reply from Mr Scrutton (Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC)

“I have asked for our arb. chap to make a visit to the site to check on the situation and I am waiting for feedback.  However, I understand he has actually made at least one visit to the site and confirmed afterwards that more trees were being retained than shown on the approved plan, so I am not anticipating any issues.

As soon as I get a further update I’ll let you know.”

We will monitor this.

Request for ‘no exit/access to construction traffic’ notices at the Thorpe Road end of the unmade road to prevent mistaken exits onto Rectory Road

In place – installed by DWH at our request

Request for residents only parking notice as originally requested by Hawkwell Action Group but not responded to.

Agreed by Highways with the assistance of the County Councillor Tracey Chapman and DWH have agreed to procure and fund but residents are still waiting implementation.

 Excessive noise from tree felling

Activity ceased before this could be investigated

Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

DWH have ‘baited’ but the problem persists.

Burning of waste on site

Being investigated by Environmental Health RDC.

Planning Issue raised by CTFDAG

“DWH went to great lengths to assure us that whilst the site offices would be behind the houses in Thorpe Road and so the sub contractors would use Thorpe Road to access the off road parking facilities around the offices, the plant and delivery lorries would be directed to an entrance in Rectory Road and subsequently Clements Hall Way so as to avoid any such vehicles using Thorpe Road for access, other than in the very initial stages of the development, whilst the site offices, yard and access road were put in place.”

CTFDAG are dealing with this matter themselves and have a meeting with the developer on 12 March.

Please let us know if you are aware of any problems and copy us into your communication with the authorities so that we can see if the issue is a one off situation or a wider issue.

We will help you as much as we can but we can only do so if we are kept informed. If you write to or email anyone about a concern or complaint please copy us in.

Also for your information there are two more planning applications pending for this site from David Wilson Homes.  One, 13/00035/FUL  is to vary condition No 4 to application 12/00381/FUL and the other, 13/00109/FUL is to Demolish Existing Dwelling and Construct Single Storey Part Pitched Roofed Part Flat Roofed Sales Building and Car Parking Area.  Any comments on these please write to Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation but please send a copy to your Ward Councillors.   

Residents opposed to the development have rather pointedly sent us this link http://www.mydavidwilsonhome.co.uk/

We obviously can make no comment.

Planning Problems

February 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

 My in-law's tree farm

The Christmas Tree Farm Development, is now renamed Clements Gate, off Thorpe Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell.

Before the vote in September 2012 on whether to grant planning permission, Ward Councillor John Mason had an Officer read aloud from one of the planning application documents submitted by Barratts/DWH.Two of the items read out related to days and hours of working and construction access as these issues had created the greatest concern and distress to residents. This was done before the Application was voted on.

There was to be no Sunday Working.

Yesterday the 27th February, The Rochford District Council Planning Department wrote to both Ward Councillors, John and Christine Mason as follows;

“Sunday working” “there are no restrictions on hours of working”.

On something else The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group (CTFDAG) allege that they had agreed a different construction access arrangement to those that Councillor Mason had read out by an Officer prior to the vote in September.

We hope that CTFDAG will team up with us and Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) to deal with both matters.

As your District Councillors we are now concerned as to the fate of Thorpe Road and non vehicular movements during closure. We have already
asked County Councillor Tracey Chapman to clarify this.

Finally all the residents at the Rectory Road end of Thorpe Road want is for Barratts to pay for a sign that the residents have permission from ECC to erect. But Rochford District Council wants to check that this permission has been given. A copy of the email from County Councillor Chapman had to be supplied.

 

Part Closure of Thorpe Road, Hawkwell

February 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

It will only be part of the unmade part.

The currently made up part will not be affected by any closure and residents with homes on the unmade part at the Rectory Road end will also be unaffected.

As your District Councillors we were aware that there may well be difficulties and concerns for our community and asked DWH to meet with us.

John and I have met today, 19 February, with Terry Armstrong (DWH) and Rob Ruffy (DWH) to explain the concerns and issues that have been put to us by residents over the past few days in respect of Thorpe Road and the other matters raised since the start on 7 January.

We have been very concerned that the Thorpe Road Closure proposals were not included in the planning application. We only learnt about this last Thursday and immediately protested in the strongest possible terms to the Managing Director.

But we are pleased to be able to advise you that DWH have taken the problems and concerns that their construction is causing seriously and DWH have put forward certain arrangements that will hopefully ease the disruption and perceived potential problems as far as possible.

Whilst DWH have applied to Essex County Council Highways (not Rochford District Council) to ‘stop up’ close the road for six months this is a worse case scenario and DWH do not anticipate needing all that time.  DWH intends to start work on the Thorpe Road access road in April and anticipate this will be closed to vehicle traffic for three months between April and June.  However they have taken on board the problems pedestrians, wheelchair and mobility users, cyclists and horse-riders face with no feasible alternative to Thorpe Road for many.

DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.

DWH are also going to make Essex County Council aware of their intentions so that if possible the retention of the pedestrian and other usage passage can be incorporated into the Decision Notice.  Once the Road surface and drainage is completed, the road will be open to all as before, hopefully by the end on June 2013.

We have also discussed the time span and other aspects that may impact on residents during the building of this large development and made a plea for local labour and trades to be used as much as possible.  Also they are recruiting two apprentices for this site so if you know of any local teenager who may be interested please make sure they are aware of this possibility.

We are unable to give much further detail here but we have requested that DWH confirm their intentions in a Newsletter and DWH has agreed to do this shortly.

If you have any further specific worries or enquiries please let either John or I know so that we can take them forward for you as we are going to have regular meetings to represent local concerns.

 

Christine Mason, District Councillor for Hawkwell West

A Rochford Bypass – Views?

January 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Light trails

The Rochford Independent was sent a copy of an email circulated by the Friends of the Earth (South Essex Branch).

“In conversation with Southend Councillors today I was informed that the town’s (Southend) Conservative Group and others intend to get the Rochford Outer Bypass back on the road building agenda by including the scheme in the Borough’s strategic plan. As you would expect the thought process is very selfish – they want a road that “serves the needs” of people living to the east of Southend with very few junctions for the residents of Rochford, Hockley, Rayleigh, etc. The idea being that Rochford district can have the misery of a new dual carriageway and none of the perceived benefits !”

What is your view?

Contact us by email please.

CllrJohn.Mason@rochford.gov.uk or CllrChristine.Mason@rochford.gov.uk

Hawkwell Neighbourhood Plan – Better Late Than Never?

January 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Casino Chips with houses on top

Christine and I went to a Hawkwell Parish Council Meeting in August 2011 to explain that the findings of the Hawkwell Parish Plan could be taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan (“NP”).

All of this is about more houses for Hawkwell and the views residents made clear in the Survey ” residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt”.

We saw this as an urgent matter because we foresaw that the Core Strategy (“CS”) would have to be revised or reviewed by the District Council because it was going to be late in providing the target required by Government and that it did not comply with the NPPF (” National Planning Policy Framework”) or the Government Policy “Planning for Growth” (means more houses).

We wrote to Hawkwell Parish Council again in March 2012 urging that they got involved in a Neighbourhood Plan quickly because RDC (“Rochford District Council “) had already a Committee Meeting which decided on how the Revised Core Strategy would be taken forward.

We told Hawkwell Parish Council;

“It seems to us that every Option, regardless of which might be chosen, has the risk of additional housing being required in the Core Strategy Location of South Hawkwell which is actually Hawkwell West Ward. Or indeed a new additional Location in Hawkwell Parish?

It occurs to us that your Council, on behalf of the Parish whose views are expressed in the Hawkwell Parish Plan which your Council has adopted, may wish to now formally consider whether there is any significant requirement/need/capacity in sustainability/opportunity for additional housing by producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Whilst it is known and accepted that a Neighbourhood Plan, as provided for by Law in the Localism Bill, could not change the position on the 175 dwellings already in the Core Strategy we believe that with careful thought a Neighbourhood Plan produced now might prevent significant addition.

This could allow any future decision to be directly influenced and formed by the residents of Hawkwell rather than by any other means or other bodies, which would appear to have been the case, in my opinion, to the Core Strategy adopted on 13 December 2011.”

But it was only at Full Council for Hawkwell Parish in January 2013, almost another year later and eighteen months after we had personally been to talk to them, that the Appointment of Councillors to a Neighbourhood Plan Working Group took place.

The Clerk to Hawkwell Parish Council writes “Full Council didn’t initially specify a report back date to the Working Group as the Chairman indicated that the matter is incredibly complex with numerous issues to be taken into consideration. At the Full Council meeting it was reported that a NP can take anything from eighteen months to two years to complete……….”

Is it too late?

Probably because in our view  Rochford District Council will have already decided well within eighteen months to 2 years time.

How do we know?

In July 2012 RDC published a revision of the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) which identified further sites for potential development in Hawkwell. (See our Article)

The SHLAA report was linked to Options to proceed the Inspector’s requirement of initial approval of the CS for a Revision of the Core Strategy to plan, inter alia, for a shortfall of 402 from 2006 to 2011 and to extend the CS from 2025 to 2031 at a probable minimum of 250 per year.

This potentially adds up to an additional 2000 dwellings for the district as a whole if windfalls do not extinguish at least the shortfall of 402 houses.

My question is what effect does the revised SHLAA have on any intention of Hawkwell Parish Council to put in place a Neighbourhood Plan and secondly what is the effect of a Revision of the CS which is already underway by RDC on the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan.

Here is a comment that we obtained from a professional planner;

“A Neighbourhood Plan can allocate sites for development as it wishes, with the SHLAA being a key evidence document to inform that process.”

“In respect of the revision of the CS, the Neighbourhood Plan must seek to be “in general conformity” with the CS.

So the NP cannot be seen as a tool to try and undermine what the adopted CS is trying to do, or what the revised CS is seeking to achieve either.

So with Rochford DC seeking to take forward a revised CS and Hawkwell potentially looking at an NP, it will be important to ensure that the two try – as far as is possible or necessary – to push in the same direction.”

BUT………………….

It is important to recognise that Hawkwell Parish Council has NOT YET DECIDED to produce a Neighbourhood Plan .

The Hawkwell Parish Council says “The Working Group has been set up to consider a Neighbourhood Plan taking into account potential costs, resource requirements, support within the community and outcomes of other Councils who have gone down the NP route, etc.,”

Unfortunately it might now be too late for a Neighbourhood Plan to have the desired benefit for residents.

But could it still be ” better late than never” ? Hawkwell Parish Council has a difficult decision to make.

Our view is that once again any opposition will have to be mounted by your District Councillors and any residents action group that decides to wade in with energy to hold public meetings and leaflet (1800 for just every house in Hawkwell West or over 5000 for the whole of Hawkwell. We do not know whether the existing HAG or CTFDAG will perform this role or whether residents need to set up a new Action Group.

According to the HPPG (Hawkwell Parish Plan Group) residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt.

We believe that no further encroachment on existing Green Belt boundaries should take place. Existing boundaries should be retained and, in determining the number of new houses that are needed in Hawkwell, to take account of the views of the residents of Hawkwell. Residents must not be dictated to by other authorities in isolation and without taking full account of the effects on the local environment, heritage and infrastructure for existing residents.

Please feel free to contact Christine or I if you wish any further clarification. 

 

“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.

Affordable Housing in the new Housing Developments

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

42-15243430

Many residents expressed their concerns about the affordable housing requirements to us during the consultation on the three planning applications (2 refused) submitted by David Wilson Homes.

As your District Councillors we listened to your concerns and within what we could do in the planning process we ensured in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder that the affordable housing, 35% of 176, meaning 62 houses, were not to be provided just in one part of the development but in both parts of the development and spread throughout.

We also had significant input into the design of the houses in the last Pre-Application consultations with the house builder including making sure that the affordable houses had the same design attributes as the larger more expensive houses.

As Rochford District Council’s Core Strategy requires 3,500 new homes to be built before 2025 this will result in 1225 affordable dwellings in the District as a whole we feel that this needs to be managed carefully by all Members of the Council so that all of these homes are built and and gardens provided to the same standard as fully privately owned property to maintain the same high standard of living for all residents.

We recognise that there remain concerns and we have discussed various aspects with the Council Officers already because some residents have recently found it necessary to complain about some existing occupants of social housing in Hawkwell.

We recognise that this is a very sensitive subject but we have a duty as District Councillors to inform all residents.

These answers from Council Officers are our findings regarding Social Housing.

When we have a deficit of housing for residents of our District why would residents from outside of our District receive housing in our District?

The demand for housing, as evidenced through the housing register,is not only from residents of the District but others who have a local connection with the District through past residence, family or employment. (At present Rochford District Council can nominate some allocations (75%) and the Housing Association allocate the rest.)

• Why do we not have 100/nil if favour of Council allocation? Can it be changed? What will be the ratio on the DWH site?

The 75/25 split for nominations is the standard agreement between Councils and Registered Providers (RPs) and is also reflected in the LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary Transfer agreement between Rochford District Council and The Rochford Housing Association). For new build schemes however we would normally try to secure 100% nomination rights for the first lets and accept 75/25 split for subsequent lets.

What is the Council and Rochford Housing Association (RHA) policy on “sensitive lets”? Please define that term and advise the policies.

We do not have a policy as such on sensitive lets and I cannot answer for RHA. If a situation requires a “sensitive let”, when deciding whether to nominate an applicant we will take into consideration a number of factors including age, medical conditions, previous tenancy record (if applicable) and other aspects such as any record of anti social behaviour etc., We will provide RHA (or indeed any other RP) with the relevant information we have but ultimately it would be for them to decide whether to accept the nomination.

How can residents living nearby protect their own interests in respect of anti social behaviour emanating from residents of social housing as compared to private rental and owner occupier tenures.

Where residents incur issues of an anti social behaviour nature from any other residents, whether this be in relation to social housing, private rental or owner occupiers, these issues can be reported to the Council’s Community Safety Team. Or Essex Police in extreme situations. They will then look into the issues raised and endeavour to find a solution to the problem and where the perpetrator is in social housing, the Community Safety Team will work with the Registered Social Landlord to find solutions. With regard to social housing, the residents can if they wish go direct to the Registered Social Landlords. Another source of help is RDC Environmental Health depending on the nature of the complaint. 

Hopefully all new residents will settle into their new homes quickly and enjoy their new local communities.

Please let us know if you wish to comment by contacting your local Councillors,  John Mason at john.mason@bigfoot.com or Councillor Christine Mason at Christine.Mason@Rochfordessex.net.

Will Changes in the Probation Service Benefit Local Voluntary Sector Organisations?

January 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Voluntary sector is easy pickings



Yes, the Question is “
Will Changes in the Probation Service Benefit Local Voluntary Sector Organisations?”

The Coalition Government hope that will be the case.

National comment From the The Guardian, Wednesday 9 January 2013

“The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, is to outline plans for the wholesale outsourcing of the probation service with private companies and voluntary sector organisations to take over the rehabilitation of the majority of offenders by 2015.”

“The public probation service is to be scaled back and “refocused” to specialise in dealing only with the most dangerous and high-risk offenders and public protection cases.”

“The majority of services will be contracted out on a payment-by-result basis.”

“While the public probation service will not be banned outright from bidding for the work, it will be expected to do so only in partnership with the private sector.”

“The current arrangement in London where Serco and the probation service delivers the community payback or unpaid work contract is regarded as the most likely model.”

Local Comment from the Rochford Independent

This seems to me to be a great opportunity for the voluntary sector organisations in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford to consider bidding for the resultant commissioning opportunities next year. These organisations may or may not have any experience of bidding or tendering for public sector outsourcing projects however it represents an excellent opportunity for the existing volunteers providing advice and placements for purely voluntary work, or the increasingly popular unpaid work contract to help CV’s, to increase their own skills and provide their members or subscribing charities and operational voluntary groups with an increased source of human resources to do their work. The additional bonuses will be an income and funding from the public sector contracts that are won and the benefit of community guided rehabilitation to offenders.

I would like to see existing voluntary groups to benefit and provide this service in future rather than big companies moving further into the public sector with lucrative contracts which do not reduce costs. Hopefully the voluntary sector organisations in South East Essex will see this as an opportunity to marry their existing services to something new, adding value and ensuring their existence into the future because of falling grants from other public sector donor organisations.

I would like to see our Local Councils with experience in bidding and procurement giving the voluntary sector organisations help as needed.

To beat the private sector big companies they will all have to start right now negotiating and preparing for alliances otherwise they might lose out.

Problems at Christmas Tree Farm Site?

January 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

On Christmas Tree Farm

Residents have asked us who they should contact if there are problems or breaches of planning conditions during the build/construction phase of the new estate.

We hope that there are none because we took a great deal of trouble to discuss all of the potential big problems we could all forsee and make enforceable conditions with DWH before planning permission was finalised.

Having said that the build will take several years.  DWH say that there will be a Help Line provided to residents.  We have not been informed of the phone number yet.

If you encounter problems then we think that the Council ought to know and take action.  The Planning Case Officer is Mike Stranks and he can be contacted at RDC on 546366 or email mike.stranks@rochford.gov.uk

If you email the Council or Essex County Council or even DWH themselves please copy us in at Cllr John Mason <CllrJohn.Mason@rochford.gov.uk> and Cllr Christine Mason <CllrChristine.Mason@rochford.gov.uk>, although living close to the site ourselves hopefully we might have also already taken action.

 

 

 

 

 

DWH Starts on Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road – Monday 7 January 2013

January 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

My in-law's tree farm

Some Residents have received a Letter – DWH Starts on Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road – Monday 7 January 2013

John

Despair in Hullbridge Against the Imposition of 500 Houses

January 4, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

People learn

Christine and I went to the Hullbridge Community Centre last night, 3 January, to demonstrate our support to the residents of Hullbridge and District Councillors Michael and Diane Hoy (The Green Party). We also wondered if we would find any “magic bullets” in Hullbridge which could be of benefit to nearby Hockley who we are supporting in their objection to the Hockley Area Action Plan otherwise known as the “HAAP”.

Michael presented the position very well to over 100 Hullbridge residents who attended the hastily organised public open meeting. He explained what they could or could not do in the Public Consultation on Hullbridge SER6 in the Allocations Submission document. There were a huge number of questions which Michael answered very well in a very polite and well ordered meeting.

First of all we learnt that some of these houses were actually to be buillt in Rawreth and not Hullbridge. Two of the fields which made up 1/6th of the site were in Rawreth. But will Rawreth be holding a public meeting? How will the residents know?

This is not the first time that the Local Development Framework Sub Committee has allowed misleading information to come forward; our Ward of Hawkwell West constantly being called South Hawkwell in the Core Strategy? Hullbridge also felt that public consultations earlier in the Core Strategy process had not been fairly promoted or communicated within Hullbridge. Was the Statement of Community Involvement fulfilled? They think not. Is the resultant policy for Hullbridge Legal? Or Sound? These are the only valid objections that residents can raise now.

Michael reminded residents about what the Council said constituted a Sound plan.

“Rochford District Council states in its Public Consultation that to be Sound the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development”
.
The conclusion was the same as already reached in Hawkwell and Hockley;

That the Allocations Submission Document is not Sound as the Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts on the Rochford Core Strategy through the Local Transport Plan because the information quoted by Essex County Council has not been published in the Evidence Base. The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites Development Planning Document (DPD) comes from the Core Strategy and that renders the Allocation of Sites DPD Unsound because it, and the strategic development proposed in the Allocations of Sites DPD, is not supported by sustainable evidence from a cumulative traffic assessment for Rochford District.

Residents came up with a whole list of sustainability issues that they would wish to raise in the Public Consultation. Here is a brief list which Michael will no doubt expand upon on his own web site;

http://mikehullbridge.wordpress.com/author/mikehullbridge/

  • sewerage at capacity
  • creates a new community out of cohesion with Hullbridge
  • the development offers youth provision where it is not needed
  • the development offers more A1 Retail where it is not needed
  • access over Malyons will create congestion
  • Watery Lane improvements will be 10’s of £M – economically viable?
  • Flooding issues to be dealt with by major engineering offsite in the Rawreth area creating further development
  • This site is not viable and nor are the alternatives which suffer from the same issues
  • Surface water flooding issues are assessed on insurance claim criteria – not assessed because there are no insurance claims for flooding in green fields
  • Tidal reflux in 3 rivers has effect on flooding – will affect Hockley and other areas upstream

The public was encouraged to tick the box to go to the Public Examination, attend and have their say.

A good meeting which brought the public together to support and inform.

 

 

Revision of the Rochford Core Strategy – How many more in Hawkwell?

January 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Targets - 2

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West?

In Hawkwell West we already have 176 approved which is an increase of over 10% of our housing stock in a relatively small area.

Read on………………..we will explain.

Background

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025.

The Government Planning Inspector required Rochford District Council to undertake a revision or review of the Core Strategy to take into account a shorthfall in target numbers and years together with compliance with Government policy called the The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the housing building policy “Planning for Growth”.

The Core Strategy is the main policy document that provides a future new housing development framework for our area; generally the release of Green Belt for new housing. Rochford District Council had hoped that promises to change Government Policy following the General Election would permit only 190 per year. This did not happen and the total number remained unchanged in the CS with the end date stretched to 2025. I believe that this means that the total number allocated to sites runs out in 2025 against a required extension to 2031. ( 190 x years now 250 x years end 2025 not 2031 as required by Government)

This implies to us the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for in our area at some point.

In July Rochford District Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) forms part of the Council’s evidence base that informs the new Local Development Framework or Core Strategy.

The Core Strategy really means “Government House Building Targets” which have not been withdrawn as promised by the new Conservative Government (whoops sorry, The Coalition Government of Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats).

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on……….we will explain some more

There is also a shortfall of 402 dwellings across the District is mainly due to the recession which resulted in a significant drop in housing completions, and the delay in the adoption of the Core Strategy.

Option A is to address housing shortfall up to 2011 by allowing a nominally higher quantum of development within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy, above that which has been assumed in the SHLAA Review. In other words instead of say 500 on a particular site increase the density to say 550. It is therefore necessary to consider whether there is potential for the quantum of development necessary to meet housing shortfall backlog to be developed within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy.

This would appear to be 5% in the sites put forward in the Allocations Submission Document which is subject to Public Consultation until 25 January 2013.

When I asked questions I obtained the following statement from a The Portfolio Holder ??? Council Member “The sites that are not preferred [in the Allocations Submission Document] will not come forward for further consideration.”

Do we think that that is likely to be true? Otherwise how is the shortfall of 400 plus 1500 making nearly 2000 to be met?

Option B, which we consider the more likely option, is that as the SHLAA simply suggests that any housing shortfall could be addressed through the Review of the Core Strategy, i.e. at point of the review, if the shortfall is X number of dwellings, the Core Strategy review could set out how X number of additional dwellings are to be provided in the District in the future. Would there be further public consultation on this aspect? Yes, hopefully.

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on…………here are the numbers and the possible new sites

In “South Hawkwell” as Rochford District Council repeatedly and confusingly insist on calling Hawkwell West, there are six proposed future sites in the SHLAA.

One of the sites, Potash Garden Centre, does not give the number of homes but it consists of 1.17 hectacres.

The other five sites propose a maximum of 124 new homes.

Four of these sites are in Ironwell Lane with 78 new homes proposed the fifth being land adjacent to The Old Rectory on Rectory Road with 46 new homes proposed.

Ironwell Lane (with 600 houses adjoining it in West Rochford already and given planning permission) seems part of a hidden agenda as on the “West Rochford” page calls for future sites Meadowbrook Farm at the bottom of Ironwell Lane proposes 31 new homes.

And to add to good measure 29-35 are proposed for the AutoPlas site on Main Road, Hawkwell.

Our concerns for unsustainable development in Hawkwell West with permanent loss of Green Belt and lack of identity by coalition are far from over.

It seems very short sighted not to provide a substainable infrastructure framework before allocating any proposed building sites and a further policy for more that just increases the already difficult conditions that we experience.

The loss of Green belt for homes should be a last resort and take account of OUR local housing needs, not national ones to rescue the Economy or those required by our Neighouring Councils in Southend, Castle Point, Basildon, Chelmsford and even Maldon.

The present core strategy has 250 new homes per year up to 2025.

Could we assume the number of new homes in the next core strategy of 2026-2040 will also be 250 per year?

The years up to 2040, “27 years”, are a mere blink in time before it is here along with the new homes/cars.

And will there still be no adequate Highways and other infrastructure?

When you get the chance to make comment on any of The Core Strategy by Public Consultation please say what your concerns are.

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