Are there going to be Major Housing Developments in the East of Rochford and Southend?

November 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments 

If you need any evidence of how quickly things change in politics look no further than Southend Borough Council.

On 28 October in the Echo, Anna Waite, Planning Supremo at Southend Council on the possibility of NEW plans to build 10,000 new homes in the next 20 years on land at Fossetts Farm and Bournes Green, Southend said:

“This scheme is ill-conceived, unsustainable and very undesirable.

“I believe we should be protecting the green belt from housing developments and farming our agricultural land to sustain the population.

“I shall be opposing this proposal, which I strongly believe the residents of east Southend do not want.”   

And yet just a week later, 6 November, again in the Echo, she said: “We would be looking at a new road running from the area of the Tesco roundabout on the A127 to Eastwoodbury Lane in the area of the Smallholdings.  “The council would expect this part of any new road to be funded by the airport and we would only be looking at funding a small road, from the Smallholdings to Warners Bridge, with access to the airport.”

“The next phase of the scheme would extend the road from Warners Bridge to Fossetts Farm and finally as far as Shoebury.”

The Rochford Independent understands from a conversation with a Southend Borough Councillor that the Southend Cabinet may have approved both legs of the new road.

And the spectre of a full outer relief road through Rochford District’s green belt is not being considered. 

But will the traffic not just feed direct into the beleaguered A127? 

So a proposed development in the Fossetts Farm and Bournes Green area, spilling over into Rochford District now seems to be on again despite the initial adverse reaction of Anna Waite. Perhaps she had no where else to go to meet the EERA allocation of 10,000 new houses in Southend? 

But Rochford District Council is firmly against with Keith Hudson, Council Cabinet Member at Rochford for Planning saying that he was fighting this at a public meeting on 13 November in Hawkwell.

Indeed in the Echo on 28 October Keith Hudson was reported in the Echo as that he agreed the proposal was totally unacceptable.

So we have Southend now moving forward with the possibility of a development on land at Fossetts Farm and Bournes Green and Rochford District Council against and the developer having made application to the EERA (East of England Regional Assembly).

How will the story end?  We don’t know but the EERA and Go-East (Government Office) could conceivably step into Rochford’s Core Strategy and either add these on to the 3500 houses that Rochford already propose on Green Belt or could the 3500 be replaced with development in the East of Rochford instead?

How does Rochford District Council reconcile its likely wish to approve an expansion of Southend Airport under the JAAP with trying to stop a big development in the East of the Rochford District? Could it be said that a new road approved under the JAAP to link Warners Bridge to the A127 at Tesco’s might by a further extension paid for by a developer facilitate a major development in Rochford that it does not want?

Strangely none of this is discussed in terms of Options in Rochford District Council’s Core Strategy which is in public consultation until 17 December.

Certainly Southend cannot expand in the East unless Rochford agrees. Publicly Rochford is against. And are there frustrated regional planners waiting in the wings to act?

Does Rochford think that just saying “No” without a reasoned planning case is going to be enough?

The loss of green belt argument goes a bit soft when Rochford is already planning to build on green belt in a series of scattered locations for 3500 new houses across the Rochford District already in its Rochford Core Strategy – Preferred Options public consultation.

And the Council already agrees that it will not get the infrastructure improvements it needs to make such a level of development sustainable.  Keith Hudson said in Hawkwell of the Council’s existing Core Strategy “that a billion pounds is needed to put right our poor infrastructure”.  Council Leader Terry Cutmore had already said in Council when the Core Strategy was presented that he feared that Rochford would not get the infrastructure improvements it needed for the plan put forward by the Council.

The Rochford Independent thought that Rochford District Council had promised two major strategic options in its next consultation on new housing……….so what happened to the second one then?  

And would that secure the infrastructure that is needed to sustain development in Southend and Rochford as an alternative?

There needs to be a joint professional spatial planning analysis with RDC working with Southend Borough Council of that option conducted, just like the JAAP for the Soutend Airport Expansion proposal, and then more public debate and consultation in both Rochford and Southend.