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Rochford Core Strategy Costs Already at £2.1 Million

August 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

George Osborne in Beijing

£2.1 million of Public money has been poured into R&D costs of Developers which they do not pay for.

You did !!

Surely the Coalition Government should have found some sort of mechanism for this public money to be recouped from the profits made by each developer?

Rochford District Council has spent £2.1m plus over the past 7 years to April 2013 on the Core Strategy.

Within that £350,000 to Consultants.

£1 million came from Council Tax and £1.1 million from Government Grants making £2.1 million overall.

All money paid by you in Taxes.

How do I know? Because as Members of Rochford District Council (independents) Christine and I asked the question on behalf of residents.

If you want to see the full information supplied to us go here.

How do we see things?

  • The Conservative Party promised to reduce the extent or even stop unwelcome development in their manifesto for the 2010 General Election.
  • The National House Building Federation lobbied the new Government over many months and The Chancellor of the Exchequer reversed the manifesto promises by creating a policy for economic recovery based on house building; boom and bust repeated.
  • Localism was promised in 2010 with local communities having a say in development was promised but all it meant was that Conservative controlled Councils would decide instead.
  • The views of local communities calling for a stop were ignored.
  • The reductions proposed by the Conservative Administration of Rochford District Council in mid 2012 were rejected and RDC now has yearly targets based on the Labour Regional Spatial Strategy coupled with a legally obligated Review for more years and more houses to meet the shortfall for adopting the Plan too late and finishing the build profile in the Plan years too early.
  • The Conservative Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, failed to dismantle the Regional Housing Policies (RSS) of the previous Labour Government until January 2013. Too late to matter as the Rochford Core Strategy was Approved by a Government Inspector and Adopted in December 2011 at 250 new houses p.a. rather than the preferred RDC number of 190 p.a.
  • So why has RDC not used the change in the law to revert to 190 p.a.?
  • Surely residents would have expected the Council to have reduced the number of houses in the Allocation of Sites which is in Public Inquiry in September?
  • The Hawkwell West development at The Christmas Tree Farm (Clements Gate) went ahead despite the fact that there has been no formal decision on the site at the Public Inquiry. So the Allocation of Sites could have been pulled until the numbers could have been reduced without opening the District up to the promised free for all from developers building even more houses.
  • Too late for Hall Road (600), Brays Lane (100) and Hawkwell (175) where plans are already passed but a benefit of reduction in Hullbridge and Rayleigh.

Report by the Leader of Rochford District Council

August 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fountain pen tips 3

Every 6 weeks or so the Leader of Rochford District Council at a Full Council Meeting in Rayleigh reads his “Report of the leader on the work of the Executive”. The Executive are all Conservative Councillors who are Cabinet Members.  Only The Cabinet Members can speak at Meetings of The Executive. The Conservatives in their own words “control” the Council.  The latest Leader’s Report was read out on 30 July.

You can read it here.

In our view this Report is  much less about “the work of the Executive” and more about Party Political  Statements.  (Make up your own mind, of course.)

The first paragraph confirms the content of our Press Release.

Paragraph 4, which goes over the page, states “there have been fights between us politically at election time and in the run up to elections………………..

and

“There does appear to be a lot of misinformation being circulated.”

The many emails that I received last week suggest to me that this might have been referring to the challenges being raised against 772 new houses in Rayleigh.

It is a pity that the Leader does not name the organisation that is causing so much angst and confusion.

For the record Rochford District Residents  does not circulate misinformation.

But we have evidence that residents found the election leaflets of other political parties misleading. 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

But a quick look around on other local web sites revealed this today.

Councillor Colin Seagers (Conservative) wrote on the Lib Dem Web Site – Comment 12 ;

“Also to make quite clear, a proposal for 1800 homes in Rayleigh was never supported by RDC Members – it was an initial proposal suggested by RDC Planning Officers that was rejected by the Conservative Member majority, not just Chris Black and the Lib-Dems.”  

This was quickly refuted by the Lib Dems by quoting from a Council Meeting in March 2007.

“The Tories won the vote by 4 to 2. The 4 voting for were Terry Cutmore, Phil Capon, James Cottis and John Pullen. The 2 against were Chris Black and John Mason.”

“So now the council will go out to public consultation on a document that includes 1800 houses for Rayleigh, 1000 for Rochford/Ashingdon and 400 for Hockley/ Hawkwell without giving any reasoning. Let’s see what the public makes of that.”

Cllr Colin Seagers replied:
August 4th, 2013 at 10:08

Cllr John Mason/Rochford ’Independent’??? and Admin/Cllr Ron Oatham?

You may not remember that I attended that Planning Policy SUB-COMMITTEE meeting on 23rd March 2007 as one of the two non-voting Visiting Members choosing to observe, along with Cllr Mrs Heather Glynn.
My recollection is that RDC Planning Policy including that contentious ‘1800’ suggestion had been driven largely by Officer Andrew Meddle right up to that Sub-committee meeting, immediately after which he left RDC to join another authority.
However, since when did a recommendation from a SUB-COMMITTEE totalling just seven Members attending dictate the view of the very large Conservative Majority Group (among 39 RDC Members in all)?
The Sub-committee’s recommendation WAS turned down by the CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY, as previously stated, when the recommendation was subsequently put before them. How else could it have been voted down, since all the opposition parties combined formed but a rather small fraction of the 39 RDC Members in 2006/7. The Officers’ suggestion of 1800 houses to be allocated in Rayleigh was scuppered by the mass of CONSERVATIVES VOTING AGAINST.

@Councillor Colin Seagers from John Mason

To recap I have questioned your following posting on OnlineFOCUS;

“Also to make quite clear, a proposal for 1800 homes in Rayleigh was never supported by RDC Members – it was an initial proposal suggested by RDC Planning Officers that was rejected by the Conservative Member majority, not just Chris Black and the Lib-Dems.”

The 1800 in Rayleigh definitely went to a Public Consultation.

I therefore interrogated the public CMIS System at the Council Web site to find exactly what happened in 2007.

Looking at the two documents below I can see that 1800 for Rayleigh was approved for Public Consultation.

Sub Committee

Committee

Is it correct that the approval for the Consultation was given by 4 Conservative Councillors in Sub Committee and then by 8 Conservative Councillors in Committee?

The Committee included Cllr C G Seagers.

The Rochford Core Strategy Preferred Options (May 2007) was formally known as Regulation 26 Draft.

The document is here;

This was subject to Public Consultation during May, June and July 2007.

At 4.6.10 of the Regulation 26 Draft appears a consultation proposal for 1800 in Rayleigh.

“The Council will set out a policy allocating the total number of housing units to the top (90%) and second tier (10%) settlements, to gain a smaller number of large sites which will deliver the greatest amount of infrastructure improvements.The split (with approximate numbers) will be as follows:”

“HOUSING UNITS
Completions 2001-2006 900
Rochford / Ashingdon 1000
Hockley / Hawkwell 400
Rayleigh 1800
Smaller settlements 500
TOTAL 4600”

OnlineFOCUS on 23 September 2007  published a reference to a Report made to the LDF Sub Committee which, following the review of the Public Consultation conducted in May, June and July 2007, the 1800 in Rayleigh was eventually rejected by the new Sub Committee but having previously been rejected by residents having been through a Public Consultation.

 

 

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” !!

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. 

 

Rochford District Council – Council Tax 2013

January 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Education Government Grants

There have been no public meetings so far so we cannot tell you what Rochford District Council is going to do about Council Tax for 2013.

 

 

However there are two main alternatives:

 

The Council might continue to accept a Grant from Central Government – no increase in Council Tax

Or

The Council might reject Grant from Central Government and increase Council Tax

There are, however, a number of pointers as to what may happen based on the intentions of a majority of Councils as published in the National Press.

Many Councils are set to reject the ‘freeze’ grant, increase Council Tax with probably further cuts to services , and/or price increases to some services

If ANY of this is of concern to you please email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Christine.Mason@rochfordessex.net and tell us why. This will help us represent you.

To explain this in further detail please read on.

Background

For the last two years the Government has provided a grant to local councils in order that there can be a District Council Tax Freeze.

This year this Government Grant reduces so that only a ‘Freeze’ representing 1% increase can be adopted by Rochford District Council. i.e., The existing Council Tax you currently pay plus the Grant = a 1% increase in income for RDC in 2013/2014 without any direct cost or increase to you.

So Rochford District Council could accept the ‘Freeze’ Grant and increase overall income by 1%

Or

Rochford District Council could forgo this Government Grant and reject the ‘Freeze’. In rejecting the Freeze the Council could increase Council Tax by up to 2% without having to hold a Local Referendum. (Any figure in excess of 2% would require a Local Referendum which in itself is a costly exercise and seems unlikely.)

So Rochford would not accept the 1% Government Grant and the whole increase up to 2% would be paid by residents. (It is likely that the increase will be slightly under 2% but certainly over 1% as if 1% was being considered you would expect the Government Grant to be taken up.)

Why would Rochford District Council consider this?

We all know about inflation because with your pay freezes this means that without a rise your pay does not go as far as it did. And if you get a rise one year then the next rise you get is a rise on a rise. With the last two years Council Tax Freezes the Council has lost out on rises on rises that it forecast for the next five years or so. Less money to spend in the future. Just like you. Unfortunately you won’t be getting a pay rise but the Council will if the Council Tax goes up by up to 2% and the Freeze Grant is rejected.

Wouldn’t this annoy the Conservative Government, (sorry the Coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats)?

Yes

(but we could not find the position of Nick Clegg on this) !

Here is some of what has been published in the National Press.

  • Pickles: Freeze council tax – Source: The Times, Page: 14

Eric Pickles [Secretary of State for DCLG, Conservative] is set to warn council leaders that they risk losing next May’s elections if they refuse to freeze council tax. His intervention comes after research found that over half of all local authorities are considering raising council tax next April. A survey of finance officers, carried out by the Local Government Chronicle, found that 55% of the 326 English councils were preparing to raise council tax. Brandon Lewis, the Local Government Minister comments: “When costs are rising elsewhere the public won’t tolerate unnecessary tax increases. In particular, councillors with elections in May can either show they are helping people with the cost of living, or face explaining on the doorsteps why they have snatched money away from hardworking families and pensioners”.

(Rochford District Council has no Elections this May)

  • Tax rises “morally wrong” – Source: The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 The Guardian, Page: 34

The Daily Telegraph reports that Eric Pickles will today warn local authorities that it is “morally” unacceptable to increase council tax next year. More than half of councils are understood to be ready to raise the levy as the Government prepares to announce a slight reduction in their funding. Liverpool City Council said there would be “riots on the street” if council tax was frozen again, as it will lead to more cuts to services. While Birmingham City Council has also indicated that further restraint is not possible. The announcement is set to lead to a “war of words” between Mr Pickles and council chiefs. Meanwhile, Patrick Butler, in the Guardian, discusses how councils will react to the Government’s latest spending cuts. He says that many authorities will have to make cuts to previously protected areas, such as adult social care and children’s social services. He also notes that the late settlement will leave many struggling to stitch together a coherent budget by the end of January.

You might hear from District Councils that the increase is only pennies per week……….BUT this adds up to £’s

  • Families worse off – Source: Financial Times, Page: 3 The Times, Page: 43 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2, 4 The Guardian, Page: 31 The Scotsman, Page: 8

Asda’s Income Tracker has found that families were nearly £50 worse off last month than they were two years ago. Families had £146 a week of discretionary income last month, meaning they were £1 a week better off than a year ago but compared with November 2010, they are £12 a week worse off.

And

  • Elderly walking a financial tightrope – Source: Sunday Express

A study by Age UK has warned that more than 1.2m elderly people could be made bankrupt if they received an unexpected fuel or energy bill of more £200. Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s director general, said: “Many older people are living hand-to-mouth and dreading the day when the cooker breaks down or energy prices rise again.”

WHEREAS

  • Rural communities to feel the strain – Source: Manchester Evening News, Page: 4

Rural communities will bear the brunt of government cuts that will force local councils to slash their services. The warning follows the publication of the government’s finance settlement, which details the amount of central funding given to local authorities. Rural councils will face a bigger reduction in central grant and spending power than urban councils, according to an initial analysis by the Rural Services Network.

  •  Our Community – Source: As published by the local Liberal Democrats

According to the BBC, Rochford District Council is facing a cut of 2.5% in funding.

(http://onlinefocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/budget-cuts.jpg)

So residents of Rochford District might see a rejection of the ‘freeze’ grant, an increase in their personal fixed costs, further cuts to services and price increases for individual services.

We will let you know more about what is proposed for Rochford’s Council Tax 2013 when we are allowed to say but we felt that you ought to know the way the land seems to be lying and give you the chance to comment and make your views known to either us or your own Ward Councillors if you do not live in Hawkwell West.

If ANY of this is of concern to you please email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Christine.Mason@rochfordessex.net and tell us why. This will help us represent you.

Another View – What Could Really Happen to Our Green Belt?

November 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Houses
Photo by bangli 1

The Liberal Democrat Group in Rochford has published an interesting article called “What Could Really Happen In Our Green Belt” at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11420  “OnlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District”.

OnlineFOCUS said that the latest new housing allocation document says these are only minimum figures, the Council may allow more housing if required to meet our Five Year Housing Supply.  The five year supply is a rolling figure (5 X 250 houses per year) that is assessed and the result published annually each December.  OnlineFOCUS concluded that if houses don’t get built in one Preferred Location they may get built in another!

The new ‘maximums’ are substantially higher and create uncertainty and concern for residents.

What we hope will become clear in our Article is that the RDC policy on housing development is multi layered and not as transparent as we would expect to be presented to residents.

But the Lib Dems helpfully published a list of Preferred General Locations and the extra numbers of houses each could get based on the published Maximums.

 – North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of   550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

– South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

The total increase which could be allowed is 1060 which would have alarmed many residents. The percentage increases range in each Preferred Location varies from 122% to 185%.

But I understand from one of our Planning Officers that restrictions were recommended at the LDF Sub Committee.

“The Allocations of Sites document recommends exactly where the Minimum houses will be built. Whilst a higher maximum was proposed for each General Location Members of the LDF Sub-Committee on 30 October recommended to the Council that the Allocations DPD restrict the quantum of development within each of the new residential allocations that are on land currently allocated as Green Belt to the figure specified in the Core Strategy as a maximum, but that this figure could be increased by up to 5% subject to the following criteria:”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings are required to maintain a five year-land supply;”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings to be provided on the site is required to compensate for a shortfall of dwellings that had been projected to be delivered within the settlement.” 

This would appear to be good news as the Maximum is not to be used.

However the question remains then why was there a Maximum in each Preferred General Location?

I will try to explain where we Independents think the Maxima will come into play.  We said earlier that the RDC Policy on housing development was complex and multi layered.

Read on………….This is obviously a sensitive political issue which might upset the peoples’ voting intentions if the implications were to be told in one place at one time.

I will have a go………………….I estimate that I am attempting to summarise the 2000 pages Councillors are expected to read and understand in just 3 ½ pages of A4.

So let us look beyond all that “smoke and mirrors”.

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

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

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

Did anyone else read this?

What was it for?

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March 2012 by the Government requires each local planning authority to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to assess their full housing needs and to establish realistic assumptions about the viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. It also provides some key changes to housing policy, differing from the previous Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).”

“A comprehensive review on the SHLAA is therefore necessary to provide more up-to-date information on the sites previously included in the SHLAA and any new sites that have emerged since the previous assessment. The findings will be used to inform the preparation of Local Development Framework documents.”

Two Options were recommended in order to proceed to identify where any additional houses need could potentially be built.

At the time of adoption of the Core Strategy in December 2011, the shortfall carried forward from 2006-2011 was already 402.

Option A is to allow a greater quantum of development through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

See the OnlineFOCUS list above for where the Preferred General Locations are in our District.

Option B is to make up the historic shortfall of 402 through the review of the Core Strategy. This will be dependent on the nature of the Core Strategy review.  One way to make up this shortfall of 402 – as discussed at the LDF Sub-committee in March – would be through the review of Core Strategy policies for housing 2021-2031 – a review which the Government Inspector’s required as a condition of adoption, given the delays.  The shortfall could then be made up over this period. However, in the March LDF sub-committee Members expressed a preference for a review of the Core Strategy which focussed on Policy H3 – only the Preferred General Locations for Housing post-2021.

In other words rather than look at the area as a whole again the Council will most likely only look at those sites that land owners have already put forward for development and have been assessed already.

It could be, of course, that the 402 shortfall might be cancelled out by small building developments over the period to 2025 or even 2021.

But spare a thought for the following areas which are scheduled for development post 2021.

If this shortfall is not made up these areas that follow will have to take the 402.

 – South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

But if we ONLY needed 1500 more houses from 2025 to 2031 this would still give only 322!!

So Option A would be to allow a greater number of dwellings through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

So expect the other Maxima to be used perhaps;

– North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of 550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

Another 738! Now making only 1060!! 1500 needed. (plus 402?) Oh Dear. But there could well be additional sites in the SHLAA 2012 which could provide additional dwellings.

Where could the1060 actually be built?  I believe that the additional alternative sites not already chosen in the Allocation of Sites or those in the SHLAA would come into play.

Take a good look at these now because if you do not object at the outset there will be NO CHANCE of changing things.

 You might like to think about this when the Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites takes place.

The sites currently rejected might well come back later, if the scenario of Option A  above comes into play, which we believe it might.  If you object to any of them say so now before it is too late.

The dates for the Public Consultation are yet to be agreed by the Council but it will be finalised at a Council Meeting on 27 November.  It is likely to be for 6/8 weeks from mid December.  Watch this web site for details later. 

Other looming pressures on the District might mean that new Laws could compel Rochford District to take on house targets from Southend, Castle Point, Basildon or even Maldon!!

The SHMAA was last reviewed in 2010.  Expect a new one early in 2012.

What is it?

The Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment

The study is likely to tell us how many Affordable Houses we need to provide in our District and being a standard 35% of each new development this might mean we need many more houses just to meet this target for the homeless and population growth and migration to our District.

As Independents we try to tell residents about what is happening about Green Belt and New Housing, warn and suggest what you can do before it might be too late.

Our message is to have your say in the upcoming Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites. 

Comment on all of them not just the one chosen to meet the Minimum in your area but also the Maximum for that site or Preferred General Location which we believe will inevitably be coming later. 

The David Wilson Homes Development in Hawkwell

October 7, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

By Councillor Christine Mason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what HAG has said.

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

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

Rochford Core Strategy – Revisited 2011

July 24, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

The Rochford Independent stopped publishing Articles for a time because we wished to be less of a “publisher” of news and to concentrate on the primary objective of being District Councillors.

Christine was elected in May to also represent the Hawkwell West Ward in the second of the two seats. I have been naturally acting as her mentor and I am pleased to tell you that she is already acting for residents and making efforts to influence change in the District.

But we have come to the point where we have to publish an Open Letter which both explains our current views of the Rochford Core Strategy alongside that of emerging Government policy which we believe will not deliver the promises made at elections.

Here is the Letter.

Dear Editor

The District Council decided at Thursday’s Council meeting on 21 July to ask the Government’s Planning Inspector to Suspend the Public Examination of the Rochford Core Strategy until December 2011.

But before the vote many Councillors showed a direct interest in the views of Rochford District Residents on strategic planning.

Residents across the district have been opposed for years to the housing targets imposed by the Labour Government and were promised big changes by the Conservatives. 

However we think that many residents are unsure as to what the Conservative Party policies are both nationally and locally.

On national policy the Conservative Party promised at the General Election to do away with regionally imposed Government house building targets and replace these with local targets set locally by residents under the philosphy of Localism. 

But the Conservative Government has suffered a remarkable failure to abolish the regional targets inherited from the previous Labour Government.

And then came along in the last Conservative Budget, Planning For Growth which at least one Planning Inspector expects to see now incorporated into strategic planning or core strategies.

“On the final day of the Examination in Public for the Central Lancashire Core Strategy , the planning inspector announced that he is likely to find the Central Lancashire Core Strategy unsound and will be recommending that it be amended to include the adopted RSS housing targets as a minimum. In making that recommendation he had regard to the Government’s growth agenda which recognises the clear link between housing development and economic growth.”
  
In launching the Planning for Growth Directive the Conservative Government also said “Local planning authorities should therefore press ahead without delay in preparing up-to-date development plans, and should use that opportunity to be proactive in driving and supporting the growth that this country needs.”

How strange that a Conservative controlled Council, like Rochford District is asking a Planning Inspector to Suspend decision making on its Core Strategy when the Conservative Government tells them to “press ahead without delay”. 

Even stranger in the light of Conservative Government policy that the Rochford Core Strategy has not been examined as to whether it delivers Planning for Growth.

But the Thames Gateway strategic housing studies quoted at Thursday’s Council meeting generates, according to the Council’s Portfolio Holder, a requirement for over 13,000 new houses!!

It is no suprise that these figures are being rejected by all parties.

The evidence for the local Conservative alternative 3800 new homes over 20 years seems to reside in the almost 1200 people who are on the Council’s Housing Register where if each housing development delivers 30% affordable homes that neatly comes out at 60 per year over 20 years out of a total of 190 per year over 20 years. Certainly one Member quoted that figure to me during the debate.

The risk is that if you project the decision of the Planning Inspector for Central Lancashire then the minimum number of houses for Rochford District may go back to 250 per year (the Labour or RSS target) or 5000 over the same 20 years. And according to a leaked Government documents perhaps by an additional 20% to 6000 !!

But there is an alternative if only the Council would look at its own figures. The Portfolio Holder for Planning stated that our District’s new housing requirement was determined by local needs.

I have an Officer Report of Rochford District Council which sets out our local housing needs for affordable homes which in turn seems to generate the total build figure dictated by the Government (30% of all housing developments must be affordable homes by virtue of Government Policy).

I referred to this report when I was challenged in Council to advise what new housing figure I would wish to see but only two other Councillors had apparently seen this.

The Report headed “Information Re The Approval of the new Allocations Policy” dated 21 June 2011 states;

“Under the new banding system,there will be 593 applicants who it is deemed have no housing need.” 

That leaves by numerical deduction from the total number of applicants on the Council’s housing register that are eligible to be housed at 576.

So RDC has no need to build affordable houses for 593 Applicants only 576 to meet our local needs.  

Bearing in mind that 3800 houses over 20 years seems to relate to the whole housing list of 1200 then because there are only 576 who need homes that seems to suggest just 29 affordable houses need to be built each year for 20 years rather than 60 which is 50% against a total number of houses of 1920 over 20 years rather than 3800.   

Looking at it again for clarity the total over 20 years, based on the 576 being 30%, generates 1920 new houses instead of 3800 proposed by the Council against the previous housing targets of 5000.

So my figure is 1920 based on real housing needs in the Council’s Housing Register whilst the Council still sticks to 3800 based on what we see as incorrect numerical evidence which surely the Inspector for Rochford must reject. 

But in rejecting this must she just replace that with 5000 or 6000 based on the new Government’s policy in replacement for the previous targets? That is what seems to be happening in Central Lancashire. 

No Change………… but Change was promised at the General Election.

With the Council proposing to plough on with figures that will inevitably be rejected our party could not support the waste of time and money that would result in following the recommendation put forward.

The latest Court Case referred to by the Inspector for Rochford says ( her letter dated 2 June 2011);

“”You will be aware of the recent High Court judgement in the Cala Homes case. At paragraph 24 it says “It would be unlawful for a local authority preparing, or a Planning Inspector examining, development plan documents to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies”.””

The words which still ring in my ears are “It would be unlawful for a local authority preparing………..to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies.”

But the Council is continuing to do that and just asking for a Suspension of the Public Examination does not, in our opinion, change this act of continuing to prepare its Core Strategy having regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies, as it evidences from its published Core Strategy Timetables, from being unlawful to lawful.

Personally, seeing that this position remains I do not think that the Inspector should agree to the Suspension because in doing so she would surely be facilitating something contrary to general direction of Court, in having seen the Council’s intention to continue on an unlawful course despite what the Court ruled, “that it is lawful to continue to have regard to the proposal to abolish regional strategies in preparing a Core Strategy.” 

If agreed the Suspension will prevent further input from residents as to their views on emerging Conservative Government Policy as it affects house building and just prepares the ground for the inevitable rejection of the Council’s current proposals by the Planning Inspector on resumption and decision making following suspension.

An Unsound decision will be disastrous for Rochford District.

What the Council needs to do is return to the public as soon as possible with proposals backed by a local housing study that residents will accept and request a Re-Examination.

If the Council does not do this then I fear the ultimate  imposition of 5000 or even 6000 new homes when we may only need 2000 if the Council’s Housing Register figures are correct.

Yours

Councillor John Mason

Could there be a Reduction in House Building Targets in Rochford District

July 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, there could be, but many residents who listened to and read the promises made about over development of the green belt at the General and Local Election in 2010 think that the new Government has stopped all building on green belt.

No that is not the case, far, far from it.

Well the RSS Housing targets have been revoked. What does that mean then?

It could mean this;

-10.9%
East of England Regional Assembly (EERA)
23,900 local authority option one figure
26,830 current RSS figure

[Source http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6508627]

The difference represents an attempt by the now defunct EERA to impose housing targets of 250 dwellings per year in the development time line from 2025 to 2031 which the Council had already rejected !

In other words NO CHANGE ?

Did you expect a reduction immediately in the proposed losses of green belt 2011 to 2015 that feature in the many planning applications that developers have put into Rochford District Council?

Whilst the Council can set its own housing targets it is still heavily constrained by the RSS and the other recent housing studies.

So why might there be no reduction in housing development and loss of green belt?

What are the issues?

The Government has instructed Council’s to place a zero council tax rise in their 2011/2012 Budgets. As the Rochford Independent has already reported this will, in all likelihood, mean a loss of income of £300,000 in the first year and cumulatively £1.5m over 5 years.

The only viable alternative is to cut services or to recoup this over each year of lost cash flow with income from another source.

Hey presto, here is what Eric Pickles will do to plug that gap.

“Imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of building. The coalition agreement makes a clear commitment to providing local authorities with realincentives to build new homes.”

“…..those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions. Because we are committed to housing growth, introducing these incentives will be a priority and we aim to do so early in the spending review period.”

Other issues could revolve around what are referred to as “Option one numbers”.

Eric Pickles says “Authorities may base revised housing targets on the level of provision submitted to the original Regional Spatial Strategy examination (Option 1 targets), supplemented by more recent information as appropriate.”

All local planning authorities were required to project the number of homes they believe are needed to meet their requirements by 2026. Known as Option one numbers, these figures were submitted by local councils themselves to regional development agencies, with both parties negotiating over the number of homes to be included in the regional spatial strategy.

As I understand the position the figures put forward under Option one by RDC, except those for 2025/2031, are those which were in the RSS and are in the Core Strategy anyway.

So no help there perhaps.

And the Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMA) and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAA) for Rochford District could be just put forward as local housing needs assessments which have already been produced and only relatively recently.

But the Council does need to review all of these to ensure that these are really all minimum local housing needs.

Representations to The Planning Inspector examining the Core Strategy by both residents groups and developers are united in saying that much, much more work needs to be done to justify the Locations chosen. Such an irony where the same approach is being deployed by residents and developers to the Core Strategy but with completely different end game objectives if it is thrown out at this point.

At least that could mean that there will be the chance for residents to be to be consulted on the price THEY are prepared to pay in terms of reduced budget at RDC in return for less loss of green belt?

Unless the annual target of 250 dwellings is reduced by the Council then 1250 dwellings will be built between 2011 and 2015. And each 5 years thereafter. It would seem that the only real reduction might only be seen in 2025!!

Where are the outstanding planning application decisions?

  1. Residents of Rochford (326) and Hawkwell (330) wait for Mr. Pickles’ decision on the two Appeals at the end of July/beginning of August.
  2. Ashingdon waits for the Council’s Decision on the Brays Lane Planning Application (150) on 19 August.
  3. Residents of Rochford also wait for the Council’s Decision on the Hall Road Planing Application (600) due in February 2011 under an agreement between the Council and the Applicant (PPA).

It would seem that it has been suggested to residents concerned about the Hall Road planning application that if the Council is minded to approve the outline planning application next February, the release of the greenbelt land that is the subject of this planning application will need the approval of the Secretary of State.

So is it certain that this planning application will be Called In by the Secretary of State and referred to a Government Planning Inspector?

Well No, because it is thought that the Direction made by the Government in April 2009 that many such planning applications must be notified to the Secretary of State for consideration of Call In might, if as thought, the Direction is removed by the New Government then no referral or notification is required.

And, in any event,given the new Government’s policy of localism I think that such applications will not be Called In in future as relatively rare as it was anyway before the General Election.

This might be particularly pertinent if in the Brays Lane application if there is a resolution to grant consent for the development in the Report to the Development Control Committee approved by Shaun Scrutton.

Here is an update from the Planning Inspector’s Office which is administrating the Public Examination on the Rochford Core Strategy which I have obtained from the Council dated 2 July before the announcement of Revocation of the RSS on 6 July.

“Obviously the situation is still very uncertain with regard to policy changes by central government and she thinks it is likely that there will have to be a further hearing on 8 September (the day after the affordable housing hearing) to deal with that.”

“Her latest estimate for the production of her draft report to the Council is around 29 October, with the final report being available around the end of November.”

Rochford Core Strategy Housing Location Hearings

June 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

With all the recent talk and focus on the The Pickles Letter it has been easy to forget that the Public Examinaton of the Rochford Core Strategy is still continuing under the direction of Government Planning Inspector, Miss Laura Graham.  Indeed the Hearing on Housing that was attended by many residents and residents groups was only on 12 May 2010.

During the Hearings many questions were asked and challenges made of the Council.

Miss Graham asked the Council to provide the following additional information by 11 June.

  • Vision
  • Housing location audit trail
  • Record of correspondence between ECC and RDC about the transport infrastructure
  • Missing line from para 3.8 of Topic Paper 1 (Sequential test)
  • Additional text to explain purpose and content of Transport Strategy SPD

Respondents at the Hearings were invited to look at the new information and make any comments available to the Programme Office by 5.00 pm on 28 June.   I have looked at the information on behalf of residents of Hawkwell West and it confirms my contention that the CS is UNSOUND.
Is this important? Yes.  Because if we can now demonstrate that in the Rochford CS that there are substantive objections then, if the Planning Inspector were to agree in her Recommendation due to be made at the end of September, then the CS could not be used to push planning applications through before it is either revised or replaced with a fresh local plan because of the eventual abolition of the RSS.
So pushing for the CS to be declared UNSOUND can be helpful to residents. At least it counteracts the unhelpful opinion provided by the RDC Planning Policy Team Leader who Colonnade Land LLP say in their letter of 16 June that he confirmed at the Coombes Farm Appeal ” that the Council could not resist applications for residential development at the broad locations in the CS”.
But according to the Blyth Case no weight can be attributed to an emerging core strategy in the light of substantive objections.
Here is the submission I sent to Miss Graham today;
 
Date: 26 June 2010

Miss Laura Graham BSc MA MRTPI

Planning Inspector

C/O Programme Office

RDC

 Dear Miss Graham

 I have read the additional information provided by the Council at your request and which was posted on the Council’s Web Site on 12 June 2010.

 I was hoping that this would answer some of the questions, issues and challenges that I raised and you noted on 12 May 2010.

 I am afraid that for my part the additional information does not assist me in that respect. 

 You have invited comments from Respondents who attended the PE Hearings on the additional information you requested from the Council by 17.00 hrs on 28 June 2010. This letter sent by email to your Programme Office at RDC complies with that requirement. 

 I have looked through the Audit Trail and I cannot find a trail to the actual evidence that the Council has undertaken a comprehensive and detailed (in planning terms) comparative assessment of the impact of the CS Locations, in that they are identified for places of housing growth, in terms of the impact on green belt, the effect on the landscape and highways.

 I raised with you on 12 May, at the first day of your Hearing on Housing, my concerns about the lack of a comprehensive assessment in highway impact in terms of ALL of the proposed developments on the entire highway network by cumulative effect.  Neither does the additional information provided by the Council specifically on Transportation provide this necessary evidence.    

 Also of great significance I cannot locate in the Audit Trail a detailed consideration of the impact and harm of ALL the development sites on the Hockley Woods SSSI.

 I also raised with you my opinion of the unsustainability of South Hawkwell in particular and spoke about the consideration of alternative Locations.

 It seems to me having looked through the Audit Trail as a definitive source of additional information to the Public Examination of the CS that there is no actual evidence that the Council has undertaken a detailed objective assessment, in planning terms, of reasonable alternatives to the Locations which have been put forward in the CS. 

 Indeed prior to identifying the Locations to the public at all the Council should have carried out an assessment of reasonable alternative Locations that was conducted in full, in a detailed and objective manner in planning terms and, above all, visibly to the public.

 In my view SOUNDNESS of the CS may have been compromised and that these are substantive objections to the CS and, therefore, it should not be recommended for adoption following the PE as it is UNSOUND.

 Indeed according to the Blyth Case I believe that no weight can be attributed to an emerging core strategy in the light of substantive objections?

 If you not minded to observe that it is UNSOUND then the emerging CS will continue to be presented in planning applications which are premature in terms of PPS3.

 What is of great concern to me is that in a letter of objection dated 16 June 2010 submitted to the Council in respect of the Hall Road Planning Application (10/00234/OUT), Colonnade Land LLP allege that in evidence to the Coombes Farm Appeal that the [RDC] Planning Policy Team Leader confirmed that the Council could not resist applications for residential development at the broad locations in the CS.  

 I would urge you to find this CS UNSOUND and allow the substantive objections to require that the emerging CS is revised by the Council and, in any event, probably replaced by a fresh local plan in accordance with the written intentions of the new Government as put forward by Secretary of State, Eric Pickles in his letter dated 27 May 2010.

 There is a final matter that I wish to draw to your attention.

 There would appear to be gap in the Audit Trail between the LDF Sub Committee Meetings which are referred to on 9 February 2009 and 1 July 2009.  The Reference points are Pages 36 and 37.

 There was a meeting of the  LDF Sub Committee which is not reported upon and for the sake of completeness I am informing you accordingly because it was a significant decision making occasion.

 As a Member of the Council I was invited by an Officer by email only to attend a meeting of the LDF Sub Committee on 1 April 2009 where all Members could attend to discuss the Allocation of Sites.

 It was a meeting where Minutes were NOT published to my knowledge with just Shaun Scrutton attending other than Members.

 It was not summonsed by a Council Agenda or advertised to the public that a meeting was to be held by the LDF Sub Committee on the Allocation of Sites.

  This part of the CS process should have been made visible to the public with a record of the explanations for the basis of the assessment undertaken and the detailed planning reasons for promotion or rejection of sites disclosed when the Allocations of Sites DPD was put to public consultation in March 2010.

 There were some reasons given in the Allocation of Sites DPD but the quality of these is very poor in my opinion and I have concern that the Council has not undertaken a comprehensive and detailed (in planning terms) comparative assessment of all of the sites promoted and rejected by the Council.

 Sincerely

Councillor John Mason BSc FLS ACIB

What local councils could do to stop an existing or emerging Core Strategy

June 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council says in its Press Release that it has to continue to proceed with its Core Strategy (CS) because although the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has announced the new Government’s intention to abolish the Regional Housing Targets (RSS) it has not passed legislation.

It has been said by other planners that Section 79 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 sets out the Secretary of State’s reserve power to revoke a regional strategy where the Secretary of State thinks it, necessary or, expedient to do so.

So if the Council wishes to deliver the promise of reduced housing development, especially on green belt, then why does it not lobby Eric Pickles, David Cameron and Nick Clegg for the use of Section 79?

Until the existing emerging Core Strategy is officially placed under revision those areas with large housing developments currently scheduled in the first 5 Years are, in my opinion, vulnerable to new, existing and revised planning applications on dismissal of appeals which none of us want in green belt.

These areas are as follows; (from the Core Strategy Submission Document)

West Rochford 450
West Hockley 50
South Hawkwell 175
East Ashingdon 100

There is already a planning application for 600 dwellings at Hall Road and one for 150 in the vicinity of Brays Lane, Ashingdon under ref 10/00374/OUT which will be approved or refused by the Council on 19 August 2010.  The DWH Appeal in Hawkwell for 330 could still be Dismissed but a new planning application for 175 submitted very quickly.

But the Council might consider in strategic policy that even if the RSS is abolished by force of law that it cannot produce an assessment of local housing needs per se or sufficiently quickly so as to re-denominate the 5 Year Supply of developable land thus leaving a planning policy vacuum. Under these fragile circumstances The Council might have little choice but to stick with the higher targets of the RSS as the only fallback that the Council has if it is avoid a deluge of planning applications and/or appeals with the associated high cost regime.
 
Indeed if you look at the structure of the CS it is really hard to see how it could reduce the emphasis on the development of green belt immediately as encouraged by Conservative Party policy which is now emerging as new Government policy.  It is not possible to bring forward development of brown field sites because these need to be vacated first !!
 
There would appear to be concern in the Council about how to conduct a local housing assessment because it has never done it before and in its Press Release dated 17 June the Council admits to be waiting for further guidance from Government. This is disappointing because I would have hoped that the Council would see this as a challenge and embark very quickly to adopting suitable methodology. 
 
There is talk in the Council that it seems to hope that the Government will require Essex County Council to be setting housing targets again when actually a radical re-assessment of local housing needs is required by our most local planning authority (LPA) as enabled by radical political change supported by local voters.  

An alternative might be to create a local housing assessment consortium with Council neighbours Chelmsford, Castle Point and Southend. A sort of sub regional housing target to replace the RSS when abolished.

If you live in Rochford, Hawkwell or Ashingdon then you might wish to ask your Council to lobby for Eric Pickles to use Section 79 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 sets out the Secretary of State’s reserve power to revoke a regional strategy where the Secretary of State thinks it, necessary or, expedient to do so.

And in readiness for legislation create a local housing assessment consortium with Council neighbours Chelmsford, Castle Point and Southend. A sort of sub regional housing target to replace the RSS. ON that basis the Council might be able to not just resist some planning applications but the ones that residents voted in the General Election and Local Elections that it did not want.

You might wish to read a more detailed review of the Implications of the Pickles Letter for the Rochford District Core Strategy which might be helpful to those people who have been asked by the Planning Inspector (letter here)conducting the Public Examination of the Rochford Core Strategy to comment further.

Eric Pickles’ Letter

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Having taken advice on behalf of concerned residents………..

“Ministerial proposals do not have legal force until the necessary legislative provisions have been enacted, the statement and the weight to be attached to it as a material planning consideration have to be viewed in this context.”

Sent to all Chief Planners on 27 May 2010 by The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

I am writing to you today to highlight our commitment in the coalition agreements where we very clearly set out our intention to rapidly abolish Regional Strategies and return decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. Consequently, decisions on housing supply (including the provision of travellers sites) will rest with Local Planning Authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.

I will make a formal announcement on this matter soon. However, I expect Local Planning Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to have regard to this letter as a material planning consideration in any decisions they are currently taking.

Read on here………http://www.plan-it-law.com/

Plan-it Law is written by planning lawyers from Mills & Reeve LLP. Our team is (mostly) based in Cambridge, England. We write about the latest legal and policy developments relating to planning.

Extracted nuggets from that web site…….

“……it is clear that RSS will be revoked as soon as possible, presumably meaning the Secretary of State will use powers under s 10 of  the 2004 Act to achieve this.”

“The abolition of RSS will feature in the Decentralisation and Localism Bill but, meanwhile, Eric Pickles has written to all local planning authorities confirming the proposals for RSS and making it clear that this committment to abolish should now be regarded as a material consideration in any current application. The same letter appears on the PINS website (click here for the link).”

“So it is clearly intended that local planning authorities (and Inspectors) should feel able to disregard RSS in current determinations. Given that RSS will continue to be part of the development plan until abolished, and that local development plan documents might give effect to RSS in any event, it will be interesting to see which decisions come through which fly in the face of the development plan citing this letter as material.”

Pickles makes a first move on The Core Strategy

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I have asked RDC for a legal opinion on the following letter.

What legal status does this letter have to determine a course of action by a Planning Authority? 

Or is it only an informative?

Sent to all Chief Planners on 27 May 2010 by The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

I am writing to you today to highlight our commitment in the coalition agreements where we very clearly set out our intention to rapidly abolish Regional Strategies and return decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. Consequently, decisions on housing supply (including the provision of travellers sites) will rest with Local Planning Authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.

I will make a formal announcement on this matter soon. However, I expect Local Planning Authorities and the Planning Inspectorate to have regard to this letter as a material planning consideration in any decisions they are currently taking.

PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS BELOW from The Planning Officers Society

The Planning Officers Society (POS) has criticised the letter. President David Hackforth expressed “Great disappointment that the government has taken this step without proper transition and with no provision for strategic planning.”

John Silvester, spokesperson for the Society added: “In determining planning applications until such time as extant RSSs are formally expunged from the record then they stand as prevailing policy. Furthermore, the evidence  on which they are based remains valid and ought to be taken into consideration.”

The view of The Rochford Independent is that developers will be seeking a Judicial Review on any Decision on Appeal made by the Secretary of State until the Bill goes through Parliament. 

The Secretary of State might consider making this Law instead by a PPS or PPG but again expect legal challenges until a Bill is made in Parliament.

So when is the Bill on Decentralisation and Local Government going to be tabled?  Which Parliamentary Year and Session?

FURTHER COMMENT FROM THE PLANNING BLOG

http://planningblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/opinion-rapid-regional-strategy-repeal-risks-recovery/

Conservative Party Green Paper on Planning

February 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

In an effort to be first with an informed review of the latest NEWS in planning , I am publishing my immediate reaction to the new Conservative, shadow policy, on Planning.  It was published just this afternoon, 22/2. It was an interesting read of just 20 or so pages.  (That’s quite good in itself actually.) 

I think that many residents in Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Rochford and Stambridge were hoping that the Conservative Party nationally would be the “white knight” which would promise to save their green belt if only they returned a Conservative Government.  May be…. may be not…. do read on.

Whilst the Conservative Party Green Paper, will undoubtedly encourage many residents to hope that this will be outcome for their cherished area the policy actually has the clear objective of increasing the delivery of housing and other development.

There are financial incentives for Councils and this was expected. Why? Read on. 

Councils will be legally enabled to revise Core Strategies but with national Conservative Policy, then in the capacity of a  “New” Government, Councils might find it difficult to deliver cuts in housing targets which have significance for delivering tax revenues to meet tough national debt repayments !!

With the promised abolition of regional housing targets while simultaneously shifting control to the local level, this is formidable challenge in terms of delivery. To avoid the electorate drawing cynical conclusions too early will be another hard trick to pull off.   

But there is a presumption that a planning application will be approved if it conforms to a new, simpler and rationalised, national planning policy framework and the development is,……….. err, sustainable.

Nothing new here. Just like PPS3 and PPS12. 

How do you actually define “sustainable”? It is very difficult because there can be no numeric criteria.  It is a judgement, currently without even a tick list of criteria which need to be met being provided by anyone.

Residents are trying to get across their judgement on this in Hawkwell West at the moment in the DWH Appeal and to the Council itself who both want housing estates of 330 or 175 dwellings respectively.  Some residents have even decided to “club together” and hire a planning expert and a barrister. To the extent that it has come to this sorry state of affairs, planning is crying out for reform.

So sustainability will be a double edged sword giving loopholes on one side or rigidity on the other depending on how Councils wish to play in a specific site situation that is not as clear cut as others. Could that mechanism give local councils a particularly wide discretion on making what decision they like ? …..err…yes, sure…. and if rules on appeals were to be curtailed then these decisions will “stick”. 

The provision of affordable housing becomes a local decision unless the applicant is a local housing trust and then approval is almost presumed. And there is a financial incentive for a Council to approve affordable housing.

The notion of developers having the legal right to almost negotiate (?) local consent with neighbours ahead of a even a planning application is novel but fraught with danger as locals could be split in personal or collective negotiations and misunderstood promises.  Under this model residents will want to make sure that they vote for a council candidate who actually, really, does live in their Ward and that they have the skills to help make this difficult scheme deliverable and justifiable to all residents. And with Parish Councils getting involved as a party to be negotiated with who is on the Parish Council suddenly becomes something that might really matter.   

The prospect of residents being able to appeal decisions is ground breaking but I cannot see that surviving the protest of developer federations.  Can you? 

If the reforms go through it will not be a day when residents can take their eye off the ball for one second !!   But with the return to localism where the Local Plan returns supreme with locally assessed housing targets, residents must make sure that their voices are heard even louder !! And a harder deal  for political party councillors to sell or justify.  Up to then it will have been too easy to blame the other party !!  

To read the whole paper go here….http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/02/~/media/Files/Green%20Papers/planning-green-paper.ashx

Public Cash Spent on Hotels

June 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

ホテル HotelIn the Echo on Monday, Terry Cutmore, Conservative Leader of Rochford District Council said “there is nothing wrong with the council’s practices.  The whole council is involved – not just the Conservative Members”

RDC spent £4000 including £1395 spent at the Western Ivy hotel and restaurant in Margaretting.

Whilst these are working away days for all Members, I have always declined to go because the Council already has adequate premises and I see no reason to waste council tax.

So it is not true, The Rochford Independent, aka Councillor John Mason, is not involved but FOR THE PUBLIC RECORD, Conservative and Lib Dem Members are.

 

 

No More Info on Housing Allocations likely before Local Elections

February 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

I believe that one of my roles as a District Councillor is to communicate as often as I can so that residents are informed.

Sometimes you have to ask some questions about upcoming issues.

The Rochford Lib Dems suggest that two LDF subcommittee meetings for April have been cancelled by the Conservative Group. 

But my enquiries show that there are still two dates in April set aside for LDF subcommittee meetings.  If the meetings were to be cancelled and the agendas had not already been published then information in the form of the strategic sustainability review will be exempt information provided in confidence by the consultant. It is information that will inform a report intended to be published at a future date and is therefore not available under Freedom of Information legislation or the additional rights of access available to a Member.
 
In addition the position might well be affected by election purdah period which this year runs from around 20 March. My enquiries reveal that the following case is might have a bearing on whether the meetings go ahead anyway.

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/bulletins/Planning-Resource-Daily-Bulletin/News/775859/Election-planning-decision-ruled-unlawful/

The view now seems to be that whilst originally purdah related to publicity for individuals or political parties before an election it may be that Councils can do nothing controversial or politically overt in the purdah period.

So it seems that there will be no more information on housing allocations until May.

Rayleigh Homes – No Change Says Tory Leader

February 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

From the Echo – 8 February

Rayleigh homes row

LIB Dems on Rochford District Council have been accused of scaremongering by suggesting 1,800 new homes could still be forced on Rayleigh.

The Lib Dem Focus website, run by group leader Chris Black, is claiming ruling Tories may revise the current suggested figure for the number of homes the town must take to meet Government housing demands.

The website says: “It’s possible officers might suggest a variation of the 740 figure for Rayleigh. “The Conservative group could backtrack. After all, there’s been no council vote on their figures, just a publicly stated proposal. “Once the elections are over, the Tories will have some new members, replacing old ones. They might well have a new leader.”

However, council leader Terry Cutmore said: “As far as I am concerned, the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by the Conservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.

“Obviously, there is still a long way to go and there is going to be more consultation starting after the elections, after all the representations have been studied and sites identified.

“Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.” 

The Rochford Independent Comments:

There are some intriguing  political positions emerging in the public debate over new homes in Rochford District and where they should be built.

Hawkwell Parish Council contacts the Echo and suggests 2,200 new homes should be built in a new town in West Rayleigh. The announcement was made by former Lib Dem District Councillor, Vic Leach supported by former Labour District Councillor Myra Weir.

Just before Christmas I had a private conversation with an Executive Member of Rochford District Council whose view was very similar to that put forward by Hawkwell Parish Council.

But the Tory Leader, coming up for personal re-election in May, now accuses the Lib Dems of scaremongering but makes some reassuring noises to Rayleigh.

But some of the things he has said have either been misreported or, if they are pukker, then I am afraid they are too cryptic  for me.

What does the construction around “finally” mean in “Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.”?

And the words “As far as I am concerned” could mean that the party whip is in because whatever he says the rest must follow or that it is purely a personal view?

In the full context the quote reads “As far as I am concerned the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by theConservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.”

One thing I do know is that neither of the two main political parties on Rochford District Council have come up with a thought out and formally presented strategic plan for the District. The Tories have the responsibility as majority party to come up with a proper plan; Fair Shares for All is a political fudge and it does not do any justice to the accountability for proper planning.The Lib Dems have no strategic plan for the District either but with the party only having seats in Rayleigh you can at least understand their policy of just seeing reductions in Rayleigh and the expedience of a plan that is Fair Shares for All. It is going to be a complete mess with blotches of houses here and there based on a piecemeal assessment of the individual sites that have already been put forward with no joined up thinking or rhyme or reason for the future.

In the forthcoming consultations in June the public should demand to see what the strategic planners do recommend (even though the Councillors may reject the proposals) because whatever the professionals say it will make much more sense than Fair Shares for All which is no strategy just a political expedient.

Allocation of new homes in Rochford District

January 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford Independent has seen the article by Geoff Percival in the Echo.

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.1992104.0.0.php

I would invite you to read this if you have not seen it. 

I am an independent district councillor for Hawkwell West and I have been campaigning with residents against the housing allocation for some months now. The support from Hawkwell Parish Council is welcomed.

If an additional 365 homes were to be built in Hawkwell then the road infrastructure in Hawkwell would have to be improved to cope with the number of additional cars per household multiplied by the number of average car movements per day. In addition there are many more homes to be built in Rochford District where car movements could cause those people to travel through Hawkwell on the feeder routes to the “A” Roads.  That number of additional vehicle movements would run into thousands.  If the road infrastructure were “improved” in Hawkwell to cope with that then I could forsee additional roads being built to bypass existing bottlenecks causing the loss of green space in itself together with the cost of road widening schemes.  That would make a Hawkwell a place that I would not like to see.  It would be unacceptable.  So nobody should be suggesting that Hawkwell could have the 365 homes if the infrastructure is improved.  I don’t want to the developers and the planners challenged into going ahead and making the bid for big infrastructure changes for Hawkwell in the decision process.

The report from the strategic sustainability review will be available shortly at the District Council and I have been personally invited by the Chair of the sub committee to attend.  It is premature to try and guess the recommendations but it is up to Councillors to consider what sort of policy makes sense and what doesn’t.  (Let’s hope that the strategic planners don’t now come up with a plan that will improve the infrastructure in Hawkwell.  That would ruin the environment may times over the actual impact of the allocation of the houses.) 

My proposal on behalf of the residents of Hawkwell is to say “NO” to the additional 365 homes and “NO” to any enabling infrastructure. I would appreciate the views of residents on this through our Contact Page. 

But the housing allocation for Rochford District must be formally planned for and it makes more sense strategically to put this allocation wherever the infrastructure is already and not where building new infrastructure would be an even bigger blight on the District.

As for a new “town” out to the East, in association with a Southend/Rochford Relief Road or By Pass, I understand that the sustainability figure for developers to provide that major road would have to be in the region of 12,000 additional houses in Rochford District which is many times higher than the proposed allocation. So the most likely place is in the West.  

The professional approach to strategic sustainability planning is about an objective analysis and assessment based on data and information.  It does not start with a notion of “Fair Shares For All” nor does it end with it and it does not appear in the middle either.

My view is that the abrupt decision made by the Rochford District Conservative Group to significantly reduce the number of new homes that the District Council might propose to be allocated in Rayleigh was an expedient decision to quell the internal concerns of the Tory Rayleigh Councillors who were being tormented by the Rochford Liberal Democrats. And there was the real prospect of a loss of Tory seats.  But will the next public consultation on the Local Development Framework be before or after the May Local Elections?  I can’t answer that but one can speculate.

Getting back to strategic sustainability planning. Let’s face it any new big enabling infrastructure is going to be very expensive.  It takes a lot of new houses to pay for what is necessary.  So I expect that the professional study will recommend building any lower level infrastructure on the existing higher level infrastructure.

A major build of infrastructure in the East is only really sustainable at 12,000 new homes.  So the probability comes back to the West, around Rayleigh. There is no point in “improving” the low level infrastructure to enable 300 houses here and 500 houses there to be built when the traffic they generate will run into a bottleneck just round the corner. My view is that the “Fair Shares For All” approach to the allocation of new homes will be recognised very soon as a political expedient and some serious planning analysis, tied to sane economics, will show the only way that makes every sense STRATEGICALLY is to develop the West with around 2,500 new homes. 

It’s Half Time on The NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council

October 25, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

We looked at the NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council about six months ago.

http://www.rochfordessex.com/rol/a-politico-blog-on-the-rdc-new-structure/

Here is the evidence that it does not work

At the Cabinet Meetings no one else can speak, not even the Ordinary Councillors that you elected to represent YOU, and you can’t even hear what was agreed.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=867 Grange Community Centre : Liberal Democrats : Uh Oh, Looks Like Chris Misunderstood.

Heaven forbid if the nine super councillors in the Cabinet get executive powers over budget and personal decision making in 2009 !!

The gang of 5 Liberal Democrats have now been reduced to having to table written questions in order that Ward Councillors are consulted.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=873 Liberal Democrats: Our Questions To Council.

And there will only be “potted” answers from Cabinet Members – but no debate of course.

But

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=874 Grange Community Centre Liberal Democrats Call In DEcision made at the Cabinet last week.

Proposals for new housing, which were only consulted upon in May and June 2007, are subjected to material change in Conservative Party Meetings held in Private and then announced to the public by a letter to the Echo.  No explanations for the changes, except to respond to political pressure from the Lib Dems in Rayleigh, and when the public come to the new Community Forums, they are denied answers and discussion.

Verdict from the Public

Residents in Hawkwell, who got no answers at the RDC Area Committee, call their own public meeting to find out about the proposals about 365 new houses proposed for their area. They decide to form an Action Group to fight the Conservative Council.

Residents in Hullbridge who wanted the same answers at the next RDC Area Committee decide to walk out in disgust having told the Chairman that no one will turn up next time !!

The Council’s Review Committee, who are reporting on the NEW Political Structure, need to talk to the public not other Tory Councillors who have done nothing to date to stop this farce.

 

 

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