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NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW THREATS TO THE GREEN BELT OF ROCHFORD DISTRICT

Rochford District Council is holding a number of community engagement workshops this summer to give local people a say on planning matters. These will be interactive events and a chance for residents, businesses and the local parish council to feed information into the Local Plan process. The new Local Plan is a document which will set the strategy for future development of the District beyond 2025 (which is when the current plan finishes).The workshops will include a ‘walkabout’ in the villages in order to identify the needs of the community, local issues and opportunities for growth and development.

The Canewdon and Rochford workshops have already been held but parish councils in Hockley, Hawkwell and Hullbridge are already in discussion with RDC on dates. I believe that Rayleigh Town Council is also likely to participate.

Just a few days after the Local Elections, 5 May 2016, a very influential document (SHMA – Strategic Housing Market Assessment) was published by consultants on 10 May concerning the number of houses which were needed in our District based on Government assessment rules looking at trends and forecasts on such issues as affordable housing need, population demographics, the housing market and local economics. The housing needs forecasts do not take into account availability of brown field sites, loss of green belt and infrastructure/environment.

I have carried out this review personally with no additional input from Rochford District Council and I think that residents need to be given information now (transparency) notwithstanding the fact that there is still a long way to go.

The Core Strategy approved in December 2011 required Rochford District Council to deliver 250 houses per annum up to 2025.  Because it ended earlier than the Government required, which was 2031,  The Government Planning Inspector required there to be an early Revision of the Core Strategy.  The Council has just started to assemble evidence of which the SHMA is part.

So a new housing target?

Yes.

312 pa min and 392 pa max but consultants recommend the upper end.

Many residents have observed that Rochford District Council has been very good at meeting Government targets and its requirements for house building taking very little notice of the views and concerns of residents from consultations. (Rayleigh and Hullbridge have been prominent in the Echo, social media and blogs but other areas in the District as well have had Action Groups) and unlike Castle Point,  RDC seems to have very little regard so far for the constraint of green belt.  Equally Essex County Council has not raised any systematic issues of the impact of this level of house building on highway constraints but have been content to tinker with junction improvements on a piece meal basis application by application post  the Allocations DPD.

So if constraints on this figure are not forthcoming what COULD this mean?

The 392 is to start retrospectively in 2014. So there is an addition of 142 in the number of houses required for the plan period 2014 to 2025 from the agreed 250 over 12 years.

So that is 1704 more to add to the planned 2785.

The Council needs to extend the 2011 Plan from 2025 to 2031.  That means 6 years at 392 which is an additional 2352.

Over 2011 to 2031 that is an additional 4056 over the planned 2785 in the Plan to 2025.

That makes a total of 6841 over 2011 to 2031 which is an increase of 4056 by this new housing target (1704 plus 2352 as calculated above).

At the Council’s policy rate of a minimum of 30 houses per hectare this implies the release of another 135.2 hectares of green belt.

I am telling you this so that residents and residents action groups who attend the local workshops have an informed view and afterwards can prepare to form or recall local Action Groups to raise material planning considerations as to why the loss of green belt and infrastructure are constraints and the unconstrained new target is not supportable.

 

John Mason

Rochford District Residents

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?  Can YOU assist your neighbours to find the right route to resolve a problem? If so Rochford District Residents needs YOU.

Rochford District Residents is a local political party that has its roots in Residents Associations.  Run and administered by John and Christine Mason who represent their Ward – Hawkwell West – on Rochford District Council the aims are simple:  To achieve the best possible results for the residents they represent in local matters.

Many national political parties, but not all,  set their policies focused on Parliament and Parliamentary seats and these are cascaded down from the top to the local political groups. Rochford District Council (RDC) seats come under two different Parliamentary Constituencies and the Leader of the RDC group ensures that both National and Local (Conservative) Policies are adhered to by use of the Whip. (Nothing to do with black leather (!!) but to do with ensuring that members of that group vote as instructed by the Leader of the Council.)

Rochford District Residents  are unlike national political parties as there is NO whip nor will there ever be.  We believe that everyone has a view that they are entitled to put forward and after a debate a vote should be taken on the merits of the points raised, discussed and debated.

Unfortunately at present the local administration have a different policy, their whip ensures that their Councillors vote in line with the party instructions regardless of whether it is right or wrong for your area.  The craziness of this was demonstrated by the recent Conservative led hike in car parking charges when 10 Conservative councillors disobeyed the Whip and abstained.  Yes, abstained because they were ‘not allowed’ to vote against the Conservative Policy.  Had they had the courage of their convictions and voted against the rise we would not be facing this increase, which is yet to be implemented. (Delayed from the beginning of April.)  These ten became nine etc and only one of the original ten has had the courage to continue to reject the Whip, becoming an Independent Conservative .

We are not anti- conservative, or anti-labour or anti-liberal for that matter.  We just believe that local people should have an independent  voice in local issues.  In many ways we are Independents under a Heading to allow voters to identify with us and our aims.  We had hoped that the much publicized Localism Act would create more democracy at a local level but unfortunately this has not been the case. Nor will it – ever.

Next May thirteen RDC seats are up for election, one in each of Ashingdon and Canewdon, Barling and Sutton, Foulness and Great Wakering, Hawkwell North, Hawkwell South, Hawkwell West, Rochford, Hullbridge, Hockley Central, Grange, Lodge, Sweyne Park, Downhall and Rawreth (Rayleigh Wards).

Christine will be standing in Hawkwell West seeking re-election.

Would you like to join her and stand in one of the other wards?

Even if you do not wish to use our heading of Rochford District Residents and wish to stand as an ‘Independent’ we are more than willing to help and advise you on the complexities of seeking election and representing your area and your views.

It may seem a long way till May 2015 but we feel it is best to get to know your potential ward well in advance of an election which enables you to go to the electorate with a track record and a clear understanding of the commitment you may be making.

Contact John or Christine on john.mason@bigfoot.com

Strategic Planning at Castle Point in a Spin

September 29, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Council fears for a concrete jungle futureCouncillors are saying “We do not want Castle Point to be turned into a concrete jungle, but don’t know how to stop it !!”

“The Government wants to see more development in South Essex and has got us over a barrel.”

What do outsiders think?

It seems surprising that Castle Point Councillors have chosen to question the Conservative led Government especially when the Council has a Conservative Administration.

One wonders what they expect to achieve because most District Councils are managing to avoid a clash with Government by putting house building plans in place to avoid planning powers being effectively taken away from the Council.

But as Castle Point Council is so against the new house building targets as a resident you would have to agree that the Council is doing the right thing.

If Castle Point truly do not know what the heck to do then perhaps the Leader of The Council should be making an urgent appointment in Westminster to tell David Cameron and Eric Pickles that Conservative Government Policy is not for Castle Point.

It is all a bit of a mystery why all the Conservative run Councils in South Essex have not got together and challenged Pickles and Osborne because they all must know that saying to residents that they had no choice but to follow Conservative Government Policy will not rub on the doorstep.

Perhaps with Campaigning for the 2015 General Election already underway there might be change in Government Policy to let Castle Point off the hook?

As regards the Rochford Core Strategy speaking to residents of Hawkwell recently identified to us some significant flaws in what is happening.  They want to know that if their children, as young adults, wished to stay in the area then they could find housing to rent or buy.  They do not understand the term Affordable Housing.  Residents think that this means that there will be one and two bedroom houses to buy at prices they can afford.  Not so. Affordable Houses means that these houses are made available for rent from a Registered Social Landlord.  Unfortunately, there are more than enough people on the Housing Register to take these up already.

Whatever Government “Help to Buy Scheme” you look at, even with the 5% cash and the remaining deposit of 15% Guaranteed by Mr. Cameron announced today, you still need an 80% Mortgage.  Even with a property costing £300,000 you still need a Mortgage of £240,000.  Plus £45,000 provided by the Government on the 15% Deposit making a 95% Loan of £285,000. Can young adults with University Loans of 20,000 – £40,000 EACH afford a Loan of £285,000 on top? 

How can these new houses be for our kids?

If the houses for sale are too big and too expensive then young adults will have to leave the area which is what the Rochford District Census 2011 suggests has happened and will no doubt continue. Perhaps this explains why the Rochford District Census 2011 also shows that there has been no increase in 0-18 year olds over 10 years.

As regards our aging population Council Officers told us at a Hearing that if older people wished to downsize then they could also apply to rent Affordable Homes from Registered Social Landlords.  But why would they want to rent 3 bedroom homes even if the Registered Social Landlords could ignore the waiting list on the Housing Register?

There is something fundamentally wrong here if residents think that the young (children) and old (parents) are not properly catered for in Council Housing Strategies for the local communities that they serve.

The housing in Rochford District has increased at average of 183 per year (2001 – 2011 by Council figures) and apart from the housing stock for rent by Registered Social Landlords this has met the needs of all age groups.

Perhaps Castle Point has more to concern itself with before it decides whether to buck Government Policy or not.

And Rochford District needs to consider these facts and trends in its Revision of the Core Strategy which starts again in January 2014.

If you want to read the Echo Article (27 September 2013) entitled “Council fears for a concrete jungle future” then it is below;

CONCERNS have been raised that the future development of thousands of homes in Castle Point could be left in the hands of the Government.

Castle Point Council is in the process of creating a new Local Plan which will act as a blue-print for where new homes could be built in the borough over the next 15 years.

It is the authority’s third attempt at putting together the housing strategy, as the original proposals were rejected by a Government inspector in 2010 and again in September 2011, following opposition from residents and backbench councillors.

Now, councillors are claiming the new draft document, which is yet to be completed, might not get voted through as it bears too much resemblance to previous plans.

If the new plan is rejected at full council, councillors fear the Government’s Planning Inspectorate would intervene and take the decision-making powers away from the local authority.

Alf Partridge, Conservative councillor for St Mary’s ward, said: “When I last saw the latest scheme I was not happy with it because it would still mean seeing the demise of green belt. I cannot see any difference between this plan and the last one.

“Council officers are making a valiant effort to try to rescue us from a ridiculous situation and find new ideas of where to put these homes, but what the heck can we do?

“The Government wants to see more development in south Essex and has got us over a barrel. It was talking about 200 homes a year and now its 250 homes. I am not happy to commit to such high numbers of new houses.

“But if we do not come up with a practical plan to allow a certain number of homes to be and members at the moment as we try to agree something. There is a good chance of the Government coming in and taking over. ”

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said: “The council has found itself in a difficult position. If everyone doesn’t agree this time round, the Government could come in and decide things for us.

“I don’t think the Tories will vote it through because they are looking at a lot of development on the mainland which could lose them voters. But they have to make tough decisions.”

However, Tory councillor Bill Sharp said a new committee of six councillors has been put together to scrutinise all the potential development sites in the next few weeks.

He also said new sites have come to light, such as the Blinking Owl site off the A127, which could help relieve the pressure on the major green belt sites.

Mr Sharp said: “The Blinking Owl site has been left out in the past, but already has around six or seven entrances from the A127 and could be a suitable site. While I am concerned, I am not as concerned as I was a few weeks ago.

“I am confident we can come to a decision that will not see us lost our virgin green belt sites.”

 

 

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” !!

“To Condition or Not to Condition” – Planning

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason

The Path Most Traveled

Planning is probably the one issue that is always most controversial and creates strong opposing opinions and yet one of the most Government regulated areas of Rochford District Council’s powers and responsibilities.

Planning Applications are determined within an accepted and published set of procedures. Most of these decisions are delegated to the Council’s experienced Planning Officers but some are referred to the Council’s Development Committee for decision.  Once a PlanningApplication is Approved it usually has a series of conditions attached to it, some of which are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off and agreed by the Council’s Officers before any building commences.

However there is nothing to prevent a developer commencing building works even when there are outstanding conditions to discharge. It is always disappointing when this is the case, but any developer progressing a scheme in this way does so at their own risk and the remedy of such a breach is subject to the laws of planning enforcement of the Condition by the Council.

On larger developments, formal legal agreements are often referred to as S106 agreements which detail any contribution required by a developer towards the infrastructure and other community costs that the development may create and deliver e.g. costs towards schools, road and junction improvements and even bus services.  Otherwise Conditions can be anything from a simple ‘sight splay’ preventing high planting and fencing to ensure safe visibility for traffic to the details of design and materials and working practices.  Needless to say all Conditions are important is as the act of ensuring that they are carried out.

It has been reported in the National Press hat some Council’s fail to ‘collect’ the agreed financial contributions under Section 106 Agreements in the time frame reported and therefore lose the community benefit that had been negotiated.  RDC keeps a very close watch on these.

Other more usual Conditions that are equally as important as the financial ones are those that seek to prevent an unreasonable impact on neighbours whilst the development is in progress. These often detail times of work, storage of materials and parking arrangements.

Not very exciting but if flouted can have a disproportionately negative effect on the locality.

One of these that I have received most complaints about in my short time on the Council are those regarding parking of operatives vehicles whilst construction is in progress.  Mostly these are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off by the Council before any building commences.  The agreement to be met between the Council and the Developer usually states that the storage of material and parking arrangements should be agreed prior to commencement of the building works.

Unfortunately the Officers have to rely on the developer contacting them as they do not have the time to check on when a development starts and to a great extent there is a large element of trust placed onto the builder’s integrity.  This sometimes works but when it does not the disruption to the neighbouring properties, pedestrians when vehicles are parked on the footway and possibly to the traffic flows on the more main through roads is unacceptable.

At the moment Rochford has just under 500 enforcement cases outstanding. There are delays in proceeding these because of sheer numbers versus the resource of available Enforcement Officers!

Once the Council is aware that planning conditions are breached it can take enforcement procedures.  Unfortunately this can take months to pursue, especially if there is a back log and by the time these procedures are enacted the situation is past and there is no redress on the builder for failure to comply but the Council has often still incurred costs, and ultimately the Council Tax payers foot the bill!

Damage to the footway is a charge to Essex County Council unless watchful Councillors and residents inform ECC so that it can recover costs from the developer, if not again it is the Council Tax payers who foot the bill.

So whilst we can inform the Council of a pre-condition breach that is causing residents problems it may be that nothing is actually done in practice.  So what was the point of all the effort in making such a pre-condition?

None.  The proposal for storage of material and parking arrangements should be examined carefully before planning permission is given and if satisfactory arrangements are not possible then planning permission should be Refused.

Alternatively perhaps Government should find a way of giving Council’s Planning Authorities the power to invoke punitive fines when such breaches occur to ensure compliance?

I see no point in having a situation where the remedy for failure to comply is for further costs to be placed onto the victim (the Council and the Council Tax Payer) and the offender receives no penalty for ignoring an agreement that is made in the public interest.

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.

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.

Government Planning Inspector says that Pickles’ Letter is Material

June 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

PUBLIC scrutiny of Castle Point’s housing proposals has been postponed following the Government’s announcement it will return planning powers to local communities.

The change comes after Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed the Government planned to scrap Labour’s housing targets.

Government inspector Paul Crysell, who will be carrying out the examination, said: “Because the Government intends to abolish  regional  spatial strategies, this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans.”

“For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing into the Castle Point core strategy until clarity is provided in a formal ministerial statement.”

The Planning Inspectorate has issued a Guidance Note which is here for all Planning Inspectors.

Here is the full article which apopeared in the Echo on 11 June 2010 by Sarah Calkin  “Housing ruled out of blueprint public scrutiny”

PUBLIC scrutiny of Castle Point’s housing proposals has been postponed following the Government’s announcement it will return planning powers to local communities.

The public examination of the council’s core strategy is due to start in two weeks, and the dossier will still include new health and leisure plans, plus proposed improvements to transport and infrastructure.

However, housing, the most controversial aspect of the long-awaited blueprint, will not be discussed.

The change conies after Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed the Government planned to scrap Labour’s housing targets, which required the borough to find space for 5,000 homes by 2026.

Government inspector Paul Crysell, who will be carrying out the examination, said: “Because the Government intends to abolish  regional  spatial strategies, this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans.”

“For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing into the Castle Point core strategy until clarity is provided in a formal ministerial statement.”

The hearing into housing is due on June 29.

Time has been set aside on Wednesday, July 7, the penultimate day of the hearing, for the issue to be discussed          if the Government has clarified the situation. But a Bill is not expected until after the summer recess.

Simon Hart, of Thundersley and Daws Heath-based Hands Off Our Green Belt, welcomed the news.

He said: “We are pleased it has been postponed to wait for the Bill.” “Developers would not have been able to look at building on green belt if it was not for the housing targets. This is good news for the whole borough.”

The Pickles Effect – Forest Heath throws out planning application in Newmarket

June 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

BBC Look East carried a story tonight with presenters in Suffolk and in London stating that this was the first planning test of the Coalition Agreement ‘s declaration that the RSS housing targets would be abolished and the controversial letter that was issued by Eric Pickles on 27 May to all council chief planners in the UK.

Tonight BBC Suffolk carries the decision at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/10221305.stm

Here is an extract of  Forest  Heath District Council’s Report Update to Members dated 1 June including Counsel’s Opinion 

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has issued a letter dated 27th May 2010 addressed to all Council Leaders. This is also enclosed with this update. The letter sets out the coalition government’s intention to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies “rapidly”. Your Officers have sought Counsel advice on the implications of this letter, in respect of its impact upon the proper determination of the Hatchfield Farm application, and what material weight can be attached to the letter.

The opinion advises that “the policy support for housing development at Hatchfield Farm is no longer something that is ‘just’ based on Regional Strategy: this is not the case, for example, where a council has rather out of date development plan documents but a high unmet demand for housing provision based on the (shortly to be abolished) Regional Strategy.

In Forest Heath’s case there is a specific, extremely up to date, locally approved part of the statutory Development Plan documentation which expressly supports the principle of development at Hatchfield Farm. I refer of course to the freshly adopted Core Strategy, a planning policy document produced by the Council itself, which has gone through the statutory process. While it is of course fair to say that that policy document was produced against the background of regional strategy and numerical allocation requirements which prevailed at the time, it is still a very recently (and locally) approved part of the formal statutory development plan.

I am not aware of the new Government having said anything about an intention to ‘unpick’ locally approved development plan documents. Accordingly, as a matter of professional judgement I would have to say that, even with the new Government’s policy announcement about regional strategies, I would not expect the Council to be successful in upholding on appeal a refusal based either (or both) on the review of targets etc. which it has just ordered, or on the impending disappearance of the Regional Strategy which underlay elements of the Council’s Core Strategy. Things have gone too far at Forest Heath for matters like that to be a tenable basis for a refusal being upheld, in the face of the new Core Strategy itself, which can be seen as specifically supporting the principle of the development.

However, Counsel does advise on one further potential hypothetical argument as a result of the Secretary of State’s letter, albeit “it is not the view which I would professionally advise.”

“What it would involve would be arguing that the whole recent process leading to the Core Strategy was totally predicated on the need to meet the numerical requirements of the relevant regional strategy; the new Government has now indicated that it is wrong for councils to have these requirements imposed on them from on high, and is committed to abolishing that system. Local Planning Authorities and the Inspectorate have been asked to have regard to this change of stance by the Government in current decision making – and that is what the Council is doing here. To this extent the aspects of the new Core Strategy which were based on the discredited Regional Strategy should be discounted. But the Council is not just ‘sitting on its hands’ and hoping the problem will go away. Immediately after the change in Government, and at the same time as feeling obliged to adopt the Core Strategy which it had previously promoted, once that had been approved by the Inspector, the Council set in train a review process aimed at establishing appropriate new housing targets etc. on a local basis. So it would be wrong in these circumstances, at this time, to approve large scale development at Hatchfield Farm, even though it might appear to be consistent with the Core Strategy.

If a set of arguments like that can be mounted, with the addition of various other important matters not yet having been satisfactorily resolved, in my view that could be seen as amounting to at least a valid and arguable basis for refusal now – whatever might be the eventual decision on an appeal.

Members will note the advice that this latter argument is not one which Counsel professionally endorses but it is a matter which Members should have regard to in reaching a decision.

According to this web site   

“The 1,200-home scheme called Hatchfield Farm near Newmarket was turned down last week by Forest Heath council, in part on the basis of Pickles’ letter.”

A statement by Forest Heath said that “in view of this [Pickles’ letter] and in advance of our forthcoming review of housing figures, it would be inappropriate to approve this application.”

Furthermore up to 40 councils have taken action to halt schemes, change planned housing numbers or delay planning inquiries since the government wrote to them two weeks ago effectively telling them to ignore regional plans, according to the House Builders Association (HBA).

 

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/

Rochford to Southend Relief Road – Is it Back?

July 5, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_0008There were renewed calls in the Echo on 4 July for a Southend Relief Road because of recent closures of the A127. Southend notables were interviewed and they saw no point in road improvements in Southend which would link up with the A127. A suggestion was of a new road going North of Shoebury.  Nobody actually said that there should be a Rochford Southend Relief Road but how long will it be before this gets back into play following the retirement of Southend MP Sir Teddy Taylor who campaigned relentlessly for a major road through Rochford District. 

If readers want to know the history of Southend/Rochford Relief Road then please look at this web site. 

http://eerasouthendreliefroad.org.uk/

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.

News Leaks from District Council in Echo

December 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Firstly Rochford not totally opposed to traveller caravan pitches

SOUTH Essex will have to find an extra 185 official traveller caravan pitches if new regional government proposals are accepted.

UNLIKE other south Essex districts, Rochford is not totally opposed to extra pitches.

Deputy leader Keith Hudson said he had no objection to a small, properly-regulated site, so long as it did not affect local residents and had adequate road access.

He added: “I believe a site for travellers should be just that – somewhere they can stay for a short time before they move on.”

And…………..An Officer speaks in public at a sub committee about a new waste contract where Councillors who met in secret on 5 December because of confidential financial matters were asked to keep quiet until a Press Release as made in the New Year !!

Full Council Minutes of the 5 December Meeting where the decision on the placement of a new 7 year rubbish and recycling contract have been suppressed.

Why should we continue to be censored if an Officer can speak and the Echo can publish?

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.1905801.0.bottle_banks_cut.php

 

 

Hullbridge 500 new homes plan sparks public anger – Echo Article

October 31, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Hullbridge 500 new homes plan sparks public anger from the Echo
By Michael Casey

RESIDENTS are furious over plans for hundreds of homes in a quiet village.

About 500 new homes could be built in Hullbridge by 2021, under revisions to Rochford District Council’s new development plan.

The village was one of the areas earmarked to take an increased amount of housing when the number of new homes in Rayleigh was slashed from 1,800 to 720, following huge pressure from the town’s residents.

However, 80 residents who attended the council’s central area committee meeting were told they could not discuss the issue, as planning was not under the committee’s remit.

Wendy Clarke, of Mapledene Avenue, Hullbridge, said: “We are trying to get some answers about flats being built in the village.

“We were only given ten minutes for questions. However, we were fobbed off with excuses and got no answers.

“Then they spent 25 minutes telling us about an inspector the council is going to employ to look into dog mess on pavements. Time would have been better spent listening to us about our concerns.”

Chairman of the central area committee, Hawkwell Tory councillor Derrick Stansby, said while he could appreciate residents’ concerns, the area committee was not the place to discuss planning. He said: “As far as new homes are concerned, the issue is not cut and dried.

“Because of the concerns there are across the district, we have gone back to look at all the housing allocations. There is going to be another round of public consultation, when everyone can raise issues.”

Rosemary Brown, a Hullbridge Tory district councillor and chairman of Hullbridge Parish Council planning committee, echoed his views.

She said: “It has not yet been decided how many new homes will be going where. It is not only in this village people are up in arms, but across the country, because of the Government’s demands.”

 

 

Hullbridge Residents Speak Out

October 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The RDC Central Area Committee met in Hullbridge tonight.  About 100 people attended.  By and large they left unhappy. Here are a couple of quotes from those who spoke as they left. “This meeting has been carefully orchestrated so that we did not talk about what WE wanted”.  “The meeting has been all about dog crap and not about people.”  My take from those who raised issues at the beginning of the meeting was that the public wanted to talk about current planning issues and the new allocation of houses to Hullbridge.  The first questioner wanted to know how the allocation that was consulted upon in May/June 2007, turned into 400 houses for Hullbridge.  No answer was given from the Chair apart from “it’s all back in the melting pot.”

Which is actually not true because the Conservative Group, meeting in private and not in Council, came up with the new figures and published them in the Echo.  What the residents of Hullbridge wanted to know was who decided on this and on what basis considering the lack of infrastructure.  The response was its not our fault, it’s the Government and if you change the Government then the problem will go away.  Oh how I wish that might be true.  But it is not.  The Affordable House Building Deficit is as demonstrated in the Council’s own strategy documentation. Where are our children and grandchildren going to live?

The Chair’s answer on infrastructure was that developers would have to provide this.  So much is required to make new development work in Hawkwell and Hullbridge it is beyond the commercial capacity of such developments to fund all the necessary improvements and make a profit. Think again.

Hawkwell has decided to fight.  Hullbridge is in the mood to fight.  Residents in Hullbridge must call their own public meeting and, whether their District Councillors turn up or not, they must decide to run a campaign against the Conservative Party proposals of 400 houses before it is too late. The Conservatives faced a loss of seats in Rayleigh and the Conservatives cut the new housing allocation from 1800 to 740 in a stroke !! Such is the power of the ballot box and so be it.

The Conservatives might now consider the best option to be a new conurbation out to the East of the District associated with a Southend By Pass.  On this basis it would be all new infrastructure and fit for the purpose in terms of eco housing.  But don’t build the houses until the infrastructure is in place.  If we hope for developers to fund infrastructure in existing conurbations then it will be an unmitigated failure.

If that option came with a condition that it is no infrastructure, no houses then if the Southend By Pass never comes to fruition then NO HOUSES.  Might be a canny strategy after all?

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Residents to Give Evidence on Climate Change to Council Committee

October 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford District Council Review Committee is to take evidence from the public following the intervention of independent councillor, John Mason. 

Officers presented a project plan to the last Review Committee which had not been tabled on the Agenda.  One Tory Councillor was concerned that this had not been drawn up by Members and the obvious unseen nature of the proposals.

Councillor John Mason stepped in and swiftly proposed vital changes to the project plan to include taking evidence from the public and commerce before the Review Committee makes recommendations to the Executive Board in the New Year. He also made a recommendation to visit the Borough of Merton which has reportedly angered the Government by insisting that all new housing developments have a significant percentage of sustainable energy sources on site.  John said “Given that the Council is proposing building 3300 new houses in larger developments across the district then this will be a very important policy to consider.”

Meanwhile the Committee has the following to go on from nearby districts; 

In 2005 the South East Essex Green Party released the results of the public opinion poll on climate change they conducted in Southend and Castle Point.

Most people (177 out of 200) believed climate change caused by human activity is happening. Nearly half (91 out of 200) had made lifestyle changes to try and stop it, including three who had given up their cars. However, many people would do more if they knew more about how to live a Greener lifestyle and it was made easier.

The majority (170 out of 200) thought politicians were not doing enough and particularly singled out American politicians for criticism. Our politicians pay lip service to the problem of climate change, but their actions will make things worse. 

Questions that were used for the survey;

1 Do you think that climate change is happening because of human activities?

If yes 2 Have you changed anything in your lifestyle based on this view?

If no 3 why you have this opinion? A) Media B) Part of the natural cycle C) Politicians

If don’t know 4 What would convince you that it is happening? A) An event B) Arguments

5 Do you think politicians are doing enough?

Results-

Southend

Question 1-86 Yes 6 No 2 Partly 3 Possibly 3 Don’t Know
Question 2-45 Yes. 45 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-1 Said A. 3 said B. 2 said C.
Question 4-4 said A. 2 said B.
Question 5-77 No. 4 Yes-Rest (19) 1 said OK. 7 don’t know /do what they can. 1 could do more. 1 no idea. 1 not bad. 1 should concentrate on other things. 5 not sure/ don’t know. 1 possibly. 1 Environmentalists create unnecessary panic
Castle Point
Question 1-91 Yes. 1 No Idea. 3 Probably. 5 No.
Question 2-46 Yes. 48 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-4 Said B. 1 Said A.
Question 4-No Answers
Question 5-93 No. 4 Yes. 3 Don’t Know. 

 

  

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