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Against Homes Development Proposals in Rochford District

May 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Emma Thomas (emma.thomas@nqe.com) wrote a great double page spread in the Echo entitled “United Against Homes Proposal” which reported on the representations that were made by many residents’ groups across Rochford District to a Government Planning Inspector.

As an objector myself (district councillor John Mason) I came away feeling so proud that there were so many people in our community who were prepared to enter a public inquiry to make their views so well known.

But I have pondered on the question of was that enough for common sense to prevail?

As this is an inexorable legal process driven by the national planning system of the previous Government I came to the conclusion, having spoken to planning professionals, that nothing will stop this happening against the wishes of the people unless many more residents directly call for it to be stopped and a binding re-assessment conducted by local people.  

Now is the time for Rochford District to call for help. Delay and it will be too late quite soon.

Why?

An environmental catastophe will definitely hit the Rochford District in 2011 and the “development storm” will continue unabated for a decade or more unless you act now.

Everyone living in Rochford District has known about this for years and it is something that residents have been shouting out about at public meetings to try to get someone to listen for 3 years. 

The response from local politicians has been “Yes, OK, we know” but the Law stops anything from being done about it.

But now is our chance. A chance of a lifetime because, suddenly, the Law can be changed.  Who can change it and stop an Environmental disaster even at the eleventh hour?  Well you can because we have in the UK a Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government and David and Nick are up for change.

Still not sure what I am on about? Yes you do. 

Do we really need 1250 new dwellings to be built in our district from 2011 to 2015?  It is claimed that these are for people coming into our district to take up newly created jobs? Has this been realistically assessed as a true local need? Or is it a justification for just building houses to meet imposed targets?

And for each five years thereafter another 1250 and so on.

What are our real local needs?

Your local council has known for some time that the infrastructure cannot cope and this was admitted openly by many at a council meeting a year or so ago.  But the same council has put forward proposals that are not even properly assessed against the existing poor district wide infrastructure.

The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government promises to put forward a national planning statement for ratification to Parliament.  But it is right at the bottom of the page !!   Does that imply a low priority and delays in change?  

Rochford District is already threatened with planning decisions for at least 1460 dwellings from proposals put forward by developers who are determined to force the hand of the new Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government with decisions on two Appeals which are due on 26 July and 5 August.

This will be before a decision on the Core Strategy due at the end of September.

So will The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government abolish this whole process by making a new national planning policy in time to save Rochford District from the impending environmental disaster that we ALL forsee?

YES, eventually, but too late, probably, for Rochford District

You must bring this directly to the attention of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.  It will be too late unless you act now, right away.

Don’t leave this to your local council because councils tend to obediently await process to take its course rather than be proactive.  That is part of the problem.  A slavish desire to follow process because they dare not challenge that process does not deliver change when it is desperately needed. Rochford District Council got us into this mess and I can’t see them being able to deal with it unless you show them how.

If you are too busy to write a long letter yourself then you could  just copy and paste this article and write to David and Nick telling them that we in Rochford are desperate to avoid an environmental and democratic disaster and we need their help as our Government of Change.

Letters rather than emails have the greatest effect.  Details of who to write to below in order of influence. 

To ensure a reply to your postal correspondence please include your full name, address and postcode.

Write to Number 10

You can write SEPERATELY to the PM (David Cameron) and The Deputy PM (Nick Clegg) at the following address asking them to make sure that their Government takes urgent action to safeguard Rochford District; it’s an emergency !!

10 Downing Street,
London,
SW1A 2AA

Write to your MP, either Mark Francois or James Duddridge asking them to personally lobby Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps on behalf of their constituents.

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Write to Eric Pickles who is The Secretary of State who is making decisions on two planning appeals (Coombes Farm and DWH Hawkwell) and the Core Strategy asking him to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Cabinet Office
70 Whitehall
London SW1A 2AS

Write to Grant Shapps who is The Minister of State who is responsible for the new National Planning framework asking him to take whatever action is necessary to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SWIE 5DU

Rochford District Housing Development Consultations

March 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council is holding two further major consultations on its Housing Development Strategy (Core Strategy).  The public is being encouraged to comment online via its web site, by email and letter. The consultation period is 17 March to 30 April 2010.

If you are just interested in Hawkwell you can download just those sites here.

This is a surprising choice given that it is increasingly likely that the General Election will be well underway during this period.  If the Council has no choice but to do this now then these should have been conducted earlier to avoid such a distraction and possibly a low response because there are expectations of repeal if there is a change of Government.

At the same time there will be local elections on 6 May.

The first is the Allocations DPD which sets out the options for siting the Council’s preferences for the housing target allocation across the district.

I suggest that you look at these as seperate outline planning applications and comment on those that you prefer over the others in each area.

The document is here on my space and can be downloaded; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocations.pdf

There is an Appendix which lists the others sites which have not been put forward; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocationsappendix.pdf

The second consultation is on Development Management which sets out the policy on how development takes place in our District; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/developmentmanagement.pdf

I hope that you find this article helpful.

Just to remind you that there is the DWH Hawkwell Appeal which commences on 27 April and The Coombes Farm Appeal commences on 13 April.

After the local elections on 6 May there is the Public Inquiry on the Core Strategy which commences on 11 May.

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

The Massive (Youth) Project by Janet Snelling of Ark II

June 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

In brief we are a registered charity that has already set up Together on Sunday Afternoon – a group for people in the community that would otherwise be on their own on a Sunday.

We meet in the Public Hall, Bullwood Road for two hours and have a free tea and social activities.  This group has been establised for 18 months now and we have recently been trying to initiate something for young people – especially a meeting place.

We have an involvement with the working party set up by Hawkwell Parish Council to look into youth provision.  I am involved with Hockley Residents Ass. and on a NAP in Hockley now.  We decided to initiate The Massive Project to start fund raising and to liaise with other individuals and community groups to work together for our young people.  In conjunction with Steve Joynes , a meeting was held on 18th June for all interested parties as we have been offered part of an industrial unit on the Eldon Way Ind. Est.

This is early days, but a small working committee was appointed, with three councillors and three young people.  I have been working with Kath Muncer from the HPPG and we have been talking to young people  and this week we went to Greensward College to speak to some of the students as they have a real interest in this plan going forward.  They hope to initiate some fund raising as a result.

We have someone who is kindly putting together a Business Plan which is in a draft form at present with ongoing work regarding costings and risk assessment etc.

We are meeting with the Hockley Business Group this coming week.

Visits have been made to The Warehouse and Legacy to gain valuable information about their projects, plus a number of other meetings and helpful discussions.

Hope that this will give an overview.  We are trying to help the project come together and to help support other ideas at the Hawkwell end of the area. The working committee will be meeting soon to decide on the necessary actions.

Still No NHS Dentists for Hawkwell and Hockley

June 10, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Hockley Residents Association (fondly known as the HRA) has been campaigning for several years to get NHS Dentists for our area.

Brian Guyett, the Chairman of the HRA, is leading the campaign and I called him for an update.

Effectively, we are a bit stalled.  Our petition to Rosie Winterton was met with the predictable straight bat – “its down to the PCT”.
 
PCT say no money and seem to be favouring the less socially affluent areas of the District (always assuming they can get a dentist to open there).
 
So our aim is to raise local profile and invite PCT to a meeting in the autumn.  Sadly, despite best efforts we also got little press coverage.

Rochford District Residents Makes Donation to Hospital

February 26, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

On Friday Night, 23 February, Rochford District Residents held a Fun Quiz Night in aid of the Southend Hospital, Smellies for the Sick Cause.

Supported by over 100 local residents, including our friends from the Hockley Residents’ Association, the Quiz raised £330 for the Smellies.

Rochford District Residents also gave a donation to the local TALKING NEWSPAPERS scheme.

As well as representing people on Rochford District Council, Rochford District Residents supports local charities and good causes by giving regular donations.  

 

Rochford District Local Survey 2007

December 13, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Your Views DO matter!

Your local Independent Councillor, John Mason, WILL listen !

Please spend a few minutes filling in this survey so that we know what really matters to you.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS SURVEY

RDC threat to Green Belt

November 30, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of homes to be built in Green Belt

Government agency agrees with HRA concerns

Hockley Residents Association (HRA) is very concerned that Rochford District Council (RDC) are planning to put thousands of houses on Green Belt land. Under government policy, RDC has to provide for an additional 4,600 homes by 2021. This is a net increase of about 3,700 homes over existing plans.

We have complained to the council that their current public consultation exercise, being undertaken as part of a strategic planning process called the Local Development Framework (LDF), is not a meaningful process as the council has framed questions to meet its own thinking. In particular, the HRA is concerned that the first question is a ‘closed’ question which leads respondents to answer affirming that Green Belt land should be released.

This conflicts with the much more balanced views in the council’s own draft strategy which reiterates, as its “Probable Option”, existing policy of restrictive development in the Green Belt. The question posed by RDC does not encourage consideration of other possible options such as in-filling and re-use of ‘brownfield” sites. Given the restatement of this existing policy in the draft strategy, we cannot understand why the questionnaire does not make any reference to the wider options and why the question is framed in such a ‘closed’ manner – it would have been easy to have asked an open question. This leads us to believe that RDC are looking to influence public opinion and that this is not a true public consultation exercise.

RDC have rejected our complaint but we remain concerned that they seem to be ruling out other options at this early stage. This is reflected in comments made by the Head of Planning who said in an e’mail to us: “One of the points we have made in the draft Core Strategy options document relates to the issue of ‘town cramming’. This is an issue many residents are concerned about and is reflected in the opposition to many of the flat schemes that are coming forward for planning consent at the moment. Therefore, there is clearly an environmental limit to the amount of new development that can be accommodated in the existing urban areas and to meet the 4,600 figure over the period to 2021, there is little doubt that some substantial areas of green field land will need to be identified for development.”

It appears RDC are directing people towards their own solutions and this must be wrong (even if they are proved right at the end of the day). It may be that the majority of people would in fact prefer “cramming” to releasing open space – we do not know – but that is the point of consultation and the current questionnaire does not give this option. This seems very inappropriate and undemocratic to us. Paul Warren, RDC Chief Executive, argues that the survey results to date do not support our concern but we believe that this probably relates more to public concern for the Green Belt than vindication of the question.

We have now discovered that Go East, the Government Agency overseeing the LDF process, have also raised similiar concerns with RDC and await a response.

The HRA is very concerned at why this question is unnecessarily phrased so inappropriately and hope this is not merely a rubber stamping exercise. However, its seems we are into a long fight if we want to save the Green Belt. We would urge all residents in the Rochford district to write to the council with their views. Full details can be found on their website:

http://www.rochford.gov.uk
Brian Guyett

Chairman, Hockley Residents Association

Social Events

September 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

We are in touch with a number of organisations across the Rochford District and will be advertising what is available.

Starting with Rochford District Residents, we run a series of Fun Quiz Niights over the year – if you are interested contact Christine on christine.mason@rochfordessex.net

From our personal friend of more than 30 years, Brian O’shea here are the trips that the Hockley Residents’ Association have asked us to advertise.

Friday 29 September, London Wetlands Centre & Guided Tour Of The Royal Albert Hall.

Saturday 18 November, The King and I at the Cliffs Pavillion by SODS.

Friday 1 December, The Banqueting House & Christmas Quiz Tour.

Sunday 20 to Wednesday 23 May, 5 day break in the Derbyshire Dales.

Ashingdon Events – list coming soon……..
If you have any to add then just register and post your events.

Hockley Residents’ Association (HRA) – Council exposes tax payers to massive compensation

September 22, 2006 by · 1 Comment 

RDC have refused to consider HRA complaints, before the Development Control Committee meeting next Thursday, that the Pond Chase Mushroom Farm planning application has not been properly processed. The application is to convert part of a mushroom farm in the Green Belt into industrial units.

Once granted, planning permission cannot be rescinded. This means that if RDC or the Local Ombudsman subsequently uphold the complaints, RDC could face massive compensation bills from home owners whose properties have lost value as a result of the change of use.

The HRA has appealled to RDC to reconsider and to try and avoid this risk. Councillors cannot make informed decisions if the information they are given is incomplete, inaccurate and misleading. Its fool-hardy to take the risk of large compensation claims.

The building in question started this planning application (in the applicant’s own words) as “a shed which is inefficient”. Two months later, in the latest RDC report, its suddenly become “a substantial buiilding”! . How can this be?

The answer is, of course, that the Government’s planning criteria (Planning Policy Guidance 2 – PPG2) requires that Green Belt agricultural buildings must be capable of conversion without major structural work. Residents spoke of using this as a planning objection at last week’s meeting of the Hockley Residents Association (HRA). Suddenly, within days, RDC have changed the description. Why?

Similarly, in the August report it stated that no additional hard surfacing was required. The latest report (page 9 para 2.3) now reverses this without comment or explanation. You have to check report line by line to spot the changes.

Residents are also angry that:

  • RDC Planning originally proposed to approve this via the weekly non-contentious list, despite having received over 60 objections.
  • The council quoted 7 different planning policies 13 times when opposing a similiar application last month but only mention 1 policy 3 times in this case, so residents are concerned that councillors are not being fully briefed.
  • What lengths will RDC go to to support this piecemeal application?

Brian Guyett
Chairman, Hockley Residents Association

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