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New Government Bonus for Local Councils to build New Houses

November 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government has today, 12 November, published the consultation paper on the New Homes Bonus (NHB) which is described in the paper as “an effective fiscal incentive to encourage local authorities to facilitate housing growth“.

The Consultation closes on 24 December.

Everyone in Rochford District should be interested in this because that is the reward Rochford District Council will get for building more houses than the public wants.

When I wrote about this only last August the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources at Rochford District Council , Councillor Seagers wrote “However, I rather doubt that such largesse will ever arrive to ease my task, whether resulting from my own future actions, those of my fellow Conservative RDC Members or the savagely depleted public coffers the Coalition has inherited to work within.” 

He should have had more faith in his own Government.  It is expected to be payable from April 2011. Watch out for Windfall planning permissions being granted over and above current plans.

At the 190 dwellings per annum that the Council has passed this could mean for the first 5 years of the Core Strategy this is on Band D a bonus sum of £1,442,100.

“Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, told The Times in August that he will reward local authorities that give planning approval to housing developments by matching the council tax revenue collected from these homes. The money will continue for six years, with extra provided for affordable homes for first-time buyers.

Mr Shapps is determined to overcome those who object to new developments, despite allowing local people more say under the “revolutionary” planning overhaul.”

Curiously at the same time the Government also pronounces that the existing concept of consultation will become extinct under government plans. 

 A Spokesman said “As far as I am concerned, consultation is dead.  Taking a plan, and saying “take it or leave it” is over.  Instead, engagement is what it’s about.”

 “Local people will be encouraged to bring forward their ideas”. 

 Unfortunately that is something that Rochford Council does not intend with its Core Strategy and every resident knows that only too well that it is “take it or leave it” .

 One couldn’t ask for a stronger reinforcement of the new localism agenda.

 

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

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

November 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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