What were the recent elections like for you?

June 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

BeefDid the County Council Elections prove to be the best place for important questions of policy to be answered by the existing political administration and its political challengers? Did you get the chance to even ask? Did any of the candidates ask them for you?

Faced with promises from David Cameron that Council Tax could be frozen did any of the other parties put them on the spot and extract a local commitment from the Conservatives running Essex County Council?

Well No !! 

And did anyone tell us the answer to this question “When will we get anything on improvements to cope with all the extra planned housing?”

What was the view of candidates on the London Southend Airport Plan and transport?

Talking to residents in my Ward post the elections revealed that these questions were not even asked yet alone answered.

The Local Transport Plan is the responsibility of Essex County Council.  The Department for Transport says that it wants local transport planning to be seen as a vital and essential public service – a service that can be relied upon not just to solve problems, but to deliver opportunity for all, and to enhance quality of life.

The Local Transport Plan is a long term plan which sets out Essex County Council’s plans and policies for the future of transport in Essex. The first Local Transport Plan was a document containing the five-year programme from 2001-2006. The second Local Transport Plan contains the five-year programme from 2006-2011.

If you are wondering what’s in the LTP’s here is a link

So why was it not a feature of the elections?

The LTP is, I believe, not up for formal revision until 2011 which means that the Rochford Core Strategy will be in place before this is formally revised and any infrastructural changes that we think are necessary will not have been committed to in my opinion. The only hope we have is a General Election before The Rochford Core Strategy is finally put in place early next year because the Conservative Party has pledged to stop the housing development plans.

In the meantime, as residents, we have to do what we can to influence the LTP revision and the Rochford District Core Strategy in forthcoming consultations.

According to RDC “We are discussing the Core Strategy with officers at County Hall and will feed the results of those discussions into the Core Strategy to develop the material included in the appendix to the housing chapter. Bear in mind that the Core Strategy is only intended to set out the broad principles for the development of the district – greater detail will be provided in other development plan document, notably the Allocations Development Plan Document.”

Essentially, the situation is still that each development will provide its own infrastructure under agreements with developers. It is going to be absolutely vital that individual Ward Members are as proactive as possible in giving input to the design statements for individual developments. A decision on sites will, I believe, come forward to Council in July but the detail in terms of Design Statements not till October. My greatest concern is that the Council is intending to give the task of an initial draft of Design Statements to the developers so that they will lead the process and carry most of the cost. In Chelmsford the Council employed consultants to initiate these and this is the better route in my view if residents are not to be railroaded by developers in the first draft.

So if you are not happy with the overall current transport infrastructure and the plans put forward for new housing say so in July.

And on individual sites in October.

Hawkwell Bus Gloom – there could be hope !!

April 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Local Transport Act 2008 became law in November 2008 and I have been keenly awaiting the Guidance on Quality Partnership Schemes (QPS) which came into force on 6 April 2009.

There are now  far more effective set of options and powers to improve bus services. The bus in public transport provision in Rochford District has for too long been allowed to slip into decline. Now there are powers available to local authorities to work with operators to get to grips with more of the problems behind this decline.

This could mean that for communities like Hawkwell which has seen all evening services cancelled in 2002 and day time services reduced to one per hour since February could see a new operator come in to provide much needed services.

 At present the position of Hawkwell can be expressed as follows:

– Ashingdon (Golden Cross) has c. 78 buses each way each week day

– Hockley has 45 (48 wef 7 June 2009)

– Hawkwell has just 13, and none after 6.30pm!
Hawkwell has the largest population.

I believe that the reason for the reduction in services is because there is no recognised status for the Hawkwell, 8 Route, in the Essex County Council transport policy and, as such, it remains an easy target for arbitrary cost cutting by the bus provider Arriva, who indeed advised in writing that the cuts were because the majority of passengers were bus pass holders.

I have today asked Rochford District Council to get this going for Hawkwell by team working with Essex County Council under the Local Transport Bill 2008 – Quality Partnership Schemes.  

Very soon there will be a new round of Kickstart bidding – inviting local authorities in partnership with bus operators to bid for a share of £25 million to ‘pump prime’ new or improved services. Schemes which will utilise the powers in the Local Transport Act, including the revised voluntary partnership agreements and the new statutory quality partnership scheme provisions, will be particularly encouraged to apply for the funding.

Let us hope that Terry Cutmore, Keith Hudson and June Lumley grasp the opportunity to work with Essex County Council and entrepreneurs  to resolve the problems in my Ward and Hawkwell generally which, despite having almost no bus services has the largest population of all villages in the district and demands for over 100 affordable houses to be built there.