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Report by the Leader of Rochford District Council

August 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fountain pen tips 3

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

You can read it here.

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

The first paragraph confirms the content of our Press Release.

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

and

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

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

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

For the record Rochford District Residents  does not circulate misinformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@Councillor Colin Seagers from John Mason

To recap I have questioned your following posting on OnlineFOCUS;

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

The 1800 in Rayleigh definitely went to a Public Consultation.

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

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

Sub Committee

Committee

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

The Committee included Cllr C G Seagers.

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

The document is here;

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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.

 

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

July 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

It could mean this;

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

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

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

In other words NO CHANGE ?

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

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

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

What are the issues?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So no help there perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

Where are the outstanding planning application decisions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rochford Core Strategy Housing Location Hearings

June 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Laura Graham BSc MA MRTPI

Planning Inspector

C/O Programme Office

RDC

 Dear Miss Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sincerely

Councillor John Mason BSc FLS ACIB

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

June 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Pickles’ Letter

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

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

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

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

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

Extracted nuggets from that web site…….

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

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

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

Pickles makes a first move on The Core Strategy

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

Or is it only an informative?

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

ABOLITION OF REGIONAL STRATEGIES

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

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

PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS BELOW from The Planning Officers Society

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER COMMENT FROM THE PLANNING BLOG

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

Will it be a Happy New Year for the Developers……but not for residents?

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I am told by some readers that there is nothing to worry about because the green belt will be protected by the New Lib/Con Coalition.

But when will the Bill scrapping the housing targets go through Parliament?

Our MP’s Office says “Unfortunately, no dates appear to be available yet however, once these are known, they should be listed on the following website.”

http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/

According to the Queen’s Speech the Bill which will, amongst other things, scrap the Regional Housing Targets is called The Decentralisation and Localism Bill.

Scrapping the housing targets is said to be the predicator for re-writing the Core Strategy which otherwise goes live in 2011.  But the Coalition Agreement referred to stopping this was something that they would do rapidly !!

So why is it that our MP cannot tell us in what year and which Parliamentary Session the Bill will go through?

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State has not replied and nor have either of David and Nick.

I still think that there is everything to still concern us but some people think that the Coalition intends to protect the existing green belt but with planning applications totalling 1460 new houses already in play on green belt in Rochford District I don’t see anything so far which will stop this at all yet alone rapidly….like a Bill scheduled for this Session of Parliament.

The next Session will be too late because the bulldozers will move in as soon as January 2011 is chimed in, ironically, by Big Ben.

It will be a Happy New Year for the Developers but not for us.

I would be delighted if these concerns do not turn out to be true…………but do please tell me soon so I can plan to accept an invitation to the right New Year bash !!

Council Officers Recommend Refusal of 330 houses in Hawkwell

November 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council Officers are recommending that The Development Control Committee refuse a Planning Application from David Wilson Homes for 330 new houses in Hawkwell on the site known as the Christmas Tree Farm, Rectory Road and Thorpe Road.

The Hawkwell Action Group has advised residents by leaflet this weekend that Mr. John Dagg QC will also be speaking on behalf of residents who have campaigned over several years against a proposal from either the Council in the form of its Core Strategy or this specific planning application.

The decision will be made by Councillors at the Civic Suite in Rayleigh commencing at 19.30 hours.  For residents unable to get into the Council Chamber the debate will be broadcast outside in the front of the building.

Here is the Recommendation for Refusal. (The full 60 page Report is here.)

RECOMMENDATION

It is proposed that this committee RESOLVES to REFUSE the application
for the following reasons:

1 The proposed development of up to 330 residential dwellings and associated
infrastructure would not accord with the adopted development plan – the
Rochford District Replacement Local Plan (2006)- and would also not accord
with the emerging Core Strategy submission which is currently at an advanced
stage with submission to the government scheduled to occur before the end of
2009. There are no material planning considerations which indicate that this
proposal should be determined favourably and not in accordance with the
adopted development plan.

2 The Rochford District Replacement Local Plan (2006) shows the site to be
within the Metropolitan Green Belt .Within the Green Belt as defined in
Planning Policy Guidance Note 2: Green Belts, planning permission will not be
given for inappropriate development, except in very special circumstances. The
proposal by way of the excessive number of dwellings over and above that
advocated in the emerging Rochford Core Strategy would result in
inappropriate development leading to the unnecessary urbanisation and over
development of the site to the detriment of the open character and appearance
of the location.

3 Notwithstanding the indicative nature of the submitted layout, it is considered
the development would result in an overall form of development
uncharacteristic and poorly related to the surrounding development pattern.
The lack of integration by design and lack of sensitivity to the semi rural
character of the site locality would fail to become part of the greater area of
which it would adjoin to the detriment of the visual appearance and local
distinctiveness of the area.

4 The proposal by way of the introduction of three storey built form in prominent
positions in the locality would provide a sharp contrast to the notable single
storey character of the Rectory Road and Thorpe Road areas, that would, if
allowed, prove over dominant and ill-fitting alongside established dwellings
failing to respect local distinctiveness to the detriment of the character and
appearance of the site locality.

5 As far as can be determined from the submitted plans the proposal includes
the upgrade to adoptable standards of a section of Thorpe Road. This would
encourage the inappropriate use of Thorpe Road by vehicles wishing to bypass
the B1013/Rectory Road junction. The movement of vehicles associated with
this use would lead to conflict and interference with the passage of vehicles to
the detriment of that principle function and introduce a further point of possible
conflict, being detrimental to road safety.

6 It has not been demonstrated that there are no reasonably available alternative
sites in areas with lower probability of flooding that would be appropriate for the
type of development proposed and therefore the application in relation to that
part of the site within Flood Zones 2 and 3 fails the sequential test as required
by paragraph D5 to PPS25.

7 The Flood Risk Assessment is considered inadequate in that it has indicated
that the surface water system shall be split into two systems. It has been
demonstrated that surface water shall be attenuated on site for the 1 in 30 year
storm event with an oversized pipe system which may be adopted; and the 1 in
100 year storm event contained within the private systems on site. This would
be acceptable in the outline stage of planning however confirmation should be
offered by the Authority as to who shall adopt the 1 in 30 year storm event
system. If this information is not obtained then confirmation relating to the
responsibility of future maintenance should be included.

8 The surface water drainage system being split into two areas has been stated
as having a run off rate for one area of 58 l /s while the other has 53 l/s rate. It
is indicated in paragraph 6.14 within the Flood Risk Assessment that the flow
shall be matching the 1 in 100 year rate. The Flood Risk Assessment is
inadequate in that the site should in fact mimic present rates. This means these
rates should be no higher than the current 1 in 1 year rate during 1 in 1 year
storm event and the development would if allowed result in surface water
flooding.

As a Ward Councillor for Hawkwell West I will be speaking at the Development Control Committee on Thursday evening, 3 December.
 
As you know I have by the Code of Conduct still to remain impartial until I have received the benefit of the Presentation by Officers on 3 December and listened to the Public Speakers registered with the Council.  I understand that Mr. John Dagg QC will be speaking on behalf of residents and that most likely he will be addressing the concerns of objectors.
 
I know that it must be very frustrating for everyone to see an elected Ward Member still not being able to comment especially when The Council has published an Officer recommendation for Refusal.

So What Do Councillors do when they cannot comment?

Firstly they listen to both objectors and supporters.
 
And  I hope that everyone can appreciate that I have read the whole application very carefully over many hours and asked many questions and received answers and advice direct from Shaun Scrutton who I have exchanged emails with and engaged in detailed and lengthy telephone conversations. I have also undertaken my own detailed review of the planning application against Government Planning Policy Statement 3, Housing,
PPS3.

I can assure everyone that I have prepared very fully in order to participate in the debate and the vote to determine the decision. But as the HAG leaflet says that you read to me the position is that despite the recommendation the decision is determined by a majority vote of Members present and able to vote.
 
You also may not know that I have a personal interest in ecology by virtue of my first degree and election as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.  In my private capacity as a Fellow I have had a conversation with another Fellow who is an expert in Bats. Because Shaun Scrutton advised me that I could not pass the thoughts from this initiative to the Applicant via the Council, because only the EWT and Natural England have the status of Official Consultee to determine or negotiate ecological actions, I engaged directly with the Applicant’s Consultants in my private capacity. As well as the Bats I also raised concerns about the deer present on the development site.
 
You might like to see, the reply and proposals made by the Applicant in response to my initiative. It is
here.

I have also spent time during my enforced interregnum answering many questions from The Hawkwell Action Group and residents about planning procedures which I hope has been helpful.

Hockley doesn’t want 150 New Houses in Town Centre

August 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

From the Echo 19 August

RESIDENTS have given a “resounding thumbs-down” to a council plan to revamp Hockley, a pressure group says.

The Hockley Under Threat campaign was set up by neighbours in response to the Hockley Area Action Plan, which aims to revitalise the town centre with new shops, a smarter look and more homes.

Earlier this year, Rochford District Council asked residents what they would like to see. But many complained they were unaware of the plans.

The group’s committee has examined more than 250 responses to the plan and found 77 per cent were against.

Of the 253 responses, 195 were opposed to the plan and ten expressed support, while the remaining 48 were general comments.

Gabrielle Yeadell, chairman of the group, said: “Rochford District Council had put forward an area action plan with no visible notification to traders or residents.

“A public meeting was held in Hockley on April 19 where the majority objected to the plan.

“The group was formed to raise awareness of the plan and to work with other organisations to make clear to the council the plan was unacceptable in its current form.”

The council put forward six options, all of which included redevelopment of the town centre and building 100-150 flats.

Some options suggested redeveloping the Eldon Industrial Estate, moving businesses from the park and creating a new town square in Spa Road, near the junction with Eldon Way.

Keith Hudson, district councillor for planning, said: “This was a consultation document, not a plan.

“We wanted positive feedback indicating people’s preference. We want to draw up something that suits residents and businesses and come back with something to please the majority of people.

“Without such a blueprint, it will be difficult to resist applications which have no place in a village centre, such as a huge supermarket.”

Mr Hudson said residents had been notified of the proposals in the council magazine, Rochford District Matters, in a presentation to Hockley Residents’ Association and at the council’s west area committee meeting. He said there would be further consultation next year.

Barratt Consults Public on 370 Houses in Rectory Road

July 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The developer is David Wilson Homes which is part of Barratt Developments PLC.  Site Map

Rochford District Council has put forward a plan in its Core Strategy for 175 new dwellings in Hawkwell whilst David Wilson Homes is actually preparing a Planning Application for 370 houses on one of the potential sites that have been suggested to the Council.  Confused, Yes you have every right to be !!

At the same time, The Hawkwell Action Group, which is believed to have at least 300 active supporters, will also no doubt be letting them both know what it thinks about their conflicting proposals !! And also the public.

This is a unique position.  Both developer and residents seem to be saying “Thank You, Mr. Council for your Offer but NO DEAL !!”

But first a legal statement from this site. Because there is now been an pre-announcement of the submission of a  Planning Application the law says that all district councillors, because they make decisions on planning applications, have to remain impartial and open minded to hear all views put forward.

John Mason, the site publisher who is the rochford independent, has contacted The Hawkwell Action Group  to just assure residents that the proposal for 370 houses is definitely not a “done deal”.  If a Planning Application is submitted then it will be considered on material planning issues just like any other.  Even the 175 being put forward by the Council in its Core Strategy is the subject of consultation which residents can participate in. It will be helpful if, when contacting the Council or the Developer, that you could contact John and let him know what you think so he also knows what you views are before he speaks in Council !!

Our major local paper, The Southend Evening Echo, as well as having interviewed local residents and District Councillor, John Mason,  has commented today about the proposal in pragmatic terms and explained what the paper sees as the background and strategy behind the David Wilson Homes exhibition, consultation and the ultimate planning application which is believed could be submitted before 9 September 2009. This is the same date on which All Members of Rochford District Council meet to approve their Core Strategy, Submission Version which puts forward Council’s vision for just 175 new houses in Hawkwell and not 370 as the developer is applying for.

Echo Front Page on 28 July 2009

Echo Articles on 28 July 2009

If the Planning Application for 370 houses is submitted then the Council will have 13 weeks in which to make a decision. If the planning application were submitted in early September, and found to be complete or “validated”,then a decision would have to be made by early December. But that would be before the Council has even announced it’s decision on what site in Hawkwell West should be developed together with its own concept design for the site chosen. It might or might not be this one.

There are even more conflicting dates.  The Council’s public consultation on it’s Core Strategy recommending just 175 houses is likely to commence on 16 September and last for only 6 weeks.  At the end of the 6 weeks it is expected that the Council will submit it’s Core Strategy for Examination in Public by a Government Inspector.   And that is really conducted at a public hearing or inquiry over several days in 2010. Only then could the Council’s Core Strategy be adopted.

The Echo said in its article  “They [developers] hope if councillors reject a scheme because of the local plan, it could get approved by a Government inspector on appeal.”

The Examination in Public by a Government Inspector will not happen until 2010 and subject to when he/she publishes any changes required the Council is unlikely to be able to adopt the Core Strategy until later in 2010.  It is likely that the June 2010 latest date for the General Election will come first unless the General Election takes place earlier.

So would any proposal in Hawkwell be squashed anyway? Who Knows?

Here is an article which discusses what the Conservative Party nationally has announced as to what it might do to the Core Strategy if returned to Government in a General Election. 

Please also see the letter received by councillors from Hard Hat Communications dated 24 July 2009 on behalf of David Wilson Homes which is part of part of Barratt Developments PLC (Barratt Group).

Exposing the Rochford Core Strategy

July 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

As regular readers will know  I  have  been  helping  residents  and the Hawkwell Action Group fight against  the  imposition  of new houses on green belt in Hawkwell West because the majority said at three well attended public meetings that they don’t want it.

The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) has asked me to explain comments that have been made on the local press about house building plans being put on hold.

Yes, informed sources [of the Southend Standard] have already suggested the delays on the more controversial schemes mean they may never happen.

http://www.southendstandard.co.uk/news/southend/4472212.New_housing_plans_delayed_until_2015/

This means, quoting from the Southend Standard, “Land  between  London  Road,  Rawreth  Lane  and  the  old  A130  was originally due to be developed as part of the East of England Plan between 2010 and 2015.” “However, councillors voted to put back the scheme, as well as plans for 985 homes in West Rochford, West Hockley, South Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Canewdon and East Ashingdon.”

Yes,  it  says so quite clearly that development in South Hawkwell was put back. But I can tell you that Councillors have NOT voted to put back 985 homes in West Rochford, West Hockley, South Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Canewdon and East Ashingdon.

On 9th September the the Core Strategy Submission Document, June 2009, will be presented to Full Council with the recommendation that it is accepted and passes to the Secretary of State following a six week consultation period to obtain Residents’, Partners and Stakeholder’s views. There is, I understand, no intention to change something as fundamental as housing quantum or location or implementation.

Confused?  You are entitled to be.  But this is politics and the run up of spin to a General Election which must take place before June, 2010.

The Southend Standard also says “If the Conservative Party wins the next general election, it is committed to scrapping the East of England Plan and the linked housing targets.”

But does that mean that no houses will ever be built?  No, many houses will still be built.

The Conservative Party promises to give you greater local decision making and do away with the present regional housing target based system.
(http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2009/02/Its_time_to_transfer_power_from_the_central_state_to_local_people.aspx)

But there will be different rules. But they do not say what they are going to be which has given respected bodies such as the Planning Officers Society and The PPS Group grounds for some concerns.

(http://www.planningofficers.org.uk/media/www/documents/Conservative_Green_Paper_110309.pdf)
 
(http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:UDtxsmLgRPoJ:www.ppsgroup.co.uk/blog/2009/04/conservative-housing-green-paper/+conservative+green+paper+9&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk)

One rule which seems destined to remain in my view is the “5 Year Rule”. This is the rule which local councillors quote when they explain that if they decide not to produce a policy, because they disagree with the Government, this will kick in and work to the complete disadvantage of all residents of Rochford District.

If only the Conservative Green Paper Number 9 had said that this would be repealed if they came to Government then there would be no need to go through the farce of producing costly policies which they are going to scrap. But are they really going to do this?  Read on.

Because the Green Paper does not scrap this rule  we have to assume that the “5 Year Rule” will remain under a Conservative Government.  So what does it say and what does it mean if the Rochford Core Strategy goes forward?

If Rochford District Council does not put forward a Core Strategy then the Council will not be in a position to deliver even existing rates of housing until a new land supply is established through the Local Development Framework. Consequently, in the period where there is no Core Strategy, the Council could challenged by developers pursuing development on unallocated sites on the basis of the lack of a five-year supply. Basically they could build anywhere they wanted.

So that is why local councilors say that the locations of housing targets MUST still go ahead. And the “5 Year Rule” is unlikely to be repealed in 2010 by the new Conservative Government because there simply isn’t time after the General Election to do so and they have already justified why these must be built anyway in the Core Strategy put forward.

So those land allocations in the LDF for 2010 to 2015 will go ahead anyway because they are justified on the needs for new housing to match the new jobs at the expanded Southend Airport and affordable housing needs.  This includes Hawkwell West, 175 houses.

The only ones which could be stopped are post 2015 like Rayleigh.

So HAG needs to keep asking you to maintain your objection even though the local papers through their informed sources have got it very wrong. Cynically it is the worst possible political spin just to get your vote.

Existing rates of housing growth for Rochford District under the “5 Year Rule” are as follows;

PPS3 states that LPAs should identify sufficient specific deliverable sites to deliver housing in the first five years.  In the latest Annual Monitoring Report published in December 2008 RDC included a table (Table 4.10) that lists the expected dwelling completions in the district over the five years 2008-2014 (assuming the adoption of the Core Strategy).  This indicates that 1376 units should be provided in five years and set against the annual target of 250 units (1250 in five years) indicates there is a five year supply.

New Houses for the Mythical World of “HockWell”

June 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The latest version of the District Council’s Core Strategy is now available from the Rochford District Council website.

And the Council still is talking about this mythical place called HockWell !! This is because the Council insists that Hawkwell and Hockley are grouped together “because of housing markets and access to services and facilities”.

Hawkwell West, which is still masqueraded by the Council under the misdescription of “South Hawkwell”, is nothing at all like Hockley in terms of access to services and facilities.  

You can download the document here.  It is a total of 170 very full pages about where 2785 houses are proposed to be built in our district from 2011 to 2025.

For Hawkwell I am pleased to tell you that the residents campaign by The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) has caused the proposed 330 houses to be built in Hawkwell West to be reduced to 175.  The bad news is that it they are phased to be built by 2015.

As I said in my recent Newsletter that we delivered to you in the last week or so, I will continue to work with HAG to object to any more houses being built in Hawkwell on green belt.

Once again the Council does not tell us the site; just South Hawkwell.  But as you already know from a conversation that I had last year with a senior officer at Essex County Council and the news leaflet put out by HAG in November last year that we think that we know where !!

My job as a District Councillor for Hawkwell West is to read through this document in detail and understand how the policies put forward relate to the proposal to put 175 houses in Hawkwell West.

I will then discuss my findings with HAG and jointly decide what the campaign should do next.

But we need your help right now. I set out the options you had to consider in my recent Newsletter and now that we know that the figure is reduced to 175 I do need to hear from you with your views before the full consultation in the Autumn.

More or Less New Houses in Hawkwell?

March 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

From the Echo;

“Councillors are preparing to tour the Rochford District to find sites for new homes. Last week, Councillors decided they would look at about 30 to 40 locations for settlements of more than 50 homes.  They will then draw up their plan, called a core strategy, which guides development in the district. Keith Hudson (Con, Hockley Central), Councillor responsible for planning, said a possible 100 magic prismhomes, which could be built in Hockley town centre, would be included in the 350-home total required for both Hockley and Hawkwell.  Last autumn, the district council revealed its provisional plans for where the housing would go as part of its preferred options for the core strategy.  The two most contentious areas were Hawkwell and Rawreth, where residents campaigned against their housing allocations.  The District Council earmarked 330 homes for Hawkwell and 1,050 houses for Rawreth.  During the consultation, Rayleigh Town Council and Hawkwell and Rawreth parish councils all listed their objections to the plan in strong terms.”

The Hawkwell Action Group has written to Councillors to make sure that they consider all sites and take into account all the objections including a 17 page dissertation from District Council Ward Member for Hawkwell West, John Mason.

“This email is being sent on behalf of the Hawkwell Action Group by myself, Carol Dutton and our Chairman, Jamie Popplewell.

“I would like to request that before you visit any sites within South Hawkwell (which is in effect Hawkwell West) you would take the time to read all submissions made and in particular those made by Hawkwell Parish Council and Ward Member for Hawkwell West, Councillor Jonh Mason.  Councillor Mason’s document I have attached to my email for your convenience, it is fairly lengthy but as it covers most of the local issues it is well worth the read.”

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.

New Hawkwell Housing – How to Protest

June 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Bloor Street Corridor Visioning Study Kick-Off Meeting, Walmer Road Baptist Church Upper Gym, Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - 267Having seen the huge turnout at the Hawkwell Action Group’s Public Meeting many of you asked how you could object.  Rather than wait for an official public consultation you can protest now especially as it is known that the Planning Policy Committee has reviewed the sites.

Here is the draft of a letter you could send to the Council, Click here.

365 new houses is the biggest threat to the lives of residents in Hawkwell West for 20 years. Is it a real threat?  Yes, because the people who want it to happen went to the trouble of meeting in secret and then gave an “exclusive” to the Echo to publish it.  Who are these people?  Are they greedy land owners?  No these are the people who residents across the district elected to run Rochford District Council.  The powerful councillor who wants this is your “neighbour” in Hockley where he demands only 36 new houses against the 365 for Hawkwell West.

The infrastructure in Hawkwell West has not changed in over 80 years……and why should it, if the residents don’t want it? The biggest change in the last 20 years was the decision to site the then biggest leisure centre in the East of England in Hawkwell West and that was a mistake.  It has brought too much traffic to Hawkwell.  Ashingdon Road cannot cope with the huge housing developments in East Hawkwell and Ashingdon and now we find that Rectory Road is a rat run with the bottlenecks at St. Mary’s Church and Nursery corner leading to the new Cherry Orchard Lane link to the A127.

Hawkwell West does not have the infrastructure to sustain 365 houses on any of the sites put forward.  And the infrastructure cannot be improved without totally ruining the area.  Neither does Essex County Council have any plans to do so.

So if the houses are built then it will be a disaster. One site is on the flood plain. Another is in the Roach Valley Conservation Zone.  And the last is believed to be a place where rare plants and animals have lived undisturbed for centuries.

As your independent district councillor and I promised to fight for our Green Belt.  I have represented you in successful campaigns since 1994 and I have already been fighting this proposal in Council and Public Consultations for 18 months.

I was delighted when the campaign gave birth to the Hawkwell Action Group and I joined with these residents immediately to help. At two public meetings you have said that you do not want 365 new houses in Hawkwell West.

What you need to do now, because the sites have already been visited by councillors and we are told that the decision will be made in the Autumn is for you to write personally to protest about this before it is too late. PLEASE WRITE NOW.

John Mason, Independent District Councillor for Hawkwell West

 

‘Fair Shares for All’ Housing Allocation? – 365 is NOT a Fair Share in Hawkwell West

May 26, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

The story so far:

In the Summer of 2007, after the first public consultation, 32 Conservative Councillors met in private to allocate 2200 new housing units across Rochford District.  They came up with 365 for Hawkwell West and just 740 for the whole of Rayleigh.

The Liberal Democrats seem to have gratefully accepted the reduced allocation for Rayleigh and have not raised any objection yet to the allocations across the remainder of the District. Not surprising because any objection to what is going on elsewhere might lead to the Rayleigh allocation increasing !! 

But Lib Dem Councillor Chris Black, Leader of the Opposition at RDC, has written “We support a ‘fair shares for all’ policy for new housing in Rochford District.”

But how can 365 new houses in Hawkwell West be described as ‘Fair Shares for All’ ?  It is not Fair Shares At All !!

  • A ‘Fair Shares for All’ policy would mean just 110 new houses in each of the 23 District Wards
  • Rayleigh should have 1000 new houses not 740
  • Hockley should have 330 not 36
  • So why is one Ward in Hawkwell allocated 365?
  • This would mean an increase in the number of houses in Hawkwell West by 25% Read more

Not Sustainable – 3700 Homes for Rochford District

May 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

From the Echo 19 May 2008.

PLANS for 3,000 new jobs and 3,790 new homes in the Rochford district are not sustainable without improvement to the area’s transport links, according to an RDC Councillor.”We wonder if the Government has any idea at all of the daily problems our residents face due to the severe lack of infrastructure in our area and the East of England generally.”

But Rochford District Council has come up with a spin strategy to make everyone feel happy about things.

Councillor Keith Hudson, Cabinet Member and Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation said: “I think the good news is that the amount of land will be very small, perhaps only two or three fields. It is just a few acres, but there is always the danger the targets will increase.”

“What we will be seeking to do is to make sure those sites which already have been given planning permission are actually developed.”

“A major example is the site opposite the cemetery in Hockley Road, Rayleigh, which has had planning permission for many years.

“This and other sites could take a large amount of the housing quota without having to use other areas.”

The last statement is an empty statement and a typical of the factually incorrect comments we get from politicians. They don’t expect anyone to check up on them!! But we have. The only site of more than 50 units that has not been started is the Carter & Ward site opposite Rayleigh cemetery.  The consent dates from 1979 and was for 86 units, though you may recall that a corner chunk of the site has been used for an elderly persons home.

These are the weasel words of politics, smoke and mirrors around the numbers. Discounting those 86 still not built but approved RDC was always a requirement but RDC will still have to find places for around 3,700 new houses. Why But as Councillor Hudson says about our precious green belt “It is just a few acres…perhaps only two or three fields”.

Who is he kidding? Don’t let him fool you !!

 

 

  

 

The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG)

May 14, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of residents in Hawkwell West have formed a organisation called the Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) which has the purpose of ensuring that all of the residents of my Ward are independently advised of proposals affecting Hawkwell West in the Local Development Framework (Planning for Housing) and that as many residents as possible respond to the public consultation.  I was invited to join the HAG Committee and I have done so.

From the Echo, 12 May 2008 – Do you believe that Hawkwell Green Belt will be saved? Or is it still at risk? 

District’s green belt aims to skirt housebuild quotas

THE majority of cherished green belt land in the Rochford district will escape development as part of Government housebuilding targets, a leading councillor says.

The Rochford district has been given a quota of providing 2,500 new homes by 2015, which fuelled fears some of green belt would have to be developed.

However, deputy council leader Keith Hudson said: “I think the good news is that the amount of land will be very small, perhaps only two or three fields. It is just a few acres, but there is always the danger the targets will increase. What we will be seeking to do is to make sure those sites which already have been given planning permission are actually developed.

“A major example is the site opposite the cemetery in Hockley Road, Rayleigh, which has had planning permission for many years.

“This and other sites could take a large amount of the housing quota without having to use other areas.”

Mr Hudson spoke after a Campaign for the Protection of Rural England report on the threat to the green belt across the country. 

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