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RSPB Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project

October 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

AN AMBITIOUS £12million project is planned to recreate the lost landscape of Wallasea Island.

The RSPB today announced details of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project, to return the farmland back to coastal wetland to attract rare birds back to an area that has not nested in for about 400 years.

The charity hopes to raise enough money to buy three quarters of the island, farmed by Wallasea Farms.

advertisementThe cash will also fund engineering work to let water back on to the land through a series of pipes in the current sea wall.

Wallasea is eight miles north of Southend, and could provide a 1,800-acre paradise for fish and birds with its planned saltmarsh, creeks, lagoons and mudflats.

It will also provide an open space for recreation with ten miles of foot paths and cycle ways.

Project manager Mark Dixon said: “The island used to be made up of five separate islands and we want to take it back to that.

“By letting sea water in through pipes in the current sea wall we will create shallow wetlands a couple of feet deep.

“The water will go in and out with the tide.

“It will be a giant wilderness. It will prepare the land for climate change, suck up carbon and provide a space for people to enjoy, and be fantastic for wildlife.”

The charity hope to attract rare birds like the spoonbills, Kentish plovers – which have been absent for 50 years – and black-winged stilts, which have only bred in Britain three times.

Otters, saltwater fish such as bass, herring, flounder and specialist saltwater plants, including samphire, sea lavender and sea aster, could also flourish.

The plans will not affect the homes and caravan on the eastern side of the island.

An agreement has been signed between the farm and the RSPB to buy the land in two years time, if planning permission is granted and the cash is raised.

Mr Dixon said: “From the farm’s point of view, they are surrounded by 12 miles of sea wall.

“They know in the medium term the sea level will rise and their land is not going to be viable. It could breach and they could lose their land overnight.

“This is a way of safeguarding the land for wildlife “There used to be 30,000 hectares of this wetland landscape in the area, now there is just 2,000 hectares.

“Four hundred years ago most of it was surrounded by a sea wall and claimed for agriculture and industry.

“It is our hope to recreate the lost landscape, with millions of birds feeding and nesting and tens of thousands of fish breeding there.” Wetland restoration began on Wallasea last year, when Defra breached sea walls on the northern edge of the island.

It is managed by the RSPB and the area of wetland will be increased sixfold when this latest project is complete.

The £12million bill, the RSPB’s most costly and ambitious scheme, is mainly to cover the research and engineering costs of allowing water back on to Wallasea to create the marshes.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “Our plans for Wallasea reflect the very great difficulties climate change will cause but also the RSPB’s determination to find ways of combating them.

“We will be providing new sites into which wildlife can move when sea level rise swallows up their existing habitats.”

The charity hopes local people will help them realise this dream by donating money as well as getting corporate sponsorship from industry and corporations.

Donations can be made via the RSPB website.

400 Extra Houses for Hawkwell? Perhaps, if you do not act now !!

May 26, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

 Planning : Matter of Concern Number 5, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

The Conservative run District Council has determined its preferred options for how the District is to develop over the next 14 years and it wants to hear your views on these.  An array of issues need to be decided, including the general locations for new housing, areas to be protected, future employment provision, affordable housing, the approach towards tourism and leisure, and more.
 
The proposals are explained in the draft Rochford District Core Strategy, one of a series of development plan documents being prepared by the Conservative Party for the District.

As your Independent District Councillor I have to tell you that I am not happy with the way that the Core Strategy (Reg 26) is being presented in the public consultation.

I do not think that the Draft document explains how the allocations below might have been arrived at;

Rochford/Ashingdon 1000    HOCKLEY/HAWKWELL 400    Rayleigh 1800

Here is the reasoning included in the Draft Core Strategy for Hawkwell/Hockley.  Has Hawkwell already been chosen?  It looks like it to me with the statement “Hawkwell is the best located part of the conurbation”.
 
Full Quotation “Hockley/Hawkwell is less well located in relation to the existing highway network and close to its edges the conurbation has a more rural feel than Rayleigh and Rochford/Ashingdon. Hawkwell is the best located part of the conurbation, being only a short distance from the Cherry Orchard Way link road. There are a range of environmental designations surrounding the area from the Roach Valley and Hockley Woods along the southern boundary to a series of open spaces and wildlife sites elsewhere. The conurbation is significantly limited, as a result, in terms of opportunities for expansion.”

I have been reminded by an Officer that the Core Strategy is not site specific – the site specific details will be included in the Allocations Development Plan Document to follow. But if the allocation of 400 is approved then the Council will have to identify sites in Hawkwell/Hockley to meet that capacity allocation and we might not stop it.

But earlier in 2007 RDC made a ‘call for sites’ as part of the early work on the Allocations Development Plan Document. The aim was to flush out details of all the sites landowners and developers that are lining up to promote for housing development (and make a lot of money !!).

When I asked the Officer about this information I was advised that RDC will be arranging for a summary of all the promoted sites to be reported to Members in the not too distant future.  At the moment, the information is not public. And too far late for this information to be given to both Members and Residents as part of the consultation!!

Enquiries of the Officer confirmed that as part of that exercise, RDC had received representations in respect of the farmland east of Clements Hall, behind Rectory Road and Magees Nursery (mushroom farm and industrial units).

Hockley/Hawkwell has an allocation of 400 houses.  By a strange coincidence working from current housing densities the two sites which have been identified in Hawkwell have a capacity around 400 houses !!

My own view is that brownfield sites such as the mushroom farm and factory site will inevitably have priority consideration but I will fight against the loss of Green Belt adjoining Clements Hall.

IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE THIS GREEN BELT LOST YOU MUST WRITE TO THE DISTRICT COUNCIL BEFORE 2 JULY 2007.

You can download the Council’s proposals document and send your objection to the Council from http://www.rochford.gov.uk.  Or you can write to Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning & Transportation at RDC, South Street, Rochford, Essex.  SS4 1BW with the Reference, Draft Core Strategy (Reg 26), Objection.

 

Hawkwell Parish Council is financially paralysed by its Parks

May 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Council Tax : Matter of Concern Number 2, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

Having served on Hawkwell Parish Council from 2003 to 2007, I wish to bring out into the open, my personal, but well qualified opinion of the situation this Council is in.

I found this period incredibly frustrating because at the beginning of my term I was asked to put my ideas forward a plan for a range of projects that could be taken forward over both the short term (3 years), medium term and long term (10 years) periods. I put 33 projects forward which would have benefitted all age groups in Hawkwell.  None were taken forward in my term of office.

Very few ideas were even looked at.

A very significant proportion of its funding, all paid by council tax residents of Hawkwell, is spent on a administration comprising of a Council Clerk and an Assistant to the Council Clerk.  Another tranche of wages was spent on a contracted handyman and also a groundsman for the three parks that it has taken over from Rochford District Council. In addition because the maintenance and parks improvement programme required significant regular expenditure on large plant and machinery there was little remaining budget for new projects.

The parks have been superbly improved.  But………..at what cost? 

The replacement of the plant and machinery means that each year significant sums of money are needed to be transferred to reserves.  So the council tax goes up and there is nothing more to show for it.

So the Parish Council has to apply for external funding for any new projects.

It is my opinion that the strategy of not outsourcing both the wages and capital costs of the Parks is a major mistake.  It has financially paralysed Hawkwell Parish Council.  It is a “one trick horse”.

Rochford District Council must be eternally grateful because it can spend it’s relieved budget on other things.

Hawkwell Parish Council now needs to outsource its groundsman and plant and machinery to other Parish Councils to justify its position as a maintenance contractor of parks and open spaces !!  This is ridiculous because RDC outsources its own maintenace contracts because it is financially cheaper than employ staff and purchase plant and machinery.

Hawkwell Parish Council is unique because I know of no other local authority in Essex in this position and it does not work to the advantage of the council tax payers of Hawkwell.  

I do not expect the position to change unless three firebrands fill the vacancies.

In the meantime, if you hear of new Hawkwell Parish Council projects then be prepared to see rises in your council tax.

   

RDC threat to Green Belt

November 30, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of homes to be built in Green Belt

Government agency agrees with HRA concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chairman, Hockley Residents Association

Building the green barricade By Geoff Percival

October 28, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Building the green barricade
By Geoff Percival

A country park which acts as a green buffer separating Southend from Rochford is set to be extended by 50 per cent under new plans revealed today.

Rochford District Council is behind plans to increase the size of Cherry Orchard Country Park by 80 acres and create a new access.

The council has earmarked £250,000 in this year’s budget to start the ball rolling.

The park, which is on the borders of Southend, is seen as an important green lung for the whole of the area. The first part was opened two years ago by the Princess Royal.

Members of the district council said the acquisition of what was originally Blatches Farm from Essex County Council would ensure there was no development of the site in the future.

There was a real concern that although the area was green belt it could have been sold by Essex County Council for housing leading to loss of a big part of the Roach Valley between Hockley, Rochford and Eastwood. Read more

Planning Applications at 1 Southend Road Hockley

September 21, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

I am being challenged on the way I voted at Rochford District Council on two planning applications concerning the same property in HOCKLEY.

The locally waged campaign against the development included a spate of fly posting which was reported to the police for investigation. I was shocked at the content of e-mails and the fly posters. This was the worst campaign on a planning application I have ever encountered in 26 years of being involved in community issues.

FOR THE RECORD

I only voted on two applications because I was away for the application which was considered on 26 April 2005.

25 November 2004 – I voted against this application although I understand that someone may have asserted to others that I abstained. The Minutes are downloadable and you can see that no record of individual voting was recorded. I can accept that people can be mistaken on something that took place nearly two years and there is nothing more that can be said because there was no recorded vote!!

20 October 2005 – I voted for approval although again you can see from the Minutes that are downloadable that no record of individual voting was recorded.

The overall position is that the Planning Inspectorate has approved development at this site at appeal.

Nevertheless I do not condone the action of the developer to demolish the building and create an eyesore which was, unfortunately, legal and RDC could not stop it.

Let me also repeat, once again, that I am not against Hawkwell Parish Council taking over the Glencroft Open Space. Like 6 other Parish Councillors we just wanted the costs fully investigated and approved by Hawkwell Parish Council beforehand.

I can only think that these matters are being raised for personal reasons or some sort of political gain.

The development at 1 Southend Road has been approved by the Planning Inspectorate. There was nothing sustainable that Rochford District Council Members could do to prevent it.

Perhaps I could invite whoever has an axe to grind to put their allegations in writing on this site?

Otherwise I hope that I have cleared to air and these issues can be put to rest on a final basis.

http://rochfordessex.net/cl/Minutes – Planning Services Committee 251104.pdf
http://rochfordessex.net/cl/Minutes – Planning Services Committee 260405.pdf
http://rochfordessex.net/cl/Minutes – Planning Services Committee 201005.pdf

Financial Concerns over Parish Council Decision

September 19, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Some years ago the council tax raised by Hawkwell Parish Council was much lower than it is now.  If memory serves me correctly it was about £50,000 per annum and when the Spencers and Magnolia Open Spaces were taken over the  costs increased to the high 80’s and now over 100,000.

So when the Council decided to take over the Glencroft Open Space, I was concerned that the costs were fully understood before the land was taken over rather than discovered as the project proceeded.

When Hawkwell Parish Councl took the decision to take over the Glencroft Open Space on 12 June 2006  this was made without any presentation of the way it was to be managed and by implication the costs that will be incurred on a permanent basis together with those additional capital costs of plant and equipment that will be required,

As the Open Space is being taken over from Rochford District Council it would have been appropriate to find out exactly what current costs are being incurred by RDC.  This has not be done.

I supported, with another 6 Councillors, a Motion on Notice to rescind the Council decision made on 12th June regarding the Glencroft Open Space.

Unfortunately the vote to protect your financial insterests was narrowly lost 8/6 and the project will proceed on a hand to mouth basis with the Parks Committee asking for money as required.  What this will do to the figure raised as council tax I do not know.

This is the letter I sent to all councillors before the meeting in an attempt to get them to not commit unless the costs were known. Read more

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