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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.

   

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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