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A total of 275,000 homes are now planned for England’s green belt

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

CPRE MAP SOUTH EASTThis new report from the CPRE has a map showing all the local authorities planning to release green belt.

http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/housing-and-planning/green-belts/item/download/4485

A total of 275,000 homes are now planned for England’s green belt – an increase of nearly 200,000 since 2012, according to research by countryside campaigners.

This map alone says everything that residents have been concerned about ever since the Core Strategy was adopted in 2011.

And now we have the Revision of the Core Strategy for an unspecified extra number.

By entirely circling London and for good measure an extended strip across South Essex it supports either an exodus from London or London coming out to meet us to form a wider Greater London.

If you are concerned about this please share as widely as possible before Voting in the Local Elections on 5 May.

And from the PlanningResource Web Site

According to figures published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the number of homes planned for England’s green belt increased by 50,000 in the last year to hit 275,000.

It added that 11 local authorities finalised green belt boundary changes to accommodate development in the year to 2015.

According to CPRE, green belt policy is “gradually being weakened through loopholes in planning guidance”.

“Under pressure from government to set and meet high housing targets, councils are releasing green belt for new development through a misappropriated ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause,” it added.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at CPRE, said: “Councils are increasingly eroding the green belt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets. The government is proposing to encourage further development in the green belt.

“Our green belt is invaluable in preventing urban sprawl and providing the countryside next door for 30 million people. We need stronger protection for the green belt, not just supportive words and empty promises. To build the affordable homes young people and families need, the government should empower councils to prioritise the use of brownfield sites. Brownfield land is a self-renewing resource that can provide at least 1 million new homes.”

 

Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt

October 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

JuergenGER / Pixabay

Our Local Conservative Councillors have been telling residents for years that they have to remove Green Belt protection when drawing up their Local Plans, in order to meet [housing] demand.

Conservative Government Minister Eric Pickles has now stepped in to say that the Government did not require this and the move will be seen as a pre-election pitch by the Conservatives to win round rural Tory supporters who are furious about new development.

“Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt in Hawkwell, Ashingdon and Rochford for 1000 houses where it has not been proven that these are required to meet local housing needs” said Residents Councillors John and Christine Mason.

They went on to ask “So will there be a change of mind on another over 1000 houses in green belt in Rayleigh and Hullbridge?”

“The Government seems to be blaming the local Conservative Councillors who were in charge of local planning policy which is what local residents have been saying for a long time.”

“This “volte-face” by the Government is too late to save them in the local elections unless big changes are made in the Core Strategy before May 2015 and any promises will be seen as “just election promises as usual” !!

The Conservatives promised at the 2010 General Election to reverse Labour Housing Targets and give decisions on planning to Local Residents. All that happened was the concentration of planning decisions in Conservative Councils which followed a house building diktat from the Conservative Government without any challenge to Government despite the views of local residents.

Whatever way you look at it the Conservatives are to blame. If houses have been built on Green Belt despite your wishes then you will know already how to vote.

Specifically the new guidance makes clear that councils do not have to build on the Green Belt just to meet the locally set five-year housing targets.

The new planning guidance states explicitly for the first time that “once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances”.

Councils will have to “take account of any constraints such as Green Belt which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need”, it says.

 

New protections for England’s Green Belt unveiled by Eric Pickles – Telegraph
www.telegraph.co.uk

Official in the ECHO ‘You don’t have to build on green belt’

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

blue-352470_1920Well worth reading what the Government Planning Inspector said about Green Belt which goes against the edict which has been put out by RDC for years !!

Michael Hoy and I put forward a Motion to say that housing numbers must be assessed on LOCAL NEEDS years ago and the Tories were scathing in their rejection. But now they say that local needs are the key !!

In the Echo Today, an Exclusive from Jon Austin, “GREEN belt land in south Essex could be spared from thousands of homes being built after a senior planning inspector said it was a matter for local councils to decide. Keith Holland, an inspector for the department for communities and local government, is shown on video telling Castle Point councillors they would not be forced to release green belt to meet housing targets. His assurance, made in a video leaked to the Echo, is at odds with what Castle Point, Basildon and Rochford councils have told residents while they prepared local development plans for the next 20 years.” In the video, he also says councils will not be forced to build the homes if flooding is an issue,such as happened recently on Canvey and across Rochford.”

Again in the Echo A Castle Point Tory councillor at the inspector’s briefing, said: “This is the complete opposite of what planning officers have been telling members, which is that if we don’t designate enough house building sites, then they will be imposed on us by the Planning Inspectorate, but here the inspector could not have been clearer this is not the case.”

Sounds to us Independent Councillors exactly the same message we have been hearing from Rochford Conservatives for years!!

Councillor Ward , Cabinet Member for planning at RDC said in the Echo last week blaming the Conservative Government, “We might not like it, but we have no choice” and “We are following the law of the land, set out by Government”.

MP Rebecca Harris told the ECHO “Frankly I was fed up with the Government’s view being misinterpreted. I am grateful that the planning inspector spelt it out in crystal clear terms.”

But Councillor Ward has now changed his mind by saying in today’s Echo “Rochford’s sensible, pragmatic approach to identifying land for development to meet the needs of the district in a planned way is the correct approach to fulfilling the requirements of the national planning policy framework.”

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE 250 HOUSES PER YEAR for 20 YEARS MAY WELL BE IN EXCESS OF OUR LOCAL NEEDS AND THIS HAS NOT BEEN ASSESSED ON A LOCAL BASIS BUT PART OF A REGIONAL NEED !!

The Infrastructure Bill – What it means locally……….

June 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As we posted a shared link to the Infrastructure Bill on Facebook we felt that we should look into this new legislation further particularly as it did not feature in recent compulsory Member Training from Rochford District Council on Planning. (We had a repeat subject session on The Duty to C0-operate and the Community Infrastructure Levy.)

The Infrastructure Bill covers various areas including planning, housing, fracking, reforms to the Highways Agency and some worrying changes to the Land Registry.

The Headlines in the link were “The Government plans to order local authorities to make 90 per cent of its brownfield sites (a designation that apparently includes parks, allotments, gardens as well as former industrial sites) available to be transferred to the Government quango the Homes and Communities Agency, which was established in 2008. The HCA can then pass it on to developers without any of tiresome planning restrictions.”

But as local Members delving further there is even more of concern in the detail.

We oppose the proposals for deemed discharge of planning conditions.

Why?

Deemed discharge of planning conditions is treating planning conditions as approved where a planning authority has failed to discharge a planning condition on time and has held up a development. Joint working between councils and developers is the most effective way of dealing with any concerns about planning conditions.

Currently we seem to have a confusion with The Environment Agency about where a new surface water drainage ditch is to be located. As local Members trying to head off this worrying situation we have supplied The Environment Agency with documents indisputably referring to the eastern boundary in the planning permission condition. If it were a deemed discharge then could the surface water drainage ditch be put in the wrong place? Potential flooding affects all of us and surely great care needs to be taken by all concerned, not only in this respect but in many other aspects of development that affect the local community!

Clause 23 of the Bill, which transfers the responsibility for local land charges to Land Registry, should be deleted from the Bill. The land charges service to businesses and residents can be improved locally, instead of going through a national transformation that is likely to have a negative impact on the system.

The proposal will separate Local Land Charge searches from additional land searches (known as CON29 searches) which local authorities will continue to provide. Councils will still need to employ people to collate information locally to supply data to the Land Registry, but will lose the income they now have as the Land Charges Fees which will be nationalised. This means that there will not only be cost implications for transforming the service into a national one, but more importantly costs to councils in managing data co-ordination and inquiries locally. Therefore the proposals risk stripping our Councils of income, while leaving our Council with many of the current costs making an increase to Council Tax.

Allowing councils to set out permitted development rights locally.

New national rules were introduced in 2013 by the Government here.

Extensions more or less got carte blanch to the potential detriment of the locality.

But under the New Infrastructure Act Local permitted development rights would give councils the powers to improve their locality and attract investment whilst tackling local issues such as clustering of, charity, coffee and fast food shops. As this issue continuously arises with objections from residents to planning applications and there is little currently that Councillors can do about it this change will be welcomed and we look forward to receiving the appropriate training from RDC so that Members are appropriately briefed when it comes to making a decision on our new local framework.

However the concern over Clause 23 is a real one and we would urge you to write to your MP if you share our concerns.

It will be too late once the Bill is receives the final Royal Assent.

What does the Census 2011 tell us about our future housing needs?

September 12, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Essex Coastal Scene

The recently published Census 2011 data suggests to us that we did not need 175 new houses in Hawkwell for our children and grandchildren as the Council suggested to residents when they protested.

Nor perhaps the housing estate developments proposed in the rest of Rochford District.

With the age group 0 to 18 having increased across the whole District by only 186 over 10 years we leave it to you to decide about that.

Even if the birth rate in Rochford District shoots up from 2012 onwards as predicted these youngest children will not need new houses until earliest 2031 which is almost outside of the house building plan period.

With 0-18’s remaining around 17,000 over 10 years it is evident that the 1,828 new dwellings built in the District over 2001 – 2011 contributed adequately to their housing needs and other age groups. That is on average 183 new houses per year against the 250 per year which has been forced on our District by the last Labour Government and the new Coalition Government.

So if new estates numbering thousands in the District are to be built then many of these new homes must be for new residents to the District.

We are promised new jobs. When will the new jobs be created?

As the majority of the 6% population increase for Rochford District in the Census was in the over 60’s then instead surely we will need retirement villages to release “secondhand” family homes instead of new housing estates for a phantom birth rate or incomers to the area.

We adopted this policy as Independents several years ago.

On 9 April 2011 we wrote to Miss Laura Graham who was the Goverrnment Planning Inspector responsible for making a Decision on the Rochford Core Strategy.

“You should be recommending that the LPA should, therefore, take the existing CS away and press ahead without delay in preparing up dated development plans to respond to Planning for Growth and the LPA should use that opportunity to be proactive in identifying, driving and supporting the type of housing growth that this district really needs.

Instead of building new homes for families the housing strategy should focus on releasing smaller parcels of green belt in appropriately strategic locations to accommodate the needs of our aging population in terms of retirement villages which use a smaller footprint of green belt and release over housed family properties for re-use on sale.

Indeed Planning for Growth says “LPA’s should make every effort to identify and meet the housing, business and other development needs of their areas, and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth, taking full account of relevant economic signals such as land prices. Authorities should work together to ensure that needs and opportunities that extend beyond (or cannot be met within) their own boundaries are identified and accommodated in a sustainable way, such as housing market requirements that cover a number of areas, and the strategic infrastructure necessary to support growth.  I do not believe that the CS meets these requirements.”

We were interviewed by Rochford Life;

“Interestingly enough, when I mention retirement villages, I was quite heartened that in this Thames Gateway draft that the consultant have been putting together, that issue seems to be coming back, so maybe the noise we made, and the noise we made to the Inspector on the Core Strategy, has been read by someone and maybe this is the way our ideas come back and come into fruition.

I don’t honestly understand why the Inspector, when looking at the Core Strategy and looking at the potentials, didn’t turn round under the subject heading of housing and housing types, didn’t actually introduce that into the debate. If she had brought that idea forward with the developers, we may have found that many of them would have put their hands up and said, what a great idea, we can do that and it’s highly profitable and it’s socially sensible, it’s entirely engaging because it releases less Green Belt, so why don’t we do that. It’s a mystery to me.”

But today the Telegraph publishes that there is now support for this policy from a respected think tank report.

Pensioners stuck in family homes

A report from Demos has claimed that millions of pensioners face growing old in social isolation because they are trapped in family homes which they cannot leave. Pensioners who would like to downsize are sitting on a stockpile of properties with an estimated value of £400bn, the reports says. However, a shortage of smaller homes suitable for retirement means that more than three million over-60s are unable to move, it adds.

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank. We have spent 20 years at the centre of the policy debate, with an overarching mission to bring politics closer to people.

The Government’s response to the housing crisis is a focus on increasing home ownership among first-time buyers. Our latest report argues that building retirement properties for older people keen to move could free up over 3 million family homes.

The District of Rochford is part of the Thames Gateway Housing Market which comprises Rochford, Castlepoint, Southend, Basildon and Thurrock. This is a “Strategic Housing Market” and we are part of that “SHMA” (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) which will be published again by the end of 2013.

As with the Labour legacy of the Regional Spatial Strategies, it would appear that the number of new houses required to be delivered in Rochford District will not be decided solely by Rochford District but by consultants partly paid for by the Council and possibly by adjoining Councils under the “duty to co-operate” who would like us to take part of their quotas.

Will the new SHMA increase the yearly requirement from 250 per year in RDC?

According to the experience of the last 10 years according to the Census 2011 perhaps that figure should have been reduced already to the original 190 per year?

To justify 250 per year or more we need explanations and furthermore justification why we cannot have less.

[Notes: Rochford District Council provided the metrics referred to above and as such were verified and validated by the Council. The base information has since been requested and provided by the Council although Councillor John Mason has simplified the spreadsheet to allow the comparison between 2001 and 2011 to be seen at a glance here.]

Tree Preservation Orders – Do they work?

September 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Written and edited by Christine and John Mason

4989 Stoke Lodge Lucombe Oak T1 - Quercus x hispanicus

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an Order made by a Council in respect of a tree(s) because the tree is considered to bring amenity value to the surrounding area. The Order makes it an offence to cut down, uproot, prune, lop or damage the tree in question without first obtaining the Council’s consent. A TPO can apply to a single tree, a group of trees or woodland.

Often such Orders are stimulated by planning applications when local concern is focused on an area under threat of change.

If a protected tree is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of a TPO it is the duty of the landowner to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species, at the same place, as soon as he/she reasonably can.

But who ‘polices’ these actions and what penalties can occur? The Local Planning Authority is responsible for issuing a TPO, initially a provisional one that is then either confirmed to provide long term protection, not confirmed or modified. The penalties for contravention, on conviction in a Magistrate’s Court, is a fine of up to £20,000, and could be unlimited if taken to a higher Court.

This would indicate that TPO’s are seen as an important piece of legislation that should be taken seriously. Whilst the public seem to rely on TPO’s do the Council’s that are charged with carrying out the administration of such Orders actions actually match up to these expectations?

There have been four local occasions in my memory where a TPO has been the cause of controversy locally. One 20/30 years ago in Hockley, where if memory serves me correctly, the builder removed trees with TPO’s to facilitate a planning application and was served a hefty fine. Another more recently in Hawkwell where the land owner correctly applied for permission to cut the canopy but the work was allegedly unsupervised and resulted in a visual damage that will not be corrected by nature for many years. The resultant diminished canopy helped permit a planning application for buildings to be agreed.

Again in Hawkwell, this time on the David Wilson Homes/Barratts Site a protected tree was cut down in January. Despite our requests to Council Officers to arrange for a replacement tree of appropriate size and species to be planted in the same place nothing has yet been done. The TPO legislation states that the replacement should be planted as soon as it reasonably can. Our understanding is that this has not been undertaken nor has any penalty been applied for.

More recently a provisional TPO has been placed on an Oak Tree on the boundary of 169/177 Main Road due to concerns of neighbours who feel that a planning application may threaten the tree in question. John and I are concerned that should work be undertaken on the travelling canopy, with permission, that the Council’s own tree specialist is present to ensure the work is performed to a suitable standard and so that errors of the past are not repeated. You can’t stick branches back on! Whilst the owner is always responsible for looking after a protected tree the local authority should be able to offer help and advice on how the tree/s are managed.

Generally speaking permission is always needed from the local planning authority to work on a tree covered by a TPO order unless it comes under the one of the special exceptions.

However John and I both remain concerned that although “the words” of TPO’s would seem to protect these special trees this does not always happen in the way it should.

If you think a tree needs to be protected or a tree with a TPO is being worked on please call us or Brian Clary at Rochford District Council.

 

Rochford Core Strategy Costs Already at £2.1 Million

August 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

George Osborne in Beijing

£2.1 million of Public money has been poured into R&D costs of Developers which they do not pay for.

You did !!

Surely the Coalition Government should have found some sort of mechanism for this public money to be recouped from the profits made by each developer?

Rochford District Council has spent £2.1m plus over the past 7 years to April 2013 on the Core Strategy.

Within that £350,000 to Consultants.

£1 million came from Council Tax and £1.1 million from Government Grants making £2.1 million overall.

All money paid by you in Taxes.

How do I know? Because as Members of Rochford District Council (independents) Christine and I asked the question on behalf of residents.

If you want to see the full information supplied to us go here.

How do we see things?

  • The Conservative Party promised to reduce the extent or even stop unwelcome development in their manifesto for the 2010 General Election.
  • The National House Building Federation lobbied the new Government over many months and The Chancellor of the Exchequer reversed the manifesto promises by creating a policy for economic recovery based on house building; boom and bust repeated.
  • Localism was promised in 2010 with local communities having a say in development was promised but all it meant was that Conservative controlled Councils would decide instead.
  • The views of local communities calling for a stop were ignored.
  • The reductions proposed by the Conservative Administration of Rochford District Council in mid 2012 were rejected and RDC now has yearly targets based on the Labour Regional Spatial Strategy coupled with a legally obligated Review for more years and more houses to meet the shortfall for adopting the Plan too late and finishing the build profile in the Plan years too early.
  • The Conservative Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, failed to dismantle the Regional Housing Policies (RSS) of the previous Labour Government until January 2013. Too late to matter as the Rochford Core Strategy was Approved by a Government Inspector and Adopted in December 2011 at 250 new houses p.a. rather than the preferred RDC number of 190 p.a.
  • So why has RDC not used the change in the law to revert to 190 p.a.?
  • Surely residents would have expected the Council to have reduced the number of houses in the Allocation of Sites which is in Public Inquiry in September?
  • The Hawkwell West development at The Christmas Tree Farm (Clements Gate) went ahead despite the fact that there has been no formal decision on the site at the Public Inquiry. So the Allocation of Sites could have been pulled until the numbers could have been reduced without opening the District up to the promised free for all from developers building even more houses.
  • Too late for Hall Road (600), Brays Lane (100) and Hawkwell (175) where plans are already passed but a benefit of reduction in Hullbridge and Rayleigh.

Essex County Council Elections – 2 May 2013

April 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

By John Mason

Essex County Council Building

We had contemplated standing in the County Council Elections but to be honest Christine and I are too busy sorting out issues caused by the DWH Development for all residents.

We are only representing you as Independents at the District Council because we are local residents who care about our local surroundings and environment and we will continue to speak out for you.

What has stimulated this Article?

The Liberal Democrats have published their “Priorities” for candidates standing for Election to Essex County Council across the whole County of Essex.

(http://onlinefocus.org/?p=12668 “Essex Liberal Democrats – Our Priorities for the 2013 Elections”)

All the County Wards or Divisions in our District are in contest from a wide range of candidates.

I am personally a voter in Rochford North which covers Hawkwell. Here is what I would wish ALL of the candidates looking for my vote to address.

There are 3,500 new dwellings agreed in the Rochford Core Strategy. Already 976 have been given planning permission in the Central part of the District.

Voters cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements.

Essex County Council is the Authority responsible for Highway improvement planning.

I do not know of a single other subject that ALL voters in our District want to see addressed as a Priority by a newly elected Administration at Essex County Council, whatever the political balance at the end of the election.

The roads in the Rochford District have not been strategically improved since green-space separated all towns and villages on the Shoebury peninsular (for want of a better name).

The development of Cherry Orchard Way (B1013) resulted in Hawkwell getting true through traffic avoiding the A127 congestion for the very first time.

The Hawkwell Parish Plan Group is so concerned that it has suggested that a Rochford Bypass should be reconsidered when planning to improve the current inadequate road infrastructure. I understand that many voters in Hawkwell support this. What are the County Council Candidates views on this?

As explained by the current Administration at ECC, “the current Essex Local Transport Plan (LTP) was developed in line with Department for Transport Guidance on LTPs. This LTP represents a significant change from previous LTPs. It is not a 5 year plan that sets out a specific programme, instead it is a long term document that provides the framework within which transport programmes can be developed.”

The current Administration at ECC Essex County Council stated in an email to me on 21 December 2012 “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

The Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts of planned development through the Local Transport Plan and The Highways Authority will only address improvements in a limited piecemeal fashion on each planning application for development.

This is not good enough and voters will want to hear what the Parties contesting the County Council Elections are going to do about it.

Let us hope that it is not “Nothing” !!

Update Number 1 on planning problems at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road/Rectory Road Hawkwell)

March 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pioneer Tree Farm

As your Ward Members we ended up voting for refusal of each of the three planning applications at Clements Gate (Thorpe Road, Rectory Road, Christmas Tree Farm, Hawkwell).  On two we were successful but on the last in September 2012 the Development Committee approved the application.

We were concerned that despite previous assurances from the Council Leader, Terry Cutmore, that the public open space would more likely be a private open space for the new estate rather than one owned by a local council. RDC refused to take ownership and Hawkwell Parish Council, despite owning and maintaining acres of public open space already at the public expense with publicly owned machinery, also refused and went even further stating that it would not even talk about it. Furthermore a bridged connection between Spencers Park (Hawkwell Parish Council land) and the new public open space at Clements Gate, which was to be paid for by the developer, was also refused by Hawkwell Parish Council rendering the new public open space a private open space.

Of the residents groups Hawkwell Residents Association (HRA) backed the Hawkwell Parish Council decision which was hardly surprising given that the HRA has a Parish Councillor.  But both the Christmas Tree Farm Development  Action Group (CTFDAG, Richard Hill) and The Hawkwell Action Group (HAG, Carol Dutton) backed our request to the Developer for a further meeting.  Despite some “thank you for your patience” noises from the developer via its external communications consultant nothing has happened.

So with the construction having commenced on 7 January we decided to talk direct to the developer about various material complaints coming from residents.  Things went quite well until the developer decided to have all communications via  its external communications consultant and that as District Councillors we must put everything through Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation at Rochford District Council. This dismayed us but as Independents we decided to go our own way and pursue residents’ complaints in whatever way we felt appropriate.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and our computers have been humming with our demands and negotiations on behalf of residents.  Once a planning application is passed various Conditions are attached to it by the Planning Authority.

We expected that all those restrictions that the developer had put forward in the planning application would appear as restrictions and that if a long road closure had been sought then it would have been applied for in the planning application.

NOT SO.

Naturally with such a large site as DWH/Barratts we were concerned that the necessary disturbance to the area is kept to a minimum and that the conditions are put in place to ensure that this is so. But not all of the issues that may arise come under planning; some for example may be Environmental Health, (which is a 9-5 Monday to Friday service as we found out when we recently had a problem ourselves!)

To this extent it is important that problems are raised as soon as possible because of the inevitable slow pace of action of any resolution and to prevent the situation getting worse.

Since construction operations started in January we have had many issues raised and below I list some of them and the state of play now:

Road Closure – For vehicles 6 months

We have an reached agreement that although Thorpe Road will be closed to traffic pedestrian access will be maintained even if the route has to be varied on occasion as previously reported ‘DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.’

We have asked Essex County Council to incorporate this agreement in the Decision Notice and have yet to hear if this will be done.

Hours of Working – would the hours read out before voting at Development Committee be kept to?

After some representations we have received the following from Mr Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC who we understand is the decision maker on this matter.

‘It’s now been possible to check the Construction Management plan submitted for the discharge of conditions 11,15 and 26 and this does confirm the working times to be 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 4pm on Saturday, with no working on Sundays or Bank Holidays, though this may be varied in exceptional circumstances subject to approval by RDC and notification to the residents in writing at least five days in advance.

Deliveries are specified to be between 08.00am – 17.30 pm Monday to Friday and 09.00am – 15.30 pm on Saturdays.  Again no deliveries or collections allowed on Sundays or bank Holidays unless otherwise agreed in writing by RDC.’

We have requested further information and clarity regarding the Delivery aspect and await a response.

Complaint as to whether or not the tree felling plan was being adhered to:

Reply from Mr Scrutton (Head of Planning and Transportation, RDC)

“I have asked for our arb. chap to make a visit to the site to check on the situation and I am waiting for feedback.  However, I understand he has actually made at least one visit to the site and confirmed afterwards that more trees were being retained than shown on the approved plan, so I am not anticipating any issues.

As soon as I get a further update I’ll let you know.”

We will monitor this.

Request for ‘no exit/access to construction traffic’ notices at the Thorpe Road end of the unmade road to prevent mistaken exits onto Rectory Road

In place – installed by DWH at our request

Request for residents only parking notice as originally requested by Hawkwell Action Group but not responded to.

Agreed by Highways with the assistance of the County Councillor Tracey Chapman and DWH have agreed to procure and fund but residents are still waiting implementation.

 Excessive noise from tree felling

Activity ceased before this could be investigated

Rodent infestations in adjacent residential premises due to site disturbance

DWH have ‘baited’ but the problem persists.

Burning of waste on site

Being investigated by Environmental Health RDC.

Planning Issue raised by CTFDAG

“DWH went to great lengths to assure us that whilst the site offices would be behind the houses in Thorpe Road and so the sub contractors would use Thorpe Road to access the off road parking facilities around the offices, the plant and delivery lorries would be directed to an entrance in Rectory Road and subsequently Clements Hall Way so as to avoid any such vehicles using Thorpe Road for access, other than in the very initial stages of the development, whilst the site offices, yard and access road were put in place.”

CTFDAG are dealing with this matter themselves and have a meeting with the developer on 12 March.

Please let us know if you are aware of any problems and copy us into your communication with the authorities so that we can see if the issue is a one off situation or a wider issue.

We will help you as much as we can but we can only do so if we are kept informed. If you write to or email anyone about a concern or complaint please copy us in.

Also for your information there are two more planning applications pending for this site from David Wilson Homes.  One, 13/00035/FUL  is to vary condition No 4 to application 12/00381/FUL and the other, 13/00109/FUL is to Demolish Existing Dwelling and Construct Single Storey Part Pitched Roofed Part Flat Roofed Sales Building and Car Parking Area.  Any comments on these please write to Shaun Scrutton, Head of Planning and Transportation but please send a copy to your Ward Councillors.   

Residents opposed to the development have rather pointedly sent us this link http://www.mydavidwilsonhome.co.uk/

We obviously can make no comment.

Planning Problems

February 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

 My in-law's tree farm

The Christmas Tree Farm Development, is now renamed Clements Gate, off Thorpe Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell.

Before the vote in September 2012 on whether to grant planning permission, Ward Councillor John Mason had an Officer read aloud from one of the planning application documents submitted by Barratts/DWH.Two of the items read out related to days and hours of working and construction access as these issues had created the greatest concern and distress to residents. This was done before the Application was voted on.

There was to be no Sunday Working.

Yesterday the 27th February, The Rochford District Council Planning Department wrote to both Ward Councillors, John and Christine Mason as follows;

“Sunday working” “there are no restrictions on hours of working”.

On something else The Christmas Tree Farm Development Action Group (CTFDAG) allege that they had agreed a different construction access arrangement to those that Councillor Mason had read out by an Officer prior to the vote in September.

We hope that CTFDAG will team up with us and Hawkwell Action Group (HAG) to deal with both matters.

As your District Councillors we are now concerned as to the fate of Thorpe Road and non vehicular movements during closure. We have already
asked County Councillor Tracey Chapman to clarify this.

Finally all the residents at the Rectory Road end of Thorpe Road want is for Barratts to pay for a sign that the residents have permission from ECC to erect. But Rochford District Council wants to check that this permission has been given. A copy of the email from County Councillor Chapman had to be supplied.

 

Part Closure of Thorpe Road, Hawkwell

February 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

It will only be part of the unmade part.

The currently made up part will not be affected by any closure and residents with homes on the unmade part at the Rectory Road end will also be unaffected.

As your District Councillors we were aware that there may well be difficulties and concerns for our community and asked DWH to meet with us.

John and I have met today, 19 February, with Terry Armstrong (DWH) and Rob Ruffy (DWH) to explain the concerns and issues that have been put to us by residents over the past few days in respect of Thorpe Road and the other matters raised since the start on 7 January.

We have been very concerned that the Thorpe Road Closure proposals were not included in the planning application. We only learnt about this last Thursday and immediately protested in the strongest possible terms to the Managing Director.

But we are pleased to be able to advise you that DWH have taken the problems and concerns that their construction is causing seriously and DWH have put forward certain arrangements that will hopefully ease the disruption and perceived potential problems as far as possible.

Whilst DWH have applied to Essex County Council Highways (not Rochford District Council) to ‘stop up’ close the road for six months this is a worse case scenario and DWH do not anticipate needing all that time.  DWH intends to start work on the Thorpe Road access road in April and anticipate this will be closed to vehicle traffic for three months between April and June.  However they have taken on board the problems pedestrians, wheelchair and mobility users, cyclists and horse-riders face with no feasible alternative to Thorpe Road for many.

DWH will ensure that a pedestrian and non vehicle usage passage remains open at all times allowing residents to access from one end of the road to the other.  This route may be varied over other parts of the site for Health and Safety reasons but we have been assured that every attempt will be made for a pedestrian and other non vehicle access to be kept open.  Should they need to close it for a day or two DWH will put an advance notice out to minimize disruption.  Cyclists may also use this route but are likely to be requested to dismount and they are looking for a way to accommodate horse riders as well, perhaps with passing points.

DWH are also going to make Essex County Council aware of their intentions so that if possible the retention of the pedestrian and other usage passage can be incorporated into the Decision Notice.  Once the Road surface and drainage is completed, the road will be open to all as before, hopefully by the end on June 2013.

We have also discussed the time span and other aspects that may impact on residents during the building of this large development and made a plea for local labour and trades to be used as much as possible.  Also they are recruiting two apprentices for this site so if you know of any local teenager who may be interested please make sure they are aware of this possibility.

We are unable to give much further detail here but we have requested that DWH confirm their intentions in a Newsletter and DWH has agreed to do this shortly.

If you have any further specific worries or enquiries please let either John or I know so that we can take them forward for you as we are going to have regular meetings to represent local concerns.

 

Christine Mason, District Councillor for Hawkwell West

Hawkwell Neighbourhood Plan – Better Late Than Never?

January 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Casino Chips with houses on top

Christine and I went to a Hawkwell Parish Council Meeting in August 2011 to explain that the findings of the Hawkwell Parish Plan could be taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan (“NP”).

All of this is about more houses for Hawkwell and the views residents made clear in the Survey ” residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt”.

We saw this as an urgent matter because we foresaw that the Core Strategy (“CS”) would have to be revised or reviewed by the District Council because it was going to be late in providing the target required by Government and that it did not comply with the NPPF (” National Planning Policy Framework”) or the Government Policy “Planning for Growth” (means more houses).

We wrote to Hawkwell Parish Council again in March 2012 urging that they got involved in a Neighbourhood Plan quickly because RDC (“Rochford District Council “) had already a Committee Meeting which decided on how the Revised Core Strategy would be taken forward.

We told Hawkwell Parish Council;

“It seems to us that every Option, regardless of which might be chosen, has the risk of additional housing being required in the Core Strategy Location of South Hawkwell which is actually Hawkwell West Ward. Or indeed a new additional Location in Hawkwell Parish?

It occurs to us that your Council, on behalf of the Parish whose views are expressed in the Hawkwell Parish Plan which your Council has adopted, may wish to now formally consider whether there is any significant requirement/need/capacity in sustainability/opportunity for additional housing by producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Whilst it is known and accepted that a Neighbourhood Plan, as provided for by Law in the Localism Bill, could not change the position on the 175 dwellings already in the Core Strategy we believe that with careful thought a Neighbourhood Plan produced now might prevent significant addition.

This could allow any future decision to be directly influenced and formed by the residents of Hawkwell rather than by any other means or other bodies, which would appear to have been the case, in my opinion, to the Core Strategy adopted on 13 December 2011.”

But it was only at Full Council for Hawkwell Parish in January 2013, almost another year later and eighteen months after we had personally been to talk to them, that the Appointment of Councillors to a Neighbourhood Plan Working Group took place.

The Clerk to Hawkwell Parish Council writes “Full Council didn’t initially specify a report back date to the Working Group as the Chairman indicated that the matter is incredibly complex with numerous issues to be taken into consideration. At the Full Council meeting it was reported that a NP can take anything from eighteen months to two years to complete……….”

Is it too late?

Probably because in our view  Rochford District Council will have already decided well within eighteen months to 2 years time.

How do we know?

In July 2012 RDC published a revision of the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) which identified further sites for potential development in Hawkwell. (See our Article)

The SHLAA report was linked to Options to proceed the Inspector’s requirement of initial approval of the CS for a Revision of the Core Strategy to plan, inter alia, for a shortfall of 402 from 2006 to 2011 and to extend the CS from 2025 to 2031 at a probable minimum of 250 per year.

This potentially adds up to an additional 2000 dwellings for the district as a whole if windfalls do not extinguish at least the shortfall of 402 houses.

My question is what effect does the revised SHLAA have on any intention of Hawkwell Parish Council to put in place a Neighbourhood Plan and secondly what is the effect of a Revision of the CS which is already underway by RDC on the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan.

Here is a comment that we obtained from a professional planner;

“A Neighbourhood Plan can allocate sites for development as it wishes, with the SHLAA being a key evidence document to inform that process.”

“In respect of the revision of the CS, the Neighbourhood Plan must seek to be “in general conformity” with the CS.

So the NP cannot be seen as a tool to try and undermine what the adopted CS is trying to do, or what the revised CS is seeking to achieve either.

So with Rochford DC seeking to take forward a revised CS and Hawkwell potentially looking at an NP, it will be important to ensure that the two try – as far as is possible or necessary – to push in the same direction.”

BUT………………….

It is important to recognise that Hawkwell Parish Council has NOT YET DECIDED to produce a Neighbourhood Plan .

The Hawkwell Parish Council says “The Working Group has been set up to consider a Neighbourhood Plan taking into account potential costs, resource requirements, support within the community and outcomes of other Councils who have gone down the NP route, etc.,”

Unfortunately it might now be too late for a Neighbourhood Plan to have the desired benefit for residents.

But could it still be ” better late than never” ? Hawkwell Parish Council has a difficult decision to make.

Our view is that once again any opposition will have to be mounted by your District Councillors and any residents action group that decides to wade in with energy to hold public meetings and leaflet (1800 for just every house in Hawkwell West or over 5000 for the whole of Hawkwell. We do not know whether the existing HAG or CTFDAG will perform this role or whether residents need to set up a new Action Group.

According to the HPPG (Hawkwell Parish Plan Group) residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt.

We believe that no further encroachment on existing Green Belt boundaries should take place. Existing boundaries should be retained and, in determining the number of new houses that are needed in Hawkwell, to take account of the views of the residents of Hawkwell. Residents must not be dictated to by other authorities in isolation and without taking full account of the effects on the local environment, heritage and infrastructure for existing residents.

Please feel free to contact Christine or I if you wish any further clarification. 

 

“To Condition or Not to Condition” – Planning

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason

The Path Most Traveled

Planning is probably the one issue that is always most controversial and creates strong opposing opinions and yet one of the most Government regulated areas of Rochford District Council’s powers and responsibilities.

Planning Applications are determined within an accepted and published set of procedures. Most of these decisions are delegated to the Council’s experienced Planning Officers but some are referred to the Council’s Development Committee for decision.  Once a PlanningApplication is Approved it usually has a series of conditions attached to it, some of which are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off and agreed by the Council’s Officers before any building commences.

However there is nothing to prevent a developer commencing building works even when there are outstanding conditions to discharge. It is always disappointing when this is the case, but any developer progressing a scheme in this way does so at their own risk and the remedy of such a breach is subject to the laws of planning enforcement of the Condition by the Council.

On larger developments, formal legal agreements are often referred to as S106 agreements which detail any contribution required by a developer towards the infrastructure and other community costs that the development may create and deliver e.g. costs towards schools, road and junction improvements and even bus services.  Otherwise Conditions can be anything from a simple ‘sight splay’ preventing high planting and fencing to ensure safe visibility for traffic to the details of design and materials and working practices.  Needless to say all Conditions are important is as the act of ensuring that they are carried out.

It has been reported in the National Press hat some Council’s fail to ‘collect’ the agreed financial contributions under Section 106 Agreements in the time frame reported and therefore lose the community benefit that had been negotiated.  RDC keeps a very close watch on these.

Other more usual Conditions that are equally as important as the financial ones are those that seek to prevent an unreasonable impact on neighbours whilst the development is in progress. These often detail times of work, storage of materials and parking arrangements.

Not very exciting but if flouted can have a disproportionately negative effect on the locality.

One of these that I have received most complaints about in my short time on the Council are those regarding parking of operatives vehicles whilst construction is in progress.  Mostly these are pre-conditions which are required to be signed off by the Council before any building commences.  The agreement to be met between the Council and the Developer usually states that the storage of material and parking arrangements should be agreed prior to commencement of the building works.

Unfortunately the Officers have to rely on the developer contacting them as they do not have the time to check on when a development starts and to a great extent there is a large element of trust placed onto the builder’s integrity.  This sometimes works but when it does not the disruption to the neighbouring properties, pedestrians when vehicles are parked on the footway and possibly to the traffic flows on the more main through roads is unacceptable.

At the moment Rochford has just under 500 enforcement cases outstanding. There are delays in proceeding these because of sheer numbers versus the resource of available Enforcement Officers!

Once the Council is aware that planning conditions are breached it can take enforcement procedures.  Unfortunately this can take months to pursue, especially if there is a back log and by the time these procedures are enacted the situation is past and there is no redress on the builder for failure to comply but the Council has often still incurred costs, and ultimately the Council Tax payers foot the bill!

Damage to the footway is a charge to Essex County Council unless watchful Councillors and residents inform ECC so that it can recover costs from the developer, if not again it is the Council Tax payers who foot the bill.

So whilst we can inform the Council of a pre-condition breach that is causing residents problems it may be that nothing is actually done in practice.  So what was the point of all the effort in making such a pre-condition?

None.  The proposal for storage of material and parking arrangements should be examined carefully before planning permission is given and if satisfactory arrangements are not possible then planning permission should be Refused.

Alternatively perhaps Government should find a way of giving Council’s Planning Authorities the power to invoke punitive fines when such breaches occur to ensure compliance?

I see no point in having a situation where the remedy for failure to comply is for further costs to be placed onto the victim (the Council and the Council Tax Payer) and the offender receives no penalty for ignoring an agreement that is made in the public interest.

Problems at Christmas Tree Farm Site?

January 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

On Christmas Tree Farm

Residents have asked us who they should contact if there are problems or breaches of planning conditions during the build/construction phase of the new estate.

We hope that there are none because we took a great deal of trouble to discuss all of the potential big problems we could all forsee and make enforceable conditions with DWH before planning permission was finalised.

Having said that the build will take several years.  DWH say that there will be a Help Line provided to residents.  We have not been informed of the phone number yet.

If you encounter problems then we think that the Council ought to know and take action.  The Planning Case Officer is Mike Stranks and he can be contacted at RDC on 546366 or email mike.stranks@rochford.gov.uk

If you email the Council or Essex County Council or even DWH themselves please copy us in at Cllr John Mason <CllrJohn.Mason@rochford.gov.uk> and Cllr Christine Mason <CllrChristine.Mason@rochford.gov.uk>, although living close to the site ourselves hopefully we might have also already taken action.

 

 

 

 

 

Despair in Hullbridge Against the Imposition of 500 Houses

January 4, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

People learn

Christine and I went to the Hullbridge Community Centre last night, 3 January, to demonstrate our support to the residents of Hullbridge and District Councillors Michael and Diane Hoy (The Green Party). We also wondered if we would find any “magic bullets” in Hullbridge which could be of benefit to nearby Hockley who we are supporting in their objection to the Hockley Area Action Plan otherwise known as the “HAAP”.

Michael presented the position very well to over 100 Hullbridge residents who attended the hastily organised public open meeting. He explained what they could or could not do in the Public Consultation on Hullbridge SER6 in the Allocations Submission document. There were a huge number of questions which Michael answered very well in a very polite and well ordered meeting.

First of all we learnt that some of these houses were actually to be buillt in Rawreth and not Hullbridge. Two of the fields which made up 1/6th of the site were in Rawreth. But will Rawreth be holding a public meeting? How will the residents know?

This is not the first time that the Local Development Framework Sub Committee has allowed misleading information to come forward; our Ward of Hawkwell West constantly being called South Hawkwell in the Core Strategy? Hullbridge also felt that public consultations earlier in the Core Strategy process had not been fairly promoted or communicated within Hullbridge. Was the Statement of Community Involvement fulfilled? They think not. Is the resultant policy for Hullbridge Legal? Or Sound? These are the only valid objections that residents can raise now.

Michael reminded residents about what the Council said constituted a Sound plan.

“Rochford District Council states in its Public Consultation that to be Sound the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development”
.
The conclusion was the same as already reached in Hawkwell and Hockley;

That the Allocations Submission Document is not Sound as the Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts on the Rochford Core Strategy through the Local Transport Plan because the information quoted by Essex County Council has not been published in the Evidence Base. The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites Development Planning Document (DPD) comes from the Core Strategy and that renders the Allocation of Sites DPD Unsound because it, and the strategic development proposed in the Allocations of Sites DPD, is not supported by sustainable evidence from a cumulative traffic assessment for Rochford District.

Residents came up with a whole list of sustainability issues that they would wish to raise in the Public Consultation. Here is a brief list which Michael will no doubt expand upon on his own web site;

http://mikehullbridge.wordpress.com/author/mikehullbridge/

  • sewerage at capacity
  • creates a new community out of cohesion with Hullbridge
  • the development offers youth provision where it is not needed
  • the development offers more A1 Retail where it is not needed
  • access over Malyons will create congestion
  • Watery Lane improvements will be 10’s of £M – economically viable?
  • Flooding issues to be dealt with by major engineering offsite in the Rawreth area creating further development
  • This site is not viable and nor are the alternatives which suffer from the same issues
  • Surface water flooding issues are assessed on insurance claim criteria – not assessed because there are no insurance claims for flooding in green fields
  • Tidal reflux in 3 rivers has effect on flooding – will affect Hockley and other areas upstream

The public was encouraged to tick the box to go to the Public Examination, attend and have their say.

A good meeting which brought the public together to support and inform.

 

 

Revision of the Rochford Core Strategy – How many more in Hawkwell?

January 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Targets - 2

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West?

In Hawkwell West we already have 176 approved which is an increase of over 10% of our housing stock in a relatively small area.

Read on………………..we will explain.

Background

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025.

The Government Planning Inspector required Rochford District Council to undertake a revision or review of the Core Strategy to take into account a shorthfall in target numbers and years together with compliance with Government policy called the The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the housing building policy “Planning for Growth”.

The Core Strategy is the main policy document that provides a future new housing development framework for our area; generally the release of Green Belt for new housing. Rochford District Council had hoped that promises to change Government Policy following the General Election would permit only 190 per year. This did not happen and the total number remained unchanged in the CS with the end date stretched to 2025. I believe that this means that the total number allocated to sites runs out in 2025 against a required extension to 2031. ( 190 x years now 250 x years end 2025 not 2031 as required by Government)

This implies to us the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for in our area at some point.

In July Rochford District Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) forms part of the Council’s evidence base that informs the new Local Development Framework or Core Strategy.

The Core Strategy really means “Government House Building Targets” which have not been withdrawn as promised by the new Conservative Government (whoops sorry, The Coalition Government of Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats).

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on……….we will explain some more

There is also a shortfall of 402 dwellings across the District is mainly due to the recession which resulted in a significant drop in housing completions, and the delay in the adoption of the Core Strategy.

Option A is to address housing shortfall up to 2011 by allowing a nominally higher quantum of development within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy, above that which has been assumed in the SHLAA Review. In other words instead of say 500 on a particular site increase the density to say 550. It is therefore necessary to consider whether there is potential for the quantum of development necessary to meet housing shortfall backlog to be developed within the general locations identified in the Core Strategy.

This would appear to be 5% in the sites put forward in the Allocations Submission Document which is subject to Public Consultation until 25 January 2013.

When I asked questions I obtained the following statement from a The Portfolio Holder ??? Council Member “The sites that are not preferred [in the Allocations Submission Document] will not come forward for further consideration.”

Do we think that that is likely to be true? Otherwise how is the shortfall of 400 plus 1500 making nearly 2000 to be met?

Option B, which we consider the more likely option, is that as the SHLAA simply suggests that any housing shortfall could be addressed through the Review of the Core Strategy, i.e. at point of the review, if the shortfall is X number of dwellings, the Core Strategy review could set out how X number of additional dwellings are to be provided in the District in the future. Would there be further public consultation on this aspect? Yes, hopefully.

So how many more for the Rochford District and our Ward, Hawkwell West? 

Read on…………here are the numbers and the possible new sites

In “South Hawkwell” as Rochford District Council repeatedly and confusingly insist on calling Hawkwell West, there are six proposed future sites in the SHLAA.

One of the sites, Potash Garden Centre, does not give the number of homes but it consists of 1.17 hectacres.

The other five sites propose a maximum of 124 new homes.

Four of these sites are in Ironwell Lane with 78 new homes proposed the fifth being land adjacent to The Old Rectory on Rectory Road with 46 new homes proposed.

Ironwell Lane (with 600 houses adjoining it in West Rochford already and given planning permission) seems part of a hidden agenda as on the “West Rochford” page calls for future sites Meadowbrook Farm at the bottom of Ironwell Lane proposes 31 new homes.

And to add to good measure 29-35 are proposed for the AutoPlas site on Main Road, Hawkwell.

Our concerns for unsustainable development in Hawkwell West with permanent loss of Green Belt and lack of identity by coalition are far from over.

It seems very short sighted not to provide a substainable infrastructure framework before allocating any proposed building sites and a further policy for more that just increases the already difficult conditions that we experience.

The loss of Green belt for homes should be a last resort and take account of OUR local housing needs, not national ones to rescue the Economy or those required by our Neighouring Councils in Southend, Castle Point, Basildon, Chelmsford and even Maldon.

The present core strategy has 250 new homes per year up to 2025.

Could we assume the number of new homes in the next core strategy of 2026-2040 will also be 250 per year?

The years up to 2040, “27 years”, are a mere blink in time before it is here along with the new homes/cars.

And will there still be no adequate Highways and other infrastructure?

When you get the chance to make comment on any of The Core Strategy by Public Consultation please say what your concerns are.

Further Public Consultation on the Core Strategy

January 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

661daed29911cdbef6141c4bb1ab9bdcb4bb31cd

Happy New Year 2013.

This brings a further opportunity for residents to comment on the Rochford Core Strategy. This ends on 25 January 2013.

We have already raised our concerns about the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) and now we turn to the Allocations Submission Document.

http://rochford.jdi-consult.net/ldf/readdoc.php?docid=178

With planning permission having already been given for a new 176 dwelling estate in Hawkwell, despite huge objection by residents, residents groups and your two Independent District Councillors, you might think that this is the time for “no comment” from Hawkwell.

We think otherwise. We would encourage you to read our Article and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also wish to object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

We have been informed that the response from the Housing and Development Section of the Hawkwell Parish Parish Plan (HPPG) Questionnaire was mainly against further house building with a weighting of opinion that the area is full up and cannot even take the current volume of traffic in a satisfactory manner.

In the Traffic and Highways Section 71% said that there was excessive traffic congestion.and 77% said that Tidal traffic congestion leads to gridlock.

There were 136 comments made freely on the questionnaires which all directly relate to housing and development and 60 of which related to roads and or infrastructure.

We understand that the roads have not been improved since green-space separated all towns and villages on the Shoebury peninsular (for want of a better name). The development of Cherry Orchard Way (B1013) resulted in Hawkwell West getting true through traffic avoiding the A127 congestion for the very first time.

The HPPG is so concerned that it has suggested to Hawkwell Parish Council that a Rochford Bypass should be reconsidered when planning to improve the current inadequate road infrastructure.

This concern regarding traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure is not new and I had already raised this issue in the Core Strategy.

In May 2010 at a Public Examination about the Core Strategy in front of a Government Planning Inspector I raised concerns about the level of housing development and whether the roads could cope with the additional volumes.

I was assured that this matter would be looked at when the Essex County Council Local Transport Plan was reviewed in 2011.

Councillor Michael Hoy and Councillor Chris Black were both present at the PE in 2010.

Strangely Rochford District Council still agrees in 2012………….according to RDC (Minutes of Council 27/11/12); “Responding to a supplementary Member question relating to the cumulative effect of all the proposed development on the local highways, officers advised that the Highways Authority was looking strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts through the Local Transport Plan; in addition, the emerging community infrastructure levy should facilitate strategic highways improvements.”………but there is not a Traffic Assessment of the District (TEMPRO) in the Evidence Base as far as I can see.

The Member asking the question was myself, Councillor John Mason.

But in 2012 as explained by ECC, “the current Essex Local Transport Plan (LTP) was developed in line with Department for Transport Guidance on LTPs. This LTP represents a significant change from previous LTPs. It is not a 5 year plan that sets out a specific programme, instead it is a long term document that provides the framework within which transport programmes can be developed.”

There are 3,500 new dwellings agreed in the Rochford Core Strategy. Already 976 have been given planning permission in the Central part of the District.

Councillor Michael Hoy has posted on Facebook that a Public Meeting is being held on Thursday 3rd January at the Hullbridge Community Centre, in Pooles Lane. The meeting is to start at 7.30pm. This meeting is for residents to discuss and decide what they can say to the consultation, being held by the District Council, about the 500 houses planned for Hullbridge.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements.

Rochford District Council states in its Public Consultation that to be Sound the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.

Essex County Council stated in an email to me on 21 December 2012 “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

I conclude that the Allocations Submission Document is not sound as the Highways Authority has evidently not looked strategically at the cumulative effect of traffic impacts on the Rochford Core Strategy through the Local Transport Plan because the information quoted by ECC has not been published in the Evidence Base.

The Evidence Base for the Allocations of Sites DPD comes from the Core Strategy and that renders the Allocation of Sites DPD Unsound because it, and the strategic development proposed in the Allocations of Sites DPD, is not supported by sustainable evidence from a cumulative traffic assessment for the District.

The Planning Inspector is asked to reject the Allocations DPD and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic cumulative effects of all developments contemplated by the Core Strategy on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC in accordance with the LTP 2011.

Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP)

December 30, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

HÅP

We are formally objecting to the Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP) which is published at the link below.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

As District Councillors we believe that this plan will have adverse effects on the residents of our Ward, Hawkwell West Ward which adjoins The Hockley Village centre.

UPDATE – HERE IS A SYNOPSIS OF WHAT Councillor John Mason told the Planning Inspector at THE HEARING ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2013

I suggested yesterday at the Hockley Hearing that if the “up to” 3000sqm Supermarket/Retail scheme was not viable then a Retirement Village might be ideal instead and meet the rising needs of the over 60’s who have no smaller housing unit provision in the Core Strategy. More on this at http://rochfordessex.com/ in the article on the Census 2011. The Council suggested that 3 bed “lifelong” properties would remove the need to downsize……………nope !!

 

When I said that there were no new properties being built at one and two bedrooms that older folk could buy to downsize to the Council representative at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday said that older people were also eligible for rentable affordable housing if they wished to downsize. Don’t think the Social Landlords would agree.

 

The B1013 was running at 73% when I asked Essex County Council in 2008. Apparently the free flowing practical % only runs to 85% so I wonder where we are now? No answer from Highways at the Hearing on Hockley yesterday because they have decided not to do a Traffic Assessment. So is the Hockley Village Centre scheme viable?

 We are supporting the Hockley Residents’ Association whose Chair, Brian Guyett has had input into this article.

We would encourage you to read the HAAP and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.

Anyone who either shops or drives in Hockley should be concerned with the District Council’s recently published proposals for regenerating the centre of Hockley which is called the HAAP.

There is the likelihood of a new “medium” sized supermarket of up to 3,000 sq metres (that nearly six times the size of the existing Co-op). There are concerns that a supermarket this large will overwhelm the existing shops and result in less competition and, in turn, higher prices. It is also contrary to the Council’s own experts, who recommended that Hockley should be redeveloped along small, “boutique” lines.

There are also plans for a public square, with an evening culture of bars and cafes, and around 100 new homes. Clearly this will all change the character of the ‘village’ against the wishes of residents.

This makes 150 new dwellings in Hockley made up of 50 recently given planning permission in West Hockley and the 100 in the Centre. (We thought there would only be 50 according to an election leaflet circulated in Hockley in 2010.)  So with the 976 dwellings already given planning permission in the Central part of the District the additional 100 takes the total well over 1000 (1026). There are 326 new dwellings just for Hockley and Hawkwell.

We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements and from what Councillor Chris Black has said in Council there are the same concerns in the West of the District.

Christine and I pledge to continue to campaign for highways infrastructure improvements.

However, the main concern on the HAAP is the impact on traffic and parking. The Council has repeatedly promised that highway considerations would be included in the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) but, in a the last minute U-turn, did not do so arguing that it could save money leaving it to a planning application to pay for this.

But

Essex County Council, advises that “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

The Council “considers” that the Spa Roundabout could be improved through the provision of 3 slip lanes and a wider pavement beside the Spa pub. There is no evidence to support this view or whether it is even physically viable. The Council has only allowed £2-300K for the cost of this work, which looks optimistic given that they allowed up to £2M for the same work in the Council’s costings for the Core Strategy.

The Council also proposes to move the Hockley Station car park in to Eldon Way, and build more houses on the existing car park. Whilst this has some attractions, it would reverse much of the traffic flows under the railway bridge and, again, the Council say they have not modelled the impact. So it is not known how this will change traffic flows through Hockley, including extra volumes from all the new housing in the West of the District.

Parking also looks very tight with just 211 places proposed for shopping and 72 for the Hockley Rail Station. The Rail Station Car Park is often almost full with 159 places so how is just 72 sustainable?

The Council states that to be Sound the plan (HAAP) should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.

As stated earlier Essex County Council, advises “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”

As the HAAP is a proposal for strategic development then according to ECC this must be accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.

The Planning Inspector is being asked by us to reject the HAAP and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic effect of such proposed strategic development on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC.

If you also wish to object then please submit your own by 25 January 2013.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

John and Christine Mason

An Outsiders View of the Rochford Core Strategy Suspension

August 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Planning guru, Andrew Lainton, takes an interest in the Rochord Core strategy.

He writes in response to the Article that John Mason wrote in whiche he wondered if certain legal issues, namely a High Court case called CALA II could impact on the Council’s request for Suspension.

Interestingly John spoke of his concern in the Council Chamber even then about the further potential delays which might be caused by the Government having to conduct Regional Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) to finally abolish the Labour Housing targets (RSS).

Andrew talks about the third option that John also put forward which was withdraw and re-submit when the legal uncertainty was over.

Finally Andrew has advice for Local MP, Mark Francois, who is a senior government whip who wrote a letter of support to the Planning Inspector on behalf of the Council.

Over to you Andrew Lainton.
 
“It is not that simple, in CALA II one of the key issues was to do with the law on whether or not administrative degree could overcome the will of parliament.  After Royal Assent the will of parliament will be clearer.

But none the less as the junior minister Bob Neill has consented to there will be no revokation until the SEA process has been completed, consulted on and responded to.

Until then the RSS remains the development plan and the legal requirement for general conformity remains.

A material consideration can never trump a legal requirement, this is not a matter for weighing and balancing.

Suspension now of the examination could be challengable as it would be prejudging the outcome of the SEA consultation, indeed imprudent remarks from Ministers have made a challenge on grounds of the Seaport case (a NI SEA case in the European Courts) inevitable, which will take at least two years to conclude.

What is more statements by government payroll members (such as the local MP who is a whip) that after the royal assent the RSS should be disregarded (see letter) could be regarded as prejudicial to the SEA process, the MP needs to keep a judicial silence as his action is likely to be quoted in court as evidence of government prejudice – he could have led to the RSS being given life until conclusion of judicial process.

If the Inspector suspended the EIP (Examination in Public) it would be prejudging, the outcome of an SEA process and consultation that hasn’t even begun.  She should carry on and determine the plan of the basis of what is and not what might be in six months or two years – indeed they have a legal duty to. 

The situation of EiP examinations lasting over a year – when they used to last only a few days or weeks prior to May 2010 – has become a joke which discredits the whole process.

If Rochford was not happy with this they could always withdraw and resubmit later.

Of course on re-submission if they propose building much less than SHMA assessed need and without ‘duty to cooperate arrangements to cope with the housing they would displace beyond the green belt they would not just have a potentially unsound plan they would (after royal assent) have a potentially unlawful one.”

http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/rochford-asks-for-core-strategy-examination-to-be-suspended-in-light-of-nppf-and-cala/

Rochford District Council – Suspension of Core Strategy

July 31, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Councillor John Mason’ s Speech in Full Council on 21 July 2011 opposing Suspension

Open Letter 1 following Full Council Decision to request Suspension

Open Letter 2 following Full Council Decision to request Suspension

The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, Councillor Keith Hudson, very kindly sent all Members of the Council two letters on Friday, 29 July.

  1. The Council’s Letter requesting Suspension
  2. A Letter from Mark Francois MP supporting the request

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/Letter_to_Inspector_re_suspension.doc

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/Letter_to_Laura_Graham_-_from_Mark_Francois_MP_29.07.11.pdf

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/minutes%20rdc%2021072011.pdf

The full story is in the Council’s Letter and the Minutes above.

The Council has quoted three precedents in its letter to Government Planning Inspector Ms. Laura Graham.

From the above Minutes “The situation the Council was in was not unique, the approach being suggested reflecting that taken by Inspectors in some other parts of the country.”

Had these been quoted in the Report making Recommendation which was debated in Council on 21 July I should have liked to have spoken about these before the Council made its written request.

Yes, they were all suspensions but you need to look at the detail.

South Wiltshire Core Strategy suspended August 2010 !!

Cllr John Brady, Cabinet member for economic development, planning and housing, said: “I am delighted the inspector has recognised that we find ourselves in highly unusual circumstances with the abolition of the RSS taking place towards the end of the Examination of the South Wilts Core Strategy. His agreement to suspend his report to allow us time to reassess our situation is most welcome.”

Note in 2010 !! Different circumstances to RDC and before any of the Cala Court Cases.

Surrey Heath Core Strategy suspended (est. March 2011)

“The planning inspector considers that there is insufficient justification to support the Council’s departure from the South East Plan’s housing requirement for the Borough. Bearing in mind the substantial level of housing need identified in the SHMA, the inspector considers this to be a potentially serious failing. In response, Surrey Heath has requested a suspension of the examination to enable more work to be undertaken.”

Again different circumstances to RDC. And before Cala II.

Luton/South Beds Core Strategy Examination suspended ( est. July 2011)

http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/the-legal-problem-that-got-the-lutonsouth-beds-core-strategy-examination-suspended/

Reading the above link and according to Andrew Lainton “The final point is a killer. The Joint committee had proceeded on the basis that the abolition of the RSS was material. At the time Mr Village wrote his letter we didn’t know the outcome of the Court of Appeal in Cala II. Now we do know.”

“The lesson is clear any LPA which has submitted a DPD taking into account the proposed revocation will be contrary to CALA II.”

Note before Cala II.  This looks critical according to Andrew Lainton who is a planning consultant.

This is the critical Para 24 from Cala II;

“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”.

My thoughts below;

Essentially, if the Inspector agrees to the suspension, she could be viewed as being in direct contravention of the principle established in the Cala II Appeal [para 24] as she would, in effect, be encouraging the authority to have regard to the proposal to abolish the Regional Strategy.

Should prove very interesting !!

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