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Rochford Core Strategy Housing Location Hearings

June 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Laura Graham BSc MA MRTPI

Planning Inspector

C/O Programme Office

RDC

 Dear Miss Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sincerely

Councillor John Mason BSc FLS ACIB

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

June 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parish Council Chairman objects to “Massive Great Shed”

June 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Disability Essex, based in Rocheway, Rochford, wants to put the 10ft by 12ft pitched-roof shed, near to the car park of its new £2million building.

Councillor John Bond, Chairman of Rochford Parish Council, – said: “Our objection is they want to build a shed to put tools in.” “They have gardeners to do their work.” “If they want to build a shed that’s fine, but they want a massive great shed.”

The full  Echo article is here disabilityessex

The planning application will be considered by 8 July by RDC and as the Editor of The Rochford Independent is a Member of the Planning Authority he can make no comment.

Southend Airport Expansion – Project Dates

June 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Some readers have asked if The Rochford Independent knows when the various parts of the Southend Airport Expansion Project will be delivered.

A quick email to Airport Managing Director, Alastair Welch retrieved the following up to date information.

  • New Railway station and airport car park completes in August, opens in the Autumn 2010
  • New Control Tower operational in February 2011
  • New passenger terminal completes late Summer 2011
  • Runway extension scheduled to open for winter season 2011
  • New hotel at airport entrance scheduled to open Spring 2012

I asked the same question of RDC but asking what project milestones applied from the public side, like road infrastructure changes and development of the new industrial estate which will adjoin.

The first response was as follows;

“It is anticipated that the JAAP will be submitted to government by the end of this year or early next year, assuming the current arrangements for plan making continue.  The aim would be to see the plan adopted in 2011.”

That concerned me because the Airport sees the runway being open in say Sept/October 2011 for the Winter Season.

So I asked again to be shown the document which contained the milestones and this is the reply I received.

“It would be the Local Development Scheme, but we are revising at the moment.”

I have the uncomfortable feeling that with fundamental documentation for the public side still not even finalised that the aspirations of the Airport for 2011 might not be met?

 

Would the Government please explain exactly what this means for Rochford District

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The New Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government has made some big announcements on planning today and we have taken this direct from the full document below.

But does this really mean;

  • the end of the Core Strategy?
  • the certainty of dismissal of the Hawkwell and Coombes Farm Appeals?
  • that RDC can turn down the queue of big planning applications simply on prematurity?
  • Or will some or all of these things skid through because the Law will not be changed quickly enough?

This is a big test for both the Conservatives and Lib Dems locally, through their MP’s and Councillors, to make sure that their new Government actually delivers  for the residents of Rochford District !! 

Perhaps we should ask the MP’s who represent Castle Point, Rochford & Rayleigh to spell out what the New Coalition Government agreements will mean in terms of unadopted Core Strategies (does the process stop?), undecided Planning Appeals and Planning Applications which have yet to be determined. This is the REAL world which unless certainly stopped/reversed will mean empty promises I am afraid.
 
COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Government believes that it is time for a fundamental shift of power from Westminster to people. We will promote decentralisation and democratic engagement, and we will end the era of top-down government by giving new powers to local councils, communities, neighbourhoods and individuals.

We will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a review of local government finance.

We will rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils, including giving councils new powers to stop ‘garden grabbing’.

In the longer term, we will radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication Open Source Planning.

We will abolish the unelected Infrastructure Planning Commission and replace it with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.

We will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities.

We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and other environmental protections, and create a new designation – similar to SSSIs – to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities
.

Against Homes Development Proposals in Rochford District

May 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Emma Thomas (emma.thomas@nqe.com) wrote a great double page spread in the Echo entitled “United Against Homes Proposal” which reported on the representations that were made by many residents’ groups across Rochford District to a Government Planning Inspector.

As an objector myself (district councillor John Mason) I came away feeling so proud that there were so many people in our community who were prepared to enter a public inquiry to make their views so well known.

But I have pondered on the question of was that enough for common sense to prevail?

As this is an inexorable legal process driven by the national planning system of the previous Government I came to the conclusion, having spoken to planning professionals, that nothing will stop this happening against the wishes of the people unless many more residents directly call for it to be stopped and a binding re-assessment conducted by local people.  

Now is the time for Rochford District to call for help. Delay and it will be too late quite soon.

Why?

An environmental catastophe will definitely hit the Rochford District in 2011 and the “development storm” will continue unabated for a decade or more unless you act now.

Everyone living in Rochford District has known about this for years and it is something that residents have been shouting out about at public meetings to try to get someone to listen for 3 years. 

The response from local politicians has been “Yes, OK, we know” but the Law stops anything from being done about it.

But now is our chance. A chance of a lifetime because, suddenly, the Law can be changed.  Who can change it and stop an Environmental disaster even at the eleventh hour?  Well you can because we have in the UK a Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government and David and Nick are up for change.

Still not sure what I am on about? Yes you do. 

Do we really need 1250 new dwellings to be built in our district from 2011 to 2015?  It is claimed that these are for people coming into our district to take up newly created jobs? Has this been realistically assessed as a true local need? Or is it a justification for just building houses to meet imposed targets?

And for each five years thereafter another 1250 and so on.

What are our real local needs?

Your local council has known for some time that the infrastructure cannot cope and this was admitted openly by many at a council meeting a year or so ago.  But the same council has put forward proposals that are not even properly assessed against the existing poor district wide infrastructure.

The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government promises to put forward a national planning statement for ratification to Parliament.  But it is right at the bottom of the page !!   Does that imply a low priority and delays in change?  

Rochford District is already threatened with planning decisions for at least 1460 dwellings from proposals put forward by developers who are determined to force the hand of the new Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government with decisions on two Appeals which are due on 26 July and 5 August.

This will be before a decision on the Core Strategy due at the end of September.

So will The Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government abolish this whole process by making a new national planning policy in time to save Rochford District from the impending environmental disaster that we ALL forsee?

YES, eventually, but too late, probably, for Rochford District

You must bring this directly to the attention of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.  It will be too late unless you act now, right away.

Don’t leave this to your local council because councils tend to obediently await process to take its course rather than be proactive.  That is part of the problem.  A slavish desire to follow process because they dare not challenge that process does not deliver change when it is desperately needed. Rochford District Council got us into this mess and I can’t see them being able to deal with it unless you show them how.

If you are too busy to write a long letter yourself then you could  just copy and paste this article and write to David and Nick telling them that we in Rochford are desperate to avoid an environmental and democratic disaster and we need their help as our Government of Change.

Letters rather than emails have the greatest effect.  Details of who to write to below in order of influence. 

To ensure a reply to your postal correspondence please include your full name, address and postcode.

Write to Number 10

You can write SEPERATELY to the PM (David Cameron) and The Deputy PM (Nick Clegg) at the following address asking them to make sure that their Government takes urgent action to safeguard Rochford District; it’s an emergency !!

10 Downing Street,
London,
SW1A 2AA

Write to your MP, either Mark Francois or James Duddridge asking them to personally lobby Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps on behalf of their constituents.

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Write to Eric Pickles who is The Secretary of State who is making decisions on two planning appeals (Coombes Farm and DWH Hawkwell) and the Core Strategy asking him to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Cabinet Office
70 Whitehall
London SW1A 2AS

Write to Grant Shapps who is The Minister of State who is responsible for the new National Planning framework asking him to take whatever action is necessary to preserve the rights of Rochford District to benefit from the Change promised by Government.

Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SWIE 5DU

Rochford District Housing Development Consultations

March 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Council is holding two further major consultations on its Housing Development Strategy (Core Strategy).  The public is being encouraged to comment online via its web site, by email and letter. The consultation period is 17 March to 30 April 2010.

If you are just interested in Hawkwell you can download just those sites here.

This is a surprising choice given that it is increasingly likely that the General Election will be well underway during this period.  If the Council has no choice but to do this now then these should have been conducted earlier to avoid such a distraction and possibly a low response because there are expectations of repeal if there is a change of Government.

At the same time there will be local elections on 6 May.

The first is the Allocations DPD which sets out the options for siting the Council’s preferences for the housing target allocation across the district.

I suggest that you look at these as seperate outline planning applications and comment on those that you prefer over the others in each area.

The document is here on my space and can be downloaded; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocations.pdf

There is an Appendix which lists the others sites which have not been put forward; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/allocationsappendix.pdf

The second consultation is on Development Management which sets out the policy on how development takes place in our District; http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1063718/developmentmanagement.pdf

I hope that you find this article helpful.

Just to remind you that there is the DWH Hawkwell Appeal which commences on 27 April and The Coombes Farm Appeal commences on 13 April.

After the local elections on 6 May there is the Public Inquiry on the Core Strategy which commences on 11 May.

Conservative Party Green Paper on Planning

February 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

In an effort to be first with an informed review of the latest NEWS in planning , I am publishing my immediate reaction to the new Conservative, shadow policy, on Planning.  It was published just this afternoon, 22/2. It was an interesting read of just 20 or so pages.  (That’s quite good in itself actually.) 

I think that many residents in Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Hullbridge, Rochford and Stambridge were hoping that the Conservative Party nationally would be the “white knight” which would promise to save their green belt if only they returned a Conservative Government.  May be…. may be not…. do read on.

Whilst the Conservative Party Green Paper, will undoubtedly encourage many residents to hope that this will be outcome for their cherished area the policy actually has the clear objective of increasing the delivery of housing and other development.

There are financial incentives for Councils and this was expected. Why? Read on. 

Councils will be legally enabled to revise Core Strategies but with national Conservative Policy, then in the capacity of a  “New” Government, Councils might find it difficult to deliver cuts in housing targets which have significance for delivering tax revenues to meet tough national debt repayments !!

With the promised abolition of regional housing targets while simultaneously shifting control to the local level, this is formidable challenge in terms of delivery. To avoid the electorate drawing cynical conclusions too early will be another hard trick to pull off.   

But there is a presumption that a planning application will be approved if it conforms to a new, simpler and rationalised, national planning policy framework and the development is,……….. err, sustainable.

Nothing new here. Just like PPS3 and PPS12. 

How do you actually define “sustainable”? It is very difficult because there can be no numeric criteria.  It is a judgement, currently without even a tick list of criteria which need to be met being provided by anyone.

Residents are trying to get across their judgement on this in Hawkwell West at the moment in the DWH Appeal and to the Council itself who both want housing estates of 330 or 175 dwellings respectively.  Some residents have even decided to “club together” and hire a planning expert and a barrister. To the extent that it has come to this sorry state of affairs, planning is crying out for reform.

So sustainability will be a double edged sword giving loopholes on one side or rigidity on the other depending on how Councils wish to play in a specific site situation that is not as clear cut as others. Could that mechanism give local councils a particularly wide discretion on making what decision they like ? …..err…yes, sure…. and if rules on appeals were to be curtailed then these decisions will “stick”. 

The provision of affordable housing becomes a local decision unless the applicant is a local housing trust and then approval is almost presumed. And there is a financial incentive for a Council to approve affordable housing.

The notion of developers having the legal right to almost negotiate (?) local consent with neighbours ahead of a even a planning application is novel but fraught with danger as locals could be split in personal or collective negotiations and misunderstood promises.  Under this model residents will want to make sure that they vote for a council candidate who actually, really, does live in their Ward and that they have the skills to help make this difficult scheme deliverable and justifiable to all residents. And with Parish Councils getting involved as a party to be negotiated with who is on the Parish Council suddenly becomes something that might really matter.   

The prospect of residents being able to appeal decisions is ground breaking but I cannot see that surviving the protest of developer federations.  Can you? 

If the reforms go through it will not be a day when residents can take their eye off the ball for one second !!   But with the return to localism where the Local Plan returns supreme with locally assessed housing targets, residents must make sure that their voices are heard even louder !! And a harder deal  for political party councillors to sell or justify.  Up to then it will have been too easy to blame the other party !!  

To read the whole paper go here….http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/02/~/media/Files/Green%20Papers/planning-green-paper.ashx

Two Hawkwell Buses per Hour from May

February 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Good News !! Local Campaigning works even though the time lag was one year !! 

Nick Blackall,the Essex County Council Local Bus Service Manager has announced that from 2 May 2010, Hawkwell will see an increase to two buses an hour to Southend and Hockley one of which will extend to Rayleigh every hour as now.

In addition there is good news for Hockley as well because a temporary improvement will now be made permanent.

The section of the 7 route between Ashingdon and Hockley along Greensward Lane will increase to four buses an hour to Southend and Hockley and again one of which one will extend to Rayleigh every hour as now.

These arrangements have been agreed by ECC until August 2011.

In summary:

Arriva are reverting to the previous frequency of 6 buses per hour to/from Hockley/Southend, wef from 2 May.  
 
There will be 4 No 7’s via Ashingdon and 2 No 8’s via Hawkwell.  Services to/from Rayleigh will be unchanged ie one No 7 and one No 8 per hour.

Hawkwell and Coombes Farm – Possible Tests of a A New Government?

January 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

I have had several conversations with local residents this weekend asking what they can do about the Planning Appeals in Hawkwell, Christmas Tree Farm/Thorpe Road and Coombes Farm,Rochford/Stambridge.

Public Comments close on both Appeals on Wednesday, 27 January 2010.

Both Appeals will be heard by Public Inquiry in April following which the Secretary of State makes a decision based on the Planning Inspector’s report.

You could contact Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP because she could decide the fate of Coombes Farm if the Conservatives win the election as the future Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.

It looks to me as if  Hawkwell and Coombes Farm will effectively be Test Cases for a new Government.

Could Caroline Spelman dismiss the Appeals?  Yes, but it depends if Government Guidance on Planning Policy or the regional housing quotas are going to be changed by the new Secretary of State within 16 weeks of the conclusion of the two Public Inquiries.  Coombes Farm commences on 13 April and Hawkwell on 27 April.  Both are not likely to take longer than 4 days.

With the General Election most likely to the held on 6 May, or latest 3 June, there certainly appears to be time for a new Secretary of State to make the decision but there might not be enough time to make changes. 

It is entirely possible that the “old” Secretary of State could make the decision if General Election was held on 3 June and The Planning Inspector had submitted the report very quickly !!

Hopefully Caroline Spelman will be kind enough to look at the position and let us know.  It would be helpful if people write to copy in Mark Francois MP for Hawkwell and James Duddridge MP for Coombes Farm so that they can lobby Caroline Spelman to do the best she can for us if the Conservatives win the election and she is the future Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.

It might be that there would not be enough time for the new Secretary of State to make the changes necessary changes to save the green belt at Coombes Farm and in Hawkwell which would be a dreadful shame.

What residents do deserve is a clear answer; Will she change Government Guidance on Planning Policy Yes? or No? Will there be time to dismiss these Appeals.  Yes? or No?

We can’t ask if Ms Spelman will dismiss the Appeals because she cannot pre-determine this……………..but she could indicate whether it could be possible or out of the question?   

That seems perfectly reasonable for residents to ask for before they vote in the General Election of course !! And remarkably local with a direct immediate effect on peoples lives for a change given how remote national politics can appear to be.

Interesting challenge I think.

Rochford Hundred Rugby Football Club, Hawkwell

January 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Who are we?

Rochford Hundred Rugby Football Club was founded on 4 January 1962 and in its first full season in 1962/63 it managed to field two senior teams and a Colts (Under19) team, no mean achievement in a very short period of time.

The Club was fortunate to find the Rocheway School in Rochford with no sporting occupants and thus immediately had fine pitches and excellent changing facilities. Additionally the Horse & Groom public house in Rochford had a separate building which the Club hired to use as its Clubhouse.

The Club colours have always been black shirts, black shorts and black socks with white tops, not because we think we are the Essex version of the mighty New Zealand All Blacks, but more due to the economies of these early years.

After 5 happy years at Rocheway the Club purchased its present home in Magnolia Road, Hawkwell. The Club bought the 9 acre site at a cost of £3,200 in 1969 and in 1972 the Clubhouse and pitched were inaugurated with a match against an Eastern Counties side which contained at least one England player.

Since then the Club has prospered and now runs five senior sides on a Saturday, with the first team playing League rugby in London One, just one league short of the National Leagues and five away from the Premiership.

We also run a thriving Mini rugby section (for boys and girls) who have teams in every age group from Under 6 to Under 12, who train on Saturday mornings and play on Sundays (but not every Sunday), two very successful girls teams at Under 15 and Under 18, who train on a Wednesday and play on a Sunday and boys youth teams from Under 13 to Under 19 who train during on different evenings during the week and play on Sundays.

We have a great Clubhouse with separate shower areas for both sexes, fully equipped gym, referees changing rooms, physio room, offices, as well as bespoke changing rooms, large bar room and extensive kitchen facilities.

We run an open membership policy and we welcome anyone to join us, either as a player, spectator, parent, referee, coach or volunteer.

If you are interested in joining then please just turn up at the Club, e mail me at the address below or phone us on 01702 544021.

We hope to bring you more regular reports about us in the future, but to find out more about us just put Rochford Hundred RFC into your search engine and you will be directed to our pitchero web site.

Ray Stephenson
Press and Publicity Officer RHRFC
Mail to ray.stephenson55@yahoo.co.uk

London Gangs Target Hockley & Hawkwell

December 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Echo 22nd December 2009

commit no nuisancePOLICE are to target gangs of youths who are coming into Hockley from London to cause trouble.

Youths have been travelling for miles to get to Clements Hall leisure centre and are causing havoc on Friday and Saturday nights.

This has blighted the lives of local residents due to the noise, vandalism to cars, and general antisocial behaviour. Groups of local youths have also been attacked and robbed.

Chief Insp Glen Westley, of Rochford police, said officers would look to tackle the situation before it got worse.

They are introducing policing at the railway station and a metal detecting arch to deter anyone from carrying weapons. Mr Westley said: “We think there’s a territorial thing developing and we don’t want that to fester.

“We will be monitoring behaviour and contacting parents if we need to.”

Most young people seem to be visiting from Rayleigh and surrounding areas, but some appear to be travelling from as far as London to congregate at the teen shelter at night.

These large groups often prove intimidating to people who live in the surrounding streets.

Hawkwell Parish Council chairman Vic Leach said: “We welcome the police initiative in combating this and wish them every success for the peace and quiet of our residents.”

A Tale of Two Villages

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Cheer up, you guys run the country..Whilst the title of this article is an opportunistic pun on the Dickens’  Classic, Tale of Two Cities,  the story here in Rochford could be a tragedy of epic proportions for two villages in Rochford District if Government Planning Inspectors allow the two appeals in Stambridge and Hawkwell. 

Also at risk is the whole strategic housing and development plan (Core Strategy) which is being put forward by Rochford District Council to another Planning Inspector the same time.

So why are two big developers challenging RDC through planning applications rather than the Core Strategy Consultation and Public Examination?

 Both developers have something to lose.

And so has Rochford District Council if an Appeal is allowed and an application for costs upheld.  These could run to 10’s of thousands if not much, much more and the Council Tax we all pay either goes up or services are cut.

At Coombes Farm in Rochford/Stambridge the preferred Location in the Core Strategy does not appear to even include that site.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 326 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.  

In Hawkwell the Christmas Tree Farm site could be chosen in the preferred Location called South Hawkwell but RDC only want to see 175 dwellings.  So if the Appeal was granted then this would add an extra 155 dwellings to those already proposed for the District by RDC.

A total of nearly 500 extra houses. And Stambridge would merge with Rochford and Hawkwell with Hockley and Ashingdon.

You would hope, wouldn’t you that the Government would not allow developers to confound a democratic process of agreement of a Core Strategy by allowing developers to get round the system.  The Government should not and it could stop this nonsense if only it were to appoint the same Planning Inspector who is to examine the Core Strategy to also decide on these two planning appeals and hold the Planning Appeals to coincide with the Core Strategy Examination in Public. Will this happen?  Not unless enough residents write personally to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and get the public support of David Cameron and appeal for common sense.

If common sense does not prevail then all that is in prospect if these planning applications are approved at Appeal is another run of planning applications from developers deciding where they want to build not where RDC determines.

The Rochford District Council Core Strategy would be effectively in tatters because all this could happen and be decided before a General Election tipped for May/June. Even though the Conservative Party, if returned to Government, promises to repeal all of the housing targets then this would mean nothing.  So if refused planning applications were already approved in Appeal these could not be stopped. And there might be others with a “Leave to Appeal” which might also get through.

It is hard to avoid the sneaking conclusion that those with development interests don’t already realise this.

The Government and the Conservative Party, Brown and Cameron, need to focus less on the General Election which will not help us in this invidious situation and get the Planning Inspectorate to tie all these decisions together and stop this exploitation of the system.   

Will anyone listen?  Only if you make them listen.

Christmas Tree Farm, Hawkwell is Appealed to The Government

December 21, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The Refusal of the David Wilson Homes Planning Application has already been Appealed to The Government.  

The Appeal for the 330 Dwellings at Rectory Rd / Main Rd / Clements Hall Way has been validated by the Planning Inspectorate and is in the initial processing stage. The Appeal reference no is APP/B1550/A/09/2118700/NWF.

Public Inquiry will be held on 27/04/2010 and could run for up to 4 days 

Link Here

Grounds for Appeal Here

There will be an Inquiry in public in 2/3 months time.

Notifications from the District Council are about to be sent out to residents, Councillors and other interested parties.
 
This will advise residents that their previous letters received will be forwarded to the Inspector.  But should they wish to comment further they are welcome to write to the Planning Inspectorate by 27th January.
 
The Christmas Tree Farm Appeal reference No. is APP/B1550/A/09/2118700/NWF. This should be quoted on any correspondence to the inspectorate concerning this appeal.
 
Given the level of public interest RDC is currently establishing how best to make the appeal papers available electronically for the public inspection, perhaps with a quick link, over the  Council’s web site.  This information in the first instance will comprise an Appeal Form completed by the Applicant and the stated grounds of appeal.
 
The Appeal for the 326 Dwellings at Coombes Farm has also been validated by the Planning Inspectorate and is similarly in the initial processing stage. The Appeal reference no is APP/B1550/A/09/2118433/NWF.
 
I will advise you soon where this information can be inspected.

Yet More Electricity Outages

December 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

From Brian Guyett, Chairman of  The Hockley Residents’ Association

The Hockley/Rochford area (postcodes SS4 and SS5) has had 7/8, fairly brief, power cuts over the past three evenings.
 
EDF say the problem its likely to be a loose connection or a snow-laden tree brushing against overhead wires tripping a circuit breaker.  Their priority is people still cut-off since Thursday(!) and they have no one at present to walk the lines to check for a fault.
 
Anyone who spots a possible problem to report it to EDF (08007 838 838).

A bad year for EDF see also 3258 houses without power in November http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local_news/rayleigh/4731428.3_258_homes_left_without_power_after_electricity_fault/

 

Exposing the Rochford Core Strategy

July 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What were the recent elections like for you?

June 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

Well No !! 

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

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

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

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

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

If you are wondering what’s in the LTP’s here is a link http://www.essexcc.gov.uk/vip8/ecc/ECCWebsite/dis/faq.jsp?channelOid=16819&guideOid=39939&oid=18098

So why was it not a feature of the elections?

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

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

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

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

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

And on individual sites in October.

The Future of Buses in South Essex

March 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

We saw this on the Rochford Lib Dems site and decided to run the story as well, which speaks for itself.

Glencroft Wood, White Hart Lane

March 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_20071223_1315 Winter Sunshine....Almost!John Mason, a District Councillor for Hawkwell West has been contacted by residents concerned about the future of Glencroft Wood in White Hart Lane.  These concerns had originally come from the Hawkwell Residents Association in the form of leaflets and web site news.  Because of this a petition, we understand, was sent by concerned residents to Hawkwell Parish Council.  

John contacted the Council as a matter of urgency. But here are some extracts from the email sent by Paul Warren, CEO of Rochford District Council.
 
“I can confirm that the Council owns the wood and there are no plans to sell it, develop it and put houses on it, so I do not know where the Hawkwell Residents Association gets its information from.  I can only assume it is pure speculation.”
 
“Also, I do not know where the Association get their information about the transfer of the wood to the Parish Council.  My recollection around the issue was that the Parish did not want to take on the wood due to the maintenance obligations and costs involved.  Also, given our ownership of many woodlands across the District, the expertise and experience around woodland management rests with us.”
 
“Planning permission (08/00787/FULL) did not include the clearance of any protected trees or trees located beyond the boundary of the application site.  The application simply related to the substitution of housing types on two of the plots (43 & 44).  The site has been partly developed in two previous phases of construction along the north and west boundaries of the woodland.  All development either built or proposed is contained within the original boundaries of the site and has planning consent.”
 
“It could be that the misunderstanding has arisen from the fact that a coloured plan accompanying the recent application showed a ‘white’ path through the woodland area into the housing development – the plan was used simply to show the location of the two plots the subject of the application.  RDC has given consent for the change to the dwellings types, but that consent in no way related to the woodland, clearance of a path, etc.”
 
“The comment on a road extension is again pure speculation and has no substance.”
 
“Lastly, please be aware that our Arboricultural Officer has recently visited the wood following a request from a local resident to deal with some branches overhanging his garden.  As a result we are in the process of seeking the necessary consent from the Forestry Commission to undertake some selective thinning.  We are unable to approve this under our TPO procedures as we are the land owner.”

Is Rochford Brickworks a site for 200 houses?

June 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Coastline near Southend-on-Sea:  approaching London City AirportAt the Public Meeting in Hawkwell a resident asked me to explain why this has not been considered in the planning for the strategic housing development plan for Rochford District whereas it was include in the London Southend Airport Report (JAAP)?  The Brickworks Site could support 200 new houses.

The detailed position is as follows.

The formal consultation period on London Southend Airport Report (JAAP) started on the 24 June.  If you look at the four possible development scenarios you will see that a mixed development scheme is suggested for the old brickworks site under Scenario 3.

This is simply a consultation on issues and options and no decisions whatsoever have been taken about the development that might ultimately be agreed in the area of the Action Plan.
 
The JAAP stands on its own as a development plan document, though Rochford District Council will be referring to it, as you might expect, in the revised version of the Local Development Plan Core Strategy.

The Brickworks site is about 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres).  However, you may recall there is a company pushing for the development of a retirement village on the site together with surrounding scrubland – if included, this would make the site about 4 hectares (10 acres).  The boundary shown on the issues and options document is the larger area. This would support 200 houses.

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