Some readers may remember when the District Council took an active role in twinning with the town of Haltern, in Germany. One of the highlights was the visit of two German minesweepers to Baltic Wharf on Wallasea Island.
Today we have heard the distressing news that sixteen teenagers and two teachers from Haltern were amongst those killed in the Germanwings plane crash yesterday. The loss of so many young lives, full of promise, is shocking.
We are sure that many people’s thoughts and prayers will be for them and their families tonight.
The Echo reports here that the previously intractable County Council have agreed to leave streetlights on for an extra hour – until 1 am – except for Monday mornings. the Echo report begins as follows:
Essex County Council has announced street lights will remain on until 1am for six days each week.
The change to the part night lighting scheme, which currently sees lights off from midnight to 5am daily, was announced at a cabinet meeting this morning.
The change is designed to have a positive impact on the night-time economy in urban areas and benefit commuters.
But the previous midnight to 5am switch off will remain in place on Monday mornings, due to earlier closing hours and limited commuter travel.
The changes will come into place from Monday, to coincide with the start of British Summer Time.
Essex County Council says it is on track to save £1.4m per annum by the end of the current financial year.
Rodney Bass, Essex County Council cabinet member for transportation, said: “We have taken the decision to change the operating hours of part night lighting because of the positive impact it will have for the night time economy in our main towns…..
Regarding the ‘night-time economy’ – this news will be welcomed by some of our residents who like to enjoy a late evening out and then want to walk home safely. It may also help residents who have been out in London for the evening and arrive back at Rayleigh, Hockley or Rochford stations after midnight.
The Echo has reported on possible proposals in Basildon’s Local Development Plan that could put 900 homes to the east, north and west of Wick Country park in Wickford. This is on the A127 not far away from Rawreth. For those not familiar with this country park we’ve produced a quick map with question marks showing where the houses might go. (Click to enlarge)
One of the official purposes of the green belt is to prevent coalescence of existing settlements- perhaps that’s a good legal argument against development here.. And thats before you go on to questions of infrastructure. This map does show that the green belt left between Basildon/ Wickford and Rawreth / Rayleigh starts to look a bit thin if you take out “North of London Road” , Michelins Farm plus this land in Wickford…
Chris and Ron, as ward councillors for the adjoining ward, will be asking RDC if they can get us more information.
We’ve been in contact with one resident who carried out his own litter survey in various woods and parks of South Essex. He counted how much litter he saw in a two mile walk. This is what he found a couple of years ago:
Over the last few years I have noticed the amount in local woodlands increasing year on year. Therefore I decided to do a survey and to understand the nature of the problem.
I surveyed nine local woods by counting the amount and sorts of litter I saw during a two mile walk.
The worst I found was Belfairs woods near Southend on Sea, Essex, England. There I counted 571 pieces of litter. This compared with only 45 pieces in Hockley woods only three miles away.
Both woods are popular with the local population. Both have a car park and a playground. Belfairs has a golf course as well, but not much litter was seen on the fairways.
So there is no obvious reason why one should be heavily littered and the other not.
There were however some points which seemed to accumulate more litter than other place. These were roads; lanes; carparks; schools; supermarkets; lakes and playgrounds. However the only place which had lots of litter and lots of amenities was Sweyne park, which has a playground, supermarket; car park and a lake.Litter by type in SE Essex
Noticeably the woods which were heavily littered were surrounded by residential streets. This was true of Belfairs; Sweyne Park and West woods. The others were bordered by farmland or other woods. Both Sweyne Park and West woods also had a school bordering the area.
To strike a positive chord, BBC Radio 3 recently featured a classical musical composer from Essex. This was the first programme in a series about female British composers under the age of 35.
The composer concerned is Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and you can hear the programme here for another 18 days. It’s a interview that features some of her music. It begins with two short pieces inspired by the London Olympics- one for sailing, and one for Table Tennis.
Having a few open air cinema evenings in our district sounds quite an exciting idea – at least in principle. Under its “Commercialisation” heading the District Council is allowing Essex Outdoor Cinema to hold events in Sweyne Park and Hockley Woods this year:
June 6th – Hockley Woods – Shakespeare in Love
June 7th Hockley Woods – Film TBC
August 15th – Sweyne Park, Rayleigh – Grease
The Sweyne Park event wasn’t discussed with the ward councillors nor with the Friends of Sweyne Park. We have asked for information about numbers of tickets (these are ticket-only events) and other issues like car parking, toilets, noise levels and specific location in the park. When we have the answers we’ll do an update. (We have also asked RDC to contact the Friends Group over this.)
UPDATE 6 PM FRIDAY:
We’ve received the following information today from RDC:
Essex Outdoor Cinema (EOC) is the organisation producing the event. They will supply all infrastructure including stewards, security, fencing, First Aid, litter picking, toilets, and temporary exit lighting. The event is produced at no cost to the Council except some Officer time to assist with joint promotion and providing advice around health and safety and event management. Risk Assessments and Event Management plans have been received from EOC and will be presented at a Safety Advisory Group.
Working with Essex Outdoor Cinema on the promotion of the event is important as the arrangement is that Box Office income is shared equally between the organisation and the Council.
This event has come about through an initiative at the Council for employees to come up with ideas that might generate income and further corporate priorities – in this case increasing use of open spaces through public events….
…. A Temporary Event Notice (TEN) for Sweyne Park would allow a maximum of 499 audience members. The same numbers would be permitted under a TEN at Hockley Woods, but in conjunction with EOC, RDC officers have agreed that 300 should be the maximum given that the event ‘arena’ (the clearing) and parking is reduced in size compared to Sweyne Park.
Sweyne Park Location: Area near the lake. The mobile cinema screen will back on to the lake with audience on the hill. The screen will be roped or fenced off.
Parking: Rayleigh Leisure Centre
Weather: The events will go ahead in all conditions except where high winds might be a safety risk (e.g. cinema screen falling)
Gates open 7pm
Showing 8.45pm to 10.45pm
Site completely clear by 11.30pm
Noise : “Average outdoor screenings produce around 75dbs of sound. We have designed the sound equipment so that a) it doesn’t need to run at excessive volumes – the quality is such that we can achieve great sound without turning it up to levels that would disturb local Residents and b) it is angled to minimize the sound dispersion – the way the speakers
are set up contains the sound without much spread. Sound levels can be monitored throughout the event and we are able adjust the mix as the film plays to ensure we get the balance right.”
Southend airport will have flights to Maribor, Slovenia from June to October this year, according to the airport website:
“Flights to one of Slovenia’s key tourist destinations – world famous for its wine – are taking off from London Southend Airport three times a week from this summer.
The Adria Airways service to Maribor from London Southend Airport will operate on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from June through until October 2015. It will be using an Airbus 319 and the flight time is around 2 hours.
Flights are on sale from 30 Marchat www.adria.si/en with prices starting from €69 return per person, including taxes…..”
“Not only is it in an eminent wine growing area, but Maribor is also home to one of the biggest and oldest classic wine cellars in Europe (at more than 20,000 square meters / 215,000 square feet) which rests right underneath the city. Also in Maribor is the Old Vine, which at 400-years is the oldest vine in the years – as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
There is also plenty to see in the Old Town – from medieval towers and remains of the city walls, as well as the square Grajski trg with the castle and museum, Bishop Slomšek’s cathedral with its viewing tower. There is also one of the oldest synagogues in Europe.”
Find Tripadvisor’s top things to do in Maribor here.
Hockley Woods are surely our district’s greatest natural treasure – the biggest remnant of the ancient woods that once covered Essex. There’s more information on the Council website here. And if you are seriously interested in the woods, you can buy Oliver Rackham’s Book “The Ancient Woodlands of England:The Woods Of South East Essex” from the Council.
There are some picnic benches near the entrance, next to the play space. It takes about an hour to walk round. The light can be rather special – sunlight dappled by the trees. Most of the time all you will hear is birdsong. But you’ll probably see small children in Wellies doggedly exploring the woods with their parents and also encounter happy dogs wagging their tails and getting muddy. First-time visitors may be startled by the coppicing – but a notice explains that this is a traditional part of the management of the woods.
There wasn’t much litter to be seen, largely because some regular visitors pick it up and remove it. But the question of litter in woods is something we are going to write about soon…
Back in 2010 we said that the District Council shouldn’t have continued so far in to the future with their Core Strategy:
Of course , once land is taken out of the Green Belt, it’s very hard to protect it again. Wouldn’t it better to let future councillors – in 2025 – make decisions on what housing is needed then rather than have councillors and council officers try to guess things now 15 or 20 years in advance?
Why is our council so keen to press ahead with all this?
So with the council having already allocated some unsuitable sites for development, we have two new planning applications to look forward to. One is at the old prison site at Bullwood Hall, mostly in Rayleigh but partly in Hockley. Harrow Estates are holding a public consultation session tomorrow at the Parish Hall (Upper Room) 58 Southend Road Hockley from 2 pm to 8 pm. There should be more info available after the event at Harrow Estates Website.
The other is for 100 new homes around the Timber Grove site off London Road Rayleigh.
This application shouldn’t be a surprise to coucnillors – there was an application in 2012 that was refused, but only on the chairman’s casting vote.
If you are involved in local campaigning, social media are very important.
You can set up your own website, as we did with onlinefocus.org. Websites have some very good plus points. They are largely under your own control, so you can have the lay-out you want. When the website has been going for a few years, you can still search and find important stuff from the past.
Or you can set up something on Facebook. That has its plus points as well – Facebook groups can gain a readership very quickly, and people can leave comments and interact instantly.
Which brings us to “Rochford and Rayleigh Rising” a new Facebook Group set up by Councillor John Mason. Its tag-line is “Where independently minded people openly ask and tell about what is really happening in Rochford District focussing on the needs and wishes of residents.” If you are on Facebook, its worth seeking out…
We are Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners in Rochford District.
We want to improve local decision-making and we see onlineFOCUS as a good way of keep residents informed and involved.
Please click here to email us .
We welcome your comments, they are very important to us. However please note:
* We may not necessarily agree with the comments made by our readers
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If you want information on a particular planning application, you can find it on the District Council website here.
If you want to know what new planning applications have been submitted this week, click here.
If you want to report a problem, you can email Lib Dems councillors by clicking here.
There's also an independent website called FixMyStreet. It's very good for reporting minor street problems like holes in the road, grafitti or failed streetlights. You can find FixMyStreet here.
If you read onlineFOCUS for a while you can see the kind of things we are trying to achieve locally. Maybe you would like to help us?
If you fancy helping us deliver leaflets, or actively campaigning for us at election time, or simply just helping behind the scenes with paperwork, please contact the onlineFOCUS team here.