A Green Oasis Near Lakeside

The Essexology blog has a feature here on the Chafford Gorges:

“Close to Lakeside and within the buzz zone of the M25 there sits a connected set of gorges.  Not your ordinary gorges, however: these are what remains of three chalk quarries, Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge and Grays Gorge.  Worked from the end of the 18th century for about 150 years, this was an important centre for cement production and a significant local employer.  If you visit Lion Gorge you’ll be able to spot the remains of the old 19th century tramway which carried the chalk to the riverside wharves of the nearby Thames.

The gorges now form an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve.  I’m the first to admit I’m not a keen birdwatcher, but even I was impressed to see so many geese, some with goslings toddling along too.  I think I’ve identified them correctly, but please do put me straight if I haven’t!

Geologists will be impressed by the reserve.  Fossils have revealed that the area was once a tropical sea – yes, tropical Essex, who knew?  There’s an information board at the visitor centre if you’re keen to find out more.



Colchester 13 Rochford 0

The  Echo has an article on its website about improvements coming on the A127:

DRIVERS have been warned to expect delays, as work will start tomorrow to improve a busy A127 junction.

Contractors will be getting to work at the road’s Nevendon junction, near Wickford.

Improvements to its roundabout will include increasing the number of lanes from two to three, upgrading traffic signals and adding a new left turn lane for vehicles travelling east from the A127 onto the A132 Nevendon Road towards Wickford.

Work is expected to be completed by winter this year…

Essex County Council, who are behind the project, is encouraging commuters to allow extra time to complete their journeys.

Now, there are more details on the County Council website here and very interestingly they list all the ‘major schemes’ in Essex:

13 in Colchester
5 in Basildon
3 in Chelmsford
3 in Harlow
1 each in Braintree, Castle Point, Maldon, and Uttlesford
None in Brentwood, Rochford and Tendring

Congrats to the Leader of Colchester Borough Council – Lib Dem Paul Smith. Clearly Paul and his Lib Dem colleagues know how to lobby for improvements!

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A Nasty Story

From the Echo:

A FORMER council employee accessed social service records to try and bribe and threaten a child into having sex with him.

Aaron Whitman repeatedly offered a 15-year-old money for sex on Facebook.

When the vulnerable teen refused he accessed her file, through his job at Essex County Council, telling her he knew where she lived, terrifying her….

Full report here

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Coffee Conflict At Brentwood

Although we have our disagreements between parties at Rochford District Council, we seldom get the bad atmosphere that seems to pervade Brentwood.

Brentwood Lib Dem Karen Chilvers reports as follows on a failure to agree on coffee for staff:

Why can’t you all work together?” you ask as we encounter a Coffee War

This is why,

Last night, it was the budget setting full council – or “Government Finance: The Panto” as it would be more appropriately named.

For Cllr Aspinell, after 34 years on the council with no concession at all given in any Conservative budget, he has long since abandoned the idea of putting in an alternative budget or an amendment.  It only wastes officer time, your money and gets us nowhere.  We chose our battles.

Still, Labour put in a couple of amendments and we supported three of the four and one of them was fairly simple.  Let’s rent out a parking space to a local coffee operative and let the staff have access to coffee, snacks and sandwiches.

The Conservatives refused to accept this idea.  Yes.  That’s right, their stubbornness extends to the provision of a humble mug of coffee.  It seems that one day, in the distant future, they might put something else in.  In other words, “Let Them Eat Cake”.


Avoiding Temptation

We’re avoiding the temptation of going for a cheap headline like ‘”The Origins of -sex”. But the geography blog “Twelve Mile Circle” explains the origin of the -sex and -folk suffixes here.

I started my research for an upcoming trip to Cape Cod and environs in the next few weeks. Massachusetts, I noticed, had counties of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk. The prefixes seemed directional, east, middle, north and south. The suffixes, well I knew they came from England during the colonial era although I’d never examined their meaning before. What did -sex and -folk mean, anyway?

At this point the UK audience can probably stop reading. This will likely be old news. It may also be old news for much of the North American audience too. I don’t know.



Chelmsford Council plans to fine homeless people up to £100- and won’t even let non-Conservatives vote on it.

Chelmsford Lib Dems have been blocked from discussing plans to fine homeless people up to £100. The proposal for a “Public Spaces Protection Order” (PSPO) in High Street, Chelmsford has generated much controversy, including thousands of signatures on different petitions. You can sign a petition here.

Lib Dem Group Leader Stephen Robinson has attempted to table a motion for the full Chelmsford council meeting tonight,  24th February. The motion raised concerns about the PSPO proposal and called for a full investigation by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

However the Council Chief Executive ruled the motion out of order on the grounds that there will be a debate at the Cabinet meeting on 1st March.Cllr Robinson commented, “ALL councillors should have the chance to address this important and controversial topic, which affects some of the most vulnerable in society.”At the Cabinet meeting, only nine Conservative Cabinet members have full rights to speak and vote.

“If Council referred the topic to the Scrutiny committee, the arguments for and against the proposal could be discussed fully and in a properly informed way, calling witnesses to comment.

“Clearly, the Conservatives do not want full, public scrutiny of these proposals or indeed their failure to address the root causes of homelessness, which has reached record levels in Chelmsford.”


Well Done Lorna !

After our dreadful results last year in the General Election, we are rebuilding the party, both nationally and locally. Party membership has increased since the elections, and locally we are making good progress – we have social events again now, and a new fully-fledged committee! We are also actively seeking good local candidates for future elections.

One of the people who’s been helping us is Lorna Dupre, who helps organise things for the Eastern Region of our party. . So we are especially delighted that she won an election last night herself – a landslide gain for the Lib Dems on Cambridgeshire County Council:

Sutton (Cambridgeshire) result:
LDEM: 52.5% (+19.8)
CON: 32.2% (-17.2)
UKIP: 10.3% (+10.3)
IND: 5.0% (+5.0)


News From The County Budget Meeting

Essex Lib Dems report as follows-

Proposals for extra support for young people, and to undertake more road and pavement repairs were tabled at Essex County Council, by the Liberal Democrats in the budget debate this week. However, these were rejected by the Conservatives, who approved a budget containing £75 million of cuts, which will hit vulnerable youngsters and older people.

Liberal Democrat proposals would have:

Invested an extra £0.5 million in youth mental health services for preventative measures and reducing the time young people need to wait for help
Invested extra funding for young people by creating a £0.5 million fund for local youth group projects, which would help improve young people’s skills and divert them from anti-social behaviour
Doubled funding for local highways projects, including local safety schemes, and giving Local Highways Panels more control over their budget;
Created a £2m fund for larger highways schemes (such as significant junction improvements and pedestrian crossings) delivered by Local Highways Panels.

However, despite winning support from other opposition parties, the changes were voted down by the Conservative majority.

The Conservative budget increases council tax by 4% and imposes large cuts including:

Adult Social Care – £44m;
Local highways projects – £4m;
Local bus services – £1.5m;
Children’s mental health – £600,000.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Mike Mackrory (Chelmsford, Springfield) said: “The Liberal Democrat budget would have delivered increased funding for pavements and road maintenance compared with last year, boosted funding for local safety schemes and provided extra support for some of the most vulnerable children in Essex. It would have reversed some of the national and local Conservative cuts.”

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Will The Fire Service Questionnaire Excite You?

The Essex Fire And Rescue Service are carrying out another consultation – you can find it here.

Don’t get too excited. All the options they’re proposing involve removing the second appliance at Rayleigh Weir. You are basically given a choice of :

fewer cuts
even more cuts
saying something else

You then get asked a load of questions about yourself.

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“A Choice Of Limbs”

Southend Labour Councillor Julian Ware Lane has written on his blog about the latest Essex Fire And Rescue Service meeting. He’s not happy with the process, nor the apparent glee of the Tory Councillors in charge:

The consultation exercise is akin to offering a perfectly healthy patient a choice of limbs to be amputated. Whilst I am not blind to the state of the economy (and one wonders just how much mismanagement Osborne can get away with) I do not see my role as being compliant to job cuts, degraded services, and residents being made to endure greater risk.

The full article here.

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Rayleigh Looks Set To Lose A Fire Engine.

At Rawreth Parish Council tonight, councillors expressed concern about news they had seen in the Echo about restructuring of the fire service – including the possible loss of one of the fire engines at Rayleigh Weir fire station.

You can see more on the Essex Fire and Rescue Service website here. In fact all three of the options include removing the second fire engine from Rayleigh Weir.

PParish Councillor Paul Beckers asked for this to be included as an agenda item for future meetings at Rawreth Parish. Actually this is clearly something that all councillors – parish, district and county – need to be thinking about. We will write more here on onlineFOCUS when we have studied the information.

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A New Map For Development Watchers

The South East Essex Action Group Alliance have produced a new map – you can see the full-size version  at It shows proposed developments in this part of the county.

We are told that  tthe new orange tabs are the potential developments from the new Basildon district plan released recently – on top of a map of “definite and potential developments based on local knowledge..”