onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003


Archive for Essex & East

A Warning From Cambridgeshire

house 2


This is an example of how developers often get their way.From the Guardian today:

“A company owned by a major Conservative donor is embroiled in an acrimonious battle over its plan to build 1,500 homes in a new town near Cambridge without fulfilling the minimum room sizes wanted by the council.

Gallagher Estates, which is owned by the property developer Tony Gallagher, who is also a member of the Tory party’s Leader’s Group for major donors, is in dispute with local councillors over a development being supported by £30m of public money.

The developer was originally granted planning permission to build 1,500 homes at Northstowe, eight miles north-west of the university city – with the council insisting on “minimum room sizes and minimum gross internal floor areas”. But Gallagher Estates appealed successfully in March to the Planning Inspectorate, part of central government, to have that requirement removed, bypassing the Tory-majority council after officials missed a deadline to address the issue.


Tim Wotherspoon, South Cambridgeshire district council’s Conservative cabinet member with responsibility for the Northstowe development, said he felt “very strongly” about the move by Gallagher Estates to eliminate the need for adhering to minimum room sizes and that locals were “sore about it”.

Officials said they believed that they were in a dialogue with the developers about room sizes, before Gallagher Estates went over their head to the inspectorate.

Commenting on developers seeking to build homes smaller than the recommendations, Wotherspoon said: “I feel that it is quite appalling that, in the 21st century, we should put up houses where, in some cases, the kitchens aren’t big enough to store fresh vegetables and where you can’t have the whole family sitting down to have a meal together or the children can’t have friends over to sleep over because the bedrooms are too small.”

Full article here.



The Fast And The Furious


A few decades back, Ron Oatham was involving in some surveying work for a third lane for the A127, all the way from the M25.

Of course , it never happened, it’s a prime example of how the infrastructure of South Essex has been neglected. There have been improvements, notably the A1245 and the greatly improved A13. But anyone going from the A13 to Thundersley or Canvey in the evening rush hour now faces massive queues where Sadler Farms used to be.

The last couple of weeks have been bad for anyone from our area commuting by car along the A13 or A127. Lots of accidents, lots of delays. So this article in the Echo is particularly depressing:

The official responsible for Essex’s roads has admitted drivers will face years more A127 traffic misery because the road is too busy and councils can’t afford to do much about it.Paul Bird, Essex County Council’s director of commissioning for transport and infrastructure, made the frank admission in response to recent Echo coverage of problems with the main road in and out of Southend.

After winning £25million of Government cash to improve four key A127 junctions County Hall has admitted this will only address short and medium-term issues with the road.

About £17million of that money will go to improve the Fairglen Interchange – where the A127, the A130 and the former A130 meet. More than 70,000 vehicles a day are using it and the scheme is considered a priority.

However, work is not due to start there for four years, because the project will require planning permission, a public inquiry, land acquisition and public consultations.

Mr Bird said the road had “a number of issues”, including: ! The need for major structural maintenance ! Day-to-day delays caused every time an accident happens ! An inability to cope with any extra traffic ! Delays related to problems at key junctions where traffic joins from Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford….

Something Positive From the Chelmsford Lib Dems…..

From the Essex Chronicle:

BARGES, gondolas and pleasure boats could one day dominate Chelmsford’s rivers in a plan to transform the city’s waterways into a free-flowing “Venice of East Anglia”.


Campaigners are backing plans for a key canal to be built beside Essex Record Office  in Wharf Road, to open up Chelmsford to river traffic from across mid Essex and beyond.

The developer which bought the land for 350 homes however, the owners of the derelict gas works nearby and a sceptical city council stand in the way of a proposal that dates back more than 20 years.

“Our waterways are a jewel in our crown that’s under-explored,” said campaigning Liberal Democrat city councillor Graham Pooley.

Essex Waterways, Chelmer Canal Trust and the Lib Dems want the 150-metre long canal, known as “the cut”, to be dug out to link the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal and the River Chelmer.

It would bypass the weir and low-lying bridge which currently blocks all boats, sailing in from the sea, Maldon, Heybridge, Little Baddow and Papermill Lock, from accessing the city centre.

Instead, only canoes and rafts from the nearby canoe club in Empire Walk can paddle their way around the city.

The new waterscape might mimic not only Venice, but cities like Salisbury, Cambridge, Bedford and Chester.

The Lib Dems claim the idea has been bubbling on for at least two decades, but it has been granted fresh urgency after the land changed ownership.

The city council agreed to sell its 234-space car park at the Chelmer Waterside peninsula to developer Taylor Wimpey in a deal estimated to cost at least £15 million, stoking fears the canal idea would be ruled out forever.

Chelmer Canal Trust chairman Dudley Courtman said: “The combined presence of such boats would greatly enhance the visual landscape.

“Chelmsford is an attractive town and an added Venetian dimension would be the icing on the cake.”…..

Defenders Of The Essex Sky

stow maries

We’ve written before about the early days of aviation in Essex.

One of our readers has asked us to mention a TV programme this Sunday about Stow Maries aerodrome (over the district border to us in Maldon) It’s at 9 pm this Sunday H2 Sky 531 or vm 236. There’s a bit more programme information here.

If you’ve never heard of Stow Maries World War One Aerodrome, it has its own website.

The aerodrome’s own website has some evocative photos and some photos of what you can see when you visit. The VisitEssex website has the practical info on how to visit:

Stow Maries Aerodrome is a Great War Aerodrome set in the rural Essex countryside. The Aerodrome was in use from 1916 to 1919 as a home defence station in the war against Zeppelin and German aeroplane raids. It has many of its original buildings in situ which are currently undergoing restoration to bring the site back to its 1918 appearance. It also boasts a wildlife walk which was the winner of Maldon District Council Conservation and Design Award 2010.
For further details see
Winner of Maldon District Council Conservation and Design Award 2010.
Opening details
Re-opening 31st March.
Opening days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4pm.

Admission Price £8 adult

Concessions and group bookings available

The Commissioner’s Views on Street Lighting


From the East Anglian Daily Times:

Police officers in Essex are unable to carry out their work as effectively with the street lights turned off. That appeared to be the message from Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston as he responded to questions from residents during a recent web chat.

Currently in Essex street lights run by County Hall are switched off between midnight and 5am except in town centres and at busy road junctions in a bid to cut carbon emissions and authority energy bills. It was announced this week that the lights will now be kept on for an extra hour six days a week, going off at 1am Tuesday-Sunday.


In a web chat with the Basildon Echo, asked if the policy had led to a rise in crime Mr Alston said an increase could not be confirmed and anti-social behaviour had fallen – which has been a central argument from Essex County Council (ECC) supporting the switch-off.

However Mr Alston did suggest the darkness hampered police activity in the early hours.

He said: “Essex Police is of course equipped to respond to emergencies in all circumstances but yes, when the lights are on it must be easier for them.

“Across most of the county, in all of our rural areas, the lights are off. This is really an issue about the areas around our town centres.

“Officers have told me it can be more difficult with the lights off but they will do what they are required to do to the best of their ability.”


Later expanding on his comments Mr Alston added: “It is obviously the case that police and other emergency services find it easier to operate in well-lit areas. However only a small proportion of the area of Essex has lighting. All the emergency services are well able to operate in unlit areas.”

The commissioner also raised concerns about the effect the switch-off could be having on the county’s roads during the web chat.

Mr Alston said: “I think there is a more tricky question about part-night lighting and road safety which has worried me since the beginning of 2013.

“There is growing evidence that part-night lighting can be a factor in some road accidents especially where we have speed limits of 40mph or above on roads close to nightspots where there may be pedestrians around in the early hours.”

He later added that around the country some coroners had raised concerns about part-night lighting, and there were two fatal crashes in Essex in which lighting could be a factor.

As a result Mr Alston has asked the Chief Constable and district commanders to identify roads where this may apply and ask for them to be lit….

Full article here


“Just go forward in all your beliefs …”

Colchester Lib Dem Councillor and blogger Nick Barlow is stepping down after 8 years. He explains why in a thoughtful piece here. It is worthwhile reading for anyone trying to become a councillor. Key extracts:

…But what about localism, I hear you ask? Don’t you have all sorts of new powers to do things your way? Pause to hear a legion of councillors laughing sadly at that. Localism sounds good, especially when put through the party political spin machine, but in practice it just means we get to locally decide how much we agree with Eric Pickles on something – total or absolute. For instance, the old centrally imposed housing targets have been removed, which sounds good, but the evidence base on which councils have to decide their housing targets haven’t, so it’s a case of no longer being told from the centre that the answer is 10, but instead being give two fives and told to go away and add them up locally, and you’ll be entirely responsible for the result. After a while being caught between voters’ expectations of what the Council can do, what it can actually do, and Whitehall’s continued belief that we should just be local delivery arms for the Government can get pretty tiring.

I’m reminded of what Tony Benn said when he left the House of Commons, that now he’d have more time for politics. One of the problems of being involved in the day-to-day politics of being a councillor is that you get swamped by the process and forget the wider issues. There’s a tendency to let everything become a process story, and I think that goes some way to explaining why a lot of politicians are suckered by the cult of managerialism – you can feel that the important thing is the sheer action making of decisions, rather than what decisions actually are….

….I’ve still got a month left on the Council, so it’s probably a bit early for epitaphs, but it’s been fun and I’d still recommend it to people who want to have some impact on their community, even if the Council’s not quite the grand seat of power it used to be. To those who remain, and those who come after me, I can only echo the words of someone much older and wiser than me:

One day, I may come back. Yes, I may come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

On A Positive Note….

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.

Would You Like To Answer 999 Calls? Essex Police Are Looking For Control Room Staff

essex police logo

From the Essex Police website:

Communications Officer Vacancies

30 hours per week (part-time), 24/7 shift pattern Chelmsford

Starting salary £17,361 (pro rata), plus 20% shift allowance and additional weekend working enhancements

About the Force Control Room

The Force Control Room opened in July 1997 bringing single tier control to Essex Police and handles approximately two thousand public telephone calls every day.

We are one of the first Police units to provide a response to the victims of crime therefore it is easy to see why the role of Communications Officer is so important. The FCR is one of the main hubs of operational policing in Essex and plays a pivotal role in delivering front line services to the community…

“Systemic Failure”

essex police logo

There’s been some grim news emerging today – about how Essex Police have carried out investigations of child sexual abuse in North Essex.

The BBC have a disturbing report on it here:

A police force has apologised to alleged child abuse victims after it found problems with 30 investigations involving 59 children.
One police officer has been suspended and 11 others have been put on restrictive duties by Essex Police.
Some cases are said to involve a “lack of honesty or integrity” by officers.

The Independent newspaper is blunter. It begins its report with:

Vulnerable children were left at the mercy of child abusers after a rogue police unit delayed the arrests of suspects during more than three years of systemic failure, officials said.

The Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston writes on his blog about it here:

Early indications are that the problems relating to the quality of investigation and management of investigations identified in the North Child Abuse Investigation Team do not appear to be replicated in the West and South teams….
…. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I will continue to support the efforts of the overwhelming majority of police officers, PCSOs and police staff who work tirelessly to protect the people of Essex from harm. However, where officers are found to have failed in their fundamental duties, then firm and swift action must be taken….
….When I was elected Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012, I knew that Essex Police needed to transform its approach to tackling domestic abuse, and I made this a priority in the Police and Crime Plan for our county. Much excellent work has taken place under the leadership of the Chief Constable, and I believe Essex Police’s new processes and increased commitment to partnership working are helping to address the horrors of domestic abuse
It is now clear that a similar focus is needed to ensure child sexual abuse is tackled as professionally as possible in our county. I am committed to ensuring that the hidden harms of child sexual exploitation, online grooming, ‘honour’ based violence and people trafficking become a priority for Essex Police….

The Chief Constable writes about it here and finishes with:

….If any victims or families are worried about child abuse investigations by Essex Police I would urge them to call our special helpline number on 01245 282103.
If you are currently suffering from abuse, or believe someone that you know is, you should call us immediately on 999. My officers will do their very best to protect you.

Essex Comes Second For Pothole Claims In England !


According to the RAC, Essex County Council still has the second highest figure in England of legal claims against it for damage cause by potholes !  You can download their data here. Only Surrey County Council had more claims. In the financial  year 2013-2014  there were 2548 claims, totally over £156,000. But the County Council only paid out on 98 of them.




Action Groups Ally Together….

We’ve just been sent the following press release …. worth printing in full:

South East Essex Action Group Alliance Press Release Issue 1


In towns and villages across the country residents are fighting to prevent unjustified housing developments, particularly those where Green Belt land will be lost for ever. Councils are wilfully

ignoring local concerns in spite of the Prime Minister’s drive for Localism. In the South East of Essex the situation is exacerbated by the limited supply of land suitable for development, the already-overstretched infrastructure and the existing high population density. A number of independent Action Groups have already been set up by concerned residents. Now these groups are collaborating, sharing information and experiences and preparing to fight together on their shared concerns.

The SE Essex Action Group Alliance, (AGA), has been initiated by action groups from Billericay, Rayleigh, Hullbridge, Daws Heath and Jotmans Farm (these fall within the Basildon, Rochford and Castle Point Local Authority areas). AGA will campaign on three main issues:-

 Unnecessarily high housing targets;

 failure to implement Localism;

 impact on the Green Belt and infrastructure.

Unnecessarily high housing targets

Councils across south Essex are making policy decisions that produce housing targets that are unnecessarily high. For example:-

 Basildon proposed a new homes target of 16,000 when natural growth would suggest just 8,900 homes are required;

 Rochford’s target of around 3000 new homes is twice the natural growth needed;

 Castle Point is proposing 4-5000 new homes when recent estimates show negative growth.

Other areas show similar disparities. There can be sound reasons for increasing housing targets beyond that required for ‘Natural Growth’, but the contrasts noted here are staggering.

Failure to Implement the Localism Act

In 2011 Central Government introduced the Localism Act with the stated aim of devolving detailed planning powers, including the setting of housing targets, to Local Authorities. Numerous Government Ministers have reiterated the intention of the Act to put Local Authorities and the communities that elect them in charge of planning in their areas. Unfortunately Local Authorities in South East Essex have universally failed to understand and implement the concept of Localism. They have allowed themselves, not necessarily unwillingly, to be held to ransom by developers and Central Government dictat, to the detriment of their residents and at the expense of their Green Belt.

Some residents groups have even resorted to taking expensive legal action against the Authorities who purport to represent them. The fact that residents of most towns and villages have to form an Action Group to give the public a voice speaks volumes about the way our Councils wilfully ignore the concept and implementation of real Localism.

Impact on Green Belt & Infrastructure

Local historic demographic data indicates a steady and relatively low rise in the number of new homes required for the existing local people which, in many areas, could be met by Brownfield sites
and infill building. This would leave the untouched Green Belt able to fulfil its purposes and give the inadequate infrastructure a chance to catch up. Government-prompted over-estimates of future housing quotas (driven by the myopic expansion of London), will destroy the existing Green Belt and overwhelm the under-funded existing infrastructure (roads /railways/ schools /hospitals etc ).

Our Conclusion

Untold and irreversible damage will be done to the towns and villages in Essex if National and Local Government continue to disregard the views of residents (the electors), by allowing unjustified
building and the destruction of the Green Belt. To stop this happening it is essential that local people make their views known through their local Action Groups who are working together to present a strong and united case to the decision makers.

The SE Essex Action Group Alliance invites other groups in the SE of Essex to unite with us to ensure the views of existing residents are no longer ignored by those who purport to represent them.

Contact for more information.

Could Be A Dark and Stormy Night…



From the County Council website:

Gale warnings issued for Essex

14 January 2015
The Met Office has issued severe gale warnings for Essex for today and tomorrow (Thursday 14 January).
Inland gusts may locally exceed 60mph close to the squally cold front, while gusts of 60 to 70mph seem likely at coastal sites in the south and west, as well as across hills. Gusts may exceed 75mph in the more exposed coastal locations.
For more information, visit the Met Office website.
For information about schools closures and travel advice, visit our winter service page.

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Latest Comments

  • Christine Paine: We can of course all help bees, butterflies, pollinators of all description and other wildlife by...
  • admin: I never condone arson, but I know where you are coming from….
  • Oz the Angry: If I hear a politician uttering the words “Hard working families” one more time I am going...
  • bruce smart: If I am wrong then I should of checked.
  • Jim Cripps: Government quota’s, government compliant Council Junta’s, Government Inspectors = the...
  • A.Matthews: Am I wrong or what Bruce but should that be “off̶ 1; not “of ? !
  • bruce smart: The missing apostrophe is not as irritating as the use of the word of when it should be have. As in I...
  • Alison: The curse of auto-correct has left me branded as a purveyor of an aberrant apostrophe. Nil desperandum.
  • Alison: Glad it’s the shoe and not a copycat of the Banksy-imitatin g phenomenon currently sweeping Manchester...
  • bruce smart: Seems to me that the social housing tenants need to remember where they were before they moved into it....
  • Christine Paine: Bruce, you are right, if they weren’t busy then yes some would close, however, my thoughts are...
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  • bruce smart: Christine – we probably all agree that there is an excessive number of eating places in the Town...
  • admin: Well , thats a pity , Oz.
  • Oz the Dissapointed...: Ron, thank you for the reply however I am slightly disappointed, I’m looking to vote...
  • admin: James, the action plan’s modified version has the following paragraph: “The Council recognises the...
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  • Christine Paine: Bruce, I think you are approaching a Catch 22 situation with the High St. The more coffee shops,...
  • James Newport: Ron wasn’t the A1 target being reduced in the action plan recently as it couldn’t be...
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  • Ron Oatham: The council’s targets are 75% retail(A1)in the primary shopping area and 50% in secondary. These...
  • bruce smart: Best way is for people to use the existing shops and make them profitable. Being positive, I think...
  • Oz the Positive: Ron, could you please give me your thoughts on the best way to maintain the retail / service balance...
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There's lots of information on the District Council website about the planning application "North of London Road ". To see it , just click here.

The Core Strategy

This is the official master document for planning policy in our district! To download it, click here click here. (2.5mb)

Planning Applications…

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.

Reporting A Problem

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.

Food Hygiene Ratings

To find the food hygiene rating for eating places and other businesses in our district , click here.

Essex Political Blogs

Geography, History , Science

Lib Dem Websites

Local Council Websites

Local History

Local Info

Non-Political Stuff

Other Lib Dem Blogs

Planning Issues

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“Rayleigh was the birthplace of Britain’s first surviving quintuplets, but that’s just one of its many claims to fame”

When the Olympic Torch came to Rayleigh, Chris Black wrote about the town in the Guardian - read it here

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