We’ve have a a problem with the internet tonight at onlineFOCUS. But Ron would like to mention that, following a request from a resident, he’s trying to get the vegetation cut back near the junction of Down Hall Road and Teignmouth Drive.
Also, following several requests from residents, for some time he’s been trying to get the yellow line in Teignmouth Drive extended a bit further from the junction. However neither The County Council nor the South Essex Parking Partnership seem willing to help.
We’d like to thank the District Council staff for a quick response last week. On Monday evening we emailed them about the overgrown vegetation in Bedloes Avenue Rawreth … they cut it back the next day.
For a few years now, the County Council has had teams of ‘rangers’ to do work such as cutting back vegetation on highways. Not simple grass cutting, but dealing with the sort of foliage that covers up road signs.
The County and the District Council are now launching a new scheme whereby the District Council takes over the ranger’s work. This was discussed today at the Local Highways Panel. The County will give the District extra funding for this, and hopefully this will give a more responsive service. It should stop road signs being covered up by greenery, as in London Road in Rayleigh!
This work is , in theory, separate from the normal cutting of grass verges. But we can see the successors to the rangers doing some cutting of grass verges by special request when the normal grasscutting programme isn’t adequate. However it’s going to take a while to get this new scheme running, so don’t hold your breath waiting!
We’ve had quite a few complaints about grass and greenery in the last week.
– Downhall Park Way ditch – a rectification notice was being sent to the contractors, ISS, on Friday to finish the work. They will have 2 working days to complete it.
– A129 in Rawreth, to the west of the Carpenters Arms Roundabout -apparently the verges only get a ‘rural cut’ once per year, though that clearly isn’t adequate and we are querying this. We have asked for the vegetation overgrowing onto the footpath to be removed (that’s a County Highways responsibility). We have also asked for rubbish and a tyre on the grass verge to be removed by the District council and hopefully that will be done soon.
– Downhall Road area – We have received several complaints from local residents that although the grass verges in the downhall area were mowed last week , this was not followed up by the usual strimming operation to the edges and around trees, leaving the area looking “very scruffy” We have queried this with the district council.
The Review Committee, which scrutinises council activities, had its first meeting of the civic year tonight. It has a new chair, Michael Hoy, who did a decent job tonight (the first time he has ever chaired a district council committee).
Two of the items discussed were:
Air quality in Rayleigh Street and High Road.
Levels of air pollution from traffic in the High Street and High Road are probably high enough for the District Council to declare the location as an “Air Quality Management Area”. This isn’t a magic wand to solve the problem. However the local highways panel may be looking soon at adjusting the pedestrian crossings in the town centre to improve traffic flow and reduce all the stopping and starting, which would reduce traffic emissions. Declaring the area might help persuade the County Council to fund and carry out the scheme.
The County Council has teams of highways rangers to carry out minor works, such as clearing vegetation. However many councillors feel the system doesn’t work properly. Discussions are taking place about the District Council taking over the management of the Rangers. Nothing is decided yet…..
We know some residents are unhappy about the state of the bridle path in Sweyne Park.
Here’s a photo before Xmas:
and here’s a photo this week: (photocredits: Claire Priest Smart)
We’re pleased to say that council officers are also concerned – they care about the park too – and want to carry out remedial work when the weather improves. They have told us:
“We are aware of the issues on the bridle path at Sweyne Park, especially the area between Canterbury Close and the school. We will be carrying out reinstatement works to our bridle paths at Sweyne Park, Cherry Orchard and Hockley Woods when the areas have dried out.
Until the areas have dried out its very hard to say exactly what is required to the areas. We usually top up the bridle paths with a granite dust type material which goes over the top of the larger sub base, and it may be that the path only requires this. If the areas have suffered substantial damage which has caused the sub base to be washed away then we would have to look at replacing the sub base and terram. It would surprise me if we have suffered this much damage as the path that washed away in the 24th August storms at Cherry Orchard (adjacent to the River Roach) still had the terram and sub base in remaining and only required the top redressing. Once the paths have dried out we’ll carry out a proper look and see exactly what work is required and programme it in to be carried out.
You may also be interested to know we will be carrying out some work to the hedges in Sweyne Park. We will be lowering the hedges (to the height of the old ascot fencing) at the following entrances; the car park, Pooh House, Canterbury Close, Victoria Avenue, Priory Chase/Asda. We will also be reducing the section of hedge from Victoria Avenue to Priory Chase/Asda, if this proves successful we may look to reduce more sections of hedgerow in the future . This work is being carried out to improve visibility along the bridle path, to make it easier to maintain the hedge and to show off the view of the park & Rayleigh when you are walking/cycling/horse riding, along the path.”
Paul Warren, who is about to retire as the District Council’s Cheif Executive, has given a lengthy interview to Rochford Life magazine. It’s worth a read.
Here’s an extract, about council tax and grass cutting:
RL: I think what you are saying is that because you have managed it so well, people aren’t aware of the cutbacks. Paul: Yes, if you look at the average property in Rochford, a Band-D property, and you look at the overall Council Tax bill, the District Council element of that is 12%-13% i.e. in a Band-D property only £205 of your bill comes to Rochford. When I do staff talks I say, if I was to give you £205 what would you go out and be able to buy? For £205 in effect, we collect your rubbish, we clean the streets, we provide open spaces, we provide leisure centres, we process planning applications, we send out bills and handle housing benefits and Council Tax, we inspect food premises and we do a variety of other things. For £205 I think that’s a pretty good deal! I’m not sure people perceive it in that way. The more I think about it the more I think I’d be in favour of a local taxation system because you could probably have more debate and exposure around what you are getting for your money, and you could always offer people a choice: do you want your verges cut fifteen times a year and if you do that will cost you £X and that equates to that on the Council Tax, or are you happy to get away with ten cuts which will cost you £Y. We went through a period, which was not actually of our own making but it lead to some interesting learning exercises for us, when our grounds maintenance contractor went into liquidation. I remember the day well when I got the phone call and my immediate thought at that stage – because they did our cemeteries – have we got any burials today because we could have some problems! Suffice it to say we’ve been through a range of issues around developing a new grounds maintenance contract and getting the appropriate contractor in place. RL: You mention verge cutting. Is grass cutting a big issue? Paul: Well, we have gone through some interesting learning exercises around verge cutting because highway verges are a County Council function. This means they should be cutting them, but they pass it to us and they only give us enough money for one and a half cuts a year! This comes to about £30,000. Originally we were spending £200,000 on this so the members then have a debate, do we spend all this money on something that’s really not our responsibility but which looks nice, so we’ve been trying to work out what is the appropriate number of cuts for the money. When we’ve employed temporary contractors, or the weather hasn’t been good, or the cutting hasn’t been perfect, the number of complaints we’ve had has spiked through the roof. This comes back to public expectation which is high. So for members there is a dilemma, the cake is shrinking, and we have all these services, and so do you reduce services or reduce quality of some of them and so on?…
We know that there’s a lot of unhappiness about the proposed over-development of Rawreth and Hullbridge at the moment, and in the council chamber that feeling is even spreading from the Lib Dem/ Green Party / Rochford Residents corner into some of the Conservative benches. But not all is gloom and doom, there are at least a couple of bright spots on the horizon.
Firstly, the council’s new long-term grounds maintenance contract kicks in from Monday morning. We have a new contractor for maintaining our open spaces and grass verges. This is a good time of year for a new contractor to take over – it gives them time to settle before plants start growing in the spring. Let’s hope – no, let’s expect an overall improvement!
Secondly, things are improving with planning enforcement. Three years ago we raised the issue in the council chamber about the number of planning enforcement cases waiting to be dealt with – the number was a staggering 466
Even our Conservative administration were starting to feel embarrassed, and so employed an extra planning enforcement officer. We heard today that the number of outstanding cases is now down to 366. Still too high, but it’s still a rapid improvement.
We are unhappy with the progress of the District Council grass cutting this year and we understand the sentiments expressed by people at Rawreth Parish Council last night. Here are some of the things people said (nearly all about grass cutting)
“I have never seen such a diabolical job since the days of bob-a-job”
“Shall we provide them with sharper blades?”
“Why do we pay our rates?”
“We have to contact RDC again, as we have to do every year, to cut down the grass on the triangular sight-splays approaching the Carpenters Arms – the poor visibility is dangerous”
“Hardly any of the sight splays in the Parish are done”
“Absolutely appalling. Very dangerous”
“Bedloes has been neglected – residents are very bitter”
“The surface of Watery Lane is now so bad that cyclist have to cycle along the centre line. The cars are coming like lunatics round the bend – its an accident waiting to happen”
“The ragwort is 3 or 4 weeks away from flowering!”
We are trying to get more grass cutting done – especially if it involves road safety or the poisonous ragwort. We did get a pledge from the District Council this morning that the Carpenters Arms sight splays would be cut either today or tomorrow.
We pointed out that
a) there wasn’t much point having a council notice board if people couldn’t get close enough to read it
b) the long grass going to seed was pretty tiresome for all the keen gardeners on the other side of the road and
c) having a ditch concealed in all that grass wasn’t too safe, especially with a childrens play area nearby.
So the council began cutting it again.
We are now into a new growing season. We have checked again today and are assured it will be treated as an urban verge this year and be cut regularly. But if you think there’s a patch of grass near you that isn’t being cut properly, please let us know – the council officers are keen to get things right. And if you think the grass-cutters are doing a particularly good job, please let us know as well.