We are now roughly at the starting point in the next cycle of development proposals, so be aware!
In one of our yellow paper Focus newsletters in Downhall and Rawreth , we wrote a section called “Beware the Boring Stuff , warning residents that sometimes the boring stuff is very important. An example of this was was a council report last week.
It has the unexciting title SOUTH ESSEX STRATEGIC HOUSING MARKET ASSESSMENT (SHMA) but is very important.
Basically some consultants have looked at the “South Essex” area (Southend, Rochford, Castle Point, Basildon and Thurrock) and has concluded that the “objectively assessed needs” for South Essex are for between 3,275 and 3,750 dwellings per annum. For Rochford District this equates to between 312 and 392 dwellings per annum between 2014 (the base date for the study) and 2037.
Cllr Ian Ward, the portfolio holder (or cabinet member) for planning has agreed to accept this document into the council’s ‘evidence base’.
This DOESN’T mean that Rochford will have to allow this amount of housing, it’s not as simple as that – infrastructure limitations could have an impact here, but it should alert people to the kind of arguments that lie ahead!
The problem with our current Tory administration isn’t that they don’t have the answers about infrastructure they don’t even seem to know the questions...
We have just heard the following from Hullbridge Green Party Councillors Michael and Diane Hoy about the application for 500 homes on the Hullbridge / Rawreth borders
HULLBRIDGE PLANNING APPLICATION
We have just been advised that the Outline Planning Application for Hullbridge is going to the Development Control meeting on 22 March.
Both myself and Diane will be there to speak for residents.
The Local Development Framework Subcommitee is the panel of councillors which meets to make recommendations on local planning policies and things like taking land out of the greenbelt. It doesn’t meet very often and
usually meets in the evening. and in previous years met in the evening However there is a meeting scheduled for 10 am on Thursday 11th February. The last One time it met in the morning was a couple of times in about 2008, when the panel went for a quick tour of some possible green belt locations.
However no agenda has been published yet…
From the Echo tonight:
WORK is finally set to start on a mini-town of 600 new homes and a new primary school in Rochford.
Building work on the new homes planned for fields off Hall Road, Rochford, will begin later this month, years after the initial planning application was put in to Rochford District Council.
The council confirmed the work would begin by January 17 at the latest.
Full report here.
We wrote about the application here back in January 2012.
We understand that the “North of London Road” planning application will either come to the committee at an extra meeting on September 30th or at the scheduled meeting on October 22nd.
News from the District Council about the big ” SW Hullbridge” application:
The Council has received notification from the applicant to confirm that, following a conversation with the Environment Agency, further fluvial modelling is required of the nearby watercourse. That being the case, the application will not be reported to a meeting of the Development Committee in September. When the modelling work is completed and assessed by the Environment Agency a date for the application to be determined by the Committee will be announced.
Written by Chris Black in the latest Rayleigh Times:
You can do a lot in 9 years, if you have money and a vision. In the 1960s the Americans had both, and put a man on the moon in 9 years. Meanwhile our District Council started its Core Strategy 9 years ago and it hasn’t gone so well, even though it has cost over 2 million pounds ……
What has happened this year shows just how poor the council’s framework really is.
At a council meeting in January Cllr Ron Oatham and I proposed that an outcome of the Core Strategy – the big development “North of London Road” – should be refused. We gave reasons about flooding, highways, sports pitches and education. These are basically the questions about infrastructure that the Lib Dems have been asking – and the Tories avoiding – for the last 9 years.
But this time we got massive support – not only from our colleagues in the other minority parties, but from most of the Tories. Even the Tory leaders Cllrs Terry Cutmore and Keith Hudson. We also had support from our local MP and thousands of residents.
Now, this is all very odd. Because the key vote on all this was actually taken at a council meeting back in 2009. This was when the council’s Core Strategy was voted through, which made it council policy to put 550 homes “North of London Road”. It also included building on the Rawreth / Hullbridge border and putting houses on the Rawreth Industrial Estate, potentially trebling the population of Rawreth.
This strategy was passed by 23 votes to 4 . The 4 who voted against were myself, Jackie Dillnutt and Ron Oatham (Lib Dems) and John Mason (Resident). Councillor Cutmore called me a “NIMBY”. Councillor Hudson called the Core Strategy “an exemplary document and a perfectly sound workable plan.”
Isn’t it strange that such an ‘exemplary and perfectly sound workable plan’ should produce such a poor planning application? The answer is that it wasn’t such a wonderful plan, despite all the millions spent on it. To give three examples:
If the Lib Dems had been running the council, and had decided to build homes in one of our rural parishes , we certainly wouldn’t have been so unfeeling to build so many that they doubled or trebled the population of the parish ,as the Tories are planning to do in Rawreth. But even if we had decided to build a smaller number – say a hundred homes – we would have engaged with the local people and parish council. We would have had the small council panel dealing with this to meet every month for a couple of years if necessary to get the local infrastructure right. In contrast the Tories have treated Rawreth Parish Council arrogantly, not making any effort to discuss issues with them. And that small council panel has, incredibly, sometimes gone up to two years without even meeting.
Another example is poor public consultation. Even as far back as 2007, when the council had a travelling exhibition but decided to have the exhibition in Rayleigh hidden away – inside the windmill for just 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon. Ron Oatham wrote to the Council: “the cynical among us might suggest that they are being deliberately kept in the dark. I urge you to reconsider and make arrangements for the mobile exhibition to visit at a more appropriate time and place.” Ron got the council to back down and hold an extra exhibition in the High Street.
The third example is about infrastructure. At another stage of the process, in 2012, we Lib Dems were very concerned that important infrastructure and amenities issues were being overlooked. When it came to a vote in November, we voted against, saying that the council still couldn’t say what improvements were needed to Watery Lane, there hadn’t been a traffic impact study on the cumulative effect of the sites to the west of Rayleigh and the new open spaces were too small .
We lost the vote. But if just one Tory councillor had been been willing to vote with us in 2012 on infrastructure issues , that might have encouraged some of the others to think harder and we would have got a plan with better infrastructure.
Now the success last January has been reversed. The developers are appealing to a government inspector. The council held a confidential meeting in August to decide what to do …. and they decided not to defend the appeal ! (Ron and I voted against this). A better core strategy would have compelled the developers to include better infrastructure, which they could have afforded by paying less for the land. But there were too many Tory councillors mutely voting things through and not willing to listen.
We have been writing about the District’s Core Strategy since 2006, and there are literally hundreds of items on onlineFOCUS with the category “District Core Strategy”.
If you want to see them all, starting at the beginning, you can click here. It’s been a frustrating business. It would have probably gone better if we had had a few more allies in the chamber…especially at the beginning. But in 2006 the only opposition councillors were 4 Lib Dems and one resident (John Mason).
The minutes for the July 23rd meeting are now on the District Council website! The District Council has voted NOT to defend the appeal on the “North of London Road” site, despite the refusal in January being supported by most councillors, the leaders of all the political groups, our local MP and thousands of local residents. This is the decision:
You can download the complete minutes here. They explain a bit more, but not everything.
This is the vote on going into private and confidential:
This is the key sentence that really explains things:
This explains what happens with the appeal and the repeat application from Countryside :
Ron and Chris have been campaigning to try to get a better Development Framework for about 7 years. We are naturally very disappointed at the outcome. And that’s an understatement. We see it as a kick in the teeth for thousands of concerned residents.
We watched individual Tory councillors vote again and again over the years to push the plan through, most of them silently following officer’s advice and the instructions of their party. A bit of public support back then from even one Tory district Councillor might have helped us to get stronger grounds for refusal or at least policies that would have given us better infrastructure. But we can’t recall any of them speaking out since the late Tony Humphries. Many Tories voted for refusal at the big meeting in January when an angry public were present, but they didn’t give us any support when we pointed out problems months and years ago. They didn’t listen either to Rawreth Parish Council , who were willing to engage with the District Council but were treated very poorly.
The extraordinary council meeting tonight turned into a really extraordinary one.
It began at 9.10 pm after the Development Committee finished. Chris Black got in an early question – the agenda only said we were discussing a private and confidential report on a forthcoming planning appeal, could it at least be made public which appeal it was? So we can now tell you that the appeal was indeed for “North of London Road”
A vote was then taken to take the meeting into private, despite some members wanting to have at least some discussion in public first. Lib Dems, Greens, Residents and UKIP all voted against going into private, but we lost the vote.
There were about 30 members of the public watching the meeting, they were understandably unhappy at what was happening and simply refused to leave. So the meeting was adjourned for 20 minutes and nearly all of the Tories went upstairs for a coffee. Maybe they expected the public to leave, but they didn’t, instead they stayed there chatting amongst themselves , and with the various Lib Dem , Green, Residents and UKIP councillors. 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes, into an hour and the public were still all there.. Eventually they left and the meeting resumed at 10:50 pm.
What happened then we can’t say – but a decision will be published by the council soon.
So, we have two meetings of the District Council on Thursday evening, in the Civic Suite in Rayleigh opposite Holy Trinity Church.
The first is a routine meeting of the development committee starting at 7:30. This will deal with three planning applications:
Wheel cleaning at the big development site in Hawkwell. One of the original planning conditions was for wheel cleaning of trucks, now the developers want to get the condition removed.
Seating outside Greggs in Rayleigh High Street. This is recommended for approval, however Cllr Lawmon has called it in.
A trampoline centre in Purdeys Way, Rochford This is also recommended for approval, however it has been called in by Cllrs Lucas-Gill and Glynn. In view of Cllrs Glynn’s recent strong support for youth sport and fitness, it will be interesting to see what she has to say.
And then we move on to the second meeting, which will start after the development committee has finished. It will go into a private and confidential session, although you can expect some councillors to try to discuss some aspects in public.
It would be good to have some of the public present. The three planning applications should all spark some interesting debate, and if the second meeting stays in public session – even for a short while – it will be interesting as well. Also some councillors might be glad of some moral support!
There is going to be an extra meeting of the Full District Council on Thursday 23rd July. The exact purpose of the meeting is still a secret. The agenda simply says:
At the moment all the Lib Dem District Councillors, Chris Black and Ron Oatham, know is that the District Council will be discussing a confidential officers report on a forthcoming planning appeal. It will be in a private session of the council with the public (including Mark Francois) barred from attending. We don’t know for sure which appeal it is , though we expect it is the one for the “North of London Road” site. Chris and Ron should receive a copy of the confidential report pretty soon, but when we do, we can’t speak to non-district-councillors about it.
It is extremely rare for the council to meet to discuss a planning appeal…