onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003


Archive for Rayleigh

Full Council Tomorrow Night

Rochford District Council has a meeting tomorrow night at &;30 – you can find more details here.

One of the more significant items concerns modifications to the proposed Rayleigh Area Action Plan, which deals with the town centre…..

Hambro Parade Markings

hambro parade

When Ron Oatham and Chris Black recently received an email from County Highways entitled “Hullbridge Road/Rawreth Lane” we were quite excited – we thought, improvements to the Hullbridge Road / Lane junction at last!

However the truth is a bit less dramatic. County Highways are simply making some minor adjustments to make it easier for vehicles to turn into Hambro Parade to stop them blocking Hullbridge Road. The main item is install signs and yellow bar markings (no loading at anytime) at the entrance to stop delivery lorries blocking the entrance. They are also refreshing the existing road markings and installing new signs to replace some of the old ones.


Readers of onlineFOCUS will know we sometimes write about local history. Well, we’ve just stumbled across the blog of the Essex Archive Office, and they have some interesting stuff there. Their latest piece is on a new book about Essex in WW2.

Seraching for articles about our part of Essex doesn’t lead to much – there are few entries for Rayleigh or Rochford; nothing for Hullbridge, Rawreth, Canewdon or Hockley. But one of the items for Rayleigh is rather surprising, it indicates that the earliest mention of black person in Essex is in Rayleigh – over four hundred years ago:

“The earliest mention we have found of a Black individual in our collections is the burial record of Thomas Parker, ‘a certayne darke mane’ in Rayleigh in 1579/80 (D/P 332/1/3). Thomas was buried on 12 February in the year that we would call 1580; at the time, however, New Year was marked on 25 March rather than 1 January, so contemporaries would have thought of it as still being 1579. As with so many records this little snippet raises more questions than answers, as we know nothing else of Thomas Parker.”

You might think that being a “certayne darke man” might be a reference to hair colour – but would someone’s hair colour really be mentioned in burial records? According to Wikipedia, the earliest Africans to arrive in England in the 16th Century were as follows:

“Early in the 16th century, Africans probably arrived in London with Catherine of Aragon when she travelled to England to marry Henry VIII. Among the six trumpeters depicted in the royal retinue of Henry VIII in the Westminster Tournament Roll, an illuminated manuscript dating from 1511, is a black musician. He wears the royal livery and is mounted on horseback. He is generally identified with the “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter” who appears in the payment accounts of both Henry VIII and his father, Henry VII.[19] There was also a group of Africans at the court of James IV of Scotland, including a drummer referred to as the “More Taubronar”. Both he and John Blanke were paid wages for their services.[20]

When trade lines began to open between London and West Africa, Africans slowly began to become part of the London population. For example, merchant John Lok brought five Africans to London in 1555. The voyage account in Hakluyt reports that they:

“were tall and strong men, and could wel agree with our meates and drinkes. The colde and moyst aire doth somewhat offend them.”

Whoever Thomas Parker was , he probably led an eventful life….

The Picnic District 3 – Rayleigh Mount

Everyone who lives in Rayleigh has been to Rayleigh Mount. Haven’t they?

It’s rare for a town to have such a place so close to the town centre. We should make the most of it.

The dedicated volunteers do a lot of work around the mount, including providing notices like these.

The dedicated volunteers do a lot of work around the mount, including providing notices like these.


If you want to, you can walk in a circle around the bottom of the mount, passing the pond.

If you want to, you can walk in a circle around the bottom of the mount, passing the pond.

You can walk up to the next level....

You can walk up to the next level….

... where there's grass and trees .....

… where there’s grass and trees …..


... and a view of the windmill...

… and a view of the windmill…

..... and then you can walk up to the top...

….. and then you can walk up to the top…

...where there are views of West Rayleigh and beyond. (The masthead photo of onlinefocus was taken here )

…where there are views of West Rayleigh and beyond. (The masthead photo of onlinefocus was taken here )

This photo was taken in spring 2014

This photo was taken in spring 2014

Rayleigh And Wickford Parliamentary Election- Mike Pitt

mike pitt  crop


We have a really good candidate. His name is Mike Pitt and he is definitely worth voting for.

Mike has a very strong background in education and business. After attending a comprehensive school, Mike went on to Cambridge University where he obtained a degree in mathematics. After gaining business experience he re-trained in education and now teaches maths –  in a comprehensive school.  He currently lives in Cambridge and is also a Cambridge City councillor. (Incidentally he wasn’t impressed about how Rochford run their cabinet system when we explained it to him).

He’s somebody who’s very bright, hardworking and with a social conscience. He’s easy to chat to, understands how councils work and how to improve them.

Over the last five years the coalition has been clearing up the financial mess left by the last Labour government. (Remember the note left by the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury - “There’s no money left”). Having a stable coalition was crucial, because it helped the government to keep borrowing costs low – maybe the lowest interest rates ever .  Now we can concentrate more on maintaining and improving services. To quote our candidate:

Like most of us I am proud of the NHS, and acknowledge its pressures. Under Liberal Democrat spending plans Health Service funding will be at least £8bn higher per year in real terms by 2020. The Liberal Democrats are the only political party to set out a credible road map for how we will safeguard the NHS over the next parliament. We can’t however do this without finishing the job of deficit reduction: not cutting services for the sake of it but ensuring a fair share of the load being met by a contribution from the richest in society through targeted tax changes. In particular we will continue progress made on tax avoidance and target £6billion more by 2017/18.

mike and chris



Flashback To 2011

This was the second page of Ron’s election leaflet four years ago (click to enlarge)….


ron leaflet 2011

What’s happened since?

– the council’s proposed traveller site is now at Michelin’s Farm instead of the locations on our sketch map.

– the land “North of London Road” is now allocated for housing. (though it doesn’t have actual planning permission)

– The Council are still talking about relocating the businesses on  Rawreth Industrial Estate to Michelin’s Farm, and building houses there instead. But we really doubt if that’s ever going to happen.

Somewhere For A Short Visit This Weekend….


When There Was a Blacksmith In Rayleigh Town Centre….

chequers pub

For April, Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass looks at the Chequers Pub that used to be where M&Co is now, in Rayleigh High Street. There was a  blacksmith’s behind it…

Tell Me More , Tell Me More!

hockley woods cinema


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.)

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.”

Any Thoughts?

Two Extra Sites For Housing In Rayleigh?


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.

The Ghost Of the Arterial Road

The Rochford District Community Archive has a short account of a 1950s ghost here.

How The Council Sees It….

The plume of smoke at 7 am Tuesday.

The plume of smoke at 7 am Tuesday.

The District Council have a new page on their website about the fire at Michelin’s Farm. Residents can decide for themselves if they are satisfied with what the council say:

1. What stage are we at in the planning enforcement process with Michelins Farm?

While we have a confirmed enforcement notice, action has already been taken against the previous landowner by Rochford District Council and the Environment Agency, resulting in a conviction, fine and imprisonment. The previous landowner was also ordered to pay the court costs of the Environment Agency and Rochford District Council, which have now been received.

2. Has there been joined-up working in this case?

Essex County Council, Rochford District Council and the Environment Agency have been working closely on this matter, hence the successful prosecution, and continue to work together.

3. Does the Council still believe the site to be in breach of planning?

Yes, and given the lack of compliance with the enforcement notice, the Council has been exploring various options. We are continuing to work with Essex County Council and the Environment Agency on this matter.

4. Why did the Council not take direct action to prevent something like this from occurring?

Direct action would require professional expertise in this case due to the contaminated nature of the land. Any such action would have been at a significant cost to the tax payer, and it is unlikely that this could have been recovered. Therefore other options have been considered.

5. Why has Rochford District Council not issued a Compulsory Purchase Order on the site?

After the Court hearing on 11 July 2014, various options were discussed, including Compulsory Purchase. However, as the defendant was imprisoned thereafter, the site ownership had changed and the Council’s Allocations Document was subject to a legal challenge at that time, no firm decisions could be taken at that point. Moreover, the removal of the vast amount of unauthorised items and materials works at this site could involve highly significant costs. Accordingly, the value of the site is not yet known and the Council would need to be cautious in any action concerning a Compulsory Purchase Order with tax payers’ money. This option has not been ruled out though. In the mean-time the Environment Agency and the Council have pursued a successful prosecution of the former site owner for not complying with the enforcement notice.

We will be looking at various options going forward, which will involve working with our partners and seeking to liaise with the new owners of the site.

6. Is the Council aware that the ownership of the site has changed?

Yes, but the enforcement action relates to the land and that being the case, the five directors of the company will be actively pursued as the landowners responsible for complying with the requirements of the enforcement notice.

7. Is the land not potentially too contaminated to be a traveller site?

Only a small portion (1 hectare) of the site is allocated for a 15 pitch travellers’ site, and this will need to be subject to remediation as is the case with any potentially contaminated site before development. In order to establish the levels of contamination there would need to be a survey and assessment by specialist contractors.

8. Has the Council considered taking direct action and then putting a charge against the land to cover the cost?

The concern is that the remediation costs would not have been recoverable resulting in a significant cost to the tax payer. While it is accepted that, in theory, expenses of direct action can be secured by way of a charge on the land, this site remains heavily contaminated and full of waste. The Council would need to establish whether this would exceed the value of the land. There is also the fact that the initial costs outlay would fall directly to the Council with uncertainty as to how much, if any, monies could be recovered.

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  • A.Matthews: They (politicians) must think we are stupid falling for the usual sound bites,unfortuna tely some do .It...
  • Linda Kendall: Policy on the back of a fag packet (sorry probably an opera programme) as usual. Please don’t...
  • Peter Scott: Indeed so Chris. Thatchers blunder was serious enough but this one defies logic. I am not against RTB...
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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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