onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003

 

Archive for December, 2012

A Sixth Form At Sweyne Park School ?

Over 40 years ago Sweyne School in Rayleigh had its own sixth form – though things got so crowded pupils were having lessons in the dining room. Then SEEVIC opened, and all the sixth formers moved there.

Now the Echo reports that Sweyne Park School is hoping to have its own sixth form again:

A NEW sixth form could open at a Rayleigh school.
The governing body of the Sweyne Park School in Sir Walter Raleigh Drive has unanimously agreed to ask the Department for Education for permission to change from an 11 to 16-year-old school to an 11 to 18-year-old school. If it is approved, the school could add a sixth form by September 2014.
______
In a letter outlining the plans to parents, Lynda Walker, chair of governors, said there had been demand from parents to make the change.
She said: “This will primarily be for Sweyne Park pupils but will also admit 15 external pupils.
“We are very excited by the prospect of opening a sixth form and hope we will receive your support with this exciting new venture.” …..

The school reports this on its own website here.

The Rochford Residents Party Now Objecting To The HAAP

Hawkwell Councillors Christine and John Mason of the Rochford Residents Party have published something on their website today about the Hockley Area Action Plan, the “HAAP”:

We are formally objecting to the Hockley Area Action Plan (the HAAP) which is published at the link below.

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/planning/policy/local_development_framework/hockley_area_action_plan/hockley-area-action-plan-haap

————
As District Councillors we believe that this plan will have adverse effects on the residents of our Ward, Hawkwell West Ward which adjoins The Hockley Village centre.
We are supporting the Hockley Residents’ Association whose Chair, Brian Guyett has had input into this article.
We would encourage you to read the HAAP and consider whether you personally or your organisation will also object. You might like to think about the concerns we have.
Anyone who either shops or drives in Hockley should be concerned with the District Council’s recently published proposals for regenerating the centre of Hockley which is called the HAAP.
There is the likelihood of a new “medium” sized supermarket of up to 3,000 sq metres (that nearly six times the size of the existing Co-op). There are concerns that a supermarket this large will overwhelm the existing shops and result in less competition and, in turn, higher prices. It is also contrary to the Council’s own experts, who recommended that Hockley should be redeveloped along small, “boutique” lines.
There are also plans for a public square, with an evening culture of bars and cafes, and around 100 new homes. Clearly this will all change the character of the ‘village’ against the wishes of residents.
————
This makes 150 new dwellings in Hockley made up of 50 recently given planning permission in West Hockley and the 100 in the Centre. (We thought there would only be 50 according to an election leaflet circulated in Hockley in 2010.) So with the 976 dwellings already given planning permission in the Central part of the District the additional 100 takes the total well over 1000 (1026). There are 326 new dwellings just for Hockley and Hawkwell.
We cannot see how the overall highways infrastructure can cope without major improvements and from what Councillor Chris Black has said in Council there are the same concerns in the West of the District.
Christine and I pledge to continue to campaign for highways infrastructure improvements.
However, the main concern on the HAAP is the impact on traffic and parking. The Council has repeatedly promised that highway considerations would be included in the Hockley Area Action Plan (HAAP) but, in a the last minute U-turn, did not do so arguing that it could save money leaving it to a planning application to pay for this.
——–
But
Essex County Council, advises that “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”
The Council “considers” that the Spa Roundabout could be improved through the provision of 3 slip lanes and a wider pavement beside the Spa pub. There is no evidence to support this view or whether it is even physically viable. The Council has only allowed £2-300K for the cost of this work, which looks optimistic given that they allowed up to £2M for the same work in the Council’s costings for the Core Strategy.
The Council also proposes to move the Hockley Station car park in to Eldon Way, and build more houses on the existing car park. Whilst this has some attractions, it would reverse much of the traffic flows under the railway bridge and, again, the Council say they have not modelled the impact. So it is not known how this will change traffic flows through Hockley, including extra volumes from all the new housing in the West of the District.
Parking also looks very tight with just 211 places proposed for shopping and 72 for the Hockley Rail Station. The Rail Station Car Park is often almost full with 159 places so how is just 72 sustainable?
The Council states that to be Sound the plan (HAAP) should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.
As stated earlier Essex County Council, advises “On a local level every strategic development proposal is accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.”
As the HAAP is a proposal for strategic development then according to ECC this must be accompanied by a transport assessment, the scope of which must be agreed with the Highway Authority. This assessment considers the impact the proposed development will have on the highway network and includes industry standard forecasted growth (TEMPRO) to ensure a comprehensive approach that accounts for present traffic conditions (including any new and committed development) and future traffic growth.
The Planning Inspector is being asked by us to reject the HAAP and return this to Council with the requirement to await the formal and reported assessment of the strategic effect of such proposed strategic development on Highways infrastructure in Rochford District by ECC.
If you also wish to object then please submit your own by 25 January 2013.

Watch Out For This….. The Council Tax Support Scheme

There’s a big change coming in how District Councils treat people on low incomes. At the moment there is a system called Council Tax Benefit. If you qualify for Council Tax Benefit, you don’t pay any council tax. It’s a national system, each council just follows the national rules.

However from April 1st (not a good date to choose!) Council Tax Benefit is replaced by Council Tax Support Schemes. The government is basically saying to each council:

“Here’s the amount of money that was needed to pay for Council Tax Benefit in your area. Well, we are going to cut the amount we pay you by 10%. And how you deal with that shortfall will be your decision. If you have enough funds available, you can carry on with your own local Council Tax Support Scheme as before. But probably you will have to start charging people part of their council tax. But we’ll only let you affect people under retirement age – whatever happens , people of state pensionable age won’t lose out on this.

At last Full Council, we asked for details to go on the council website – you can find them here and here. If this is an important issue for you, have a read…

Anyway, here is the summary from the council website:

From 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit (CTB) will be abolished and replaced by the LCTS scheme – 2,300 working-age residents in the Rochford District will be affected by the changes and the Council is urging them to start financial planning now.
Under the current CTB arrangements, the Council receives funding from the Government to cover its costs. This will not be the case for the LCTS scheme.
Under the LCTS arrangements the Government will give the Council a fixed grant. This will be 10 per cent less than we currently pay out in CTB, meaning the Council has £520,000 less to run the LCTS scheme.
The Council has had to make some very difficult decisions. Because pensioners are protected, the level of support given to working‐age customers under the LCTS scheme will have to be less than it is under the current CTB scheme.
The Council will be contacting everyone affected by the changes in early January and offering them advice and further help, including access to advice on financial planning to ensure that those affected are ready for the changes.
The main points of the new LCTS scheme are:

  • People living in properties whose Council Tax band is E, F, G or H will have their LCTS restricted to the maximum amount payable for a Band D property.• Regardless of their financial circumstances, every working-age claimant will pay the first 20% of their council tax liability. This means people who currently get full CTB will have to pay something towards their council tax from 1 April 2013.
  • The savings limit for claiming LCTS will be £6,000 (the limit for CTB at present is £16,000)
  • Child maintenance is currently disregarded in full when we calculate CTB. Some people receive up to £1,000 per month which doesn’t get included in the CTB assessment. This disregard will stop and we will take child maintenance into account as income when we calculate entitlement to LCTS.
  • Currently we reduce CTB for working-age people if an adult friend or relative lives with them. These types of people are known as non-dependants. We want to try and ease some of the financial pressure as well as try to reduce homelessness and under-occupation of houses. Therefore we will stop making non-dependant deductions when we calculate entitlement to LCTS.
  • Second Adult Rebate can be granted to single people who have a high income if they share their home with someone who is on a low income (not their partner). This scheme will be stopped for working-age claims.
  • It was agreed at Full Council that there would be a ‘hardship fund’ set up to help residents who really couldn’t afford to pay.

    The Good News For People On Low Pay….

    Hullbridge Housing Meeting (And Relevant To Rawreth Too….)

    From the A Green Read blog:

    A Public Meeting is being held on Thursday 3rd January at the Hullbridge Community Centre, in Pooles Lane.  The meeting is to start at 7.30pm.This meeting is for residents to discuss and decide what they can say to the consultation, being held by the District Council, about the 500 houses planned for Hullbridge.  The Consultation has already started and will finish at 5.00pm on 25 January 2012.It is important that people respond to this consultation based on whether it is “sound” or “legal”  The meeting will provide information on these points and assist with questions on the completing the consultation itself.The consultation page at Rochford District Council can be found here.Please come to this meeting and make as many people as possible aware of it.  Cllrs Michael & Diane Hoy will be at the meeting to answer questions.

     
     

    This meeting is very relevant for Rawreth as well – as about half of the “Hullbridge” housing will actually be in Rawreth …

     

     

    A Couple Of Potholes…

    After our brief Xmas break, let’s start off with the nitty-gritty of council work these days – potholes. A couple of potholes,  in the eastern part of the district,  were reported on FixMyStreet today:

     

    Large Pot Hole

    Reported in the Potholes category anonymously at 10:14 today
    Sent to Essex County Council 1 minute later

    A pot hole about 18″ in diameter on the east bound side of the road. It is quite dangerous and can not be avoided without driving onto the other side of the road.

     

     

    Pot hole developing

    Reported in the Potholes category by Danielle Ward at 09:42 today
    Sent to Essex County Council 3 minutes later

    On Rochford bound side of the road in this approximate area. Busy, narrow road, but also on a bend making it impossible to avoid.

    Season’s Greetings

    Best wishes to all our readers. May there be peace on Earth, and goodwill to all.

    We will be back on Thursday.

    Christmas Shopping Thoughts

    Chris Black writes:

    I was up in Rayleigh Town Centre this afternoon. First thing I noticed was that the Castle Road Car park was very nearly full, which you’d hope it would be , with free parking! However I still had to stop one person from trying to pay – he hadn’t read the stickers.

    Partial power cut on the left-hand side of the High Street

    There was still a partial power cut in part of the High Street- in thePhones 4 You / Martins / Boots/ Rayleigh Lanes / Hudsons Barbers area. Apparently there was a complete power failure there on Friday afternoon, which meant some businesses had had to close completely. Today there was single phase power, but not triple phase, which meant that the shops had some lighting but couldn’t operate a lot of equipment. So to buy some shaving cream in Boots I had to be escorted by a staff member to the shelf, and he had to write down the amount and the bar code. Cash only. It must be very very disappointing for some businesses.

    However one shopowner I spoke in a different part of the High Street had enjoyed a really good Christmas season.

    And finally many thanks to the shop assistant in one shop who directed me to a competitor because they didn’t have the item I wanted in stock! Just like a scene from the classic movie “Miracle On 34th Street”, when Santa Claus in Macy’s Department Store tells people where they get stuff from rival stores….

    An Unwanted Pickle

     

    Colchester Lib Dem Councillor Nick Barlow writes here on Government Minister Eric Pickles – and he is pretty blunt. Here’s an extract:

    …  Instead of assistance and help from the Secretary of State, there is instead a hectoring of local government and a stubborn refusal to engage with anything councils have actually done to address the financial crisis. This is exemplified in the list of fifty money-saving ideas the Department for Communities and Local Government have published.

    ——–

    This was accompanied by Pickles stating that councils must ‘do every single one’ of these ideas. Yet again, Pickles proves that ‘localism’ is just a sham – even more so than under Labour, his DCLG expects councils to dance to Whitehall’s tune in exchange for funding.

    ——–

    The general consensus from people I know in local government to the list has been ‘but we’re doing all that already!’..

    Mr Pickles may end up being the worst minister for local government ever.

    A 2.5% Cut?

     

    According to the BBC,   Rochford District Council is facing a cut of 2.5% in funding.

    Hopefully we will have some more definite information soon…

    Rest In Peace

    We had a sombre start to last night’s Full Council – a minute’s silence in memory of Dawn Giles, Terry Livings and Roy Pearson,  three people connected with the council who had all died recently.

    Dawn Giles was a former Lib Dem Rayleigh Town Councillor. Dawn became involved in politics when her father, Mike Handford, was a Lib Dem District Councillor in Rayleigh (and a very successful Chairman of the Council). She threw herself into political activity, in a variety of roles, from being a well-organised constituency treasurer, to helping at quiz nights, to encouraging her children to deliver Focus leaflets, and to ultimately in becoming a Rayleigh Town Councillor herself for while! She wasn’t in it for the kudos, but simply to make a contribution. Dawn was barely into her fifties, which makes her passing a particularly sad event.

    Terry Livings was a Conservative District Councillor for Lodge Ward from 1999 to 2007. In his latter years he was battling determinedly against poor health, but he remained a very genuine and sincere councillor, and always seemed happy to have a chat outside of the council chamber. Terry was particularly interested in facilities for young people, and was sometimes very forthright in his support for those facilties.

    Roy Pearson was the sitting Conservative County Councillor for Rochford South. He had previously served for many years as a District Councillor, representing Foulness & Great Wakering East. Roy was one of nature’s gentlemen, always pleasant and friendly. It was a measure of the man that when the Tories were at their lowest point in the district , with only two district councillors, Roy was one of the two who held their seats. He was a former chairman of the Council, and took a particular interest in planning issues.

    To hear at a meeting about the loss of three people like this was particularly sombre, and our thoughts and sympathy are with their families and friends.

    A Bit Of Discussion On Blood Testing

    Chris Black raised the blood testing issue at Full Council tonight, and a little bit of discussion followed. Tory Leader Terry Cutmore said that “We’ve all got to save money” but added “I want to make sure that urgent cases are dealt with urgently, which I believe will still be the case…. People’s lives are important”

    In the meantime the Echo are still running an online poll here At the moment 97% are saying that blood testing should stay local.

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