onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003


March 19th, 2015

A Place Worth Visiting…..


Southend airport will have flights to Maribor, Slovenia from June to October this year, according to the airport website:

“Flights to one of Slovenia’s key tourist destinations – world famous for its wine – are taking off from London Southend Airport three times a week from this summer.

The Adria Airways service to Maribor from London Southend Airport will operate on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from June through until October 2015. It will be using an Airbus 319 and the flight time is around 2 hours.

Flights are on sale from 30 Marchat with prices starting from €69 return per person, including taxes…..”

“Not only is it in an eminent wine growing area, but Maribor is also home to one of the biggest and oldest classic wine cellars in Europe (at more than 20,000 square meters / 215,000 square feet) which rests right underneath the city. Also in Maribor is the Old Vine, which at 400-years is the oldest vine in the years – as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

There is also plenty to see in the Old Town – from medieval towers and remains of the city walls, as well as the square Grajski trg with the castle and museum, Bishop Slomšek’s cathedral with its viewing tower. There is also one of the oldest synagogues in Europe.”

Find Tripadvisor’s top things to do in Maribor here.

March 18th, 2015

“the common theme in all cases is the imbalance of power and the control exerted on young people . “

myth vs reality

Cornish Lib Dem Councillor Sue James has written today about the report “Child Sexual Exploitation Myths vs Reality”.

You can download the report here. It’s only 7 pages long but doesn’t make pleasant reading.

March 17th, 2015

The Picnic District 2 – Hockley Woods

Hockley Woods are surely our district’s greatest natural treasure – the biggest remnant of the ancient woods that once covered Essex. There’s more information on the Council website here. And if you are seriously interested in the woods, you can buy Oliver Rackham’s Book “The Ancient Woodlands of England:The Woods Of South East Essex” from the Council.

There are some picnic benches near the entrance, next to the play space. It takes about an hour to walk round. The light can be rather special – sunlight dappled by the trees. Most of the time all you will hear is birdsong. But you’ll probably see small children in Wellies doggedly exploring the woods with their parents and also encounter happy dogs wagging their tails and getting muddy. First-time visitors may be startled by the coppicing – but a notice explains that this is a traditional part of the management of the woods.

There wasn’t much litter to be seen, largely because some regular visitors pick it up and remove it. But the question of litter in woods is something we are going to write about soon…






March 16th, 2015

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.

March 15th, 2015

Rochford To Rayleigh Rising

rochford and rayleigh rising

If you are involved in local campaigning, social media are very important.

You can set up your own website, as we did with Websites have some very good plus points. They are largely under your own control, so you can have the lay-out you want. When the website has been going for a few years, you can still search and find important stuff from the past.

Or you can set up something on Facebook. That has its plus points as well – Facebook groups can gain a readership very quickly, and people can leave comments and interact instantly.

Which brings us to “Rochford and Rayleigh Rising” a new Facebook Group set up by Councillor John Mason. Its tag-line is “Where independently minded people openly ask and tell about what is really happening in Rochford District focussing on the needs and wishes of residents.” If you are on Facebook, its worth seeking out…

March 14th, 2015

The Ghost Of the Arterial Road

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

March 13th, 2015

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.

March 12th, 2015

How The Fire Service Saw It…

The Fire Service’s blow-by-blow account of the Michelins Farm fire can be found on their website here. There are some good photos as well.

Here’s a few extracts:

Firefighters are tackling a large tyre fire near the Fairglen Interchange on the A130. The incident commander reports that a pile of tyres covering an area of 50 metres by 20 metres and stacked two metres high is alight. Crews are using three ground monitors and one main jet to control the blaze.

Update 15:00hrs Wednesday: Three crews continue to work breaking up the pile and tackling the fire. Incident Commander Dave Barritt said: “Work to break the tyres up and extinguish the fire is going well and we hope to scale the operation back considerably this evening.
“The decision to use diggers on the pile early has proven to be a very good one and that early intervention has reduced the amount of time we will have to be here in total. Crews have been working extremely hard at this protracted incident.”

Update 20:44hrs Wednesday: Crews are preparing to leave the scene planning to revisit at midnight as firefighting operations come to a halt. Firefighters have used three stinger monitors (high volume foam monitors) three ground monitors, four main jets, two light portable pumps and two diggers during the 48 hours they have been tackling this major blaze.

We’d like to thank them for all their efforts and hard work…..

March 11th, 2015

UNISON’s Save Care Now Campaign

save care now

resident in Downhall and Rawreth Ward has written to us about the trade union UNISON’s campaign to get council’s that provide social care to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter:

UNISON say: Over 500,000 adults in the UK rely on homecare workers to get them out of bed, wash them, brush their teeth, help them take their medication and much more. But homecare workers are worried. Councils are allowing care providers to cut corners and the elderly and disabled people that need homecare are not getting the support they should.

“Signing up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter is a simple way for councils to improve homecare for the vulnerable people they are responsible for. It is a set of commitments that councils make which fix minimum standards that will protect the dignity and quality of life for those people and the workers who care for them.

The most likely time for councils to sign up to the charter is before they renew a contract with a homecare provider, but councils are able to sign up at any point, and to implement the changes when they renew their contracts with homecare providers.

The commitments are split into phases to allow for gradual implementation of the charter.

The commitments of the Ethical Care Charter
Stage 1

The starting point for commissioning of visits will be client need and not minutes or tasks. Workers will have the freedom to provide appropriate care and will be given time to talk to their clients.
The time allocated to visits will match the needs of the clients. In general, 15-minute visits will not be used as they undermine the dignity of the clients.
Homecare workers will be paid for their travel time, their travel costs and other necessary expenses such as mobile phones.
Visits will be scheduled so that homecare workers are not forced to rush their time with clients or leave their clients early to get to the next one on time.
Those homecare workers who are eligible must be paid statutory sick pay.

Stage 2

Clients will be allocated the same homecare worker(s) wherever possible.
Zero hour contracts will not be used in place of permanent contracts.
Providers will have a clear and accountable procedure for following up staff concerns about their clients’ wellbeing.
All homecare workers will be regularly trained to the necessary standard to provide a good service (at no cost to themselves and in work time).
Homecare workers will be given the opportunity to regularly meet co-workers to share best practice and limit their isolation.

Stage 3

All homecare workers will be paid at least the Living Wage (as of November 2013 it is currently £7.85 an hour for the whole of the UK apart from London. For London it is £9.15 an hour. The Living Wage will be calculated again in November 2015 and in each subsequent November). If Council employed homecare workers paid above this rate are outsourced it should be on the basis that the provider is required, and is funded, to maintain these pay levels throughout the contract.
All homecare workers will be covered by an occupational sick pay scheme to ensure that staff do not feel pressurised to work when they are ill in order to protect the welfare of their vulnerable clients.

When homecare services are well run they can help to ensure that people are able to live with dignity and in comfort. But when they are delivered poorly they can have a devastating impact on the lives of care recipients and their families.

The over-riding objective behind the Charter is to establish a minimum baseline for the safety, quality and dignity of care by ensuring employment conditions which a) do not routinely short change clients and b) ensure the recruitment and retention of a more stable workforce through more sustainable pay, conditions and training levels.
Simple, really!

You can find out more on the campaign website at

March 10th, 2015

Flashback To Last July.. 35 Fires That The Fire Service Had To Attend In 2010-2011


Last July we informed residents that the owner of Michelins Farm had been jailed for not removing waste from the site. We quoted this report from the District Council Website, its worth quoting again now:

Date:Friday, 11 July 2014

Land owner Roger Frederick Phipps, aged 72, has today (Fri 11 Jul) been sent to prison for six months.

Chelmsford Crown Court activated part of a suspended sentence given in January last year for a waste offence after he was convicted of breaching advertisement regulations; alongside his continued breaches of planning and environmental laws.
Phipps was sentenced in 2013 to eight months imprisonment and ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work for allowing an illegal waste site to be run on his farm for years. He was also fined £15,000 for breaching three planning enforcement notices and the Environment Agency and Council were jointly awarded £20,000 in costs.

The prison sentence was suspended for two years.

Since then, the court heard, he has carried out the unpaid work but has yet to pay the court costs and fines. He has failed to remove the majority of the waste from the farm by 30 June 2014, and has continued to display advertisements without consent on his land.

Michelins Farm, Rayleigh, did not have a waste permit nor planning permission to operate the site for waste purposes and it was run without an environmental permit from April 2008-11. The farm is on green belt land and is within a Landscape Improvement Area.
Site visits undertaken by the Council and the Environment Agency had observed plastics, tyres, building materials, cylinders, and plastic piping and these were seen in 35 fires that the fire service had to attend in 2010-2011.

Environment Agency officers carried out covert surveillance in May 2010 and saw lorries taking waste into the site and at the same time saw smoke regularly coming from the farm. Aerial photos taken by Council officers also demonstrated to the Court the full scale of the damage being caused by Mr Phipps.

Judge David Turner said Phipps had been given by the Court, the Environment Agency and the Council every opportunity to comply with the law and had not done so.
The Leader of Rochford District Council, Councillor Terry Cutmore said: “It is clear that Mr Phipps’ breach of the advertisement regulations was yet another example of his fragrant and deliberate disregard for the law. Mr Phipps has continued to breach planning regulations despite previously receiving a suspended sentence for similar offences, and it is right that the Court has taken this into account in giving Mr Phipps a 6 month prison sentence. Whilst the council sees legal action as a last resort it will not stand for any inappropriate actions from people who choose to ignore planning laws”.

“It is clear that Mr Phipps’ breach of the advertisement regulations was yet another example of his fragrant and deliberate disregard for the law. Mr Phipps has continued to breach planning regulations despite previously receiving a suspended sentence for similar offences, and it is right that the Court has taken this into account in giving Mr Phipps a 6 month prison sentence. Whilst the council sees legal action as a last resort it will not stand for any inappropriate actions from people who choose to ignore planning laws”.

After all the strong words from the council last summer, and the previous history of fires, perhaps residents could have expected a bit more action since then…

March 9th, 2015

The Black Cloud

The Echo reports tonight:

Firefighters are at the scene of a large tyre fire near the Fairglen Interchange on the A130.

A pile of tyres covering an area of 50 metres by 20 metres and stacked two metres high is alight, the incident commander reports.

Two crews from Rayleigh Weir and one crew from Leigh are using three ground monitors and one main jet to control the blaze.

The fire brigade was called to the site at 8.55pm.

Greater Anglia train services between London and Southend Victoria are being cancelled or delayed as a result of the fire.

A Greater Anglia spokesman said: “Due to a fire on property near the railway between Rayleigh and Wickford all lines are blocked.

“Train services between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria may be cancelled, delayed by up to 60 mins or revised.

“Owing to thick smoke blowing across the railway from a large fire off the railway between Rayleigh and Wickford the line is currently blocked for safety reasons.”

Passengers can use their tickets on c2c services and replacement buses are being arranged to operate between Wickford and Southend Victoria.

At 10:15 tonight there was a massive black cloud drifting northwards , passing above the A128 near the Carpenters Arms roundabout. Police had closed off the A1245 southwards.

The plume of smoke at 7 am Tuesday.

The plume of smoke at 7 am Tuesday.


fire 3

fire 2

March 8th, 2015

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…

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Latest Comments

  • John Mason: Just to be helpful…& #8230;…&# 8230;… As stated above when it comes down to it the only...
  • admin: Jim @ 4 I’m not sure if its seen quite like that – it’s a professional challenge for an...
  • Jim Cripps: Thanks John @ 3, I did’nt mean vote at the Appeal – but the fact that we elect people to...
  • John Mason: I am still hoping that there will be people who will try to answer my questions @9
  • John Mason: Jim @ 1. There is no vote for Councillors in an Appeal. Only Ward Councillors will be permitted to speak...
  • Oz the Positive: Linda @ 10, like you I do not know the facts behind the tragic accident in the Hockley Rd but I do...
  • Linda Kendall: It seems we will have a way to be heard if the RDC decide not to challenge the appeal. Of course they...
  • Jim Cripps: Thanks for starting a thread on this – And the point you make about Councillors being actively...
  • Jim Cripps: And ,if I might say so ,an excellent body swerve by yourself Oz – and no I am not party to...
  • Linda Kendall: I reason the accident that cost the life of a young man on the Hockley Road might have been partly...
  • John Mason: Does anyone know please (genuine questions). Why were the street lights previously on all night? What was...
  • Oz the Positive: Jim@7, you have neatly avoided the question… .I personally do not believe that there has been...
  • Jim Cripps: OK facts then Oz the Poz , how many accidents would warrant putting them back on?.
  • corey vost: John Mason @ 3, there is no law in the United Kingdom that forces any authority to provide any form off...
  • admin: Jim I will start a new post this morning on the subject of the appeal, people can leave further comments...
  • Oz the Positive: Has the predicted chaos / crime wave / mayhem caused by the turn off actually happened ? Facts...
  • Jim Cripps: Me @ 15 – can anyone explain how it works , do we ( those directly impacted ) have any opportunity...
  • Jim Cripps: Think this comes under the heading of progress , a long time ago there was none, then oil lamps, then...
  • John Mason: Jim, it could just be that both the professional planners and political planners decide not to defend the...
  • John Mason: Apparently, from an Officer Report, Essex County Council has NO OBLIGATION to provide Street Lighting....
  • Jim Cripps: Current theory is the people we elect to represent us are not driving the agenda but being driven by the...
  • Jim Cripps: Brian @15 – 55 is Bullwood Hall ( Millionaires Row ) , did’nt know about the 200😤
  • Linda Kendall: Martin. It isn’t money that is the issue with the lights. What most people don’t know is...
  • Oz the Positive: If anyone is interested here is a little video from Mark Gino Francois’ s Facebook page...
  • Jim Cripps: So who do they appeal to (Secretary of State ? ) who appoints an Government Inspector to rule on it...
  • Brian Guyett: The Echo is reporting that ECC are refusing to support plans for 6,000 homes at Dunton until more...
  • Brian Guyett: Jim @13: Just to clarify your figure of 55 for Hockley. That relates to land off Folly Lane only. For...
  • John Mason: In the Echo today. But it is is Land North of the London Road NOT Hullbridge !! “DEVELOPE RS have...
  • A.Matthews: Just going out Dear to Tesco,s be back next year !
  • Jim Cripps: The new A130 section between the A13 > A12 was presumably a strategic link ( for example ) between the...

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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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