Another change in the national planning rules is supposed to help retain the viability and vitality of town centres. The government will allow a range of buildings to be converted to other uses for up to two years without planning permission. So buildings can have their uses changed to shops, financial and professional uses , restaurants and cafes, or offices, for up to 2 years without needing planning permission.
David Mitchell writes about this today in the Observer, and he isn’t impressed:
Unfortunately, having identified the problem, Pickles’s attempt to solve it is perverse. He’s going to relax the planning rules which restrict how buildings are used. It will be a lot easier to use places currently classified as shops, restaurants, offices or leisure facilities as other things. For example, you’ll be allowed to use empty offices as residential property, convert anything into a school, or open a shop or restaurant in an agricultural building, all without planning permission.
How is that supposed to help our high streets? They’re full of premises currently designated as shops, restaurants or cafes. For these areas to look and be prosperous, they need to be filled with profit-making shops, restaurants or cafes. We don’t want them converted into anything else, because then those streets won’t be high streets any more. And how is allowing people to open exactly the sort of business that was once the preserve of the high street in any barn anywhere going to drive commerce back to our historic trading hubs? Surely it will have the opposite effect.
By the way, this is the David Mitchell who is a comedy writer and performer. Which gives us an excuse to include one of his sketches:
Another new government announcement is that when a council operates a “Community Infrastructure Levy” on developers (which Rochford will introduce eventually) 15% of the money will be passed to the relevant Parish/Town Council where development is taking place with, apparently, no rules over how this cash can be spent…
Someone asked onlineFOCUS for the timetable for the no.3 bus service to Hyde Hall (a lovely place to visit, especially when the weather is good). We have emailed the timetable to that person, but for anyone else who is interested, here is the timetable. (click on the images to enlarge them)
One of the strongest planning powers a council has is to issue a ‘temporary stop notice’. So for example, if someone is building a big structure completely without the required planning permission,a council can serve a stop notice that legally prevents them from continuing. But there are risks involved for the council – if they get things wrong, and serve a notice without good reason, they can end up paying compensation.
Until now, councils could NOT serve temporary stop notices in respect of caravans being used as main residences. However, councillors learned at a training session today that the rules have been changed. Councils are now allowed to do this.
If you think there is somewhere that suddenly needs a temporary stop notice involving new caravans, contact the District Council planning enforcement team on 01702 318022 and also let your ward councillors know. If it is outside normal working hours contact the council after hours number on 01268 527317.
For any lawyers reading this, the new regulation is the Town and Country Planning (Temporary Stop Notice) (England) (Revocation) Regulations 2013.SI 2013/830.
The District Council website mentions that the play “The Admirable Crichton” is on at the Mill Arts And Events Centre on the 16th , 17th and 18th May , performed by Rayleigh Operatic & Dramatic Society:
Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May at 7:30pm, additional matinee on Saturday 18th May at 2:00pm.
Tickets cost £10 adults & £8 concessions and are available from our Box Office on 01268 771751
Rayleigh Town Council have been very active in revitalising Rayleigh market. Up till now the comments we’ve heard about this have been generally very positive.
The Town Council are now applying to the District Council for planning permission, to cover the market on Wednesdays as it is now, but also for weekends and bank holidays and the Christmas Lights Event.
To quote from the officers report:
Planning permission is sought to operate an open air market within Rayleigh
High Street on Wednesdays (this is already occurring so is retrospective),
weekends, bank holidays and at the Christmas lights event.
The purpose of this application is to gain planning permission to avoid the
need to submit separate Street Trading Consent applications each year for
such markets which cost the Town Council £250 each. The Wednesday
market occurs on a weekly basis. The Town Council also wish to arrange
occasional weekend/Bank Holiday markets in the High Street. These may be
themed such as farmers markets, continental markets, or
second hand good markets.
The Wednesday market is held on 52 Wednesdays of the year and
one Christmas Event is currently held. The Town Council has advised that
they are willing to cooperate with RDC/ECC regarding the number of times a year
that markets may be held.
The Wednesday market is currently open for custom between the hours of
7:30 and 4, these hours are also sought for the possible weekend/bank
+ Whilst the Wednesday market currently only operates on the
taxi rank side of the High Street, ECC is currently progressing an application
to allow more stalls on the other side of the High Street and this application
seeks consent for the market to occur on both sides of the High Street from
the top of Crown Hill to the clock at Bellingham Lane. The Christmas lights
event festive market is usually held on the last Thursday in November
however, this date has to be flexible. This market extends beyond the
Wednesday market positioning sought, extending up to Church Street. The
weekend/bank holiday markets would occur in the same positioning as the
Wednesday market but excluding the taxi rank.
Officers are recommending approval. However the application has attracted some negative comments:
5 responses received (23 Bowbank Close Shoebury,
63 Bowers Road Benfleet, 3 Nevern Road Rayleigh, Martin McColl 71 High
Street, unknown address) which can be summarised as follows:
Taxi rank related concerns:
Wednesdays already a problem as public park in designated taxi areas
and market overruns by at least half an hour.
Elderly people get confused as to where they pick up their cab from
with some finding it a real struggle to get across the road and half way
up the hill to get a taxi.
Saturdays and bank holidays are busy times for taxi drivers and the
high street with all the taxis on the main road it will only add to the
There are many other places to hold a weekend and bank holiday
market with parking facilities so confused as to why, as difficult as it is
already for us to earn a living, the Council is considering taking prime
times away from us.
This will affect a lot of drivers in the area to appease a handful of
traders who would do better to use the indoor market area provided or
one of the three half filled car parks or even the rear of the indoor
If the market is just going to be up the high street this would not be a
Drivers were told that this market would only happen one day a week.
Please do not use the taxi rank area on any more days for the market.
Despite what you may think, the elderly and many disabled residents
rely on the local taxi service to move around this town and get to the
The designated taxi drop off and pick up areas are not an appropriate
replacement. We have the added danger of doors having to be opened
onto live traffic. That is if a taxi can get into these areas. Taxi drivers
are “fighting” a constant battle with members of the public who continue
to use these areas for private cars. When it is made known to them that
on Wednesdays the use of these areas is for taxis only and are asked
to move on more often than not we receive abusive replies.
Concerns from local shop:
Since the introduction of the market I have had terrible problems with
shoplifting on a Wednesday so much so that I have to patrol the front of
my store during these periods, I have on several occasions had to call
police for assistance.
We have a few stalls in the market selling ourproducts or linked
products. Whilst I feel it is healthy to have competition I feel a sweet
stall directly outside my store of detriment to us.
On numerous occasions rubbish has been left out by the stall holders
and general public bins being over filled which is obviously not a great
advert for our high street that we all wish to promote.
Increasing the days of the market I believe would be of detriment firstly
to my own store and the high street with traffic issues especially on a
Saturday making this area not viable for shopping. I feel very strongly
about this and would be happier for it to remain one day a week as I
cannot police my store all these days.
Maybe more time and effort could be put into filling our vacant shops to
help promote Rayleigh as the place to shop.
I think Wednesdays work well as a novelty once a week. As the old
saying goes sometimes less is more.
It causes problems for taxies and local traders and from speaking to
people some older residents avoid going out Wednesday as it’s just too
crowded for them.
You can download the officers report here.
Legal note: Ron and Bruce are members of the Town Council. Chris will, as legally required, not make his mind up in advance of any committee meeting.
Although the Conservatives took a battering last Thursday, they are still in control of Essex County Council. They have just chosen a new leader and deputy leader, to replace their previous leader who stepped down.
The new leader is David Finch, who was previously deputy leader and represents Hedingham. Rather confusingly, according to the County Council, his home address is Blacksmiths Cottage
Borley, Nr Sudbury , Suffolk. But it seems that the village of Borley is indeed just inside the boundaries of Essex.
The new deputy leader is Kevin Bentley, who represents Stanway and Pyefleet and lives on Mersea Island.
The Recycling Centre in Castle Road, Rayleigh is grinding to a halt this morning. Because so many people have been going there this weekend nearly all the skips are full, so as at 11 am this morning they are using a dustcart parked inside to take most of the stuff . That’s making it harder for drivers to get out of there after they’ve unloaded their stuff….
Now the elections are over, we can get back into our normal routines again.
One of the issues looming on the horizon is the new housing coming. Especially the housing on the Rayleigh/Rawreth border between Rawreth Lane and London Road and on the Hullbridge/Rawreth border near Watery Lane.
It will surely make the traffic situation worse. But we want to achieve some postives. Apart from providing places for people to live, we want to see new amenities and facilities. To give an example – when the housing was being built over 20 years ago along Downhall Park Way, a resident in Downhall Road said they would be the ‘slums of the future’. It certainly hasn’t turned out like that….!
One aspect of this is to get solid agreements with developers on what exactly will happen. Judging by the latest news from Hawkwell Councillors John and Christine Mason, it’s not going very well with their developments:
You would expect that major developers would put forward a proposal for planning permission a scheme that was pretty much “on the ball” in terms of significant needs such as road closures, construction access, building compounds, change of haul route and new marketing suites etc.,
But according to RDC Officers the people that put planning applications together are then superseded by the operational people who open the site who then see that major changes need to be made hence the problems we are now trying to deal with. The apparent lack of contact between these two groups of professionals seems astonishing.
As we have said before Members of the Council are excluded from many of these decisions which are taken by Officers of Rochford District Council AFTER planning permission is granted.
We are talking to John and Christine to see if we can get any tips on how to avoid this happening in other areas.
We are Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners in Rochford District.
We want to improve local decision-making and we see onlineFOCUS as a good way of keep residents informed and involved.
Please click here to email us .
We welcome your comments, they are very important to us. However please note:
* We may not necessarily agree with the comments made by our readers
* We ask everyone to treat people with respect when making a comment. No personal abuse please.
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.
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.
Asda or Makro Ashingdon Barling & Sutton Cabinet Watch Canewdon & Around Coalition Government Conservatives Consultations Council Budget Council Drama Crime & Policing District Core Strategy District Wide Education Elections Employment Essex & East Events Flora And Fauna Food and Drink Future Housing Good Causes Green Belt Green Issues Hawkwell Health and Care Highways & Parking History and Culture Hockley Housing Hullbridge Leisure and Sport Liberal Democrats Local Democracy Local Facilities National Politics No Category Noise and Pollution Planning Applications Public Safety Rawreth Rawreth Green Belt Rayleigh Recycling and Waste Retail Rochford Southend Stitch-up? Wakering & Foulness Web Stuff YouTube and Video
If you read onlineFOCUS for a while you can see the kind of things we are trying to achieve locally. Maybe you would like to help us?
If you fancy helping us deliver leaflets, or actively campaigning for us at election time, or simply just helping behind the scenes with paperwork, please contact the onlineFOCUS team here.