“For Rochford District this equates to between 312 and 392 dwellings per annum”

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...




A Green Oasis Near Lakeside

The Essexology blog has a feature here on the Chafford Gorges:

“Close to Lakeside and within the buzz zone of the M25 there sits a connected set of gorges.  Not your ordinary gorges, however: these are what remains of three chalk quarries, Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge and Grays Gorge.  Worked from the end of the 18th century for about 150 years, this was an important centre for cement production and a significant local employer.  If you visit Lion Gorge you’ll be able to spot the remains of the old 19th century tramway which carried the chalk to the riverside wharves of the nearby Thames.

The gorges now form an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve.  I’m the first to admit I’m not a keen birdwatcher, but even I was impressed to see so many geese, some with goslings toddling along too.  I think I’ve identified them correctly, but please do put me straight if I haven’t!

Geologists will be impressed by the reserve.  Fossils have revealed that the area was once a tropical sea – yes, tropical Essex, who knew?  There’s an information board at the visitor centre if you’re keen to find out more.



How Not To Save Money

The Guardian reports on how Lambeth Council closed some libraries to save money, but then ended up spending more. It’s a lesson that all councillors could learn from:

A council that temporarily closed two libraries just before the exam revision season as a supposed money-saving measure has spent up to three times as much per day on private guards to secure the buildings as it would have cost to keep them open, it has emerged.

Details of the security costs at the libraries, run by Lambeth council in south London, were given to the Guardian following a freedom of information request.

The money spent on guards at one of the libraries was inflated as it was occupied for 10 days by local people protesting at the temporary closure plans. However, the figures show that even at another library not similarly targeted, the money paid for private security was almost twice the usual running costs.

Full report here.


Application For 4 Bungalows In Louis Drive Set For Refusal

Last Friday’s ‘yellow list’ contained recommendations on several planning applications, each recommendation comes into effect on Wednesday unless any councillor calls it in.

One is in Louis Drive, Rayleigh and is recommmended for refusal, basically  on the grounds of overdevelopment and loss of trees. The proposal is to demolish one bungalow (77 Louis Drive) and build 4 new ones . If you are interested, the precise reasons for refusal are shown below:

Location : 77 Louis Drive Rayleigh
Proposal : Demolition Of Existing Chalet Bungalow And Build Four New 3-Bed Detached Bungalows

Recommended for refusal


The proposed development would amount to inappropriate infill development within a residential garden which would not achieve the
high standard of design and layout and would not contribute positively to the locality contrary to paragraphs 53, 56, 58 and 64 of the National
Planning Policy Framework.

The proposal would not therefore represent sustainable development. The proposed development would  not relate well to the existing street pattern,density and character of the locality contrary to Policy H1 of the Core Strategy (2011) and parts (iii), (ix) and (x) of Policy DM1 and parts (i), (ii), (iv) and (viii) of Policy DM3 of the Development Management Plan (2014).

The proposal would result in development encircling the rear garden of No. 75a Louis Drive and giving rise to a sense of enclosure which would be out of character with the locality and would not achieve a positive relationship with this existing dwelling.

The proposal for elongated bungalows with windows sited very close to boundaries would not achieve a high standard of living accommodation. The lack of 100 square metre garden area to the dwelling to plot 3 and failure of a 1-metre separation to the northern boundary together with the narrow access road with lack of space to accommodate soft landscaping is symptomatic of overdevelopment of the site.

There are several established trees on the site within the rear garden of the existing bungalow, trees within very close proximity site boundaries and a young tree within the grass verge to the site frontage the latter of which is clearly intended to provide high amenity value to the street scene in the longer term. Policy DM25 advises that development proposals should seek to conserve and enhance existing trees and that where development would result in the loss of existing trees then appropriate mitigation measures should be implemented to offset the impact through replacement. No tree impact assessment has been submitted with the application and as a consequence the impact of the proposed development on existing trees cannot be fully understood. It would appear that the development would result in the loss of existing trees and would likely impact on existing trees in close proximity with no details of replacement trees to be provided contrary to Policy DM25 and part (iv) of Policy DM1 of the Development Management Plan (2014)



Sweyne Park Grass – UPDATED

We’ve had some complaints about the length of grass in Sweyne Park – people are aware that most of it is a wild flower meadow, but the complaints are about the length of grass:

  • in the play area – it’s making it start to look tatty
  • and the football playing area – its becoming difficult to play.
  • We’ve asked the council when the next cut is due, and will update readers when we get an answer.

    UPDATED MONDAY 23RD : we had an email from Rochford District Council at 6:47 this morning : “at present there is a back log of grass cutting that is being addressed through securing additional resource, with a view to being back on track by the end of week”


    “Sorry It’s Not My Department”

    There’s a new blog called Sorry Its Not  My Department that is well worth a look.

    It describes itself as follows:

    “This is a site dedicated to sharing ideas, thoughts and opinions on issues in local government. The site is aimed at officers, leaders and anyone who has ever dealt with their own local council. As a former council officer I want to lift the lid on the inner workings of town halls ….This blog is an open forum and welcomes posts from anyone who wants to contribute. Your articles can be general reflections on why things go wrong or specific stories about your own dealings with your council and how things might have improved.”

    It’s intelligently written and conveys some of the real flavour of being a counciilor or council officer , much better than anything you will find on say, facebook. Though because it is a national blog not everything will apply to Rochford.

    Here’s an extract from a piece about councillors dealing with local problems that is definitely pertinent to Rochford:

    Essentially more and more councillors are becoming the middle men; passing on a message from the electorate because they are not getting the service they expect. Sometimes these expectations are unrealistic, more often they are just being fobbed off so have to escalate their issues. Officers getting a phone call from a councillor respond differently and more effectively than they do to a call from the public. Therein lies the problem. If the public got the “councillor gold standard service” when they rang up then councillors wouldn’t get dragged in. Elected members then become the sticking plaster to deal with the wider problem of councils not providing the right level of service to the public. But while councillors continue to get dragged into the proverbial fire-fighting activities they are unable to focus on preventing the fire in the first place.

    Perhaps some councillors are loathed to change this approach. “Being seen” to be the councillor sorting out the broken streetlight will guarantee at least that one person’s vote. However being the councillor who sorts out the street lighting service as a whole behind closed doors is largely invisible and while it helps 100,000 people it might not result in a single vote.

    The above paragraphs are fairly perceptive but don’t tell the full story – most councillors here would like to sort out the streetlighting service or pavement repairs service etc. but don’t get a chance to…


    A Question Of Convenience

    With suggestions in the District Council that we should close  public conveniences to help cope with government cuts and let the public rely on cafes etc , this article in the Guardian is quite informative:

    How many seats in a coffee shop does it take to necessitate provision of a customer loo? Fifteen? Five? A solitary stool and a sticky counter? An existential question and one that, according to this toilet-user, depends on a complex set of circumstances, from what’s on the menu to where the chairs are positioned. (Five outside? Toilet unlikely. Four inside? Expect a small, whiffy loo with no paper towels in the dispenser.)

    The correct answer, according to section 20 of the 1976 Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act, is 10. As in, cafes with fewer than 10 seats are not legally required to provide customer loos. Which is presumably why you can’t scoff a sausage roll in Greggs and then demand use of the washroom but you can order a takeout coffee in a central London Starbucks and get a key to the saddest toilets in Soho. (When it comes to public conveniences don’t be fooled by the romance of a key.)

    Despite the 10-seat guideline, thousands of takeaways and coffee shops could now be forced to install a toilet or get rid of seating following a recent case in Hull. Two branches of Greggs, both of which had fewer than 10 seats, lost a legal battle with the council after the judge ruled that not providing facilities gave them an “unfair commercial advantage”. If the ruling, which is being appealed, sets a precedent, as many as 21,500 takeaways and 5,230 coffee shops across the UK – the vast majority of which are small independent businesses – could be affected.

    “It would be a major problem,” Raymond Martin, director of the British Toilet Association, says. “Most of these are not going to be able to provide a toilet. Many would be forced to close down.” Would he expect a loo in a takeaway with only a few tables? “It does seem right to provide a toilet if a takeaway allows me to consume food and stay on the premises for a period of time,” he replies diplomatically. “But should we force takeaways to put in toilets? I don’t think we can.”

    The real issue, he adds, is the loss of public toilets from our cities and town centres. The law currently does not compel local authorities to provide public toilets – of which there are around 4,000 in the UK – and the result is that Britain has lost more than 40% of its facilities in the past decade…..

    Full article here.

    Hockley Woods

    Wild Woods Day !

    From the District Council website:

    “Wild Woods Day
    Sponsored by Fusion Lifestyle, in association with Crouch Valley Scouts
    Saturday 4 June 2016
    11am – 4pm
    Hockley Woods

    Enjoy a day of discovery in Hockley’s ancient woodlands with Rochford District Council’s annual Wild Woods Day

    Now in its thirteenth year, Wild Woods Day is one of the most popular events in the District’s calendar, where visitors can expect a packed programme of activities and entertainment in the stunning surroundings of Hockley Woods.

    Family favourites are back this year including the climbing wall, archery, rare owls and smoothie bike along with a host of new activities, experiences and entertainment in our 3 exciting zones: Create & Play Zone sponsored by Peaceful Place, Active Zone sponsored by Potters of Hockley and Wild Zone sponsored by Amos Estates.

    The Scouts will be taking over the Wild Zone this year to create a pop-up camp site and deliver a range of ‘Wild’ activities such as axe throwing, pioneering, bushcraft and tent building. Our Create & Play Zone will be featuring a ‘Beatrix Potter’ tent to celebrate her 150th anniversary. A storytelling corner with Mrs Potter herself will be sure to keep children entertained, along with fancy dress, face painting and a variety of arts & crafts activities. Venture a little deeper into the woods with our ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ story trail. In our Active Zone you will find pop-up tennis and cricket arenas, paintballing, parkour workshops and lots more!

    Entry is free to this family-friendly event which has a focus on ‘green’ themes including recycling, sustainability and protecting the local environment. A large pop-up market place will showcase local and organic produce as well as upcycled and recycled goods.

    A dedicated food and picnic area will offer a hog roast, gourmet burgers and hotdogs, a craft beer and cider stall, fresh Italian coffee, ice cream, candy floss and confectionary!”

    Find out more here..  

    Please note there is no on-site parking at Hockley Woods on the day of the event. Free parking and a free shuttle bus service sponsored by A Plus Security will run from Hockley Community Centre, Westminster Drive, SS5 4XD and Hockley Primary School, Chevening Gardens, SS5 4UR. However please be aware that parking spaces are limited…. you might prefer a no. 7 bus.

    civic suite

    What We Learned At Tonight’s Annual Council

    1. Hockley Tory councillor Carole Weston is now Chairman. She’s a popular choice, and should do a good job, both on a the ceremonial side of things , and on ensuring fair debate in the council chamber.
    2. The Tories seem desperate to stop Green Party councillor Michael Hoy from being chair of the Review Committee . This is a position that goes to an opposition party councillor. However last year the Tories  nominated and voted through a Labour councillor into the post to keep Michael out. This time they nominated and voted through Independent  Councillor Jamie Burton into the post.  Jamie would certainly be a competent member of the committee – but to have the chair of the committee that keeps an eye on the administration nominated by the same administration seems a bit …. odd.
    3. The Tories seem bent on welding the Greens, Rochford Residents, Lib Dems and UKIP into a joined-up opposition. We had a long series of votes tonight on nominating Councillors onto outside bodies and local organisations.  In each case the Tories insisted on having their choice of candidate – no compromise offered – and they had a long series of narrow victories.


    Another Fine Sky

    A picture of a sunset at Sweyne Park, sent in by one of our readers.


    sta andrews church

    Two Applications Recommended For Refusal

    On this week’s ‘yellow list’ of planning applications, there are two proposals recommended for refusal – if no councillor calls them in, they will be officially refused at Wednesday lunchtime.

    The first is to subdivide a garden in 16 Morrins Close ,Wakering and build a house there. But it is in flood zone 3 – the zone at most at risk from flooding. For this reason officers recommend refusal – plus there is no on-site parking, and would also cause overshadowing.

    The second is more unusual. It is a retrospective application to  allow a wooden outbuilding already built within the grounds of St Andrews Church in Rochford. Offices recommend refusal as follows:

    The outbuilding is an unattractive addition which would be unduly obtrusive and cause harm to the setting of a designated heritage asset,
    the Grade II * Listed St Andrews Church particularly given the proposed siting to the north which would detract from the way in which
    the church is viewed and experienced. There is no public benefit that would outweigh the harm. The outbuilding would also not make a
     positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Rochford Conservation Area



    A Fine View

    We are grateful to Graham for sending us this atmospheric  photo, taken from the Carpenters Arms Roundabout looking towards Makro. (Double-Click on it to enlarge)