Connecting With Nature

Last week we mentioned the District Council’s Winter in Rochford photography competition. Which brings us nicely to an article in the New Statesman by Helen MacDonald about the Ladybird Book “What To Look For In Winter”, , first published in 1959:


“I also remembered all these pictures: 24 watercolours of hoar frost and rooks under pallid skies, of snowy woods, sheep, jackdaws, about tractors, holly bushes, foresters, carthorses; ducks on frozen lakes, a half-ermined stoat slipping past reeds rimed with ice….

…Small, with card covers, and priced at two shillings and sixpence each, the books in Ladybird’s nature series could easily be stuffed in a pocket or satchel on trips to the local countryside. They were hugely influential and this one – written by the novelist, naturalist and mystic E L Grant Watson, with illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe – was my favourite. I knew each page of text by heart, delighted in how it explained and elaborated on the winter scene on the opposite page, traced with my fingers where animals, farm machinery and livestock were framed between foreground details of fence lines and foliage and a background of distant spires and sunlit hillsides.

Rereading it was an exercise in nostalgia, but a complicated one. I began to wonder whether anyone makes books like this any more. What to Look for in Winter is a spectacular primer not only in natural history but in aesthetic pleasure, in how to pay attention to the moving patterns of colour, light and shade in a landscape. Unlike a field guide, it encourages you to encounter the natural world as a whole, not merely ticking off its constituent parts.”

Our District has very large areas of green belt, but are we still as connected to nature as we were in 1959? Almost certainly not – increasing population, increased car use , the pleasures of TV, computers and gaming have all had a impact. But its important to encounter the natural world as a whole, not just to think of the Green Belt as a suitable place for sports pitches or golf driving ranges.

We need to keep those places where you can hear birdsong without hearing traffic noise, where you can see the Milky Way on clear nights without the interference of artificial lights.

Hat-Tip: Liberal England

A New Map For Development Watchers

The South East Essex Action Group Alliance have produced a new map – you can see the full-size version  at It shows proposed developments in this part of the county.

We are told that  tthe new orange tabs are the potential developments from the new Basildon district plan released recently – on top of a map of “definite and potential developments based on local knowledge..”

What Are Passivhauses ?

This week’s “Yellow List” of planning applications can be downloaded here. These are applications that probably don’t need to go the Development Committee. Officers have prepared a report on each one, with a recommendation. If no councillor calls it by Wednesday lunchtime, the recommendation comes into effect.

Two of the applications this week are small ones for building in the Green Belt – both are recommended for refusal on Green Belt grounds.

One is at “Land East Of Gardiners Lane, Lambourne Hall Road Canewdon” for a bungalow

The other is at land “opposite 1 – 10 Disraeli Road Rayleigh” and is an outline application for ” 2 4-Bed Passivhauses, Associated Landscaping And Biodiversity Enhancement”. You may well be wondering what Passivhauses are. Well, there’s a clue in the details of the report:

“The proposal is to create two new dwellings to the passivhaus standard. The
dwellings would also incorporate the installation of ground array photovoltaic
panels, rainwater harvesting and aim to achieve a zero carbon rating. The
dwellings would incorporate 300mm of insulation, feature triple glazed
windows, mechanical ventilation heat recovery and high standards of build
There are no details of the scale and design of the dwellings apart from it
being stated that the buildings would have an elongated linear appearance to
integrate the dwellings more successfully into the landscape than a
conventionally designed dwelling. It is proposed to landscape the upper part
of the site with deciduous trees and to plant the lower party of the site with

If you want to know what something is, try wikipedia:

The term passive house (Passivhaus in German) refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint.[1] It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling…
Estimates of the number of Passivhaus buildings around the world in late 2008 ranged from 15,000 to 20,000 structures.[6][7] As of August 2010, there were approximately 25,000 such certified structures of all types in Europe, while in the United States there were only 13, with a few dozen more under construction.[1] The vast majority of passive structures have been built in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia.

Building new homes in the Green Belt is only allowed in very special circumstances (unless you take the land out of the Green Belt, as is happening on big sites around the district). Does being a Passivhaus make it very special circumstances?

Here We Go Again?

The Echo has reported on possible proposals in Basildon’s Local Development Plan that could put 900 homes to the east, north and west of Wick Country park in Wickford. This is on the A127 not far away from Rawreth. For those not familiar with this country park we’ve produced a quick map with question marks showing where the houses might go. (Click to enlarge)

wick map

One of the official purposes of the green belt is to prevent coalescence of existing settlements- perhaps that’s a good legal argument against development here.. And thats before you go on to questions of infrastructure. This map does show that the green belt left between Basildon/ Wickford and Rawreth / Rayleigh starts to look a bit thin if you take out “North of London Road” , Michelins Farm plus this land in Wickford…

Chris and Ron, as ward councillors for the adjoining ward, will be asking RDC if they can get us more information.

Goldsmith Drive Application Refused

The application for a site for travelling show people in Goldsmith Drive, Rayleigh, was refused at the Development Committee tonight. Reasons for refusal were inappropriate use of the Green Belt, and poor access.

Chris Black was the main speaker against the application, and asked for the wording of the refusal to include  the impact on nearby residential properties, he was supported in this by June Lumley. When it came to a vote they were backed by councillors from all parts of the council chamber.

Goldsmith Drive Application Recommended For REFUSAL

The planning application at Goldsmith Drive, Rayleigh for a site from Travelling Show People comes to the Development Committee next Thursday 30th.Officers are recommending refusal for Green Belt reasons and also poor access.

You can find the full report here

Here is the full officers recommendation:

7.1 It is proposed that the Committee RESOLVES To REFUSE planning
permission for the following reasons:-
(1) The saved Rochford District Replacement Local Plan (2006) shows the
site to be within the Metropolitan Green Belt. Within the Green Belt
planning permission will not be given except in very special
circumstances for the construction of new buildings or for the change of
use or extension of existing buildings (other than reasonable extensions
to existing buildings, as defined in Policies R2 and R5 of the saved Local
Plan). The proposal is considered to be inappropriate development
contrary to Green Belt Policy. Any development that is permitted shall be
of a scale, design and siting such that the appearance of the countryside
is not impaired.
The proposal does not come into any of the excepted categories and, if
allowed, would develop an existing open and undeveloped site with an
existing tall grass covering with development in the form of touring
caravans, mobile homes, commercial vehicle storage and maintenance
and a hardstanding area to some 56% of the site coverage, which taking
all these features together, would detract visually from the relative
undeveloped plotland appearance and character of that part of the Green
Belt in which the site would be situated and would introduce noise and
commercial repairs to show men’s equipment, detracting from the
amenity enjoyed to this location.
(2) The proposal would be served by a 117m length of unmade plotland
road to a width of 5m without footway and a poor surface. As such, the
site would not enjoy a direct access onto a metalled highway surface and
the proposal would instead encourage further commercial traffic onto the
sub standard highway network to the detriment of the safety to
pedestrians and other highway users and the flow of traffic.

Southend Airport Want An Extension To Their Extension

Southend Airport already have planning permission for an extension to their terminal building. That extension is being built now.

The airport is now applying for another extension of their terminal. They say this would improve passenger facilities and allow the UK Border Agency to separate arriving international passengers from arriving domestic passengers.

Planning officers are in favour of the proposal, saying that although the site is in Green Belt, it is an airport and an exceptional circumstance.

It will be discussed by councillors at a committee meeting on March 21st

As always, we will keep an open mind in advance of the meeting.

The Council Press On With Their Development Plans


At last Tuesday’s meeting the District Council pressed on with their plans  for future development.

Who was there?

The six councillors on the sub-committee were all there –
5 Conservatives: Keith Hudson, Heather Glynn, Keith Gordon, Simon Smith and Colin Seagers
and 1 Lib Dem: Chris Black.
When you are outnumbered 5 to 1, you don’t expect to win many votes….
In addition two visiting members came along, Lib Dem Ron Oatham and Conservative Brian Hazlewood.
There were also about 17 members of the public present, mostly interested in Rayleigh Sports And Social Club. One of them walked out halfway, saying ‘this is a waste of time’.
Also there was a full team of planning officers, led by Shaun Scrutton.

What About Those Alarming New Housing Figures?

The alarming phrases that mentioned a lot more  potential housing were all removed. It seems that some of the Conservatives were as concerned as we were. So, for example the wording  for ‘Land North of London Road’ was changed from:

The Core Strategy (Policy H2) identifies that the site in this general location should have the
capacity to accommodate a minimum of 550 dwellings during the plan period. A minimum
site size of 20.95 hectares would be required (if 75% of the site was developed at 35
dwellings per hectare).
The site identified in Figure 7 is 38.8 hectares (the gross site area, outside flood zone 3)
which could deliver between 582 and 873 dwellings at a density of 30 dwellings per hectare
on a developable area of 50% and 75% respectively, and between 679 and 1019 dwellings
at a density of 35 dwellings per hectare on a developable area of 50% and 75% respectively.


The Core Strategy (Policy H2) identifies that the site in this general location should have the capacity to accommodate a minimum of 550 dwellings during the plan period.  The site identified in Figure 6 is capable of providing 550 dwellings at a density of 30 dwellings per hectare, plus a flexibility allowance of 5%, if required.

So the maximum amount of new housing ‘North of London Road’ has been changed from 1019 to 550 + 5%, which equals 578.

Changes were made in similar way for other sites such as SW Hullbridge, which now reads:

‘The Core Strategy (Policy H2 and H3) identifies that the site in this general location should have the capacity to accommodate a minimum of 500 dwellings during the plan period.  The site identified in Figure 12 is capable of providing 500 dwellings at a density of 30 dwellings per hectare, plus a flexibility allowance of 5%, if required.

What Other Good Things Came From the Meeting?

Well, the Conservatives would probably say that everything that came out of the meeting was good, this was effectively their document! But from our perspective :

  • We got phrases included to show that the preferred option for new open spaces is that they go into the ownership of “Fields in Trust ” (the new name for the National Playing Field Association). This will help to protect them in the long term.
  • Chris Black also spotted that in the list of new open spaces to be created, 4 hectares North of London Road, had been missed off! He got that put back on…

What Happened With The Hockley Area Action Plan ?

After a fair amount of discussion, it went through. Heather Glynn was concerned about certain aspects of the plan, Ron Oatham stressed the importance of leisure facilities such as the tenpin bowling.

What Happened With Rayleigh Sports and Social Club?

The Council are sticking to their new policy of forcing the Rayleigh Sports & Social Club to move.

Heather Glynn and Keith Hudson moved an amendment that presumably was intended to calm the fears of the club:

 The playing field to the south of the site along London Road should be relocated. A replacement sports field with new ancillary facilities together with a new club house will be required to be provided ahead of any removal of the existing facility so as to ensure the continued and uninterrupted operation of this valuable community facility. The new structure will be required to be built to the BREEAM (Very good) standard thus providing a new, efficient and environmentally friendly establishment which will be of great advantage to the community as a whole and to the operators of the Sports and Social club. It should be located within the green buffer to the west of the site, although the arrangement of the facility should be such that the clubhouse and associated development are positioned adjacent to the residential settlement to the east and integrated into the development. It is calculated that the new club house will be built within 340 metres of the existing location and will be served by a new road. Additionally this facility should be well connected to the pedestrian and cycling network.

Chris Black still objected to the proposal, saying it was being imposed on the club and he would only support a move if it was by agreement. Even in September the council was still staying that the sports pitches should be allocated as open space.

However the Conservatives forced this through.

What about the Land North of London Road proposals?

Well, they went through. Chris Black got an amendment to look at the feasibility of having a through route between London Road and Rawreth Lane but stressed that traffic problems were a big concern in general, that extra development could bring London Road to gridlock and Rawreth Lane not far behind. He pointed out that with the proposals for the Rawreth Industrial Estate, Land North of London Road, eoN and a proposed new employment site near Swallows Nursery, there should be a Traffic Impact Assessment before going any further. This was important  not only for Rayleigh residents, but for people living elsewhere in the district who also used these roads.

The proposals for Land North of London Road went through by 5 votes to 1. Chris Black voted against , mainly because of the traffic issue and the Sports and Social Club.

What about Hullbridge?

The proposals went through by 5 votes to 1 here as well. Chris Black voted against because of concerns about Watery Lane. The documents said that road improvements would be made, but despite all the thousands of pages of paperwork, there seemed to be no information on exactly what was needed to make the road suitable for all the extra traffic!  So there was no guarantee that the necessary work would be done.

And the rest of the sites?

They each went through after a bit of discussion. This included the proposed Traveller site near the Fairglen Interchange. There was an amendment agreed to make this a council-owned site.

 And What Happens Now?

The whole document goes to an extraordinary meeting of the the Full Council for rubber-stamping. Then there’s a consultation period , and then  all the responses  go to a government inspector.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 5TH -Just to make it clear, bearing in mind some of the comments below , we are advised by the council that there is no agreement or arrangements between the District Council and any developers or landowners regarding the Hockley Area Action Plan. 

Another Look At Rayleigh Town Football Club

The latest District Council proposals aren’t yet agreed, but they involve building houses where Rayleigh Town football club currently play!

The club would be offered a new site.

If you don’t know much about the club, The Grounds For Concern Blog has a very thorough look at Rayleigh Town Football Club here and makes some positive comments:

“Most clubs in this division only have the most basic railed off pitches, so it was nice to see a small bit of cover here.”


What Could Really Happen In Our Green Belt

Last week we showed the following figures for proposed housing in the Green Belt:

However the document going to councillors at the moment says these are only minimum figures, the council may allow more houysing if required to meet our five year supply. So if houses don’t get built in one location they may get built in another!
Here’s how the new ‘maximum’ figures look:

– North of London Road :maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of   550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748  compared with the policy figure of 600
– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175
– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144  compared with the policy figure of 100
– South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of of 500
– South East Ashingdon :maximum of617 compared with the policy figure of of 500
– West Great Wakering :maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

That’s an especially alarming situation for Rawreth….. and for anyone who uses London Road or Rawreth Lane…

The overall housing figures for Hockley have already been dropped by 50. The council says “Community involvement has suggested that large-scale residential development of this site would not be appropriate, consequently fewer dwellings are envisaged.” That’s nice for Hockley..

The Green Belt Losses

This is a table from the latest District Council ‘allocations’ document, showing where new homes are going to be built across the district in the Green Belt (you can double-click on it to enlarge it)


However here’s a few points to bear in mind:

  • It doesn’t include new housing on former industrial sites, such as the Rawreth Industrial Estate
  • The government requires councils to show ‘flexibility’ , which means numbers could increase at a particular site.
  • The 550  “North of London Road, Rayleigh” and 250 of the “South West Hullbridge” are actually in the parish of Rawreth. Though it’s still better than the 1800 we originally campiagned against.