Drama In Watery Lane !

There has been some activity in Watery Lane at last. BUT WATERY LANE IS STILL CLOSED – DON’T DRIVE DOWN THERE YET! (3 drivers had to be rescued today !)

Quite a lot has happened in the last few days.

  • A resident said that he intended to arrange works himself to start sorting out the problem tomorrow. This seems to have stirred things up.
  • There was a high-level visit by the County Council yesterday. Councillors Michael and Diane Hoy from Hullbridge were also able to attend.
  • Chris was unable to go due to work commitments  and asked if Alistir Matthews from Rawreth Parish Council could go in his place. This was denied!
  • You can see more about the meeting on “A Green Read” here.
  • There was a photoshoot for councillors today (not sure why it was needed – we weren’t invited , but then again we’re not really into that)
  •  Some lorries have turned up this afternoon , hired by the County Council to pump the water into their tanks and remove it from the lane .
  • These lorries were apparently going to work for 24 hours but have stopped for the night.
  • We are also hearing an odd rumour about the regular monthly closure of the road for litter picking – if we find out some more we will let you know.

The Truth About Potholes.

We ‘ve written a lot about potholes  – because there have been so many of them.  And now we know why.

We hope our local Conservatives are embarrassed by the figures below. They darn well ought to be.
This is a league table of the money spent on pothole repairs by Essex County Council by district or borough over the last three financial years:

Braintree:-        £3,570,000
Colchester:-      £3,230,000
Uttlesford:-       £3,100,000
Chelmsford:-    £ 2,710,000
Tendring:-         £2,590,000
Epping:-             £2,570,000
Basildon:-          £1,910,000
Maldon:-            £1,890,000
Brentwood:-      £1,440,000
Castle Point:-      £ 978,000
Rochford:-           £ 920,000
Harlow:-               £ 767,000
A127:-                  £ 605,000

Total £7.888 million



In the previous three financial years Essex  spent £7.888 million on pothole repairs.
However earlier this summer  the Conservatives suddenly found £11 million from nowhere to spend on pothole repairs. They must be worried about the County Council elections next May!

The County Council probably isn’t spending enough money on pothole repair even in places like Braintree and Colchester.  But it seems pretty clear that Rochford has been especially stitched up here.  Look at the comparison with Colchester:

Colchester has 173,000 people  – about twice as many as Rochford.
Colchester has an area of 128 square miles  – about twice the size of Rochford.
Colchester gets about three-and-a-half times more money spent on potholes.
Or to put it another way:  on average, the County Council has only been spending £3.68 a year on fixing our potholes for every man woman and child living in Rochford District. The same figure for Colchester is £6.22.



Alarm Bells For Rawreth

From the Echo:

RESIDENTS are fighting to save their “idyllic” village from plans to build 365 new homes there.
Hawkwell is one of the places Rochford District Council says must cope with extra housing to help the district fill its Government housing quota.
Whitehalll has told the council it must find room for 2,200 more homes by 2021.
But villagers say so much extra development would destroy village life as they know it. And they insist local roads and schools would be unable to cope with so many newcomers.
Hawkwell Action Group has organised a petition to fight the development and recently staged a meeting attended by 350 residents.
Roy and Christine Roostan were at the meeting. Mr Roostan, 68, said: “I’ve lived in Rectory Road for 19 years and my wife for 33 years. It used to be idyllic.
“We fully realise these houses have to be built somewhere, but why 365 in one place, in Hawkwell?
“It will turn our village into a town and destroy the way of life for the 4,000 residents.
“The strength of feeling is very high. Hawkwell just doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope.
“We are worried it is a done deal and we have not had a chance to have our say on it.”
The action group says three sites have already been earmarked for the homes – a field off Mount Bovers Lane, land behind factories in Main Road, near Thorpe Road and fields behind Rectory Road at Windsor Gardens.

Rather than adding to the villages, Hawkwell Parish Council believes the district should fill its quota by building a brand new community to the west of Rayleigh.

Rather than adding to the villages, Hawkwell Parish Council believes the district should fill its quota by building a brand new community to the west of Rayleigh.

Vice-chairman Vic Leach, has written to the district council expressing his concerns about the “inevitable” loss of green belt land and urging the burden be shared equally across the district.

Keith Hudson, district councillor responsible for planning and transport, said a decision on the issue would be made in the autumn.

He said: “The procedure so far has been for a call for sites’.

“Any landowner is entitled to put forward their land for consideration as a suitable site for housing, industry or commerce.”

“To the west of Rayleigh” can only mean Rawreth. Perhaps some residents of the small , equally idyllic village of Rawreth should be going over to any meetings in Hawkwell to remind them that the most recent suggestion from the Conservatives was that the western end of the district was likely to get twice Hawkwell’s alocation anyway.

And something doesn’t make sense:

You can’t say “the district should fill its quota by building a brand new community to the west of Rayleigh.” and at the same time say “the burden be shared equally across the district.”

Fair Shares For All

Hawkwell Councillor John Mason is unhappy about the Conservative’s suggested housing allocation for Hawkwell:

In the Summer of 2007, after the first public consultation, 32 Conservative Councillors met in private to allocate 2200 new housing units across Rochford District. They came up with 365 for Hawkwell West and just 740 for the whole of Rayleigh.

The Liberal Democrats seem to have gratefully accepted the reduced allocation for Rayleigh and have not raised any objection yet to the allocations across the remainder of the District. Not surprising because any objection to what is going on elsewhere might lead to the Rayleigh allocation increasing !!

But Lib Dem Councillor Chris Black, Leader of the Opposition at RDC, has written “We support a ‘fair shares for all’ policy for new housing in Rochford District.”

But how can 365 new houses in Hawkwell West be described as ‘Fair Shares for All’ ? It is not Fair Shares At All !!

A ‘Fair Shares for All’ policy would mean just 110 new houses in each of the 23 District Wards
Rayleigh should have 1000 new houses not 740
Hockley should have 330 not 36
So why is one Ward in Hawkwell allocated 365?
This would mean an increase in the number of houses in Hawkwell West by 25%
Lib Dem Councillor Chris Black is the only non Tory on the Local Development Framework Sub Committee which will decide on the allocations.

Tory Keith Hudson is the Chairman of that Sub Committee but Hockley is so far only down to get 36 houses.

If the Lib Dem Leader were to agree to 365 houses in Hawkwell West then his ‘Fair Shares for All’ policy will be in tatters because it is simply not fair and obviously so. Let’s hope that Chris Black will argue the unfair case for Hawkwell West as vigorously as he has done for Rayleigh !!

The so called ”Fair Shares for All’ Policy should NOT to be implemented because it patently will not deliver fair shares for all.

The only proper basis for housing allocations is one based on a spatial allocation that takes into account that the best places for major new developments are where where existing infrastructure exists and can be extended.

Hawkwell West is not one of these places.

When the time comes later this Summer the residents of Hawkwell West must tell the Council this in great numbers. Landowners and their lobbyists already seem to think that there will be 365 new houses in Hawkwell West. They think is is all over but all residents of Hawkwell need to prove them wrong by force of opinion in numbers for what they think is right for our community.

The Hawkwell Action Group, of which I am a Committee Member, will be holding a second public meeting shortly to muster a call to arms. Watch out for the posters in your street soon.

One obvious comment – fair shares for all refers to fair shares for all towns and villages, which are real features on the map. Not for shares on a ward-by-ward basis – that would lead to ridiculous situations in places like Grange Ward, which is already entirely built up. And some wards (such as Hullbridge) have bigger areas, and bigger populations than others (such as Hockley Central).

The serious business of allocating sites will start soon, and when that happens Chris Black will have to follow the Council’s rules of confidentiality and not write anything about it here. But he will do a conscientious job.

The Revised East Of England Plan

The Revised East of England Plan is published today. You can download it here (3.5 Megabytes)

The report is 131 pages long , and there’s a lot to absorb. It deals with the governments proposals for housing, employment, transport etc. in the next 13-17 years.

Rochford is not one of the main centres for housing growth in the East of England region, though Basildon and Southend are.

The main centres are

Bedford / Kempston / Northern Marston Vale
Bury St Edmunds
Great Yarmouth
Hatfield and Welwyn GC
Hemel Hempstead
King’s Lynn
Luton / Dunstable / Houghton Regis & Leighton Linslade
Thurrock urban area

In terms of housing for Essex, it says:

District/ Housing Target/ Already Built / Still to be Built (average per year)

Basildon / 10,700 / 1,220 / 9,480 (630)
Braintree / 7,700 / 3,360 / 4,340 (290)
Brentwood / 3,500 / 920 / 2,580 (170)
Castle Point / 4,000 / 1,010 / 2,990 (200)
Chelmsford / 16,000 / 3,570 / 12,430 (830)
Colchester / 17,100/ 4,640 / 12,460 (830)
Epping Forest/ 3,500 / 1,210/ 2,290 (150)
Harlow / 16,000 / 810 / 15,190
Maldon / 2,400 / 750 / 1,650 (110)

Rochford / 4,600 / 810 / 3,790 (250)

Tendring / 8,500 / 2,110 / 6,390 (430)
Uttlesford / 8,000 / 1,610/ 6,390 (430)
Southend UA / 6,500 / 2,130/ 4,370 (290)
Thurrock UA / 18,500 / 4,250 / 14,250 (950)

Essex, Thurrock / 127,000 28,380 / 98,620
and Southend (6,580)

There is also a very ambitious target for job creation:

POLICY E1: Job Growth
The following indicative targets for net growth in jobs for the period 2001-2021 are adopted as reference values for monitoring purposes and guidance for regional and local authorities:

Bedford / Mid Beds 27,000
Luton / South Beds 23,000
Bedfordshire & Luton 50,000
Cambridgeshire 75,000
Peterborough 20,000
Essex Thames Gateway (Thurrock / Basildon /
Castle Point /Southend-on-Sea / Rochford) 55,000

Essex Haven Gateway (Colchester / Tendring) 20,000
Rest of Essex (Braintree / Brentwood / Chelmsford /
Epping Forest / Harlow / Maldon / Uttlesford) 56,000
Essex & Unitaries 131,000
Hertfordshire 68,000
King’s Lynn & West Norfolk 5,000
Great Yarmouth 5,000
Breckland 6,000
North Norfolk 4,000
Greater Norwich (Norwich / Broadland / S Norfolk) 35,000
Norfolk 55,000
Suffolk Haven Gateway (Ipswich / Suffolk Coastal / Babergh) 30,000
Waveney 5,000
Rest of Suffolk (Mid Suffolk / St Edmundsbury / Forest Heath) 18,000
Suffolk 53,000

As we said, there is a lot of information to absorb here, and the report was only published today. It looks as if the small print will be very important, the district council may be compelled to accept some kind of an increase in the previous housing figures, but things are not clear yet.

We’ll write some more when things do become clearer, and we will stay pretty neutral in our comments until then.

UPDATE: Here is an image of one of the tables in the plan:


If This Were True…..

The Conservatives clearly got a little rattled in Rayleigh Central Ward in the last few days of the campaign. They put out a leaflet which said :

“You may remember that with your help Conservatives overturned council officers proposals to build 1800 houses in Rayleigh, where were the Lib Dems then ?”

The short answer is that we were leading the campaign against the 1800 figure. Just about the only Tory helping in this was Tony Humphries.

But what’s going on here? If this leaflet were true it would mean that the Conservative group, with it’s massive majority, had lost control of its own council staff. It would mean that the Council had spent a lot of money, and the public had spent a lot of time, on a consultation which the Tories hadn’t voted for.

But that isn’t true. The consultation was voted through by Conservative councillors. It was a proper consultation, agreed by the Tories, which the Lib Dems opposed.

A Successful Skirmish

At last night’s meeting we got the Conservatives to agree to a change in the council vision statement. We got them to remove the phrase “several large scale sites”


By 2017 ….. Secure a range of new mixed housing developing on several large-scale sites linked to local infrastructure upgrades and connected to public open space.


By 2017 ….. Secure a range of new mixed housing developing on sites linked to local infrastructure upgrades and connected to public open space where possible.

The amendment was moved by Chris Black

We’ll do a more detailed report later….

It’s Someone’s Vision

On Tuesday night councillors are being asked to approve the District Council’s “Vision Statement” for the years ahead. It begins by aiming to “make Rochford District the place of choice in the county to live, work and visit”. The last bit seems over-ambitious – can we really make our district the place to visit ahead of Lakeside, Southend-on-Sea , Walton-on-the-Maze, Braintree Freeport, Audley End, Colchester, Colchester ????)

There are good things in this document. But Jackie Dillnutt was the first of us to spot this, down on the very last page:

By 2017 ….. Secure a range of new mixed housing developing on several large-scale sites linked to local infrastructure upgrades and connected to public open space.

We thought the Conservatives were proposing a range of sites for sharing out the development – not just ‘several large-scale sites’ . Who has come up with this suggestion?

Telling People What’s Happening

It was interesting to see a little piece in the Echo on Friday (not on their website yet) where the Conservatives accuse us of “Scaremongering” about the housing figures.

We’re just trying to tell people what’s going on in the real world.

The latest news is that a sub-committee meeting looking at housing options has been postponed. It’s been moved from it’s original date in April to a date in May. We understand that the stuff to be discussed may be too controversial to be discussed before the elections.

As the Conservative Councillors are obviously reading onlineFOCUS, could one of them please leave a comment and explain what’s going on here?

Housing Figures, Leadership & Politics (Part 2)

There a quite a few things that can go wrong with the housing figures, if the public and Lib Dem councillors aren’t vigilant.

First of all, the housing figures are due to be discussed at a couple of District Council committee meetings in April. Maybe there will be some nasty surprises there. It’s possible that officers might suggest a variation on the 740 figure for Rayleigh, for example.

Whilst councillors have to listen to officer advice, we don’t always have to follow it. For example , Ron Oatham and Great Wakering Conservative Colin Seagers insisted on keeping parking standards for new houses, even though they were advised that government policy wouldn’t allow it. It turned out in the end that government policy did allow it. So we still have parking standards…..

The Conservative Group could backtrack. After all, there’s been no council vote on their figures, just a publicly-stated proposal. Once the elections are over the Tories will have some new members, replacing old ones. They might well have a new leader.

And even if they make it an election promise to stick with fairer figures, they have broken promises in the past. For example, before they took control of the council they said:

“Residents throughout Rayleigh want pay-on-exit car parking in Webster’s Way now. We have had over 1400 replies from houses in Rayleigh – and over 70% want this system…. Yet Liberal councillors have refused to meet residents wishes. Rayleigh Conservatives believe people should have what they want – not be arrogantly disregarded by the Liberals. At the December Council meeting , Conservatives Councillors publicly promised to put pay-on-exit car parking into Webster’s Way.”

Of course, the Conservatives never did bring in pay-on-exit car parking….

The third problem is that the Government could intervene….. and give us a higher target….

But even if we get the council to stick to 740 for Rayleigh, and fair figures for other parts of the District as well, there are still problems. The number of homes on a site tends to creep up once permission is granted. For example, the original indication for the Park School was about 90 – but the final figure was about 57 percent higher. If we had a 57 percent increase on 740, that would bump the figure up to 1160. So we need councillors to be vigilant, to get design briefs agreed for each site, and make sure the right planning conditions are included.

Finally, we want to ensure over the next 12 years that we get the amenities we need to go with the extra housing we’ve already had, and are going to have.
We need to learn from the council’s mistakes at the Park School site. It would be good to have a permanent sub-committee of feisty and determined councillors, to monitor the progress of all the development sites across the district, to ensure that all the amenities and facilities that are supposed to be provided actually are created….

Housing Figures, Leadership & Politics (Part 1)

A few nights ago Mike Nobes left a comment about housing figures and said “We need strong leadership, not politics. “

Well, any future battles around housing figures in Rayleigh certainly aren’t going to revolve around national politics. But they are certainly going to be intermeshed with local politics. This post is part one of a look at how things are shaping up….

Last years local elections were a bit of a shock for the Conservatives. It’s worth quoting what we posted here on May 5th , when we were all still feeling a bit excited. It’s the last sentence which is the key here:

We’re just about getting back to normal now after an exhausting few days. For most people local elections are , well, extremely dull. For us it’s been an emotional roller-coaster.

It was wonderful for Jackie to win after all her hard efforts. (It wasn’t hard work because she enjoyed it . But all that calling at peoples’ houses for hours and hours does wear you out physically and mentally!)

It was great to see how many people think we are doing a good job in Downhall and Rawreth and in Grange. It’s quite humbling to see people taking 20 or 30 minutes out of their day to come down to the polling station and vote for you. It’s a motivating factor for the months and years ahead – you really feel you have a duty to do a good job.

One of the things we noticed in the campaign was that the local press had completely written us off. The Echo hinted that June might lose her seat. The Rayleigh Times hinted that we could lose June and Ron! Neither of them suggested that we might actually gain a seat.

It was disappointing for us not to have candidates in places like Hawkwell and Great Wakering – but we just didn’t have anybody who wanted to stand. One of our priorities to increase our pool of good potential candidates.

And as for Rayleigh overall – we got 782 more votes than the Conservatives did. People are basically concerned about a lack of facilities and too much development…..

During the elections we hammered home the point about the 1800 figure for Rayleigh. After the elections we showed a bit of leadership in getting proper consultation in Rayleigh on these figures.

The council were only going to have their exhibition in Rayleigh on a Sunday afternoon, but we persuaded them otherwise. As Ron wrote on May 26th:

I’m absolutely gobsmacked that a council officer could come up with such a stupid and illogical reason for choosing Sunday after lunch when Rayleigh is at its quietist.
Surely they can’t be trying to keep our residents in the dark about the plans to site the major part of new housing developments here? (Could they? —- no I can’t think anyone could be that daft)

The end result was that there was massive public opposition to the figures for Rayleigh , and on September 23rd we could write:

We really should have a quiet celebration this weekend. Because last week the District Council abandoned the housing figures it had originally proposed. These were the figures that gave almost half – 1800 houses – to Rayleigh.

At about this time the ruling Tory Group suggested a new set of figures. These figures reduce the number for Rayleigh to 740, and make up for this by increasing the figures elsewhere in the district.

So far, so good , the public protested strongly about something and the ruling group have given the appearance of responding. That’s how local democracy is supposed to work….

….. In part 2 tomorrow night we can look at how this can all go wrong if the public – and Lib Dem councillors – aren’t vigilant.

New Housing – The Debate Hots Up

The argument about where to allocate new housing in the district seems to be hotting up again.

According to the Echo:

Could a new town be the answer? Hawkwell Parish Council believes it is. It suggests a new town in the west of Rayleigh would be the best policy to pursue.

Originally, Rochford District Council officers had said Rayleigh should take the bulk of the new homes, but this was changed after angry opposition.

Revised plans worked out at a private meeting of councillors cut this number by half, but meant an increase in the allocation for villages across the district, particularly Hawkwell and Hullbridge.

Hawkwell Parish Council vice chairman Vic Leach said: “There is strong opposition to any major green belt development within the parish from many residents.

“Our preferred option for all housing requirements is to create a single new community within the district, thus allowing services and infrastructure to be properly and viably provided.

“This new community would be ideally situated in the west or north west of the district to allow best access to public transport, cycleways and dual carriageways.”

Mr Leach said if this option was not acceptable, development should be shared equally throughout the area, based on the size of parishes and their populations.”