A Good Area Committee Meeting

Tonights’s West Area Committee was rather a good one.

The venue – the Salvation Army Hall – wasn’t really suitable . It was rather cramped and the parking situation wasn’t good. But there were over 40 members of the public, there was much discussion, and most people left happy.

There’s a lot that we could mention ….

First of all , there was a written question from Hayley Bloomfield, clerk of Rawreth Parish Council: Is there any possibility of altering the Parish District Council Boundary for Rawreth so that it includes St Nicholas School?

The answer was that at some time in the future the District Council would be given the power to decide boundary changes like this locally, rather than have it decided by central government. It would probably best to wait until these powers were transferred, before trying to do anything.

There was a brief discussion on the Grange Community Centre. Cllr Joan Mockford said it was ‘not likely to close’ and that people shouldn’t be deterred from making bookings there.

Another question was about how many long-term empty homes were there in the district, and how many second homes. The answer was 568 long-term empty properties, and 33 second homes.

There was some strong questioning from the public about traveller sites and why the council couldn’t take stronger action against sites without planning permission. Rawreth Parish Councillor Lyn Hopkins said that a massive temporary home had just appeared on the A1245 site.

There was a question about the new 3/3a bus service. Shaun Scrutton, (council Head of Planning and Transportation) said that the operators of the new service were going to be reimbursed for concessionary fares sooner than normal.

Next to speak was Inspector Richard Baxter from Essex Police. He reported that crime was overall down by 4 percent this year in Rayleigh and Rawreth, and there was a 7-8 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour. There had been a spate of burglaries on the Rawreth Industrial Estate, but these had been stopped by late night police patrols. These patrols had also led to 2 persons being arrested for carrying cannabis.

Inspector Baxter said there been some behaviour problems from youths causing a nuisance in the grounds of St Nicholas School, but hopefully these had been nipped in the bud. Rawreth Parish Council Chairman Alistir Matthews asked if the new streetlights in Priory Chase could be turned on to try and reduce this problem. He also said that youths there were drinking alcohol sourced from the local supermarket [Asda]. When asked how he knew the stuff can from Asda, he explained it was ‘own brand’. Cllr Matthews asked for police to look into this, and Chris Black asked if the Trading Standards department of the County Council could get involved too.

There was then some discussion about speeding traffic. District Councillor Tony Humphries said that he had been in Trinity Road , Rayleigh last Friday with County Highways looking at problems there, when they actually saw an accident caused by speeding! Chris Lumley said his own wall in London Road had been hit again this week and asked for police speed checks in roads to be carried out in the late evening and not Saturday mornings!

We then went onto the consultation about new powers for the District Council for controlling dogs. It became clear that about half of the public had come along because they were fearful that the council were thinking of banning dogs from large areas, or banning dogs from being off leads in large areas.

The public soon realised that the councillors hadn’t any intention to do this, and that the consultation had been arranged by officers without even going to the cabinet. Chris Black got a round of applause from the public when he said that although he received complaints about dog mess, he didn’t get any other complaints about dogs. He wouldn’t support tougher rules.

Cllr Peter Webster got the biggest laugh of the night when he said that for once he totally agreed with Chris Black. A member of the public said that the council couldn’t trust the results of it’s online consultation – she herself had replied 53 times!

The dog-owners who came along seemed to leave the meeting feeling happier than when they arrived. It looks like a useful dialogue will be established between them and Richard Evans, the council officer who answered their questions (and stayed calm while doing so!)

From dog mess we moved onto human excrement, and the smell from the Sewage Treatment Works in Rawreth. Alistir Matthews spoke pretty graphically about the lorries going along Watery Lane with uncovered skips, and human excrement falling into the road. He argued strongly for the District Council to take stronger enforcement action, saying there was ample proof of nuisance. Chris Black asked for consultants to monitor the site if necessary, as with the Stambridge Treatment works. The response from the officers was that the ‘stuff’ should be moved to Tilbury by the end of the year. The situation would be discussed again in the New Year at the area committee scheduled for Rawreth Parish Hall.

After this Ron Oatham asked about flooding , how important ditches were in dealing with surface water and whether they were being maintained properly.

Jackie Dillnutt then spoke about graffiti. She said was getting conflicting information from the council about how soon graffiti is dealt with. The unexpected response from the officers tonight was that offensive graffiti is removed immediately; street furniture is dealt with on a monthly basis but that play equipment is only dealt with over a period of years. Jackie was rightly unhappy about this.

Finally, Cllr Mavis Webster said that the police have no records of any road accidents involving young people along Rawreth Lane.

All in all a good meeting, and well chaired by Cllr John Pullen.

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