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.

  • Chris, I remember last years battle very well and what we all must do is exert the same (or greater) pressure in the coming months. We have a lot of Tory Councillors in Rayleigh and they should be working for the ratepayers of their wards not doing what their party wants. One breakthrough that has come to light, from Shaun Scrutton is that the planning department can at least produce up to date figures of the planning consents. And according to Mr. Scrutton these figures are readily available as per the email below.

    Mike,

    There is a need for a little clarification in the comments you make.

    The Council does know how many dwellings are granted consent and this data can be provided very easily, but this information does not tell us how many dwellings have actually been built. Planning consents include a condition requiring development to commence within 3 years of the consent date and so we need to monitor the start date for construction and the completion date in order to accurately know the numbers of dwellings in the district. That is the reason why information about housing numbers is monitored on an annual basis rather than more frequently.

    You also need to bear in mind that the East of England Plan does not set a maximum target for housing completions – it actually sets a minimum target number and the plan states that housing completions in the period after 2021 should continue at the same average annual rate. Progress on the delivery of houses is evidenced in the Annual Monitoring Report published in December every year.

    Regards

    Shaun

    Shaun Scrutton

    Head of Planning & Transportation

    Rochford District Council

    tel: 01702 318137

    What Mr. Scrutton is actually saying is that the Government has set a minimum target, however the Planning department/Committee can build as many new dwellings as they want.

    Knowing how many applications have been approved will not tell us how many have been built on a month to month basis but it will give us some idea what our town will look like year on year. The public must be allowed these figures at least quarterly so that we can monitor what our Councillors and Officers have planned for our town.

  • Guys,

    Do you distribute your yellow newsletter across town or just in the Downhall / Rawreth area – it’s a good way of getting key messages across and making folks aware of what’s going on. I got a shiny flyer from the Conservatives yesterday, lots of stuff about the Olympics & local Post Offices but nothing at all about housing.

    Keep up the good work
    RR

  • Mike,
    It is understandable that the Planning Dept. cannot state actual figures of dwellings built but surely the Building Regulations Dept. have figures dwellings signed off.
    Also, the Rating Department must know exactly when a new house is completed as, I assume, rate collection starts immediately.
    All three departments are under RDC control so the answers to questions surely must be there.

  • RR – All the Lib Dem Councillors do newsletters for the wards we represent, we generally keep things very local.

    We’d like to cover the whole of Rayleigh – in fact we’d like to cover the whole of the district – but we don’t have the manpower!

    Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  • You would think so Greenbelt, wouldn’t you but a lot of Councils are not that sophisticated in their management systems. Still, knowing on a regular basis how many dwellings have been given the green light would give us some idea of what the Planning Department and our Councillors have in store for us in, say 2,3 or 5 years time. Shaun Scrutton was correct in his comment that the Government have only given minimum figures for development. The Council, our Council, can at their will enforce countless developments on us. Part of this I suspect will be how much money they can raise in Council Tax. The endless growing urban sprawl will be a secondary thought!

    This figures are important to us all and we must ensure that the Planning Department do make them public. There will be some Councillors who will not want these to get out into the public domain but what we must always keep in mind is who has the power? The Councillors who think that they can enforce their will on us or we, the rate payers of this district that can vote them out at the earliest chance. Any Councillors reading this, please digest this and understand that you are in power because we have put you there, we can just as easily reverse this decision. Come on the elections!

  • Rather than putting up more houses to raise income through additional council tax – send a couple of traffic wardens to Priory Chase – the amount of money they would make each day slapping tickets on Asda delivery lorries parked on double yellows waiting to go into the service yard or having a break after they come out, would be more than enough to avoid building a sprawling metropolis!

  • Corey,
    I have discussed the double yellow line situation with one of our councillors and we are both of the opinion that they are not legal. This is due to the fact that Priory Chase has yet to be adopted by the Council and is therefore a private road. I believe until private roads are adopted they belong to the tenants. In theory you could slap tickets on those parked outside your property. Just put up the appropriate No Parking notices and state a level of fine.