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….

About the author, admin

  • Guy’s

    I can’t believe this –

    “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.

    Did you really vote against or block such a sensible proposal ?


  • It’s a very effective piece of writing isn’t it? And the idea of pay-on-exit does look very reasonable.

    The reason we didn’t introduce pay-on-exit car parking is that it wasn’t suitable for our car parks because they are too small and the costs of new equipment was too high. The council originally looked at having pay-on-exit for all the car parks in Rayleigh Town Centre but on investigation found that the costs of having those barriers would be uneconomic. It works well in places like the Royals in Southend because they get lots of income.

    If I remember correctly even the suppliers of the equipment advised AGAINST installing this anywhere except Websters Way, which they said was a marginal case.

    One of the issues with pay-on-exit was what to do when the barriers fail – you have to have someone virtually on site to let people out, and that adds to the cost.

    The crux of the matter is that the “In Touch” leaflets at that time did a very effective job in showing us in a bad light – but at some stage the Conservatives must have realised we were right and reneged on the pledge that directly helped some of them get elected.

    There is an argument that if 70 percent want something done you could do it anyway whatever the costings. But did those 70 percent have both sides of the argument explained to them?

    PS If we get a bigger car park in Rayleigh Town Centre- there are rumours – we might well see a pay-on-exit system come in then…

  • It may be that you missed this article in the Echo tonight because it is not on the Echo Web Site – just the paper itself. Re-assurance for Rayleigh from the Council Leader.

    Rayleigh homes row

    LIB Dems on Rochford District Council have been accused of scaremongering by suggesting 1,800 new homes could still be forced on Rayleigh.

    The Lib Dem Focus website, run by group leader Chris Black, is claiming ruling Tories may revise the current suggested figure for the number of homes the town must take to meet Government housing demands.

    The website says: “It’s possible officers might suggest a variation of the 740 figure for Rayleigh. “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.”

    However, council leader Terry Cutmore said: “As far as I am concerned, the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by theConservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.

    “Obviously, there is still a long way to go and there is going to be more consultation starting after the elections, after all the representations have been studied and sites identified.

    “Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.”

  • Terry is not quite reassuring enough in my opinion. That 740 figure is being mentioned at the moment, but as he says, there’s a long way to go yet.

    As far as I am concerned the figures for Rayleigh and the rest of the district were decided by theConservative group after public consultation, when it became clear the original idea was not acceptable.”

    (my italics)

    John, do you think there is a coded message to some of his own group there?

    “Without being specific in any way, what we are finally proposing will go a long way to alleviate the concerns among local people.”

    (my italics again)

    Now I’m more confused. Have they another, final proposal?

    Come on Terry, start leaving some comments here yourself and explain things! You will get a friendly, respectful welcome!

  • Well at least we now know that the elections will come first and then the housing decision. This will make the housing issue one that will be critical during the run-up to the elections. It is important that we ask our potential Councillors, how they feel and how they would vote on forcing Rayleigh to accept more houses. AND then we can all post the answers given us by our potential Councillors onto Online Focus and compare what answers were given to us. More importantly, when the crunch comes, we will know just who didn’t keep their word! It will be far too easy for the candidates to give us answers that we want to hear but if they know that we will be watching and be naming and shaming them afterwards, well……..

    Maybe Chris could set-up a page on the site for Councillor Saints v Sinners?

  • Ron,

    I am guessing that you are “admin” above?

    I will not clutter up your sidebar with a big comment but you know that I have my own blog and you will not be surprised to learn that I have posted there, http://www.girltalk.pcs-net.com/rol/rayleigh-homes-no-change-says-tory-leader/

    My view is that everyone is missing the point because there is a desperate need for a STRATGECIC PLAN. If there is not then every Member of the Council will have let the District and its Residents down.

    I hope that you guys can join me on this song sheet.

    Regards, John

  • John , thanks for your comments tonight, both here and on your own site.

    Our “Fair shares for all” policy is based on our knowledge that the Rayleigh area – in particular West Rayleigh and Rawreth has taken a very high percentage of the district’s new housing in the past 20 years , we haven’t been given the extra amenties needed and in fact had playing fields turned into development in order to create a country park that doesn’t benefit our neighbourhood at all.

    As five Rayleigh councillors we’re not trying to micromanage everything and suggest housing figures ourselves for the whole district- we are just trying to ensure that our residents isn’t stitched up – yet again.

    As yourself and Vic Leach were the only two non-Rayleigh councillors who exhibited any doubts at all about the Park School sell-off I respect your opinion … I hope you will continue to see our point of view….

  • John, We may need a plan but give Rayleigh some space. We as a town have taken between 45 and 50 percent of the residential housing development of Rochford District over the past few years. Time has come to say enough is enough. As you can see we are sick to the back teeth with being dumped on with all this development. If we get more residential housing then that is time our Councillors will have let us down and we will have long memories I can assure the good Councillors of Rayleigh and elsewhere that.

    It is about time that the remaining developments get split up fairly and before you say we have the infrastructure to take more, we dont and what’s more the infrastructure that the developers are obliged to put in themselves will last only a few years.

    I say enough is enough and we have taken our fair share over the last 5 or six years.

  • John, I have just looked at your website and comments. I understand completely where you are coming from. wanting a ‘strategic’ plan for development, however a strategic plan in the context of housing development in Rochford District does not take into account the quality of life for the Rayleigh residents. You are I believe an independent Councillor for Hockley & Hawkwell. Your ward has plenty of fields and open spaces and can absorb some development, over the past six years my town, Rayleigh, as mentioned above has taken an enormous amount of development. We do not have the infrastructure and we have problems of our own within the town. It really is about time that Councillors in other villages in Rochford District started to take responsibility for taking on some of the burden that we have taken upon ourselves. You cannot expect the residents of Rayleigh just to lay down and say, ok put as many dwellings into our town as you want. That time has now passed, we will not be the dumping ground of this district.

    John, I have made comments to you in the past on this website but never had a reply. I would be very interested for you comments.

  • Mike, As I said on my own blog, just before Christmas I had a private conversation with an Executive Member of Rochford District Council whose view was very similar to that put forward by Hawkwell Parish Council. My first reaction was to dismiss the probability of this becoming Council Policy given the political angst that had been experienced and the very public announcements of housing re-allocations in the local Press. This private conversation did also refer to the forthcoming professional review of sustainability which is currently being undertaken by the Council and its likely outcome. I did nothing with that conversation because I recognised that it could cause much unnecessary concern if it were unlikely.

    When Hawkwell Parish Council made its announcement to the Press, which was remarkably similar, I thought perhaps there might be more in this than I had initially thought. I also thought that I had let a major part of the district down by not making an appropriate warning myself. So rather than see the Hawkwell Parish Council proposal dismissed as an over egged NIMBY strategy to protect Hawkwell, I decided to make a couple of posts on this site and my own so that “Rayleigh” was aware. I am glad that you are all campaigning again and in good voice.

    I represent Hawkwell West Ward not Hockley/Hawkwell overall. In just one small ward there is a Tory proposal for 365 new houses. That is approximately 50% of the WHOLE current allocation to Rayleigh. Three possible sites have already been identified. I have addressed a public meeting of around 175 residents who were so concerned enough to turn up and find out what was happening. One large site is in the conservation zone and is unlikely to be chosen. Of the other two, one of these is being promoted by a consortium of landowners in a programme of consolidation. We have had felling of trees on a Sunday when it is impossible to get a Stop Notice. And news that land has been purchased by a national house building name. The last of the three sites has access problems. It would appear that one area has already been “chosen”. The residents of Hawkwell want to campaign against this and I will support them, not because I will not be re-elected if I do not, but because I promised them at election time that I would oppose the development of green belt in my Ward. My view is that the area in question is not capable of sustainable development but if the professional report says otherwise then it will be almost impossible to stop.

    The professional sustainability study is a requirement of the Government – Go East, which has already chastised the Council for its botched approach to the last consultation. I believe that the Council will be forced by the Government to put all major options forward into the public consultation in June. I am awaiting sight of this vital sustainability study which I expect to provide a framework of options including a professional view of strategic development. I would be surprised if one of these options were not centered on another major development in Rayleigh. That might not be the case but be prepared.

    I believe that the Government will heavily influence the decision on the LDF through the monitoring of Go East. That department reviews everything that the Council does on the LDF journey. And it has already stepped in to tell the Council what to do.

    My position on Hawkwell is quite clear and residents know what is happening. The position on Rayleigh has been publicly re-stated by the Leader of the Council. I understand and acknowledge what “Rayleigh” is saying about the level of past development and I hope that further large scale development can be avoided for some years and a high quality of life restored. Nevertheless I still expect that a major development option will still come forward for the LDF in the context of Rayleigh.

  • John, Thanks for the above, it has clarified a few points of which I was unsure of.

    Chris / John, Who actually was the sponser of this review. Was it Rochford district Council or was it The Planning and Transport department (which would have been the council by default?). I am sure that it would not have been LDF deciding to do this themselves.

    If it was Rochford Council, what a good way of being able to hold their hands up and say “not our fault, guv” we are only following what the ‘experts’ say. Hmm the experts? These people, consultants, call them what you will. They demand huge salaries expenses etc.which will come out of our pockets again by default. They really only look at the practical side of things, not how new developments would / will affect the residents currently within the town but if it is a piece of land, Say Rayleigh, West and it can take xxxx numbers of houses, lets pile them on.

    I also assume that if the review was sponsored by the Council, they are hardly likely to challenge the findings. especially due to the cost.

    If there are any Councillors out there that read this Website and as Chris has intimated in the past, he knows there some of you who do. Would you please answer some of these questions? I am especially interested if any Tory Councillors would be so bold (and brave) to comment. But then again that may be a step too far.

    But don’t forget, the elections will be round soon!

  • Mike

    To provide information in response to your questions.

    The LDF (Local Development Framework) is a whole set of planning policy documents that each local authority is required to produce. It is not a body or organisation. The Core Strategy which we are discussing now has in itself a whole series of phases conducted around public consultation.

    Before the next consultation the Council is required to sponsor a consultancy based sustainability study to inform the Options put forward in the next consultation on the LDF Core Strategy.

    The Council Department responsible for this is Shaun Scrutton’s, Planning and Transportation Department.

    Councillor Keith Hudson (Hockley – Allocation 36 houses) is the Executive or Cabinet Member responsible and he Chairs a sub committee (Chris Black is on the sub committee as a full voting member) which receives all reports and makes recommendations before they go to the Executive Committee or Cabinet for decision.

    It is not clear to me whether any of the decisions on the LDF will be made by recommendation of the Cabinet to Full Council or whether the Cabinet of 9 Tory Super Councillors will make all the decisions.

    Even if they do there are some mechanisms to call in decisions but as a single member I cannot act alone. But with the Chair of the Review Committee being Lib Dem, Councillor June Lumley and 4 other Members the Lib Dems can act.

    I have asked of Shaun Scrutton to be vigilant about any lobbying about the area in my Ward because the landowners and the consortium seem very confident of the outcome at such an early stage. In response to that Councillor Hudson has invited me to attend his sub committee but I believe that as a Member I can attend that sub committee anyway and speak but not vote.

    Many residents have attended the “Area Committees” to ask questions and give their views about development policy and the Chair of the Central Committee at least at venues in Hawkwell and Hullbridge has refused to allow discussion. Since then the numbers attending have been reduced to almost single figures. Can you blame them? No.

    Mike, I like your challenge to the Conservative Group Councillors but don’t hold your breath !!

  • John, Once again, thanks. I was getting a little confused by the whole concept but i still assume that we are having to pay for any studies that are going ahead. It just seems very inefficient cost wise and academic as far as the outcomes are concerned. The study will say there is a plot of land on the edge of Rayleigh, with no housing at present, so lets build.

    We have taken huge amounts of housing in comparison with the rest of Rochford District. I would not expect a high quality of life anymore, not with this Government wanting to build on any patch of land that has no housing but I do expect a ‘reasonable’ quality of life and our quality of life has been graually eroded over the years. We are becoming increasingly urbanised.

    I will be engaing with all my Tory Councillors over the coming months to see if they have any backbone and respect their residents wishes or are they just going to toe the party line. I have my views!!

  • Mike

    I am becoming self conscious – I am on the Lib Dem Web Site using their space…………..

    Yes, the Council is paying for the consultancy and yes, then we are paying for it. My expectations are that the consultants will be able to give a specific view on the sites that have already been identified to the Council. Any land that is newly identified on top of that might have to go to compulsory purchase if the landowners were not willing to develop. But the Council won’t want to do that so I think that the sites that have been identified already will have priority. These are my own thoughts and I could be quite wrong.

    I hope that I have been of some help.

  • Firstly Mike thanks for your continual vigilance and challenging of bureacratic and ideological norms .
    I have just come back from a trip to near mansfield I was expecting the usual impression of ex mining areas of deprivation and poor investment.What did I find ? There is so much room and new investment the roads are empty .I joined many happy family groups cycling walking and enjoying the beauty of Sherwood forest .I spoke to someone who used to work at CNH in Basildon who commuted from Mansfield several times a week ,because the cost of houses down here was too much . He now has a job as a M D and is able to enjoy his growing family instead of the grind down here . We ask ourselves who are the new deprived areas ? We are creating them here and now in the south essex area by squeezing more and more cannon fodder for the machine that is called commerce in the city ,any green spot will be fair game to hungry developers ,the price they sell will not reflect the cost of production but the greed of the market so they increase the density to maximise their profits . I sound like a Marxist but I have avoided talking of the evils of capitalism but the system is increasingly corrupt . I live in what is left of the countryside .I also remember how much developement Ashingdon Hawkwell and Hockley have had to take in the 60s and 70s I really do not think anywhere in the Rochford Hundred is now capable of taking any large scale developements but the goverment puppet called the eastern area assembly says we must . There are no votes for this goverment to be lost here but there have been and there will be in the east midlands .

  • Thanks for your kind words. The one thing I have got is stamina for a fight. A fight which I believe we should all be taking up. We might not be able to stop the whole development nightmare happening but just challenging the powers that be walking over us has some compensation. I do not for one minute believe that a Councillors job is easy but this Council appears to have the opinion that the rate paying residents will take any decision they make laying down! Well I for one wont. And I believe the ruling Tory Councillors are just waking up to this. The more these issues become a topic of public debates the less safe the Councillors seats will be, unless they wake up and start listening to the people who put them where they are. Ok, sorry I will get off my soap box now!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}