The Meeting at Downhall School

Over 60 members of the public came to Downhall School last night for the West Area Committee. …So this was the biggest area committee meeting so far. It lacked some of the positive, friendly atmosphere of the first West meeting – that wasn’t the fault of the officers who prepared things ; it seemed that some councillors didn’t feel up to engaging with the public. Maybe the sheer numbers present made it more of a ‘them and us’ atmosphere?

Some questions from the public had been submitted in advance, and the council gave out written answers on those (e.g from Alison Mayor : Could the committee please detail how the figure of 1800 possible new housing units in Rayleigh was determined? )

Other residents submitted questions on the night – they didn’t get to read them out, but Shaun Scrutton , head of planning, answered them in one batch (e.g. from Nina Trippier, a question on how new infrastructure will be provided, from a Mr Yarnell, questions on housing, from Mike Nobes, a question asking how many new homes recently built in Rayleigh were affordable (answer: 17 percent since April 2001)

Then came the big announcement! The Tory chairman of the committee, John Pullen, read out a statement saying that the Conservative group would be proposing a reduction in the new housing figure for Rayleigh from 1800 to 740!

Considering this was such good news, it was surprising that the Tory councillors didn’t look happier – they didn’t show much enthusiasm, and didn’t want to discuss the matter any further. When Chris Black, and later , Rawreth Parish Council Chairman Alistir Matthews tried to ask whether this meant any housing being put in Rawreth, they couldn’t get a straight answer. (It was only after the meeting that one Rayleigh Tory reassured us that there was no housing figure for Rawreth)

Crime and Raves. The next item on the agenda was from Police Inspector Andy Parkman. This gave Rawreth Parish councillor Rita Coombs a chance to thank the police for their efforts on this issue. Chris Black said that we’d had several messages from residents grateful for how the police and council had acted on this, and added that he’d had one email from a council officer at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night! Ron Oatham asked about the arrest of one of the persons involved – Inspector Parkman said that two persons had been charged.

One Downhall Park Way resident spoke of the problem of speeding traffic in his area – particularly motorbikes along Rawreth Lane, and cars in Downhall Park Way.

Football Pitches next to Rayleigh Leisure Centre. We had an update on the proposed 5 junior sports piches at the southern end of the Park School Site. The intention is to get the pitches ready for use for September 2009 , with changing accomodation and about 80 extra parking spaces next to the Leisure Centre.

5 clubs have enquired about having the location as their ‘base’ – Hawkwell Athletic FC, Rayleigh Raiders Girls and Ladies FC, Rayleigh Boys Youth FC , Downhall United Youth FC and Hambro Colts Youth FC. The council cabinet will probably decide in October which, if any , of these clubs will be offered this use.

Jackie Dillnutt asked when there will be a proper path running across the site to help local residents.

Best Speech of the Night. One lady resident from Mortimer Road took the opportunity to speak here about the Park School site and development problems in general. She made what was easily the best speech of the night ” The mini-roundabout at the bottom of my road is barely big enough to turn round a mini. …..People have come tonight because they are sick and tired of being dumped on….. We have beautiful homes, so close together you can tell what your neighbours are having for dinner…. I have lots of relatives who are police officers who can’t afford to buy homes here….. “ She got a round of applause.

Cleaning up the District . One of the council officers, Deborah Byrne, then gave a presentation with lots of interesting statistics about clearing up sites in the district – “1146 tasks at 853 sites between Sep 2005 and June 2007…. plus 467 more sites having grafitti removed… 62 vehicles towed away for being untaxed in the seven months up to June”. The council is planning a big cleanup in October – if you have any special requests call 01702 318111 or email wasteteam@rochford.gov.uk

Soon after this
the Chairman announced that the parts of the meeting where the public could speak were now over – this seemed to upset quite a lot of the public , and most of them walked out.

Christmas Lights. The most interesting item after this was raised by Chris Lumley. He asked if there was any news yet about whether the Council Council would allow the High Street to be closed to allow the turning on of the Christmas Lights. He got a very positive reply – the County Council has agreed to a closure of the High Street from Crown Hill to Church Street from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on November 29th.

  • As I wrote last night formal meetings are all very well, however you need to know when to stretch the bounderies now and again, its not anarchy but shows a very inclusive way of running a meeting. The people who came wanted answers and discussion about something dear to all our hearts, our quality of life and more importantly our rights to determine our own way of life through the people we put in power.
    If I have upset any of the officers I apologise, I know how much work goes into preparing for a meeting like this and the two meetings I have attended have been very well prepared.
    I have been publicly very critical of the Council, which at the moment I feel is fully justified. I still feel that the Conservative Councillors are too driven by their Party and do not give enough attention to their residents. This is not always their fault, it is the way the system works but sometimes you have to stand up and be counted. The people of Rochford district would be much more appreciative of their Councillors if they showed a little more humility to the people they represent and challenged their party every now and again (we are not living in 1984).
    I sat amongst those people who left and they left the meeting not because they were ready to go but because they were told that they would not be allowed to ask any more questions. To quote someone at the meeting “what is the point of us being here if we are not allowed to ask questions or put our point of view” This was a pivotal meeting for the residents of Rawreth, who felt totally let down by the District Council, as all could hear.
    The people of this district will feel like second class citizens until they can see a positive change in their Councillors and I am sorry to say this but it is their Conservative Councillors who are letting them down. I hope this comment is not seen as just another put down, if the Councillors look back at yesterdays meeting honestly, how many genuinely wanted to engage with their residents? Hopefully there may be a positive reaction at the next meeting.
    Again, if any Council officer took offence at my comments please be assured it was not aimed at you.