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In a smart move, which seems to be born from the growing discontent with Rochford District Councils leadership and an unwillingness to listen to the voice of residents about the overdevelopment of the district, ‘The Rochford Supporters’ action group has now ‘upped the ante’ which could ultimately be very embarrassing and costly for the Conservative-led Council.
Rochford District Residents Party Leader & Campaigner, John Mason has explained in detail in a recent Facebook post what their next steps are…
Dear Ms Richards,
Representatives of the residents of Rochford Essex, have recently met with our local Members of Parliament, Mark Francois and James Duddridge and with a number of District and County Councillors, regarding a matter of critical importance to our district and its residents.
“The Rochford Supporters”, as a Public Group, is concerned about the potential impact of the proposed local development of 500 dwellings, outlined on the Council’s Land Development Plan, which flows from its Core Strategy Documentation (ref: SER 8.) Furthermore, we understand that the prospective developer, Bloor, wishes to increase this to 665 dwellings!
There is widespread concern from residents throughout Rochford District, that The Core Strategy has led to unsustainable over development. The local infrastructure, (and most especially highways) is not coping with the development completed so far, let alone those sites for which planning permission is due to be submitted before 2025.
This has led to a Vote of No Confidence Petition in Rochford District Council, (foot note A) which is receiving a great deal of support.
The Leader of The Council, Councillor Steptoe, has rejected the reasons for our Petition several times, both in response to letters and in the local press, The Echo.
It is understood from questions put by District Councillors to The Planning Policy Sub Committee, that the Council intends for The Core Strategy to be simply taken forward, unchanged, into a New Local Plan 2017 to 2037.
The Council recognised the problem in its Issues and Options Consultation (foot note B) in 2017. However they do not expect the New Local Plan to be adopted until 2022 at the earliest! This date,11 years after Adoption of The Core Strategy certainly does not fulfil the legal requirement for an Early Review (foot note C).
The following excerpt from that public consultation, demonstrates the need for The Core Strategy to be brought up to date. However, The Council has taken no further action, (foot note B para 1.2)
“However changes at the national and local level – including changes to national planning policy and guidance, and new evidence – mean that there is a need to review these documents to ensure that they are robust, effective and, most importantly, up-to-date.”
• The Council was legally required by Planning Inspector, Laura Graham, to commit to an Early Review of The Core Strategy before it was formally Adopted in 2011. (foot notes C,D,E) and this has not been done.
• The Council had an obligation to advise The Government Planning Inspector of their reasons for not undertaking the aforementioned Early Review.
We further contend that:
• Had the review been undertaken (or had Rochford District Council advised of their reasons for not doing so) The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) would have sought a consultation with stakeholders and those who gave evidence to the Examination in Public.
• Had The Council undertaken such a review, as it was legally required to do, and considered the required extension from 2025 to 2031 then the findings of Aecom could also have been taken into account (“Growth and Infrastructure Framework (GIF)” for Rochford District (pages 126 and 127 foot note F)
• The Council would then have to re-consider the sustainability of The Core Strategy.
• Since the Early Review of The Core Strategy has not been undertaken and has been unilaterally ignored by The Council; this has led to planning decisions being made which are detrimental to existing residents.
The Rochford Supporters is now asking that you consult with Robert Jenrick, Department for Communities and Local Government and formally advise Councillor Steptoe and Rochford District Council, that until “The Early Review” is conducted and adopted, following Public Examination, The Core Strategy is unsound. Therefore, they should not approve developments in The Allocation of Sites, (foot note G) including the aforementioned SER8, until the situation has been rectified.
If this move is successful this could be a game-changer for the whole district with the allocation of sites that are already in the Core Strategy put under scrutiny (although perhaps too late for us here in West Rayleigh), but could have a very important bearing for future development.
However, the Conservatives have got a few problems coming their way right now – will Francois and his Dulldridge back the action group (after all it is election time!)? How are they going to face down the public, in what will be an uncomfortable Council meeting which is to debate a petition of ‘no confidence in RDC’ – one way or another this action group is out to hurt them!