There were about 70 present – 50 sitting in the ‘public’ seats and about 20 committee members and officers at the front.
The whole of the meeting was devoted to the local development framework – because the chairman seemingly forgot to deal with the other items that should have been discussed ….
Keith Hudson, the lead councillor on the issue, kicked off the debate with a speech very similar to the one made at the central area committee – pointing out that the council had been ‘instructed by this present socialist government’. He added that independent studies had shown that we do indeed need extra housing , though ‘after 2025 they can consider Rochford full up’.
He also stated that “we release Green Belt very sparingly after allocating every scrap of brownfield site ” That claim was questioned later on in the meeting.
Cllr Hudson got applause from the Conservative district and town councillors in the meeting – which set a precedent for the public to clap other speakers later on.
Next speaker was Alistir Matthews, Chairman of Rawreth Parish Council. He began by saying “It’s with much amazement I see that it has taken a year for the district council to admit that West Rayleigh is actually Rawreth” He added that the parish council weren’t nimbys – they weren’t against develoment in the parish if it was in the right place.
Shaun Scrutton, head of planning, responded that he would welcome hearing about aternative proposals.
Rochford Resident Tony Buckle then made a pretty searing attack on the District Council. He’d searched through 124 pages of documents without finding a mention of Rawreth. “That’s no accident it’s a ploy!” He thanked Cllr Hudson for “the party political broadcast against the socialist government” Tony got the loudest applause of the night.
There were various other speakers from Rawreth and Hullbridge, who said various things:
“Congestion along Rawreth lane is pretty bad all day”
“I’m sure it’s not related, but it’s a sad fact that the family who own the farmland are represented on the council”
“We have no confidence in any of you”
“Will the Tory whip be withdrawn to allow a free vote?”
“The information provided is all too hazy”
In response Cllr Hudson said the question of the whip was ‘not for discussion tonight” – it was a matter for the leader of the council, Terry Cutmore. He also that the current proposals were to do with general locations, it wasn’t ‘site specific’ yet. This was queried by Chris Black, who said that “North Of London Road” was pretty site specific, and that in response to an earlier point by Alistir Matthews , Mr Scrutton had known whta grade of agricultural land the site was!
Behind the scenes though, there are signs that at least some Conservative councillors are sympathetic to Rawreth’s situation.