I attended the local Community Forum last night, in theory a great opportunity to put questions to representatives from both the local Council and Essex County Council. Representatives were also available from the Police and Health Services.
Rochford Life has posted a summary of the meeting here;
I agree that it was a pity that there was such a poor attendance from the Public. As an estimate, I reckon there were perhaps a dozen or so there at maximum. I wonder how many people were actually aware the meeting was taking place? Not everyone has the opportunity to regularly check the Council's website or read "Rochford Matters". That said, is also partly a case of public apathy?
Some of the questions raised, including by this writer, did indeed cover old ground. Issues like youth nuisance in and around the Square, and the ongoing problem of traffic queuing to park in the Square blocking traffic, particularly buses, trying to pass through.
However, the reasons that questions like these are raised repeatedly are that the Council and other bodies are not properly responding to residents' concerns. If issues are not addressed, the problems do not vanish. So, as boring as it appeared to be for some of the members of the Form panel last night, people should keep holding the Council to account. We pay our Council Tax and expect our reasonable concerns about local services to be listened to, and where possible, resolved.
Essex Highways had planned to reconfigure vehicle access to the Square so that entry and exit points were swapped around. However, for a number of reasons, this appears to have been abandoned and any solution now lies years away for re-consideration as part of the "Rochford Area Action Plan". At least this is what I was told by the Leader of the Council last night. In the short term, the Council and the Police do not seem overly concerned about the frequent traffic chaos that occurs in the area.
And don't expect any resolution to the Youth nuisance any time soon either. Because they are not committing any actual "crime" they will be allowed to congregate in as large a group as they wish, and to shout and swear as much as they like, causing grief to local residents and businesses alike.
That said, the Police did encourage anyone who felt a crime was being committed to contact them immediately. A member of the Public complained that he and his neighbours had been regularly kept awake until the early hours by gangs congregating outside their properties. Far more seriously than the usual shouting and screaming, he complained that urination in public, under age drinking, etc, was taking place. It appeared, however, that this was the first time he had raised the issue with the Police.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Friday, 5 October 2012
The Evening Echo recently reported that Rochford Delivery Office may close as the Post Office looks to save money by centralising operations at Short Street. There is the potential jobs to be lost and the inconvenience caused by having to travel into Southend to pick up missed deliveries. Whilst this isn't a "definite" yet, it does seem to be a genuine threat to a much cherised local service. I am confident that the local community will fight this, however, and already some neighbours have designed some posters to raise awareness.
There is an opportunity to find out more about this, or any other local issue that concerns you, at the next Community Forum at 7pm on Tuesday, 16th October at The Hawthorn Centre, Rochford Hospital, Union Lane. Follow this link for more info http://www.rochford.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/your_council/community_forums
Monday, 1 October 2012
Living close to the centre of Rochford has many advantages, but one of the irritations for many residents - especially those without off street parking - is the challenge in finding a parking space. Commuters, Purdeys Industrial Estate, office and shop workers all compete with residents for the few unrestricted parking spots that are within a walk of the station and centre. It's not that there isn't parking available. Both at the station and in Back Lane there always seem to be chargeable spaces available. But I guess you can hardly blame people for trying to grab a freebie if it's available! And the old argument that you don't own the road in front of your house still applies of course. But it is definitely an increasing problem, and I have heard tales of residents almost coming to blows with owners of vehicles carelessly parking and blocking driveways, etc.
The Council is considering introducing some form of residents parking in the worst affected roads - including Rocheway. 50% or residents in the affected road have to support any such measures through responding to a Council Questionnaire which will be arriving shortly. It's likely to include three options - no change, some form of residents permit, or, maybe a traffic order, for example restricting parking for an hour or more a day to deter those who are liable to leave their car for long periods. It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. Historically, Rochford has gone down the traffic order route but I understand a residents permit scheme is seriously on the agenda - if it garners enough support. Of course there are pros and cons with all options - what happens with a residents scheme when family or relatives visit, etc - but a potential advantage for the Council in these cash stapped times would be the opportunity to make this a revenue earner. Would, for example, a young family who constantly struggle to find a free parking space outside their home be willing to pay a relatively modest £2 or £3 monthly to have one fairly substantial source of stress removed. I think the answer is obvious.
Friday, 21 September 2012
It's over three years ago that residents and neighbours first came together to form a Group "Residents Against Coombes Expansion" but a High Court ruling on Friday, September 21st finally signalled the successful end to a long battle.
Two days later on a wet and windy Sunday just a handful of us gathered at the entrance to Coombes Farm in Rocheway to pose for a "victory" photograph for Monday's "Evening Echo".
The Court rejected Cogent's (the Developer behind Coombes Farm, formerly Colonnade) challenge to the Local Development Plan or Core Strategy. Ruling in Rochford Council's favour, the Judge stated that sufficient work had been undertaken to compare the pros and cons of various sites put forward for consideration for development, this being Cogent's main contention.
The decision means that, aside from the eventual redevelopment of Stambridge Mill, future growth in Rochford will take place to the west of the district, sadly kicking off with 600 houses at Hall Road with further commercial development along Cherry Orchard Way in the pipeline.
In some ways it was a pyrrhic victory as the District has still sacrificed green belt, something Basildon/Billericay has avoided in their own Development Plan.
"Green Belt" trips off the tongue easily but I think it is fair to say that not all green belt is equal. Listening at the first Government Inquiry into the Developer's appeal against Rochford Council's refusal to allow development on Coombes Farm I heard an "Expert" representing Colonnade effectively describing the land as an eyesore. The implication being that it was land that wouldn't be missed and could easily be sacrificed. I readily admit that "Natural England" is unlikely to be troubled with a request for designation of "Land of Outstanding Beauty".
In fact, the "Expert" was right. It isn't a particularly attractive site. Purdeys Industrial Estate is located along one border and the sight of towering, stacked cars awaiting breakage greets you as you the enter the field along with the various noises emanating from the cement works, refuse disposal site and various other heavy industrial businesses. Then there is the abandoned Stambridge Mill. Slowly rotting away, it awaits some form of residential redevelopment, eventually. Ironically it is the definitive footpath that crosses the field that was the original "Mill Lane" ,the main pedestrian route for many of its workers. These days the path remains intensively used and that is what the Campaign was largely about.
Of course no one really wants a sprawling housing estate on their doorstep where previously existed toiled farmland but the battle to save Coombes Farm was much more than small town "nimbyism".
Adjacent to the edge of the town, Coombes Farm provides a rural respite that is extremely popular with dog walkers, leisure walkers accessing the Roach Valley Way towards Stambridge and Paglesham, cyclists, metal detector enthusiasts, horses and their owners, and so on. All manner of Bird and Wildlife lives on Coombes Farm, including Badger Setts which at one time we thought could offer the field protection. But, who knows, with the Government allowing their slaughter in some areas, maybe a less certain future awaits. It really is a feast for the senses and we would be the poorer without it. Fortunately, and finally, that is a worry that for the forseeable future is removed. Time, finally, to move on and consider Rochford's many other attributes...
Wednesday, 12 September 2012
This photo was taken a couple of days ago, a sunny afternoon and a tranquil, rural view overlooking what will be the 600 home Hall Road Estate. The famous Rochford "chimney" is in the distance. This could be the nostalgic "before" photo and maybe we'll publish an "after" in a year's time as it looks like Bellway Homes are undertaking preliminary work in the site in readiness for this landscape to be eternally destroyed.
There is still no news on when the High Court will rule following Cogent's (Coombes Farm) challenge to the Soundness of Rochford's Core Strategy. I've spoken to a few people, including local Councillors and our local MP, Mark Francois and no one appears to know why it is taking so long, and all the time the Government appears to be shifting more and more to a position which may allow yet more of our Green Belt to be ripped up.
Saturday, 26 May 2012
I'm conscious that there hasn't been a post for a while. This Blog is definitely still live. In brief, the challenge to Rochford's Core Strategy by Cogent, the Developers behind the Coombes Farm scheme has now been heard at the High Court in Cardiff. The Judge has "reserved Judgment" which basically means he will consider the evidence presented and make a written Judgment in 6/7 weeks. If the ruling goes against Rochford the ramifications could be significant, as Cogent will be encouraged to appeal the Council's decision to refuse the second attempt to build on Coombes Farm at a recent Development Committee.
The redevelopment of Stambridge Mill seemed to have stalled until a couple of weeks ago, when an application for the demolition of this historic and famous local structure was put to the Parish Council. It seems the Diggers will be moving in shortly after all...
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
We took our first flight with Easyjet, from the new terminal at Southend Airport, over the Easter weekend. With one significant caveat, our overall experience was positive.
Arriving an hour and a half before our flight, we bypassed the short queue at the ground floor check in desk as we'd printed off our boarding cards at home, and ascended to the first floor departures area. Clearing security in a couple of minutes we then descended back down to the ground floor departures lounge and that was where we experienced the weak link with the Airport. There wasn't sufficient space for the passengers awaiting to board the three flights due to depart. It seemed that the lounge area was a similar size to a single gate area at Stansted. In fact, it was so crowded that it wasn't worthwhile attempting to buy a coffee or newspaper at the new retail outlets. People had to push and negotiate an exit from the Stobart Duty Free Shop. I appreciate it was Easter weekend and one of the three flights was delayed which added to the volumes of people waiting but, for some, it was quite a claustrophobic and uncomfortable experience. On balance, however, I also have to bear in mind that it was the first week of operation and some of the Easyjet staff were obviously unfamilar with the Airport lay out and procedures. Queuing to board was a little chaotic, but isn't it always with the budget airlines, and I suspect our short departure delay was due to this. I'm sure as the staff become more familiar with their surroundings the situation will improve but it's obvious that there is no capacity for additional flights until, or if, more space is created.
The real bonus was on return. The plane landed and after a short taxi to the stand we were soon disembarking en route to the new passport control area. With 4 Immigration Officers working there were no delays and we were on our short journey home within 5 minutes of leaving the Aircraft. Excellent.
So, overall, generally positive but not, at present, an Airport you can comfortably pass hours if you arrive too early for your flight.