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Monday, 19 August 2013

Stambridge Mill's dereliction




What remains of Stambridge Mill is a building site of half demolished structures and the derelict former office building.  Yesterday, walking past, I was surprised to see that the Developers have not secured the area and it's possible to walk around and into the skeleton of the buildings' remains. What a mess. Upturned and smashed up office furniture, including filing cabinets with spilled guts of reams of Allied Mills headed invoices from the 1980s, and before.  Graffiti everywhere.

I hope the site is secured before an accident, or yet another fire, occurs.  Eventually it'll be a new housing development, though I wouldn't be surprised if local residents have to endure this ugly reminder of Stambridge's heritage for a while longer.  The Developer, Inner London Group ("ILG"), is obliged to bear the cost of improved flood defences.  This will benefit their own scheme, of course, but also nearby properties - including homes in Mill Lane and Broomhill Nursing Home.

To undertake the scheme requires ILG to work with other land owners, including Cogent Land - owners of land at Coombes Farm and also the Environment Agency.  As it stands, it appears there are both technical and commercial obstacles preventing the flood defence scheme moving forward - for example ILG will require access to land that is owned by Cogent, and this is subject to commercial terms being agreed.  No doubt Rochford Council will come under pressure from the Public, complaining about the state of Mill site, in much the same way as nearby Esplanade House in Eastern Esplanade, Southend, has been left resembling a bomb site.

Robert Leonard, the Developer of Esplanade House, appear to be using that as a negotiating ploy to allow their own housing scheme to be agreed by Southend Council.  I hope ILG are not planning to use the same bargaining chip, threatening to allow the Mill to remain an eyesore for years, to try to force their redevelopment scheme to move forward with amended terms in their favour.  If this is the case, legislation is available to the Council to force the site to be cleared up and Rochford should not hesitate to consider using this if this becomes a protracted stand off.



Monday, 15 July 2013

Summer 2013 - Coombes Farm won't go away




Despite the Council's plans for future growth of the district being signed off by a Government Inspector, they are subject to ongoing review.  In fact, Hearings are taking place in September to discuss, amongst other things, whether housing schemes are going to plan - particularly that homes are being built in the numbers and timeframe set out by the Council.

Cogent Land, Owner of Coombes Farm, will be attending the Hearings.

It seems to me that those interested in ensuring that development does not take place at Coombes Farm should never rest easy, unfortunately.

Cogent Land own the land at Coombes Farm and they will be constantly looking to exploit any gaps or shortcomings in the Council's growth plans for Rochford.  If, for example, housing schemes fall behind schedule and the Council can be challenged that they are not complying with their own Plan, Cogent will be quick to step in with what they regard as an easily deliverable scheme for 250 homes plus...

See link below for Attendees at Hearings in September

http://www.rochford.gov.uk/sites/rochford.gov.uk/files/all_drafthearings_0.pdf

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

East Community Forum - 16th October

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;

http://www.rochfordlife.com/ForumOct12.html

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.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Rochford Sorting Office - What's happening?



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

Pay to park outside your home?


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

Coombes Farm saved in High Court ruling (updated)


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

Rochford - 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.