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Sunday, 25 July 2010

The King's Head

What a shame to see yet another historic Rochford pub up for sale. The King's Head is yours for £275k ... freehold! The most recent owner tried hard to rid the pub of past problems, sometimes putting himself at risk in his efforts to bar troublesome punters. And in the past couple of years the pub became known as something of a music venue but sadly it appears the footfall numbers were not high enough. Certainly the pub has often seemed very quiet when I've walked past in the past year. And that's the point isn't it I guess, I walked past. Whilst recognizing the positive changes he was trying to bring about, and visiting once or twice, the offering wasn't sufficient to make me want to go back on a frequent basis.

Wouldn't it be great to have busy, friendly, thriving business back at The king's Head. Unless you like Indian or Chinese, the town centre could do with some more decent places to eat. Could this be an opportunity? I just hope Wetherspoon's doesn't buy it. Or, worse still, it just stands empty and forlorn for months and years ahead (although, I hasten to add, IT IS STILL TRADING.)

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Coombes Farm

Yesterday we had some excellent news, we finally learnt plans to build on Coombes Farm have been turned down by the Government. I've been involved in a residents group, Residents Against Coombes Expansion, for the past 12 months, campaigning for this outcome. I got a call early Friday morning from one of the fellow campaigners, saying he'd received a copy of the Govt Inspector's decision in the post. Like a child waiting for the postman on his birthday I kept vigil at the front window anxiously waiting for my own copy to be delivered. After just a few minutes we couldn't contain our patience any longer (Julia, my partner, being equally ecstatic about the news) & she set off on her bike to raid the sorting office for our mail, and one item in particular!

24 hours later (and a sore head, owing to a few too many celebrating in the Cherry Tree) it still hasn't quite sunk in. There is a very small chance Colonnade, the Developer, may appeal to the High Court but I think it unlikely. They have 6 weeks to do so, so we're hopefully almost at the end of a very emotional rollercoaster of a year.

Overall coordinating the Residents Group has been an extremely rewarding experience. When we moved to our present address just over a year ago we didn't know anyone in the locality. So when we, within days of moving in, learnt about the Coombes Farm plans I was determined to do something about it but didn't quite know what, or where to start.

I started by writing a newsletter, highlighting what could be about to happen on our doorsteps and saying we could do something about it if we pulled together. Delivering this to many of the roads nearby I soon got some very positive feedback and within days the Residents Group was formed.

12 months has passed, during which time we've held residents meetings at Rochford Methodist Church, produced newsletters, managed the campaign website, arranged publicity, including a extremely successful and well attended photo shoot at the entrance to Coombes Farm on 13th March. We attended and presented at two planning meetings - the first in November 2009 when the plans were unanimously rejected Rochford District Council, and then in April 2010 when we participated in a gruelling 4 day Government Inquiry in Rayleigh.

One of the most pleasing and tangible results of our efforts has been the posters. At peak, I reckon 80% + of properties were displaying our brightly coloured "Save Coombes Farm" or "Fight The Appeal" sheets.

At one stage we also put boards and posters up on street lights and pylons throughout the District, soon attracting the attention of the police! (I was also quite impressed that remarkably few got vandalised!) Threats of a substantial fine per poster displayed were sufficient to ensure that most were removed, though a number we happened to forget about and, on reflection, those ones were the responsibility of an unindentifiable third party.

I knew the posters were working when, one evening midway through the campaign, we were sitting in an Indian Restaurant in Rochford next to a couple vociferously moaning about the abundance of posters displayed across the town. "What chance do I have of selling my house with all these bloody posters everywhere!!" I hope that lady has now sold, and benefited from the added value of having preserved green belt on her doorstep.

But none of this would have worked if the strength of feeling from the Rochford and Stambridge community had not been there in the first place. I am proud to live amongst people who care so passionately about our beautiful semi rural neighbourhood. I have met many fantastic people I would not otherwise have done so, which also helps you to feel very much at home. And of course I am so very grateful for the support, which has taken many different forms - helping with leaflet deliveries, a verbal slap on the back, giving lifts to people so they could attend the planning meetings.

We've had 99.9% support all the way. As a sensitive chap, the somewhat negative and blatantly derogatory remarks from a few along the way did make an impact; it made us all more determined that we succeed. After all if you do nothing, nothing, generally, will happen, and I am convinced that we made a difference. After all it was the Residents Group that knew the area most intimately. This was made obvious when we joined Colonade and Rochford District Council on a site visit with the Inspector towards the end of the Inquiry - despite having maps in hand, neither Colonnade or the Council really knew where to walk or which paths to take!

And so, fingers crossed, Coombes Farm is protected for the forseeable future. Maybe we now need to look at how the path and environs can be better looked after. After all, the poo and the litter is still very much in place! I feel an open day litter pick could be the way forward !....

But many changes are taking place in sleepy Rochford. A planning application will shortly be submitted to redevelop Stambridge Mills - 200 houses, an application has just gone in for 150 houses in Brays Lane. A decision on that will be made in August. But the biggest potential fly in the ointment is proposals to blight Hall Road with 600 houses on prime, beautiful green belt. This is likely to be decided in early 2011. With the new Government's proposed changes to the planning regime it seems likely that District Councillors will assume greater powers as they could be the final arbiters of huge planning proposals, such as Hall Road. There are 39 District Councillors so I hope the lobbying has already begun !! More, no doubt, to follow.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Watts Lane Roach Valley Way

The two discarded mattresses at the Purdeys entrance have now been removed but despite a litter pick exercise there is still too much rubbish strewn along the path.

Hopefully a better advertised litter pick exercise later in the year will elicit a good turn out and address the issue.

I've heard that the ugly metal perimeter fencing on the Purdeys Ind Est boundary is going to be moved back a few feet. This has the potential to dramatically improve this pathway and restore it the beautiful, rural riverside walkway it once was. Watch this space.

Brays Lane - UPDATE 15th September 2010

A planning application has very recently been submitted for 150 houses in Brays Lane adjacent to King Edmund's School.

What I find so maddening is the Council MUST have known about this for some time, look at the date of some of the accompanying documents on the planning application (available to view on the Council's website, click on heading title to view) yet residents have only have the statutory minimum of 21 days to offer their comments.

The application was submitted at the end of July and will be voted upon by the Council at their Development Control Committee in SEPTEMBER. UPDATE - Application was pulled from September's deliberations, and provisionally submitted for October or November's. However, as it stands, there is now no certain date when this application will be decided.

Whilst this site has been listed in the Council's core strategy, I feel that many of the reasons Coombes Farm was refused, ie GREEN BELT, apply equally to Brays Lane.

In comparison to Coombes Farm, Christmas Tree Farm, and even the forthcoming application for Hall Road, opposition to Brays Lane seems minimal. If this is because the people of Ashingdon want these houses then so be it. If, however, because of the timing and lack of publicity, people are unaware of what is happening on their doorstep I urge people to get together,form a residents' group, speak to their local Councillors and attend the Development Control Committee in September at Civic Suite, Rayleigh, and let their feelings be known.


This Blog is about Rochford, a small market town in Essex.

I want it also to be a place where people can share information. A bugbear of mine is how planning applications are advised to residents for example. Too often people are caught unawares, given too little notice to offer comments, and suddenly a decision has been made.

On a lighter note, I would like to promote discussion about aspects of Rochford which people enjoy, particular country walks, places to eat, announcements about forthcoming events, etc.

Initially, it's going to focus on East Rochford, specifically the area comprising Rocheway, Stambridge Rd, Mornington Ave, and roads close by. However, the site is open to all to post so let democracy dictate how this Blog develops!

Overall, its purpose is to take a constructive view of the area, what we like, what we don't like, and if there are shortcomings what can we do to improve the situation, ie no problem if there are compaints, groans and moans but a positive suggestion to remedy the sitiation should accompany such posts.