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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rochford - Matchbox and the Lesney Estate

Until the early 1980s Rochford was the main production site for Matchbox cars and similar metal toys. At its peak up to 2000 people were employed at the factory site where the Lesney Estate now exists. I believe Roche Avenue, which now leads directly on to the Estate was a dead end, and the main vehicle access was Leecon Way. The work was tedious and repetitive and required nimble fingers! Because of this, and a system of flexible working hours, many of the workers were working Mums. My Mother worked there in the lead up to Christmas to help pay for us demanding kids' presents! As a kid, growing up in the 1970s, I distinctly remember the London type buses which provided transport for staff in the Rayleigh and Southend areas. Whilst the work was mundane and the pay average I believe Lesney Products was a good, paternalistic, employer. Who would lay on such a travel to work scheme these days? Sadly such overheads probably sowed the seeds of Lesney's downfall and eventually the company, despite many efforts to retain a business in England, fell victim to the cheap labour, but good production techniques, being offered by China. Now only a road name reminds us of the past. There is much more information about Lesney, including attempts to provide better road access to the factory which were resisted by the Campaigners of the 1970s, on a website I've linked which can be accessed by clicking on the title to this post.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Rochford Art Trail

Great to see local artists, businesses, and the Council coming together for the Rochford Art Trail which runs until the end of October. Click on the title for a link to details of venues, etc

Planning and green belt development in Rochford

We are in a genuine "quiet before the storm" period for new development in Rochford, but the largest and most controversial schemes have not gone away. Coombes Farm's potential developers have applied for judicial review against the Government's planning refusal a few months ago and it's likely it will be early 2011 before there is any further news, although another, separate, developer has taken it's case to the High Court and the outcome could have some bearing on the outcome for Coombes Farm. Cala Homes are trying to build new homes at Barton Farm in Winchester and yesterday went to the High Court to challenge the Government over its abolition of regional strategies, which included house building targets. Eric Pickles, in doing this, passed responsibility for setting numbers of new homes to local Councils. Not having a regional strategy to support them, Cala's plans were somewhat undermined and they are contesting that the Government acted illegally in abolishing Regional Strategies without an Act of Parliament being passed. The Government's reply is that existing legislation empowers them to "revocate" Regional Strategies. The High Court will consider the arguments and a Judgment will be issued in the near future. The QC representing Cala Homes was Peter Village who also acted for Colonnade and the Government's refusal to allow building at Coombes Farm included a reference to the abolition of regional strategies, hence the Judgment on Cala versus HM Government could set as a precedent for many other potential developments in England.

Inner London Group, the owners of Stambridge Mill, have finally submitted their planning application for redevelopment of the site. They will also shoulder the cost of repairs to flood defences in the vicinity but this will still be a controversial development, not least because the Mill, as forlorn and ravaged as it now remains, has been a landmark in the area for hundreds of years. Many people have fond memories of the site, indeed people were working there until the 1990s. Even now, many people enjoy the footpath leading past this vast hulk of a decayed building where birds and other wildlife have taken up residence, so quiet and peaceful compared to the industrial noise that once could be heard miles away.

And what is happening along Hall Road? Bellway's plans to build 600 homes on green belt between Ironwell Lane and Hall Road are still very much alive, and under a planning agreement between the developer and Rochford Council a decison will need to be reached in early 2011. This, if it's allowed to proceed, will surely be the most major redevelopment in Rochford since the Hospital site? Apart from the assault on the environment it will not do wonders for the senses either. The green fields and attractive properties along Hall Road are a pleasing welcome to Rochford, a horrible ticky tacky estate of toy town houses will destroy the essential character of this part of Rochford and the scheme should be rejected outright.

We're seemingly bombarded with preaching about how we need new homes and that everywhere needs to take its share but I wonder if that's really true. People are under the misconception that we're running out of land in this country but that's simply not the case. Because of the density of house building, basically the majority of us are all tightly packed in together, 85% of the population lives on approximately 15% of the land. Take a drive up past Chelmsford, into Suffolk and Norfolk and you will see my point. South Essex has been appallingly over developed; it's highly urbanised and any relatively rural, historic, towns and villages - such as Rochford, should be protected from any further desecration.

Rochford Council are continuing with their plans to complete their core strategy, a further questionnaire has been sent out to households this week. They tell us by adopting a structured approach to planning and house building they can control where houses will go and how many. This way the Council will be protected against "rogue" developments such as Colonnade's obscene plans for Coombes Farm. But does Rochford need any large scale developments on green belt at all??? In my view it would save time, money, and bureaucracy to simply adopt a no development on green belt policy. If you share my views, I would urge you to respond to the Council's core strategy Questionnaire accordingly and then we can see whether our concerns are acted upon.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Stambridge Mill 1955

Found this old photo, approx 50 years old. No date set yet for planning application for Stambridge Mill's demolition and replacement with ticky tacky houses and flats.

Autumn walk across Coombes Farm and Stambridge

Those, like us, who live close to Coombes Farm are so fortunate to have green, open countryside on our doorstep. Which is exactly the way we want to keep it of course. Oddly, it's at this time of year, as winter approaches, that I appreciate it all the more. I suppose the frequency of sunny "walkable" days diminishes so you try to grab any opportunity that comes along. Today was such a day. A mild hangover to contend with, so what better cure than an invigorating and restorative walk across Coombes Farm, down Little Stambridge Hall Lane and across to the Royal Oak. It was so sunny and settled that we were able to sit outside the pub and enjoy a "hair of the dog" pint of Guinness. And then back, slightly different route, which (by sheer coincidence of course) brought us alongside The Cherry Tree. We had just enough loose change for one more drink before heading home across Coombes Farm. Our new friend, which we'd met on the way out, had been repatriated with his siblings by now but I guess he enjoyed the freedom while it lasted.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Stambridge Mill ancient photo

I came across this old photo, it must be over a hundred years old. Amazing how wide the Roach was then.