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Monday, 21 February 2011

Local Elections May 2011

A third of our local Councillors are standing for re-election this May. During the campaigning period, which unoffically starts this week, key announcements and decisions are often delayed until after the elections, the reason we won't have a clearer idea about the sign off of the core strategy and, possibly, the outcome of Coombes Farm until May. Slightly frustrating, especially when you consider that it's likely to be a shoe in for at least one of the District Councillors who has stood unopposed in previous campaigns. I've touched before on the dominance of the Conservatives in Rochford, and certainly it's difficult to argue that we don't have one of the most well run local Authorities in the country. But is this status quo the will of the people or apathy? - especially when, as sadly is the case throughout the country, Councillors elected will probably only have a third of the electorate behind them if they're lucky. More to follow.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Coombes Farm - positive developments

As the linked article (click on title) from the Echo summarises, Colonnade are on the back foot now. I've sought some clarification from the Council about the status of the planning application and what happens next. The planning decision was quashed due to Eric Pickles' letter, the one advising of the proposed abolition of Regional Strategies, not the Government Inspector's refusal (Christine Thorby). In principle, therefore, the Government Inspector's decision can still be relied on, and it is only a case of "un quashing". The latest High Court decision says that it's rational for house builders to have an eye on incoming plannning legislation, even if not formally legislated. The bottom line is that it's possible for this application to be redetermined and refused without a second planning Inquiry. A couple of hurdles to overcome yet, the High Court decision may be successfully challenged and the Council's Core Strategy, which does not support the Coombes Farm development, is yet to be signed off. But, one way or another, we should have a conclusion by May, and it's all looking a lot more encouraging.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Coming to a screen in Rochford?

I've considered for some time how suitable Rochford is for a community film event. We have many potentially suitable venues, and such an event would be ideal for those who are unable to get to, or find it prohibitive, Southend, or other cinema "endowed" towns. I'm thinking of exhibiting films which have popular appeal and would hopefully ensure a good attendance, but who knows how it could pan out if it proves to be successful. It would be great, for example, if it was possible to devote some time to local interest film in addition to the "main feature". For now, it's very early days, but at the outset I believe it's essential to focus on ensuring such a project is financially sustainable. I've had initial discussions with The White Bus, based in North Rd, Southend, who are a community group specialising in all things film - production, exhibitions, etc, and they are supportive of provding an event in Rochford. I've also started making enquiries to potential venues. If anyone has any suggestions, or wants to help get this project off the ground, I'd be pleased to hear from you

Monday, 7 February 2011

Coombes Farm - High Court win supports battle

The Government has today won a High Court case against Cala Homes, a national house builder trying to build up to 2000 homes at Barton Farm in Winchester. Today's ruling will have ramifications for house builders and affected communities around the country. Judge Lindblom ruled that the proposed abolition of Regional Strategies, in Rochford's case "The East of England plan" and adoption of the Localism Bill CAN be a material consideration when considering planning applications, such as Coombes Farm. This ruling helps the battle for Coombes Farm, as it was the uncertainty over the future of Regional Strategies which Colonnade seized upon to secure their eventual quashing of the planning appeal decision. We now wait to hear how and when the Coombes Farm application will be re-determined, but the case against development is strengthened in this rollercoaster ride. I expect that Cala Homes will appeal the High Court decision however.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Terling - a lesson for Rochford?

Slightly off topic this post, for a start it isn't even about Rochford, but bear with me. We took a drive on this winter's, windswept overcast Sunday afternoon into the wilds of Essex and happened upon an extremely beautiful, small village called Terling. It's to the South East of Great Leighs, and North East of Boreham. It really is off the beaten track, in a triangle of unspoilt rural countryside.

However, like so many villages these days, which have had the heart ripped out of them through the closure of key facilities - the pub, the post office, and the village store, Terling is, sadly, no exception. Whilst it has a village store, the village pub, "The Terling Inn" is boarded up, and up for sale for circa £575k.

Yet, we noticed posters around the village, proclaiming "Save our Pub" and inviting residents to a meeting to discuss plans to restore the facility. I hope they succeed of course. It's worked elsewhere, "The Norton" in Cold Norton springs to mind, and the bar in South Fambridge continues to trade through volunteer support.

The barriers to success will be the cost of buying the building, and the number of potential customers (the village population is circa 750).

But I wonder why the pub closed in the first place? I guess, obviously, people stopped visiting, but why? Was the service poor, the beer poorly kept, the food options limited? Running a pub must seem a thankless task at times, but you don't need to drive far to see some good examples still trading successfully, despite sometimes being located in the middle of nowhere.

Maybe "The Terling Inn" closed because people stopped going, but, possibly, if the offering had been more compelling it would still be trading successfully in the 21st century?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Combes Farm - Iceni's threats of legal action

Anyone who is interested in the latest developments on Coombes Farm should follow the correspondence between Iceni Projects, Rochford District Council, and the Government Inspector responsible for the continued core strategy hearings which have taken place this week. (click on the title of this post to take you to the relevant page on the Council's website) Iceni, on behalf of Colonnade, has presented a Freedom of Information request to the Council for all documentation relating to their evidence base and audit trail in reaching their conclusions on, in particular, the location of housing requirements in the years ahead. The number of documents requested seems ridiculously lengthy and indicates an increasing desperation on Colonnade's part, especially since their efforts to make further representations at the Core Strategy were rebuffed by the Government Inspector. Iceni has threatened to legally challenge the Core Strategy, if found to be sound, if time is not allowed for it to present what it considers to be further crucial evidence. In addition to the Core Strategy hearings, the High Court will, on 7th February, give its Judgment on whether the new Government's decision to abolish Regional Strategies before passing its Localism Bill can be taken into consideration in planning decisions made in this "void" between old and new legislation.