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Friday, 27 January 2012

Coombes Farm 2 - The Answer's still No! (updated 20th February)

UPDATED 20th February: Brightly coloured posters and newsletters have now been delivered. Objection letters will be accepted right up to the day the application is discussed by the Council (regardless of what it says on the notice of planning application). No date has been set for this yet. It's unlikely to be for at least several weeks, especially so given the, separate, legal challenge to the Core Strategy will not be heard until 31st May.

Notifications of a new planning application for Coombes Farm have been delivered by Rochford District Council.

With minor amendments, it still represents the concreting over of Coombes Farm and I anticipate the strength of feeling against these plans will be undiminished.

You can make objections online and clicking on the title of this post will take you straight to the relevant page on the Council's website. You will need to enter reference 11/00781/OUT.

Colonnade have tried to disguise this as a different scheme - referring to it as "Land South of Stambridge Road" instead of Coombes Farm, and Colonnade have even changed their name - to Cogent. But it is the same scheme and the same Company. Surely they didn't think we would be so easily fooled?

The Council recently adopted their core strategy - their development plan for the area for the next 15 years and beyond. Whilst it did not detail specific, detailed locations for new housing, it did, generally, rule out East Rochford and Coombes Farm, with the notable exception of Stambridge Mill.

Therefore the only way Cogent/Colonnade stand any chance of progressing their plans is to mount a legal challenge to the Core Strategy, to try and find it unsound in the High Court. If they can undo the Core Strategy then they have a second chance to lay concrete at Coombes Farm. And that is exactly what they are attempting to do. The Court Hearing is scheduled to take place in Cardiff from 31st May to 1st June.

As my earlier post noted, in the nightmare scenario that they succeed, we lose not only the beautiful landscape at Hall Road but also Coombes Farm. We can't let that happen.

Whilst much of what happens in the next few months will be in the hands of High Court Judges, we can still show how passionately we feel about the prospect of losing a much loved and heavily used green open space, which of course is Green Belt land. We don't want our Councillors and other decision makers to think we've lost interest, we've given up, that it's something we don't care about anymore.

Posters and newsletters will be delivered over the next couple of weeks, and other publicity is planned. In the meantime, please make your objections - click on the title to this post. It will take just 2 minutes of your time.

Footnote: A photo shoot for the Echo to publicise the new Campaign was organised with less than 24 hours notice on Saturday, 28th. It wasn't possible to inform everyone, so apologies, but thank you to those who did turn out. A great example of the Community coming together that will make this campaign succeed.

This Blog will also be continually updated, and all constructive comments are welcome.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Rochford Core Strategy Challenged - Coombes Farm 2

It is ironic that within a week of the Council agreeing to the 600 housing development at Hall Road, Cogent Land, the developer behind Coombes Farm has, at the last possible moment, notified the Council that it intends to instigate a legal challenge to the core strategy.

This, frankly, is the only route open to Cogent if they want to stand any chance of progressing their plans to concrete over Coombes Farm.

"RACE" the campaign group has been reformed and will undertake a new publicity campaign in the weeks ahead.

I feel it is also worth pointing out that if Cogent Land are successful in their legal challenge then the Council's justification to destroy Grade 1 agricultural land at Hall Road is completely undermined, plus we lose another large swathe of green belt land into the bargain (at Coombes Farm).

Click on the title of this post to link to the Council's announcement.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Hall Road Development and its implications

photo of Hall Rd when it was known as "The Avenue"

In an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, 18th January 2012 Councillors will consider proposals to build 600 houses on land North of Hall Road.

Planning Officers have recommended the proposals which are in outline form only, the specific details will follow.

The pressure is now on to meet a target of 1250 new homes over the next few years following the Council's adoption of its core strategy - its development plan for our area .

Hall Road was identified as an ideal site in the plan because of its proximity to the town centre and its existing facilities - and 600 homes would make a massive dent in its housing commitments.

But 600 homes equals approximately another 2,000 residents - that's a big burden for the roads, schools, health services, etc - quite apart from the fact that we're talking about attractive green belt land which will be lost forever.

The houses will range from large detached properties, which will front Hall Road - presumably to not provide too much of a stark contrast to the existing homes, to one bed flats which will be buried mostly in the middle of the new "estate" along with the 35% affordable home quota. The density of housing varies considerably - as low as 12 homes per hectare, up to 40.

There will be two access points which will involve the construction of at least one new roundabout.

Plenty of open spaces are planned, including a "buffer zone" between the back of existing properties in Oak Road and the new estate. A new primary school will also be built on the site.

But the new open spaces will surely be poor compensation for the "upgrading" works which are suggested for Ironwell Lane, at least the stretch that runs from the new estate to the junction with Ashingdon Road. The Developers are being asked to fund new lighting and the provision of an improved path that is less prone to flooding, particularly in the area close to the railway bridge. Another footpath which runs North to South from Ironwell Lane to Hall Road will also dramatically lose its rural vista.

The Developers have also been asked to fund improvement works at the following road juctions;

Ashingdon Road/Hall Rd/ Bradley Way mini roundabout - improvement at this site is obviously constrained by the railway bridge but Essex Highways believe a minor alteration to this key junction can maintain or improve traffic flow.

Bradley Way/South Street - Southend Road to be widened at this roundabout junction.

Cherry Orchard Way/ Eastwoodbury Lane - both lanes will be right turn approaching Eastwoodbury Lane from Rochford.

Eastwoodbury Lane/Nestuda Way - improvement to roundabout.

Sutton Road/Purdeys Industrial Estate - Bellway have been asked to make a £150k contribution to improvement works at this roundabout junction - which may involve the introduction of traffic signals.

I would reiterate that nothing has been finalised, the Councillors will no doubt exercise their right to speak up at the meeting. This is a public meeting and I anticipate that this will be a full house. I'm sure emotions will run high as this has to be the largest residential housing scheme in the area since the Hospital?

If you want to read the planning document in detail you can link to it by clicking on the title of this post, but be warned it runs to 100 pages.

Footnote: This outline planning application was agreed at the Council meeting by majority. Notably, the ward Councillors for central Rochford, Gill-Lucas, James Cottis, and Keith Gordon joined independents and opposition party Councillors in voting against the application. It has now been referred to the Government to determine whether they want to have an involvement or are happy for the Council to proceed. I also wouldn't be surprised if we haven't had the last from local residents who I understand are exploring legal options to appeal this decision.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rochford on Sea

A christmas gift was this wonderful picture of "Rochford on Sea" taken approx 100 years ago (click on the image to enlarge). The location is recognizable, the river's edge to the east of the old Stambridge Mill. The river is far narrower today but many people still walk to the relative peace and quiet of "the beach".

A friend commented that it's quite likely that people may recognize their great grandparents in the photo?

The irony is that when this photo was taken, Purdeys Farm existed across the river, to be gradually replaced by the industrial estate fifty years later and there were obviously no planes flying overhead. These are some of the environmental issues that now face planning officials as they consider the demolition of the Mill and the housing scheme to replace it.