Back In The Saddle

By James Newport / 15/05/2019

Last night I attended the Rochford District Council, Annual Council. I was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed back on to the Council by (the now leader) Cllr Mike Steptoe amongst by many members, which I was hugely grateful for.

I’d also like to personally welcome, Cllr Mike Wilkinson, who I’m expecting great things of (no pressure Mike!) – I met Mike, a few months ago, after the formation of the Rayleigh Residents Association and I admire his enthusiasm – something which appears to be in short supply on our Council, so I’m hoping he will help breathe some life back into it!

It doesn’t really feel like I’ve been ‘away’ for long with a year being a short hiatus, which was probably a blessing, given that last year was a particularly rough time for my wife, who is of constant support for me and whom without, I’d be floundering.

Now back to business, I have already begun work to look at several issues that residents have shown concern about. One of those, is the prosperity of our High Street and I await details from the council on the application made for ‘The Future High Street Funds

I will report more as soon as possible

Land North of London Road – First Blood Pt I

Residents have been asking a few questions about the new build on Rawreth Lane so I thought I’d give my views and try to answer some questions.

There is land allocated for a school. Will it be built?
That responsibility lies with Essex County Council. I’ve recently asked our Rayleigh South Essex County Councillor, June Lumley about education provision. I currently await a detailed response.

There is land allocated for potential healthcare. Will it be built?
Again this is down the NHS to determine if there is a requirement. In other areas they have opted for a financial contribution

What upgrades to infrastructure will Rayleigh receive with this development?
• Installing traffic signals at the Down Hall Road / London Road junction
• Provision of improved road markings at the London Hill /Station Road junction
• Signal upgrade to the Victoria Avenue / London Road junction
• Contributions towards a new roundabout at the Rawreth Lane / Hullbridge Road / Hambro Hill junction

This development comes as another example of the typical urban sprawl in our District. In my own view there are no real infrastructure upgrades that will given a meaningful mitigation to the impact of this amount of new housing. The net result of this development will probably result in a higher doctor to patient ratio, more traffic on our roads, higher air pollution, increased class sizes in local schools (we’ve already heard how some aren’t even able to get a school place in our town).

For me personally I think this kind of development is short sighted and doesn’t work in the interest for many local people. It can be argued that we need more housing in our town as those who grow up wish to move out of home but the reality for many will be simply be that these homes will be unaffordable. The affordable & shared ownership homes have been placed along the Eastern edge of the site directly adjacent to the busy industrial road leading to Makros, waste transfer site and other industrial areas. It oozes of poor layout and creates a clear ‘segmentation’ between ‘private’ and ‘social’ housing. It lacks any real infrastructure and is a property developers dream, maximising return with very little in the way of contributions to the community.

Be prepared for those who commute to sit in traffic jams that are that little bit longer or struggle to find a seat on our, already over crowded trains. The car parks at the station will be at increased level of demand as this site isn’t really within walking distance – I don’t suppose anyone ever considered a shuttle bus to serve the station?

Site Layout Showing Affordable/Shared Ownership Location on the Eastern Part of the Site (Click to enlarge)

Pounding The Streets in Sweyne Park & Grange

By James Newport / 20/04/2019

Lisa Newport (my wife), Liberal Democrat Candidate for Sweyne Park & Grange, has been out pounding the streets in Sweyne Park & Grange this afternoon delivering her election leaflets. Speaking to several residents about local concerns and issues.

Pounding the streets in Sweyne Park & Grange

Should you wish to ask Lisa anything please send an email or use the comments below.

More Doom & Gloom For Rayleigh High St

By James Newport / 04/03/2019

Fashion retailer, ‘New Look’ will be shutting up shop on the 13th March 2019. This is another unwelcome blow to Rayleigh’s High St as it appears even the big brands aren’t weathering the retail decline on the High St.

Losing a national brand could hit other smaller retailers if footfall declines, let’s hope that other businesses are resilient to what I hope is just a blip.

Let’s Talk Shop

By James Newport / 02/03/2019

I recently wrote about ‘How Can We Help The High Street‘ in which I had asked Rayleigh Town Council to invite Rochford District Council’s economic development team along to our Full Council meeting, so they could give us a view of their strategy ideas for Rayleigh’s High Street.

The meeting was attended by three representatives from Rochford District Council, Angela Hutchings (Strategic Director), Daniel Kudla (Economic Regeneration Officer) and the Conservative Portfolio Holder George Ioannou.

I had attempted to attend this meeting with positivity and a degree of optimism which was soon to be crushed by what followed.

The presentation began with the strategic director reeling off a narrative of the copied slides from some seminar that she had previously attended, all of which showed national statistics, all very well I thought, where’s the local statistics? Unfortunately my disappointment was only to continue as I listened to how Bill Grimsey says this, Bill Grimsey say that….. (if you don’t know who Bill Grimsey is, as I suspect many members didn’t, then take a look here) Death by powerpoint isn’t something that I relish and I have to admit my enthusiasm for the meeting by this point had dwindled significantly.

There was no mention of vacancy rates in Rayleigh’s High St or the traffic problems that regularly blight the roads, stopping people visiting the High St. Car parking was mentioned by one member as a problem due to the nature of pay and display it ‘time limits’ peoples shopping experience unlike retail parks and shopping centres like Lakeside, but we were basically told, we don’t want people milling around without buying – this goes against every trader I’ve ever spoken to. Retailers want people browsing, they want a crowd, more people = more interest = more sales

We were told about some of the work going on in Rochford, due to the need as it has lost it’s heart and soul, and it became frustrating, as despite the clear invitation that the Rochford District Council officers had received, there was very little mentioned about the future of Rayleigh’s High St.

The Economic Regeneration Officer spoke very little, which was disappointing and I had to wonder why the Conservative portfolio holder for enterprise had come along as he appeared ‘closed for business’ with nothing to say at all on the matter!

The meeting was concluded with an expression of forming another ‘talking shop’ with ‘key stakeholders’.

My optimism for Rayleigh’s High Street remains but only because I know there are small business owners who’s livelihoods depend on it and they will continue to keep up the fight.

If you want to listen to the meeting the audio recording is available here – 25th February 2019

Concerns Grow Over Possible Travellers Site On Eastwood Rd

Residents have received a seemingly anonymous letter through their letterboxes ‘alerting’ them to the possible travellers site on Eastwood Rd.

Travelers sites can be a very emotive subject, however, putting the fact the Council are legally required to provide travellers pitches, I think in this case questions really should be asked as to why despite a site allocation in 2014 (P82, GT1), Michelins Farm, why has it never been delivered? Now that central government policy has changed it could be that this site (GT1) will never be delivered.

I can’t fathom a reason, as to why the site wasn’t delivered – money, nope there’s plenty of that in the Councils coffers (£9m in reserves), compulsory purchase the land and the job is done, after all it’s been unoccupied for sometime.

Elsewhere in the District, hundreds of thousands of pounds has been wiped off the value of residents homes, where the Council has allowed, by means of its inaction, illegal sites to ‘pop up’ and then further down the line been granted permission by the Government planning inspector due to a failure of the Council to provide the sites needed.

It all seems to be very clear to me – this anguish by residents has been caused by Conservative Rochford District Councils long term failure to act.

This could be a very uncomfortable situation for Cllr Ward, who lives in the ward and is the Portfolio Holder for Planning who is ultimately responsible for the situation.

I wouldn’t want that angry mob knocking on my door!

The meeting will be held on 31st January 2019 to discuss the Gypsy and Travellers Issues Paper

Calling All Future Councillors

This week I’ve received a letter from NALC (National Association of Local Councils). One item in the letter writes about ‘Strengthening and promoting local democracy’

You might remember I briefly wrote last year about why I’m not average and the NALC goes on to write in it’s letter this year about one of it’s priorities

One of my personal priorities is to see more people from all backgrounds getting involved in the work of local councils and is why I set up our Diversity Commission. The findings of its first ever councillor census survey make for challenging reading:
• the average age of a local councillor is 61
• 25% have served for more than 10 years
• 60% are men
• just 11% are aged under 45
This is why this year’s local elections in many parts of the country provide a timely, in fact crucial, opportunity to address this.
One statistic I was particularly struck by in our survey was 80% of local councillors would recommend becoming a councillor.

Our own Lib Dem Councillor, Cllr Craig Cannell, is probably the youngest Councillor on the Council, but he brings with him a refreshing change. In his career, he works to help develop the future vision of a Global manufacturer and he brings his enthusiasm and alternative view to the table as a Councillor.

I believe we need to see some diversity on the Council and would love to see more people putting themselves forward. Despite what some existing Councillors might say – it doesn’t have to overwhelm your life and we need desperately need a more balanced representation of our community.

The Future Of Private Security In Rayleigh

Monday night I attended Rayleigh Town Council, Full Council meeting. It was slightly more interesting than usual as some new ideas were put forward and one noteworthy item was that of the private security that the Council recently trialled before Christmas.

The reception of ‘part-time, private security’ has been met with mixed reaction from the public and traders alike (contrary to what some Councillors want to believe). Whilst mainly older residents have commented how it makes them feel safe, some traders have criticised the decision as it makes the town appear to be ‘rough’ and ‘unattractive’ – this was always going to be a conudrum for the Council.

It would be fair to say that the security company has spent time dealing with Anti Social Behaviour (mainly by juveniles) and trying to tackle begging and homelessness if only to gain some intelligence on these matters that can be passed to the appropriate authorities.

Being asked for one’s view on the effectiveness and whether there should be a continuance of such a service (which obviously comes at a cost to Rayleigh residents) is a difficult view to take. I addressed the Council with a view that the private security could simply be trying to tackle a problem which could continue and even escalate if we do not address the ‘root cause’ – ASB by juveniles isn’t anything new and was around when I was a kid. However, I do appreciate that we can’t afford to be soft on the issue (give ’em an inch and they take a mile) and as such my colleague, Cllr Stanley suggested patrols were stepped up as the problem doesn’t simply only occur on a Saturday. We’d also like to see patrols extended to King George V playing field especially as we have been made aware that a large knife was recently found in the grounds!

There was some further debate on the issues surrounding the matter and unfortunately, the can was kicked down the road until some more details could be obtained from security companies in terms of how the Council could procure their services and what level of engagement they can offer. Until then, the patrols are suspended.

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