Recently we’ve seen lots of con
sultations by Rochford District Council. First came the local plan workshops, which has been swiftly followed by a budget survey, followed by an air quality survey, only to be followed by a community safety partnership survey. Wow I’m feeling pretty consulted out…. it almost seems like the council are so ‘out of touch’ with the residents that they don’t really know what they should be doing or is it that there is a mandatory requirement to consult?
So is it worth your time and effort to respond to these surveys? Well judging by the responses so far I’d say most people think they’d rather not bother. I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why people don’t respond to these surveys, overwhelming I hear the same reason – the council don’t listen. Cllr Chris Black, recently commented on this at a planning sub committee meeting. Residents whom had come along to the local plan workshop had made suggestions and had ideas. What happened to these ideas and suggestions….. they got buried in this document! It wouldn’t have taken much to capture residents details and follow up with them on their ideas. Sorry RDC but if you really want this ‘relationship’ to work it can’t be one way!
If you have the urge to respond to the surveys the follow the links above or if you want to see my opinions here’s the posts I’ve written on a few of the con
Wednesday was not a good night for the blues at the Rayleigh Town Council meeting to discuss the AQAP. It was one of those subjects that I was particularly interested in having spent my earlier life carrying out scientific studies for the MET Office and The Institute of Hydrology, and this is what this AQAP should be based on. Cold, hard FACTS.
Getting straight to the point, on inspection of this draft AQAP there really didn’t seem to be too much science behind it! Sadly, the officer at RDC with responsibility, declined to attend the meeting as Rayleigh Town Council are just consultees.
Our residents are seemingly expected to ‘go with the flow’. RDC is clambering to fill an impending deficit in the budget, and by the admission of the portfolio holder for planning – Cllr Ian Ward, they intend to build their way out of the red back into the black!! Somehow I’m feeling this isn’t the solution. I challenged Cllr Ward on the alleged £60k of public money that has been spent on ‘remodelling’ the town centre traffic system. This appeared to be news to some members. However Cllr Ward did oblige on detailing the results of the ‘remodelling’ – which appeared to be nothing more than changing Zebra crossings to traffic light controlled crossings. There was hope this would help the traffic to flow better, I’m not sure that £60k is worth ‘hope’ such as this and doesn’t seem like terrific value for money in these times of austerity.
Other suggestions were that the Royal Horticultural Society had been engaged to advise on ‘flower power’ to help reduce the pollution. I challenged this and was informed by Cllr Margaret Spencer to refer to the ‘London Plane Trees’. I’ll openly admit I’ve not got ‘green fingers’, but I did argue with Cllr Spencer that is this the reason recently the Mayor of London has announced a $1.1bn plan to improve air quality? Sounds like a lot of trees to me, if this is the answer to problem as Cllr Spencer suggests. Since the meeting I’ve had an opportunity to see if Cllr Spencers claims can be backed up and this is what I’ve found.
But how did it go from interesting curiosity to the urban tree of choice lining so many of London’s streets? It was planted en masse at a time when London was black with soot and smoke from the Industrial Revolution and when population expansion forced greater urban planning.
To be fair to Cllr Spencer there maybe some evidence that this can help on the DEFRA website. For me it’s the practicalities of planting out our areas that are suffering high concentrations of gases such as Crown Hill & High Street.
Strong discussion took place, and there were lots of concerns from the members of the council. I think one aspect of the draft plan that we all agreed on was it was entirely naive and unrealistic.
Suggestions such as
We had further comments from some councillors about reducing pollution in the town centre by asking delivery vehicles and taxis to turn off their running engines when they are waiting. They may not have however considered refrigerated vehicles and similarly for taxi’s it’s a choice between air conditioning and heating in the taxi and long periods between customers could mean a taxi could be an uncomfortable experience.
My fellow Lib Dem, Cllr Chris Stanley, also informed the council that our party had offered to monitor other parts of Rayleigh that could potentially have a problem with the air quality as reported by our residents, but this offer of help was turned down by RDC’s officer! – The cynic in me wonders WHY????
Overall it was a healthy debate and hopefully educational – Rayleigh Town Council will send off their findings to the Rochford District Council. You too can have your say as the public consultation will run until 3rd January 2017. Consultation responses can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to the Council postal address marked ‘Air Quality’. The document that the consultation is based on is here
Hmmm, is this a feasible alternative to our gas guzzling, fume belching vehicles I pondered? Well, there seems to be an increase in sales in the EV market, sadly though that doesn’t appear to the case in the UK. Our slow adoption might be why there are NO public charge points in Rayleigh! So unless you are at home, you are clean out of luck. Looking at ‘ZAP MAP’ the nearest public charging point is Leigh On Sea or Wickford. Whatever the urge I feel right now to come ‘clean’ – this isn’t going to work for me I’m afraid, I simply don’t think I could bear the 1hr round journey to charge my vehicle for it’s 100 mile range. Those that don’t have off street parking are left with no alternative other than to use these public charge points. Sadly, it appears this is the story of our lives here in Rayleigh, infrastructure not being in place to handle the needs of our residents. However attractive this may look I think it’s just wishful thinking by our local council.
I’ll cross this one off the AQAP list for now!
It’s something I’ve had many conversations about and I’m sure other Councillors have also had thoughts about but I’ve never really got a clear answer. What is the definition of ‘affordable’ when it comes down to new housing developments. I found this definition on the Government’s website
Affordable housing is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. From April 2012 affordable housing is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (prior to this the definitions in Planning Policy Statement 3 apply). Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.
So that clears that up.
The short answer is if you want to know how affordable housing is defined, don’t ask me! I’m going to admit I’m beat on this one, but I will ask about and see if someone can give me a clear explanation on it. Watch this space!
I’m a little confused today! @rochforddc have sent these 2 tweets out. Let me explain – the 1st tweet is telling you to take part (they don’t invite you, it’s more of a demanding tone…) in the Air Quality Action Plan (which incidentally is aimed at REDUCING NO2 in the town centre. The 2nd tweet, yes that’s right – invites you to DRIVE into TOWN in your fume belching vehicle to INCREASE NO2 in the town centre. Poorly timed tweets or is there just no joined up thinking at RDC?
If Linda Kendall's Rayleigh Action Group achieved one thing then I would personally say it raised awareness of what is going on around us and in local government. I'm keen to help carry this on. We need to know what decisions are being taken and why by our local council. We, the residents need our voices heard. Yes I'm a Councillor, but I'm a resident too.
Yesterday I sent the Managing Director of Rochford District Council, what I considered an important question. The level and quality of Rochford District Council's public engagement. I, like some of our other council members find the communication, well let's say, a little less than satisfactory.
Yes I did have a particular subject matter in mind - AQAP - For those who've been following my posts will know I've been bashing this one. Those who know me would probably use the term 'dog with a bone' - I'm not letting this one go!
I was pleased the MD replied quickly to my query and has detailed the methods of engagement used for this consultation.
Although there seems a great level of methods used to communicate, I'm still not 'convinced' the message will reach those who are most vulnerable to poor air quality - the elderly.
I'd like to know if you feel Rochford District Council have done enough or how could they communicate the message better?