• Tories Gasp for Air over AQAP

    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.

    AQAP

    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

    • encouraging the public to use buses
    • electric cars and cycles
    • infrastructure and funding for cycle lanes and electric charging points does not exist

    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 airquality@rochford.gov.uk or sent to the Council postal address marked ‘Air Quality’. The document that the consultation is based on is here

     

  • The Definition of Affordable?

    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!

  • More Houses…Have the Developers Finally Won?

    Rayleigh Town Council Planning Committee

    Last night’s planning committee meeting was a full evening with numerous big applications being discussed.

    What did strike me as odd was the lack of public interest…. we had 2 delightful older ladies come along to make representation on one of the applications and one member of RTC that was attending as a member of the public –  that was it, no other members of public! 120 new dwelling tabled for development in Rayleigh that nearly 20% of the West Rayleigh development and not a soul to make representation….. I’m curious to know, have the developers finally beaten the people of Rayleigh into submission or has the public become so disillusioned with the decision-making process that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that in as little as 10 years from now Rayleigh could become another concrete jungle?

    I really thought (or hoped) the lack of turnout at the recent local plan consultation wasn’t a sign of things to come and tried in my own mind at least to put it down to a result of poor publicity and bad timings or maybe it’s true that the people of Rayleigh have just given up on the future of their town?

  • Will the High Court Ruling on Air Pollution Have Consequences for Rochford District?

    Today’s High Court ruling found the UK Government has failed to tackle illegal air pollution across the UK. What will this mean for the impending AQAP for Rayleigh? With the emphasis on the reduction of traffic congestion and traffic volumes, one wonders if and how this is achievable given the ‘pinch points’ in Rayleigh will be loaded further with more traffic from housing developments that are yet to built. Is planning policy strong enough to deal with the influx of new development? Can the council robustly enforce these strengthened policies against the ‘deep pockets’ of the developers?

    Some optimism to reducing the pollution levels is given by the usage of ‘cleaner’ transportation, with a reduction in vehicle exhaust gasses.

    “We need a national network of clean air zones to be in place by 2018 in cities across the UK, not just in a handful of cities. The government also needs to stop these inaccurate Modelling forecasts. Future projections of compliance need to be based on what is really coming out of the exhausts of diesel cars when driving on the road, not just the results of discredited laboratory tests.” – ClientEarth air quality lawyer Alan Andrews

    What really is the answer to the congestion in our area? Would we see more pedestrians and cyclists in our area if we have the necessary safe routes or can ‘tweaks’ be made to our traffic systems to stop the build up of traffic?

    I don’t have the answers and I’m not sure if the rumoured £60k price tag for traffic modelling will fix the problem either, perhaps it’s time to leave the car at home and don the face mask!

    Free Face Mask with all new houses!

    Free Face Mask with all new houses!

     

  • From the Echo Newspaper

    Echo Newspaper

    The article discusses more development on London Road in West Rayleigh and the rebuilding of  a care home.

  • Could This Help Rochford Meet Our Affordable Housing Crisis?

    welcome-to-our-home-1205888_1920

    I often hear the argument made that we need houses that are affordable. Today I came across this article from the BBC which discusses a village which has been built by a private company, which is entirely powered by the sun. It’s an interesting article and in my opinion is very thought provoking.

    It seemly addresses a number of issues when it comes to affordability, profitability and sustainability. The article suggests that land is released by the council exclusively  for affordable homes to be built due to the high cost of land. These developments could also see a 4% return on the investment. Perhaps our council would do well to consider this sort of scheme to help house our first time buyers and those struggling to get on the housing ladder?

  • Dispatches investigates Air Pollution

    Whilst looking into the causes of poor air quality, I came across this report from Channel 4 dispatches. It’s really worth a watch, it’s a shocking report into Air quality in the UK and who is affected by it the most.

  • Rayleigh Air Quality Falls Short of EU Limits

    Queuing traffic on London Road

    Queuing traffic on London Road

    On London Road sitting in traffic? Or perhaps queuing going up Crown Hill, then again you could be on Rawreth Lane queuing to turn into Hullbridge – All of these are familiar commuter routes that we all endure. Getting from A to B in and around Rayleigh has become slower and slower with some residents reporting journey times of 1hr to get from Down Hall Road to Rayleigh Weir ‘for no apparent reason’

    All these cars on our roads have led to Rochford District Council declaring in February 2015,  Rayleigh Town Centre becoming an air quality management area (AQMA) due to the levels of  vehicle exhaust emissions. More than 18 months on, the air quality targets are NOT being met. I’ve questioned why London Road, Down Hall Road & Rawreth Lane are not included in the AQMA as we all see the volume of traffic queuing on these roads frequently. Is it because the council’s own policy restricts new residential development in air quality management areas and these were the areas destined for development under the core strategy?

    Air pollution has a major impact on human health.
    It is associated with a range of deadly diseases including cancer, heart disease, strokes and asthma, and is the number one environmental cause of death in the EU, responsible for over 400,000 early deaths in 2010 alone.

    Source: www.clientearth.org

    We, the Lib Dems are vigorously challenging the council’s approach to air quality measurements. We believe that every resident is entitled to clean air and not just in selected areas. The council’s existing data on pollution is a minimum required standard.  We want the best for our residents and we propose that more areas are monitored for pollution and over a longer period of time. Our council needs to up its game and exceed the expectations of all our residents.

    29% of emissions are caused by car’s in the High Street

    Do you want to know more? Here’s the Local Air Quality Management report prepared by the council  Local Air Quality Management (185 downloads)

     

  • 47 New Dwellings for London Road – Approved

    Last nights development committee discussed the application for 47 dwellings on London Road (15/00736/FUL). The officers report can be read here. 1500736FUL (208 downloads)  This application have been previously deferred for clarification on a number of points.

    • The location and type of pedestrian crossing, taking account of the speed limits on the A129 London Road.
    • What Highway improvement measures would be provided in respect of the additional developer contribution of £50,000 over and above the cost of the proposed pedestrian crossing.
    • Clarification of the proposed flow rates and the opportunity to seek improvement to the rate to improve local resilience against flooding and better details of attenuation arrangements.
    • The drainage details relating to conditions 7, 8,10,11, 12 and 13 to be submitted with the application for Members’ consideration.
    • Details of the surface water drainage scheme /underground drainage plan to be made available to the Committee.
    • Condition 13 to be amended so that it be required that the yearly maintenance logs be submitted to the local planning Authority annually.
    • Off street parking spaces to be provided clear of the street.
    • The road layout to be built to adoptable standards and clarification of whether the road layout will be adopted. (NOT ADOPTABLE)
    • Dormer windows with flat roofs to be revised to provide pitched roofs.
    • Clarification of the proposals to spend the contribution of £45,000 in respect of Little Wheatleys play space and whether instead this contribution might be used to fund a school crossing patrol for a temporary period of time.

    Off to a shaky start due to the technical issues in the council chamber (no projector, so no plans available), the meeting commenced nearly 30 minutes late. There was about 10 visitors in the public gallery.

    The council officer (Mike Shranks) gave his opening report on the planning application and how the issues had been addressed that concerned the members at the last committee meeting. Once we had heard the report (with no visual aids), the officer asked us to ‘trust’ his words – speakers were invited from the public. The applicants agent spoke first. We then heard questions from committee members. These ranged from clarification on the proposed crossing, off street parking, whether the road was adoptable and the proposed drainage system.

    The proposed drainage system consumed most of the discussion, with Cllr Stanley taking a lead on the flooding issues asking whether the design of the system was adequate to accommodate the flooding issues that West Rayleigh has seen in recent years. I asked whether upstream flooding had been taken into consideration and was assured by the officer it had been.

    I also made it clear I was not convinced the proposed crossing was adequate and safe for pedestrians being in a 40 mph zone.

    Proposed Crossing Site

    Proposed Crossing Site

    I questioned as to why the new estate would not have its own play area, with a £45,000 contribution for the Little Wheatley’s play area, once the money runs out the tax payer will bear the full burden of additional maintenance.

    Land will be taken from Rayleigh Sports & Social club for the proposed alleyway at the back of the development.

    20160921_184731The report also makes mention of cycle routes (I see none of them in this area, in fact very few in Rayleigh). Finally I raised the issue of safety as the report proposes that the developer will widen the footpath in front of the development to 2m, however the London Road footpath is wholly inadequate on the North side (in my opinion) and is less than 2m wide.

    Finally Councillor Mountain spoke up and reminded members that this application was again before the committee to gain clarification on the reasons the application was previously deferred – he then moved for approval for the application. The vote was taken with all members approving apart from myself and Cllr Stanley abstaining.

     

  • Notable Planning Applications in Sweyne Park & Grange Ward

    There are a couple of more notable applications that have been submitted to the council.

    The first is application an application by Sweyne Park School for a new building for the sixth form.

    The Sweyne Park School, Sir Walter Raleigh Drive, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 9BZ

    Reference: 16/00870/FUL

    Date received: 9/7/2016 12:00:00 AM

    Planning for: Construct Two Storey Building To Provide Teaching Accommodation Sixth Form

    The second application is an application for 47 dwellings on the land adjacent to Grange Villa (M&S Garage)

    Land Adjacent Grange Villa , London Road, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 9DR

    Reference: 15/00736/FUL

    Date received: 10/9/2015 12:00:00 AM

    Planning for: Form Access And Layout Site To Provide Residential Development Of 21 Flats And 26 Houses ( 47 Dwellings In Total)

     

    What’s your thoughts on these applications? Let me know in the comments box

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