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Rochford News Matters
Hall Road Development
- “A Bridge too far?”
An accident waiting to happen?
A back door to the estate?
A Bridge too far?

A Meeting with WRAG committee members, Brian Martin (Vice-Chairman, a retired engineer who has lived here 39 years), Maurice Drage (who has lived here for 30 years and retired a number of years ago after a life in banking and insurance)  and Suzanne Rose (Treasurer, who has lived in Rochford 17 years and works in Admin.)     
(21st January 2012)
RL: Well after Wednesday evening, where do you go from here?
Maurice: I would like to say that before we get into the detail of what was discussed earlier this week, the simple thing to say is that the people of Rochford as a whole, have probably heard about this development and probably, because a lot has been going on for a couple of years or so, have thought that someone has come up with this crazy suggestion and it’s been forgotten about. To think that someone would choose a productive agricultural field in the Green Belt is crazy and it’s probably gone away. When they learn as they read about it in newspapers, I think people will become quite angry about it because even if you don’t live immediately in the area, you are passing by and you are used to seeing that field there with corn in it and so on, and so we start from that point of saying, it’s crazy that his site was selected in the first place and even more stupid that we go on and on with people pretending that it’s the most obvious site to build six hundred dwellings.
We all know when we travel around that there are plenty of places that you could choose where you couldn’t build six hundred houses, but that’s not what we want. We want a few houses here and a few houses there, and when you read the article in the Echo yesterday, you see quite clearly that what the Council has really done has been to say, well if you’ve got to build this number of houses we’ll choose as few sites as possible and that will give us less problems in terms of having to handle lots of silly little developments and we can all have an easy life. And that’s where we really start from as far as they are concerned.
As far as the meeting goes last Wednesday evening, my feeling was that I heard very, very little other than from the Chief Planning Officer himself, supporting the proposal. It was almost as if because it was on the table and falls within the Core Strategy we don’t need to justify it.

RL: Do you not think that the first fifty minutes, which was about the proposition turning it down, meant that it did away with that necessity?  Once that proposal was defeated all that was left was to deal with detail of the main proposal to accept the application?
Maurice: Well, if you took the points individually, very few of them were answered with any real substance. At best they would say, there’s no need to answer that because it falls within the Core Strategy. Take for instance our point that there is a 50% greater use of the land than was proposed under the Core Strategy, how was that answered? It was left to the Chief Planning Officer to say this is all right because the buildings occupy the size land originally proposed, but the rest of it is just a school and some playing fields. But originally that was all to be within the chosen piece of land and however you put it, this development does take up that much more Green Belt land than was originally spoken about.  When we speak about agricultural land, it was dismissed,  but nobody said, yes, we did get an independent study. The answer we get is, well, it’s only 1% of our Green Belt land so it doesn’t matter.

Brian: The fear is, of course, that it won’t end there, that it will continue extending itself, and of course taking it to its ultimate we’ll end up joining up with Rayleigh. That’s going a long way ahead and no doubt we won’t see that, but that what is feared.

Suzanne: If you go and look at the site and where there is a natural divide at the existing footpath, they’ve taken another piece of land beyond that, and if you look outwards towards Hockley you can see where it will naturally progress. When we gathered last Saturday, when they did their site visit, out of the 39 councillors only 9 came to the actual site visit, and they didn’t even walk around the site.  

Brian: I believe the Rayleigh councillors, for instance, aren’t interested. They don’t want it in Rayleigh so they want it here. But as Maurice said, everybody is going to be affected by this, not just those who live here. Those who live east of here are going to be affected by the traffic, and still no one has solved the problem of access under the bridge below the station. They talk about putting in a bus route. You cannot get double-decker buses safely under there without stopping the traffic to allow them to come through the central part.

Maurice: When you come to the transport element, when you read the details within the application, every element to do with transport, whether it is junctions or the bridge itself, it was almost implied, don’t worry about it, it can be dealt with and Bellway will throw some money at it and Essex County Council will look and see what they can do. You can’t do anything about the bridge, because in point of fact any vehicle coming down Hall Road much bigger than a Transit van is already breaking the law because there is a weight limit, a width limit and a length limit, and the police do little about upholding that.  In one sense  we don’t need to do anything really about buses etc., in due course,  because it would be against the law. It’s not a sensible proposal in any direction!

Suzanne: It’s also the pedestrian access under the bridge. I’ve walked my children to school under there, and my friends have. You can’t get a buggy or a child by hand on that one side, so it’s not safe unless you cross over to the other side, which creates more safety problems. Even on the good side you can’t get a double buggy through there. It’s also the drainage because if it rains you get soaked by cars if you try and walk along there. It’s one thing I couldn’t understand on Wednesday that when they made their presentation they covered everything except the bridge and it seemed it didn’t exist.

Brian: As Maurice said, up until now no one has thought that it could happen because it was such a stupid idea. When we talk to some of our other residents, they say, Oh, is that still going on now, we thought it was dead.  Suddenly it’s hit them. On Wednesday we had a hundred turn out and if we had another time that number would increase, because people are now aware that it is happening.

RL: Looking back now, do you think you should have done more at the Core Strategy stage?
Maurice: Oh yes, but not so much the Core Strategy as the allocations. The allocations draft was put on the table and consultations sought. Chris Black said thousands of responses came in. Now how we arrived at this site is a mystery. I don’t think anybody knows how this site was said to be THE site as against any one of the others.    Even if we accept, which we don’t, that six hundred dwellings should be built in Rochford nobody seems to know how this site was chosen; it’s never been revealed, and how do we know that? Because the allocations document has never been firmed up and that was a point we were trying to make, that by allowing this application to go through you are jumping ahead of the allocations document. It’s premature.

RL: Do you think the result of Wednesday night has deflated your intentions to oppose it?
Brian: No, definitely not. I’ve been thinking that we ought now to have a residents’ meeting, including inviting people from east Rochford. I think we will fill any hall because now people are beginning to be aware of what is going on and, as Maurice said, people are angry about what has happened. We may even get up a petition against it.

Maurice: I think we may need something like that to show that a large part of the community think this is a crazy idea.

Suzanne: I also think that people need to realise that it isn’t a done deal and that the fight does go on.

Brian: The fight goes on. It doesn’t end here.

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