Rochford District Core Strategy Regulation 26 Draft
Section One - A Spatial Portrait of the Rochford District
1.1 The District of Rochford is situated within a peninsula between the Rivers Thames and Crouch, and is bounded to the east by the North Sea. The District has land boundaries with Basildon and Castle Point District and Southend–on–Sea Borough Councils. It also has marine boundaries with Maldon and Chelmsford Districts. It is ideally located within south Essex, with linkages to the M25 via the A127 and the A13 and direct rail links to London.
1.2 The Rochford District covers an area of 65 square miles. It is rich in heritage and natural beauty, with many miles of unspoilt coastline and attractive countryside. There are more than 200 sites of archaeological interest, 14 ancient woodlands and several nature reserves across the District.
1.3 Rochford District is predominantly rural with three larger urban areas and a number of smaller settlements. The District's towns and villages are diverse in character reflecting their history, location and size. The character, layout and form of groups of buildings, streets and spaces make a significant contribution to providing a sense of place and adding to the quality of life in town and country. Residents have a strong sense of identity with their own settlement.
1.4 Home to around 78,500 people, the District is one with an ever increasing percentage of older residents. The District is considered to be reasonably affluent, except for a few small pockets of deprivation and has a low rate of recorded crime compared to the rest of the country. Unemployment is low at 1%. The district has a workforce of 39,000, but only 21,000 jobs. Over two thirds of the district's workforce travel to work outside the district boundaries.
1.5 The Council communicates with the local community via a quarterly council-sponsored newsletter to every household and business. In September 2004, the Council was rated as a ‘weak' authority following a Comprehensive Performance Assessment. It has subsequently been inspected and the Audit Commission state that "Rochford District Council is progressing well in priority areas." Building and Development Control was the subject of Best Value Inspection, which reported in July 2001. This report stated that the Council was "…providing a ‘good', two star service that has ‘promising' prospects for improvement."
1.6 The Council has made a good start on its Local Development Framework after discussions with the Government Office for the East of England and the submission of its Local Development Scheme and Statement of Community Involvement. It has also met the requirements for producing and submitting Annual Monitoring Reports. As part of developing the Local Development Framework (LDF) Core Strategy and other Local Development Documents, the Council's planning team had regard to a number of local strategies and initiatives, including the following:
- City Regions Initiative Department for Communities and Local Government
- Community Strategy (2004) Rochford District Council
- Crouch & Roach Estuary Management Plan (2005) Crouch & Roach Estuary Project
- Delivering the Future (2003) Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership
- Economic Development Strategy for Rochford District (2005) Rochford District Council
- Essex Local Transport Plan 2006-2011 (2005) Essex County Council
- Draft East of England Plan (Regional Spatial Strategy 14) (2005) – EERA
- East of England Plan – Examination in Public – Report of the Panel (2006) EIP Panel
- Green Grid Strategy (2005) Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership
- Health & Opportunity for the People of Essex – Essex's Local Area Agreement (2006)
- Housing Needs Survey (2004) Rochford District Council
- Housing Strategy 2004-2007 Fit for Purpose (2004) Rochford District Council
- Putting Patients at the Heart of Everything We Do (2004) Castle Point & Rochford PCT
- Rochford District Replacement Local Plan (2006) Rochford District Council
- School Organisation Plan 2005-2010 (2006) Essex County Council
- Three Year Strategy Plan 2006 – 2009 (2006) Essex Police Authority & Essex Police
- Tourism Strategy (2005) Rochford District Council
- Vision for the Future (2001) Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership
1.7 There are no remaining major new developments planned for the district in the Rochford District Replacement Local Plan. The Park School site, on the western edge of Rayleigh, is currently being developed. This is a mixed use development incorporating a primary school, , leisure centre and residential uses. A supermarket is under construction in Rochford, together with a number of residential units.
1.8 As a partner in the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, the Council has undertaken the role of providing the arts and culture opportunities for the area. This has been coupled to the provision of green tourism and leisure opportunities for the gateway. Such opportunities have to be considered against the green belt policies that apply within the district.
1.9 Within the district road infrastructure is poor. There are no designated Heavy Lorry Routes in the district and many routes are unfit for their current level of use. Away from the two principal roads (the A130 and A127), roads are often narrow and twisting. This creates problems particularly for remote businesses, such as those near Wallasea.
1.10 Public transport is poor in residential areas and very poor or non-existant elsewhere, particularly in rural areas. The level of service to certain parts of the district means they are inaccessible in the early morning, evenings or at weekends. This restricts the possibility of using public transport to travel to and from work in some settlements. The district has a railway line serving Rochford, Hockley and Rayleigh. A new station has planning permission to serve London Southend Airport.
1.11 London Southend Airport lies in the southern edge of the district. The Council has granted planning permission for a new terminal and associated facilities. The airport operator is looking to increase passenger flights from the airport, which had previously been restricted due to runway length issues. Today the airport is busy for freight and for aircraft maintenance, as well as private flying. Surface transport access issues will need to be carefully considered as the airport grows, but the provision of a rail station closely linked to the new terminal will have positive benefits for traffic congestion and sustainability
1.12 Close to the airport work is underway on the construction of the first part of the Cherry Orchard Way Business Park. This site is being developed as a specialist area for car dealerships and repair and servicing facilities and there will be opportunities for further business development, including high technology businesses, on the balance of the site still available for development. It is likely that further employment land will be required to satisfy the needs of aviation related business.