A political opinion piece by Ron Tindall the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Rayleigh & Wickford Constituency
I’ve read with astonishment MP Mark Francois’ recent article in the Rayleigh & Eastwood Times, describing his frenetic efforts to help avoid gridlock on Rayleigh roads at peak times.
Not surprisingly, he did not mention the good work of the local Liberal Democrat Councillors to ensure adequate wheel washing of site vehicles, traffic lights (following requests from residents), replacing damaged lights and refuge islands in the roads affected.
But all this activity, all this chaos, may just be the start of a bigger longer-lasting problem. If you think about it, each of these new homes, situated at the edges of Rayleigh, will have two or more cars per household. The vehicles will be used for everything, trips to the shops, trips to school, trips to doctors, dentists and work. Everything.
What about all the wonderful infrastructure that comes with all those extra homes I hear you ask. Well, we will get an improved roundabout at the end of Rawreth Lane. That is about it! One improved roundabout! All the main roads were there in Victorian times and before when transport was horse-drawn and much less!
It is worth remembering that awful word ‘infrastructure’ is not just about roads. All services and facilities provided and paid for by the Rayleigh and Eastwood community are covered by the word infrastructure. As the pace and size of housing development has increased, our services have at best stood still but in many cases are shrinking at an alarming rate. Just consider recent plans that have needed people to protest and campaign to keep what we have. Libraries (Rayleigh Library is still under threat of being moved to Mill Hall with loss of other community facilities), Hospital A&E services, the Council Chamber will be ripped out of Rayleigh and heaven knows how much spent to relocate in an un-environmentally friendly building in Rochford. Police services reduced to a minimum, fire service taken out of town. So many shops and businesses taxed out of existence in our town centre. The list goes on.
With one-party governance in Parliament (what a good job they have done there!), County Hall, the District Council and even Town Council run by the Conservatives, the party of long term austerity politics; opportunities for those concerned about their communities, to question decisions and scrutinise policies have been limited. Informed debate has been virtually non-existent.
All these levels of government have conspired to give the ‘green light’ to over-development. All have been compliant with the level above, none demanding the necessary infrastructure, not willing to rock the boat to get the services and basic requirements needed for the expanding community.
The small band of Lib Dem Councillors fought against the current round of over-development for over a decade. They mobilised public opinion and reduced the housing numbers significantly. At one stage they were able to block a big planning application. They were called Nimbys but they were in fact fighting for their residents against big corporations.
The moral of that story is that to avoid over development and ultimately save the local community we need to act early. Liberal Democrat Councillor action in the early days had a profound effect on the process. Success diminished as time went on, not through lack of effort but because the key decisions had already been made. The new version of the Local Plan (stating among other things where development will go in the future), is currently running through the Council’s system, making steady but slow progress.
As Lib Dems we want to avoid any further mass housing development in Rayleigh or any other local community that has suffered over development in recent decades. Unless we have a significant change in government and the way our leaders act, we will get a lot more development imposed onto our district in years to come. Our local Chairman gave our view to the recent local plan consultation that we should in future put a halt to large scale development in Rayleigh and where additional housing is imposed on us we should provide for a new garden village to the east of our district close to the Southend border with the necessary new infrastructure. Liberal Democrats want Rayleigh, Hockley, Ashingdon and Hullbridge to be given time to recover and adjust to Tory mismanagement and overdevelopment