Is Southend UKIP’s Cllr Waterworth fit to chair Development Control?

farage and waterworth

Last week I reported on the deal struck between Southend UKIP and Southend Conservatives, which now seems to be common knowledge, including that Cllr Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park) would get chair of Development Control Committee.

Now, never minding the horse trading still going on behind closed doors–including the sheer number of Conservative councillors suddenly realising that they have their leader Cllr John Lamb (CON – West Leigh) over a barrel and can demand plum jobs for themselves–there seems to be a groundswell of scepticism as to whether Cllr Waterworth is up to what is — in effect — the most senior non-cabinet role on the council.

Read on…

Blenheim Park saved! (For now…)

matt dent for blenheim park

So I’ve touched on the proposals to build a pavilion on Blenheim Park previously, and the reasons that I’m against it — loosely boiling down to the fact that I am not keen to see a precious green space and piece of public land given away on a whim to a private entity.

The issue has been bubbling away over the summer, and I’ve heard from a fair number of residents — both contacting me directly, and when I speak to them on the doorsteps — raise that they are really not keen on the proposal. So serious has this become that even the part-time UKIP representative, Cllr Floyd Waterworth, has emerged from his inter-election hibernation to string a few words together on the topic.

As well as canvassing the views of residents — which, despite what the Council consultation might claim, my experience says they are largely against it — I have been lobbying behind the scenes on the subject, to the point that Cllr Gilbert, leader of the Labour group and Deputy Leader of the Council, is well and truly sick of me talking about the subject.

It has clearly done some good, though. At the meeting of the Cabinet this week, the decision was taken to delay the development for further consultation.

Read on…

Does Southend need town councils?

southend marine plaza

It occurs to me that many readers might be unaware that I served, for a time, as a councillor on Wargrave Parish Council. For transparency’s sake, I’m reiterating it now.

You see, with the exception of Leigh Town Council, Southend doesn’t have a lower tier of local government. And lately I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t benefit from the addition.

Parish and town councils are traditionally the lowest level of local government, giving a forum for local residents on issues like planning and… Well, what I remember is mostly planning, but I think there were benches and Christmas trees too.

Read on…

Working for Blenheim Park: an update on Harridge Road

harridge road storage container

Two weeks ago I blogged about a planning issue in Blenheim Park ward, surrounding a large storage container in front of a house in Harridge Road. The container had no planning permission, and was something of an eyesore in the local area.

So I wrote to the council, enquiring about the possibility of a Planning Enforcement Order to remove the offending installation, and requesting that such a solution be looked into. Earlier in the week I received this response:

Dear Mr Dent

Thank you for your recent email in this matter.

It is correct that the fact the Council owns this property does not necessarily preclude the service of an Enforcement Notice under Section 172 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended). Under the relevant legislation, Notices would have to be served on all those having an interest in the land i.e. the tenant and any other occupiers, South Essex Homes and the Borough Council itself. In order to serve such a Notice, authorisation would first need to be obtained from the Council’s Development Control Committee.

However, SEH have agreed to deal with the matter as it is a Council tenant who is responsible for the breach of planning control and this is deemed the most appropriate route to tackle the issue.

I trust this information clarifies the position.

Kind regards

Neil Auger

Neil Auger – Planning Enforcement Officer – Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

A collaborative solution is certainly a preferable one, provided it is effective. I hope that South Essex Homes will manage to resolve the issue quickly and without further ill-feeling — but I do note that when I was out campaigning in Blenheim Park at the weekend, the storage container was still in place.

I will be keeping an eye on the situation.

Farewell to the Old Post Office

old post office wargrave

It still saddens me that, since moving to Reading nearly two months ago, I can no longer sit on Wargrave Parish Council. I miss my fellow councillors, and being able to play an active role in shaping the community I lived in. But despite this, no longer being a part of local government gives me a little more freedom in some ways. The freedom, for example, to lament the closure of the Old Post Office coffee shop on Wargrave High Street, the victim of shockingly and embarrassingly short-sighted nimbyism.

Read on…

An Open Letter to the People of Wargrave

Dear Wargrave residents,

Five months ago, I became one of your parish councillors. I confess, that I had little idea what Wargrave Parish Council did before then. I knew more than most, probably, knowing what the technical function of a parish council and having more than average familiarity with local government. But still, the day to day, meeting to meeting tasks. They were a mystery.

So what now? What about five months on?

Well, for starters, I know just how hard the councillors work. Unpaid, largely unappreciated, they do more than simply the two meetings a month. I can’t speak for other councils, but Wargrave sends a councillor to look at every planning application. We only give recommendations, which the Borough Council as the planning authority doesn’t always agree with us. But a great deal of professionalism goes into every decision.

In the last five months I have had a few notable personal highlights and achievements:

  • Every employee of the council is paid above the living wage. I was all set to make a stand on this at the budget meeting, but gratifyingly found I didn’t have to. Where government drifts towards, Wargrave boldly leads the way!
  • We have made a stand against further development in the flood plain. Every year the Thames floods, and yet there seems no end to the planning applications to concrete over yet more land, making the situation yet worse. Wokingham’s record on backing us up has been disappointingly poor, but we do what we can.
  • Hundreds of pounds of grants have already been distributed to worthy causes across the parish. Reading through the requests for grants I was shocked by just how many charities go about their work helping residents without a word of recognition. We might not be able to give much, but I am hugely glad to give what we can.

So in that light, I am extremely sad to be having to tender my resignation. Yes, as of tomorrow my time in Wargrave (six years) and indeed in Wokingham borough (seven) will be at an end as Ashleigh and I move to central Reading. I have already attended my last meeting and given my resignation to the council and its clerk.

This letter is for the residents who I have been representing.

It has been an honour to sit on your parish council. I have enjoyed the experience immensely, and it is a fantastic day to contribute to the community. There is now a vacancy on the council, and I would strongly urge any resident with the spare time to consider filling it. But above all, your councillors work very hard, and do a very good job. You are very well served by them.


Matthew S. Dent
Former councillor, West Ward
Wargrave Parish Council.