Introduction from the Chair - Cllr Mrs June Lumley
1) This is the second Annual General Meeting of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team since Rochford District Council took over the secretariat and the Accountable Body role in July 2019.
2) The Steering Group has met on five occasions since September 2020 and I am pleased to present the minutes of those meetings as set out in Appendix 1 to this report. A special meeting of the Steering Group was held on 28 September2021 to enable a presentation by the Border Force Intelligence Directorate –this meeting was recorded, but not minuted.
3) Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic continues to impact our ability to safely convene face to face meetings but the River Crouch Coastal Community Team has continued to meet virtually via Zoom and Teams and proved to be a useful and effective way of managing meetings.
4) I am delighted to be able to present this Annual Report of the work of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team and I extend my thanks to the members of the Steering Group who have supported its efforts this year and my welcome to all visiting members and members of the public who have joined us in this virtual meeting today.
Key Achievements of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team this Year
5)The work of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team is led by a Steering Group. Following elections in May 2021, there has been some changes in the personnel and the Steering Group is now comprised as follows:
Elected Councillor from RDC - Chairperson - Cllr Mrs. June Lumley
Business, Maritime Community or Independent - Vice Chairperson - Keith Powell
Accountable Body - Elected Councillor RDC - Was Cllr Simon Wootton, now Cllr Davis Sperring
Accountable Body - Economic Development Officer RDC - Paula Chapman
Public Sector - Elected Councillor from MDC - Was Cllr Nick Skeens, now Cllr Mark G Bassenger
Public Sector - Specialist (Tourism) – Communications, Marketing and Engagement from MDC - Alexis Corless
Public Sector - Economic Development Officer – Chelmsford City Council - Helen Quinnell
Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Hullbridge Parish Council - Cllr P. White
Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Canewdon Parish Council - Cllr Mike Halford
Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Ashingdon Parish Council - Cllr. Glen Dryhurst
Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Rettendon Parish Council - No nomination received
Public Sector - Elected Cllr – Burnham-on-Crouch Town Council - Cllr Bob Calver
Public Sector - Elected Cllr - South Woodham Ferrers Town Council - Cllr Alan Shearring
Maritime Sector - Crouch Harbour Authority - Ken Wickham
Maritime Sector - Representative from the Boating Community - Crouch Area Yachting Federation - Doug MacEwen – Secretary
Maritime Sector - Natural England - David Overton
Maritime Sector Environment Agency - John Lindsay IEng MICE Coastal Engineer (Essex)
The Business Community - RSPB - Rachel Fancy
The Business Community - 3 Chambers (Hockley, Rayleigh, Rochford) - Was Ken Wickham, now Dave Record
The Business Community - Burnham Chamber of Commerce - No nomination received.
The Business Community - Baltic Wharf - Was Matt Mason- Port Director, then Roger Armson – Interim General Manager, now Robert Brown – General Manager
The Business Community - Battlesbridge Business - Roy Hart
Path to Prosperity project
6) The Steering Group has continued to support the Path to Prosperity project. However, the following has been achieved since the last annual report:
- From the 9 Pedestrian Counters that have been installed at key locations on the coast to measure visitor numbers, the district councils now receive annual statistics. The March 20-April 21 report shows Hullbridge and Woodham in the top 4 most visited every month with Hullbridge receiving the highest count each month bar May and June (consistently above 10,000 every month).
- The Go Jauntly digital app that initially launched with 12 coastal trails on the Essex Coast is proving very popular. It includes a trail in Burnham, South Woodham Ferrers and Rochford Town, (along River Roach). RDC also commissioned a Wallasea Island trail and the app now has 22 trails. Since launching in November 2020, the app has been downloaded more than 335,000 times and Go Jauntly was App Of The Day on the UK App Store in August 2021, as well as Editor's Choice. Wallasea Island and South Woodham Ferrers circular routes are two of the most popular trails on the coast, with South Woodham having the highest number of completed walks along the whole Essex coast!
- On 9 November 2020, Chelmsford hosted a celebration event of the installation of interpretation boards on the South Woodham trail, which Steering Group members were invited to.
- Unfortunately due to Covid-19 restrictions and public health guidelines, it was no longer financially viable to operate The Hopper bus service to encourage use of sustainable transport. Instead the funding allocated to this has been redistributed to other coastal schemes under this project.
- A #Crouch Aware digital campaign was launched end of July 2021 to coincide with school summer holidays and comprised of 4 digital images with public safety messages on water safety, respecting the environment and taking care when walking the coastal path, following consultation with CHA. These continue to be used across CCT members’ social media platforms.
- The three local authorities within the Steering Group jointly commissioned a video using drone footage to promote the River Crouch. The video is in the final stages of editing and will be published shortly.
- RDC used some of their allocation to commission a River Roach video too which is also in final editing stage.
Coastal Path project
7) The Steering Group has also contributed to the Coastal Path project. Darren Braine, Senior Adviser and lead for the England Coast Path stretch around the Crouch Estuary from Natural England, which includes Burnham to Wallasea, provided this update to the Steering Group in August 2021:
I believe that the stage the England Coast Path has reached around the Crouch estuary, there is little active input Natural England can make to this meeting and perhaps little for us to take away. This will be particularly so as we move to establishment of the trail and once open the ongoing maintenance will rest with Essex County Council.
8) Natural England will be willing to answer queries, or where there are specific agenda items relating to the England Coast Path or any of our other work areas (such as the Site of Special Scientific Interest – SSSI) so wo we will continue to liaise with them.
9) Essex Highways have undertaken the works required for the Southend to Wallasea Island stretch of the coast path. They remain hopeful that all works will be completed in time to officially open this section in Spring 2022.
10) The work of the Steering Group’s Working Groups this year is summarised below:
11) Working Group Membership comprised: Keith Powell (Project Group Lead),Keith Ager, Glen Dryhurst, John Lindsay, Roy Hart plus representatives from ECC Public Rights of Way Team
12) This year, the work of the Group has evolved to become the forum for bringing together the various initiatives within the scope of the RCCCT that related to footpaths and public access and their impact on the visitor economy including the Coastal Path. The work of the Group links with the work of the Digital Group as many of the tools and guides will be available in digital format but there is common membership between the two groups so this does not duplicate effort.
13) This is a project to create and develop publicity via a public site, e.g. website or social media site, providing information on maps, businesses, public houses, hotels, etc. Working Group Membership comprised: Keith Powell (Project Group Lead), Glen Dryhurst, Doug MacEwen, Paula Chapman, Helen Quinnell, and Mark Bassenger.
14) The Group had met and were now starting to collate the data to ensure that all relevant information was available on a number of different channels, i.e. social media, websites, etc. It had become apparent that there was one custodian of the gateway for the main Coastal Communities Website, and she had agreed to publish documents, such as minutes of the Steering Group and AGM, plus any work that the Digital Group produced to ensure it went on the national website, as well as local websites.
15) The Chair on this group was the Maldon District Council elected Member representative, which had now changed to Cllr Bassenger.
Water Safety at Hullbridge
16) On 14 September 2021 the Steering Group resolved to set up another Working Group, the terms of reference for which are attached at Appendix 2. On 27October 2021 the Working Group met to discuss the increased use of craft on the water which is inflating the risk to the public agreed it is this which needs a multi-agency response. Jet skis are the most serious problem – poor use and unlicensed use is creating danger to life and limb on the water. Ski boats and other high-powered craft are also causing the same risks but with less frequency. The Group also noted risks relating to paddle boarders and wild swimmers as well as an elevated risk of pedestrians ending up in the water e.g. along the coastal path and the limitations of emergency services in remote coastal areas.
17) It was also acknowledged that increased use of the water creates disturbance to wildlife and ecology of the river which although not related to public safety was, nonetheless, an important fact of which the public ought to be made aware. It was felt that by raising awareness of environmental impact, water users may be more motivated to use greater care.
18) The Working Group agreed that education of the public was the best policy. There would always be those who choose to flout the law, but that was a matter for the police and for CHA. Raising educational awareness through a targeted communications/PR campaign would create a higher number of users who were better prepared which in turn will mitigate risk. This work would need to be ready to go in time for Easter 2022 as historically this has been the time when activity on the water starts to pick up. A social media campaign this summer had produced some excellent materials which could be re-used in any future campaign although it was agreed that hard copy materials in the form of posters and flyers would also be necessary to create a visual reminder. An Action Plan has been drafted in order to achieve this and the Group will continue to work to this Action Plan, reporting progress to the Steering Group.
19) Monies held by Rochford District Council on behalf of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team as at 10 November 2021 stand at £1,498. There have been no drawdowns during this reporting period.
Opportunities for the year ahead
20) The River Crouch Coastal Community Team will continue to progress the projects referenced within this report. In particular, the Steering Group will look to strengthen its advocacy role in the protection and promotion of the River Crouch and its environs.