Introduction from the Chair - Cllr Mrs June Lumley
1) This is the third 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 4 occasions since November 2021 and I am pleased to present the minutes of those meetings as set out in Appendix 1 (pg 7 - 41) to this report. A ‘Moving Forward’ facilitated workshop was also held on 29th March 2022 that was funded by the Path to Prosperity project. This is summarised in item 6.
3) Unfortunately, the pandemic did continue to impact our ability to convene face to face meetings this past year, but the River Crouch Coastal Community Team has continued to meet virtually via Zoom and Teams. Our most recent meeting in September 2022 was held in a hybrid format to enable those that wished to attend in person the opportunity to do so at our Rochford office, whilst others attended virtually, this format proved to be a useful and effective way to manage the meeting.
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 any members of the public who have joined us at this physical 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. In accordance with the groups Terms of Reference, annual elections take place at the AGM and therefore the following appointments were agreed by voting in November 2021:
- Chairperson – Cllr Mrs. June Lumley, Elected Councillor from RDC
- Vice Chairperson (Business, Maritime Community or Independent) – Doug MacEwen, Crouch Area Yachting Federation
For reference purposes, other members of the Steering Group are noted below, with some changes of personnel, and the addition of the Essex Coast RAMS Delivery Officer:
- Accountable Body - Elected Councillor RDC - Cllr David Sperring
- Accountable Body - Economic Development Officer RDC - Paula Chapman
- Public Sector - Elected Councillor from MDC - Cllr Mark G Bassenger
- Public Sector - Specialist (Tourism) - Communications, Marketing &
- Engagement from MDC - Alexis Corless
- Public Sector - Economic Development Officer - Chelmsford City Council - Helen Quinnell
- Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Hullbridge Parish Council - Cllr Paul 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 - Cllr David Phillips
- Public Sector - Elected Cllr - Burnham-on-Crouch Town Council - Cllr Bob Calver
- Public Sector - Elected Cllr - South Woodham Ferrers Town Council - Cllr Alan Shearring
- Public Sector – Essex Coast RAMS Delivery Officer - Chelmsford City Council (Bird Aware) - Leanne Brisland
- Maritime Sector - Crouch Harbour Authority - Ken Wickham
- Maritime Sector - Representative from the Boating Community - Crouch Area Yachting Association – No nomination received
- Independent - RCCCT Vice Chairperson 2019 & 2020 - Keith Powell
- The Business Community - RSPB - Rachel Fancy
- The Business Community - 3 Chambers (Hockley, Rayleigh, Rochford) - Dave Record
- The Business Community - Burnham on Crouch Business Board - No nomination received.
- The Business Community - Baltic Distribution Limited - Robert Brown - General Manager
- The Business Community - Battlesbridge Business - Roy Hart
Angela Hutchings was Strategic Director at Rochford District Council and has since left the authority to become Chief Executive at Castle Point Borough Council. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for the contribution she made to this group. Marcus Hotten, Director for Environment is now the lead officer representing RDC within this group.
Path to Prosperity project
6) The Steering Group has continued to support the Path to Prosperity project, although the project is now winding down with funding ceasing in June 2023 and most of the allocated funds now spent. However, the following has been achieved since the last annual report:
- Joint funding allowed Maldon DC to procure an external consultancy, Rubicon Regeneration to facilitate a workshop for the River Crouch CCT Steering Group members to explore and discuss ‘Moving Forward’. A questionnaire of members took place prior to the March event which was held at The Rayleigh Club in Rayleigh. See Appendix 2 (pg 42 - 44) for their summary and next steps report.
- The district councils continue to receive annual statistics from the footfall counters along the coastal paths and these have been upgraded to obtain data remotely and with increased battery life. The Jan 2022 - Sept 22 report shows Hullbridge achieving its highest count, approx. 18,000 in June, which assuming the counter counts people walking past and back again equates to 9,000 visitors in just one month and over 42,000 from April to September.
- The Go Jauntly digital app continues to prove popular with 24 coastal trails on the Essex Coast. It includes trails in all 3 local authority areas around the River Crouch and Roach and all achieving good level of views online. South Woodham Ferrers circular route is by far the most popular in the area and still maintaining the highest number of completed walks along the whole Essex coast!
- The information boards at South Woodham Ferrers continue to be popular with residents and visitors alike. A third board has been developed for Fen Creek and is awaiting installation. The installation of the board has been delayed due to reoccurring flooding along part of the suggested footpath route, a matter that is currently being worked through with relevant stakeholders. Once necessary repairs have been carried out and the area is permissible again the board can be put in place.
- The three local authorities within the Steering Group jointly commissioned a video using drone footage to promote the River Crouch to visitors. The video is due to be published.
- RDC has also now published their River Roach video on their YouTube channel and a link to it can be found on the Council’s CCT website page here: https://www.rochford.gov.uk/cct
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 September 2022:
It’s all very much as before. Progress is out of Natural England’s control as we await the outcome of the review of the objections being undertaken by the Planning Inspector.
In order to preserve their impartiality they work in isolation and NE has no input to any timescales they may set themselves. So we wait and we find out their conclusions after they have reported to Defra. Defra post the Inspectors reports on-line and expressly notify Natural England and the Objectors at the same time. As it is posted on the public website this is available for others to view, but no one else is contacted directly.
I appreciate the prior suggestion was that the Planning Inspectorate may have reported in the spring of 2022. This was taken from the verbal comments made by the Planning Inspector when they concluded each visit.
Then as reported in February, if Defra (Secretary of State) has approved the stretch of the England Coast Path as a result of the Inspectors reports it allows Essex County Council to apply to establish the stretch. Another part of the process outside of Natural England’s control. Again ECC will move on establishment at their own pace. Once established we can move to legally commence the access rights and open the stretch. My personal assessment of the timescales for this based on past ECC delivery is that
this opening may not be for at least another 2 or 3 years yet. This will mean that the likes of the section from Wallasea to Hullbridge that was approved in spring 2021 and still hasn’t been considered by ECC for establishment (they perhaps understandably prefer to work in a whole stretch) could be almost 5 years between approval of route and the coastal access rights opening to the public.
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 their other work areas (such as the Site of Special Scientific Interest – SSSI), so we will continue to liaise with them.
9) I along with other members of this group were invited to the official opening of the two stretches that cover Tilbury to Wallasea Island on the national coastal path on 13th July. Although I was unable to attend, NE report that there was a good level of attendance and support and a fair amount of press coverage, including a slot on the BBC regional evening and next morning TV news.
10) The work of the Steering Group’s Working Groups this year is summarised below:
12) This group has yet to convene this year.
13) It was agreed in June 2022 that the Digital Group to be disbanded and its Terms of Reference (aim being to create a profile for the community through a digital format to promote and share imagery of the Crouch) to be covered under the new RCCCT Vision Refresh Group.
RCCCT Vision Refresh
14) This group was formulated in June 2022 to take forward the recommendations of the ‘Moving Forward’ Workshop. The Terms of Reference as follows:
- Review the vision and terms of reference of the RCCCT in the light of the workshop on 29th March 22
- Propose any changes to the Steering Group and/or wider RCCCT for
- Report back to the Steering Group at its next meeting or earlier to the Chair if necessary.
15) Notes of the inaugural meeting held in September 2022 are included at Appendix 1 (pages 39 – 41).
Water Safety at Hullbridge
16) A water safety on the River Crouch Campaign Plan was produced in Spring 2022 and promoted via RDC social media and across stakeholder networks. A digital campaign is currently being explored to maximise the outreach.
17) Following the group’s recommendation, Anglian Water attended a meeting of the Steering Group in September 2022 and provided an update on their Initiative to Clean up and Revitalise Rivers Across East Anglia.
18) Essex Police Marine Unit Initiatives – PC Rawson is a guest on this group and presented to the Steering Group at their last meeting about anti-social behaviour concerns on the River Crouch, working with the RCCCT to address.
19) The PSPO Group was incepted in September 2022. Terms of Reference as follows: To carry out a feasibility study for introducing a Public Space Protection Order for Rivers Crouch and Roach to manage the unruly use PWC ( jet skis ) within speed limit areas and report back to CCCT Steering Committee.
20) The Group held its inaugural meeting in October 2022 and will now report back to the RCCCT Steering Group.
21) Monies held by Rochford District Council on behalf of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team as at 1 November 2022 stand at £1,498. There have been no drawdowns during this reporting period.
Opportunities for the year ahead
22) 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.