Introduction from the Chair - Cllr Mrs June Lumley
1) This is the first 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 four occasions since September 2019 and I am pleased to present the minutes of those meetings as set out in Appendix 1 to this report.
3) There is no doubt that COVID 19 has proved to be a significant impediment to the operation of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team and planned meetings in April and July of this year had to be cancelled. However, technology has subsequently allowed us to meet again, most recently in September and, of course, today.
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
New Governance Arrangements
5)The work of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team is led by a Steering Group comprising the following members:
Elected Councillor from RDC - Chairperson - Cllr Mrs. June Lumley
Business, Maritime Community or Independent - Vice Chairperson - Keith Powell
Accountable Body - Elected Councillor RDC - Cllr Simon Wootton
Accountable Body - Economic Development Officer RDC - Paula Chapman
Public Sector - Elected Councillor from MDC - Cllr Nick Skeens
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 - Elected member stood down –awaiting furthernomination.
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) - Awaiting new nomination following resignation of member
The Business Community - Burnham Chamber of Commerce - No nomination received.
The Business Community - Baltic Wharf - Matt Mason – Port Director
The Business Community - Battlesbridge Business - Roy Hart
6) The Steering Group has agreed new terms of reference for the operation of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team to reflect the change in leadership and to renew its original objectives. These are set out at Appendix 2 to this report.
7) The Steering Group has also agreed a “petty cash” policy for reimbursement of reasonable expenses (to a maximum of £20) incurred by a member of the Steering Group, in the course of his/her membership of the RCCCT. This is set out at Appendix 3 to this report.
Path to Prosperity Project
8) The Steering Group has also contributed to the Path to Prosperity project. There are various elements to this project and its progress has been delayed by the pandemic. However, the following has been achieved so far:
- Large poster maps are now displayed in all the mainline railway stations in Rochford, Chelmsford and Maldon districts to highlight walking routes to the coast and public facilities available en route.
- 9 Pedestrian Counters have been installed at key locations on the coast to measure visitor numbers and we will receive a report every 6 months.
- Essex County Council with Districts have commissioned Go Jauntly to produce 12 coastal trails on the Essex Coast within their digital trail app. This includes a trail in Burnham, South Woodham Ferrers and Rochford Town, (along River Roach). Going live mid-November.
- Two new leaflets have been produced ‘30 Things to do on the Essex Coast’ and an educational children’s coastal activity booklet that schools can also use for 7-10 year olds.
- The Hopper bus service to encourage use of sustainable transport is now due to launch as a 6 month pilot on 27th March 2021, subject to funders approval for an extension to the project end date due to COVID-19 and public health guidelines. f) 17 places filled on fully funded Business Leadership course
- 13 of those will go on to do an apprenticeship
- Fully funded Customer Service training courses are proving difficult to fill at this time, although Adult Community Learning is still trying to do this
- New web pages/microsite is now live for Essex Path to Prosperity called The Essex Coast
- Visit Essex is leading on the promotional campaign for EP2P/the Essex Coast and commissioned seasonal photography and a coastal video and is working closely with local districts to deliver this
- Public rights of way is scheduled on 6th November to complete installation of final finger posts, ‘to the coast’ making a total of 23 across the coastal Essex near the coastal paths.
- 1 railway booklet produced with 12 coastal walks by the Essex & South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership
- 4 coastal branch line information leaflets created with nature/history about coastal areas (E.g. Mayflower line, Crouch Valley line etc)
- 5 coastal interpretation boards commissioned for local railway stations regarding natural history of areas near coast
- Commitment from the ECC Community Team for Social Inclusion and Mobility to fill 500 places for the art and photography coastal courses to help wellbeing and mental health
Coastal Path Project
9. The Steering Group has also contributed to the Coastal Path project. The route for Wallasea through to Southend-on-Sea had only received one objection in the public consultation on the proposed route, which involved a Public Right of Way. Therefore, ECC have now commenced establishment works. The public consultation closed for the Burnham to Wallasea proposed route, in March 2020 and representations were made on behalf of the CCT by both Rochford District and Parish Councils.
10. Darren Braine, Senior Adviser and lead for the England Coast Path stretch around the Crouch Estuary from Natural England, which includes Burnham to Wallasea, has provided this update:
There hasn’t been a great deal of progress since the last report. There were a few objections scattered around the estuary, and these are now with the Planning Inspectorate for consideration. We await their instruction on any site visit plans to review these. They will then make a judgement and pass this to Defra for action. This could be at least 6 months away, perhaps longer. If there is deemed no need to change the planned alignment we can then work with Essex County Council to establish the trail and once established to open it. Our proposals had to consider land use and there are certain land use types we cannot propose the England Coast Path passes over. If we can’t go over this type of land, then our only alternative is to go around it. Along this whole section around the Crouch Estuary we encountered several locations where there are houses and gardens that extend to the water’s edge that presented as a barrier to the onward water’s edge alignment we would favour. This left us no choice but to go around. And in one particular location, we had a railway line to cross and we can only use the existing crossing points. The land use constraints have dictated the type of alignment we could propose.
11. Following consideration of potential projects and ideas, the Steering Group launched three Working Groups:
Fambridge to Maldon Rail Link
12. This is a project to research potential grant funding to increase access to the coast, following the Government’s pledge to bring back historic rail lines, improving connectivity for communities across the country. Working Group Membership comprised: Fiona Clegg, Alan Shearring, Keith Powell (Project Group Lead), Doug MacEwen, Glen Dryhurst and Nick Skeens.
13. At the first meeting on 10th February, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding over the proposed route of the railway in this project and that it was an improvement and development of the existing Wickford to Southminster line (the Crouch Valley Line) that was proposed so the group agreed to proceed on that basis. The reasons for this project were explored and showed that the project would benefit the whole of the Dengie peninsular because the existing roads are very congested at peak times, it would provide improved communications would encourage greater tourism, particularly if the proposed hopper bus service could be integrated given end to end public transport. It also improved communications to assist in improved recruitment and retention for employers in the area served by the proposed line. The line would provide far better means of the carriage of personnel and materials during the building phase and again during the operational phase with the added improvement for waste removal for re-processing.
14. A project bid was started on this basis but it then transpired that the project had to be put forward by the appropriate member of parliament. Discussions were held with John Whittingdale MP and we were advised that he was going to support the potential line between Maldon and Stanstead. On that basis the work ceased.
Footpath from High Elms Park, Hullbridge to the Dome, Hockley
15. This is a project to consider improved access and route of a footpath, in liaison with David Wilson Homes. 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.
16. At the first meeting of this group it became clear that the scope of the group needed to be widened because the subject was greater than just a small section of footpath that needed to be repaired/re-routed. The group therefore put forward revised terms of reference in order that they could integrate a number of differing activities. These were:
- Establish the current overall situation regarding the provision of footpaths in the coastal areas bordering the Rivers Crouch and Roach.
- Undertaking this with particular emphasis on the Identification of the footpaths that link with the “Paths to Prosperity” and those that are incorporated into the England Coast Path in order that they may be given priority.
- Identify these featured paths with the “walk routes” given on the “Explore” leaflet.
- From this work, identify areas where improvement is required.
- Identify the responsibility, the resources and potential collaborations needed to bring about these improvements and the appropriate consents.
17. We have taken the first of these objectives, identified three particular difficulties and three active members of the group have taken responsibility for researching these and proposing actions.
18. 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 Nick Skeens.
19. Although this group was suggested, it has not been able to meet and there was a good deal of overlap of membership of the group with other initiatives which have seemed to have taken up the time available.
20. If members of the Steering Group agree, we can re-constitute this group.
21. Monies held by Rochford District Council on behalf of the River Crouch Coastal Community Team as at the date of this report stand at £1488. This comprises the original transfer of £1510 from Maldon District Council less the sum of £12 which was paid to Rochford District Council in reimbursement of room booking charges.
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 and its environs.