Right of Reply: Paul Warren

The chief executive of Rochford District Council replies to Natasha Walter's article on the protesters opposing the development of Hockley wood

THE "WOOD" mentioned in Natasha Walter's article (29 November) is not woodland, nor is it within the green belt. It is an old plotland area, with most of the housing long since demolished, and with gardens overgrown.

Though the planning application has brought matters to a head, the future of this site was settled when it was allocated for development in the late Eighties. The district council had to identify sufficient land to accommodate a given number of houses. If this site had not been identified, some other, possibly more environmentally valuable site, would have been brought forward. The current debate would be occurring elsewhere.

The application has been the subject of consultation and negotiation. By controlling the number of houses, the council has been able to secure a high level of environmental protection. English Nature and Essex Wildlife have been involved in shaping the development; even the residents' association chairman has acknowledged the council's efforts.

This council is an environmentally caring one. Its record on green-belt protection is proven. It owns and manages Hockley woods, a well-used local public amenity, and has done much to secure and retain public open spaces throughout the district.

The presumption that protesters care more than councillors is not true. Local people become councillors because they care about their community. Councillors have to work within, and through, the system to achieve change.

While the assertion that there is too much development would undoubtedly find broad agreement from the public almost everywhere, it is untrue to say that the protesters' tactics have wide support in Hockley. What is true is that certain of them have received wide press coverage.

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