Extract from ‘Rochford News’ Issue 11 pages 15 - 18

Although you may have often used many of the footpaths and bridle ways in the attractive countryside area of the Rochford District, you may not have known that you were possibly walking through a large rural Conservation Zone, in which the Council along with an established Group of Representatives comprising members of the Parish Councils, local Conservation and Recreation Organisations and the landowners, actively pursue the preservation and enhancement of the rural landscape and attempt to identify the potential problems of the various overlapping interests throughout this Conservation Zone.

The Conservation Zone is that of the Roach Valley, which was set up by the Council in 1976 in recognition of the natural beauty and wildlife value of that area. The extent of the Conservation Zone is depicted on the map overleaf, from which it can be seen that it stretches from Hockley Woods in the west where the landscape has an undulating form and takes in the headwaters of the Roach, as far as Foulness Island in the east where the landscape is predominantly flatter and almost entirely in arable use.

With the final approval of the Essex County Structure Plan by the Secretary of State for the Environment earlier this year, came the retention of the green belt throughout the district apart from Foulness Island, and this therefore covers the majority of the Roach Valley Conservation Zone, giving the Zone a greater protection against urban development. However, the Roach Valley Conservation Zone itself has never been formally recognised by the Essex County Council, but following recent discussions with the parties concerned it is anticipated that official recognition will be forthcoming shortly by means of its inclusion in a Countryside Conservation Subject Plan, giving the Zone the recognition it so well deserves, and this will be given statutory backing in the District Plan being prepared by Rochford District Council.

The Council meets regularly with the Group of Representatives to discuss how the landscape in the Conservation Zone can be preserved and enhanced, whilst at the same time allowing its recreational potential to be realised and the agricultural needs of the Zone to be met. These objectives are often conflicting, and this is where the skills and persuasive powers of the Group of Representatives are most urgently needed in, for example, getting landowners to agree to preserve hedgerows and other prominent natural features but still allowing for economical farming practices, and by persuading walkers and horse riders to adhere to the defined routes. The Group of Representatives is always actively pursuing these management tasks, and their terms of reference also include such topics as archaeology, historic buildings, the protection of trees and woodlands and way marking of footpaths and bridle ways. Additionally, the Group comments on planning applications within the Zone.

The Group of Representatives is at present undertaking surveys on the features of the Zone and one of the findings of this survey has been the need to encourage the use of voluntary groups to, for example, clean out the various ponds throughout the Zone. The Chairman of the Council also wishes to promote such schemes within the Roach Valley Conservation Zone as part of his campaign of Civic Pride in his year of office. Among the declared aims of the Chairman are to promote conservation through nature studies in Hockley Woods including the development of a Field Study Centre; to achieve the publication of circular walks leaflets and encourage the participation of schools; to make provision for erecting signs at the boundaries of the Zone; to seek the co-operation of the farmers to avoid stubble burning at weekends, and to promote tree planting and replacement. It is also proposed that competitions be held in future years for conservation projects with the award of trophies and prizes.

Of particular relevance and importance is the fact that the Wildlife and Countryside Act has recently been approved by the Government and affords extra protection to certain plant and animal life. For example the Act protects certain wild birds, their nests and eggs such as the Curlew, Kingfisher and Sandpiper, and various animals including the common otter and red squirrel.

Anyone who wishes to see the new Act may do so at the Council offices in South Street, Rochford.

If you use the Conservation Zone for recreational purposes and wish to see the beautiful landscape of the Zone maintained and improved, you may wish to volunteer your services as an individual, or perhaps you belong to an organisation which you consider may have a contribution to make in achieving the overall purposes of the Zone. If so, you should contact the Director of Town Planning at the Council Offices, South Street, Rochford who will be able to put you in touch with those organising the work in the Zone.

Why not write to him and volunteer your services?

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