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Essex Chronicle stories feed from registered users of the site and Northcliffe Media editorial

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    A woman involved in this morning's crash on the northbound A12 was left lying in her overturned car half an hour before she was discovered.

    The victim, in her 30s, came off the carriageway between junctions 13 at Ingatestone and junction 14 at Margaretting. She was found by another driver, who also came off the field at around 7.15am.

    Firefighters used one set of specialist cutting equipment and gave first aid, before she was rushed to Queen's Hospital at 8.30am with hypothermia and head injuries.

    Station Officer Phil Pidgeon said: "The first car had left the roadway and overturned in a field leaving a woman trapped, we believe she was trapped in her vehicle for about 30 minutes before a second vehicle left the roadway in the same place.

    "The driver from the second car was not trapped and was uninjured, he discovered the woman trapped in the overturned car as she was sounding her car horn to raise the alarm.

    "The uninjured driver then called the fire service. The fire crews worked in an extremely difficult environment and did an excellent job to rescue the woman."

    Woman hurt in snowbound A12 crash 'went unnoticed for 30 minutes'

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    CHELMSFORD City have extended the loan of MK Dons defender Harry Hickford until the end of the season.

    The 18-year-old, in his second spell with the Clarets, originally joined on a one-month deal from the League One club just before Christmas.

    Meanwhile, Clarets defender Marvin Ekpiteta has signed dual registration with Ryman Premier club Witham Town.

    Chelmsford City extended MK Dons defender's loan until end of season

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    Colchester General Hospital has been rated 'inadequate' by the Care Quality Commission, which has taken urgent enforcement action to protect patients.

    In a report, published today, it was revealed that the CQC had informed Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust of the emergency measure following inspections that took place last year.

    Following the inspections on November 12 and 27, and December 23, 2014, carried out in response to concern about performance and care received by patients, the hospital's Urgent and Emergency Services and Medical Care have been rated as 'inadequate' overall, while it also received an overall rating of 'inadequate'.

    CQC's Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: "As a result of the issues highlighted as part of our inspection I wrote to Colchester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. My letter informed the trust Chief Executive that CQC was using its urgent powers to take action with regard to the accident and emergency department at Colchester General Hospital.

    "The action placed conditions on the trust's registration to help it improve how patients are assessed, discharged and transferred for the most appropriate medical attention. I also told the trust that it must ensure patient safety by introducing new ways of organising the emergency admissions unit.

    "The trust is already in special measures and we informed Monitor of the breaches and of our action.

    "Clearly improvements are needed and the trust faces a number of challenges to ensure it meets the required standards. The trust is aware of what action it now needs to take and our inspectors will return to check on whether the required improvements have been made. We will then decide whether or not it is appropriate to remove the conditions placed on the services at Colchester General Hospital."

    Staffing levels were not sufficient to ensure safety of patients could be maintained at all times. And while patients spoke positively about the care they received, the pressures on staff were having a detrimental effect on care.

    Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council's cabinet member for adult's and children's services, said: "We are disappointed to read the outcome of the CQC report today, particularly given these are issues that have been raised before and a substantial amount of time and effort has been focused on improvements.

    "As the lead authority for safeguarding in the county, our primary concern is patient safety. We are a critical friend to CHUFT and are offering them an unprecedented level of support in order for them to return to the standard that patients deserve.

    "We are actively involved in the Trust's recovery plan, in our opinion the plan is strong with key activities and targets identified. This plan identifies widespread, radical change and we are confident that the new leadership team are implementing the early stages of this plan, but acknowledge radical change takes time. We will continue to ensure progress is being clearly evidenced and key issues are urgently acted upon."

    The hygiene of the emergency department, and staff, were also called into question by the report.

    Colchester General Hospital rated inadequate by CQC: Enforcement action taken to protect patients

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    Essex Police officers are investigating whether a latest burglary in Wickham Bishops is connected to an incident in Tiptree in which another elderly person was tricked out of cash.

    Two men tricked their way into an 81-year-old woman's home in Witham Road, distracted her and stole her purse containing a three-figure cash sum around midday on Wednesday, January 28.

    The first suspect is described as white, called himself John, was around 5ft 10 tall, slim build and with short dark hair. The second suspect had short fair hair and is shorter and broader.

    There was a small white van parked nearby that the men are believed to have used.

    A police spokesman said: "Detectives are investigating whether this is linked to a similar incident in Tiptree on Monday, January 26."

    On the Monday a man tricked his way into the West End Road home belonging to a man in his mid 70s before stealing his wallet containing cash and cards at about 4.15pm on Monday, January 26.

    The spokesman said detectives were not investigating whether this latest burglary was linked to a similar episode in Danbury, when a suspect stole a 79-year-old man's red Jaguar.

    Anyone with any information is asked to contact Pc Neil Tremain at Chelmsford CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

    Trickster burglary in Wickham Bishops could be linked to cash theft in Tiptree

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    A neighbour allegedly saw a drug dealer accused of murder wiping down blood from a door after a fight with the victim.

    Abagail Pollard told Chelmsford Crown Court today (Friday, January 30) that she saw murder accused Luke Eva wiping blood from the door of a flat in Cressing Road, Braintree, on April 16, last year.

    She told the jury via video link from the west country that after hearing shouting and arguing coming from the upstairs flat she went up the stairs and saw alleged victim, Michael Haastrup, also 24, holding a claw hammer and shouting at the defendant, "you're going to die".

    Miss Pollard called the police but the phone she was using was not working properly.

    However the call was still connected to the police control room and Eva was heard say, "what, you called the old Bill? Don't need no old Bill on this".

    Mr Haastrup's friend, James McGowan, who was also in the flat told how the defendant and Michael were grappling when they fell on top of him as he lay on the sofa.

    Mr McGowan tried to get Eva off his friend but was punched in the nose and kneed in the jaw, leaving him with blood pouring down his face.

    James left the flat and shouted at Michael to follow, before going back armed with a piece of wood and a hammer.

    Eva started to come down the stairs with a walking stick he found in the flat.

    James and Luke waved the weapons at each other and exchanged insults, before Michael suggested leaving the scene.

    It was not until McGowan and Haastrup had run outside to a nearby bus stop that Michael realised something was wrong.

    "He said 'stop there's something wrong', I lifted up his t-shirt and there was a small one-inch cut, it didn't look like anything," said McGowan.

    "His legs went and he started to collapse, as he did that he said 'tell my son I love him'."

    James carried his friend a few steps as he called for an ambulance with his other hand and the defendant came towards them.

    Mr McGowan said Eva hit him with the walking stick, slashed his coat with a knife and chased hims towards the Orange Tree pub.

    Both men went back towards the flat and James tried to help Mr Haastrup as he lay on the floor.

    As Eva fled the scene he allegedly shouted, "that's what you get", to Michael as he lay against a garden wall.

    Mr Haastrup, who had become a father only five months before his death, was taken to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, and died the next morning from a single stab wound to the heart.

    Yesterday the court heard how Haastrup and Eva had fallen out over a territorial drugs row and the quality of drugs each were supplying.

    The trial continues. 

    Braintree murder accused Luke Eva told neighbour 'don't need no old Bill', court hears

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    Do you recognise this woman?

    Essex Police would like to identify her in connection with the theft of household laundry products stolen from the Co-op shop in Havengore in Chelmsford at about 7pm on Friday, December 19.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Pc Andrew Sweeting at Chelmsford police station on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

    Police tracing woman over Havengore Co-op laundry theft

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    MORE than 1,400 criminal cases were dropped by Essex Crown Prosecution Service in the space of a year for reasons such as missing evidence, victims refusing to give evidence and immunity from prosecution.

    Between September 31, 2013 and October 1 last year, 2,253 of 17,233 cases resulted in unsuccessful prosecutions, with 1,413 of those cases being discontinued.

    Jenny Hopkins, chief crown prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: "We are committed to continually improving our performance and the service we offer to victims and witnesses.

    "When a case does not go ahead we will discuss with the police where it is appropriate to do so what has happened and if there are any lessons to be learned by either organisation.

    "We also have a duty to keep cases under continual review and where further evidence comes to light that undermines the prosecution case, and which means there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction, it would be wrong for us to continue.

    "When that happens we will write to the victim to explain."

    These figures released in a Freedom of Information request made by the Chronicle show that 119 cases were dropped because an essential statement or exhibit was "not available".

    In 158 cases proceedings had to be discontinued because the victim failed to attend court and 136 because an "unreliable/lack of identification of defendant" by a witness. And 47 were dropped because of an incorrect charging decision made by the police or the CPS and there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

    Ms Hopkins went on to say that in some situations it is right that a case is dropped.

    She said: "We had a conviction rate of 87.5 per cent in the magistrates' courts and 81.5 per cent in the crown court in Essex in 2013 to 2014, so the number of cases we discontinued, or where a defendant was acquitted, is a small proportion of the cases we prosecute successfully."

    Lack of other forms of evidence such as scientific or forensic analysis makes up 27 of the cases dropped and in 14 instances evidence was inadmissible due to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) not being followed correctly by officers.

    PACE covers police powers while searching, arresting, detaining or interviewing a suspect, so if it is not followed correctly, it may lead to evidence obtained during the process becoming inadmissible in court.

    Other evidence can also be excluded by the court where it is considered too prejudicial, such as hearsay evidence.

    In addition, reasons for ceasing cases included 258 because the victim either refused or retracted their evidence, 216 due to a conflict of prosecution evidence – which is where new statements come to light that contradict previous evidence.

    And three cases were canned because they involved an informant or "other public interest immunity issues".

    CPS ESSEX - reasons for prosecutions dropped 2013-2014
    Inadmissible evidence or other 14
    No file/upgrade file received from the police 13
    Essential scientific/technical/medical/other expert evidence not available 27
    Essential statement, exhibit or other evidence not available 119
    Disclosure issues with CPS or Police 8
    Conflict of prosecution evidence 216
    Unreliable/lack of identification of defendant 136
    Incorrect charging decision - legal element missing 47
    Documents produced at court 15
    Victim refuses to give evidence or retracts 258
    Victim fails to attend 158
    Evidence of victim does not come up to proof, but no retraction 31
    Key witness (non-victim) refuses to give evidence/retracts/not up to proof 43
    Key witness (non-victim) does not attend court 26
    Police witness fails to attend 6
    Inappropriate to compel victim or witness 22
    Informer or other public interest immunity issues 3
    Loss or harm minor/single incident/harm put right/nominal penalty 41
    Defendant circumstances - youth, elderly or in significant ill health 36
    Delay between offence/charge or trial 13
    Other indictment/charges/sentence/acceptable pleas to other matters 56
    Caution more suitable 63
    Conditional caution more suitable 13
    Offence taken into consideration 14
    Bind over acceptable 13
    CPS not ready - adjournment refused (evidence or other) 7
    Other 15
    Prosecutions dropped 1,413
    Unsuccessful 2,253
    Convictions 14,980
    Total prosecuted defendants 17,233

    Revealed: Essex Crown Prosecution Service drop 1,413 criminal cases in a year

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    AVERAGE speed cameras are to be installed on the A12 at Kelvedon, the Highways Agency announced today.

    Work will start on the 70mph speed restrictions on Monday, February 9, in a bid to improve safety.

    The new measures follow a number of accidents at Kelvedon, while cameras will also be installed at Hughes Corner near Ipswich.

    Highways Agency Project Manager, Martin Oliver, said:"Safety is top priority for the Highways Agency, and this scheme to install average speed cameras will help to make the road safer for drivers on the A12 at these locations.

    "The A12 is a vital route and enforcing the speed limit is part of our commitment to keeping journeys on it safe and reliable for the thousands of drivers who depend on it every day.

    "We have worked with our contractors to ensure the disruption is kept to a minimum by planning the works overnight and by combining the Hughes Corner scheme with the resurfacing works on the A12 between junctions 31 and 33."

    The work at Kelvedon, between Rivenhall End and Easthorpe at Junction 24, will take six weeks.

    Lane one will be shut in both directions, between 8pm and 6am, and the entry and slip roads will also be shut at junctions 23 and 24.

    For the slip road closures at Kelvedon, motorists travelling northbound will be to be diverted via the A12 junction 24 and A1024. Those travelling southbound will continue along the A12 to junction 22 and return via the A12 northbound to junctions 23 and 24.

    A12 at Kelvedon to get average speed cameras, says Highways Agency

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    A jury has criticised the Broomfield-based mental health clinic, the Linden centre, whilst delivering a verdict into the death of 20-year-old Matthew Leahy today.

    Matthew, 20, from Heybridge was found dead at the centre on November 15 2012 and this afternoon (January 30) a five-day inquest into his death was concluded at Essex County Hall coroner's court in Victoria Road South, Chelmsford.

    A jury returned an 'open narrative' verdict stating that the Linden Centre, part of the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEPFT), had made a "series of multiple failings over a long period of time" and that "relevant processes and procedures were not adhered to".

    During the hearing jurors heard about three nurses colluding to create a false care plan after he had died, staff that changed observation levels without authority and Police accidentally destroying key evidence.

    He was described as "kind, caring and sensitive" by his mother Melanie Leahy who gave evidence during the five-day hearing.

    Outside court Ms Leahy said she was "happy" with the verdict. She said: "We are very happy with the verdict today. We hope there will be an inquiry into my son's death. The death of Matthew has caused the family overwhelming grief.  

    "I feel if my son had received the care he deserved he would still be here today."

    "Jurors saw through to the truth and in time more will come out about my sons death."

    Matthew had suffered with psychosis brought on by cannabis use and was sectioned after a psychotic episode where he used a baseball bat to smash up his dad's caravan, threatened to kill himself, and self-harmed on November 7 2012.

    Eight days later, on November 15, at around 12.04pm, he was found hanging in his room on the Galleywood ward of the centre using a pillow case or bed sheets attached to peg in his room.

    And Senior Coroner Mrs Caroline Beasley-Murray said that there could be a public inquiry after the jury's findings but this was up to the trust.

    Andrew Geldard, Chief Executive of North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust said: "We would like to express our sorrow at the tragic death of Matthew and extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

    "This case highlights some of the difficulties with mental illness. In particular, the difficulties of striking a balance between depriving someone of their liberty, keeping them safe and helping them to get better."

    Ms Leahy had given evidence during the trial saying: "Matthew was my only child and I would do anything for him."

    "A patient deserves to be looked after and this clearly didn't happen, the loss of Matthew has devastated our family and friends.

    "I'll do everything in my power to stop this happening again."

    Jurors at Essex Coroner's Court had heard how three nurses have been disciplined for creating a false care plan after Matthew had died - with one dismissed by the healthcare trust.

    Nurses Nojeeb Naushad and Amy Constable have been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, with their hearings due to be concluded today.

    Consultant psychiatrist Dr Hashad Gopisetty, the most senior clinician in charge of Matthew's care, said that normally a care plan should established "within 72 hours" but none could be found.

    Linden Centre could face public inquiry after jury finds

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    A nurse admitted falsifying a care plan for a 20-year-old Heybridge man, who had hanged himself at the troubled Linden Centre after he had died.

    It comes on the same day as a jury criticised the Broomfield-based mental health clinic whilst delivering an "open narrative" verdict into the death of Matthew Leahy.

    The jury stated that the Linden Centre, part of the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEPFT), had made a "series of multiple failings over a long period of time" and that "relevant processes and procedures were not adhered to".

    At a Nursing and Midwifery council (NMC) hearing today (January 30) Amy Lara Constable was deemed to have her practise impaired and will have a 12-month caution order.

    Another nurse who is alleged to have falsified the care plan, Mr Naushad Nojeeb, had his hearing adjourned before findings on fact according to the council.

    A report from the hearing said: "your signing of the care plan were traumatic and place you under great stress.

    "Your actions were a mistake which you corrected in due course.

    "The panel was, however, of the view that despite the clear mitigation in this case, your act of signing of a back dated care plan without checking what you were signing, and would have a serious impact public confidence in the integrity of medical records and the nursing profession."

    It was also stated in the report that Constable was asked by a senior manager to sign a backdated care plan shortly after Matthew's death.

    And that: "You did not know, and it is not suggested that you knew, that the care plan had been drafted after Patient E's death."

    A jury returned an open narrative verdict at an inquest into the death of Matthew Leahy today at Essex Coroners Court, Victoria Road South, Chelmsford, Essex.

    Matthew was found dead at the centre, based near Broomfield hospital, on November 15 2012.

    During the inquest jurors heard about three nurses colluding to create a false care plan after he had died, staff that changed observation levels without authority and Police accidentally destroying key evidence.

    Mrs Constable is cautioned for her behaviour but is not prevented from practising. During this time employers can check the nurse or midwife's registration details and see why the caution order has been issued and how long for.

    Nurse admits falsifying care plan after patient, Matthew Leahy, had died

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    A SELFLESS mother-of-three is fighting to sign heavyweight champion Frank Bruno for a knockout charity boxing night dedicated to an old school friend battling cancer.

    Mandy Thomas, husband Adrian and boxing colleague Richard will host a night of sparring at Chelmsford Social Club to raise money for bed-bound Emma Thorogood.

    To pack the night's biggest punch, however, Mandy is appealing to businesses to pay the £2,700 fee Bruno's management firm are asking for his appearance.

    "It would be amazing if he turned up," said the 35-year-old of Hopkins Mead in Chelmer Village.

    "If he even watched just one of the boys' fights it would be amazing and we would get a lot more people in to make more money for Emma."

    Adrian, a co-partner at Fighting Fit, which trains boxers at Xtreme Muscle Gym in Danbury, will put on 12 to 15 junior and senior fights in front of as many as 250 people at the Springfield Road social club on Saturday, May 2.

    Ex-Farleigh Hospice volunteer Mandy and friend Lindsey Bidwell have already raised £1,125 online for their old Rainsford High School friend.

    The girls hope Emma, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin lymphoma last January, can put the money towards bills or a holiday.

    "It's such an awful illness and this is never going to cure her, but it would be lovely if she can use the money once she's out of hospital to go away for a bit, even if it's just in England, to have the Christmas this year that she wasn't well enough to have," said Mandy, whose father Brian Babbage died from bowel cancer in 2008.

    "Emma was a lovely, funny girl at school. She always had a kind heart, and has been so brave through her illness."

    Adrian, 36, who fought 34 fights and made national finals during his 22 years in the sport, said local boxer "Marvellous" Manny Clarke would fight at the end of the night.

    "It should attract quite a big crowd," said Adrian.

    "It's going to be viral on a local scale and it already seems to have taken off, which is great news for Chelmsford and for Emma."

    Emma, 36, who has undergone 12 rounds of chemotherapy and nine bouts of radiotherapy, was unable to speak to the Chronicle while recovering from stem cell surgery in St Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

    Her husband Ricky said she could return to their Earls Colne home, where they live with their two children, in a matter of weeks following successful surgery.

    "We're really appreciative of what Mandy and her school friends have done, they've gone well out of their way to be really nice – they've been superb ," said Ricky, who admitted the family have suffered a "horrible" year.

    "It would be great to have Frank Bruno. He is a good character as well – that would be superb."

    To buy tickets, which will cost £20 or £25 on the door, to donate raffle prizes or sponsor the event, call Adrian on 07716414950.

    Any businesses which sponsor the event will be invited as VIPs, along with Bruno.

    For Lindsey and Mandy's fundraising page, visit and search "Emma and her family need our support".

    Fight to sign Frank Bruno for Chelmsford boxing night in aid of cancer mum

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    JOHN Lewis marked the beginning of a "game-changing" relationship with Chelmsford as department store bosses took part in a ground-breaking ceremony.

    Tim Harrison, the firm's director of store development, proudly dug the first shovelful of soil on Tuesday morning to signify the beginning of the second phase of the Bond Street development.

    With the retail giant expected to open the store in autumn 2016, Mr Harrison expressed his excitement at the prospect of trading in Chelmsford after 15 years of negotiations.

    "We've worked for a long time to bring John Lewis to Chelmsford, but we're really pleased that we can finally start the last part of this journey," he said.

    "We think this will be a massive game-changer in the sense that out-of-town shopping will be unnecessary. The city matches John Lewis perfectly."

    There were opening speeches from Chelmsford mayor Cllr Bob Villa as well as Tony Chambers, chairman of site developers Aquila.

    Tim Harrison of John Lewis also addressed the 50 invited guests in hi-vis jackets and hard hats who had assembled for the ceremony.

    Mr Chambers remarked that he hopes the development will blossom into a prime retail and leisure venture, with the acquisition of such a heavyweight department store set to create 350 jobs.

    The inevitable boost to the local economy is also something which the leader of Chelmsford City Council, Cllr Roy Whitehead, is keen to witness.

    He said: "It's a project in keeping with our work to revitalise High Chelmer; this will be a very central shopping area and one which will bring a lot of trade to the city. We managed to persuade John Lewis that Chelmsford has the right demographic for them.

    "We're nothing like what you see on The Only Way Is Essex. We're a very diverse city."

    In just under two years, the former 550-space Bond Street car park will have been transformed into 120,000 sq ft of retail space, spread over three floors in cutting-edge architecture.

    Aquila property consultant Neil Ridley said: "We did a lot of research into the area and we found that Chelmsford is a very affluent area. This department store will do wonders for the catchment area and I imagine it will have a huge reach.

    "It's an opportunity for people to shop in the heart of the city. It was the first project we started in 2000, so to see it as a reality is a massive achievement."

    The retailer plans to bring to market 180,000 different assortment lines including fashion, beauty, electronics, home and nursery.

    Contractor Bowmer & Kirkland will have about 100 workers on the site daily, and are scheduled to dig up 55,000 cubic metres of soil to make way for the new tenants.

    John Lewis has reportedly invested around £15million into the development.

    Mr Harrison added: "We really hope this development brings the local community together."

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    COUNCILLORS have let developers "off the hook" by allowing them to build 1,750 homes in north Chelmsford – 400 more than previously thought – before funding a vital new road.

    At a city planning committee meeting on Tuesday last week, members gave developers Bellway and Countryside Zest more time to provide funds for a north Springfield bypass linking new homes with the A12 Boreham Interchange.

    But critics say the verdict will gridlock roads in Springfield.

    "It will be terrible for residents," said Liberal Democrat city councillor for North Springfield Ian Fuller.

    "It's going to be gridlocked because residents won't be able to get out of north Springfield in whatever way."

    When given outline planning permission in October 2012, Bellway agreed to build no more than 350 homes around Channels Golf Course until a £14 million bypass – known as the Radial Distributor Road (RDR) – was complete. A new bridge at the Boreham Interchange, costing £38 million, is also needed.

    The road and bridge are set to be constructed with funds from Bellway and Countryside Zest as part of a Section 106 agreement.

    Similarly Countryside Zest must not build more than 1,000 homes, of the total 3,600 it wants at Beaulieu Park, until the road is complete.

    But Tuesday's committee meeting allowed Bellway to build all 750 of its homes before the road's completion, explaining that clear markings at the Beaulieu Boulevard roundabout, the Park and Ride and a Channels bus service will alleviate traffic.

    Bellway has already funded improvements to a northbound off-slip road at the Boreham Interchange and promised to widen lanes at the Sainsbury's roundabout in White Hart Lane.

    Fellow Lib Dem Stephen Robinson said he and his colleagues would pressure the council to ensure Bellway stick to its promises, adding: "They've let the developer off the hook. It's chaotic just as it is and it will be a whole lot worse."

    GRIDLOCK FEAR: From left, Cllr Ian Fuller, Cllr Jude Deakin and Cllr Stephen Robinson at the Bellway Homes site in Chelmsford

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    ADVENTURER Charlie Pitcher will be taking on his 'toughest challenge yet' by attempting to become the first person to row solo around the British Isles.

    Charlie, 52, from Felsted, has previously twice broken the world record for the fastest solo row across the Atlantic ocean, and will now attempt to circumnavigate the British Isles in a one-man ocean-going rowing boat.

    He will take on the challenge to raise money for the Big Change, a charity supporting young people and raising awareness of key youth issues in local communities.

    And Charlie told the Chronicle that despite this challenge being a lot closer to home, it could be his toughest yet.

    "It's a huge challenge because it's never been done before, and because of that we are unsure how long it may take," he said.

    "But we estimate a similar time to the Atlantic crossing.

    "This could well be my toughest challenge yet. The seas can be very tricky around the UK and there are 75,000 shipwrecks I hope to avoid."

    Charlie will be using a carbon fibre and nomex boat named "Soma", that is equipped with a water-maker, solar panels, and lithium batteries.

    Father of four Charlie added: "It's a row for Britain and a row for a British charity that does a lot of good things for young people. The vessel is as light as possible but also very technical. Going across the Atlantic, I would row 16 hours a day. But it's completely different rowing around Great Britain because you have six hours of tide with you, then six hours against you."

    Charlie hopes to leave London Bridge as early as June 1, and depending on the weather will either head north past the coast of Essex or south past Kent.

    He said: "I certainly don't want to come too close to land and that's the problem with rowing a boat around Britain.

    "We will have weather blowing me towards land, so I've got to fight to get right out to sea so that if I am resting I am doing so in safe waters."

    Charlie is the founder of Burnham-based Rannoch Adventure and is also seeking female teams or individuals for an ocean rowing team that will take on a world record. With no experience necessary, you can contact him on 01621 782127 or e-mail for more details.

    Adventurer Charlie Pitcher aims to do first ever solo row around Britain

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    People in Basildon have been issued an urgent warning by police, after several received phone calls by fraudsters posing as police.

    A number of homes in the Basildon and Wickford areas were targeted in the last week, in the latest in a series of scams in Essex that target the elderly and vulnerable.

    Shortly before Christmas, it was revealed that up to 3,000 people in the county were on a "suckers list" compiled by fraudsters who attempted to scam their victims with postal cons.

    And one pensioner in Coggeshall revealed they had lost more than £3,000 stoeln through postal scamming

    All of the recent calls in the Basildon area were made by someone posing as a police officer from Hammersmith police station, although as yet the fraudsters have not managed to get any money out of the scam and people have reported the attempts to the police.

    Essex Police is asking people please share the following advice with elderly neighbours and relatives.

    *If you are suspicious about a telephone conversation you should end the call and contact police via the non-emergency number, 101. Remember to use a mobile phone or a friend's phone or wait at least five minutes before calling to ensure you aren't reconnected to the offender."

    Police issue urgent warning to Basildon residents in latest spate of Essex fraud

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    East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) is set to make a £1 million investment in 1,000 new defibrillators, and Essex will receive 40 of them.

    The lifesaving kit, which makes a difference in the vital first minutes when someone suffers a heart attack, will be placed in locations like sports centres, village halls and libraries.

    The investment will more than triple the amount in the region, as the Trust currently estimates the number in Essex to be around 300.

    North Norfolk is receiving the first 50 defibrillators, another 20 are going into Suffolk and 40 are being sent out across north Essex. Another 30 are going into Cambridgeshire and 10 in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, while the locations of the remaining defibrillators will be identified in the next few weeks. 

    Anthony Marsh, Chief Executive of EEAST, said: "I'm delighted that we have started this important project to invest in the communities we serve by improving access to these lifesaving devices in key locations.

    "Our ambulance crews aim to arrive at the scene of a cardiac arrest within minutes. However, every second counts and having a defibrillator on scene can make the vital difference between life or death."

    A defibrillator costs £800 and there will be training sessions provided at the locations that receive one.

    Andrew Barlow, one of the Trust's community partnership managers, added: "There are hundreds of defibrillators already located across the Trust. However, this investment will help to improve coverage in our communities and will undoubtedly help save lives and improve the outcomes for patients when they are called upon."

    Essex to benefit from ambulance service's £1 million defibrillator investment

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    CHELMSFORD CITY made their chances count in their 2-1 win over Whitehawk as the away side's goalkeeper had a game to forget.

    Joe Ward was first on the score sheet on 12 minutes when his free kick found Seb Brown off his line to leave him in no mans land as the ball flew over his head into the net.

    Whitehawk soon equalised through Jake Robinson but seconds before the half-time whistle Cheek capitalised on a poor clearance from Brown who again was off his line to lob the ball into the net.

    Tom Lovelock was handed his debut in goal after signing permanently from Sutton United in the week along with Jack Bridge who has joined the Clarets on a one-month loan from Southend United.

    The home side had a great chance inside four minutes to take the lead when the in-form Jaanai Gordon got round the back from a Joe Ward free kick but his header went just wide.

    They didn't have to wait too long for the breakthrough when Ward stepped up to take another free-kick five minutes later but this time with a very different end result.

    In an almost identical spot the central midfielder looked to whip another dangerous ball into the box but a wicked curl and with a little help from the wind the ball flew over Seb Brown into the back of the net.

    Whitehawk responded well and on the 20th minute found theirselves on level terms when Chelmsford couldn't clear Sam Deering's corner and Jake Robinson was on hand to score from three yards out.

    Chances were few and far between after both teams opened their account but Lovelock was called into action twice in as many minutes.

    First Deering hit a quickly taken free-kick goalwards on 36 minutes but Lovelock was alert to the danger to push it away for a corner.

    That was followed by Christian Nanetti doing well and working space in the box to shoot but the Chelmsford goalkeeper did well to save and hold onto the ball down low to his left.

    Another howler from Brown followed the heroics from Lovelock on the stroke of half-time when he rushed out of his box to clear but found Cheek 40 yards out who duly accepted the gift to give his side the lead going into the break.

    Whitehawk were working the ball early in the second half but their ball in the final third evaded them leaving Chelsmford comfortable to deal with it.

    Just after the hour mark another Ward free kick proved troublesome when captain Mark Hughes was able to find space for a header but couldn't direct it goal wards.

    Minutes later and Jack Bridge had a chance to extend Chelmsford's lead when he turned well on the edge of the box but the outside of the post denied him.

    Whitehawk were trying to get the ball forward quickly in the latter stages of the match and resulted in shooting from range but Chelmsford managed to hold on to record their first victory in three.

    Chelmsford City line-up: Lovelock, Girdlestone, Toner, Hughes ©, Haines, Hickford, Sawyer, Ward, Jaanai Gordon (Redwood 84), Cheek, Bridge.

    Unused subs: Mambo, Gregory, Smith, Gordon.

    Chelmsford City make goalkeeper pay for errors in return to winning ways

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    Blizzard conditions could occur in Essex tonight, as the Met Office issued a weekend-long severe weather warning for the county.

    The Yellow Warning for snow and ice has been issued over the whole weekend and the public has been warned to be aware of a risk of disruption. 

    It also issued a cold weather alert, along with news that 2-3cm of snow could be expected this evening, following today's flurry, with up to 10cm in northern hills, where blizzard conditions could occur.

    And Essex Weather also reported that the entire county would see more snow this evening, with rain, snow and sleet expected in Chelmsford.

    The centre has advised that more snow is likely to fall tomorrow, and that untreated surfaces could become icy

    Essex could experience

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    HEYBRIDGE Swifts stunned Ryman North leaders Harlow Town as they came from behind to win 3-2 at The Harlow Arena today (Saturday January 31).

    It shattered Harlow's impressive unbeaten home league record.

    The Hawks had not lost a home league game since the 2013-14 season.

    Swifts, now managed by former Bishop's Stortford and Barnet striker Cliff Akurang, were reduced to ten men late on but still had enough to defeat Danny Chapman's side, who remain top but are now only two points clear of Needham Market, who were reduced to ten men themselves but still managed to draw at Maldon & Tiptree.

    Harlow's second successive loss, following last week's defeat at Thurrock, has raised serious question marks over the Ryman North title credentials of Chapman's men, against a Heybridge side who were not too far from the relegation spots before play. 

    Second half Heybridge goals from Jack West along with Reece Morgan turned the game around after Leon Antoine had put the Hawks 2-1 up early on in the half.

    Harlow had first taken the lead in the match in no time through Junior Dadson arriving unmarked at the back post and you would have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be a rout.

    But Swifts levelled the match with a sweetly hit left footed strike from Billy Hunt.

    Harlow remain top of the table despite this defeat while the Swifts who started the game in 18th have now recorded back to back wins and under the leadership of Akurang are starting to soar.

    The Hawks got off to the perfect start after five minute when they flooded the Heybridge penalty area, Layne Eadie was able to put a driven cross into the box that found Dadson at the far right post who had time to take the ball down and lash it home through the goalkeeper's legs.

    Swifts boss Akurang changed the team's system and out of virtually nothing Heybridge levelled the game. The ball simply found its way to the feet of Hunt whose left footed shot smashed past Ed Thompson.

    It was a brilliant reaction from Heybridge to going behind, they broke up Harlow's rhythm and didn't let them play. Morgan could have put the visitors in front but his 30th minute effort lacked the necessary power or direction to beat Thompson.

    Harlow worked some good pressure on the Heybridge goal with a series of corners late on in the first half. Marc Gorbell, making his home debut, had a header from six yards saved well on the line before Dadson stopped a goal bound shot possibly giving Harlow the lead.

    Danny Chapman's men, much like the first half, got off to the perfect start in the second. Good work down the left side by James Smith who got to the by-line and dug out a dinked cross across goal for Antoine to slot home from a yard out.

    Heybridge refused to back down despite the league leaders taking back their lead. The visitors pushed on and forced Thompson into making a good save to deny a header from Joseph O'Cearuill.

    But Heybridge would not be denied. Jack West capitalized on a Harlow defensive mistake and strolled through on goal and finished left footed with aplomb low past the Harlow goalkeeper.

    The visitors may have got a little lucky with their second goal but their third was nothing of the sorts. A well worked Swifts move found its way out left to Hunt who cut the ball back for Morgan who finished smoothly under pressure.

    It could have got even worse for Harlow when an under hit back header by Gorbell was intercepted by Jack West who touched the ball beyond Thompson who brought the striker down for a stonewall penalty.

    But Heybridge couldn't reverse the score line the two sides shared in October when Harlow won 2-4 at the Swifts as Jack West's penalty struck the post and rebounded back to the match winner Morgan whose shot flew over to keep the score at 2-3.

    Harlow threw everything forward to no avail. Goal machine Alex Read was thwarted in a one on one with Danny Sambridge who appeared to slip as Read homed in on goal but the goalkeeper recovered superbly to stop the shot.

    Daniel Barber was shown a red card in stoppage time after a melee broke out on the edge of the Swifts penalty area. Heybridge managed to hold on to their lead though until the final whistle.

    Harlow Town: Thompson, Urquhart, Eadie, Goodhind (Glasgow 71), Gorbell, Simms, Dadson (Appiah 83), Cowley, Read, Antoine (Stamp 68), Smith. Subs not used: Jones, Martin.

    Heybridge Swifts: Sambridge, Green, Barber, Hunter (White 87), O'Cearuill, West, Pearman, Gayle, West (Cole 83), Morgan ( Payne 90+4), Hunt. Subs not used: Hamilton-Forbes, Bentley.

    Heybridge Swifts hand Harlow Town first home league defeat of season

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    A WOMAN who raised thousands for charity with her pop-up Christmas grotto "almost fainted" when the council handed her a business rates bill for more than £5,000 – for just 42 days of trading.

    Julia McClean, who set up Frost Christmas, where Stead and Simpson shoe shop used to trade on Chelmsford High Street, said she had no idea she would have to pay so much for such a short amount of time.

    The mother-of-two said she had made a loss from the venture but did not regret it as she wanted to do something good for the community over Christmas, although the bill has made her think twice about opening in the High Street next December.

    "We didn't make any money from the grotto this year, but I felt really good that I had set up something like this and Chelmsford was getting a grotto," said Mrs McClean, who also runs an events company she set up a year ago.

    "Aquila, the property developer behind the John Lewis plan, donated £2,000 from the rent I paid to Kids Inspire, a local children's charity, and this was something good to do for the community.

    "I did expect to pay business rates, of course, but I thought it would maybe be £1,000, not the £5,231 bill I got. I nearly fainted when I opened it.

    "I spoke to the council and asked if there is anything they can do – I'm not a big business, it's just me, and I don't have that kind of money in my bank account.

    "But they have said there's nothing they can do. I just think they should flag these things up more. I don't want to collapse my company on the basis of that bill."

    Mrs McClean said the amount in business rates payable on the High Street shop was £69,500 for the year – adding that this could explain why there are so few independent shops in the city.

    "It's not good for Chelmsford, and it's a shame when you think there are shops just sitting there empty. You'd think the council would want to help people who are just starting out and it isn't going to help the city – local people won't be able to get a look-in as the only people who can afford to pay rates like that are big chain stores.

    "I wouldn't be able to have the grotto there again unless I started charging at least £20 per child, but I want to keep the prices down like this year so that everyone can come.

    "It would be a shame not to do it again as I have all the decorations and some presents left over, but I couldn't have it on the High Street."

    A Chelmsford City Council spokesman said: "Business rates are a statutory liability and the amounts charged are calculated by a combination of the rateable value, which is determined by the Valuation Office Agency, and the multiplier, which is determined by central Government.

    "The amount charged to Sshhh Events Limited is correct based on the rateable value of that particular property and the period they were in occupation.

    "It is the responsibility of the tenant to ensure that the space they take and the charges associated with it are affordable. Staff from the business rates team at Chelmsford City Council are happy to help potential ratepayers find out how much they can be expected to pay and would recommend that anyone thinking of opening a business in Chelmsford should make enquiries before signing any contractual agreement to occupy a premises."

    Pop-up grotto bill shock for Chelmsford mother-of-two

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