It was welcoming to have heard Cllr Challis and Cllr Dick both publically proclaim their intention to defend the Green Belt boundaries within Castle Point recently. Our M.P. Rebecca Harris and Borough Councillors have all explained this is achievable under the protection offered within the new National Planning Policy Framework document.
Hopefully this interpretation of the NPPF is in fact correct as the implication is that the Government will allow Castle Point to impose a moratorium on Green Belt Development. Something all residents would support.
For the New Local Plan to be able to allocate the whole of the Borough’s housing requirement to Brown Field and Town Centre sites the numbers needed will need to be considerably lower than the 5,000 dwellings cited within the abandoned Core Strategy. Realistically the Town Centres in the Borough may accommodate approximately 300+ dwellings and the only large Brown Field site suggested is Thorney Bay with a potential of approx 550 units. There are many other smaller sites that hopefully will be taken up plus the front of Manor Trading. Whether this will be enough to provide a “sound” Local Plan, only time will tell.
Already Developers have shown intent to tender Applications for the Borough’s Green Belt with Glebelands, Kiln Road, Jotmans Farm and Canvey’s Dutch Village Fields (Land East of Canvey Road) all at various stages of progress.
With the defence of Green Belt boundaries in mind I wonder about the tactics that may be employed by the Council. Thoughts may turn to the tactics employed by Chelsea FC against Barcelona, or those employed during World War II and Dunkirk, those of “strategic withdrawal!”
How much easier would it be to form a New Local Plan after the Elections by re-drawing the Green Belt Boundaries excluding some of the areas named above from the Green Belt, thereby satisfying some developers whilst Campaigners, without the power of the ballot box, would have less impact with their protests.
We should beware this form of defence of our Green Belt, after all Canvey was about to be sacrificed in the Core Strategy until the Planning Inspector intervened.
Campaign Groups should gather as much evidence available in the meantime and lobby hard. There are powerful forces in the form of Developers also lobbying our Council and the weakest areas could still suffer as a compromise. Let’s remind our Councillors that the best form of defence is attack. I am not suggesting that “strategic withdrawal” is being considered as a tactic just that we are aware of the possibility. If our Green Belt Boundaries are to be defended actions will speak louder than words. Campaign Groups, especially Canvey’s look for an inclusive policy, that way the Council can count on our support.