At September’s meeting of the Castle Point Council Development Committee judgement will be given, not only on the Thorney Bay application for 600 +dwellings on Canvey Island, but also two Green Belt applications on the Mainland.
Consistent with the previous Glebelands Green Belt proposal, now on Appeal, the Council Officers appear to be adopting a consistent approach where Green Belt is concerned. The Councillors voting to withdraw the old Core Strategy at Examination stage did so, so as to protect the Mainland’s Green Belt. Officers assessing the applications for 396-408 London Road and Brickfields recommend refusal. It maybe expected that, in line with the Glebelands refusal, both Mainland and Island representatives will take the same view and unite to also refuse these applications.
The official Council line now is that “the new Local Plan is at a very early stage of preparation” and therefore “prematurity” cannot be used as a reason to refuse applications. The earliest our Local Plan can emerge is during 2014. However the presumption in favour of sustainable development must be addressed.
The National Planning Policy Framework is still in its infancy with many aspects of its regulations untested in law. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is to be the golden thread running through the NPPF document.
However whilst the Government have sent messages that house building should be one of the main opportunities to kick start growth throughout the Country, messages have also been given that this will not be at the expense of the Green Belt. In recommending refusal of the two applications for development on the Mainland the Officers recognise that our current Local Plan is out of date, but have interpreted the NPPF to give guidance that although sustainable development is desirable, the areas designated as Green Belt receive the necessary protection within the document. The Officers recommendations state:
“Paragraph 14 of the NPPF addresses the presumption in favour of sustainable development. With regard to decision taking it expects that development proposals are approved where the development plan is out of date unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, or specific policies in the framework indicate development should be restricted. Footnote 9 to paragraph 14 indicates that land designated as Green Belt is included as a specific policy in the framework where development should be restricted. Therefore, it could reasonably be interpreted that the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not normally apply to proposals for development in the Green Belt.”
The Canvey Island Independent Party have shown consistency with their pledge to attempt to protect as much of the Borough’s Green Belt as is possible and hopefully will vote against the proposals. We look forward to the Mainland Councillors responding in the same way once Canvey Green Belt comes under threat in the future.