This article may lose the Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group a few of our Mainland Campaign Group friends. If it does I apologise, but the justification is in the title of our Group name.
Canvey Island residents have long been castigated for claiming that Council decision-making has borne a bias resulting in housing and industrial development being “dumped on Canvey.”
Only last week at the Council meeting to adopt the Local Plan’s 5 year housing allocation cllr N.Smith attempted to deny this claim as he explained the housing allocation was balanced as “449 proposed for Canvey and 529 dwellings”* for the mainland. *( 200 per annum requirement x 5 years actually should be 1000, a shortfall of 22 dwellings), (No mention also, of the extra 20% buffer that will be required).
Tuesday the 11th December saw the release of the 2011 Census statistics. Castle Point has seen little increase in population, a 1.6% increase since 2001, from 86,608 to 88,011.
What has this to do with the “dumped on Canvey” phrase?
Well, examining the figures more closely the Canvey Island population in 2001 was 37,479 and has increased to 38,459 by 2011.
Therefore the Mainland figures are 49,129 in 2001 and 49,552 for 2011.
Shown as percentage increases, Canvey Island 2.6% and the Mainland just 0.8% increase!
Yet again Canvey has shouldered the responsibility of the Borough’s population growth along with the problems that this poses to our infrastructure!
This increase during a decade, that the Council encouraged the impression that there existed a moratorium on building in the Flood Risk area of Canvey Island. This we denied and had accepted by the Planning Inspector at the Core Strategy Examination, technically the only major hurdle to overcome was the production of a comprehensive site flood risk assessments.
During the new Local Plan process we have seen a group of housing proposals for Canvey Island progressed. In total these again will result in the majority of new builds allocated to Canvey Island.
To build in a Flood Risk Zone 3, the Sequential Test must first be passed. Council Officers are given the power to apply this Test. The Test seeks to locate housing in zones of lesser flood risk. The Officers choose to consider Canvey Island as a separate entity, rather than sharing housing need across the Borough.
Whatever the proposal size, whether for 4 flats, 99 dwellings at the Point or 600 plus dwellings at Thorney Bay, the Officers justify the passing of the Sequential Test by stating “When applying a Sequential Test in Castle Point it is important to have regard to the local context. Canvey Island is a distinctive community, accommodating 43% of the Borough’s population. It has specific identified needs in terms of social, economic and physical regeneration, as well as housing.” I emphasise “needs in terms of housing.”
Have the Mainland no “specific identified needs in terms of housing” of their own?
Judging by previous decades it appears not.
If the answer is no, fair enough. But don’t let Mainland Councillors claim that they have not used Canvey to absorb the growth in previous decades for their own political survival.
Between 1971 and 2001 Canvey Island saw an increase in population of over 40%. The Mainland saw just a 2.4% increase during the same period.
Now the latest Census figures show the balance of growth across the Borough as relying on Canvey absorbing the majority of it.
Our Green Belt has suffered. However this argument is not a reason for the Mainland Green Belt to be released.
Officers are encouraged to apply the Sequential Test so as to secure the release of Canvey land for the benefit of protecting the mainland from development. The Environment Agency, by their inaction, can only be considered compliant by their continued confidence in the Local Planning Authority’s ability to fairly apply the Test and our Development Committee’s decision making ability.
Unlike Mainland Councillors, Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group will again welcome the Planning Inspector examining the new Local Plan!