The Bell tolls on the next area of Castle Point Green Belt facing Development.

This evening, Tuesday 2nd April the Castle Point Development Committee consider another Green Belt site proposed for housing development. The very likelihood is that permission will be granted even though the Council members have expressed their clear reluctance to allow Green belt sites to be released for such use. With the approaching publication of the new Local Plan and the difficulties involved with the process, London Road may prove to be less of a politically sensitive site than others in the Borough.
Extracts of the Development Committee Agenda follow:
Application Number: CPT/25/13/FUL
Address: 396-408 LONDON ROAD, BENFLEET
(Boyce Ward)
Description of development: DEMOLITION OF BUILDINGS AND
CONSTRUCTION OF 9 DETACHED
DWELLINGS AND 42 FLATS IN TWO BLOCKS
OF UP TO THREE STOREYS WITH PARKING,
ACCESS, LANDSCAPING AND ASSOCIATED
WORKS.
Summary
The application seeks permission for the residential redevelopment of a site allocated for Green Belt purposes in the adopted Local Plan. Based on the facts that the redevelopment of the site in the manner proposed would diminish the strategic function of the Green Belt in this area, that the site is only
partially developed and may not therefore be considered to be a wholly brownfield site and that the proposed development would have a significantly greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the current buildings on the site, it is not considered that development of the site can be justified on the basis of the guidance provided in the NPPF.
The proposal therefore constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
Paragraph 14 of the NPPF addresses the presumption in favour of sustainable development. With regard to decision taken it expects that development proposals will be approved where the development plan is out of date unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, or specific policies in the framework indicate development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 However, the guidance is clear that development will be 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. However, inappropriate development in the Green Belt can be exceptionally justified by the existence of very special circumstances. In this particular instance, the land
was identified by the Full Council at its meeting of the 5th December 2012, as forming part of the Council’s five year housing land supply and this is considered to amount
to the very special circumstances needed to justify the otherwise inappropriate development. The proposal is therefore recommended for conditional APPROVAL
The Proposal
Permission is sought for the removal of all existing buildings and structures on the site and the erection of two blocks of flats (A and B) providing 42 units. Block ‘A’ would be three storeys and have a maximum height of some 12.1m. Block ‘B’ would be part two/part three storeys, with a maximum height of some 12m.
Of the 42 flats proposed, six would be one bedroomed and 36 would be two bedroomed. Nine of the flats, including all the one-bedrooms, would be key worker/shared equity housing.
In addition it is proposed to erect 8 detached five bedroomed houses around a new cul-de-sac to the west of Catherine Road and a detached 3/4 bedroomed chalet fronting Rhoda Road.
The proposed houses would be two storeys with accommodation in the roofspace.
The proposed flats would have car parking areas provided at ground floor level. The proposed houses would have in-curtilage parking. Landscaping is proposed along the London Road and Catherine Road frontages of the site.
Planning History
Parts of this site have an extensive and somewhat chequered planning history. The dwelling and car wash at the eastern end of this site have limited history although the car sales site at 396 London Road has been the subject of recent successful
enforcement action in respect of a breach of condition and the use of a building on the site for the retailing and fitting of tyres. The matter was the subject of a planning appeal which was dismissed on 21st September 2012. The enforcement notice was
upheld
There have been previous applications for residential development on parts of this Site. All subsequently refused by the Development Committee on Green Belt Grounds.
CPBC Strategic Planning Within their Design and Access Statement, the applicants indicate that Green Belt policies are not relevant to the consideration of this proposal. This is not the case.
This site is designated as Green Belt. Paragraph 83 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that Green Belt boundaries may only be altered through a review of the local plan. The current review of the Local Plan is ongoing, and has not yet been completed. Therefore, at this time this site is still designated as Green Belt and consideration should therefore be given to Green Belt policies in the determination o this application.
In 2012, the Council undertook work to identify housing sites to meet the requirements of paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework to have a five year housing land supply. It was clear from a review of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment that there is insufficient land within the existing urban area (non Green Belt) to accommodate any significant increase in the provision of housing. At April 2012, the SHLAA identified a capacity of just 392 deliverable homes from the urban area compared to a requirement for at least 1,000 homes, plus an additional 20% allowance to provide flexibility in the supply.
In order to ensure a five year housing land supply, the Council undertook an exercise to identify additional sites for housing. The Green Belt in Castle Point is tightly drawn around the existing urban area, and as a consequence it was necessary to consider the appropriateness of bringing forward sites within the Green Belt to meet housing needs. This work culminated in the Council agreeing a list of 9 strategic sites for the accommodation of housing in December 2012, of which 4 were within the Green Belt. The capacity of these sites when combined with capacity within the existing urban area could accommodate in excess of 1,200 homes. Land at 396 to 408
London Road was included within this list of strategic sites.
In identifying this list of sites, the Council gave very careful consideration to the National Planning Policy Framework, which at paragraph 89 made it clear that the construction of new buildings in the Green Belt was not inappropriate where it
involved the limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.
They also gave consideration to the Ministerial Statement of the 6th September 2012 which also promoted the redevelopment of previously developed land in the Green Belt as a means by which housing needs could be met. As a consequence of this
national policy direction, the Council concluded that land at 396 to 408 London Road was an appropriate location for housing development given the nature and extent of existing development on the site. The decision of Council in December 2012 suggested that a quantum of development in the order of 50 homes on this site would be appropriate.
At this time, the Council’s decision in respect of the inclusion of 396 to 408 London Road, and indeed the three other Green Belt sites, within the five year housing land supply has not been subject to independent examination by a planning inspector. It
is therefore necessary to consider how much weight should be attached to this decision and the evidence base that underpins it when determining this application. Consistent with paragraph 88 of the National Planning Policy Framework, it is important that any potential harm to the Green Belt is clearly outweighed by these considerations.
Public Consultation
11 objections have been received from the following properties:
Catherine Road: Catherine Road Residents Association, ‘Catherine Lodge’, ‘Montagne’, ‘Ryecroft’, ‘Hillcrest’, ‘Ashlea’, ‘Tudor House’, ‘Ralstan’, ‘Oak Lodge’. Rhoda Road: Hawthorn Cottage London Road: 382
Prematurity
A number of local residents have objected to the proposal on the basis that the land is Green Belt and despite the decision made by Members at the meeting of the Full Council in December 2012, development of the land would be inappropriate prior to consultation on the new Local Plan.
The document “The Planning System: General Principles”states that “in some circumstances, it may be justifiable to refuse planning permission on grounds of prematurity where a Development Plan Document (DPD) is being prepared or is
under review, but it has not yet been adopted. This may be appropriate where a proposed development is so substantial, or where the cumulative effect would be so significant, that granting permission could prejudice the DPD by predetermining
decisions about the scale, location or phasing of new development which are being addressed in the policy in the DPD. A proposal for development which has an impact
on only a small area would rarely come into this category. Where there is a phasing policy, it may be necessary to refuse planning permission on grounds of prematurity if the policy is to have effect. Otherwise, refusal of planning permission on grounds of prematurity will not usually be justified. Planning applications should continue to be considered in the light of
current policies. However, account can also be taken of policies in emerging DPDs.
The weight to be attached to such policies depends upon the stage of preparation or review, increasing as successive stages is reached. For example:
• Where a DPD is at the consultation stage, with no early prospect of submission for examination, then refusal on prematurity grounds would seldom be justified because of the delay which this would impose in determining the future use of the land in question.
• Where a DPD has been submitted for examination but no representations have been made in respect of relevant policies, then considerable weight may be attached to those policies because of the strong possibility that they will be
adopted. The converse may apply if there have been representations which oppose the policy. However, much will depend on the nature of those representations and whether there are representations in support of particular policies”.
The guidance also makes it clear that where planning permission is refused on grounds of prematurity, the Planning Authority will need to demonstrate clearly how the grant of permission for the development concerned would prejudice the outcome of the DPD process.
The Council’s draft Core Strategy was withdrawn in September 2011. At the same meeting the Council resolved to commence work forthwith on the preparation of a new Local Plan. A revised Local Development Scheme (LDS) was agreed by the Council’s Cabinet in January 2012 and has now come into force.
The Council has completed its issues consultation and in 2012, undertook work to identify housing sites to meet the requirements of paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework to have a five year housing land supply. It was clear from a review of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment that there was insufficient land within the existing urban area to accommodate any significant increase in the provision of housing. At April 2012, the SHLAA identified a capacity of just 392 deliverable homes from the urban area compared to a requirement for at least 1,000 homes, plus an additional 20% allowance to provide flexibility in the
supply.
In order to ensure a five year housing land supply, the Council undertook an exercise to identify additional sites for housing. The Green Belt in Castle Point is tightly drawn around the existing urban area, and as a consequence it was necessary to consider the appropriateness of bringing forward sites within the Green Belt to meet housing needs. This work culminated in the Council agreeing a list of 9 strategic sites for the accommodation of housing in December 2012, of which 4 were within the Green Belt. The capacity of these sites when combined with capacity within the existing urban area could accommodate in excess of 1,200 homes. Land at 396 to 408
London Road was included within this list of strategic sites.
In identifying this list of sites, the Council gave very careful consideration to the National Planning Policy Framework, which at paragraph 89 made it clear that the construction of new buildings in the Green Belt was not inappropriate where it
involved the limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding
temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.
They also gave consideration to the Ministerial Statement of the 6th September 2012 which promoted the redevelopment of previously developed land in the Green Belt as a means by which housing needs could be met. As a consequence of this
national policy direction, the Council concluded that land at 396 to 408 London Road was an appropriate location for housing development given the nature and extent of existing development on the site. The decision of Council in December 2012 suggested that a quantum of development in the order of 50 homes on this site would be appropriate.
At this time, the Council’s decision in respect of the inclusion of 396 to 408 London Road within the five year housing land supply has not been subject to independent examination by a planning inspector, however the evidence base underlying the
decision to identify this site for residential development purposes is considered robust and sustainable.
There is a very real need to identify and deliver sites for residential development within the Borough. Research undertaken in the preparation of the Core Strategy and the Local Plan has identified that opportunities for such delivery are extremely limited. Given the limited opportunities available and the nature of the evidence base it is not considered that the development of this site for residential purposes would prejudice the outcome of the Local Plan process.
No objection is therefore raised to the proposal on the basis of prematurity.
The Planning Authority is currently preparing a new Local Plan which, inter alia, will consider the Green Belt boundary and the status of the Green Belt within the borough. As part of this process the Council has carried out assessments of the
function and landscape value of individual parcels of Green Belt land within the Borough.
The application site forms part of a wider parcel of Green Belt land which separates Benfleet and Thundersley. Within the Green Belt Functions Assessment, it has been concluded that at a local level this parcel of land fulfils four of the Green Belt
functions identified at para 80 of the NPPF and at the strategic level, this parcel serves to provide a link from the Green Belt in the north west of the Borough.
However, existing development of this site has already compromised the strategic function of this part of the Green Belt by allowing the adjoining urban area to sprawl.
The landscape value of this part of the Green Belt has also been diminished. The Green Belt ‘gap’ between Benfleet and Thundersley would become less open in nature as a result of this land being developed. The residential development of this
site is therefore contrary to the provisions of the NPPF.
Paragraph 89 states that a local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt. The exceptions to this are:
• buildings for agriculture and forestry;
• provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and for
cemeteries, as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not
conflict with the purposes of including land within it;
• the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in
disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building;
• the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces;
• limited infilling in existing villages and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan; or
• limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of
the Green Belt or the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.
As can be seen, the last bullet point, indicates that complete or partial redevelopment of previously developed sites need not be inappropriate, provided that this would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt or the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.
Turning first to the issue of whether this site might be considered as previously developed land, it is acknowledged that the western parts of the site at Nos.396-406 London Road are currently commercial sites that display the characteristics of
brownfield land. The dwelling at No. 408 may also be considered to constitute previously developed land. However the garden and woodland attached to the dwelling are not developed and it is not therefore considered that the site, in its
entirety, may be considered previously developed land. It is not therefore considered that the proposal is fully within the scope of development envisaged by paragraph 89
of the NPPF.
The second part of the bullet point has a further test – the impact on openness of the Green Belt or the purposes of including the land, compared to the existing situation.
On the first element of the test, the replacement buildings would be larger than the ones they would replace and as a consequence the proposal will have an impact on
openness; however, it is also fair to point out that the existing buildings on the site compromise the openness of the Green Belt and in particular the activities carried out in the open parts of the site, such as car sales and valeting, whilst not built
development, seriously undermine the character and appearance of the Green Belt in this area
The proposal does constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt; however prior to the determination of any application it is incumbent upon the Planning Authority to consider whether there are any very special circumstances which would outweigh such harm and enable the provision of inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
Although the site remains allocated for Green Belt purposes until any formal review of the Green Belt boundary it is essential for very special circumstances to be identified in order to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
The Council considers that a very special circumstance does exist.
As identified above, the Council has identified limited capacity within its urban areas to provide a five year housing land supply and has undertaken an extensive review of all opportunities for the provision of residential development. As a result of this
process, the application site, along with three others, was identified as a site suitable for release from the Green Belt for residential development.
Support for this approach can be found in the Written Ministerial Statement from the Secretary of State dated 6th September 2012;
As has always been the case, councils can review local designations to promote growth. We encourage councils to use the flexibilities set out in the National Planning Policy Framework to tailor the extent of Green Belt land in their areas to reflect local circumstances. Where Green Belt is considered in reviewing or drawing up Local Plans, we will support councils to move quickly through the process by prioritizing their Local Plan examinations. There is considerable previously developed land in many Green Belt areas, which could be put to more productive use. We encourage Councils to make best use of this land, whilst protecting the openness of the Green
Belt in line with the requirements in the National Planning Policy Framework.
On the basis of the very special circumstance which has now been identified by the Planning Authority, no objection is raised to the proposal on the basis of Green Belt Policy.

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One response to “The Bell tolls on the next area of Castle Point Green Belt facing Development.

  1. I have written to all CPBC councillors re my petition Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles! and have to date two replies.

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