It has taken a proposal for a small block of flats, in Leige Avenue, to illustrate the lengths Castle Point Council will go to, to promote development on Canvey Island in preference to the Mainland.
We all know that for decades the Island has taken the vast majority of housing growth in the Borough.
The Core Strategy, yes I know that old chestnut, included the Green Belt, Dutch Village Fields as the preferred large development site.
Voted for behind closed doors, by the Lead Group of Castle Point Councillors, in preference to any other of the more sustainable sites in the Borough.
For any application to be approved on Canvey Island it must first pass what is known as the Sequential Test due to Canvey being in a Flood Risk Zone 3.
The Sequential Test asks an Authority to consider whether within a district there are any reasonably available alternative development areas in flood Risk Zones 1 or 2.
Clearly in Castle Point there would be.
However, probably instructed by Policy makers, the Planning Officers apply the Sequential Test across Canvey Island in isolation.
This explains how the batch of proposals within the Flood zone, in the race to provide the new Local Plan’s 5 Year Housing supply, have been pushed through without reaching Committee consideration.
The CIIP Development Committee members even being instructed that flood issues are not a reason for Refusal of proposals.
What does the Leige Avenue Flats proposal have to do with this?
Well this proposal was Refused permission on access and parking grounds.
Fortunately it was taken to Appeal.
This gave Councillor Watson an opportunity to test Castle Point Council’s theory on the application of the Sequential Test.
The Planning Inspector decided the Appeal was upheld, surprisingly allowing ground floor accommodation for, possibly, disabled residents, under the assumption they would be capable of reaching safe refuge on the first floor in an area liable to flood depths of between 0.5 and 2.0 metres!
However more importantly he reached his decision not before stating “Although I agree that the sequential test should be applied borough-wide when looking at options for accommodating future housing development to meet the wider need.”
For example, are sites selected to meet local need, or satisfy Borough need?
This ruling can be argued at the Local Plan Examination stage should Castle Point Borough Council choose to yet again include Canvey Green Belt for development within the 15 Year Local Plan.
The Inspector went on: “in the consideration of this small site providing smaller units of accommodation which may go towards
meeting local needs, it is not unreasonable to apply the test in a narrower sense.”
This is precisely what the Canvey Green belt Group have been advocating all along. We have no wish to see local builders’ ability to work, restricted nor sufficient development to satisfy local youngsters needs.
For once there has been clarity.
Decisions skewed by Mainland “local issues” and imposed on Canvey by the Local Authority, will not persuade a Planning Inspector.
Whilst some local elements fear an Inspector’s intrusion the Canvey Green belt Campaign Group have always welcomed the Inspectorate’s judgement.
Unless the new Local Plan reflects this judgment, once again an unsound Plan will be published and the 5 Year Supply will not protect any of the Borough’s Green belt.
In the meantime all members of the Development Committee, no matter who they represent should be aware of this ruling. They should recognise their duties to consider the hazards that the risk of flooding has the potential to create and the limited resources available to cope with the extreme event should it occur.
the Environment Agency may not object to a proposal, that doesn’t mean that they take responsibility for emergency planning and the ability of residents to reach safe refuge.