Andrew Lainton posted, a question asked in Parliament of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government regarding housing numbers within Local Plans. The short post read:-
“ Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local plans have been rejected by his Department’s inspectors on the basis of providing insufficient housing numbers since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Boles: No plans have been subject to a formal recommendation of unsoundness, based on insufficient housing numbers, since May 2010. Whilst this is clearly an evasive answer, it does prompt us to consider the issues locally of providing enough homes and how that figure should be arrived at.“
This focuses us on three issues:
The fact that the population is growing.
The recent re-enforcement of the desire by the Government to protect the Green Belt, illustrated within the SoS decision on Glebelands.
And lastly the proviso that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered during a Local Plan process.
The first issue, population growth, is something outside of local control. Our Government has gone some way to lower the migration levels, however the National projections appear to suggest there may be a further wave of migration distorting the local housing need.
An open and transparent local debate is required to discover the actual local need, to challenge the Inspectorates powers to dictate to elected local government and to reach a sensible, and more importantly sustainable, balance of growth.
Local Agencies such as the Highways, Schools and NHS confirm in correspondence that they have resources in place to cope with growth, whereas on the ground, it is clear to residents that resources are stretched, sometimes to breaking point.
The second issue, covered within the Secretary of States Glebelands decision and in the follow up Ministerial announcement and covered on this Blog in the July 5th Post.
This emphasises the responsibility of our Councillors to protect Castle Point’s Green Belt. To respect residents’ quality of life and protect nature and wildlife within our Borough.
The third proviso, that Green Belt boundaries remain permanent and only considered during Local Plan processes causes some concern.
The Inspectorate will expect to see some large sites nominated for housing development within our Local Plan.
There remains two large sites set aside for future development indicated in the previous old 1998 Local Plan, mainly still undeveloped.
There are big plans for two of the Borough’s Town Centres.
The release of Green Belt will not encourage these outstanding developments to be fulfilled, on the contrary they will take pressure off any urgency that there may be to reach final delivery of these sites.
To release Green Belt now, in these austere times may well lead to developers being allowed to “land bank” their preferred sites. Gaining permission through the Local Plan, whilst having no intention to build in the short term, thus adding to the “grossly inadequate” supply of housing completions of Castle Point.
We ask our Councillors, would you wish to be a part of that?