The Echo front page and page 4 -5 spread regarding secret plans to develop on the mainland green belt has unsettled local residents.
Castle Point Council having spent many years and a reported total of £750,000 on a Local Plan and with no news on further progress being issued, it is no wonder that speculation and conspiracy theories abound in the Borough.
The “leaked” document featured in the Echo is interesting.
It appears to show less specific information than the Council’s own Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) document.
Let us consider what it does actually show us.
Clue 1. Firstly it only specifically mentions locations included within the Local Plan’s initial 5 year housing supply.
Clue 2. Other sites are accumulated together, indicating no specific sites and a total is shown for each mainland town.
Clue 3. Less detail shown than the SHLAA.
So what purpose would this document, leaked to the Echo serve?
Well, none if it had been leaked by a member of a CPBC committee, charged with indicating specific green belt sites for development between Local Plan years 6 – 15.
A document leaked by a councillor or officer dealing with locating suitable housing sites would be aware of more in-depth information.
So I suggest there may be just two options.
Firstly that a change of tack with the presentation of the Local Plan may be being suggested.
The National Planning Policy Framework requires Boroughs to indicate specific development sites within the first 5 years housing supply, a less specific indication for years 6 – 10 years supply and “if possible” indication of sites for years 11 – 15 housing supply within Local Plans.
Whilst this may be a possible explanation it seems doubtful.
After all of these years spent attempting to cobble together a housing development supply that includes green belt sites, as considered necessary, that mainland councillors would agree to, the Echo document indicates that zero progress has been made!
It would be expected that any document from such a CPBC committee member or officer would consist of 3 or 4 versions showing options of various sites, totalling the necessary figures and equalling 200 houses per annum.
A far more likely explanation maybe is that it is a document in support of keeping Deanes School open.
This could quite safely be made public to show any unaware resident or Essex County Council that 5 years supply has been identified and that work is in progress to identify years 6 – 15 housing supply. County would not expect a Borough Council to be able, or willing, to make details public until further progress is made with the Local Plan, indeed cllr Stanley was quoted in the Echo article as saying as much.
I suggest this document may have been leaked either by a back bench councillor who has little knowledge of the Local Plan process, or officially leaked to placate residents concerned with the situation at Deanes School.
I must make some comment on a document made public by the Deanes Group as this also may cause some great concerns amongst residents.
It suggests that a draft document called the Thames Gateway Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) indicates that 20,000 new homes are required in Castle Point within an unspecified period.
Housing requirement will be based on the projections indicated from the area’s Demographic assessment taking into account the 2011 census projections and tempered by the SHLAA document, that indicates owners of land willing to consider developing that land in the Borough.
The 20,000 new dwellings figure, quoted by the Deanes group for Castle Point, is in effect larger than the 12,000 new housing figure they indicate Basildon is required to identify! This indicates that some mis-interpretation may have taken place.
Neither a Borough nor County Council, would accept a document as evidence in Draft format, they would only accept the Final version, as would the Planning Inspector.
They further go on to claim that their group members are not advocates of building on Castle Point’s Green Belt and claim the school is a hub of the community but then point out that only 52% of pupils are resident in Castle Point.
This suggests that they risk alienating mainland residents.
The Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group genuinely wish success in keeping the Deanes School open, it is clearly a massive asset to the area and also the same success to the Green Belt Campaign Groups in Castle Point.
However it is somewhat puzzling observing the mainland part of the Borough being torn apart, on paper, and going through what Canvey residents faced during the Core Strategy process, when at that time “use Canvey Green belt for the Borough’s development” was then considered the answer to the councillors problems.
We remember well having to stand alone and unsupported giving evidence to the Inspectorate.
Has the Local Authority the stomach to adopt his advice?
Would now not be a good time for resident groups to be brought up to date with the limited progress of the Local Plan, if only to put to rest this unhelpful speculation?