On the day that the Castle Point Council Local Plan opens for consultation Councillor Bill Dick posted “CPBC will need to take note of the responses. If the residents say no development, they must take notice.”
I feel a little bit of leadership is required here. On the evening that the Local Plan draft was approved for consultation there were Councillors not in attendance and others required to leave the Council chamber due to having an interest.
Of the others remaining for the debate some abstained and others voted against.
Councillor Dick, a senior member and previous Chairman of the Development Committee, I believe has all along queried the numbers of dwellings required in the Borough. This is a major variable and has not been openly considered.
If there is serious opposition to the Plan and it’s intention to not only deliver such a high percentage of housing inside the Green Belt and also to re-draw the Green Belt boundaries, then we the residents look for some guidance.
The Local Plan draft is now open for a 6 week consultation period in which residents and business representatives are able to pass comment.
Residents will more likely respond via the “quick” questionnaire form.
As was the case with the old Core Strategy response form Questions are presented as a broad brush style, for instance Q1 “do you think the Council should put in place a local plan that determines where development does or does not go?” Yes or No!
Vote No and your response form will be binned, Council have already voted that without a Plan developers, allegedly, ride rough shod across the Borough developing all of the green spaces! Vote yes, and that will serve the Plan’s supporters purpose.
Question 2 “national projections suggest a need for 350 homes each year in Castle Point, the draft new local plan proposes to deliver 200 homes per year”, Given national projections, do you think that the Council’s housing target of 200 homes per year is appropriate?” “Yes? No-it should be a higher target? No-it should be a lower target?”
As far as housing numbers go, this is more complicated, officers and cabinet have decided that they will move forward with the Plan allocating 200 dwellings.
Chances are that as it stands the Planning Inspector will find the 200 dpa unsound and suggest more housing especially due to the under-supply in previous years. Cllr Smith failed to make members and residents aware that there will be an added 20% requirement over the first 5 years supply.
The Inspector will then be to blame for finding the Plan unsound and for setting a new higher housing target!
Of course there is a housing need in the Borough.
But for CPBC, in the consultation literature, to seek to impose “national projections”
having previously objected to Regional projections, begs the question what use is localism?
What the officers and cabinet , for whatever reason, refuse to accept is that there are viability issues across the Borough.
Canvey Island has issues with flood risk, access and egress issues and the hazardous industries.
The mainland has congestion issues and a tightly constrained green belt.
There are grounds to challenge the housing numbers and local need.
However the trust in the cabinet and officers has disappeared.
The Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group took a full part in the consultation and examination of the Core Strategy as well as giving a presentation to the Councillor Conference prior to the CS being withdrawn. We have also taken a part in the Local Plan process, when invited.
NOT ONCE, THROUGHOUT BOTH PROCESSES, HAS ANY OF OUR OBJECTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS INFLUENCED CASTLE POINT COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES!
So where does this leave us, do we encourage residents to participate in the Local Plan process, or not?
If you respond to the questionnaire, it is apparent you have been happy to participate and CPBC will happily show the Inspector the number of responses.
Those that agree with their proposals will be shown as a percentage, whilst those in opposition will be shown as a number out of 80,000 residents. Your responses will be shown in whatever light suits the cause, a paper exercise.
The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group have long since decided that our responses will be directed to the Inspector, it is a total waste of time and energy engaging with our local representatives!
We believe now is the time for the likes of MP Rebecca Harris, opposition leader Dave Blackwell and Councillor Bill Dick to step forward and collectively engage with residents and give guidance!