The loss of Green Belt, Housing need and the weight of evidence, or the lack of!

Castle Point Green Belt is under pressure from planners to supply areas for development so as to satisfy housing need.
The level of need will have to be evidenced if the new Local Plan is to be found sound.
Evidence of need is available from various sources such as the Office for National Statistics, the Greater Essex Demographics report, the local Strategic Housing Market Assessment and the Thames Gateway Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
These figures, once collated should make redundant, the housing need figures imposed upon Castle Point, by the now revoked East of England Regional Assembly during the Core Strategy.
The Regional Assembly suggested Castle Point’s housing need was 200 dwellings per annum and drew rejection, anger and consternation from local Councillors.

Until recently Local Plan Planning Inspectors have accepted Regional Assembly housing figures as the appropriate figures despite the Assemblies having been revoked, due to them being the only evidence available.

Now the Thames Gateway suggest that between 1,700 and 9,000 homes are required in Castle Point during the next 20 years.

The benefits to Castle Point in remaining a partner of the Thames Gateway may need to be questioned.
There ia a definite cut off line for business growth east of the mid Basildon area.
It is recognised by Business Consultants that the logistical issues east of Basildon faced on the road network of Castle Point means little regeneration in the near to mid future is worth considering.

Therefore Castle Point is viewed as just a very limited supplier to the labour market, indeed in competition with surrounding and east London areas.
Infrastructure wise Castle Point appears to be reliant upon Essex County Council whilst expected to accept growth levels attributed to the Thames Gateway. Two totally different beasts, one a regeneration hub driven by the growth of Thurrock, Basildon, the new port and the M25 business area and the other a generally rural County.

The current Local Plan consultation suggests that 200 new dwellings can be accomodated within Castle Point per year, whilst the need is actually upwards of 350 per year.

The Local Plan has been adopted by the same Council that castigated the 200 figure when it was suggested by the Regional Assembly.
There appears to be a fixation with Castle Point Council with the Thames Gateway. No doubt grants have been forthcoming and welcomed, but this has encouraged a mindset that regeneration whether housing or industrial needs to be located principally South of the A13.

All the while the difficulty in arguing over which green belt sites to release prove to be distractions in the failure to regenerate our Town Centres, the most important housing sites for need and growth.

Local Factors were identified as driving the growth distribution planned for the Core Strategy.
Whilst the new Local Plan attempts to include other areas for development, the likelihood that these areas will be held back, cannot be ignored. Local Factors remain in play. It will not go un-noticed that Castle Point Council have been working on a Plan for some 9 years now.

I thought it worth copying and including a little of what has been written on the Core Strategy, Local Plans and housing need over these years.
Many points are touched upon by various people in supposed authority, including taken the will of local residents along with the Plan.

This will be achieved locally, whilst those residents engaged with the Local Plan mainly oppose development on green belt areas, the majority, either through apathy or disillusionment with local politics and administration, will fail to respond to the Consultation Questionnaire. Thus allowing Castle Point Council to claim that by not responding, they must thereby agree with the development plans!

Presumption or arrogance it may be, but as there is no compulsion to respond only those questionnaires received can be considere opinions that are valid.

You may feel after reading some of the extracts that the regional approach may not have been quite so bad, as a redistribution of growth with new road networks and infrastructure would realise a less intense distribution of growth for all.
…………………………………………………………………
Extracts from CPBC proposed Core Strategy:
“Having regard to delivery in the period 2001 to 2008, and considering the current economic climate and the bleak projections of some economists, it is likely that if the Council continues to pursue a dwelling provision rate of 200 dwelling units per annum it will be unsuccessful. This will having implications for the delivery of the Core Strategy in respect of its objective to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development, which in turn will have implications for its ambitions to regenerate town centres.”

“ This proposed change would deliver the same overall quantum of homes as set out in the Core Strategy submission, but provides flexibility around the annual rate of delivery, recognising that Castle Point is not a key growth location, but a peripheral location focused on meeting its local needs. Flexibility around the annual rate of delivery is important for Castle Point, because it is a small area that has not previously delivered at high rates. Excessive pressure to do so would undermine other objectives of the Council and its partners to regenerate town centres and protect the green belt and the natural environment from inappropriate development. On these bases, the five year housing supply figure should be no less than 750 homes and no more than 1,000 homes.

This is considered to be a more realistic and deliverable approach to dealing with a complex issues such as housing, that is flexible enough to deal with highs and lows in the housing market. The economic recession may continue to impact on the
delivery of this target during the period to 2016.”

………………………………………………………………….

Meeting with Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Minister for Decentralisation & Planning
Monday 17th October 2011
Statement from Councillor Mrs Pam Challis OBE Leader of the Council
Rebecca Harris MP very kindly agreed to arrange for a deputation from Castle Point Borough Council to meet with Rt Hon Greg Clark MP Minister for Decentralisation & Planning on Monday 17th October 2011.

The Delegation comprised myself, Councillor Jeffrey Stanley, Deputy Leader, Councillor Norman Smith, Cabinet Member and Councillor Dick, Chairman of the Development Control Committee, accompanied by the Chief Executive and Head of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods. We were joined by Rebecca Harris MP and two members of her staff.

I put to the Minister that Castle Point was anxious to put in place a sound plan for its area. We had been working on a Core Strategy since 2005. However at the examination of the Core Strategy, the Planning Inspector indicated that the Council needed more land for housing. Given the small size of the Borough and extent of Green Belt, this had meant sites in the Green Belt had to be considered. This had caused considerable local consternation, and the Council had therefore withdrawn its Core Strategy.

I then asked if the Minister could clarify the position with regard to
national planning policy as it affected Castle Point. At this juncture
the Minister stated that currently the Localism Bill is not an Act of Parliament
and therefore until this goes through Councils still have to act under
the old regime. This has recently been confirmed by the Courts.
However, he did stress that the Government is determined to place the
preparation of new local plans into the hands of local people and was
supportive of the idea of not having too long a forecast but instead
having a five year rolling programme.

He also emphasised that the
Government was determined to ensure there was strong protection
for the Green Belt and stressed the allocation of land for housing should
start with land of the least environmental quality.
The Minister made it clear there must be clear evidence underpinning the
plan-making process. That evidence should also command a broad measure
of local support.

He also stated the role of a planning inspector in future would not be to change locally prepared plans but to test the evidence on which those
plans have been prepared.
……………………………………………………………………………
Statement release by R.Harris MP Castle Point
Rebecca has been campaigning hard on local issues, fighting for
the protection of green belt land from Labour’s centrally-imposed
housing targets, including volunteering with the Canvey Island
Green Belt referendum.
As well as working with residents groups against inappropriate
industrial development on Canvey Island and seeking improved
infrastructure across the Borough.
……………………………………………………………………….
Building.co.uk in 2005 reported under a headline of
East of England spurns housing targets:
At an emergency meeting last week the Conservative and Liberal Democrat-dominated East of England Regional Assembly stuck to its pre-Christmas decision to refuse to endorse the housing growth targets drawn up by its own officials. The meeting was to discuss feedback from the three-month consultation into the regional spatial strategy, which has just ended.

John Reynolds, chairman of the assembly’s planning panel, said the assembly had not been swayed by a letter from Rooker outlining how the government was putting money into the region to support the development of the Thames Gateway, M11 corridor and south Midlands growth areas.
…………………………………………………………………………
Thames Gateway South Essex Housing Group SHMA 2008 extracts:
Castle Point saw a decline in its population in the 1990s but has since recovered resulting in an overall population growth of 2% over the 15 year period.

Over the five year period 2001 – 2006, it is estimated that:
• While 13,000 people (gross) have come from overseas to reside in the TGSE Sub-Regional Housing Market, more people are actually estimated to have moved overseas.
The result is a net loss of 680 persons due to international migration.
•The population growth of 18,390 has instead been driven by domestic migration (within the UK), as well as natural growth in population.

We do not consider it appropriate to provide specific targets for the sizes of general market housing required through Local Development Frameworks. In the market sector, the market itself is quite effective at matching the size of dwellings to market demand at a local level.

The SHMA identifies that the majority of existing housing provision is of two and three bedroom properties. It sets out that demand is predominantly for entry-level family housing to the south of the A127, with stronger demand for larger properties in areas with a high quality
of place, particularly to the north of the A127. This we feel should remain the mainstay of housing delivery in the sub-region.
……………………………………………………………………….
Southern Daily Echo reported 5th Oct 2013
As many as 72,800 homes may have to be built across south Essex in the next 20 years, a report seen by the Echo suggests.

A draft document, called the Strategic Housing Market Assessment Review 2013, has been leaked setting out the potential demand for housing in Basildon, Castle Point, Southend, Rochford and Thurrock until 2031.

The report, compiled by the Thames Gateway South Essex partnership, provides four different scenarios for the number of additional housing that would be required of each borough based on population trends, employment and commuting patterns, existing land already allocated for housing, and previous Government housing targets.

Under the four scenarios, the number of new homes required in Basildon would be anything from 5,500 to 17,000, in Castle Point between 1,700 and 9,000 homes, in Rochford from 4,200 homes to 8,100 homes, in Southend between 5,400 and 20,700 homes and Thurrock between 16,500 homes and 22,000
Basildon council leader Tony Ball says the report is purely a “number crunching exercise”.

He said: “It is purely a mathematical exercise. What happens is it is up to local authorities to work out what homes we need in our core strategies.
“I said in our full council meeting in May that I am not going to play the game of number crunching. It is about the need for local people. These numbers are not deliverable and Government guidance says that that is the key
…………………………………………………………………………

Housebuilders and consultants point to secretary of state Eric Pickles’ decision in June to overturn an inspector’s recommendation to approve plans for 165 homes in the Essex green belt at Thundersley as evidence of the government’s commitment to the green belt.

In the decision, Pickles recognised that the local planning authority, Castle Point Borough Council, could show only an “exceptionally low” housing land supply of 0.7 years. But he concluded that this did not outweigh the presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt.

Andrew Whitaker, head of planning at the Home Builders Federation, says that this decision may discourage local authorities from bringing forward sites in local plans. “How bad does your housing supply need to be before being seen as special circumstances that would justify green belt development?” he asks.
Local authorities’ land allocations for future housing are the source of some of the recent controversy. Councils are tasked with identifying a five-year supply of housing in their local plans under the NPPF. But some are struggling to do this within existing town boundaries and are being forced by PINS to release land in the green belt to site new homes.

These directions are made more controversial by the fact that the inspectorate is using housing targets from regional spatial strategies (RSSs). These have technically been abolished, but the housing figures in them are the only ones that have been scrutinised through the independent examination process, and therefore are still being drawn upon by inspectors.

Rushcliffe Borough Council in Nottinghamshire is one council that has been required to release green belt land by an inspector. It was warned by PINS last year that its draft local plan was flawed, as it sought to provide only 9,600 homes by 2026, down from the East Midlands regional plan’s target of 15,000.
Planning Resource comment by C.Early August 2013.
…………………………………………………………………………………………
Westminster Hall
Thursday 24 October 2013
[Mr Dai Havard in the Chair]
BACKBENCH BUSINESS
Planning and Housing Supply
Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con):
There is concern among hon. Members and local planning authorities about apparent confusion in the Government’s planning policies. I requested this debate because I want to consider planning, the countryside and housing projections, as well as related issues, such as the Government’s professed preference for localism, as these matters are all interconnected.

Protecting the countryside was one of my main motivations for entering Parliament in the first place. As I represent the constituency of Tewkesbury, I am more sensitive than most to the need to avoid developing on or near flood risk areas.
What do I mean by confusion in policy? The Government have said frequently, for example, that their policy is to preserve green-belt land, yet my local planning authorities—my constituency covers three—are telling me that the Government are pressuring them to provide for so many houses in their local plans or joint core strategies that it will inevitably compromise the green belt, green fields and flood risk areas.

In a ministerial statement dated 6 September 2012, the Government said:
“The green belt is an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a ‘green lung’ around towns and cities. The coalition agreement commits the Government to safeguarding green belt and other environmental designations”.
That seems clear enough. However, the same statement goes on to say:
“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.”

On the face of it, reaffirming councils’ right to re-designate the status of their land could be seen as promoting localism. However, the fact is that Government pressure to create high housing numbers is forcing such re-designations, which flies in the face of localism and contradicts the localism policy. The Government’s policies on the green belt and the wider countryside are confusing and contradictory; clearing up that confusion is one of the purposes of this debate. The Government’s insistence on high housing numbers is threatening the green belt, which leads me to question why the Government believe that we need so many houses in the first place. I wish to consider the question of housing projections.

The Government’s own figures seem to confirm that there is no shortage of houses. In an answer to a recent parliamentary question that I tabled, the Government informed me that at the last count, there were 709,426 empty properties in England. Add to that the number of houses with planning permission that are not yet built and the figure for available properties in England comes close to 1 million.

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2 responses to “The loss of Green Belt, Housing need and the weight of evidence, or the lack of!

  1. I would like to remind Islanders to the fight The fight we put up to defeat Peter de Savary &4320 houses in Green Belt in 91/92. Pre the Canvey independence party who took the wind out of the Tory group who were all for it.THE GREEN BELT IS THERE BECAUSE OF ITS PERMANENCE. IT STOPS OVERCROWDING<CONURBATION, & I see the darned Tories have learnt nothing. This must go to public inquiry then the sec of state .

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