An application to develop a small block of flats in Leige Avenue has highlighted the reluctance to apply standards and rules to planning proposals for Canvey in the race to indicate housing number completions within the Borough.
During the same development committee meeting that considered the Canvey Wharf proposal at the Point, a further development in Leige Avenue was discussed.
Canvey Island is sited within a flood risk 3a zone.
Canvey Island is at “Actual Risk” of flooding.*
These facts call into question the Castle Point officers recommendations for the Leige Avenue proposal.
Covering the Flood Response in the Agenda paperwork the Environment Agency commented
“The proposed development shows three ground floor flats. Whilst we acknowledge that there is a flood response plan and that there is some consideration to ground floor occupants, we do not consider that the proposed safe refuge is sufficient for the ground floor residents. People occupying ground floor flats could have mobility issues and there is no apparent way for people with mobility issues to gain access to the safe refuge.”
“This application is heavily reliant on the occupants being willing and able to move to the safe refuge areas provided on the second floors of the apartment blocks.”
This was called into question by committee members concerned that elderly or disabled residents living on the ground floor may not be able to reach the refuge area, to which the case officer responded to the effect that as many other people are in the same situation, that is, those Canvey Islanders that currently live in flats, in bungalows and in static caravans.
It appears that adding more people to the numbers in this situation is not an issue!
The Environment Agency had further added “We have reviewed these documents and are able to remove our previous objection on flood risk grounds, provided you are happy that the development has a tolerable level of safety for occupants for the lifetime of the development and the following conditions are appended to any permission granted.”
The emphasis, in bold, was added by the Council officers.
The original statement was not in bold.
This had the effect of leading the development committee members away from their responsibilities of considering the future resident’s safety aspect of the proposal.
As in other application proposals the seemingly important wording is “removing our objection.” However the local authority’s obligation to consider safety issues, remain the responsibility of the Development Committee and officers remain!
It may be considered that a disservice is being done to the residents and future residents of Canvey Island.
On this matter ward councillor Watson asked if the Council’s Emergency Planner was in attendance, or if his consultation notes were available.
The case officer responded “we do not generally consult with our Emergency Planning officer” as officers would have the necessary information to hand.
Regarding an emergency evacuation plan, the officer stated that one did not exist!
Within the Local Plan evidence base, deprivation is examined.
It appears that Castle Point consider that a means of alleviating deprivation is to increase the number of residents in a deprived area!
The area in question is Canvey Island.
Surely the quality of home life is an important measure of deprivation.
The size of two of the six flats thus invited some interest.
The officers had indicated that flat 3 indicated a floor space of just 40sq metres
flat 6 a floor space of just 38sq metres.
Attempts within the architectural field are being made to set size standards that offer future residents a reasonable standard of living.
The Royal Institute of British Architects have published a recommended living space requirement. This indicates a recommended living space requirement for a one bedroom flat of 50sq metres.
The officer’s paperwork suggested that flats 3 and 6 were “marginally below best practice level.”
Flat 3 is 10 square metres undersize.
A total of 20% under standard !
Flat 6 is 12 square metres under size !
A total of 24% under standard !
However the officer quite rightly pointed out that Castle Point had not adopted any recommended accommodation size standards.
Externally the flats also attracted interest.
Essex County Council standards require 10 car parking spaces, one per flat allowing no free space for visitor parking.
This proposal indicates 6 spaces, one per flat.
Size is obviously an issue.
Even with a “lack” of car parking spaces there is no room for an emergency vehicle to swing around to drive out.
The officer suggested that an emergency vehicle would be expected to attend the site from Somnes Avenue, blocking the roadway as will refuse vehicles
Despite all of these safety issues Castle Point officers recommended the Leige Avenue flats proposal for Approval!
It appears the quest for housing numbers to support the Castle Point Local Plan takes precedence over all issues and concerns.
On this occasion the development committee unanimously thought otherwise, and refused permission to develop!
* Castle Point Strategic Flood Risk Assessment allowing for CC.