If the Local Plan is a sinking ship will it be Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley in the lifeboats first?

I have long been curious as to why Castle Point Council have been keen to set the Local Plan period at 20 years. I have sought the reasoning and have yet to receive a convincing answer.
20090916_sinking_lifeboat
Given that Canvey housing sites, named in the Plan, are all subject to “restrictions” the thought occurs to me that if the development sites named in the early period 0-5 year and 6-10 year do not transpire to pass the Development Committee’s approval, then the sites named for the latter years would almost by default, some might say intention, be eligible for early release.
I remember that the the one large Green Belt site identified in the Core Strategy was the Land East of Canvey Road, the Dutch Village, which the Inspector found unacceptable. Now the Dutch Village remains identified but for a supposedly later timeframe in the new Local Plan.
Again the question remains, if Castle Point Council have identified a 15 year supply of housing land why have they not set the timeframe of the Local Plan to the 15 year period, as required by the NPPF?
With the historical reluctance of the CPBC to release land on the mainland for development it would not be beyond imagination for the sites identified at Felstead Road and others etc to run into problems at Planning stage, even though they appear to be Castle Point Council’s preferred choice of sites.

Likewise the Ashfield Local Plan appears to be suffering from the tunnel vision of the Local Planners, and has run into the “Local Factoring” that the Castle Point Core Strategy did.

The Planning Inspector commented following the Ashford Local Plan Exploratory meeting:-

“Consequently, I am not entirely convinced that the arguments you have advanced provide a robust justification for a plan period of around 10 years. Nevertheless, the national Planning Practice Guidance states that “Local Plans can pass the test of soundness where local planning authorities have not been able to identify sites or broad locations for growth in years 11-15.”1 Accordingly, a Plan which does not identify sites or broad locations for years 11- 15 is not inevitably unsound and this is not a matter which would, in itself, prevent the examination proceeding to the hearing sessions.

My fundamental concern here is that it is not clear from the SA of sites or from other documents why the allocated sites have been selected and alternative sites have been rejected.

The National Planning Policy Framework requires that to be sound the Plan should be the most appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence (para 182).

The Courts have confirmed that it should be clear from the SA why the preferred option came to be chosen and this should be based on analysis on a comparable basis of the preferred option and reasonable alternatives.”

Andrew Lainton commented:-
“I have every sympathy with LPA’s who prepare good plans and then are caught out by situations out of their control. What I have no sympathy with is whining silly and inaccurate press releases by sore Councillors on truly weak local plans, which are evidenced short term stitch-ups of politically favoured sites irrespective of the evidence.
Take today at Ashfield – Where the inspector found a plan
1) With only a 9 year lifespan
2) Did not make it clear why some sites had been chosen over others (always a sign of a smoke filled room, non transparent process)
3) Had not demonstrated whether those sites proposed for deletion from the Green Belt met the exceptional circumstances test
4) Was unable to demonstrate that the chosen Green Belt boundaries could endure beyond the plan period
Fundamental issues – plans need to be transparent, and on the Green Belt meet the clear tests.
Instead the moaning in a silly press release:-

“The Inspector suggests that if land does not meet all the Green Belt purposes the Council should either safeguard it or
take the land out of the Green Belt.”

No that is a wilful misreading of the inspectors findings, and indeed a reading that does not comply with national policy.

“The Council will be writing to both the Inspector and Nick Boles MP to express concerns and the view that the process has become a barrier to achieving a truly local approach. In particular, the Council will set out the importance of leaving room for a local approach as Neighbourhood Plans develop and concern with the strict application of both Sustainability Appraisal and Green Belt policy in the way set out by the Inspector, as it appears to prevent the local approach the Authority was intending.
The Council is also seeking clarity from the MP as to the future role of Neighbourhood Plans if the Council is to be required to identify all sites in the Local Plan.”

It is not ‘the strict application of Sustainability Appraisal and Green Belt policy’ but its basic application, and a legal requirement for both, have they not heard of Forest Hill or Pehrsonn. Boles should toss this letter into his rather large waste paper basket. As for ‘leaving room for neighbourhood plans’ what they really mean is having a plan with a period so short they don’t have to look seriously at larger Green Belt review, and ‘leaving room’ would not help as neighbourhood plans could not look at large scale Green Belt releases without failing the conformity test.”

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