Bias, nimbyism, councillors self preservation and fiction, all part of the Local Plan process?

It is interesting to compare the approach taken by Castle Point Council on it’s approach to anonimisation and local views (NIMBY) within the Local Plan consultation.

The views of residents have been published on the Local Plan Consultation Portal.

As can be expected, most responses have reflected neighbourhood interests, rather than a Borough-wide overview.
This is not unusual as many CPBC Councillors have displayed very similar traits!

Reading the recent post by A.Lainton on the Decisions, Decisions, Decisions Blog, it appears that Castle Point Council should have indicated the general, but not the exact, Postcode of submitters on the Consultation Portal.

This would give relevance and indicate the weight of many submissions, such as for instance one of the later entry’s as an example reads:

2: The Housing Target Given national projections, do you think that the Council’s housing target of 200 homes per year is appropriate?
No – it should be a lower target

3: Housing Sites, Do you object to one or more of the housing proposals set out in the New Local Plan proposed policy document?
Yes

If yes, which housing site/s do you object to in particular?
· H7 – Land off Scrub Lane, Hadleigh
· H10 – Land East of Rayleigh Road, Hadleigh
· H11 – Land south of Daws Heath, Hadleigh

Clearly this entry, to receive a balanced regard in the Borough’s consultation analysis should indicate the responder’s area Postcode.

It would be surprising if the responder resided anywhere other than Hadleigh, and as such the value of the submission is questionable.

The same obviously applies to many submissions from residents from other areas within the Borough, not just Hadleigh.
Many residents care for their area alone, and are entitled to submit views.
The question is how much weight is being given behind the scenes to views from particular areas?
Without transparency it will not be apparent whether political weighting will or will not be applied.

I raise this point, as no indication to residents has been made of how the Local Plan consultation analysis is being approached.

Local views are important. Whether they will be given due regards by the analysers and then consequently by the CPBC officers will be interesting to discover as the Local Plan final document emerges.

Historically we know through the Core Strategy there is history where “clarity” is concerned.

The CS consultation received in the region of a 15% response.
This allowed CPBC to “suggest” that the remaining 85% (approx) of residents by not responding, must agree with the Plan as it appeared!
The Local Plan Portal is displaying 3,742 residents responses.
From a population of a little over 88,000, once again this is a very disappointing figure for the local authority, roughly 5% of residents.

However rather than 95% by not responding indicating agreement with the Local Plan, I suggest this indicates apathy and a belief that residents feel little, or no regard, for their views are taken into account.

It will be interesting this time to observe Councillors response to the Local Plan Final Document.
Also of interest is whether the document emerges before or after the May elections for consideration.
The A.Lainton post is below:

Statistical Theory Argument Could Lead to Legal Challenge to Stratford Core Strategy Meeting
Seriously there could be a JR because of the way Stratford DC has ‘filtered’ its survey results on the latest round of its core strategy consultation.
It asked respondants to rank the preferred option location for its ‘ig lump’ of a strategic allocation. Including the previous preferred option (At Gaydon, a new settlement) but also four more including another new settlement. Not ranked all of there responses 1 to 5. Some for example ranked them 1,2, or 1,2,3 etc. It was not until midway through the consultation that Stratford DC indicated you had to rank all five, and even then did not say they incomplete rankings would render a response invalid.
But now their committee report ‘throws away’ incomplete rankings – treating them as what is known in statistics as a ‘non response’. This has seriously affected the result in terms of the most ‘preferred’ response, Gaydon would not have been top of the list but now is. So the result of this decision could seriously sway councillors and lead them to select Gaydon or not. Naturally the anti Gaydon local group is furious. It could end in the courts.
Now why would you want to do that? Does it introduced distortions if you dont? Well in terms of statistical theory no – if you are only considering top ranked questions. that is rank 1. Then you can report without any distortion the top rank. But then you lose all information on the 2 3 ranks etc. Its the same as asking a single response question one what one you prefer.
If you do want to use the rank 2, 3 response etc. in your analysis you get serious distortions if you don’t deal with the incomplete rank order questions responses. That is because as we have all learned people arnt just ranking there top order preferred response. In reality many respondents are not ranking top preferences but least preferred. Ranking lowest the area furthest way from them. Here if someone ranks 1 to 3 and another ranks 1 to 5. The rank order 3 of the first is not the same as the rank order 5th of the other – you cant add them up. If you want to do serious statistical analysis – to find out if people are ranking dispreference rather than preference, then you cant treat all responses the same. You need to re-weight the response scores, and there are several techniques to do so, mostly pioneered in the marketing industry.
Then you can, for example, use spatial autocorrelation and other tests to see if people are simply always ranking worst the area closest to them.
But there is no indication that Starteford DC is doing this. They are half aware of the problem. Have chosen the clumsiest and worst method of all to ‘compensate’ throwing away all incomplete response and as a result have seriously distorted the headline result. They didnt need to anyway as they dont seem to be really analyzing the results below rank 1. So they have committed a serious, though unintentional, statistical blunder and risk misleading cllrs at the forthcoming ‘final’ meeting on submission.
Myself and the entire English Planning profession thought we were so clever in pioneering this kind of question. Instead we were idiots. Questionnaire design and analysis without at least some grasp of statistic 101 is worse that not doing a questionnaire at all.
Startford should pull the report and give the raw data to a statistical professional to analyse first. It would be much cheaper than a ‘sadly’ well deserved JR, and published the raw anoymised results on its website (good practice). (DPA means you cant include the full postcode, but you can and should the postcode district).
After all how can you be sure of what is ‘locally led’ if you dont even know what local residents actually prefer or not?

Whether Castle Point Borough Council, after it’s problematical journey through the Local Plan making process, are in any position to incorporate residents views in the light of the Planning Inspectorates reminder to councillors as to their responsibilities in the matter, is another issue.

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