The latest Government Green Belt guidance on Planning speculated upon and commented upon in a Telegraph article appears to have some possible major impact for the Castle Point Local Plan.
Only recently a senior CPBC Officer has expressly commented in the Echo newspaper that Green Belt does not hold the same constraint on development as Flood Risk has.
In the case of Canvey Island, where the indicated development sites include areas within Green Belt and Flood Risk zone the situation should not be more apparent!
The onus appears to be placed squarely onto CPBC councillors to produce a sound Local Plan having been armed with the necessary information.
Rather than reproduce the Telegraph article for comment, I have chosen the exact guidance as announced.
No doubt the High Courts will have the ultimate decision making power, however there is enough scope in the guidance for the local councillors to commence producing a Plan with the assistance of local council staff.
Once a Plan is published the Planning Inspectorate should then give a pre-examination guidance as to their interpretation of the Plan’s legitimacy.
The crux of the issue is the quality of the evidence base.
Up until now the Local plan evidence has been poorly produced and influenced.
The Flood Risk Assessment for Canvey Island is a case in question. Altered to suit the “Local Factors” being exerted at the time was exposed legally at the Core Strategy Examination in Public, and yet this document is used in support of development on Canvey Island, rather than against!
As far as Green Belt is concerned, the guidance appears to be clear, however “Considerable weight should be given to the housing requirement figures in adopted Local Plans.”
The major criticism that I can identify within the recent guidance is the frequent indicisive terminology such as the verb should.
“Should” is most commonly used to make recommendations or give advice. It can also be used to express obligation as well as expectation.
Whereas if the Government were to give clearer indication, by say using must, less ambiguity would remain.
“Must” is most commonly used to express certainty. It can also be used to express necessity or strong recommendation.
Very similar to the Environment Agency representative during the Core Strategy Examination claiming that the Canvey sea defence realignment and necessary improvement work within the TE2100 “should have funds in place.” Rather than “will have funds in place!”
All rather reassuring until you dismantle the exact terminology, and more importantly the intent of the Local Plan publisher!.
The latest guidance reads:-
Paragraph: 044 Reference ID: 3-044-20141006
Do housing and economic needs override constraints on the use of land, such as Green Belt?
The National Planning Policy Framework should be read as a whole: need alone is not the only factor to be considered when drawing up a Local Plan.
The Framework is clear that local planning authorities should, through their Local Plans, meet objectively assessed needs unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole, or specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted. Such policies include those relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives, and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park or the Broads; designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.
The Framework makes clear that, once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.Revision date: 06 10 2014
Paragraph: 045 Reference ID: 3-045-20141006
Do local planning authorities have to meet in full housing needs identified in needs assessments?
Local authorities should prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment to assess their full housing needs.
However, assessing need is just the first stage in developing a Local Plan. Once need has been assessed, the local planning authority should prepare a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period, and in so doing take account of any constraints such as Green Belt, which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need.Revision date: 06 10 2014
Paragraph: 029 Reference ID: 3-029-20140306
How is deliverability (1-5 years) and developability (6-15 years) determined in relation to housing supply?
Assessing the suitability, availability and achievability (including the economic viability of a site) will provide the information as to whether a site can be considered deliverable, developable or not currently developable for housing. The definition of ‘deliverability’ and ‘developability’ in relation to housing supply is set out in footnote 11 and footnote 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
All aspects of a Local Plan must be realistic and deliverable but there are specific requirements in the Framework in relation to planned housing land supply.Revision date: 06 03 2014
Paragraph: 030 Reference ID: 3-030-20140306
What is the starting point for the five-year housing supply?
The National Planning Policy Framework sets out that local planning authorities should identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing against their housing requirements. Therefore local planning authorities should have an identified five-year housing supply at all points during the plan period. Housing requirement figures in up-to-date adopted Local Plans should be used as the starting point for calculating the five year supply. Considerable weight should be given to the housing requirement figures in adopted Local Plans, which have successfully passed through the examination process, unless significant new evidence comes to light. It should be borne in mind that evidence which dates back several years, such as that drawn from revoked regional strategies, may not adequately reflect current needs.
Where evidence in Local Plans has become outdated and policies in emerging plans are not yet capable of carrying sufficient weight, information provided in the latest full assessment of housing needs should be considered. But the weight given to these assessments should take account of the fact they have not been tested or moderated against relevant constraints. Where there is no robust recent assessment of full housing needs, the household projections published by the Department for Communities and Local Government should be used as the starting point, but the weight given to these should take account of the fact that they have not been tested (which could evidence a different housing requirement to the projection, for example because past events that affect the projection are unlikely to occur again or because of market signals) or moderated against relevant constraints (for example environmental or infrastructure).
Revision date: 06 03 2014