I have come across an interesting conversation. The content is not new, has been muted by others, but is of interest so I have taken the liberty of re-producing some of it in this Post. The content and generality, I believe, leads it to not being considered to have broken any confidences.
Initial enquiry reads:
On 5th September 2014 it was reported that Keith Holland, an inspector for the department for communities and local government, stated at a meeting with Councillors in March 2014, “I want to be absolutely clear. If a local authority wishes to amend its green belt or use some of its green belt land for development, that is a decision for the local authority. It is not a decision which the planning inspector will impose on a local authority.
“It is purely your decision if you want to use green belt land or not and the National Planning Policy Framework is very clear.”
On 8th January 2015 it was reported that Minister of State for Planning and Housing Brandon Lewis told campaigners and Tory MP Rebecca Harris, “By placing local plans at the heart of the system, councils have the power to protect their green belt and take account of all local environmental issues, while at the same time working to meet their local housing need.
“So, I would urge Castle Point Council to get on and put its local plan in place, as the best way to deliver the homes local people want and need, while maintaining strong protection for its green belt.”
Mr Lewis supported the views of the planning inspector, Keith Holland, who was secretly filmed at a Castle Point Council meeting telling councillors they would not be forced to release green belt land to meet its housing quotas.
Despite these verbal assurances that any development on green belt land is purely at the discretion of the local Council, it was reported on 13th January 2015 that Castle Point Council is refusing to rule out building on green belt land – unless they get a cast iron guarantee from Government.
Norman Smith, chairman of the council’s local plan task and finish group, said: “It needs to be backed up by a government directive, rather than one minister just saying what he maybe feels we want to hear.” This was reaffirmed on Wednesday at the Richmond Hall meeting.
The response reads:
“If you go on the .gov website and look under planning and see the wording of the NPPF and all the accompanying guidance it’s already there in black and white.”
“The councillors have to get a grip of this and understand for themselves what the new legislation says – and stop making a political football of it!”
Through this we learn that the current Parliamentary message appears on the face of it quite clear.
Meeting Objectively Assessed Housing Need does not over ride the protection of any constrained sites.
Only local choice would allow this to happen.
At present, it appears CPBC officers are promoting the release of land on Canvey which is both Green Belt and within a Flood Zone 3A, thereby electing to disregard both physical and policy constraints!
This CPBC policy may also be considered to have been endorsed by councillors who voted to approve the draft New Local Plan for consultation.
As the H18 Blinking Owl site appears to be being promoted as an alternative deliverable Green Belt site for development, officers suggest by its identification, it becomes an additional site. There now appears a query as to whether Green Belt is the sole issue.
If a collective or a group purports to vow to defend Green Belt per se, they weaken their defence by suggesting alternative sites.
Their strength of reasoning will be examined.
Why is one site more valuable than another? Other considerations must be factored, infrastructure, road access to main highways etc.
It has been suggested that those values supporting H18 Blinking Owl site are weaker than those used to promote Glebelands for development.
We must be careful, it is a difficult game being played with high stakes and consequences for the Borough.
What is known is that recommendations by the Environment Agency that any new development on Canvey Island must be supported by a Flood Response Plan reliant on the EA’s early flood warning and that consideration must be given before approval that CPBC are confident that new builds will be able to obtain insurance against flooding during the lifetime of the dwelling.
Firstly, the EA’s early warning fails to offer notice to residents signed up for the scheme of two of the three methods of flood. Only should the sea defence be in danger of over topping can an alert be confidently be released.
Secondly, the to be introduced during 2015 FloodRE Insurance scheme will not cover new builds post 2009.
Despite these issues, not being discussed, approvals for development on Canvey is the norm.
These decisions undermine the physical constraining argument against building in areas vulnerable to Flood.
The identification of the Blinking Owl site and it’s furtherment, may be used to undermine the Green Belt constraining argument.
The upcoming Appeals may provide a debating chamber for these issues.
Our MP has gone to the lengths of delivering advice from an Inspector and the Housing Minister.
Better to heed this advice, use it to support a Local Plan and submit for pre-examination of the evidence in support, than continue along the current lines unsupported lines, or not?
I stand to be corrected but understand that no further meetings of the draft New Local Plan have yet been arranged.