The final Castle Point Council meeting prior to the May Election was reduced to Farce.
Firstly the long anticipated attempt to wind up the draft New Local Plan failed.
A motion was put to the Council,
“This Council welcomes the statement by the Local Government Minister at a local meeting on green belt. This Council will therefore prepare a Local Plan protecting Virgin green belt areas and produce a realistic annually housing number that can ideally be achieved.”
However it was considered:
“This Motion will be adjourned without debate to the next Council meeting to enable Cabinet to consider whether it wishes to report on the matter. Council Procedure Rule 13 Motions on Expenditure applies.”
It is nearing 12 months since the previous local elections were held. Changes in leadership and new members were elected solely due to residents’ unrest in the direction the Local Plan was being steered. Ample time for a similar, supported and, more importantly, evidenced, motion to have been put before the council before now!
No debate was allowed. It is highly unlikely that anything new would have been discussed other than allowing members the opportunity to reiterate the same old sound bites and let off steam at what they feel they are being forced into.
We have covered our fear of the inertia generated by the Local Plan HERE, we see little evidence to feel otherwise.
We have been told that, on the abolition of the old RSS housing requirements, targets and need for new housing will be decided locally.
We have also been told that it is the local authority’s choice whether Green Belt boundaries are altered.
We hear a lot of about constraints on housing delivery chiefly Green Belt, but also to a lesser extent Flood risk and Hazardous industrial sites and pipelines. These constraints are the key to the housing delivery that Castle Point is faced with. Hospitals and the road network struggle with the current population.
However, in the local press it appears that there is an acceptance, by the local authority and many members, that housing delivery will be higher than historical figures. How else can it be explained that “previously developed” Green Belt sites should be developed for housing outside of a policy change through the local plan process?
The identification of “preferred” Green Belt sites may bode very badly for some specific, less popular areas.
This motion appears to be too little, too late.
Too further add insult to the mayor, during her final full Council Meeting, on winding up the meeting, a councillor had planned a dramatic finale based on his resignation from his party.
Whilst the Local Plan motion debate was stifled, this theatrical announcement was allowed to continue, even some Lead Group members indicating where he had “lost” his speech notes, giving little credence to the claim that nothing was known of his intention.
This was not a very constructive meeting, simply a very unfortunate episode for the Mayor, but rather indicative of this authority’s Local Plan’s stalling progress.