The rights and wrongs of the issue of the Nashleas Farm housing development proposal rumbles on. It is suggested that the area, whilst in a wooded part of Castle Point’s Green Belt, the site concerned is previously developed. There are claims that this should now be deemed, Brownfield. We have listened to edited commentary of Planning Inspector Keith Holland telling CPBC councillors that if they so choose, Green Belt may be used as a constraint by local authorities if they feel they need to limit their Objectively Assessed Housing Needs. We have heard a recording of the Government Minister repeating the exact same message. We also hear residents promoting the re-development of a potato packing and distribution business premises within the “current” Green Belt for the use of delivering housing, none of which classed as affordable. The Blinking Owl site H18 contains some existing development, potentially previously developed also within the Green Belt, and included, in part, within the draft New Local Plan. The Felstead and Catherine Road site is also listed as previously developed Green Belt and included as such in the draft New Local Plan as part of the initial 5 year supply. However the developer’s proposal for the Felstead Road site was rejected by the development committee, for reasons other than Green Belt issues, despite the adopted Local Plan. Nashleas Farm, from the photographs available, appears to be developed with “temporary,” rather than permanent buildings, for agricultural type purposes.
Policy GB3 of the Castle Point Adopted Local Plan indicates that the redevelopment of agricultural buildings for residential purposes will not be permitted. This seeming lack of consistency argued over these sites may prove their downfall. Officers still contend that Blinking Owl site is unviable in the short term, whilst background work continues to disprove this. Nashleas Farm proposal, whilst going against the policy of the current Local Plan, may eventually be successful. This may be considered to set a local precedent. If this were the case, should Felstead Road proposal be taken to Appeal, there is a possibility that the Local Authority’s inconsistent approach towards previously developed areas within the Green Belt would assist the developer. Worse still there are areas east of neighbouring Daws Heath Road in the vicinity of Nashleas Farm that landowners may also then consider using a similar argument, so as to remove other areas of land from the Green Belt for development! Councillors, Campaigners and residents need to define whether there is a need to limit housing numbers or the fight to protect Green Belt. Perhaps we should be suggesting the two are intrinsically linked. Paragraph 89 of the NPPF has been used to suggest Nashleas Farm should be developed. However parts of the NPPF paragraph 89 is not quite so clear cut and may be used by either side in these matters.
Para 89 A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:
(In the case against Nashleas farm):-
the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces; limited infilling in villages, and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan; limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.
(In the case for Nashleas farm being developed):-
A case would have to be proven that the site was proven to be brownfield within the Green Belt. Development Committee remit may or may not allow an over rule of the existing Local Plan.
Both the Blinking Owl site and Felstead Road area contain permanent dwellings. A very dangerous legal game being played that may be best left until the Local Plan is re-drawn, should that be the intention after the Election. The issue of the re-drawing of the Local Plan is now also proving to be a concern. Inertia is the term I have used regarding the Local Plan, it has it’s own, and so far the threats to halt the process and re-draw its contents have, concerningly for residents, proved to be just that, threats! The draft New Local Plan was adopted by CPBC as worthy of consultation ahead of the Glebelands Appeal. There is a question mark over how a decision to abandon the current version, if taken, would be viewed, especially by barristers at development Appeals. To produce a new draft New Local Plan could well add on 5 years to the process, the Core Strategy was withdrawn during 2011, remember. I could imagine this being tested in the Court of Appeal as being a delaying tactic being used by CPBC against development. If constraints are to be applied to the level of housing supply, then a clear and consistent approach must be adopted. In the first instance within the boundaries of the current Local Plan, as out of date as it is. The importance that only if very special circumstances can be proven, and this should be reliant on an affordable / social housing supply somewhere between the new and old Local Plans specification, being met will any proposal be considered approvable. Profit should not be the only motivation supporting development within the Green Belt, sustainability and the existence of very special circumstances are pre-requisite criteria. Without a consistent approach I fear an argument to support the areas similar to Felstead Road may be lost to development. It will be interesting to observe whether the Nashleas Farm developer feels there is a case to take to Appeal, rather than re-submitting a new application to Castle Point Council.