“With the sites named in the draft Local Plan document means that developers are coming whether we like it or not!”
The status of the Castle Point Local Plan has received some social media attention of late, mainly by councillors excluded from the process by their various interests, in, what appears, an unfortunate attempt to “point score” during the lead up to the Election
There is much emphasis being made on the Plan’s status of being in its consultation stage, as though residents should have no concerns.
A few points should be realised;
Firstly, we believe this is not, as is being suggested, entirely an officers Plan.
There is nowhere to hide behind this claim. That much was made clear during the full council debate on whether this Plan was worthy of sending out to consultation.
The new Local Plan was made clear to councillors and residents, publically, as being the result of extensive work, and the responsibility for its format rests with ex-Leader P.Challis, ex-deputy J.Stanley, cllr N.Smith and officers!
Introducing the Motion, on whether the Plan should be adopted for taking forward to consultation stage, cllr Smith emphasised that “no stone had been left unturned” during work carried out by members and staff and that “ a lot of time had been spent by councillors looking at every conceivable (housing) site in the Borough, both brownfield and greenfield.”
He went on to say that ““we” know if we put a Plan together that we and residents like, it won’t get passed by an Inspector. The alternative could lead to 700 new dwellings per annum being imposed on us.”
Cllr Smith felt they were left between a “rock and a hard place,” and would love to listen to residents who, apparently, wanted no houses at all.
However, this was the best Local Plan possible and “following consultation some “tweaking,” will need to be done, and was prepared to work with that.”
Further warnings followed, as without this Plan we (our Green belt) was defenceless, and that they had worked extremely hard on a Plan that would have “least effect on the Borough.”
“Councillors had got to make a hard decision, residents won’t like it but we have to do it!”
Cllr Stanley seconded the motion adding, “this was the most comprehensive piece of work during his time at the council.”
This Plan contained “the best set of options!”
The Plan sets out realising 200 new dwellings per annum, the alternative being nearly twice as many, 346.”
“They” had looked at the Borough Map countless numbers of times.
The Plan would release a “stream of developers contributions for schools and infrastructure.”
This Plan will protect us and only “release 4% of the Borough’s green fields as development and 4% as amenity space.”
Cllr Sheldon, one of the Local Plan’s strongest critics, complained no solution (alternative option) had come from either side of the council chamber. However he went on to “apologise to his own residents, We failed (to come up with alternatives) and this is why we are in the position we are today!” “We stood up for green belt, but we didn’t succeed.”
“The viable sites in the document meet 98% of our housing need.” “With the sites named in the document means that developers are coming whether we like it or not!”
This was, unfortunately, the most relevant sentence spoken!
This Plan allows us influence, all we have left is a Fall, when you are in that position, all that matters is, how you Fall.”
“This is a vote, nobody wants to make.”
“The sites included in the consultation document meet 98% of the Borough’s housing need, even with the expansion of Jotmans. Master planning is the key to controlling) what goes there will have the smallest effect on house prices.”
“we fought and we failed.”
Cllr Smith ended the debate by adding “we haven’t built starter homes, the reason why we are an aging population.”
As the sites identified come forward the part local councillors will play, will be to become “involved in master planning to prevent intensification” of the housing sites.
The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group having been put through the experience of the Core Strategy process realised there was little purpose in wasting too much time and effort on making lengthy submissions on the consultation of such a Borough-wide unpopular Local Plan. Our submissions were made so as to allow us to make “full representation” at the Plan’s Final stage, if and when it is reached!
If, as is suspected, the New Local Plan’s consultation process was an exercise in delaying tactics to protect both Jotmans farm and Glebelands at Appeal, then only the intervention of the Secretary of State, stopped this tactic from total failure.
We are getting to the point where “delaying” maybe a better form of defence than “master planning,” with developers being able to prove that affordable homes make development unviable, so to will master planning with its spacious layouts!
For councillors, especially those excluded from the process, to continue to score points by suggesting this is just a consultation, not a plan, insults residents, as the exercise was a very considerable drain on our resources.
The consultation Plan has led to the identification of the most sensitive,(politically and environmentally), sites in the Borough.
By voting to support the Plan for consultation implies support and agreement of the evidence base. This will be most difficult to over turn, when suggested by developers legal representatives at Appeal and examination stage of the Plan.
The meeting to adopt the Local Plan for consultation was held in January 2014, leaving plenty of time since to have stopped the process and commenced work on an alternative. The new administration at Castle Point attempted to move this as a motion at the last meeting prior to the elections, but it was postponed.
Whether the residents are being strung along or taken for fools, or indeed that the re-working of a Plan is a difficult yet possible process, remains to be seen. But it is clear that much damage was done by the approval of the new local Plan for consultation.