It was without a little irony that photographs appeared in the Echo newspaper and social media, of William Hague, members of the local conservatives and mainland Green Belt campaigners meeting up for a photo-opportunity at the Dutch Village fields recently.
Whilst Rebecca Harris’ efforts towards pressing the local authority into making headway, using recent Government Planning Guidance, with the Local Plan, the previous and current record of Castle Point Council indicates this Canvey site low on their list of protection priorities!
We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, acknowledge that some verbal messages have been forthcoming that this site may be lower down the list of sites initially being released for housing development. Well so it should be, it is Green Belt (constrained) in a Flood Risk Area (constrained) and serves as a valuable recreational facility to a somewhat deprived location!
Not so long ago it was CPBC’s preferred Green Belt development site. The 2010 Core Strategy promoted the Dutch Village site alongside the old Castle View school site as the only Green Belt required for release. The Borough’s single most sustainable housing site, situated on Mainland, was excluded for no apparent reason, according to the Sustainability Appraisers Baker Associates, and CPBC representatives were content that only green field areas in Kiln Road and at Scrub lane were to be included in the Local Plan. Following consultation the Final Core Strategy document was presented for Examination.
Currently we hear that the consulted upon current draft Local Plan, that also includes the Dutch Village Fields, old Castle View school site and now other mainland Green Belt sites, may be subject to withdrawal.
We will not learn whether this will actually happen until after May, and even then the two or even more, should Morrisons have their way, Canvey sites may remain promoted for housing development. For them to be excluded would require a fair review of the Borough’s Sequential Test, something Cabinet and Local Plan Task and Finish group appear reluctant to approach.
We hear no condemnation of the previous leadership at CPBC’s work on the Local Plan.
The “hope” for mainland GB groups is that the Blinking Owl site, also in Castle Point’s Green Belt, will be deliverable enough to come forward during the local plan period. It appears that the argument that Castle Point is over-crowded and ill prepared infrastructure wise has been conceded and that Green Belt must be released. Let’s hope not, once again we will learn after May.
Decisions may rest with Appeal Planning Inspectors.
The photo opportunity appears to ask for Canvey residents support, this is absolutely fair enough. However if trust on local Green Belt issues is also being asked for at a local authority level, it will initially require residents to totally forget previous performance.