“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln
Following the General and local Elections how are the changes expected to impact Castle Point, its Local Plan and Green Belt?
We learn of a new Secretary of State at The Department for Communities and Local Government, a politician with a Planning background.
Locally we learn, through the Echo, that the CPBC Deputy Leader of the Council, cllr Sharp is to be replaced by the lead Group of councillors in favour of the previous incumbent, cllr Stanley.
Cllr Sharp, a “radical” politician had, through his work on the Local Plan, explored ways to protect more “sensitive” Green Belt sites in parts of the Borough, chiefly by utilising the degrees of virginity, or levels of previous development, of areas of Green Belt in a form of weighting process.
This, alongside the NPPF Guidance, had raised expectations amongst residents that GB sites that campaign groups were most concerned about may be protected from development.
Cllr Sharp’s replacement is expected to be cllr Stanley, formerly in charge of the Borough’s finances.
This return to the “old guard” coincides with a conversation I had with a senior Lead group councillor on Election day in which it was suggested to me that the Green Belt sites “suggested” as deliverable for housing development within the draft, New Local Plan consultation document remain the sensible and likely options.
How long, post Election, will Green Belt campaigners wait to hear from councillors the reassuring phrase, “the Local Plan is only a draft voted to be sent for Consultation, it is not Approved”? Previously covered HERE.
Friends, we must be realistic, there are two Green Belt development Appeals scheduled for this Autumn.
Following the Glebelands Appeal it was considered;
Mr Justice Blake then goes on to say:..
“However, I would add this observation. The justification for building much needed housing on this GB strip is narrowly balanced. If the Secretary of State’s optimism proves unjustified and other GB or open land is not released for housing development by a new Local Plan, the balance may tip in favour of this development on future consideration. In the absence of concerted effort and effective progress, the outcome of the present process may prove to be more of a temporary reprieve than a durable future for the appeal site.
Mr Alun Aylesbury, the advocate who presented the (Castle Point) Council’s case at the original inquiry has been asked for his view on the judgment. His initial opinion is that there is an expectation that the Council will get on and deliver its New Local Plan.”
We are concerned for resident campaigners at Glebelands and Jotmans as the time remaining pre Appeals leaves little time for Council business. The obvious Appeal defence would be to ditch the Blinking Owl H18 option so that CPBC defence counsel may claim that much progress has been achieved with the Local Plan.
For this to be substantiated, considering that the efforts to progress the H18 option as the alternative to those sites listed within the draft new local Plan has been recorded on webcast, would be for the Council to progress the Local Plan in its current format.
Where would this leave the other sites listed as proposed Housing development within the document?
Where does this all leave the Canvey Island Green Belt sites given the previous Council preferences?
Following the withdrawal of the Core Strategy (CS) a councillors conference was held in September 2011. The intention of the meeting was to address the Core Strategy Inspector’s concerns on the housing distribution across the Borough.
A briefing paper was issued to councillors in which it was explained:
“The paper explains that the area of greatest concern for the Planning Inspector is the absence of suitable housing land; it then provides information regarding sites presently in the Green Belt but which could be allocated for housing purposes, which would be likely to address the Planning Inspector’s points.”
“He (the Inspector) also indicated that he was dissatisfied with the distribution of greenfield development between Canvey Island and the mainland towns. He indicated that the Council should review their assessment of sites in Green Belt locations in the mainland part of the Castle Point and identify land for 2.5 years worth of supply (around 500 homes) for the first five years of the plan, and a further 2.5 years worth of supply for years 6 to 15 (around 500 homes). He also indicated that the Council should give further consideration to identifying safeguarded land, to meet housing land requirements beyond the end of the plan period.”
“The primary focus of the work carried out over the summer of 2011 has been sites on the mainland. This was as a result of the Planning Inspector’s letter of the 11th May 2011. To this end, the sites on Canvey Island have not been the subject of this review, and no additional Green Belt sites have been identified for consideration on Canvey Island.”
So in effect the Green Belt sites on Canvey Island that previously were allotted for development remained in the new Local Plan whilst other sites off the Island were considered.
The preferred Local Plan development sites indicated always were, and remain on Canvey Island.
Making a total nonsense of the Sequential Test that “should” be applied Borough-wide in the case of areas within a Flood Zone!
It appears that consultation where Castle Point Council is concerned remains limited!
Should this scenario turn out to be the case, whatever the motive for progressing the Blinking Owl option to develop may have served a purpose, but has been hampered by, yet again, “Local Factors.”
Let us hope our fears are truly unfounded!