The speed of progress, or lack of, with the Castle Point Local Plan has been noted by the potential developers of the Glebelands Green Belt site (Echo July1st).
It was during a Councillors Conference as long ago as September 2011, that the required additional sites were considered, at the Core Strategy(CS) Examination Inspector’s suggestion.
Since then the CS was withdrawn by the Council, despite the offer of assistance to officers and councillors by the Planning Inspector.
A daft New Local Plan was published for consultation during January 2014.
The resulting consultation responses being considered by a Task and Finish group from the 39th July 2014 up until 4th March 2015, when the work appears to have effectively become suspended.
The Glebelands Appeal appears to be dictating the direction the Local Plan process may take.
At the previous Glebeland Appeal the Secretary of State, in his decision to dismiss the Appeal, was assured “the Council accepted that the new Local Plan should adopt a housing target of 200 dwellings per annum (plus a 20% addition); that a number of strategic locations be included within the first 5 year period; and that this included a number of GB sites…”
The Secretary of State considered that;
“He share’s the Inspector’s conclusions that the requirement figure for assessing the 5-year forward supply should be 2,350 dwellings”
Furthermore; “he does not agree with the Inspector’s comment at IR339 that the current programme for adoption looks somewhat optimistic, especially in the light of the Council’s experience with the now aborted Core Strategy (CS). In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead. With the publication of the NPPF, he is more positive than the Inspector that the Council can achieve its’ programme for LP adoption, especially given the drivers within it.”
The views of the Secretary of State were delivered 26th June 2013.
The Local Development Scheme timetable, issued January 2014, indicates the intention to submit the Local Plan during September 2014 for Examination during December 2014 aiming for Adoption March this year (2015) !
In the light of the Local Plan’s timetable “over run” and the Secretary of State’s support of CPBC, the Department’s confidence may have become tenuous!
During this timetable we have noted the effort of our MP Rebecca Harris in organising “private” training sessions for councillors involving a senior Planning Inspector plus two meetings with senior Government Ministers for further advice and direction.
In the background councillors have exhibited unrest with the daft New Local Plan and sought to examine an alternative Green Belt site with huge development potential off of the A130 / A127 albeit with ownership, access and utility constrictions.
This hesitation in direction of the Local Plan will add strength to the Glebeland’s developers Appeal defence.
It does however highlight the lack of support that residents have for the Local Plan as it currently appears.
In the background we have heard descriptions of virgin and precious being applied to some Green Belt land whilst other possibly similarly functioning Green Belt areas may be receiving less support against development.
Rebecca Harris points out the Planning Guidance issued to support the NPPF indicates means of defending Green Belt from development when Local Plan making.
The stalling of progress with the direction the CPBC Local Plan appears to have taken suggests that the Lead Group of councillors are unclear whether it is prudent to revise the New Local Plan or to stick with the current unpopular version.
The delay in decision making may be for fear of looking over their shoulders and seeing Glebelands developers taking advantage./
This is leaving the decision making down to the Planning Inspectorate.
In the case of large development in the Green Belt it is usual for the Secretary of State to make a final decision, as it will be in this case although whether it is also usual for the examining Inspector to not give his decision also, I am not so sure.
This may well save political embarrassment.
I would assume, following her interventions, our MP may well be becoming frustrated at the ineffectiveness of councillors in re-directing a Local Plan to suit the Borough.
Recently Maldon Council, also frustrated by the Examining Inspector’s views on their Local Plan have taken an initiative that may well have been noted locally. They have issued a statement that reads;
Published on Wednesday 10th June 2015
“Maldon District Council has welcomed that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, has “directed that Maldon District Council’s emerging local plan is submitted to him for his approval.”
Following a request from Maldon District Council for the Secretary of State to intervene, he has ‘issued a direction’ on the basis that this is “to test whether the planning inspector has taken a proportionate and balanced view on the local plan as a whole in the light of national planning policy.””
Whilst this request revolves chiefly around the supply of travellers pitches, it does indicate the potential value of our local MP seeking, and receiving, the planning policy advice of senior Ministers.
This knowledge could then be filtered into the Local Plan making process with some confidence that a suitable acceptable Plan may be achieved.
Our process seems focussed and stifled by the fear of what may be achieved by developers in the interim. This may well lead to disappointment either way, whether the Plan is altered or not. What can be certain is that indecision will solve nothing.
Perhaps “Our Becky’s” working relationship with senior Ministers could be the important advantageous factor in this process!