Maldon shows Castle Point the Way for our Developer driven Local Plan?

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.

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Since then the CS was withdrawn by the Council, despite the offer of assistance to officers and councillors by the Planning Inspector.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 In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead.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.

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Perhaps “Our Becky’s” working relationship with senior Ministers could be the important advantageous factor in this process!

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7 responses to “Maldon shows Castle Point the Way for our Developer driven Local Plan?

  1. Cllr Simon Hart

    As a brief reply surely NO plan, is better than the “wrong plan”, the “Draft” Local Plan like the previous plan the Core Strategy both being officer plans do not sit well with most Cllrs and the residents of Castle Point.

    Not having a new Local Plan may lead to applications on Green Belt sites, but most of which are listed in the Draft Local Plan anyway, if and when any further applications on Green Belt land comes in we can fight it like we have with Glebelands and Jotmans, and if reports are true soon The Dutch Village site.We have consulted residents of Castle Point twice and both times a very high percentage stated they want to protect the Green Fields and Green Belt of Castle Point (90+%).

    Accepting the wrong plan sets our path for 20 years and commits the land listed with in the plan for development.

    The guidance on Local Plans has changed so the Draft Local Plan must change to, officers need to listen to Cllrs, listen to ministers and most importantly listen to Castle Point residents and prepare an up to date Local Plan for Castle Point that reflects our unique circumstances a plan that is acceptable to Cllrs and the public.

  2. Thanks Councillor Hart, that is most re-assuring.
    I do note however that in both cases, the Core Strategy and the daft New Local Plan councillors had an opportunity to vote to reject the documents for consultation yet failed to do so. Albeit now, there appears an opportunity to re-publish in line with new Guidance. The CS remains a shameful exercise in hiding behind plans to develop on Canvey as a means of supplying the Borough’s housing need. But that is in the past, I hope! You mention “preparing a Local Plan which reflects our unique circumstances and preparing a Plan acceptable to Cllrs and public. Two questions arise, will not developers also have some expectation in a Plan that goes a little towards being acceptable to them? Also has new unique circumstances been discovered that were not available / applicable to the previous CS and daft New Local Plan? Can we expect positive movement at the next to be scheduled meetings or is the reference to No Plan being better than the wrong Plan open to speculation?
    Best wishes
    Editor

    • Cllr Simon Hart

      Generally Developers want to build houses where the most profit is, the more they build the more profit is available, developers or officers do not vote on a Local Plan Cllrs do.
      The concern of the Council is not to make developers happy but are there to represent the residents of Castle Point. Officers prepare the plans to their interpretations of the guidelines and Cllrs discuss, challenge and eventually vote to accept or reject said plans . If developers do not like the plans or speed of progress that’s not the concern of the Council.
      I regard to the new evidence and the statement you make in the first part of your reply, I hope it will make a massive difference to the outcome of the Draft Local Plan and the Consultation results of the draft Local Plan will add weight to the new evidence and hopefully result in an acceptable “New Local Plan” that will protect Castle Points precious Green Fields, Virgin Green Belt for at least the next 20 years.
      My comment of No Plan is better than the wrong Plan was meant as a description of our current situation and that not having a Plan at this time is not justification to accept the wrong plan.

  3. Steve Sawkins

    Simon, I totally agree that it is important to listen to residents, that is all residents. Failure to listen to Canvey Residents resulted in the following document being presented to full council.

    LOCAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK CORE STRATEGY
    BRIEFING PAPER FOR MEMBERS CONFERENCE
    12th &13th SEPTEMBER 2011
    Extract. ( a revisit of the whole document is advised )
    Conclusions
    This paper has explained the Council’s current position with regard to the Core Strategy, and the issues that need to be considered when deciding how to take it forward as the development plan document for Castle Point.
    It is clear from the draft NPPF that the Council will need to plan for meeting its housing needs in the future, and therefore there is an imperative to make decisions related to this matter sooner rather than later in order to ensure maximum benefit to the existing community, and also to protect land that the Council does not wish to see developed from inappropriate development.
    The paper and Appendices explain the approach that has been taken to assessing the sites in the Green Belt in Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley in order to determine their suitability in terms of meeting housing need in the Borough. This has included consideration of deliverability, impact on the function of the Green Belt, sustainability, landscape impact, transport and access and the capacity of infrastructure. Members may wish to spend some time considering the Appendices in order to identify the most appropriate sites to accommodate future housing need.
    Consideration should also be given as to whether Members would wish to seek the redevelopment of that part of Thorney Bay caravan site, beyond the HSE Middle Consultation Zone, for traditional housing. This would alleviate some of the issues associated with the loss of supply from small sites in the urban area of Canvey Island due to viability issues.

    Councillors were given the following options :-

    “Options
    In responding to the Planning Inspector’s letter of the 11th May 2011, there are two options available to the Council.
    1) Consider the evidence presented in relation to suggested sites. This will
    require the identification of suitable Green Belt land in sustainable locations in Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of development sites for years 1 to 5, and a sufficient supply of sites that are likely to be developable in years 6 to 15. Additionally, the Council should consider safeguarding land for future housing need. If this option is pursued, the examination could continue, and there is a reasonable likelihood of receiving report identifying the Core Strategy as sound in the Spring of 2012.
    2) Withdraw the Core Strategy. The examination so far has cost approximately £90,000. This money would be lost, and there would need to be a substantial investment in refreshing background studies, undertaking further consultation and preparing new policy documents. During this period the Council would not have an up to date development plan, and would be open to the presumption in favour of sustainable development set out in the draft NPPF. There is no middle option, as the Planning Inspector’s letter is clear. Failing to follow either of these options would result in either the Core Strategy being found unsound, or the Council having no up-to-date plan in place.”

    Having digested the conclusion and finding all aspects other than the Thorney Bay site being brought forward for consideration was found to be unpalateable. Option two won the day.
    The whole process has gone downhill, along with a considerable sum of tax payers money since. It was councillors who chose the option to abandon the Core Strategy and it is for them to retrieve the situation they now find themselves in. Unfortunately it’s the residents that will pick up the tab.

    • Cllr Simon Hart

      Steve you’re quoting documents from the Core Strategy dated 2011,we are working on the new draft local plan 2015 . I thought it was quite clear from my statement I said Castle point residents and Castle point green fields and greenbelt .

      • It is clearly apparent that Castle Point Council are not the ablest Plan makers around.
        The first Plan, the Core Strategy with its focus on developing Canvey Green Belt, resigned to the waste bin at Examination stage as being “unsound” and worthy only of withdrawal.
        The second attempt, the daft New Local Plan, reluctantly accepted for Consultation as being “the best we can come up with in the circumstances,” also now “apparently” being considered unacceptable by active members of the community and some councillors!
        With both Plans voted for either Publication or worthy of Consultation by the Councillors during a free vote, can we expect to see a more palateable version of a Plan following the consultation?
        At this rate we may do better in consulting with Baldrick, of Black Adder fame, after all wasn’t he famous for coming up with many Plans? That way the developers may be kept away by keeping the Local Plan making process going, rather than arriving at a Final Version.
        There that’s a Plan!

  4. Steve Sawkins

    Simon I know perfectly well that this dated evidence is way before you being elected as a councillor. I fully understand your efforts to save your particular area of green belt better than most. It has been some time since we both stood, quite dismayed, outside the council offices on one cold winters night, having just heard how the then Cabinet intended to sell off the boroughs green belt for the governments house building bonus financial incentives. I refer back to those days because I see very little change in some of the senior councillors attitude towards Canvey Island green belt, or its constraints to further development. I cannot identify with any of the Officer having the slightest concerns of the flooding risks or hazardous site being detrimental to the safety and well being of Canvey’s community, so please forgive me for not being to trusting of the present administration.

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