Last evening the Castle Point Local Plan Task an Finish group met to receive and consider updates on the site known as H18 the Blinking Owl.
Members heard that developers had been engaged in producing viability evidence and proposals to support what they believed could be achieved in terms of housing supply if the site was released from the Green Belt.
Some major issues were touched upon; Current open space compensation, access roads, number of dwellings.
The open space issue will impact upon existing residents and the suggested changes should require consultation.
The H18 area has been divided into two parts and a prospective developer offered the opportunity to provide schemes for each part. Both indicated possible major access points within their schemes.
Area known as H18, 1 and 2 showed a proposal to provide a slip road access onto the A127. From memory this was a version of a previously rejected proposal some years ago, so this may involve some serious further research.
The area known as H18, 3 and 4 proposed providing access onto the area of the existing A130 junction roundabout.
Whilst this second proposal was accompanied by revenue funding evidence, both schemes would require Essex County Council Highways agreement and assistance.
The number of potential new dwellings discussed ranged from below 600 up to the full potential of approximately 2,000. A major development opportunity for the Borough, the first for many decades.
Once again the issue of Castle Point Council’s “Master planning” policy must receive attention. What greater example can there be of not developing to reasonable density levels causing more Green Belt sites to be released to compensate for this low density policy failing to achieve assessed housing need?
The issue of development on Green Belt release therefore requires some consideration. Brandon Lewis has recently confirmed that Green Belt is a constraint that may be used to protect from development. To then promote one Green Belt site for development over others will require some site selection explanation, not least that of sustainability and Green Belt function.
The accompanying explanation should also involve some watertight evidence, so as to be defendable under Examination from developers with alternate proposals for other Green Belt sites.
There is no doubt that if houses are proven to be necessary beyond that supporting Local Needs, and must be built, then site H18 appears well sited being situated in a position to make full use of the expensively upgraded A130. This main highway has the ability to take vehicles efficiently away from and to the Borough.
It will also be argued however, as does the Glebelands site!
Further investigative work on the potential and possibility of site H18 was agreed upon by Task and Finish group members.
Whilst the Lead Group of councillors hold a working majority, I understand that amongst them, there remains support for the draft new Local Plan in its current form.
For H18 to be brought forward, the current version of the Plan would require some substantial alteration.
Whilst Cllr Dick gave his support and sought explanations, three of the four Lead Group members remained noticeably silent during the whole meeting, only at the very last moment did one of the three request clarification on a point.
This leads us to assume that support for this change of direction in the Plan process may need support from either the UKIP, Canvey Island Independent Party and / or the Independent councillors to be successful.
The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, given the evidence so far, believe that site H18 the Blinking Owl is of no benefit to Canvey Island residents.
Unless it was to take priority over the Jotmans Farm proposal, based specifically on traffic implications.
This may appear to be an unreasonable position to take to those whose primary concern is not the welfare of Canvey residents.
We would be looking for a major change in the Castle Point Borough Council’s approach to the Sequential Test before any support for Site H18. We make it clear that councillors, of whichever party, will be criticised if support is given to H18 whilst the Sequential Test retains its existing methodology and application.
CPBC’s approach is contained in this paragraph;
“Whilst applying the general policy of directing development away from areas at higher risk of flooding, it recognises that there are some areas around the Thames Estuary that are already substantially developed, and may require additional development to occur in the future in order to support the creation of sustainable communities”
The NPPF is clear, the Sequential Test should be applied Borough-wide.
Castle Point is a small Borough, to apply the Test under the selected criteria makes a nonsense of the true intention of the purpose of the Sequential Test!
In its most crudest terms it is implying that because we have already substantially developed Canvey Island, (remember this has only come about since the formation of Castle Point as a Borough), then we must continue to add to the levels of development!
Therefore we can only point out that H18 may well alleviate some of the pressure on mainland Green Belt sites and wish CPBC well in their aims.
For councillors to expect Canvey Green Belt Campaign group and Canvey residents support and backing for H18, then a re-visit of the flawed method of Sequentially Testing sites is an essential requirement.
We are not against the redevelopment of Canvey sites providing there is no increase in flood risk etc, so that local developers can continue to survive, and the redevelopment of single storey dwellings into two storeys is sensible.
What cannot be tolerated is the lengths that are gone to, to make badly sited proposals appear acceptable just to appease “Local Factors.”
Canvey Island has three Constraints to development, Green Belt, Flood Risk and the Hazardous Industries.
At the risk of receiving a barrage of complaint we say: CPBC, recognise this, apply this, and we will unreservedly give our support once it is recorded on paper.