The proposed Housing development sites, that were approved for inclusion within the Castle Point daft New Local Plan document, have received the consideration of the Task and Finish group.
These sites, nearly all in the existing Green Belt, mainly received similar points of note; traffic, serving at least one of the GB functions, concerns over surface water and tidal flood risk.
The third meeting to consider sites did provide some points of contention. The proposal to develop an area known as Land South of Eastwood Old Road drew a concern at the intended narrow 50 metre buffer between the new development and an existing SSSI site. It appeared that the 50 metre measurement was deemed appropriate by CPBC officers.
No mention was made that the development would, in effect merge that part of our Borough with Southend!
This inconsistency will require ironing out ahead of the Local Plan Final document. Does the Green Belt at the Borough’s periphery perform a strategic function? I understand that previously three Task and Finish group councillors expressed a view that they would prefer periphery development when considering making full use of the Kiln Road area potential. If this approach was adopted then sites such as East of Canvey Road, Glebelands and Jotmans Farm are in great danger of losing their Green Belt status.
Only one edge of the Eastwood Road site would impact upon Castle Point residents, perhaps in some small way, Task and Finish members may be indicating a concern regarding the potential of voter reaction, following their deliberations.
The final site for consideration was known as H18 the Blinking Owl site. By some small good fortune a letter was received by Council at the end of last week reiterating Essex County Council’s objection to this site’s inclusion for development.
They estimated a new access junction would require £60,000,000 of funding. They are against entry onto strategic highways such as the A127 and the A130.
It could be argued that making full use of these highway facilities would prove prudent on pollution, health and efficiency reasoning. The value of commuter vehicles being able to leave and arrive the Borough so efficiently making use of the A130 improvements should be explored.
That the area is “previously developed” Green Belt was the reasoning that much effort has been put into receiving ministerial explanation of Planning Guidance.
In effect Cllr Smith, chairman of the Task and Finish group, appeared to write off the possibility of continuing this possibility.
That this local authority have been criticised so much over the historic failure to develop a reasonable housing allocation it would appear unusual for such a progressive initiative to come up against such criticism from within.
If the scheme had cross-Borough support it could be argued that, whilst an enormous amount of resources are spent on defending development Appeals it would be equally worth challenging Essex County on their decision to, in effect, halting this project.
This obstacle would have added to the argument that our local authority have the right to select areas for housing development, and that if they are not supported by County, then an outside influence has imposed a further constraint on the ability to achieve the objectively assessed need.
For Castle Point Council to suggest they are willing to support a mini village development is nothing if not progressive.
Those members that expressed their doubts must now come to terms with the probability that the current daft New Local Plan will become the Final version.
Canvey members may well rue the limited number of sites under examination, will allow the local authority to regretfully seek to promote added numbers of people being added to those already residing in a Flood Zone, with all of the potential financial and risk that that entails!
Of note was the officer updating members the position of Basildon Council, who were expecting to send their draft Local Plan out for consultation early in the new year.
The fear that Castle Point has to accept their current draft version appears unfounded!