Castle Point Green Belt in hands of Task + Finish group-“Watch this Space” or who has grown a Pair?

Assuming  that our Borough councillors should not have been living in some other “WORLD” it would be difficult to imagine those not involved with the Local Plan Task and Finish group work not having some idea of how the daft New Local Plan will affect Castle Point.

That the full Council awaits a recommendation from the Task and Finish group should have little consequence, after all the group meetings have been webcast.

That is except those meetings held in secret or, so as to not upset some of our more sensitive councillors, in private!

Given that our councillors asked for residents votes so that they may be allowed to represent all of the Borough’s residents, it should not be beyond reason that they should be reasonably up to date and aware of the processes of the Local Plan to allow them to be in the position to have formed “some” level of opinion on the current Plan.

Having followed proceedings of the task and Finish group I don’t think I am being unkind to say that there have been some fairly entrenched positions adopted.

Officers, chairman, the deputy leader and at least one other, support  the current Plan, one councillor giving less indication of his position, with a small majority opposing the Plan.

The Task and Finish group are only required to give a recommendation for presentation to the full council, however given the effort to exert pressure on the T and F members some considerable implications may arise. Otherwise why the level of pressure to recommend the Challis, Smith and Stanley, Local Plan?

Knowingly or not, this is a test of our councillors resolve, are they testicularly challenged enough to  weaken and give in to a Plan they are clearly uncomfortable with, or will they represent residents views and reject this Challis legacy?

There, apparently, is another option that may, given time, offer a more balanced distribution of housing delivery. If mainland residents are supportive of this option then  exhaustive exploration of this possibility deserves due consideration. Up until now the feedback from County seems to have been influenced by County councillors and officers making limp enquiries that receive negative responses that they seek.

The position regarding Canvey appears to have been pre determined, only made worse since the Core Strategy documentation. So there appears little to lose in our councillors forcefully rejecting the daft New Local Plan, even if an alternative Plan leads to delay.

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5 responses to “Castle Point Green Belt in hands of Task + Finish group-“Watch this Space” or who has grown a Pair?

  1. What ever happened to the promise of openness and transparency. Why are Councillors deciding the fate of how our Borough will look and function in the not so distant future behind closed doors.

    Does CPBC work on the assumption that its residents have not got the mental capacity to understand all the issues. Or is it that the containment of the historic management of the Borough is an absolute necessity.

    Through the Localism Act, the Government has abolished the Standards Board regime. Instead, local authorities will draw up their own codes, and it will become a criminal offence for councillors to deliberately withhold or misrepresent a financial interest. This means that councils will not have to spend time and money investigating trivial complaints, while councillors involved in corruption and misconduct will face appropriately serious sanctions. This provides a more effective safeguard against unacceptable behaviour.

    Clarifying the rules on predetermination

    In parallel with the abolition of the Standards Board, the Government has used the Localism Act to clarify the rules on ‘predetermination’. These rules were developed to ensure that councillors came to council discussions – on, for example, planning applications – with an open mind. In practice, however, these rules had been interpreted in such a way as to reduce the quality of local debate and stifle valid discussion. In some cases councillors were warned off doing such things as campaigning, talking with constituents, or publicly expressing views on local issues, for fear of being accused of bias or facing legal challenge.
    The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result. This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate. People can elect their councillor confident in the knowledge that they will be able to act on the issues they care about and have campaigned on.

    • Thanks for the input Steve, glad to note that you refer to all councils and all local authorities being expected to abide by the new directives.
      Perhaps a better solution in future would be a need, prior to an election, for all ward candidates to be required to declare all relevant interests, so that residents could cast their votes in the knowledge that as future issues come up for consideration, the electorate would be aware whether they are selecting ward councillors free and able to represent the local community!
      As it has been noted within a blog post Canvey West ward, where many of the Borough’s Local Plan future developments are located, receives no representation. How is that fair?

  2. As I have asked for a dispensation to vote on the local plan I had better not tell you how I would vote . But your thoughts I quite clear and correct . This is an old daft plan and little will Change ( in my opinion) to what will be brought forward for councils approval . I am hopeful that there will be alternatives suggested to allow a compromise plan to be agreed .

  3. I am genuinely concerned about the sporadic manner in which the monitoring Officer is excluded some councillors from taking part in the NLP process. Whilst there are rules within the Localism Act with regard to the Disclosure of Pecuniary Interests, whereby Councillors have the option to apply for dispensations to allow them to vote, it would seem non-pecuniary interests are not covered by the act in this way. Officer interpretation of what may constitute a non-pecuniary interest seems wide and inconsistent, leading to the impression that the whole process may be Officer led.

    • Thank you Jacqui. We on Canvey have particular concerns, west ward have no eligible councillors involved in the Local Plan process despite there being two business park developments and two residential developments promoted within the Local Plan. There are also two other large proposals being promoted by developers for inclusion!
      York City have a view on pecuniary interests that I have sent to our officers A.R.Smith and S.Rogers for consideration, unfortunately they have not considered it worthy of being acknowledged with a response. Perhaps that may signal a weakness in their position, or simply an expression of dismissal as irrelevant. Similar to their handling of residents views of late perhaps. The York City Paper reads:

      4. Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and the local plan
      4.1 The local plan will cover the entire City and will amongst other things contain design considerations against which any future planning application will be judged. It could be argued that everyone who owns land in the City and who might want to make a planning application or might be affected by their neighbour’s application therefore has a disclosable pecuniary interest relating to the plan. This is clearly not what the law was intended to cover although Parliamentary and Ministerial intent does not always translate into the law.
      4.2 Some assistance may be obtained from the guide produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government in relation to setting the Council tax which says:
      “If you are a homeowner or tenant in the area of your council you will have registered, in accordance with the national rules, that beneficial interest in land. However, this disclosable pecuniary interest is not a disclosable pecuniary interest in the matter of setting the council tax or precept since decisions on the council tax or precept do not materially affect your interest in the land. For example, it does not materially affect the value of your home, your prospects of selling that home, or how you might use or enjoy that land.”
      4.3 The Act (in contrast to the former Code) does not actually include any provisions relating to the materiality of interests. However, Councillors ought to be able to rely on this clear Ministerial statement and it is difficult to conceive of the Director of Public Prosecutions authorising action against a Councillor who relies on it. While the statement relates specifically to council tax the only basis for it being made is that, in the Minster’s view, an interest must be material to prevent a Member participating. That principle must be taken to apply equally to other decisions affecting the entire Council area.
      4.4 In general, the plan will not materially affect a Councillor’s interests and it seems unlikely that he or she will be taken to have a disclosable pecuniary interest in it. This is the advice

      which the Monitoring Officer has already given to City Council Members. It is suggested though that there will be exceptions.
      4.5 The most obvious exception is where a Councillor owns land which is earmarked for development in the plan. In such a situation it is suggested that the Councillor must regard him or herself as having a disclosable pecuniary interest.
      4.6 Another exception may be where the Councillor owns land which is not currently earmarked but which might reasonably come forward. This again, it is suggested, ought to be treated as a disclosable pecuniary interest.
      4.7 Members should also be aware of the need to consider land owned not by them but by another body in which they have a disclosable pecuniary interest. The first prosecution brought under the Localism Act which is due to come to trial later this year relates to a Councillor’s interest as a Director of the commercial arm of a Housing Association and includes an allegation that he failed to declare an interest in a meeting where the core strategy was under debate.
      4.8 A more difficult scenario is where the land earmarked for development neighbours land owned by the Councillor. There are those who argue that development on a neighbour’s land might affect a Councillor’s property but does not relate to it and so is not a disclosable pecuniary interest. It is unhelpful that this issue is open for debate. It is suggested though that if a change in planning status of a neighbour’s land affects the value of a Councillor’s land then the Councillor should not normally participate in the decision without a dispensation.

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