Fear Factor to influence Castle Point Councillors Green Belt view?

If at first, and second, you don’t succeed, try Scaremongering!

Having totally failed with having the Core Strategy adopted it appears that cllr Smith has resorted to threats so as to protect his Local Plan. According to Wednesday’s Echo the big bad Government will arrange for 7,000 dwellings, rather than the 4,000 he wishes, to be built in Castle Point.

So what credibility does that give his constraints defence? If a constraint against development  is expected to be accepted by a Planning Inspector, why on earth would the Government, in the form of a Planning Inspector, impose nearly double the numbers Castle Point Council claim is the correct figure? Are our constraints dubious?

local plan.jpg-pwrt3                              Photo credit: Echo Newspapers

The Echo goes on to quote cllr Smith saying “councillors are between a rock and a hard place” Government have told councils must have a Plan in place by early 2017.

The official gov.uk announcement reads;

“Following today’s announcement, if councils fail to produce and bring into force an up to date plan for new homes by 2017, we will work with local people to ensure one is drawn up. Ministers will shortly be bringing forward further details of how best to intervene when councils have failed to get started on their plans.”

Nothing about “early 2017” there. Unless it is announced elsewhere, I can imagine a Conservative Government allowing a Conservative local authority, at least until the end of 2017 or beyond, if they are seen to be progressing with a Local Plan.

Similarly “to get started on their Plans,” is a lot different to having Plans in place and adopted!

Again according to the Echo cllr Smith “the (task and finish) group agreed on most of the work that’s been done, but when it came to the sites we felt it better for full council to make the decision.”

Well, having watched most of the T and F group meetings, those that were not held in secret anyway, I detected little agreement between members. They didn’t agree that the Green Belt constraint had been imposed, the Flood Risk constraint was not imposed, the Hazardous Industry policy was left unfinished, and none of the housing development sites were agreed to being without serious concerns!

It leaves the whole Task and Finish group work looking like a total waste of time and resources.

It is interesting to note that cllr Smith feels comfortable to have gone to the press ahead of the completion of the Task and Finish work and presumably prior to informing all councillors of the situation.

This hints at desperation.

Castle Point Council failed to publish an adoptable Core Strategy, which was farcically withdrawn during 2011, its daft New Local Plan now looks like that may also run aground. The commitment from CPBC that they were well on schedule to produce a Local Plan, worked as a saving grace during the Glebelands Green Belt development  Inquiry. The Secretary of State considered that, through assurances from CPBC, the new Local Plan was well on schedule, giving him faith in our local authority, enough faith to doubt the judgement of his Planning Inspector who had concluded in June 2013;

“The CS took too long to prepare, and in the end failed because the housing provisions were inadequate.  In the light of this history, it cannot be assumed that the task of preparing a new local plan will be accomplished easily or quickly. It is common ground amongst all those involved in the appeal that the task of finding suitable land for housing in Castle Point is not an easy one.  The Borough has severe constraints, including the already high density of development, the close spacing of existing settlements, the widespread flood risk, the SPA, and the relative scarcity of suitable land.  In the light of these constraints, the Council has acknowledged that there is a need to take land from the Green Belt, even for the lower level of housing provision that they currently propose.”

Interesting that the Glebelands Inspector should have drawn particular attention to;

“the Borough has severe constraints, including the already high density of development, the close spacing of existing settlements, the widespread flood risk, the SPA.”

The Inspector could not have summed up the constraints on development on Canvey Island better!

Similarly the CPBC Core Strategy Examining Inspector in 2011 highlighted;

”its approach has also had a considerable bearing on the overall distribution of growth promoted in the Core Strategy.  In this respect, I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island.”

The Castle Point Chief Executive officer interpreted this simply to mean; “He (the Inspector) also indicated that he was dissatisfied with the distribution of greenfield development between Canvey Island and the mainland towns.”!

I will remind readers that the Inspector also stated; “ local factors are given too much weight.”

In other words the then councillors, lead by Challis, Smith and Stanley and it also appears, officers,  chose to release Green Belt sites on Canvey Island, whilst not on the mainland, due to fear of losing control of the local authority.

With this in mind a lead officer then suggested that it might be “timely” for a development proposal for Thorney Bay to be considered, and consequently 600 more dwellings were added to the distribution of growth on Canvey Island, through this daft New Local Plan!

We do not know what pressures the officers and the faction of lead group councillors that appear to be controlling this Local Plan fiasco may be able to impose upon their group that are due to consider the Local Plan. Whether Central Office will be called in, or whether a free vote will ensue.

But for residents it will be an opportunity to note their bravery, or otherwise.

What must be questioned is the position of those who have led and controlled the Local Plan process over the nine years, or so, of abject failure.

Unless the Lead Group can force their current daft New Local Plan through, lead positions must be considered untenable, there should be nowhere for those to hide and positions in Cabinet should not be protected as part of an old boys network.

A new, new Local Plan is wanted by all mainland campaign groups that is clear, whether this is forthcoming will be interesting, whether Canvey Island will receive due consideration, we shall have to wait and see.

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2 responses to “Fear Factor to influence Castle Point Councillors Green Belt view?

  1. Weight Attached to Green Belt and Landscape Issues Compared to Flooding
    For there to be a suggestion that the Task and Finish Group were satisfied with the site selection scoring process is far from reality. The most evident inconsistency relates to how the assessment treats Green belt and flooding considerations matters.
    By the inclusion of two question relating to Green Belt and land scape issues and only one question in relation to flooding the site selection scoring process adopted by CPBC indirectly/artificially gives less weight to flood risk constraints.
    However, developments which are at ‘risk to flooding’ or in the Green Belt would not benefit from the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in the NPPF as they are specific policies referred to in Footnote 9. Indeed, it would not be unreasonable for a Planning Inspector to expected CPBC to have regarded the threat to public safety and concern presented by the increasing of the population at risk on Canvey Island (with sea levels rising) to be contrary to the principles of sustainability and should be a more significant consideration in the site selection process than the loss of Green Belt.

  2. Steve, You refer to the Sustainability Housing Site Assessment scoring, you are correct – something else that the Chairman appears to have forgotten when he claimed the Task and finish group “agreed on most of the work that’s been done.” The T and F group identified a need to attach a value against each indicator ie Flood Risk 10, GB 10, Air Quality ? Car use ?. Furthermore the consideration of site H18 which would also involve Green Belt release may leave the principle of protecting the Green Belt vulnerable, would need defending the principle of what actually qualifies as previously developed Green Belt, or “virgin” as it has been referred as.
    The officer during one meeting stated Green Belt is a Policy constraint, whilst Flood Risk is a Physical constraint. Along the lines of what Mr Crysell the Core Strategy Examiner stated, but remaining disregarded by CPBC.

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