While Shepherds are watching their Flocks and Father Christmas is putting final preparations to his Friday morning delivery route, spare a thought for our hard pressed local councillors as they ponder over their festive period set homework, the CPBC Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).
The last council meeting to consider the position of the CPBC Local Plan informed councillors of the draft New Local Plan Task and Finish group’s findings.
It was clear that the T + F group failed to find a majority of members willing to recommend releasing ANY of the Local Plan’s Green Belt sites, however during the council meeting this was presented, by the T + F chairman as a failure to decide which sites were to be brought forward. Two entirely different reflections, or misrepresentation, of what the T+F group actually found!
Following the amendments put forward, a decision was made to meet again in January, once councillors were allowed to “study” the SHLAA.
Developers must have been watching this decision being made as they felt it warranted alerting the Inspector considering the Jotmans Appeal Inquiry of the potential delaying of the Local Plan process!
At the council meeting the council chief executive warned councillors that the process they were considering may have financial and reputational consequences for Castle Point.
The deputy leader tactically seeking a delay, set an amendment based on councillors showing concern they were not in knowledge of the full facts as contained in the SHLAA.
Here residents should ask, why the hell not. These councillors have been passing around the Local Plan like a hot potato for years now and the SHLAA is not a new piece of evidence. Surely it is not too much to expect them to be remotely aware of its contents well before now. The SHLAA is an evolving document that at any time may alter, only latest updates should be requiring the councillors revision.
This “clear knowledge of all the facts” will be of little comfort to them. The SHLAA discloses a 5 Year Housing Supply of 588 dwellings.
This total includes the 188 that were disputed by the Jotmans developer representative, and the odd 1 or 2’s that were disputed during the Appeal Inquiry.
That the second amendment by Cllr Dick went further than to give recommendation to councillors of the SHLAA, but to also exclude “virginal” Green Belt sites led to confusion.
This amendment could have been discussed on the very evening that it was proposed and seconded. Councillors could have accepted the SHLAA as it is recorded, they could then have debated whether by adopting the Conservative Government’s Planning Guidance, that allows local authorities to protect Green Belt if they so wish, would result in a “sound” Local Plan.
This would mean, presumably, that the initial 5 Year Supply would be lower than current estimates and that the potential for what sounds like a future garden village would be acceptable as the major development mainland residents are supportive of, to supply the larger medium Plan term housing numbers.
The fact that Cllr Dicks original Motion regarding removing “virgin” Green Belt from the Local Plan not being debated since him putting it forward in January 2015, may well have been influenced by the findings influencing the Jotmans Appeal Inquiry. A decision on Jotmans could well have been swayed by support of the Motion and the acknowledgment that Castle Point does not intend to release Green Belt in the short term.
The postponement of the Council debate on the Local Plan so that councillors could be enlightened to the full facts of the SHLAA may lead to an embarrassing debate. The intricacies have already been examined during the Jotmans Inquiry. There is little more to be said.
The major debate is around Green Belt release. The Task and Finish group meetings finished without agreeing to support the daft New Local Plan’s proposals to release Green Belt.
The debate is whether councillors intend to carry this forward with whatever consequences to publish a new, New Local Plan to be sent for Examination.
The feeling is that that is what the residents support. Unfortunately the housing growth distribution may in the short – medium term appear similar to that of the Core Strategy which was condemned during 2011.
Are we prepared to undertake a similar journey?
I would say for the sake of mainland residents, unaffected by proposals of large scale development during the Core Strategy process, nothing ventured nothing gained. Let us examine an Inspector’s view of a Local Plan supported by Castle Point residents.
Extracts from the SHLAA;
“There is a clear need, as set out above, to address the need for more sustainable patterns of development in Castle Point in order to support the economic (retail and employment growth, transport infrastructure capacity), social (housing need, housing affordability, service provision) and environmental (quality of built environment, drainage infrastructure capacity) needs of the borough. As such, the exceptional circumstances exist which require a review of the Green Belt boundaries. The implications of failing to undertake such a review do not just impact on housing need; they impact on the sustainability of the community as a whole and the quality of Castle Point as a place to live.
The provision available if the current policies in the 1998 Adopted Local Plan continue to be applied would be just 102 homes per annum. This does not represent a significant boost to housing supply as required by paragraph 47.
Paragraph 47 states that local planning authorities should plan to meet their full, objectively assessed need for market and affordable housing, as far as is consistent with the other policies in the Framework.
6.3 It is expected that the NPPF is read as a whole. The NPPF expects local plans to deliver sustainable development. Paragraph 7 sets out the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.” SHLAA update
Recognising the physical constraints on development which exist within Castle Point, the draft New Local Plan planned for at least 200 homes per annum.
Potential Housing Capacity, 0-15 Year Period 5101 dwellings.”
Including Green Belt this is the equivalent of 314 dwellings per annum
All there is left is to thank readers for their continued support of this blog and to wish you all a very Happy Holiday period!
Pic credit: joyfulpapist