Once again in a “Now you see it, Now you Don’t” fashion, Castle Point officers reveal their manipulative stranglehold on Local Plan issues.
Previously, during the Core Strategy process they absentmindedly posted a draft copy of the Castle Point Strategic Flood Risk Assessment on the CS Portal. Due to the sensitive and revealing nature of the content, this was quickly removed. Not before the Canvey Green Belt Campaign had secured a copy though!
Amidst criticism from the Examining Inspector and much embarrassing delay a new Final copy of the Risk Assessment, adulterated by CPBC officers with the compliance of the Environment Agency, was belatedly published.
Now, as the decision approaches regarding whether the daft New Local Plan is worthy of publication or not, a further slip up emerges.
Posted on the CPBC Planning Portal was correspondence from the Pegasus group regarding how they felt the lack of a positive decision on whether to proceed with the current Local Plan at December’s council meeting, may impact upon the Secretary of State’s decision making. They felt a delay in the Local Plan process should be brought to the SoS’s attention.
In response a solicitor at CPBC must have been asked for how she viewed the situation.
Remember, and the webcast is still available to view, two amendments were proposed, in effect halting debate during the December Council meeting, that both needed further research and officer advice before discussion.
The first amendment of cllr Stanley suggested that the Land Availability Assessment was further investigated by our councillors. (?) This was seconded by Cllr Smith who suggested he would sooner have any Plan in place even though it was unpopular with residents as it would keep the Housing numbers lower.
The second amendment of cllr Dick’s, seconded by Cllr Skipp, went further and proposed that all “virgin” Green Belt sites were removed from the Local Plan and consideration given to the housing numbers available following this suggestion.
In the meantime there will obviously be much pressure brought to bear on councillors by officers keen to progress with getting a Local Plan in place.
This pressure on councillors is typified by the CPBC solicitor’s response to the aforementioned letter to the Planning Inspectorate and the SoS.
This is not my recollection in relation to Cllr Dick’s motion, whilst the Mayor said that it would require further advice from officers, my recollection was that decision in relation to publication and submission to the SoS was deferred to enable members to review the sites in the SHLAA, it was not to consider Cllr Dick’s motion to remove all the green belt sites.
I think we need to respond by writing to PINS and Pegasus. The difference is the 2 motions is critical. One we can live with the other we can’t.
In black and white you can see an officer giving an opinion that goes against the Planning Guidance that we have been led to believe has been issued allowing local authorities to protect Green Belt land. It goes further as it states that officers, legally, cannot “live with” the desires and wishes of the residents that employ them.
I am sure that Local Plan’s are not a life or death issue, so it appears a somewhat exaggerated statement to make.
Clearly a move to remove Green Belt from the Local Plan Housing land supply would be most unpopular with developers. This is however no reason to not test out the Government intentions with the Planning Guidance that appears to say Green Belt land can be protected if so desired.
A simple slip of the computer mouse has brought this to residents attention. That it was quickly removed shows the skull-duggery and pressure officers will be exerting on councillors to preserve the daft New Local Plan. The question is what are our councillors made of, are they brave enough to support residents wishes or will they crumble under pressure?
One thing is clear. We, the Canvey Green Belt campaign group, said previously beware what you vote for, to councillors that claimed they had only voted to send this daft New local Plan to consultation.
That was in January 2014, 2 years on and nothing so far has changed!