It appears that the Local Plan debate, is the Hot Topic of conversation in Castle Point.
Many people have their own opinion and perspective on the issues and contents of the Plan. There is also the process to consider.
Officers are recommending the approval of the Local Plan into its Final stage and round of consultation, concerning themselves with the technicalities and obligations of the process.
Many residents have formed campaign groups aware of what the implications of development in the Borough and surrounding Boroughs will entail.
Castle Point is not over crowded in the general sense. London Boroughs in comparison have housing at far greater density. That doesn’t mean that Castle Point should work towards becoming similar. It doesn’t have to be.
Green Belt is offered protection from development by Planning Policy. Only during the Local Plan process should the boundary be re-considered.
The need for Housing increases, as the population grows.
An example to confuse the situation further, was in the Deanes school area. The Deanes, a school held in great regard, but with falling numbers, was in danger of closure. A successful option was found to prevent this from happening, but suggested planned housing development nearby that might swell numbers would mean the loss of Green Belt, which is equally opposed. Funding must come from somewhere, and it appears it did, but from further afield.
That many people don’t like change, is a natural state of mind, have we a right to expect little or no change?
Councillors have the decision to make, officers to supply the evidence to support the decision.
One question is, what weight should councillors give to residents views? Are they bound to follow their residents viewpoint, after all they are elected to represent us. Or are they voted in on their policies. Which is the Cart and which is the Horse?
Where will it take us if councillors work off of “gut instinct” most of the time? Do we end up with a better place, or a hotch potch of a Borough.
The first Plan in this process involved green belt housing sites selected on Canvey Island alone. That indicated the self preservation position of the Lead Group of councillors, to the potential detriment of one single community.
The Examination Inspector suggested the Plan warranted withdrawal and the then controlling councillor triumvirate and officers added further Green Belt sites to balance the distribution of Housing.
This time around it is the whole Borough’s residents that are uncomfortable with the current draft Local Plan.
It appears that Planning Guidance now allows the protection of Green Belt, that was not the case when the Plan was approved as “the best plan in the circumstances.”
Flood Risk appears to not be a Constraint on Housing, other than to assist in reducing the number of overall dwellings across the whole Borough!
Congestion is an issue, as it is in the whole of the Thame Gateway corridor.
Increasing the numbers at Risk on Canvey is a cowardly and selfish act!
Resident pressure is mounting on our councillors, enough to match the level being exerted by officers? Have councillors opinions responded to the groundswell of pressure, or will evidence form the basis of their decision making?
What we can be certain of, is that intimidation is no basis to decide how a councillor should vote. Intimidation from either officers, fellow councillors, nor from whichever group of residents that can form the largest most aggressive, noisiest or vote wielding force, will not help for a sound balanced and safe decision.
The opinion and wishes of this campaign group should be obvious and clear.
We wish all councillors well in their final decision making and look forward to the outcome.