Castle Point Green Belt is a controversial commodity, developers propose its development, councillors appear split on whether it can be protected, on various sites’ value and which or whether sites should retain the Green Belt status!
“Rather than sniping away here and there, London should follow Manchester’s example with a joined-up approach across the Capital’s Boroughs, including the south east counties that border the city.”
The need for more Housing is obvious, especially given the growing population. Identifying suitable sites for development appears less than a scientific process.
The Local Plan2016 expects cpbc and neighbouring authorities to attempt to cooperate strategically where Housing, Business and Infrastructure is concerned. However if unsuccessful the Plan will not necessarily fail.
Government expects local authorities to interpret the planning guidance and constraining factors in arriving at a local Housing Need number.
Population growth is a national issue the contributing factors of which local authorities have little control over. It would be reasonable to expect there to be a strategic approach to the issue of housing the growing population, that is, how many and where.
Castle Point council have demonstrated a “small-minded” approach to local planning. In the first instance the lead group decided to approve a plan that agreed to release Green Belt on Canvey Island alone. Having wrestled with making progress with such a plan, and rejecting the assistance of the Planning Inspector’s guidance, the plan was withdrawn and a New Local Plan formed. The New Local Plan included Green Belt sites that appeared likely to be approved with developers apparently ready to build. This Plan was unpopular with residents and eventually the Local Plan2016 became the 3rd plan published.
Most recently Greater Manchester, in an effort to address housing Need, has elected to plan for an 8.2% release of Green Belt. In contrast the Castle Point Local Plan2016 intends; “This plan retains 99% of the Green Belt extent identified in the 1998 Local Plan.”
If the Local Plan2016 was to bring forward the contentious safe-guarded land at North West Thundersley the Plan would indicate an intention to release 6% in total of Castle Point’s Green Belt.
Whilst the Manchester intention to release 8.2% of Green Belt is considered “remarkable” an area equivalent of 6% of Castle Point’s Green Belt given the issues that face the Borough in terms of road infrastructure, the NHS situation and Flood Risk could be considered equally remarkable.
Developers will point to the willingness to release Green Belt in areas of no interest to them as being a weakness in the local authority’s defence of the Local Plan2016’s site selection and green belt protection policies.
The ripple effect of Manchester’s decision to release 8.2% may, in future, influence expectation of Local Plan examining Planning Inspectors.
It will be a matter of whether localism should or should not prevail.
Paul Wellman wrote for Estates Gazette:
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