“Seconds Out – Round 1” – Would have been an appropriate opening introduction to the Castle Point examination into their Local Plan Duty to Cooperate process.
The meeting was attended by 5 of the local authority neighbours, half a dozen councillors, a handful of residents and a group of developer’s representatives.
It was noticeable that the Thurrock council representative adopted a particularly aggressive position in pointing out apparent flaws in the cooperation work undertaken by cpbc.
Claims were made that meetings to discuss areas such as a joint local plan for the Thames Gateway area had been undertaken, and claims were disputed as being un-evidenced.
CPBC officer Rogers, it must be recognised, acquitted himself professionally and was able to support his statements and generally produce the necessary evidence to support his points-made as and when required.
Whether or not enough cooperation has been undertaken will be the inspector’s decision alone, the agreement and success of cooperation is not necessarily the deciding factor. Given the levels of inter-borough ill will individual cooperation between the 5 local authorities on non strategic issues is apparently unlikely!
The concensus between the Basildon, Thurrock, Southend, Rochford and Essex county authorities was that Castle Point should have re-consulted them once the decision was taken to lower the local plan Housing Delivery from 200 dwellings per Annum down to 100 dwellings. They felt a delay on publication of the cpbc Local Plan2016 should have followed.
Perhaps in hindsight, delaying publication of the LP2016 for 1 month, until the negative responses were received in writing, may have proved evidentially worthwhile!
However, our neighbours have indicated that they are also unlikely to be able to fulfil their own Assessed Housing Needs, therefore it can be argued that delay would have been fruitless as no assistance with adoption of some castle point Housing Need would be forthcoming!
It is a fact the Castle Point is in a position of being required to push ahead with the local plan process, not simply to comply with the Government’s requirement to complete by 2017, but are expected to by the Secretary of State following promises made during the Glebelands development Appeal inquiry. During which it was considered premature to find in favour of the developer as good progress was being made in the local plan making process.
Whilst Castle Point have published a plan for examination, Thurrock, the most judgemental of neighbouring authorities, expect to submit theirs around 2020.
Essex County Council representatives appeared most concerned about Highways issues. On the 2nd access to Canvey Island they revealed that they have not, as yet, been supplied with evidence of the Need for a new or improved access route! ECC claimed they have applied for funding to research the matter.
The barrister representing cpbc at this stage even went to the lengths to point out that the 2nd access route to Canvey, in particular the Northwick Road to Manor Way Thurrock, had been demoted to an aspiration, or “low-level” option, within the Local Plan2016 rather than a crucial piece of infrastructure!
This point should be explored as Canvey Islanders have long been fed the line that this is a priority piece of infrastructure by castle point council!
No mention was made of the Roscommon Way final phase.
The reduction in the intended castle point Housing Supply was then used to suggest that not only the 2nd access route for Canvey Island but also the Woodmans Arms and A127 Fairglen interchange, meant that Government funding would not be released!
Interesting then that the news of this funding block was released in the press just days before this Local Plan meeting.
One can only assume that such major improvement as in the case of the Fairglen inter-change is being used as a lever by ECC as a means of over-riding the adopted Green Belt policy being sought for adoption by castle point council.
It was clear that Castle Point are no better or worse than other neighbouring authorities where cooperation is concerned, perhaps others should have adopted a less aggressive approach.
The inspector’s findings are intended for release by the 6th January 2017 at the latest. “Watch this space” – as Pammie would say!