The desire to protect Castle Point Green Belt will receive the closest scrutiny.
In Castle Point there was an attempt to protect ALL Green Belt, this wish was diluted into protection of Virgin Green Belt, or previously developed.
This protection policy has yet to be tested through the Local Plan process, however included within the cpbc chief executive’s statement are these words; “The Council takes the view that protecting the green belt is more important than providing new housing”.
Green Belt, it is accepted, should only be developed in Exceptional Circumstances and it must be remembered that Green Belt is considered to serve any of 5 Purposes;
● to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
● to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
● to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
● to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
● to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
During Sajid Javid’s first DCLG questions in parliament July 2016, he was asked if he would “guarantee” during his tenure as communities secretary “there will be no dilution whatever to the vital protections of the green belt”. The new communities secretary replied, the green belt is “absolutely sacrosanct”.
January’s Castle Point Council’s development control committee meeting found that there were special circumstances within two planning proposals that warranted permitting development on two Green Belt sites within the Borough.
The first, allowed the enlargement of an existing property primarily on the grounds that it would benefit the owners personal circumstances. The adopted Local Plan denies such expansion, but it appears that the Local Plan2016 would make such allowance, should the Plan be adopted.
This decision suggests that sympathy towards a personal situation can be considered a very special circumstance!
This follows previous committee objections to change of use and expansion of properties in the Green Belt.
The second proposal (on what one member classed as “scrubland!”), was considered a “very large development in the Green Belt,” and sought to provide “much needed” equestrian facilities and offices on Canvey Island.
Agenda paper work described the area as a “Significant amount of development in the Green Belt.”
“Conclusion on the Principle of Development ; The Green Belt argument in this case is finely balanced.”
Also….“Clearly (Tidal) flood water depths of this magnitude would be likely to cause distress to horses present within the stables on this unattended site and owners would no doubt attempt to attend the site, if possible, in order to move/retrieve their animals and equipment, thus the proposal would be likely to increase risk to animals and humans during a flood event.”
“It would appear likely that stable buildings would not be built to the same level of precautionary specification as dwellings and it is considered unlikely therefore that the proposed buildings would be able to withstand significant hydrodynamic and hydrostatic impact without significant preventative investment.”
The proposal is to provide stables and offices developed of bricks and mortar.
Therefore this site would presumably become a previously developed (non Virgin Green Belt) site.
In one single development committee decision the Green Belt land has an altered status, potentially allowing it to be available for change of use for Housing in the future, should the equestrian use become unviable at some time in the future..
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of both development applications.
It maybe inevitable that, in possibly the near future, the development committee’s decision-making in allowing the change of status of Green Belt land to take place, so as to satisfy the Borough’s need for equestrian facilities, is scrutinised against the local authority’s position on Green Belt release to support Housing Need.
The chief executive’s statement that “The Council takes the view that protecting the green belt is more important than providing new housing”, given the recent decisions, may not convey an entirely ethical position.
Furthermore the Daily Mail reveal that “A survey of local politicians reveals that 58 per cent believe their local authority will have to sacrifice precious countryside land by 2022 to keep up with Government demands for housing.”