Short-termism appears to be the “Get Out” approach for Castle Point Borough Council to appease the Government’s intervention team.
Despite no Local Plan emerging over the past 20 years, the latest approach appears to be to crash out an interim 10 Year Plan including Green Belt development sites allocation, and hope for the best that normal service will be resumed with the assistance of our neighbouring Boroughs!
The questions are, which Green Belt sites will be sacrificed in the rush to develop, and which Green Belt sites will developers actually agree with cpbc to build on?
Certainly potentially in the region of 900 dwellings are being installed at Canvey Island’s Sandy Bay, but the distinct threat remains that Canvey Island’s Dutch Village is also cpbc’s preferred Green Belt site in danger of development!
The opinion of outsiders is always useful to keep our feet on the ground, and to help us with that Planning Resource publication have produced their view of the position Castle Point council currently find themselves in, ahead of the secretary of State’s decision on whether cpbc are now trusted to be allowed to produce their own Local Plan under the watchful eye of Government.
As we know a greatly truncated approach has been adopted as the preferred approach of our Borough council, as a means of warding off Intervention in the Plan making process.
CPBC’s interpretation of the situation is directly below, whilst further below is how the “trade” press’ view.
“the Government has confirmed that it will intervene in plan-making in areas where councils without a post 2004 local plan have not submitted a plan for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate. This will reduce the control the local planning authority has over such matters. In March 2018, the Council received a letter from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government confirming the intention to commence Intervention in the Castle Point Local Plan. As of June 2018, the form of this Intervention had not been confirmed, but dialogue with the Ministry has confirmed the need for a Local Plan to be prepared to an accelerated timetable, and this Plan must focus on bringing forward new homes in the early part of the Plan period.”
“The Local Plan will tackle contentious issues that could give rise to significant public opposition. Whilst every effort will be made to build cross community consensus, there remains risk of significant public opposition to the Local Plan proposals.”
“Logistically this could cause a higher volume of work in the processing and analysis of representations than accounted for in the LDS timetable, which could set it back.”
“To help reduce this risk, responses from the 2014 and 2016 draft Local Plan consultations will be used to assess public opinion. The 2014 and 2016 draft Local Plans will form the majority of the new Local Plan so previous consultation responses as well as updated evidence will help inform the Plan.”
“In February 2017, the Government introduced the proposition that all Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) be required to prepare a ‘Statement of Common Ground’ (SCG) to help manage strategic planning matters across local authority areas and strengthen the Duty to Cooperate”
“3.5 Castle Point
Castle Point is a relatively small local authority area just 4,500 hectares in size, with a population of 88,000 people. It sits at the heart of the South Essex sub-region on the northern bank of the Thames Estuary between the larger settlements of Basildon and Southend. It is these larger settlements, along with London, on which Castle Point relies for its employment, services and leisure opportunities.
The key planning issues comprise:
• the challenge of meeting housing need in a borough of significant Green Belt and other environmental constraints and where land availability is confined to small scale infill sites in the built-up area;
• the need to improve infrastructure to address congestion, historic underinvestment and provide capacity for growth;”
Castle Point currently has no up to date local plan in place and has therefore been subject to potential government intervention. The Council will therefore prepare an interim local plan covering the next ten years and focusing on planning for housing, with the ambition of meeting local housing needs in this period. In the longer term, local housing needs will be considered through the strategic assessment and allocations prepared for the JSP.”
“The current estimated need for housing across South Essex is 90,000 dwellings over the next 20 years, but with the right conditions to support growth, more could be achieved. As part of the consideration of long term spatial options, the authorities are therefore exploring whether the development of new ‘Garden’ communities could offer a strategic solution to growth.”
“The South Essex Authorities estimate that up to 4,500 new homes will be needed each year to meet housing needs.” *
Planning Resource publisher’s opinion of the situation Castle Point find our / themselves in are reproduced here;
A group of seven Essex councils this month published a draft statement of common ground (SCG) designed to make sure they meet the challenging duty to cooperate. The statement commits them to preparation of a formal joint strategic plan for a green belt-constrained area where local plan processes have been hobbled by an inability to resolve local opposition to much-needed new homes.
The statutory joint plan is being pursued by six districts and boroughs – Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock – and Essex County Council. At the start of the year, they formed the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) to formalise joint working arrangements. According to the SCG, the joint plan will provide an “overarching framework within which more focused local development plans will be prepared”.
Requiring unanimous approval from all seven councils to go forward, the joint plan will set out housing targets and distribution as well as key employment sites and infrastructure priorities. Its prime purpose, commentators say, will be to decide where to find space for the required 90,000 new homes in south Essex over the next 20 years, given significant green belt constraints.
Consultant Catriona Riddell, who is advising ASELA, said: “With the area’s large proportion of green belt, all the authorities have challenges in terms of meeting housing needs, so they have decided that looking at strategic growth areas across south Essex would be the most deliverable and sustainable option.”
Nick Davey, partner at Brentwood-based planning consultant JTS, said determining housing allocations has been a big problem. “I feel sorry for the planners,” he said. “They have to try to meet objectively assessed need and that means releasing green belt, but they just can’t get members’ buy-in. All that’s happened since the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework is procrastination.”
The draft SCG doesn’t grasp this nettle.
Instead, it identifies five “strategic areas of opportunity” where housing may be located, all of which straddle local authority boundaries and thus leave exact allocations undetermined.
Riddell said the body has now commissioned a strategic growth study to further develop these proposals. “Some authorities will ultimately have to take a disproportionate share of the homes – those are the issues we haven’t got to yet. They need to stick together like glue,” she said.
The joint plan comes in the context of delays in local plan preparation led to three of the districts – Basildon, Brentwood and Castle Point – being threatened with intervention by former housing secretary Sajid Javid last year for their slow progress. In March, Javid pressed ahead with sending a government team in to scrutinise Castle Point’s local plan preparation arrangements. He told Brentwood and Basildon they’d face no further action, but warned he’d keep a close eye on them.
Castle Point’s last attempt at a local plan, which left 300 of its 400 homes-a-year housing need unmet, was withdrawn last year after failing the duty to cooperate. It is now seeking approval from the government to develop an interim local plan covering just five to ten years, allowing it to avoid large green belt allocations and leaving responsibility for further allocations to the joint planning process.
Riddell said: “The vital thing is that any intervention doesn’t compromise the joint planning effort by forcing Castle Point to release green belt that, from a wider south Essex point of view, might not be in the right place.”
Some fear, however, that the joint plan process will be used to justify continued delay. Tony Collins, owner of consultancy Collins & Coward, said: “Joint plans take a long time to draw up and even longer to deliver. The government wants delivery but joint planning is only going to slow things down.”
Riddell recognised government fears that the joint plan promises “jam tomorrow”, but pointed out that the SCG, once approved, will commit the ASELA authorities to an “accelerated timetable” that will see a draft plan consulted upon early next year, with submission for examination a year later. “It’s really fast,” she said. “These concerns are totally unfounded.”
* 6 Jun 2018 – Special Meeting of Castle Point Borough Council agenda appendices.