At first sight the Echo headline disclosure of the “failings” of Castle Point Council development committee appears not a bad thing! It is clear that developers are actively looking to develop on Canvey Island and the mainland Green Belt sites.
Knowing the poor infrastructure capacity on the Island and the potential issues residents face, any increases in population needs keeping to a minimum!
And a Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge team investigating the Planning set up at Castle Point Council, at what we assume a critical time with the risk of the Government taking over the Local Plan, appears little short of a disaster for our Local Authority!
However, despite the cpbc’s chief executive assertion that everything is under control, some extremely serious issues appear to have been uncovered by the LGA, especially when the accusation of a “perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making”!
This would appear a very serious accusation indeed!
The Development Committee chairman, in particular, appears to have been singled out for criticism, whereas, it must be said, we have always found him to have put public speakers at their ease and very fair in allowing members and speakers to make their points.
That the Echo have disclosed an apparent committee weakness in the areas of; “”respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions,” appears to be a direct criticism of the chief executive and his planning team’s direction, training and control of the development committee members!
This Report, highlighting apparent incompetencies, appears to bode very badly indeed for CPBC and their hopes of maintain some level of control in their / our Local Plan process.
The Sword of Damocles appears to have fallen on the displaced Development Committee chairman, it remains to be seen whether others have been very lucky to have escaped, reputation unharmed.
It goes without saying that, as now there is a copy of the report in circulation, we the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group would be eager and grateful for a look at the entire copy, and so would appreciate it if the Echo, cpbc employee or council member would forward a copy through the usual contact channels, via this website, Facebook or Twitter.
From the Echo:
“DEVELOPERS are actively avoiding Castle Point due to major council failings, a leaked report has revealed.”
“Dysfunctional relationships between officers and councillors, inappropriate behaviour and a lack of understanding are among the criticisms of Castle Point Council’s development committee in a report issued by the Local Government Association.
The report also questioned how decisions are being made with “a widespread perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making process”.
Castle Point Council is preparing a response after questions were raised regarding honesty and competency when it comes to planning decisions and following the law.
Castle Point Council chief executive David Marchant said: “An action plan to respond to the recommendations has been prepared which is scheduled to be considered formally by the cabinet later this summer.
“In the meantime members and officers are working closely together to examine the findings and respond to the recommendations in the report. The peer challenge report and action plan will be published with the agenda for the cabinet meeting as usual.”
Inspectors found a weak understanding among some members, and key concerns include “chairing, respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions.
The failings open the council up to expensive appeals or even the loss of control of planning decisions.
The report claimed developers told inspectors they are actively avoiding Castle Point despite the “obvious locational advantages” because of the way the committee works.
The report, and peer challenge, goes on to state the council is only building half the homes needed and that there is a “dysfunctional relationships” between members and officers which is seriously impeding work.
It was also suggested that due to the concerns, the development control committee in Castle Point should be scrapped.
Instead, it should be replaced with a strategic planning committee with a “smaller more focussed group of well trained members”.
The council is yet to come up with an acceptable housing plan for the future which could mean power is removed from the council.”