Category Archives: Thorney Bay

We Must Build on Canvey Island in the interests of Sustainability, regardless of no future plan to Care for those made Homeless! And Inside Housing Report on Thorney Bay.

Soon Castle Point Council may well be faced with a Housing problem. One that has not been publically discussed, but nevertheless will one day soon need to be addressed. One that is out of the local authority’s ability to address or control.

Thorney Bay is “Home” to many people and families who, through no fault of their own, are in need of decent living accommodation.

Thorney Bay Beach Camp, Canvey Island, Essex

copyright Jason Hawkes

Some families may have been relocated to Canvey Island from distant areas, and now consider Canvey AND Castle Point their home.

Castle Point Council point out;

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement. To this extent the proposal does therefore have sustainability benefits. However, it must also be remembered that at the present time the site is occupied by park homes. These are single storey, relatively lightweight structures, which would offer little resistance to flood waters. The replacement of these structures with robust brick buildings, incorporating flood resilience measures and providing safe refuge in the event of a flood is considered to represent a significant sustainability benefit which far outweighs flood risk. In risk terms the proposal is considered to offer significant benefits for occupiers of the site”.

So as far as the “No Threat from Tidal Flooding” brigade are concerned, CPBC are also, it appears scare-mongerers! Or at least they are when it suits them!!

How kind of them to consider that they are compelled to continue developing on Canvey, for our own benefit!!!

Never mind that the increased Population and Property at Risk on the Island may have less sustainability benefits, and indeed may cause Economic Blight!

The substantial Land Raising that has been carried out on the Thorney Bay site, appears to be of little or no concern of Castle Point Council, this despite the implications for off-site Flood Risk, both from Tidal and Surface Water sources, to neighbouring properties in the Thorney Bay area!

Currently Thorney Bay has been identified in “recent” draft editions of their Local Plan as being allocated for Housing development of in excess of 600 dwellings.

Permission has been levered through,by CPBC development committee,  for a first phase of 89 Detached Dwellings plus 24 Flats.

Surprisingly, or perhaps Not, prior to any “bricks and mortar” dwellings, which would offer more “resistance to flood waters”, the site owners are going ahead with installing a new Park Home estate.

A Park Homes development at Thorney Bay, or Sandy Bay, presumably will side step the “agreed” requirements for the developer to provide;

affordable housing, £241 per Resident Dwelling towards the provision of adult social care, £73,774 per 100 Residential Dwellings towards post sixteen education services, £97.42 per Residential Dwelling towards adult education services, Net Early Years and Childcare Pupil Product contribution, £281.48 per Residential Dwelling towards the County’s library services on Canvey Island, additional access onto Thorney Bay Road in the form of a roundabout junction and access road, this Schedule requiring the Developer and Owner to transfer free from incumbrances the Roscommon Way Phase 2 Land to the County or the County’s Nominee, the provision of a 19m undeveloped and unfettered development protection zone, measured from the landward toe of the existing tidal defences and the financial contribution of £100,000 Index Linked towards the capital construction costs of the first phase of tidal defence improvements required by c.2040. 

CPBC themselves, appear to have a very low and demeaning opinion of the current occupants of Thorney Bay, indicating no comments on the local authority’s responsibilities towards their likely re-homing requirements;

” It is considered that Thorney Bay has contributed in the region of 330 additional permanent residential homes to the overall housing provision within Castle Point in the period 2001 to 2011.”

” Due to the relatively low costs of this accommodation compared to that on offer in London, the site has been advertised there, attracting a large wave of migrants in addition to local people in need of cheap and/or quickly available accommodation. This has resulted in the rapid creation, since 2006, of a low income, vulnerable community including many families with children.”

“when compared to other local authority areas in England, Castle Point has the 2nd highest proportion of households living in caravans in 2011.

In 2001 Castle Point had the 31st highest proportion of households living in caravans.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site (Thorney Bay) for traditional homes. However, it is the intention of the owner to retain a smaller caravan park of 300 caravans for residential use towards the west of the existing site.

The Council need to consider how it will ensure that the socio-economic issues that have arisen on the larger site do not occur again on the smaller site, and also how this smaller site should be brought forward in a way that co-exists happily alongside the larger community as Holehaven Caravan Park, Kings Park and Kingsley Park do.

In this regard it is recommended that the Council work with the Thorney Bay owner to ensure that the quality of accommodation, the tenure arrangements and the pace of provision are appropriate to ensuring the health and well-being of residents and creating a more stable community.”

“Thorney Bay meanwhile, also experiences issues associated with unemployment and crime. There are also a number of young people living in income deprivation upon the site. This has long-term consequences for the ability of these children to achieve their potential, and for the community in terms of supporting an economically inactive population. “

“Thorney Bay however has wider implications for the local community and the local economy. The use of mobile homes for accommodation has acted to concentrate low income families, resulting in a concentration of unemployed people, children experiencing income deprivation and increased criminal activity. “

This issue has been picked up on by the UK’s building and development press:

Inside Housing article

Thousands of people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes.

Martin Hilditch uncovers a hidden world that raises questions about the housing benefit system.

” Leanne McGowan lives with her daughter and two sons in a three-bedroom caravan in Canvey Island. It’s a squeeze. Her three-year-old son and seven year-old daughter share, while Ms McGowan and her fourteen-year-old son sleep in the remaining rooms.

Lack of options

The kids are at school now, but their scattered playthings mean their presence is still felt – a toy gun and motorbike lie on the floor and four Teletubbies are lined up like ornaments on a shelf in one corner of the room.

Ms McGowan occupies one of hundreds of static caravans that are sandwiched between a small, sandy beach and the looming terminals of a Calor Gas plant. She’s lived on the site for two years and housing benefit covers most, but not all, of the rent. She has to pay£18 a week top-up to cover the remainder. “It ain’t easy,” she says.

She ended up on the site after the landlord of the nearby private rented home she previously lived in sold the house.

“I didn’t have a choice when I moved here,” she says, adding that she thought the move would “just be short term”. But trying to get into another house that is affordable on housing benefit has proved impossible. “I phoned up all the [lettings] agents,” she says. “They never have anything at all.”

She’s lived in the caravan ever since. “It is cramped,” she admits, saying ultimately that “I don’t think it is suitable for families to be in here.”

Sitting between two electric heaters, Ms McGowan admits that the caravan gets “ever so cold” in the winter – and keeping it warm is an expensive business. She has spent £4 on heating in less than 24 hours. In the winter months the family sometimes keeps warm by effectively living in the lounge. “We get the mattresses in here,” she says. “We sleep here sometimes, yes. I don’t mind being cold, but it’s the kids. It is like we are camping out in the front room.”

The site itself is “not a bad place to be”, says Ms McGowan, who is on a waiting list for a council home.She adds that it’s well-maintained and there’s a friendly atmosphere. “There are some nice people on here and they look after each other,” she says. “It’s nice in that respect. We are all in the same situation.”

She’s not wrong there. In fact, there are currently 268 housing benefit claims registered to addresses on the site. Research carried out by Inside Housing this year has revealed Canvey Island’s Thorney Bay Village has more housing benefit claims registered to it than any other caravan or mobile home site in the UK. Last year, £1.9m of housing benefit was paid to addresses here. Our investigation reveals that the residents of Thorney Bay Village are far from unique. In fact, we found that there are thousands of people on low incomes currently living in caravan and mobile home parks across the UK. Responses received between May and August this year reveal the 271 councils that provided information to Inside Housing made more than 12,000 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home parks in the UK – with 11,162 of these being made in England (an average of 47 claims per authority. See box: Caravan counts).

The payments, obviously,do not reveal people’s motivations for making these choices – and clearly there will be variations in quality between permanent mobile homes and holiday caravans that people are occupying permanently.Nonetheless it does reveal a significant number of people living in non-traditional housing that the majority of councils know next to nothing about. Almost everyone Inside Housing spoke to at Thorney Bay Village cited affordability as one of their central reasons for ending up on the site.

The research certainly raises some serious questions, according to Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis.

“This investigation has revealed millions of pounds of benefits being spent on keeping people incompletely substandard living conditions,” he says. “This sorry state of affairs is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit combined with the failure of a succession of governments to build enough decent, affordable homes.”

Certainly, the availability of housing benefit is driving decision-making for a number of residents living in Thorney Bay Village – and housing benefit did not even cover the full rental cost of a caravan for any of the occupants Inside Housing met. Rents ranged from £145 to £175 a week, based on the people we spoke to. One woman, who lives in a van with her young children, said she was topping up her housing benefit to cover the rent. She picked the site because“it was this or a hostel”, she adds.

Other residents are more enthusiastic. Dean Simmonds and Helen Davies live in a three-bed caravan with Ms Davies’ two children. Helen has lived there for more than four years since moving from her native Wales (and a Welsh flag hangs proudly outside the couple’s home). Their front room is the picture of domestic life, with paintings by the kids decorating the wall and photos of the children dotted around the place.

“I love it here,” Ms Davies says. “The camp is very clean all the time.” The couple’s van is spotlessly tidy, but Ms Davies admits that the festive season is more complicated when you live in a caravan. “At Christmas time you have got to think about what [presents] you’re getting because you have got to find somewhere to put it,” she says with a laugh. Ms Davies pays £18 a week top-up to cover her rent, and says she has fallen slightly into arrears as a result. A similar story is told by a couple of other residents.

Clearly the fact that housing benefit can’t even cover the cost of a static caravan – when people on low incomes are choosing to live there because they are seen as the most affordable option locally – raises its own questions. Like Mr Downie, a spokesperson for Castle Point Council points a finger at the housing benefit system. The council is currently making 468 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home sites – more than any other local authority in the UK.

Thorney Bay’s caravanners’ struggles to cover the rent from housing benefit “is not unique to Thorney Bay”, the spokesperson suggests. “This is the story behind the majority of housing benefit cases within the private sector, where housing benefit is based on Local Housing Allowance rent levels, which do not reflect the increase year-on-year of the private rental market.”

Gathering evidence

Other councils have been investigating their caravan and mobile home populations too in recent years. In 2014, Folkestone Council found“emerging evidence from around the district that some residents are occupying holiday-let caravans as their main or sole home”. It found 45 occupants in receipt of housing benefit from holiday-let caravans. Denbighshire Council estimated that “175 individuals in the county were living all year round in‘holiday’ caravans.”

Some sites are marketing caravans specifically as a solution for people on low incomes. A post earlier this year on spareroom.co.uk advertised caravans in Greetham, Rutland for £90,stating that “DSS is welcome” and people could move into “not just a room – a full caravan to yourself at room rates”. And Falcon Mobile Homes makes an explicit pitch on Facebook to people on low incomes, asking: “Are you receiving housing benefit? If so you can rent one of our static caravans”.

Posts on property websites provide a snapshot into the lives of some people looking for or living in caravans. One 47-year-old man posting on Gumtree says he and his dog“desperately need a home as we have become homeless” and is looking for a flat,a house or a caravan. Other people are looking to move out of vans. One woman posts on behalf of her mother saying she is “currently sofa surfing from my house to a crabby broken caravan” and is “in desperate need of a home so she can have my brother live with her again”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions says it has “no evidence that use of this type of accommodation is increasing or that there is any link to welfare reform”.

While many councils appear to have little idea about the extent to which people are living permanently in caravans and mobile homes in their areas, some local authorities have carried out specific pieces of research – presenting them with an unanticipated windfall.

East Lindsey Council, for example, launched a review at the end of 2014 into the occupation of caravan/chalet sites and said residents had raised concerns about “breaches of occupancy at caravan sites”.

The results of East Lindsey’s research took it by surprise. It uncovered 502 residents living in mobile homes or caravans. In turn, the council effectively suggests the work has brought 502 “new” homes into use. This has led it to claim New Homes Bonus– the grant paid by the government to councils to reflect and incentivise housing growth in their areas.

Since the review was started it has successfully claimed £605,000 of New Homes Bonus for these properties, according to a council spokesperson. It’s not alone; a company called Mobile Homes Review claimed it has generated £4.2m in additional New Homes Bonus funding in 2014 by registering 700 mobile homes in seven local authority areas.

Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association, stresses that more research is needed to find out if claims were being made from high-quality residential parks (that look like “lovely bungalows”) or holiday accommodation.“Residential parks are an enormous form of low-cost market housing,” she adds.

Nevertheless, the scale of housing benefit payments uncovered by Inside Housing’s investigation suggests that more research should be carried out by councils and the government into the reasons people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes – and the quality of the accommodation available to them.

Back at Thorney Bay Village, we meet Paul Birch and his husband Tom. They moved to the site after becoming homeless and had previously lived in a transit van for a month. The unpacked removal boxes in the corner of their room reveal the couple don’t see this as their permanent home. They have been on the site for the past year –and say winter is the worst time.

“The winter was hell,” Mr Birch states. “It is like a fridge.” His husband says they spent £35 a week on heating the van last winter. Both are looking forward to the future – as the removal boxes indicate. “As soon as we move out, hopefully it will be onwards and upwards,” Mr Birch says.”

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RECOMMENDATION, – CAUTION! No, the Continued Development of Canvey is Necessary!

In March, this year, Castle Point Borough council cabinet addressed what at the time was one of the hottest topics facing the UK. Termed by our own government as our “broken housing market” invitations went out to consultation on the white paper.

Little can be found, via a general internet search, of castle point council’s response.

Following the “successful” approval of 113 dwellings on Canvey Island, 30% of which fall within what is known as the Calor Gas Hazardous middle zone by the development committee, we were soon all feeling appalled at the scenes of disaster at Grenfell House in Kensington.

Whether it is correct to connect any possible similarity between poorly located housing and a disaster through whatever reasons that come to fruition in a tower block, may be arguable.

However an early suggestion as to the tragedy at Grenfell House suggests “the organisations responsible for maintaining standards in the building industry have been advising contractors not to take the regulations too literally.”  *

Whilst this claim requires some substantiation, the application of the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive’s advice where Canvey Island development is concerned, as applied by Castle point council, equally is in need of some serious scrutiny!

We, ourselves are used to being called scaremongers, but quite possibly so were some concerned residents near Buncefield, and those users reliant of the rail line through Dawlish, where the section of sea wall collapsed under the rail track in 2014, may have also been grateful of a more cautious approach to safety.

untitled

Damage to the railway at Dawlish in Devon

The lack of brownfield land in Castle Point is obvious. It is also reasonable to expect Green Belt to be protected.

However Canvey Island is subject to perverse considerations by Planning Officers, no doubt instructed from above, or to put another way, from back offices and corridors!

Housing on Canvey Island must pass the Sequential and Exception Test (Look it Up yourself!)

This allows development in areas that NOBODY can guarantee safe for the development’s lifetime. You would have to be Psychic!

The excuse, sorry, reason, given is:

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”

Strange, I have never heard or seen any concern of social and economic blight used to support a Reason to Support development where the mainland is concerned! Remember Deanes School??

But Canvey, don’t forget, is a “Special Case!”

Soon a Brownfield site list of local authority owned land will be compiled, just imagine it; the Paddocks, Canvey police Station, the old council building now Health Centre Long Road etc etc.

It is clear why Canvey is so often selected for development over mainland.

The Island is unsustainable as it is, so to it will be argued is the mainland, but Canvey is the council’s preferred choice.

On 7th February 2017, the Government published a White Paper concerning housing related matters, entitled “Fixing our broken housing market”.

Cabinet Agenda Item7a March 2017:

CPBC intention to respond to “Fixing our broken housing market” Government Consultation on Housing White Paper

The report identifies the problem as threefold – first, not enough local authorities plan for the homes needed, secondly house building is too slow, and thirdly the house building industry is too reliant on a small number of large concerns.

4.4 The report then analyses these issues and brings forward proposals to address them in four chapters;

  1. Planning for the right homes in the right places
  2. Building homes faster
  3. Diversifying the market
  4. Helping people now

Chapter 1 – Planning for the right homes in the right places – brings forward eight proposals;

“Maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements;”

“Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up the quality and character of new development, building on the success of neighbourhood planning”

“Making more land available for homes in the right places, by maximising the contribution from brownfield and surplus public land, regenerating estates, releasing more small and mediumsized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;”

In addition to those general comments the Cabinet is recommended to allow more detailed responses to the 38 questions posed by the White Paper to be issued by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader of the Council by the deadline of Tuesday 2nd May 2017.                        (abridged version)

Given cpbc’s previous History where development is concerned, we are left to wonder how seriously the government will take our local authority’s consultation responses. As I have said previously, a quick search for cpbc’s official response fails to be found.

*BBC Newsnight Policy Editor Chris Cook.

Photo: Network Rail Media Centre

Dates, Canvey Islanders won’t even Notice! Thorney Bay’s, on its way!

Canvey Islanders, it is said, haven’t the nous to have a cynical thought cross their little minds.

Firstly, following the Election announcement on the very last day prior to the period of Purdah commencing, the Jotmans Farm Appeal Inquiry was Rejected by the then Secretary of State, thereby saving important mainland Green Belt from development.

Secondly, tomorrow, 6.6.2017, just 2 Days prior to the General Election, castle point council development committee will decide the Recommended Approval “first phase” of the Thorney Bay vast green field development, on Canvey Island.

Thorney Bay Beach Camp, Canvey Island, Essex

copyright Jason Hawkes

This so called first phase at Thorney Bay amounts to 113 new dwellings.

The development committee Agenda paperwork indicates officers advise :

It is not considered necessary for Members to visit the site prior to determination of the application.

This despite :

To the north of the site is the Local Wildlife Site (LoWS) Thorneyfleet Creek, which comprises a water body with Common Reed and rough grassland; beyond this is residential development. To the east is Public Open Space, in the form of a grassed area and children’s play space. To the south and west is the wider expanse of the Campsite. A water treatment works lies to the west of the wider site and beyond this is the Calor gas terminal. To the south is the Canvey Island Sea Defence, beyond which is the River Thames.

Of the Health and Safety Executive’s comment;

..more than 10% of the housing development area lies within the (Calor Gas Hazardous) middle zone….and HSE Advised Against Granting Planning Permission.

The HSE then go onto excuse the proposed development layout, stipulating that castle point council must not in future use the self regulating facility, instead be referring any future development directly to the HSE!

The Case Officer comment, which will no doubt be pointed out to the planning committee members in the Agenda Paper states; 

Health and Safety Executive  No objection.

As far as potential flooding is concerned, especially as the site is directly reliant on the Canvey Sea wall Defences;

Environment Agency  No objection: following the receipt of a revised FRA, subject to conditions and the satisfaction of the LPA that the proposal will be safe for its lifetime

It should also be noted, should the are become flooded yet again that responsibility has been relieved of the Leal Local Flood Authority (Essex CC.);

It is the applicant’s responsibility to check that they are complying with common law if the drainage scheme proposes to discharge into an off-site ditch/pipe. The applicant should seek consent where appropriate from other downstream riparian landowners. 
The Ministerial Statement made on 18th December 2014 (ref. HCWS161) states that the final decision regarding the viability and reasonableness of maintenance requirements lies with the LPA. It is not within the scope of the LLFA to comment on the overall viability of a scheme.

But of course the Rumours emanating from CPBC is that Thorney Bay will become a Park Home site, So None of these Rules Will Apply!

1,600 static caravans could quite easily become 1,000+ Park Homes, and there is the next Local Plan’s 5 Year Housing Supply.

Let existing Canvey Island residents and future property owners be warned!

We make no apology for over-simplifying these issues but for anybody interested the webcast and recording should be available via;  https://castlepoint.gov.uk/webcasting

The meeting Agenda papers are available via; https://www.castlepoint.gov.uk/agendas-minutes-library

 

Thorney Bay, change of Use Over-Heard on the Canvey Grapevine! CPBC Local Plan issues?

It started as a Whisper, became a Rumour and has now reached Conjecture level on the Canvey Grapevine!

Thorney Bay, the apparent answer to the Castle Point Council’s Local Plan dreams, has become the subject of unconfirmed speculation. With the humiliating Withdrawal of the cpbc Core Strategy in 2011, it was considered “timely” by cpbc officers that Thorney Bay, despite it being sited within the Hazard range of Calor Gas and within a 3A Flood Zone, should come forward to provide a Housing Development of some 600 dwellings plus sheltered accommodation.

Thorney Bay then became the Backbone, the largest single development site, of Castle Point council’s daft Local Plan and surviving the GB sites cull to remain as the spine of the Local Plan2016, 5 year Housing Supply!

The Thorney Bay proposal passed in Principle by the cpbc development committee, whilst in the following months / years a 1st Phase proposal has gained Health and Safety Executive’s permission and is apparently overcoming the Flooding Objections to the fundamental requirements of the Environment Agency and the ecc Lead Local Flood Authority.

Now then; Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once!

A little Bird has told me, and I must say there is little foundation, so to speak, for this to be considered information, but it could be that the development may not be going much further!

To me this would not be a surprise, I would have thought a more likely idea would be for the developer to follow the Kings Park, and remove the static caravans and replace with Park Homes.

The build cost would be far less, the speed of development would be probably twice as quick and success of the venture equally, if not more so, financially successful as Kings Park!

What’s to lose?

Park Homes and Luxury Lodges can easily reach an asking price of £300,000, the site is opposite Thorney Bay Road, and residents would likely be of an age not too concerned with, the daily commute.

Now that the Canvey Bay Watch team have created such an attractive area of the promenade and beach front, this forms another selling point for potential Park Home buyers. I would have thought that the Canvey Bay Watch team should soon be knocking on the site owner’s door for financial support, should this development rumour come to fruition!

Thorney Bay 1

Photograph courtesy: Dave Harvey

The question for cpbc is whether these Park Homes should count towards the official Housing Supply.

On one hand these Park Homes “are suitable for residential use throughout the year and are built to last at least 50 years”! (Omar park and leisure homes). Although whether 50 years lifespan is considered permanent is challengeable, however, their success is, and there are people desiring to own them.

The Planning Inspector examining the Glebelands, Thundersley, Appeal did not consider the numbers at Kings Park should qualify for inclusion in building numbers, but that may have been due to cpbc being unable to clarify how many caravans were replaced by Park Homes.

We do know that of the caravans at Thorney Bay the Inspector concluded;

“But that does not necessarily mean that the Households now occupying caravans would have chosen that type of accommodation, in preference to bricks and mortar.”

Well, “bricks and mortar” these Park Homes ain’t! But the appeal of Park Home life is generally popular across the UK, so if people are choosing to buy into this type of accommodation, then there is an argument for these dwellings to be included into the Canvey Island Housing Supply count.

With our “Broken Housing Market” leading to the apparent need to revisit Pre-Fabricated Housing, these Park Homes may well have some scope.

Whether or not any Affordable Home supply can be squeezed into the equation will be upto the negotiating abilities of cpbc, so we won’t hold our breath on that one!

What could be expected is for some Canvey Island “bricks and mortar” dwellings to become available, for local young families hoping to get on the property ladder, as older Canvey residents move into the Park Homes.

It may be doubtful , should the development come into fruition, whether the Housing Need in the mainland part of the Borough be part satisfied, as it will be difficult to argue that this type of dwelling satisfies the cross market “bricks and mortar” Housing Need. In fact it probably increases the pressure on mainland site supply.

I remind you this is only speculation.

As a reference, below, I include part of the text of the cpbc Report on Residential use of Caravan and Park Home Sites 2013.

“It is clear from both Census data and from Council Tax data that an increase in the availability of caravans for residential use resulted in an increased housing supply of the order of 800 homes in Castle Point in the period from 2001 to 2011. This increase was largely as a result of the change of use of Kings Park and Thorney Bay Caravan Parks from holiday use to residential use.”

“To date, the Council has only included those caravans registering for Council Tax at Kings Park within the housing figures for the period 2001 to 2011. However, given that caravans at Thorney Bay were included as homes within the Census 2011 outcomes, and this will be reflected in population and household data moving forward, it is appropriate that the housing supply figures for the period 2001 to 2011 are appropriately adjusted to include these homes also.”

“The change of use of static caravans from holiday accommodation to residential accommodation has made a significant contribution to housing provision over the last decade (2001 to 2011). Approximately, 800 additional caravans moved into permanent residential use over this time period, primarily on the Kings Park and Thorney Bay sites. This is supported by evidence from the Census and from Council Tax records.”

“However, whilst some of this provision has contributed positively towards the community, in particular at Kings Park, the nature of the provision at Thorney Bay has had negative socioeconomic consequences both for the surrounding community and for the vulnerable families who have found themselves living at the site.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site for traditional homes. However, it is the intention of the owner to retain a smaller caravan park of 300 caravans for residential use towards the west of the existing site.”

“Assuming that the proposals to redevelop this site as proposed for traditional housing are delivered in full over the next 10 years, then it is unlikely that the number of households living in caravans in Castle Point will increase further between 2011 and 2021. Indeed, as a result of the development of traditional housing over this period, it is expected that the proportion of households living in caravans will reduce.”

“However, should the Thorney Bay site not be redeveloped as proposed, then there is the potential for a further 800 caravans moving from transient use into permanent residential use. This will increase further the number of households living in caravans, and the associated socio-economic issues arising from this. It is therefore imperative that the Council work alongside the site owners to encourage and facilitate the redevelopment of this site in an appropriate timeframe.”

Video copyright BBC

Thorney Bay development to go ahead, through “Hell or High Water”?

Interesting times on Canvey Island, hopefully our representatives are aware of what may be being fashioned.

We, Castle Point residents that is, have an unpopular stalling Local Plan, no 5 Year Housing Land Supply and no adopted Housing Need figures.

Development on Green Belt is rejected and nearly half the Borough is in a Flood Risk Zone 3a area.

Following on from the disaster that was the Core Strategy a new list of preferred sites was announced, this included the encouragement of the awakening of the proposal to build on Thorney Bay, following which an application to develop was lodged in December 2011.

Currently the dwellings on-site are static caravans. An outline proposal for 600 dwellings and residential institutions was passed by the development committee.

This was despite the proximity of the Calor Hazardous Industrial site and the Flood Risk. The marginal betterment of protection from bricks and mortar being preferred to a caravan type dwellings being the reasoning.

The Local Authority are in a desperate position with the Local Plan due to the unpopularity of the selected mainland Green Belt sites identified for housing development. This position of desperation may appear to be leading the LA to be adopting a controversial position regarding development in the Flood Risk area that will set a precedent for future decision making.

An Environment Agency spokesman pointed out that less than 1 per cent of the total number of homes that were proposed in planning applications last year were rejected.

Most planning applications the EA protest to are resolved or dropped.

“Last year we responded to over 30,000 planning applications and enquiries. Of the 57,000 homes that were proposed, only 570 were built against our advice. Our advice to Local Planning Authorities helps to ensure that developments are safe and resilient.”

Extract from Louise Gray’s report for the Telegraph 2013. Remainder of report can be found via this LINK.

A planning proposal for part development of the Thorney Bay site was lodged in November 2014.

The Environment Agency issued a Holding Objection in December 2014 suggesting that the “issues are rather complex” and remain since the proposal was first lodged in 2011!

Since the EA’s December Objection, no updated reports on flood issues have been loaded on to the CPBC Planning Portal, however during late August a raft of information on the types of Housing and plans have been loaded.

Could it possibly be that Castle Point Council intend to approve the application for development despite and against the Environment Agency’s advice?

Paragraph: 044 Reference ID: 7-044-20140306

For any major developments within Flood Zones 2 or 3, or on land within Flood Zone 1 which has been notified to the local planning authority as having critical drainage problems, which are the subject of a sustained objection by the Environment Agency on flood risk grounds, the local planning authority (and applicants) should bear in mind the requirements of the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009, if the authority is minded to grant permission for the development. In such cases, the authority, the Agency and the applicant should try to agree what changes could be made to the application that would enable the Agency to withdraw its objection.  If the Agency concludes that it is unable to withdraw its objection and the authority is still minded to grant permission, the Direction requires the authority to notify the Secretary of State.

In this context, “major development” means:

  • in respect of residential development, the provision of 10 or more dwellings, or a site of 0.5 hectares or more;

We are all aware of the current relationship between Castle Point Council and the Secretary of State through the defence of our Green Belt.

However this case will be different, CPBC have just 0.5 years worth of the required 5 year Housing Supply, the majority of Councillors have voted in favour of development at Thorney Bay, Officers are in support of the proposal. Interestingly the Revised determination date is the 30th September 2015.

Will it be with the Secretary of State’s approval that such a large development in a crucially sensitive area will be given the Green Light?

Castle Point Council housing families in Thorney Bay caravans? A means of convincing the EA and HSE to not advise against development?

During this weeks Castle Point Council meeting (Dec 2014) it was interesting to note cllr Smith managing to turn a most serious debate on child welfare into a promotion to support the new proposal to develop yet another part of Thorney Bay (see below)!

Whilst other councillors were concentrating on making positive efforts to protect family members on Thorney Bay from coming under similar influences and dangers that befell children living in Rochdale, cllr Smith introduced housing.

He rose to state “we are actually housing families in caravans, … which are not insulated have gas fires and have condensation dripping off the ceiling.”

Firstly this statement is in direct opposition to the CPBC regeneration officer who has previously assured councillors and residents that Castle Point Council DO NOT house families in caravans at Thorney Bay.

Secondly, of course people deserve proper living accommodation rather than the box type dwellings on offer to those unable to provide themselves with better dwellings.

However cllr Smith appears to chose not to take heed of the warning of the Environment Agency who are concerned that residents in Flood Zones may in future be unable to obtain house insurance nor remember the words of  the then Sir Bernard Braine reproduced here.

For those with little time to read the full transcript here are some snippets that give reasoning that whilst people in Castle Point should not be forced to live in accommodation of this type they should also not be allowed to be in a position that they unknowingly purchase property close to a hazardous industrial site within a Flood Zone.

“ I asked the Under-Secretary of State If in the light of the known hazard posed by the terminal … and the risk of spillages of liquefied gas leading to the release of a gas cloud, he will set out the scientific justification for the Health and Safety Executive to recommend … the establishment of a cordon sanitaire around the installation limited to only 1 kilometre. The hon. Gentleman’s reply was astonishing. No doubt it was drafted by the Executive. It volunteered the information that Experience shows that the worst effects of a flammable gas cloud explosion would be unlikely to extend beyond a radius of 1 kilometre.”—[Official Report, 22 January 1979; Vol. 961, cc. 37–38.] The House will appreciate that the worst effects of that sort of disaster are death and destruction by fire on a catastrophic scale.”

I feel that the councillor must surely have been mistaken in what he said and the officer’s previous confirmation, that CPBC do not house people in inappropriate living accomodation,  as this could be construed as a justification for a housing development in a less sustainable area.

Residential development comprising of 89 detached dwellings and 24 flats, including access, landscaping and associated facilities                                      Thorney Bay Park Ltd Thorney Bay Road Canvey Island

Outline application for residential development comprising dwellinghouses (C3 Use) and residential institutions (C2 Use) and access including additional flood risk and highway information.                                                                                                   Up to 600 dwellings plus Residential Accomodation.                                               Thorney Bay Caravan Park Canvey Island

OIKOS gain permission for the importation and use of Butane on Canvey Island.

For a while now, the Castle Point Development Committee have assumed the role of the Hazardous Substance Authority (HSA).

It appears that Council committee members, charged with decision-making, have been offered no relevant training, simply expected to follow the “guidance” of officers.  On this basis they were required last evening to consider the change of consent granted during 2012 to OIKOS.

oikos.jpg-pwrt3Photo credit: Echo News

This would allow the importation, storage and blending of butane. The intention is to use the nearby Calor Gas jetty to unload the fuel, store and pump through to OIKOS as required.

For the first time the Council Agenda made clear that the HSA (committee members) were responsible for the decision.

The OIKOS representative also made clear that the area had been used for the importation of fuel for some 70 years (80 years according to the CPBC Agenda). The clear implication this underlines is that CPBC planning authority are responsible for allowing housing development near the site.

The proposal Case Paperwork stated: “The Calor Gas terminal has the ability to import and store butane. It therefore makes sense, and would entail least risk, for Oikos to import butane from Calor’s storage or the jetty at the Calor terminal, under the process consented by Calor’s  HSC” – “It considers that there would be less risk in the importing of butane over Calor’s Jetty rather than Oikos existing No 1 jetty, which is closer to residential dwellings at Haven Quays and to the Oikos’s offices”

However there was no supporting documentation from the Calor Gas Company that shows support for this application. Given that the Calor Gas Company are solely responsible for the activities undertaken upon its jetty, it would not be unreasonable for the HSA to be able to question representatives of Calor, as to what additional measures have been put in place to secure safe operation of it’s now shared facility.

It could also be considered that the safety benefits of using the Calor Gas jetty in preference to the Oikos No 1 jetty is negated by the additional risk imposed upon the existing large residential caravan development within the middle zone of Calor Gas hazard range.

 “Residual Risk   Page 1 Even after all reasonable practical measures have been taken to ensure compliance with the requirements there will remain a residual risk of an accident which cannot entirely be eliminated. HSC controls ensure that residual risk to persons in the surrounding area and to the environment is properly addressed by land use planning

 This is the first time that residual risk and land use planning has been given the appropriate weight with regards to Hazardous Sites, previously the HSA has not been consulted when dealing with planning application in or around hazardous sites.

In effect the HSA (CPBC Councillor committee members) are being asked to take account of the totality of effect emanating from a major incident at the domino sites of Calor Gas and Oikos.

It would not therefore be unreasonable for the HSA to question its ability to understand the complexities and dynamics needed in the process of adequately assessing the TOLERABILITY of RISK,  without having under taken the in-depth training in order to do so.

This point has now highlighted that previous decisions made within its capacity of Acting HSA may have been inappropriately concluded. There is a requirement to review and revise, as appropriate, COMAH site Safety Reports.

Unfortunately, it does not emphasis the significant importance that these documents have to the Planning, Emergency Planning and Hazardous Substance Authorities. Operators must present Safety Reports that include the severity of the consequences for the WORST CASE EVENT in terms of expected numbers of fatalities and serious injuries in their accident consequence analysis. Less severe injuries should also be considered.

Societal Risk consideration are implicit to the relation of the hazardous site in relation to off-site populations and the density and types of site population. (residential caravans)

This application cannot be treated in isolation give the combined use of the Calor Gas jetty. It is imperative that the HSA had all of the details contained in the Safety Reports of both Calor and Oikos before a suitable deliberation regarding the risk and tolerability of risk can be fully appreciated.

It is unlikely that any of the Officers or the members of the Acting Hazardous Substance Authority have viewed these document and although it is not expected that a full understanding of their contents could, without considerable training, be achieved, it would be relatively easy for the responsible persons to recognise those aspects that would give a clear indication of the expected hazard range and ramifications of a major incident emanating from the installation of Calor or Oikos.

It would not have been unreasonable for the HSA to have insisted that they have before them, last evening, all of the relevant documents made available in a timely manner for them to make the appropriate judgements.

The proposal for the use of butane was approved, with Canvey Island representatives requesting their names were noted as voting for rejection. The officer in summary made the point that OIKOS did not need the Council’s (HSA’s) approval to commence production.

The Out Line Planning grant to the Thorney Bay Site was not considered necessary to give due material consideration to the OIKOS application and that the situation of the fact that a considerable number of known caravan dwellings within the middle consultation distance of the LPG installation of Calor, has not warranted comment despite the recent advice forwarded to Castle Point Planning Authority from the HSE.

The development committee members are expected to rely on the submission of the HSE. Castle Point Council did not feel it necessary to engage with a consultant to cross check information.

There appears to be unanswered questions for Canvey Island residents to concern themselves with.

Disclaimer:Content observations of the author and correct as far as can be interpreted by lay person no responsibility is accepted as to the contents factual correctness and advice should be sought before reprinting