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.
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;
- Planning for the right homes in the right places
- Building homes faster
- Diversifying the market
- 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