Canvey & Castle Point Council, No Plan-Better than a Bad Plan and Forever Watching this Space!

So, Castle Point Council are being threatened by the Government in the form of Secretary of State for Communities and local Government, Sajid Javid.

As you will by now know cpbc are named among the 15 local authorities, along with our cooperative neighbours, Basildon, accused of failing “the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes.”

The SoS went on to give the 15 local authorities an “opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan.”

The next step, should the Government department be unsatisfied with the reasoned response, would be Government intervention.

Greenbelt-challenge_S_01

Will this concern those in control of cpbc though? And besides what implications would enforcing an autocratic local planning system have on the democratically elected borough council?

simonicity blogged;

The February 2016 technical consultation proposed that authorities identified for potential intervention would be given an opportunity to set out exceptional circumstances why that should not happen:

“What constitutes an ‘exceptional circumstance’ cannot, by its very nature, be defined fully in advance, but we think it would be helpful to set out the general tests that will be applied in considering such cases. We propose these should be: 

• whether the issue significantly affects the reasonableness of the conclusions that can be drawn from the data and criteria used to inform decisions on intervention; 

• whether the issue had a significant impact on the authority’s ability to produce a local plan, for reasons that were entirely beyond its control.”

We can assume that those 15 authorities will now be looking very carefully at this passage. 

A political decision to intervene is one thing but what would then be the legal process to be followed?

Let me take you back to the early days of the cpbc Core Strategy (CS), ( I know I have been told that that process is long since dead and buried, but this is the Canvey Green Belt Campaign blog and we shall reflect on whatever we wish)!

That particular document (the CS) also stalled, until the cpbc officer in charge, along with his ceo, met privately with Lead Group members, and others with an interest, and came up with the bright idea of offering to Sacrifice Canvey Island Green Belt to development, whilst mainland Green Belt was removed from the CS.  That was, if the Lead Group would prefer and in return would vote in favour of moving the CS forward for publication!

So progress was made, more easier, when the Daws Heath and Hadleigh Hands Off Our Greenbelt Campaign representatives, spoke up to add their full-backing behind the Core Strategy document at the Council meeting to decide Canvey’s fate and approve the document for the next stage!

No wonder the Talk of Independence for Canvey Island is stamped upon, especially whilst the Island is so valuable to the mainland, if it was a burden it would be a different matter!

Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, that document came crashing down around cpbc’s ankles. A disregard of Flood Risk (sound familiar?) and a poor choice of (Canvey) Green Belt, and the influence of “Local Factors” was the Inspector’s finding, and away cpbc went to start again.

So Ms Challis OBE and her henchmen organised a Councillor Conference during 2011 that split members into groups so that they could select mainland green belt sites to add to Canvey Island Green Belt sites, and following that a further Local Plan document emerged.

local plan.jpg-pwrt3

Her battle cry then was “watch this space!” Well I can confess, we have been watching this space, and a b****y hard job it has been, staying awake!

The draft New Local Plan went down like a stone on the mainland, despite it “only” being a consultation document, with councillors losing seats, voted out by disgruntled and concerned mainland residents.

We have to remember the influence the 2016 EU Referendum had on our local politics.

So when cpbc issue a response to Sajid Javid’s letter, by the end of January, we expect him to be informed of the progress being made by cpbc and our neighbour’s as to the good progress being made in the Duty to Cooperate and that the cpbc Local Plan vers.IV is in place, un-examined.

And we would also expect a extra little note pushed under Sajid Javid’s office door, explaining to him not to take the electoral balance in Castle Point for granted!

Autocracy has a place but, not it appears anywhere near Runnymede Towers Castle Point.

No Plan better than a Bad Plan, now where have we heard that before?

 

 

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Castle Point Council Named & Shamed, Yet Again – this Time by Sajid Javid

Unwelcome Attention is directed towards Castle Point Council, yet again!
This time by the Government Minister Sajid Javid as he addresses the UK’s Broken Housing Market.

Once again the Borough’s Local Plan process, or should we say endless saga, is in the Government spotlight!

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Castle Point Council is included within a “select” band or 15 local authorities found incapable of progressing past the “Duty to Cooperate” stage of the Local Plan process!

An Official Letter from the Minister is being sent!!!

Residents wonder whether the letter from the Minister will ever see the light of day, where residents are concerned!

Not that this will have any impression on those controlling cpbc.

Once again Canvey Island residents will be left puzzled by the apparently informed and dedicated team, in charge of creating the Local Plan vers.IV and their lack of constructive progress.

To receive such a letter from their own government appears to be an indication of very strong criticism.

The possibility of Government Intervention looms Clear and Large!

If, as we are assured, the policies within cpbc Local Plan vers.IV are in tune with Government policies, why then was the important Duty to Cooperate part of the process so Badly Neglected?

Another reason for those considering the issue of Independence for Canvey Island to wish to be disassociated from Castle Point Council?

“Interesting” to note that Basildon Council, who attended the Castle Point Local Plan Duty to Cooperate public meeting to add their criticisms, were also Named and Shamed!

The Ministerial release reads:-

On 7 February we published our Housing White Paper in which we made clear that the housing market in this country is broken, and the cause is very simple: for too long, we haven’t built enough homes. We have identified three systemic problems: not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need; house building that is simply too slow; and a construction industry that is too reliant on a small number of big players.

Up-to-date plans, including local plans, are essential because they provide clarity to communities and developers about where homes should be built and where not, so that development is planned rather than the result of speculative applications. At present too few places have an up-to-date plan.

On 21 July 2015 we made a Written Ministerial Statement to the House on this same subject. At that point 82 per cent of authorities had published a Local Plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regime. Today that figure stands at 92 per cent.

In the 13 years that have passed since the 2004 Act received Royal Assent, over 70 local planning authorities have yet to adopt a plan and of those 27 authorities still have failed to reach the publication stage. I am particularly concerned about the 15 local planning authorities that have recently either failed the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes, the public timetable that all local planning authorities are required to put in place.

I am therefore writing today to the local planning authorities of:

Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet, Wirral and York.

These letters will start the formal process of intervention we set out in the Housing White Paper. We set out that we will prioritise intervention where:

  • the least progress in plan-making has been made
  • policies in plans had not been kept up to date
  • there was higher housing pressure; and
  • intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production

We also made clear that decisions on intervention will also be informed by the wider planning context in each area (specifically, the extent to which authorities are working cooperatively to put strategic plans in place, and the potential impact that not having a plan has on neighbourhood planning activity).

I am writing today to give the local authorities the opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan under the 2004 Act regime. I will take responses received into account before any final decisions on intervention are taken.

The remaining authorities who are not making progress on their plan-making and fail to publish a plan for consultation, submit a plan to examination or to keep policies in plans up to date are on notice that consistent failure to make sufficient progress will no longer be tolerated. My Department will begin formally considering the case for intervention as deadlines are missed.

We will also bring forward the important provisions we legislated for earlier in the year through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017. I will shortly lay the Regulations under section 12 to prescribe that local planning authorities must review their plans every five years.

We will also shortly be commencing Section 8 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 which will place a requirement on all local planning authorities to have plans in place for their area which set out their strategic policies. Those strategic priorities are set out at paragraph 156 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As we set out in July 2015 we recognise that production of Local Plans is resource intensive. On 19 October 2017 we laid the regulations which, subject to approval of both Houses, will bring forward our White Paper commitment to increase planning fees by 20%. This delivers on our commitment to increase resources for local planning authorities where they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. All local planning authorities in England have given this commitment. We will shortly announce details of the £25m of funding to help local authorities plan for new homes and infrastructure in their area that we announced in the White Paper.

We have, and we will continue to, support local planning authorities in plan-making, through the Planning Advisory Service, with support from officials of my Department and the Planning Inspectorate.

Where local planning authorities continue to fail to produce a plan to provide certainty to their community on where future development will be brought forward, we will use our intervention powers to ensure plans are put in place.

The Minister’s Full Speech can be accessed HERE

UPDATE – Canvey Island going it Alone? Better than always being on the Outside Looking In!

Editor
It is disappointing that this Blog post’s subject matter has not attracted some level of debate.
It would be reasonable therefore to take the stance previously employed within CPBC presentations, that if no one disagrees by way of a response, then every one therefore must agree with its contents.
Many a decision has been made at CPBC on the basis of there being no comment or challenge.
The Cabinet system perpetuate the behind closed doors, we know what’s best, dictatorial style of politics.
The issue of the lack of transparency has deteriorated and the change that was promised under the new leadership has not materialised.
And so we go on with business as usual.

S.Sawkins

The Report following the recent investigation into a conduct complaint of a Castle Point councillor should be of some concern to Canvey Islanders.
It does not take much reading between the lines to question why Canvey Island, with its own Town Council, would want to be associated and controlled by Castle Point Borough Council!
We are happy to point out that the councillor under investigation was cleared of any accusation of wrong doing, more to the point of this Blog post are some of the issues raised in the investigation report of the activities and presumptions of councillors and officers inactions.
We are most concerned at the perception of how some cpbc Cabinet members  and officers appear to be content to operate in a manner that brings the local authority close to a position of ill-repute.
Officers seemingly unable to impose any control over councillors and the cabinet system oblivious to any requirement of operating within cpbc’s own Constitution!
Quite clearly the Adopted Local Plan, albeit out of date, regularly gets overruled and undermined where the proposed policies of whichever draft new local plan is current, if Green Belt development is before the cpbc development committee.
With the Chairman and 2 cabinet members all being “strong characters” it is not unreasonable to assume that some level of predetermination may be perceived by critics of the cpbc development committee, as the latest local plan policies are used as the basis for decision making. The 5 Purposes of Green Belt appear to take second stage.
Why would Canvey Islanders support such presumption?*
Extracts from the councillor Investigation Report compiled by ch&i associates:

“Certain local authorities only allow members to call-in applications from within their own ward; the Council may wish to consider whether it wishes to adopt a similar policy.
A Planning Audit report produced for the Council in December 2016 highlighted a number of issues about the call-in process and decisions made in Committee that I believe have been further highlighted by this investigation:

The Constitution does not provide detailed information about the process to be followed when a Member requests to have an application referred to Committee. • The Council does not formally document call-ins. • Material planning grounds were not stated for all applications called-in to the Development Control Committee. • Where Members of the Development Control Committee are minded to make a decision contrary to the officer recommendation, no further input from the officer is sought regarding the implications of that decision. • Members have rejected officers’ advice without giving clear and concise reasons for their decision based on material planning considerations. • Reasons for officer recommendations being overturned are not routinely analysed and lessons learnt.”
Referring to Committee members “calling-in” planning applications so that they may be considered by the committee, rather than being delegated to officers and thereby requiring said councillor to provide the required justifiable planning reasons  for doing so cpbc officers “Officers told me that councillors are not very good at this generally”!
“If they (planning  committee members) do wish to engage with applicants directly in connection with their planning application then they should ensure that they do not take part in the decision-making process.
The Secretary of State considers….. In addition, local authorities should consider including a member of the executive, if possible with responsibility for the Development Plan, on one or more committees which take development control decisions although she or he should not normally be the chair”. Currently the Council’s (CPBC) Constitution does not limit the number of Cabinet members on its Development Control Committee, although it does state that they must not be appointed as the Chair or Vice Chair. Councillor Smith’s appointment as Vice-Chair of the Committee appears to be in direct contravention of this.
Planning decisions are a non-executive function and therefore must be dealt with by the Committee and not by Cabinet. While there is nothing in the legislation to prevent members of Cabinet being members of the Committee, there is a need for councillors to take particular care in determining planning applications to avoid being perceived as being pre-determined. Where the Council’s Cabinet has encouraged and/or promoted a particular development or plan and a Member is both a Member of the Committee and also a Cabinet Member, it is arguable that the issue of predetermination may arise as a result of the Member’s perceived proximity to the proposal through discussions in Cabinet. There is a risk that even an apparently genuine consideration of the planning application by such a Member may be perceived as a sham.”

Editors emphasis.
* Presumption in this context taken as meaning; behaviour perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate:

Canvey Island going it Alone? Better than always being on the Outside Looking In!

The Report following the recent investigation into a conduct complaint of a Castle Point councillor should be of some concern to Canvey Islanders.

It does not take much reading between the lines to question why Canvey Island, with its own Town Council, would want to be associated and controlled by Castle Point Borough Council!

We are happy to point out that the councillor under investigation was cleared of any accusation of wrong doing, more to the point of this Blog post are some of the issues raised in the investigation report of the activities and presumptions of councillors and officers inactions.

We are most concerned at the perception of how some cpbc Cabinet members  and officers appear to be content to operate in a manner that brings the local authority close to a position of ill-repute.

Officers seemingly unable to impose any control over councillors and the cabinet system oblivious to any requirement of operating within cpbc’s own Constitution!

Quite clearly the Adopted Local Plan, albeit out of date, regularly gets overruled and undermined where the proposed policies of whichever draft new local plan is current, if Green Belt development is before the cpbc development committee.

With the Chairman and 2 cabinet members all being “strong characters” it is not unreasonable to assume that some level of predetermination may be perceived by critics of the cpbc development committee, as the latest local plan policies are used as the basis for decision making. The 5 Purposes of Green Belt appear to take second stage.

Why would Canvey Islanders support such presumption?*

Extracts from the councillor Investigation Report compiled by ch&i associates:

“Certain local authorities only allow members to call-in applications from within their own ward; the Council may wish to consider whether it wishes to adopt a similar policy.

A Planning Audit report produced for the Council in December 2016 highlighted a number of issues about the call-in process and decisions made in Committee that I believe have been further highlighted by this investigation:

 

  • The Constitution does not provide detailed information about the process to be followed when a Member requests to have an application referred to Committee. • The Council does not formally document call-ins. • Material planning grounds were not stated for all applications called-in to the Development Control Committee. • Where Members of the Development Control Committee are minded to make a decision contrary to the officer recommendation, no further input from the officer is sought regarding the implications of that decision. • Members have rejected officers’ advice without giving clear and concise reasons for their decision based on material planning considerations. • Reasons for officer recommendations being overturned are not routinely analysed and lessons learnt.”

Referring to Committee members “calling-in” planning applications so that they may be considered by the committee, rather than being delegated to officers and thereby requiring said councillor to provide the required justifiable planning reasons  for doing so cpbc officers “Officers told me that councillors are not very good at this generally”!

“If they (planning  committee members) do wish to engage with applicants directly in connection with their planning application then they should ensure that they do not take part in the decision-making process.

The Secretary of State considers….. In addition, local authorities should consider including a member of the executive, if possible with responsibility for the Development Plan, on one or more committees which take development control decisions although she or he should not normally be the chair”. Currently the Council’s (CPBC) Constitution does not limit the number of Cabinet members on its Development Control Committee, although it does state that they must not be appointed as the Chair or Vice Chair. Councillor Smith’s appointment as Vice-Chair of the Committee appears to be in direct contravention of this.

Planning decisions are a non-executive function and therefore must be dealt with by the Committee and not by Cabinet. While there is nothing in the legislation to prevent members of Cabinet being members of the Committee, there is a need for councillors to take particular care in determining planning applications to avoid being perceived as being pre-determined. Where the Council’s Cabinet has encouraged and/or promoted a particular development or plan and a Member is both a Member of the Committee and also a Cabinet Member, it is arguable that the issue of predetermination may arise as a result of the Member’s perceived proximity to the proposal through discussions in Cabinet. There is a risk that even an apparently genuine consideration of the planning application by such a Member may be perceived as a sham.”

Editors emphasis.

* Presumption in this context taken as meaning; behaviour perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate:

The Benefits of Canvey Island to Castle Point Council in the preservation of its Green Fields!

Sometimes it takes an illustration to put into perspective the control exerted by Castle Point Council over their, seemingly insignificant and powerless neighbours, Canvey Island.

The BBC, Home Editor, Mark Easton posted the information below today, under the Heading of “How much of your area is built on?”

Taking into account the high water-table Marshland, the reliance on Sea Defences, the fact that the whole of Canvey is considered a Critical Drainage Area due to the “complicated drainage system”, the distribution of development is puzzling to say the least!

The density of existing Housing, the currently under-development Housing sites and the Industrial, including Hazardous Industrial, areas indicated within Castle Point and in particular Canvey Island are self evident!

CP Built On

How does Castle Point compare?

Built on:  Castle Point 38%    UK: 6%

Green Urban:  CP 18%  UK 3%

Farm Land:  CP 31%  UK 57%

Natural:  CP13%  UK 35%

More than half of the UK land area is farmland (fields, orchards etc), just over a third might be termed natural or semi-natural (moors, heathland, natural grassland etc), a little under 6% is built on (roads, buildings, airports, quarries etc) and 2.5% is green urban (parks, gardens, golf courses, sports pitches etc).

The data has been produced with the help of Dr Alasdair Rae from the Urban Studies and Planning Department at the University of Sheffield.

Methodology:

The largest component of the “built on” category is “discontinuous urban fabric”, within which 20-50% of the surface area may be green space. To account for this we have reassigned the minimum 20% of “discontinuous urban fabric” to “green urban”, which in many cases may be an underestimate. The map uses building land cover data from Ordnance Survey.

The percentages above are estimates. Maps produced by Alasdair Rae from the University of Sheffield using data from Corine and Ordnance Survey.

Why always Canvey? Because local factors are given too much weight! Independence Now? UPDATE

Castle Point Conservatives, in the face of world media coverage of the call  for Canvey Island’s Independence from Castle Point Borough Council’s control, have released a social media response on the issue. In the interests of balance we have included the release amongst the Comments below

Two weeks on from the Canvey Community Meeting during which the matter of either Equal Representation, or Independence and a complete breakaway from Castle Point Council were raised, we await details of further progress.

The issue made the National Press and has received some barbed and ridiculing remarks from local councillors and from social media commentators.

Whether there is the legal possibility of Canvey Island becoming its own local authority, we would not claim to know, however in these days of so called “Localism”, the option or possibility is well worth exploring!

COAT_OF_ARMS

What we do know is that since the formation of castle point borough council in 1974, Canvey Island has provided the vast majority of the borough’s Housing Growth.

The census period since the formation of castle point indicates between 1971 and 2011 Canvey Island saw an increase in population of over 42%.  The Mainland saw just a 2.4% increase during the same period!

And yet, castle point borough council continue to claim “the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement”

With a mainland population growth of just 2.4% since 1971, Canvey residents are entitled to ask:  “why are there two totally different Housing Development Policy approaches to the two parts of the Borough?”

There is a clear and obvious explanation as to why, Historically, the vast percentage of Housing Growth in Castle Point is distributed towards Canvey Island, this was most subtly and politely identified by an Inspector as; “because local factors are given too much weight!”

Soon there is to be a change in the funding stream of local authorities. This will leave them far more reliant on income from Business Rates.

The potential loss of income from Canvey Island businesses would leave the mainland part of Castle Point looking seriously at its funding stream,

“Castle Point’s employment space is predominantly industrial, with a relatively small level (7%) of office provision.

The main supply of industrial sites is in Canvey Island, away from strategic roads and the areas of stronger demand.”

Retail space appears more equally distributed across the Borough, although the exploitation of Canvey West appears to be the only desired expansion of new Retail development sites, whilst the area around south of Rayleigh Weir now appears constrained within Castle Point

“The Main Employment Areas in Castle Point emphasise yet again the uneven distribution;

1 the Charfleets industrial estate on Canvey Island (30 ha);

2 the Manor Trading estate in Thundersley (8.1 ha);

3 the mixed use Stadium Way employment area in Benfleet (5.5 ha);

4 the large OIKOS Refinery and Calor Gas sites on Canvey Island;

5 the town centres of Benfleet, Hadleigh, Canvey Town and Tarpots, which contain mainly retail and leisure uses and some small offices.”

Quite clearly it can be seen where castle point borough council’s funding stream will be coming from, and going to!

The area controlling the largest influence in the Borough accord with neither the area supplying the Population Growth, nor the Business Growth for the borough! 

The question is who needs whom most?

And yet the ridiculing of the suggestion of Canvey Island becoming Independent has most loudly come from lead cpbc councillors themselves!

During these times of promised, so called Localism, we eagerly await to see whether some substance behind the possibility of Independence will emerge, sooner rather than later!

And more importantly whether the Residents of Canvey Island will be given the opportunity to voice their Opinion!

Editor’s addendum

Despite the barbed criticism of the actual idea that Canvey Island might investigate its Independence, including “Ridiculous”, “Political Nonsense” and of there being “No Hope of Independence”, we should point out that there are Boroughs with a smaller population than Canvey’s.

Namely, Rutland, West Somerset, City of London and the Isles of Scilly.

 

 

 

Canvey Flatsland – Island to be Re-named after rumours of Jellicoe future emerge?

The Admiral Jellicoe Public House site is to be re-developed into between 40 and 50 Flats, according to rumour that has reached us!

pub

Preparation work to the site appears to have commenced, this despite a search of the cpbc Housing Portal revealing no application paperwork. If there is paperwork published, then it is very well hidden.

The opportunity for residents to comment appear to have been denied, if the rumour is true. Local parking, for one, must be a huge concern for local residents and businesses alike. The surface water flooding issue will not doubt be dismissed by reassurances supported by officers!

The probability that the government’s call for a Brownfield Site Register will include the Admiral Jellicoe site within Part 2 of the Register, sites granted planning Permission in Principle, is highly likely if cpbc’s Register is published by the December 2017 due date.

Alongside this is the news that the option has been confirmed to consider replacing the Canvey Island Paddocks with a new Hall financed by even more Flats.

The numbers of Flats needed to finance a new Paddocks Hall will undoubtedly be very many, given the Viability issues with the lack of provision of Affordable Housing emerging from lucrative developments of late.

The Canvey High Street is also the location for 2 more Flatted development sites, the old Dairy, and the 125-127 approved proposal, whilst the old Council Building in Long Road is also under threat from the Government call to release local authority land for Housing Development.

The Castle Point Council Crystal Ball indicated this profound finding;

“It is not thought that flatted developments on Canvey will become viable however, due to the additional costs associated with flood resistance and resilience.” *

Well the current frenzy of Canvey Flats development has blown that consideration out of the water!

On social media of late protests that Canvey isn’t more likely to be subject to development than any other part of the borough have emerged from mainland sources. And yet Thorney Bay is the largest actively promoted development site!

More relevant than Housing numbers as an indication of castle point council’s Housing Distribution record, is the population growth in the Borough.

During the last Census decade the distribution of the population increase, Canvey Island was 2.6% up whilst the Mainland saw just a 0.8% increase!

During the time period Castle Point has existed as a Borough; 

Historically, between 1971 and 2001 Canvey Island saw an increase in population of over 40%.  The Mainland saw just a 2.4% increase during the same period.

Quite clearly the demand exists for Housing, exactly where, and why in Castle Point, may require some close examining!

The removal of 8 Green Belt sites from the Local Plan Housing site Supply is to be commended, however the driver for this is questionable as a strategic area in the north of the Borough is to be promoted for release despite it being Green Belt, albeit partially previously developed. Only 1 notable site, of these 8 Green Belt sites, being on Canvey Island.

The cpbc focus of targeting Housing on Canvey Island appears to border on obsessive.

As recent as the 2016 Local Plan amongst their “evidence” to support Housing growth distribution the Sustainability Assessment focussed as early as Pages 4 and 15 of a 258 page document this point was repeated twice!;

“This has caused some people to choose to live in poor quality accommodation at Thorney Bay Caravan Site resulting in health and social issues arising. Housing land supply should be sufficient to enable a stable and regular supply of new homes that respond to local demand”

We suggest that in such a small Borough as Castle Point the focus on the “local” in Housing distribution, especially given the constraints, is too tightly focussed on Canvey Island!

*CPBC Strategic Housing Land Availability 2014

Photograph: Echo