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.
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?
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.
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?