Nimbyism, Green Belt Protection and a new, New Local Plan for Castle Point under the Scrutiny of the Intervention Team!

It has been suggested that, in the light of the announcement of the new leader of Castle Point council, that this blog post from July 2017 should be reproduced. It serves as a reminder of what will be expected from a new cpbc Local Plan, and also the expectations of local residents, all under the watchful eye of the Intervention Team.

Encouragingly Castle Point council have again refused permission to develop another Green Belt site.
This time at Catherine Road, Benfleet, where a wooded site had been cleared prior to a proposal for 6 detached houses.
Castle Point, as many will be aware, are without a recognised required 5 Year Housing Supply. At the development committee meeting it was reiterated that the “emerging” local Plan, will include a 5 Year Housing Supply, albeit supported by previously developed Green Belt being released for development. The question of deliverability will be the issue scrutinised by developers and an Inspector.
However, apparently less encouragingly this very week the Telegraph newspaper published a controversial article adding even more pressure from the government on local authorities to supply even more homes than previously expected, in areas such as Castle Point.

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The Telegraph article reads;

“Families living in some of the most sought-after parts of the country will be forced to accept more homes being built near them to tackle the housing crisis, the Communities Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid said that he wants communities which have benefited from soaring property prices to play their part in solving the housing crisis.
New rules to force councils to increase their housing targets will be published in the next three weeks.
Mr Javid’s comments could be seen as a new assault on homeowners with a Nimby” – “Not In My Back Yard” – attitude towards new development. It could also prove controversial with grassroots Tory voters, many of whom live in affluent areas.
But last week, Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, said the Conservative Party had to focus on building affordable homes and creating jobs for “young metropolitan” voters if it wants to expand its support base and win the next general election.
Mr Green suggested that the Conservatives’ defeat (sic) at the general election last month was in part because they had allowed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to seduce younger voters who have struggled to get onto the housing ladder.
Separately, ministers will say on Wednesday that towns and villages across England could get a share of £1billion a year to build bypasses and protect beauty spots from the “misery of lorries and thundering traffic”.
Mr Javid used a speech to council leaders to set out the Government’s plans to deal with the housing crisis and have “a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities” about housing.

This means wealthy communities living in areas “where housing is particularly unaffordable” have to accept that more homes needed to be built nearby.
He told council leaders at the Local Government Association’s annual conference: “Nothing is more corrosive to trust than the idea that some areas are being treated better than others.
“Where housing is particularly unaffordable, local leaders need to take a long, hard, honest look to see if they are planning for the right number of homes.
One source at the department said part of the problem was that “you see more active groups locally contesting against decisions” in wealthy areas.
It comes six years after the Government clashed with rural campaigners over plans to make it easier to build on green belt land by relaxing planning laws in favour of developers.
Mr Javid directly criticised Theresa May, the Prime Minister, along with her predecessors in Downing Street, for not doing more to provide enough homes for young families.
He said: “Since the 1970s – under Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May – we’ve supplied an average of 160,000 new homes each year. That’s far below what’s needed.”
A new Government consultation paper published this month will provide a “new way for councils to assess their local housing requirements”, Mr Javid said.

Councils are expected to be asked to commission an assessment of how much and what kind of housing is needed in their area. Councils will then use it to inform the housing target in the local plan which sets out where new homes can be built. The target will be reassessed every five years.

The new way of calculating housing need is expected to result in increases of up to 25 per cent in housing forecasts in the Home Counties, campaigners fear.
Mr Javid said: “Our aim is simple: to ensure these plans begin life as they should, with an honest, objective assessment of how much housing is required.
“That means a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities.”
The new initiative for more homes would involve “courage to both conceive and execute”, he said: “There will be tough decisions, difficult conversations. But that is what political leadership is about.”
Mr Javid said ministers would ensure that the extra schools, roads and doctors’ surgeries for the new homes would be built.
A spokesman for Mr Javid’s department said: “We want to make sure that local plans are based on an honest assessment of the need for new homes in local authority areas, and are formed in a transparent way that gives communities a strong voice to shape their area.”
Article by Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent 4 July 2017

Photograph, illustrative purposes only.

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“Time to burst the myth that all Green Belt is green and use it for the homes our children so desperately need?”

Green Belt is put under further pressure from Housing and Business development by the fashionable approach that an area’s Rural Idyllic Value should become an addition to the existing agreed list of Functions.

A Point is made to support Green Belt being released for development that “over 60 percent is farmland, with herbicides and pesticides pouring air pollution into our cities“. This only proves that using an exaggeration provides a headline rather than gravity to the claim, that the answer to fixing our broken housing market, lies in the Green belt!

Releasing Green Belt isn’t the easy fix, especially where the need for affordable homes is concerned. Indeed quite the opposite, for despite the comparative ease and economics of developing on Green Belt over previously developed areas, levels of affordable housing being provided is low, apparently through viability reasoning!

Of course a Review of Green Belt should be included within a Local Plan process but challenging or undermining of the Green Belt Functions should not be the only test for release.

In the case of Canvey Island, Green Belt, what little that remains, and Green Field land perform far more than the 5 Functions.

Local planners would do well to remember this before it is too late and we have far more to worry about than “pouring pollution” into the urbanised area!

The level of proposed releases of Green Belt is concerning, it will not bring an immediate Fix to the Broken Housing Market. Developers will not build at a rate that would collapse the housing market values!

A balanced approach is required on Housing Supply and Population levels in areas able to support and keep safe current and future residents in appropriate areas. isn’t that what Sustainable Housing should be based on?

Politics of Planning blog posted, 11May 2018:

Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh has called for unused ‘wasteland’ in the Green Belt to be developed. The Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden argues that the development of such land would go some way to addressing the housing crisis, whilst preserving genuine areas of natural beauty.

Ms McDonagh is advocating that an extra million new homes be built in London, where 22% of the land within its boundaries is Green Belt, and has made a written submission to the NPPF consultation to this effect. She says that she has found many examples of such land within minutes of train stations across the country.

Commenting on the situation, Ms McDonagh said:
“I have no desire to call for building in our countryside or on the flowing fields of green that we should be so grateful to have. My frustration is not with parks and hills or areas of natural beauty. And of course, I have no intention of calling for housing in areas with environmental protection… There are 128,000 children in England living in temporary accommodation, desperate for a place to call home. In the hearts of our towns and cities, and close to public transport, scrubland, rubbish tips and car washes are inappropriately designated as Green Belt land. It’s time to burst the myth that all Green Belt is green and use it for the homes our children so desperately need. It’s time to grasp the nettle and to stop promising new homes without the means of providing them.”
Siobhain McDonagh said that the idea has support across both parties and amongst a number of thinktanks. Matthew Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute agrees with Ms McDonagh, and believes that there is a common romantic misconception over the true nature of the Green Belt. He commented:
“Far from rolling hills and daisy strewn meadows, the Green Belt is anything but a rural idyll. Over 60 percent is farmland, with herbicides and pesticides pouring air pollution into our cities.”

Siobhain McDonagh’s intervention came in the same week as the National Planning Summit, held on 10 May in London. Her opinions are in step with Christine Whitehead of the Government’s Build-out Review Panel – the Letwin Review – who told the Summit that a “very large proportion” of the problem of why planning permissions fail to be built out is an over-reliance on large housing sites. Ms Whitehead added that “between 2008 and 2014, over 50% of permissions were on large sites, and five per cent of the output was on large sites.”

Ms McDonagh’s idea would certainly free up many small sites within London, and it will be interesting to see whether this issue is considered by the Letwin Review, which is due to be published before the Autumn Budget in November 2018.

Persimmon’s Refusal on Green Belt at the Dutch Village Canvey Island!

News has just been announced that the Persimmons venture into the world of equine facilities development has been Refused at Canvey Island’s Dutch Village.

The proposal was to develop stables for 3 horses on an area of 16.3 hectares of Green Belt land.

The site is Green Belt and Persimmon’s hoped to gain a Change of Use of the Land.

Castle Point Council’s delegated officer Report informed:

The Persimmons proposal was: Erection of stable block with adjoining hay storage/tack room and associated landscaping, formation of access track together with the change of use of land

Officers Reasons for Refusal were:

1 The proposed development is situated within an area of Green Belt as defined in the Council’s Adopted Local Plan where inappropriate development is only permitted in very special circumstances. The proposal, by reason of the provision of a new building, fencing and area of hardstanding, would not preserve the openness of the Green Belt and is therefore considered to constitute inappropriate development. No very special circumstances to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, have been demonstrated and the proposed development is therefore contrary to government guidance as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

2 The proposal seeks to provide a stable facility within Flood Zone 3, an area identified at risk of flooding, and is not accompanied by a site-specific Flood Risk Assessment or evidence that it meets the requirements of the sequential test. The proposal is therefore contrary to government guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework and Planing (sic) Practice Guidance.IMG_0160

Castle Point Council face Testicular Examination Ahead! Whilst Nuneaton Council act as Local Plan Pathfinders?

Having promised to stand firm over Infrastructure before more Housing, the new Castle Point Borough Council regime will now have their resolve fully tested by the Government’s team sent into the Borough to oversee progress on the Local Plan.

Riley+marchant

Residents, having shown confidence in the Lead group of councillors by giving them an increased majority at the May 2018 local elections, will be expecting them to be able to revive the latest withdrawn Local Plan following 12 months of intensive and “tireless” Duty to Cooperate work following the Examination inspector’s criticisms.

The protection of Green Belt was paramount to Residents concerns, and any backing away from the local authorities position will be open to criticism!

This may be particularly so in the light of promises to overturn the Borough Plan made in another area, Nuneaton, where the successful Conservative group promised to:

“Protect existing communities and deliver the roads, health and school services we need.
 Reduce the housing numbers based on new government guideline figures.
 Withdraw from Labour’s secret agreement to take Coventry’s overspill.” 

“Distribute housing more fairly around the Borough to enhance not destroy existing communities.”
 “Ensure our communities finally receive the much needed road improvements, schools, GPs, shops and essential facilities they deserve, 
 Prioritise Brownfield sites first, protecting our existing communities by removing unsuitable and unsustainable sites from Labour’s broken Borough plan.”

Andrew Lainton, of Decisions Decisions, Decisions blog suggests:

“However the Borough Plan is mid examination with initial findings due to be published this month.

As the inspectors findings are binding the only alternative to fulfill the manifesto would be to withdraw the local plan.

This would put the Council in special measures.” 

The Nuneaton Tory Group’s reference to Unsuitable and Unsustainable sites is interesting and should, but doubtfully will, provoke examination at Castle Point.

The wholesale blanket application of the Sequential Test across Canvey Island would, elsewhere, be expected to be deemed Unsustainable.

In effect despite being a flood Zone 3a, any Housing Development proposed for Canvey Island is deemed appropriate!

This is evidenced in each and every Application paperwork by officers, following councillors instruction, having “persuaded” the Environment Agency that Canvey Island is a Special Case!

An illustration of this, taken from the cpbc Annual Monitoring Report 2016-17 states; “It should be noted that there is no specific policy on flood risk included within the Local Plan (1998 adopted version) and therefore the Council relies on national policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and its technical guidance in respect of such matters.

Of course since then the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment has recognised that Canvey Island is at Actual Risk of Tidal Flooding and the Integrated Urban Drainage Study was researched and published following the 2014 Summer Flooding of Canvey Island!

Castle Point councillors, those involved on the development committee at least, appear willing to accept responsibility for future Flooding of housing and danger to residents, whether from Surface Water or Tidal.

So far that has paid handsomely. Over time and following Flood events, that may prove less so, as Housing built since the 1st January 2009 is not eligible for the Flood Re Insurance Protection that makes available affordable insurance.

Should this problem emerge mortgages on “new” builds may well be denied due to insurance issues. New Canvey Island House Buyers may well be walking into this trap unaware.

The development of Canvey Island both Industrial and Housing continues unabated, this will intensify the pressures on the already broken drainage system, and road and health service infrastructures.

The cpbc Annual Monitoring Report also states, “the proportion of new homes provided on previously developed land to remain lower than in earlier years.”

and that, even more worryingly; 

“16 affordable housing units were delivered in Castle Point in 2016/17, representing 14% of total housing provision (114 dwellings). This level of provision is an improvement on the annual average provision for the period 2001 to 2016 of 11.5%,”

An example of the inadequacy of our local authority is illustrated within the cpbc Sequential test documentation to support the first of the local plans, the Core Strategy, in which it was admitted “The Environment Agency met with the Council in 2007 to identify criteria under which they would allow development to proceed on Canvey Island. The final criterion was the need to ensure that the Emergency Planners and Emergency Services were satisfied with the measures in place to ensure safety in the event of a flood.

These services had not been consulted in the preparation of PPS25, and as such this requirement was a surprise to them, for which they were not prepared.

A typical approach by developers to overcome the Constraint on Housing by Flood Risk on Canvey Island and acceptable to CPBC is demonstrated here;

  • “The application site is located on Canvey Island, which is situated entirely within Flood Risk Zone 3a,
  • The Council has undertaken an annual review of Strategic Housing Land Availability (SHLAA) since 2011. This process has consistently indicated the need for a greater supply of housing land to meet the objectively assessed housing needs of the borough.
  • When applying a sequential test it is important to have regard to the local context. Canvey Island is a distinctive community, accommodating 43% of the borough’s population. It has specific identified needs in terms of social, economic and physical regeneration, as well as housing.
  • In order for residential development to serve the community of Canvey Island it is considered that it needs to be located within that settlement.”

The Level of delivery of Affordable Housing and the continued influx of new Residents from outside of the Area onto Canvey Island suggest that “residential development to serve the community of Canvey Island” is simply too broad a sweeping statement intended to be a means of simply granting Planning Permission to bolster the BOROUGH’s Housing Supply in an Unsuitable Location!

It would appear unusual, if not unreasonable, for a local authority to seek to increase the Urban Density by developing Green field land and intensifying Brownfield development,  supposedly under the guise of satisfying the Need of the Canvey Island Community, when in effect it simply intensifies Inward Migration, in an area specifically under the threat of both Tidal and Surface Water Flood Risk!

We eagerly look forward to learn what Resolve, Metal, Determination and hopefully Fairness, the new administration at Castle Point council are able to apply to the ongoing Local Plan process in the shadow of Government Intervention!

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Like a bad Smell, this just will not Go Away!

The full Decisions Decisions, Decisions post may be read HERE.

A clear Message sent from Castle Point to the Government, Hands off the Borough’s Local Plan?

Canvey Island West Ward voted to elect the Conservative candidate J.Blissett by just 1 (one) Vote yesterday to replace the Canvey Island Independent Party candidate J.King, onto the Castle Point Borough Council.

This was the only change, as all other Canvey Island seats were held by the incumbent CIIP representatives.

Meanwhile on the mainland the Conservatives gained the seats of those held by an Independent and the UKIP representatives standing for re-election.

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The implications to the Borough regarding Infrastructure and the CPBC Local Plan will be unclear until further news emerges, however with the threat of Intervention over the Local Plan by the Government hopefully a message has been sent that the new administration at CPBC expect that Green Belt WILL be protected from Development AND that Infrastructure will be delivered ahead of Housing.

Photograph: Copyright Echo newspapers

 

Our Neighbours, Basildon Council, in the hot seat and under scrutiny!

Basildon Council’s contencious published draft Local Plan is covered in a BBC News article.

Claiming government pressure has raised the number of homes included yet seemingly ahead of the duty to cooperate compliance work Castle Point Council have apparently been working on.

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Copyright: Google Earth

Despite an alleged imposed increase in housing numbers in the region of 30%, the local authority claim a reduction of those intended for the Green Belt by the previous administration.

Surprisingly the Wickford Leader feels that few of the housing numbers, if any will be built within the first 5 years.

Either Basildon has a very sound 5 year supply or this could be a stumbling point.

Let’s hope that their race to beat the Intervention threat of the Secretary of State has been worthwhile, even if Castle Point Council could not rise to the challenge!

The full article is available via this Link.

Canvey New Access Road, and the Promised Yachting Marina just a Dream! Any wonder Islanders take a Pinch of Salt with the Promises?

It is usual prior to Elections that Canvey Island residents are subject to certain infrastructure Promises from Castle Point Lead Group representatives.

This year has been slightly different in that Little, if Anything, has been raised about the proposed new access road to Canvey Island, via the Manor way to the promised land that is Thurrock!

Waterside Farm

Waterside Roundabout – Unusually clear!

Even though the Leader cllr Riley did touch upon no Housing prior to improved Infrastructure in an Echo interview, this was under the duress of imminent Government Intervention in the Castle Point Local Plan process.

More Telling with respect of Road Infrastructure and new Access to Canvey Island is contained in a personal response from Essex County Council (ECC) regarding unadopted Roads.
The ECC made perfectly clear the dire straits they feel they are in where finance for Highways is concerned.

It appears that even if Government finances were made available to construct a new Canvey Island Access Road, ECC may well be extremely reluctant to go ahead with the road’s construction, due to it being their responsibility to maintain!

Essex County council wrote;
“we have limited funds available to maintain those areas for which we actually are responsible.”

Canvey Island Residents should really be far more sceptical where promises from both Essex County Council AND Castle Point Council are concerned.

We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign were subjected to fanciful promises from no less than a team headed by the Castle Point Chief Executive and two Senior “professional” Officers, when it was arranged for us to meet following our successful Referendum on protecting Canvey Island’s Green Belt in the summer of 2009.

Having made clear to the cpbc representatives that, by a 99%+ majority, Canvey Residents were concerned over the cpbc plans to develop Housing on the Island’s few remaining patches of Green Belt, we were treated to a presentation of the proposed RSPB site on Canvey West Marsh and then an attempted engagement over the planned redevelopment of the Town Centre!

This we had to rudely interrupt the meeting over as they were distracting asides, only to then hear of cpbc’s intentions to convert the OIKOS hazardous Industrial site – into a Yachting Marina !!!

“The Council has a long‐term ambition to see operations at the Hazardous Installations at South Canvey cease, improving the safety of existing and future residents living on Canvey Island.”

“With regard to the deliverability of this ambition, the council’s Policy CP9 is a long term policy which looks beyond 2020 to a time when dependence on gas imports and fossil fuels in general is significantly reducing.”

The levels of intelligence that Castle Point Council credit Canvey Islanders with is woefully inadequate and insulting.

It is undoubtedly this arrogance that has taken cpbc to the threshold of Government Intervention following 3 attempted publications of a Local Plan, each ignominiously either forced into Withdrawal or Rejection, further endangering the Borough’s Green Belt and increasing the levels of population at Risk of Flooding or Industrial Accident.

Update.

Since this Post was published, an election leaflet has been delivered from the controlling group. 

It states that “Plans for the final stage of Roscommon Way are in progress.” and our MP and her colleagues “are demanding Government funds the third access road”.

Photograph Courtesy: Echo Newspaper and Google