During the meeting with the Housing Minister, Castle Point mainland Green Belt groups and the Council Leaders heard Brandon Lewis refer to Planning Appeal news that he was not at liberty to give details of until an official announcement was made.
Possibly he was referring to the proposal for 500 dwellings on Green Belt in Aveley.
The Government have backed the Planning Inspector’s decision to refuse the development. Previously, under these circumstances, the Inspectorate’s decisions have been somewhat at odds with Government Guidance.
The Aveley decision is despite the local council having a “significant shortfall in its 5 year housing land supply.”
“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the development would reduce significantly the openness of this part of the Green Belt. As noted at IR14.10, the proposal would result in the permanent loss of some 14.5 hectares of Green Belt, harming the fundamental aim of the Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.”
“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would cause some harm to the Green Belt purpose of preventing the merging of neighbouring towns.”
“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would encroach into the countryside, at least to some extent, and therefore that there would be some harm to this Green Belt purpose.”
“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would not intrude unduly into the views identified at IR14.17 and that its impact on the character and appearance of the area would be limited (IR14.31). Accordingly he gives this only limited weight.”
So it now appears, as in the Glebelands Appeal, where the Government considered that harm to the the Green Belt purposes should be not be added accumulatively, the Planning Inspector is now in agreement with this approach in considering harm.
Affordable housing was not considered sufficiently covered. The old Local Plan, similar to Castle Point’s, required a 35% allowance, however locally we have seen the affordable housing requirement being adjusted by our local authority down to nearer 10% !
“The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, in this case (Aveley), the combined weight of the contribution of the proposal to housing land supply and the limited weight that can be afforded to the provision of some affordable housing and the education contribution, does not clearly outweigh the substantial negative weight he attaches to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, loss of openness and permanence, and conflict with at least three of the five stated purposes for Green Belt, and the additional limited weight he attaches to the harm to the character and appearance of the area.”
“On balance therefore, the Secretary of State concludes that very special circumstances to justify the proposal do not exist in this case (IR14.75). Even if the Inspector was incorrect in her reasoning in regard to the matter considered at paragraph 26 above, the Secretary of State considers that although the balance of benefits and harms would shift in those circumstances, this would not, in his view, alter the balance sufficiently to establish very special circumstances and justify grant of planning permission.”
This, Aveley, decision further supported the hopes of Castle Point campaigners that their own Green Belt sites can be protected.
Across the country there is a need for housing, locally we are considered to have a poor record in supply. We also do not have a current 5 year supply of housing land.
Recent decisions suggest that whilst the Local Plan is being processed it can be assumed there is a level of protection for Green Belt against development.
This will be used in support of the Thorney Bay development proposal, despite the locality of this site, being in a Flood risk Zone 3 area and in very close proximity to the Calor Gas hazardous site.
The Thorney Bay area, not being in the Green Belt, will not be afforded that status’ protection despite the fact it may be an unsuitable area to propose for permanent dwellings.
The main problem with Castle Point’s Green Belt may be to follow in the Local Plan’s Examination.
There is, I gather some further investigation into the feasibility on whether the Blinking Owl site may yet be available for housing development, despite that its position may be considered to fulfill the GB purpose of preventing towns merging. This is a large site that is capable of realising in excess of 1200 dwellings.
Developers will be observing and concerned should this site be formally added to the medium term Local Plan housing supply.
These developers will, in support of their own site’s suitability, point out that their sites had been indicated as available and suitable within the Castle Point Local Plan within the first 5 years housing supply.
In effect the Castle Point Council have suggested, by voting that they considered the draft New Local Plan suitable for consultation, that local Green Belt is available for development. And there is quite a lot of it that the Plan indicates suitable for release!
What developers could be claiming is that Castle Point’s consideration of Green Belt release, rather than being decided by Planning Practice, with its 5 Purposes of the Green Belt etc, could be being “out-weighed” by Residents’ Preference.
Developers will suggest that that is localism gone too far.
This may well not be decided by local decision makers, but by an Inspector and / or the Government at Examination or Appeal.
The Government puts great store in the house building industry driving the economy back onto the track.
The NPPF has sustainable development as the “golden thread” running through it.
Green belt is important to local residents, hopefully not just on the basis that housing is not developed in their own locality.
There will need to be a balance between developing in the “correct” places and Green Belt protection within the Local Plan.
The level of protection afforded to Green belt sites under threat of development at present, is directly affected by the stage of progress the Local Plan has reached. Green Belt boundary consideration during this process will be expected and examined.
The new Local Plan will need to be re-addressed carefully and skilfully if housing need is to be fulfilled and Green belt protected.