Tag Archives: Association of South Essex Local Authorities

Canvey Island Dutch Village Estate “doers”, Get the Job Done! In the process they Embarrass the local authorities! Time to streamline local Council officialdom?

The treatment of Canvey Island residents, fronting and affected by the many Un-made Roads on the Island is nothing short of Shabby!

Whether it be the original developer, the old Canvey Island Urban District Council, Castle Point Borough Council, or that fine hierarchy that is Essex County Council, all have shunned responsibility where the situation of road maintenance and improvements are concerned!

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Even protracted legal discussions between ECC and CPBC have failed to reach a final decision on who should be responsible for changing the street light bulbs.

It is common knowledge that frontagers of these roads are ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the road surfaces, however why have so many of these roads been granted permission to be constructed in such a temporary fashion?

Permission for the substandard access roads would have been granted in the first instance, across many developments by the local authority, we assume that a financial “contribution” for the roads eventual making-up would have been levied upon the developer.

It would appear that these funds may have been put into reserves by the old Canvey Island UD Council. These funds would then have been absorbed into the coffers of the Castle Point borough council when it was then formed.

Essex County Council is the Highway Authority.

Government have given legislative guidance that:

“Section 230 of the 1980 Act empowers the ‘street works authority’ (i.e. the county council or unitary authority) to order the frontagers to carry out repairs to a private or unadopted road which are “needed to obviate danger to traffic”. The legislation also allows the authority to carry out the work itself if the order is ignored and to recover the expenses incurred from the frontagers.

Section 230 of the 1980 Act may only be invoked where repairs are needed to obviate danger to traffic. In other cases a highway authority may decide that a private or unadopted road should be made up under the Private Street Works Code (PSWC), set out in sections 205 to 218 of the 1980 Act.”

There has long been friction and complaint in the instance of the Dutch Village Estate roads. Many approaches have been made through official and direct channels for action to be implemented. Residents on the estate both of the unadopted and adopted roads wished to just have a reasonable and safe surface to access the estate whether on foot, by vehicle or by mobility vehicle means.

Given that, as further above, it is likely that monies were held and passed on between the two local authorities and that the ECC as Highways Authority have the authority to have the works carried out and collect the funds to pay for the improvements.

It could also be suggested that between the 3 local authorities some responsibility to contribute to the works is fairly obvious, having received developer contributions and having collected a proportion of council taxes towards Highways!

Instead all approaches, as you may expect from our local authority, were Rejected! Not just recently, but going back some many decades, so austerity cannot be upheld as a viable reason.

Many years ago MP Sir Bernard Braine intervened on a few residents behalf. When he did, Castle Point borough council jumped, to get Highways work implemented. Those days are long past.

It is only fair to note that Cllr.Howard has over many years shown support on unadopted Highways improvements, and endeavoured to assist in achieving some progress. However the local authorities controlling Canvey Island have collectively frustrated and failed the residents.

Contrast this with Cheshire, where many years ago the local council realised the predicament that homeowners had found themselves in and decided to take some action on the issue!

“It is proposed that Cheshire East Council should have a policy for dealing with urgent repairs to private streets where expenditure is limited to £500 in any one street in any one year and that the budget for repairs to private streets be limited to £5,000 per annum where overall budgets allow this. The budget shall be managed by the Highway Manager.”

Contrast this with Castle Point borough council’s almost prehistoric position indicated within the Adopted Local Plan thus:

POLICY T7 – UNMADE ROADS THAT IN ALL APPLICATIONS FOR THE INTENSIFICATION OF DEVELOPMENT SERVED BY UNMADE ROADS, THE COUNCIL WILL SEEK APPROPRIATE IMPROVEMENTS TO THE HIGHWAY. 

Never has a Policy been more appropriately considered;  too Little, Too Late!

Cheshire recognised the difficulty of a group of individuals to organise themselves as a collective, given the usual fractured communities we find these days, and have taken an initiative to offer some recourse to residents with a dangerous or deteriorating road surface is concerned.

What it has taken, in the case of the Dutch Village,is a very determined, very small group of residents to organise estimates, financial contributions and works to resolve the implementation of a flat road surface that all will benefit from, whether emergency vehicles with seriously ill patients, residents and their visitors and, not least and ironically, Council Refuse Vehicles which have been responsible in no small part for a level of damage to the old road surface!

Some of the funding has come from nearby residents not financially responsible for the Road requiring repair, some residents, with responsibility may have not been in a position to contribute, others owning but letting out property, may not have proved contactable.

Little wonder that a Policy on these and similar Roads should be forthcoming from Castle Point borough council! It is long overdue!

Few would argue that an Unadopted Road tax precept could not be charged on Council Tax payers, either generally or specifically on frontagers of Unadopted Roads, so as to build up a Ring Fenced Fund for the purpose of repairs. After all Canvey Islanders are charged an extra precept for our Town Council, police etc.

Look at the photograph above, and ask whether it is fair for residents to be left to organise such work themselves, especially given the Flooding issues on Canvey Island.

This has been quite some undertaking as nowadays many residents lease their properties thereby not being the owners responsible. The Canvey Green Belt Campaign were happy to allow the use of their bank account. And without a Residents Association the “bringing together” of all of the loose ends deserves great credit to the residents organising this undertaking!

Especially as the short length of road concerned is costing some 10’s of thousands of £’s !

It occurs to us that what is actually needed is some type of collective responsibility in the form of an elected group with powers to implement improvements, general maintenance, contracting resources and planning for future issues.

But then we came to the conclusion that what we really need is a Council fit for purpose!

What these Dutch Village Residents will have achieved, has been done despite councillors and officers!

So perhaps with these heady days of strategic planning, with the likes of the grandly titled “Association of South Essex Local Authorities” (ASELA) or “The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission”, both of which Castle Point council are an eager part of, it is now time to reduce the burden on the local tax payer and abandon the layers of executive “professional”officers at local authority level and reorganise a single authority for decision making across the region with lesser devolved powers implemented at a local level.

After all, in this instance the local authorities have failed, and continue to fail the people they are supposed to represent and carry out duties on behalf of, the Local Residents!

Despite the many unmade roads in the Borough, I cannot see many achieving what these Canvey Dutch Village Residents have achieved.

Hats off to them!

Daily Mail Photo

Responsibility for street lights on unadopted roads denied

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Local Plan – is it “Coming Home”, or Not? Roll up, Roll Up! Two Plans for the Price of just One – Castle Point’s Never had it so Good!

Canvey Island and Castle Point residents are being asked to add their opinions and thoughts to the latest Local Plan 2018 consultation process.

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This is despite the fact that the Secretary of State, through the opinion of the Government’s Chief Planner, has yet to decide whether Castle Point council are deemed willing and capable of completing the Local Plan publication process themselves to the point of adoption!

The whole Castle Point Local Plan process is being carried out in a Rush under the threat of Intervention!

This despite the Secretary of State’s own office taking from 18 December 2015, when the Inspector issued his report into the Jotmans Farm housing Appeal inquiry, until the 21st April 2017, 16 whole months, to come to a decision. Apparently no hurry then to come to a planning decision, until an Election was imminent.

Residents entering the LP2018 process will note that there isn’t a Local Plan to actually consider, instead there are 2 !

Two Local Plans, from a single Evidence Base!

This shows, as Canvey Islanders should by now be aware, how “Local Factors” and politics can distort and manipulate the contents of Local Plans!

According to the cpbc Chief Executive officer up to 100,000 consultees are invited to respond, despite the 2011 population of Castle Point being just 88,011 and many of these being young children. this may lead to the Consultation response rate being skewed low! Previous response rates have been around just 12%

These Low response rates can lead to distortions of the “Feed Back” by the cpbc officers and our elected representatives. Previously, through these influences, we have seen Housing Growth directed onto Canvey Island despite Flood Risk being an issue, and the reduction of Housing Numbers, due to the concerns over Green Belt loss.

These influences on the Housing Growth have chiefly been in response to mainland residents concerns, indicated through the previous draft Local Plans consultations.

In recent times we have witnessed the pressure of residents and mainland councillors protest be successful in the prevention of the proposed Essex County Council closure of the Deanes school. This was strengthened by the cpbc chief executive’s supporting statement that there was to be a large Housing development site in the surrounding area, residents of which would be attending the Deanes to bring the attendance numbers nearer ECC expectations.

In contrast Canvey’s Castle View school, serving the most densely urbanised part of Castle Point and South Benfleet, was simply Closed!

A public facility closed, and sold off to a sectarian private enterprise.

The Paddocks, allowed to deteriorate despite money being available some years ago for improvements with a top up from CPBC funds, is now seen as a potential Housing development site.

If Canvey Island residents are tired of being dictated to, they must take the trouble to involve themselves in the Consultation.

This is crucial as, not only will a low response rate allow certain councillors to suggest that he, or she represents the “silent majority”, but will allow a potential disastrous Local Plan to emerge just so that it may appear CPBC are compliant with the 2 new strategic “Quango’s”, the “Association of South Essex Local Authorities” (ASELA) and the “Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission”!

Dalliance with either or both will lead to major growth changes, both in population from the 90,000 dwellings across the area and traffic especially locally, with no infrastructure improvements. Canvey Island, purely due to its situation will always remain an outpost. However many people are managed to be housed here, little infrastructure will be forthcoming simply because we are in Austere times.

Infrastructure requires maintenance, ECC are not looking to spend more on maintenance!

For all of the Canvey Island Petitions and Referendum the past has proved that election words and promises are cheap, we need to accept that due to our location, the area is seen as Developable, whether Housing, Business or Industrial, yet little benefit or financial return is gained by Infrastructure improvements.

As it stands your Local plan consultation response, in the first instance, will be weighed against mainland responses.

If you  as a Canvey resident consider;

that Canvey Island has become over developed to the point that New Large Housing development sites are unviable,

that the Traffic Issues mean the potential congestion is unreasonable,

that Tidal Flood Risk is not taken seriously enough when distributing Housing Growth,

that the whole of the increasing Urbanised area of Canvey Island is a Critical Drainage Area and the ever increasing development is putting too greater strain on the drainage system,

that the Road Access is inadequate for the current population, many of whom commute, and unsuitable and especially inadequate in the event of an Emergency Evacuation,

that in a severe Emergency, whether Flood Risk or Industrial, the sheer number of Residents on Canvey Island and the island’s location, mean that any response by the Emergency Services will be inadequate and a Danger to Life, despite responders best efforts,

that our Green Spaces and Green Belt are important to our well-being and should NOT be developed,

that our Town Centre is badly in need of Regeneration and Re-development and under serious threat from out of town shopping areas,

then you really should make the effort to Log onto the Castle Point council website and respond to the Consultation.

Otherwise it will be left to the Government, Council officers and the majority mainland representatives to impose on us “their” Local Plan.

To add your thoughts and concerns to the cpbc Local plan Consultation, log on HERE.

To view the documentation, log on HERE.

Basildon Council Stick 2 Fingers up at Whipping Boy, Castle Point and its Green Belt! Now “Watch this Space!”

Government Intervention. Canvey Island and Castle Point residents will now have to listen to the Borough’s decision makers feigning shock as to how badly they have been treated by the Government’s secretary of state Sajid Javid and his announcement of his intended Intervention in the cpbc local Plan process.

Harvey Smith

Feigning shock, as it is apparent that through contact and advice with the Government, cpbc would have been warned that their “feet dragging” had tested the SoS’ patience too often and for too long!

Glebelands SoS decision June 2013:

In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead. With the publication of the NPPF, he is more positive than the Inspector that the Council can achieve its’ programme for LP adoption, especially given the drivers within it.”

Jotmans Planning Inspector conclusion April 2017:

“However, events have not borne that out positive view. The Draft New Local Plan is currently sidelined and it is very obvious from elements of the Council’s case that there is no political will to take it further forward. In arguing that the proposal at issue is premature, the point is not that it would be premature in terms of the Draft New Local Plan but premature in terms of a different Draft Local Plan that takes a different approach to the provision of housing.”

Reading like a demand for a naughty child’s parents to attend a meeting with the Headmaster the SoS Letter to cpbc Leader Cllr Riley appears to be an illustration of total incompetence by our local authority:

” I gave you the opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances by 31 January 2018, which, in your view, justifies the failure to produce a Local Plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regime.”

” the submission accompanying your letter of 31 January 2018. The Council has failed to meet its deadline for publication of a Plan between January – March 2018, in accordance with your July 2017 Local Development Scheme. There has been a consistent failure to produce a Local Plan since the last Plan was adopted in 1998. The Council has failed to meet milestones in published Local Development Schemes at least five times since 2004 and two failures to take a plan through examination.”

” Given that your Council has said it will not produce a Local Plan until after the Joint Plan has been produced and that the Joint Plan is not due to be submitted until 2020 it appears possible that Plan production could be accelerated through intervention.”

And Damningly:

” the other constituent authorities of Basildon and Brentwood are proposing to submit plans ahead of the Joint Plan”

Equally scathing was the SoS’ consideration of the Basildon Local Plan, HOWEVER, it appears Basildon representatives had their ears open!

In the SoS’ letter to Basildon council he writes:

… your Council still remains without an up to date Local Plan which undermines public confidence in the plan-led planning system.

Therefore I will hold you to account for your Council’s actions. Your Council needs to continue to meet your published timetable.

I will continue to monitor your progress closely and any further significant delays in meeting your timetable will cause me to have considerable doubt as to whether your Council is doing everything that is necessary in connection with the preparation of its Local Plan.

I will not hesitate to consider how to use the full range of powers Parliament has given me to ensure that a Plan is in place.

My officials will continue to engage with your officers.”

“My officials will continue to engage with your officers”! Quite clearly talks held, advice given and meetings have been held, between the Government officials and inspectors and Castle Point representatives.

There is no place for feigned shock and surprise.

Castle Point Borough Council Knew This Was Coming!

And sat on their Hands!

Why then is there not a Call for Heads to Roll?

Interestingly we noted within the cpbc Duty to Cooperate examination that, “Thurrock does not expect to make a submission until 2020”.

“And where are we in Castle Point left?

Even the most recent version of the cpbc Local Plan failed to include the “saviour” site, the Blinking Owl. With its previously developed element, close to strategic Highway routes and politically “barren”, enthusiastically promoted by mainland representatives and residents, in advance of more “precious” and “virgin” Green Belt sites as developable.

Unfortunately Essex County Council refuse to allow direct access onto strategic routes.

It is with Alarm then to read that Sajid Javid is intending that;

“My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting Essex County Council to prepare a Local Plan for Castle Point and with the neighbouring authorities on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.”

Now we likely see the loss of Glebelands, Jotmans Farm and the Dutch Village and all will be blamed on the Nasty Secretary of State and the Planning Inspector!!!

All so that Castle Point can be used as a Whipping Boy!

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In the meantime Basildon campaigners, officers and councillors have nothing to feel smug about

Basildon Council Spooked by the Government into hurrying through their Local Plan!

It appears that Castle Point have expressed to Basildon Council they will not be able to reach their Housing Needs, without breaching rules around flood risk and/or nature conservation.

Whenever has Flood Risk prevented Castle Point Council from approving development plans on Canvey Island?

With typical political divisive splits the towns of Billericay, Basildon and Wickford, reminiscent of the old Castle Point plan-making battles, narrowly managed to vote to approve their Local Plan.

This is despite the Plan appearing to be doomed to failure! Not because the development may be in the right, or wrong places, but questions remain over the Duty to Cooperate requirement. The DtC bringing failure to the Castle Point LP, also illustrated where Basildon may well fail!

With council officers warning members that BASILDON Council could be forced to build thousands of extra houses to make up for a shortfall in Southend and Castle Point, if its Local Plan is not signed off by the end of this year, the council appear to have panicked into completing the process.

Little Cooperation appears to be forthcoming! Pulling the Draw Bridge up early does not indicate that exhaustive exploration of cooperation, where Housing Need and Supply is concerned, has been completed.

And yet the formation of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) consists of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Essex County, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, and Thurrock councils, following the demise of the Castle Point Local Plan, is purposely intended to prevent future failure of the Local Plans requirement to comply with the Duty to Cooperate

Why then would Basildon rush into approving their Local Plan?

All is now clear, Buying Time!

The ASELA group of authorities had,  and probably still do, intend to adopt a strategic view of Planning and Housing allocations, across the Housing Areas.

Until ASELA agrees a Joint Spatial Plan, no small undertaking, the Basildon Plan will logically be judged to be Premature at the least, and Unsound at best.

But they have moved on in the process, something it appears cpbc were happy not to do!

Now there appears little option but to do so, and hurriedly! The Chief Planner and his appointed team will expect cpbc members to be compliant, otherwise expect exclusion!

Our neighbouring Boroughs, apparently willing to commit Green Belt for development, will expect Castle Point to commit the same. 

Government forcing its will on local authorities causes resentment.

Recently there has been the abolition of Labour’s centrally imposed housing targets and improved Green Belt protections laid out in the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework.

We have however a “Broken housing Market”!

Market forces dictate though that developers will NOT build at a rate that results in market prices falling.

Of course there is the small issue of local elections approaching in May, that may focus peoples attention.

Of course, we may have misunderstood the intentions of the Secretary of State’s letter to Cllr Colin Riley, the cpbc officers may have got it all wrong !

But the fact remains Castle Point published a Local Plan in 2016. Only the Duty to Cooperate was Examined. It has been assumed that the Plan itself would also have Failed. Must this assumption of Failure be correct?

If so on whose decision. The same people who have stalled updating the document through cooperation work that should have been taking place since January 2017, when the failing was announced!

There are questions requiring answers and we are not getting them.

We have been promised Localism and Neighbourhood planning, we are getting neither if the Government Chief Planner and Essex County Council are given control of our Local Plan.

Feel free to comment!

Coverage of Basildon concerns over cpbc and Southend Housing Needs can be read HERE.

Adoption coverage of Basildon’s Local Plan can be read HERE.

Castle Point Leader drops Gov. Minister Green Belt Bombshell! Whilst Canvey is Carved Up and expected to put trust in behind closed doors meetings!

It would appear insensitive, lacking openness and transparency and disrespectful for Canvey Island Town Council, as representative of the largest Town in Castle Point, to have not been invited nor allowed representation, in even an observational capacity, at the “collaborative” local area Planning meetings being undertaken by cpbc,  Basildon, Brentwood, Rochford, Southend–on-Sea, Thurrock and Essex County Councils.

These meetings fall under the umbrella of work “to create a vision and sense of place for South Essex through the Association of South Essex Local Authorities”.

More fundamentally it is the South Essex Local Authorities attempt to fulfill their failed efforts to Cooperate within their Local Plan processes.

During last weeks cpbc Special Council meeting, we heard from the ceo that both the Local Plan work and the work of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities, or ASELA for short,  are Intrinsically linked.

Carving

Canvey Island on the Menu

BEWARE! 

If you find yourself at the Dinner Table, without having received an Invitation,

It is very likely that you will be forming part of the Menu!

With Canvey Island currently supplying the largest sites of both Housing and Business Development in Castle Point, it is requiring almost foolhardy trust, given the previous track records, for Canvey residents to simply accept their interests are being represented to the best of cpbc Leader and officers ability!

The Leader said during the Special Council meeting that up until ASELA commenced working, cpbc was considered as “small fish” amongst south Essex councils. Off the bottom of the list, and having to fight tooth and nail to keep, schemes such as, Fairglen Interchange in the frame.

In effect Islanders are having to put our trust in Cllr Riley’s word, in reporting back to his confidents at cpbc.

Remember that no updates of work achieved or fulfilled have been made public, nor updates on how any agreements will impact upon the intrinsically linked Local Plan, with its Housing Need and Distribution of Housing Growth causing concern to many.

With Cllr Riley’s calling for trust in council members and residents alike, it was most surprising then to hear him state during the council meeting, that he himself held no trust in the Government’s Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, of whom he claimed, he didn’t “believe the minister cares whether we build on our green belt or not”!

In fairness to Cllr Riley his concerns may have some “legs”, as despite the SoS dismissing the Jotmans Farm, Benfleet development Appeal, he did so only on the day of the commencement of the Period of Purdah ahead of the General Election 2017! *

Residents may remember that the Jotmans Appeal was conducted during September 2015, so the decision was with the SoS for likely over 18 months awaiting his decision. No doubt he would have had in mind the progress being made with the cpbc Local Plan before making his decision, however since then he has reacted by placing cpbc on his list of 15 most local authorities likely to face Government Intervention! More recently, Sajid Javid’s ministry has been renamed to that of “Housing, Communities and Local Government”!

In the meantime, we wonder what Wheeling and Dealing goes on at these ASELA gatherings, Canvey Island residents with no representatives present, if we were informed, would learn 3rd hand at best!

* LINK to Jotmans Appeal decision