Tag Archives: Benfleet

Canvey Green Belt safe? Really? Probably as Safe from Development as Jotmans Farm, or Even Less So!

Canvey Islanders are right to be fearful of both Castle Point Council and the Government chief planner, as between them they concoct the next Local Plan for the Borough.

Why, because it appears previous promises and assurances that Canvey AND the mainland’s Green Belt is not in danger of being released for development, are worthless!

Anybody that has visited the cpbc Local Plan consultation Portal, will have noticed that all Green Belt sites considered and promoted for development in the daft 2014 Local Plan, including those rejected and omitted for the Local Plan2016, have now reappeared for consideration!

Directly below are just some of the sites that cpbc Leaders and officers are “considering” including in the list of sites released for development.

You will note that this will affect West, South and East Canvey Island, with knock on effects across the whole of the Island AND south Benfleet, when Traffic, Commuting, Doctors, Hospitals and Schooling are concerned!

Sites appearing in the LP 2018 consultation questionnaire include:

 Do you support the potential residential development at land east of Canvey Road?  Otherwise known as the Dutch Village fields or Corn fields.

Do you support the potential residential development at land fronting Canvey Road? Land alongside the Dutch Cottage

Do you support the potential residential development at land at Thorney Bay Caravan Park, Canvey Island?

Do you support the potential residential development at land at Point Road, Canvey Island?   The Canvey Supply and surrounding Business area.

Do you support the potential residential development at land west of Benfleet? (Jotmans Farm).

Plus other mainland Green Belt sites, making up the list. And of course the other sites we know about, such as the Paddocks, The Jellicoe etc are extra to these!

And yet we have been assured ahead of elections and announcements that the Borough’s Green Belt, at least those sites considered “Virgin” were all protected.

How very disappointing to hear and read the council leader and officers and Government chief planner are now making completely different noises.

We hear NO Dissenting Voices, and our local newspaper, the Echo, appears to be under some level of censorship from cpbc!

As an illustration of the change of direction, reproduced directly below is our Blog post dated 6th October 2017. In it is included a message from Cllr Sheldon, a councillor with good connections to have spoken knowledgeably on Castle Point’s Green Belt situation.

One must ask, “where did it all so horribly go wrong?”

“THE DECISION STANDS. JOTMANS WILL NOT BE BUILT ON.”

Following the Secretary of State’s decision following the Appeal inquiry into the proposed Jotmans Farm Green Belt Housing Development, the developer registered a High Court challenge over the decision of the SoS and Castle Point council.
CPBC Councillor A. Sheldon has issued this notice:

Dear Residents,
I have just received the news that the Developers have not been granted permission to appeal the Jotmans decision by the Secretary of State!!!
This means that no appeal hearing will take place.

They made an application for an appeal and it got refused!!!

THE DECISION STANDS. JOTMANS WILL NOT BE BUILT ON.

I have received word that they are looking to get this decision reviewed (the decision not to review the decision…..), but I am confident this will get thrown out. With every unsuccessful legal bid they make, the case they have grows weaker and weaker. As your local councillor I will keep on monitoring this and keep you updated.
Our message to the developers: “Democracy has won. Take your money and build homes on sites the community want, not ones that are easy”.

Well done again to all those who kept the faith and supported our cause. I also want to thank the Jotmans Farm Action Group who fought this application hard from day 1.

We can all rest that little bit easier now.

We are not completely out of the woods just yet, but we one last step away and I will be dammed if I am going to let anything make us stumble now.
I will be putting out a letter to let the rest of the estate know at the weekend and if anyone could volunteer to deliver their road I would be grateful.

Kind regards,
Councillor Andrew Sheldon

Jotmans Farm SAFE!

Jotmans Farm Safe!

Photo: Echo Newspaper.

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Canvey Island development Free for All! Environment Agency weak approach encourages Castle Point Council’s laissez-faire attitude to Planning!

Are you sitting Comfortably?

Then I’ll begin –

“The (Canvey Island) application site is located within Flood Zone 3a, which has a high probability of flooding. Looking at the whole of Castle Point District it would seem that there are areas within Flood Zone 1 that could accommodate this form of development.

However, given that the only areas of Flood Zone 1 in the district are on the “mainland” part, such an approach would direct all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh.

Canvey is a self-contained community with its own housing needs and directing all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh could have an adverse impact on Canvey socially and economically.

Furthermore, a need for housing on Canvey cannot be met by building around Benfleet and Hadleigh due to other constraints such as the Green Belt.”

So says the cpbc Planning Officer as the latest attempt to convince residents, councillors and, no doubt the Planning Inspectorate, that castle point council’s approach to the application of the Flood Risk Sequential Test is morally sound!

July 2014photo3

Going back just 10 years things were different and the Environment Agency held a more cautious and responsible stance:-

Extract from the Echo June 2008
“DEVELOPERS seeking to build new homes on Canvey are being forced to think again because of growing fears about flooding.
The Environment Agency is resolutely pursuing its policy of recommending refusal of plans to build new homes on the island because Canvey is below sea level and therefore on a flood plain.

Castle Point Council is taking those recommendations to heart and rejecting applications for new homes, leaving some developers in limbo.
The council has pledged to continue upholding the Environment Agency’s recommendations until the results of a Government-initiated inquiry into flood plains publishes its findings.

The Government appointed Sir Michael Pitt to carry out the study, following catastrophic floods in Hull after heavy rainfall in June and July last year. It is likely the final report expected, this summer, will recommend tighter restrictions.

Ray Howard, Castle Point and Essex county councillor, said local authorities were reluctant to ignore the Environment Agency’s advice, while they are waiting for the results of the Pitt Report.
Mr Howard has received many letters from people struggling to build on Canvey.
He said: “It’s a big problem that needs to be looked at. We can’t have a blanket ban for building here.
“I believe Canvey is unique, as it has the best flood walls and flood water drainage system in the country.

“The flood plain rules should be relaxed for us.”

Last week localised flooding on the island, caused by heavy rainfall, affected hundreds of residents on the island.

But Mr Howard is convinced it is well protected against severe flooding from the Thames Estuary.
A total of £34 million was spent rebuilding Canvey’s sea walls in the 1970s and 1980s.
A further £6 million was spent last year on 14 giant pumps, spread around the island to force water back into the sea if the walls are ever breached.
Mr Howard said: “The reason Canvey is always considered high-risk is because of the 1953 flood.
“But back then the only sea defences were soil walls, built by the original Dutch settlers.”
The 1953 Canvey flood claimed the lives of 58 people.

Despite Mr Howard’s insistence that Canvey is well protected, the Environment Agency refused to budge from its policy of objecting to all new homes on flood plains.
Spokeswoman Rita Penman insisted the Environment Agency could not relax its planning guidelines for Canvey,

She said: “Although Canvey is well defended, the current understanding across the country is that if there are other areas not on the flood plains, they should be developed first.

“This is in the interests of everyone’s safety. We are therefore unable to recommend approval for any new developments on Canvey at the present time.”

Even if the Government report clears the way for new homes on flood plains, insurers are warning hundreds of thousands of homes built in high-risk areas may not qualify for insurance.

Nick Starling, the Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance and health, said: “Poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable”

Disappointing then, that following the Summer Flooding of 2014 the cpbc chief executive officer should point out that the Canvey Island drainage system – was never intended to be able to cope with Tidal Flooding of the Island!

But of course the findings of the cpbc Scrutiny Committee’s meetings to discuss the flooding and its consequences, during which the ceo made the admittance, has never been published, despite the flood occuring 4 years past!

To enforce the Association of British Insurers position, above, the Flood Re scheme to guarantee affordable house insurance against flooding does not cover houses built since January 2009.

Has Caveat emptor, been anymore appropriate?

I have been reminded by a sceptical mainlander that, “IT IS HARD TO FOOL PEOPLE, BUT IT’S EVEN HARDER TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN FOOLED.”

The short EA video below may give you some insight as to the sensibility of those that propose and support the over development of Canvey Island and whether the drainage system could ever be made capable of alleviating Flood Risk!

The EA expert’s explanation of how the drainage System is designed to work, appears to be far different to the practical experiences during 2013 and 2014 and the isolated Flooding incidents during other periods!

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!

local plan.jpg-pwrt3

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.

‘Allo, ‘Allo, ‘Allo, what’s Going on Here Then? Castle Point Brownfield Register applying pressure on Green Belt Development? Every Little Counts!

Why, if there is such a Desire to Protect Green Field Land in our Borough, is Castle Point Council’s Brownfield Land Register nothing short of Paltry?

2017-12-16

Despite, yet another, “cross-party Member Working Group” having been established by cpbc cabinet to prepare and consult on the Brownfield Register prior to its publication the outcome of the working work, is a List of just 20 sites capable of yielding upwards of 254 new Dwellings across the whole Borough!

This Register doesn’t even indicate 1 Year’s worth of sites towards the Borough’s Housing Need!

AND yet, we learn via news in the Echo, that cpbc were in receipt of a Planning Proposal for the Benfleet High Road, Police Station site two weeks prior to the Council meeting in which the Brownfield Register was considered and approved by members!

The police station site was not recorded in the Brownfield Register, nor was the proposed housing numbers added to the total!

The cpbc meeting’s Agenda paperwork also indicated;

“This report provides the Council with a summary of the work undertaken following that resolution and recommends that Part 1 of the Castle Point Brownfield Land Register be published.

It also explains why there no sites to be carried forward into Part 2 of the Register which would then have benefited from “Permission in Principle”.

With typical cpbc Lack of Transparency little explanation as to why none of the, Castle Point Brownfield sites with potential for development, were entered into Part 2 of the Brownfield Register, those the “working group” considered able to grant Permission in Principle.

Whilst those sites listed in Part 1 of the Brownfield Register mainly have yet to receive development applications, the reasons given as to why no sites were even considered for Part 2 and given permission in Principle for development appeared to be down to;

(cpbc) “must also carry out consultation, notification and publicity in accordance with regulations”

And that,

“Furthermore, Canvey Island is within Flood Risk Zone 3a, and as such planning applications for residential development normally require a Flood Risk Assessment. Advice is awaited from the Environment Agency as to if and how the Council could go about addressing this requirement before proceeding to consider any sites on Canvey Island for inclusion on the Part 2 of the Register”

The reliance and the preference for Canvey Island as the part of the Borough preferred for Land released for Development, appears clear!

However past record suggests that cpbc will not allow Flood Risk of any type to be a Constraint to development where Canvey Island is concerned.

Unusual then that work on Part 2 of the Brownfield Register was not undertaken.

The question as to why the Police Station site in High Road Benfleet had not been entered onto the Brownfield Register, part 1 or part 2, especially as the police have indicated they will no longer have use for it with their drive for cut-backs, may seem especially puzzling.

An explanation may lie in the Agenda paperwork which announced;

“A Government grant of £14,600 was received late in the last financial year (2016/17) for Brownfield Register and “Permission in Principle” work.

This grant has not yet been allocated and could therefore be applied to fund the consultation costs”

Every little £ Helps indeed, especially when it appears not to be ring fenced monies.

The cpbc Brownfield Register indicates possible development sites capable of developing between 1 and 54 dwellings, in direct contrast to a report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which indicates that local authorities “Brownfield Land Registers are failing to record smaller sites that could collectively accommodate nearly 200,000 new homes across England.”

It appears that cpbc have, with the minimal amount of work and effort, undertaken a process to fulfil a commitment as required by Government, rather than an exhaustive effort to indicate preferred sites for development.

On the face of it the Register due to inconsistency and scope provides ammunition suitable to be used to suggest that Castle Point Green field and Green Belt land is required to fulfill housing needs.

Yet another cpbc Local Plan Assessment lacking effort and commitment?

The full CPRE report can be read by following the Link below:

CPRE LINK HERE.

Photograph: Copyright Google Earth

Chickens, Eggs and Railroading – Green Belt now under threat from Business development. Councillors apply a dash of realism!

At last there appears to be an attempt to challenge the Local Plan process by committee members of the Task and Finish group.

Members appear to have recognised the “inertia” of the Local Plan that I blogged about previously on the subject of Housing Need and the Constraints topics.

The debate on the Borough’s employment and retail needs was the latest topic.

It is clear to residents and the Borough’s consultants that the roads infrastructure is a major constraint discouraging medium and large enterprises locating to our area.

The congestion in Castle Point deters new business from venturing into the Borough. The Sadlers Farm “improvement” serves  commercial traffic wishing to “skirt” the area on the way to the M25 in one direction and Chelmsford and beyond, in the other. East of Castle Point boundary and onto Southend the only arterial road is the A127 which is about as free flowing as the A13 through Benfleet!

Strategically, use should be made of the improvements along the A130.

The holdups caused by the Sadlers Farm and Waterside Farm junction as well as Tarpots and to a lesser extent the Rayleigh Weir junction, cause enough lost travelling time to discourage new business relocating to Castle Point.

cute-chicken-eggs-19857065

Development is encouraged, whilst infrastructure is only promised.

The Task and Finish group officers spoke of the need to have a Local Plan in place with new employment sites indicated so that a presentation for funding for new road infrastructure could be made to local enterprise agencies.

The current 1998 Local Plan, albeit now considered out of date, as well as the draft New Local Plan indicates new employment sites on Canvey Island. No doubt these indicators were used when a delegation led by our MP, chief executive, officers and lead councillors made a bid for a new access road for Canvey Island.

The bid was rejected.

The 1998 Local Plan indicates an “improvement” for Canvey Way, this also hasn’t materialised.

Castle Point Council’s consultants’ assessment of Employment and Retail needs, saw little chance that a new road would be a high priority in the near future.

“The Borough’s two allocated sites South of Northwick Road and Roscommon Way appear reasonably suited to meet future needs although their proximity to the Thames estuary, relative remoteness and potential drainage issues may deter development.

Over 90% of the borough’s allocated employment land is in Canvey Island with limited supply elsewhere to meet future demand.

While some 32.7 ha of undeveloped land was identified with potential for employment development, not all of this is necessarily available or certain to come forward for such uses within a reasonable timescale.

Taking account of potential constraints, the amount of land which would have realistic prospects of coming forward for future employment needs amounts to about 21 ha, almost all of this on just two large sites.

Despite this surplus, there may be a qualitative need for some more sites that are readily available and better located to strategic roads and population centres in the north of the Borough.   Such sites might also have better prospects of attracting developers.

One or two sites of up to 5 ha in combined area may be adequate.”

“In terms of capitalising on major new economic developments in adjoining areas, it is not obvious that a new road access to Canvey Island could enable the area to benefit to a much greater extent from the major port and distribution development at London Gateway in Thurrock.

The cost of such infrastructure would also need to be weighed against the scale of economic benefits likely to accrue to Canvey Island, and the extent of these do not appear likely to be major.

In addition, it is clear that sites in Canvey Island may not be attractive for firms based elsewhere in the Borough, some of which may choose to move out instead.”

It was noted that none of the Task and Finish group members were required to declare an interest before discussing the employment areas and new road access possibilities.

Fledgling office development.  

The consultants referred to the low level of office based employment currently in the Borough:-

“In terms of creating more local office jobs, providing more sites would not necessarily achieve this, as local demand is low and the office market is undeveloped.

It would therefore be important to start trying to build up a local office market through more start-up facilities to accommodate small firms that may, in time, require larger office premises.

A better approach, therefore, may be to seek elements of modern office space within mixed use developments in the larger town centres and in residential schemes near such centres.”

In effect making the regeneration of our two town centres more likely and more sustainable due to lack of competition from out of town centres.

The Council’s aspiration to release green field land for a large Business Park office development appears un-supported by their own consultants.

Out Commuting:

Out commuting: some 62% of Castle Point’s economically active residents out-commute to work elsewhere.”

There is nothing in the Report to suggest that the possible levels of employment in the Council’s Local Plan’s aspirations will alter the percentage level of out commuting.

Therefore it is apparent that 62% of any extra economically active population growth realised from the housing development proposals, will continue to out- commute, thereby adding to the numbers affected by the daily congestion of traffic and crowding on trains.

The Task and Finish officer spoke of the danger of the Plan being found unsound if growth was not planned for.

The Local Plan will also be found unsound if it proves to be unrealistic!

Lower the expectation levels, and keep it Real!

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Castle Point Housing, Historically deficient supply, so room for Flats in the Flood Zone yet rejections on the mainland.

Canvey Island, densley urbanised yet always room for more!

Canvey Island, densely urbanised yet always room for more!

“Housing is the first of the social services. It is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health and education are all undermined by overcrowded homes. Therefore, a Conservative Government will give housing a priority second only to national defence. Our target remains 300,000 houses a year.”

“This was the Conservative manifesto of 1951. The other parties of the time made similar commitments to the Conservatives. The consequence? When the baby boomers grew up we could afford to buy our own homes. At today’s prices, people on an income of £20,000 a year could buy with a deposit, also at today’s prices, of only £3,000.
With that legacy it is pretty abject that we now have a housing market where owner occupation is the preserve of wealthy people with wealthy parents. The income of a first time buyer now is £36,000, which is above the national average. The deposit needed now is £30,000, which is why two in every three new buyers are only able to buy because of the wealth of their parents.

So it is bad now – but not nearly as bad as it is about to become. There has been another baby boom, the biggest since the famous baby boomers. Over 8 million babies were born between 2001 and 2012. Remember the last baby boom generation was born when we were building 300,000 homes a year? This time round we are building around 130,000. We have a housing crisis now. Unless we take concerted, strategic, planned action now, when the new baby boomers grow up they will have nowhere to live

This is why the 2015 General Election is so critical. It is imperative that those who want our vote commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and produce a detailed, long term plan setting out how they would do this.

And it is imperative that we, who really understand the scale and nature of the challenge, this time are prepared to stand up and be counted.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation
The National Housing Federation is the voice of affordable housing in England.

Screen-Shot-2013-03-21-at-10.05.57-500x344

Whilst Mr Orr, certainly paints a rosy picture of  home ownership during the post war – late 1960’s, home ownership has weathered some pretty stormy patches since. The early 1970’s saw the first of the price boom times followed by the crippling interest rates of the later 1970’s.

It is hardly surprising that following a time of austerity there has been a severe contraction in house building.

The high numbers of housing completions, shown in the graph above, up to 1970 are due in no small part to local authority homes. The available land would have, in some part, been bomb sites and the regeneration of “pre-fab” estates, that is, cheap land. The New Town Act of 1946 had an influence on population re-distribution that has become topical more recently.

The local authority housing numbers completed around the 1970’s can be seen, in the graphic above, to have been the main reason for the record housing completions that David Orr of The National Housing Federation compares the latest figures to.

Up until the recent 2008 financial difficulties the graph suggests that market priced housing development figures have held steady.

There is a danger that the creation of Local Plans will see the possibility of Green Belt land being released or safe guarded and ending up land banked.

If as suggested the housing completions have remained fairly steady with signs of moderate recovery, given the economic uncertainty, what is there to suggest that a boom in housing will achieve the numbers necessary to satisfy Objectively Assessed Housing Need numbers?

After all, the recent assistance to promote home ownership, the help to buy scheme and the historically low static interest rates will only aid those able and qualifyied to buy.

Castle Point Borough Council appear compliant with the failure to achieve affordable housing numbers. They have agreed without proof to committee to allow a reduction of affordable homes at Kiln Road.

Similar appears to be being encouraged at Benfleet.

Redrow Homes, proposal for Felstead and Bowers Road, Benfleet “seeks to provide a range of private and affordable dwellings.”

“The affordable housing element of this scheme has been discussed with the Planning and Housing Officers at Castle Point Borough Council throughout the pre-application process.”

Of the 178 dwellings proposed just 18 affordable dwellings (10%) are planned.

Not only well below even Castle Point requirements but non of which are Flats.

Locally due to viability issues,  Canvey has seen development and proposals for flatted accommodation, apparently due to need:-

Officers report Leige Avenue proposal for Flats.

“Policy H9 of the current Local Plan requires the optimum density of development to be achieved on any site.” (in contrast to the Redrow, Benfleet proposal)!

“The most up to date local evidence of need in respect of the mix of development on sites is the 2013 Strategic Housing Market Assessment. This identified that in the Thames Gateway South Essex the focus of demand was on entry-level and mid market family housing (2/3 bed) particularly south of the A127.” (in contrast to the Redrow, Benfleet proposal)!

“The provision of one and two bedroomed flats would clearly contribute towards meeting housing need where a historic deficiency in the provision of housing has been identified.” (in contrast to the Redrow, Benfleet proposal)!

Since when has Canvey Island had a “historic deficiency in the provision of housing?”

This appears to be a suggestion by CPBC that the lack of housing supply in mainland areas provides sufficient reason to continue to abuse the Sequential Testing so as to continue to develop Canvey Island to meet the mainland’s historic deficient housing need!

And the Planning Authority continue to make these loose policy statements unchallenged.

Compared with Europe the UK population prefer not to live in Flats, as can be seen in this EU graphic below.

800px-Distribution_of_population_by_dwelling_type,_2012_(1)_(%_of_population)_YB14_II

The graphic also illustrates the low percentage of detached housing in the UK, perhaps a reflection of the concentration of housing in densely urbanised areas, much like Canvey has seen.

“Meet your Councillors” futile exercise – Castle Point Local Plan looking an expensive exercise!

Benfleet held the first “Meet your Councillor” meeting, since the Castle Point Council Local Plan draft was issued.

In attendance were local residents concerned over the loss of mainland Green Belt, and local Councillors.
Absent were Castle Point Council officers.
I am sure that the Councillors in attendance were fully up to date and knowledgeable on the Local Plan contents and it’s implications.

Hopefully they were also fully conversant with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF.
They should be, as these are the Councillors that have determined that Green Belt should be released for housing development in the Borough.

We are at a little disadvantage being Canvey Island residents as only one of our ward Councillors may have had input into the Local Plan process. The Canvey Island Independent Party Councillors made the point, during the LP debate in the council Chamber, that they had no input or influence in the drawing up of the LP document.
This may appear puzzling to outsiders including the Planning Inspector charged with the LP examination, especially as Canvey Island is the largest town in the Borough.

The “Meet your Councillor” meetings, on the topic of the Local Plan can only be considered to be a talking shop in which residents opinions can be aired.
No concrete advice nor hope of altering the LP draft can be considered to be on the agenda!

The Castle Point Local Plan raises concerns.
It covers the period 2011 – 2031.

However the NPPF states that: “Crucially Local Plans should”: “be drawn up over an appropriate time scale, preferably a 15-year time horizon, take account of longer term requirements, and be kept up to date.”

This raises the first question, why have Castle Point Council sought to publish a 20 year Plan?

Regarding Housing delivery the NPPF requires CPBC and other Local Authorities to “identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years worth of housing against their housing requirements”
then to
identify a supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, for years 6-10
and, where possible, for years 11-15.”

Castle Point Council admit that the Green Belt is tightly drawn around its urban area. This may allow reason to specifically indicate only a year 1 – 10 housing supply.
It may then be un-necessary to re-draw the GB boundaries to the extent that they have been.
However, have CPBC, by identifying possible sites up to year 20, shot themselves and Castle Point residents in the foot?

CPBC Local Plan identifies specific sites that it claims will fulfill the requirement to serve 20 years supply at 200 dwellings per annum.

If the selected sites are deliverable and the 200 dpa is acceptable and achievable there is a clear question mark against the tactic and preference to select a plan period of 20 years.
To also re-draw the Borough’s Green Belt boundaries, to the extent that the Authority have, goes against the clear wishes of the residents and appears to be un-necessary.

The second question is therefore raised.
Is the initial 5 year housing supply supported by real evidence?
If it is, then there is little need to show such a lengthy list of potential housing sites, many within the Green Belt.

Reading some of the criticisms of the Glebelands proposal, in particular the 5 year housing supply, by the Planning Inspector, the Secretary of State and finally (or not as the case may well be) the JR Judge, it is clear that CPBC’s opposition to the FLP proposal was merely an expensive vanity exercise. Made more puzzling by the sites subsequent inclusion in the LP’s identified housing supply.

This leads us to believe that “our” local authority have been desperate to expose some sites, by removing their GB status, so that other preferred sites may remain unidentified and be offered protection, as their development may be unpalatable for one reason or another, regardless of their Green Belt function.

Hopefully we will be enlightened, eventually.