Tag Archives: Canvey Island

“One Team” Criticism all too Familiar with Canvey Residents? Castle Point Planning under the Spotlight, again as CPBC Expose their own Shortcomings!

Are there two different report copies of the same Investigation Review report into Castle Point Council Development Planning? That is the question we find us asking ourselves after copies were sent to the Echo newspaper, and anonymously to ourselves over the weekend.

Unlike the Echo’s version, ours appears as though a more Critical Report, would be hard to imagine than that produced following the Peer Challenge review into Castle Point Borough Council Planning! With Headline Criticisms seemingly jumping from every single page it appears that CPBC officers and councillor heads should be hung in shame.

Whereas, the Echo report on the same Peer Challenge review, gave the impression of a low level of criticism of our local authority, even played down further by the CPBC ceo!

That our Local Authority (CPBC) finds itself in an “incredibly challenging position”, can only be described as a massive and polite understatement, whilst  the CPBC leadership attempts to distance itself from its Planning department and Development Committee in an attempt to maintain a self implied level of competency.

The report uncoveredKey concerns include chairing, respect for the Chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, consistency, probity and consistent referencing of non-planning matters in planning decision making, and over dominant members. We also found a very weak understanding amongst some members and substitutes on DCC (Development Control Committee) of their role and the Codes of Conduct and other Council policies that govern behaviour and practice

we found a widespread perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to planning decision making. Such is the level of concern amongst the Executive Management Team (EMT) that two statutory letters have been sent to Members concerning inappropriate behaviour.”

For clarity, Probity noun “the quality of being honest and behaving correctly

This is an appalling accusation to have been made! Fortunately no individuals were named in the Report, however this leaves a smear against all members until those accused are identified, a gross unfairness for our representatives.

 Other criticisms appear to have led to a change in the positions of Chairman and Vice Chairman, as can be seen in the latest Development Committee Agenda papers on CPBC website.

Significant weaknesses exist in the operaton (sic) of the Development Control Committee (DCC). Key concerns include chairing, respect for the Chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, consistency, probity and consistent referencing of non-planning matters in planning decision making, and over dominant members. We also found a very weak understanding amongst some members and substitutes on DCC of their role and the Codes of Conduct and other Council policies that govern behaviour and practice.

However, the new development committee Chairman cllr. Dick and new Vice Chairman cllr. Sharp have both strongly held views on severely limiting development numbers, especially on Green Belt. Whilst we, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, support this as a policy, whether CPBC will be left open to criticism and exploited by developers etc, at appeal or Local Plan examination stage may be another matter, that only time will reveal!

The criticism of cllr. Hart, ex chairman may appear harsh, having been promoted to the position comparatively recently. It is apparent, whilst holding fairly strong views, he has put in appropriate effort  and appeared to clearly take his role seriously, however direct criticism is aimed through the report at him.

Given cllr Hart’s apparent efforts, much of this criticism perhaps should be directed at council officers in the level and quality of training being offered to him and the other committee members.

However there has been, over recent years, use made of the “adopted” policy of approving development on, so called non-“Virgin” Green Belt land. Two proposals of which were granted on Canvey Island, one for a bricks and mortar built equestrian centre and one for a residential care home, both sites on Canvey Island west ward.

Whether  these transgressions from the 1998 Adopted Local Plan, with its protection of all Green Belt land, as directed within Planning Guidance unless exceptional circumstances suggest otherwise, would form part of the criticisms raised, is not made apparent.

The Report continues; “We found incidences of a significant breakdown in relationships between some Members and senior officers relating to the culture of policy plan making and planning decision making at Castle Point.” “The perception of probity issues” “in itself is a serious leadership issue which needs to be tackled at a senior level. It was our impression from the peer review that these dysfunctional relationships are badly affecting morale, draining capacity and leading to negative and defensive behaviours that are getting in the way of productive joint working and acting as ‘one team’.”

That there is / has been “significant breakdown in relationships” comes as no surprise, as incidents have emerged anecdotally and in the press, over the course of some years. What is apparent is that senior officers and party leaders have had ample time to address these issues in the interests of the Borough, developers and residents. The ambition of working as “one team” is all too rare in politics of All Levels these days!

The criticism above will add to the apparent uneasiness with the perceived unfair representation of Canvey Island residents. The implication is that some development committee members have their own Agendas and that, of the number of decisions made during planning meetings, too many go against the advice of officers for unsubstantiated reasoning!

“There are significant opportunities for the Council to address these issues and recast the DCC to a Strategic Planning Committee with potentially a smaller more focussed group of well-trained Members with key competencies and behaviours to judge development against the development plan and material planning considerations.”

“Recommendation 2 . Address the issues identified and reconstitute a new modernised strategic Development Management Committee with a strategic focus – including a review of size, composition, behaviours, skills and complete modernisation of processes. Political leaders from all parties should ensure that Members with the appropriate skills and behaviours are appointed to the Committee.”

The Report is dated April 1st, 3 months have now passed by with no official, acknowledgement nor announcement to Castle Point Residents. It says much of the Arrogance and Control of the heads of CPBC that they desired to keep this Report, despite being funded by Canvey and mainland Residents, should be kept secret from us all.

In response to the report sees Castle Point Council development committee continuing with a similar membership set up to previous, ignoring the suggested opportunity to respond to the Peer Review team’s specific recommendation to stream line the committee size and uplift the competency levels by maintaining the committee membership numbers and by including 4 new members with no previous planning experience, three of these as substitutes.

“At present the area is producing less than half of the homes required. Without the adoption and development of large scale master planning sites in the Local Plan, the planning system is not able to deliver on meeting identified corporate priorities such as affordable homes, new schools, better integrated health facilities, enhanced access to green space, safe walking and cycling routes and improved highway infrastructure. Currently while approximately 100-150 homes are built each year the Borough is missing out on intergrated co-ordination and delivery that can lead to wider community gain and is essential for building sustainable communities.”

The so called “wider community gain” is a Never – Neverland dream, with very few Affordable homes being accrued as a percentage of market priced Housing developed, due to Developers Viability arguments. Even then facilities, agreed via S106 agreements, will generally only amount to on-site improvements. Whereas, there is a requirement that funding for improvement of the Canvey Island Sea Defence will need to come from localised sources. It was deemed desirable that development within the Borough should be reasonably expected to contribute to such Sea Defence funding. Castle Point Council have sought not 1 Penny from any developer. Given the scale of development in Canvey west ward this is a travesty and is storing up major financial issues for the future!

“Developers and house builders, we spoke to told us that presently they are avoiding investing in Castle Point despite what they saw as the area’s obvious locational advantages. They saw making large scale investment decisions in Castle Point just too risky based on this situation.  This is of significant concern and of reputational damage to CPBC and needs to be address urgently.”

Developers have the means of presenting their case of point in a way that Peer group planners and councillors would more likely agree with, rather than object to. There are clear Development Constraints, whether Green Belt or Flood Risk, to be taken into account, something that the likes of Persimmon, with their Land Bank portfolio in mind, would care little about.

Officers have worked to engage with Members throughout all stages of Local Plan development yet there remains a deep rooted predilection to revert to a well-used Member statement that the Local Plan is the officer’s Plan. This is incorrect and it is crucial that all Members own the Local Plan and are responsible for what happens as a consequence of it.”

This, as Canvey Island residents should all be aware by now, is Un-True, The Local Plan Task and Finish Group work, now conveniently eradicated from the CPBC Local Plan Archives, would indicate their work on the specific Canvey Island Constraints on development, Hazardous Industries and Flood Risk both Tidal and Surface Water, was ended abruptly by a senior officer. Members were led to believe they had agreed a further complete meeting on the Topics, instead none was organised and officers and the Leaders went ahead and published “their” Local Plan!

I wonder whether that point was put to the Peer Challenge review Team!

Regarding the number of Planning Proposals that have been overturned by the CPBC DCC the Peer review group stated; “It is important to note that in the last two years the vast majority of DCC overturns have been in situations where officers’ recommendations have been to refuse housing development in the green belt whereas the Committee has agreed to allow development.  If non-material matters are being considered in relation to the decision making it potentially throws(sic) doubt on the validity of the debate and decision-making process.”

Surely there are mechanisms in place to address this issue, however on the one hand the Peer Challenge Team identify a lack of development approvals, and then they suggest that the Development Committee members should not be granting approvals against officer advice. Housing Delivery numbers would be even lower in that case!

“we see an important opportunity for the wider political leadership and opposition party to develop a coherent long-term growth vision for Castle Point. This needs to contain a stronger narrative around the benefits of growth for residents,”

“Current delivery against target is only at 48 per cent and Castle Point is the joint 10th worst council out of the 343 other councils in England on this measure. Previous housing targets were in the region of 250-280 dwellings per year with delivery in the area of only 100-150 dwellings a year. The Local Housing Needs requirement raises the target to 370 dwellings per year while the non-approved Local Plan aimed for 350 dwellings per year.”

It truly does appear that Castle Point council and Residents, will one way or another, have Development, Housing Numbers and its Delivery foisted upon Us!

Government have claimed it is for local authorities to decide their own Housing Need and Delivery, well this Local Government Association inquisition of Development Committee and Council members, albeit self imposed by CPBC heads, have done a grand job of suggesting that Westminster, the civil service and Developers retain the whip hand!

Once again we wonder whether this “challenging,” Planning Improvement Peer Challenge, will be disclosed ahead of the next Council meeting to consider the Local Plan 2019?

Of course we must bear in mind that this “challenging” report is the opinion of invited outsiders, indeed included in the text appears a series of questions raised by CPBC themselves. An invite to condemn, to which, no doubt, CPBC members will most likely disagree and rightfully have their own opinions.

The Peer Review team consisted of: • Paul Barnard – Service Director, Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Plymouth City Council; • Cllr Dale Birch – Conservative Member, Deputy Leader & Planning Committee Member, Bracknell Forest Council; • Julie Baird – Assistant Director for Growth, West Suffolk Council; • Stephen Barker – Principal Consultant, Planning Advisory Service; and • Robert Hathaway – Peer Challenge Manager, LGA associate. And it was made clear that further support is available from the Planning Advisory Service and Local Government Association, suggesting that perhaps CPBC are not currently best equipped on an officer level.

Thanks go to those within the Castle Point Borough who are willing to whistle blow or to leak documentation of such local importance.

This blog post has been constructed in good faith under the assumption that the report received is in fact a correct and unaltered version of the original. Should this assumption turn out to be incorrect we will happily alter or retract the relevant parts in the copy above.

Runnymede Towers
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Probity and Incompetency a damaging Report into Castle Point Planning! A Very Dark Day for CPBC!

At first sight the Echo headline disclosure of the “failings” of Castle Point Council development committee appears not a bad thing! It is clear that developers are actively looking to develop on Canvey Island and the mainland Green Belt sites.

Knowing the poor infrastructure capacity on the Island and the potential issues residents face, any increases in population needs keeping to a minimum!

And a Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge team investigating the Planning set up at Castle Point Council, at what we assume a critical time with the risk of the Government taking over the Local Plan, appears little short of a disaster for our Local Authority!

However, despite the cpbc’s chief executive assertion that everything is under control, some extremely serious issues appear to have been uncovered by the LGA, especially when the accusation of a “perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making”!

This would appear a very serious accusation indeed!

The Development Committee chairman, in particular, appears to have been singled out for criticism, whereas, it must be said, we have always found him to have put public speakers at their ease and very fair in allowing members and speakers to make their points.

That the Echo have disclosed an apparent  committee weakness in the areas of; “”respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions,” appears to be a direct criticism of the chief executive and his planning team’s direction, training and control of the development committee members!

This Report, highlighting apparent incompetencies, appears to bode very badly indeed for CPBC and their hopes of maintain some level of control in their / our Local Plan process.

The Sword of Damocles appears to have fallen on the displaced Development Committee chairman, it remains to be seen whether others have been very lucky to have escaped, reputation unharmed.

It goes without saying that, as now there is a copy of the report in circulation, we the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group would be eager and grateful for a look at the entire copy, and so would appreciate it if the Echo, cpbc employee or council member would forward a copy through the usual contact channels, via this website, Facebook or Twitter.

 From the Echo:

“DEVELOPERS are actively avoiding Castle Point due to major council failings, a leaked report has revealed.

Dysfunctional relationships between officers and councillors, inappropriate behaviour and a lack of understanding are among the criticisms of Castle Point Council’s development committee in a report issued by the Local Government Association.

The report also questioned how decisions are being made with “a widespread perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making process”.

Castle Point Council is preparing a response after questions were raised regarding honesty and competency when it comes to planning decisions and following the law.

Castle Point Council chief executive David Marchant said: “An action plan to respond to the recommendations has been prepared which is scheduled to be considered formally by the cabinet later this summer.

“In the meantime members and officers are working closely together to examine the findings and respond to the recommendations in the report. The peer challenge report and action plan will be published with the agenda for the cabinet meeting as usual.”

Inspectors found a weak understanding among some members, and key concerns include “chairing, respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions.

The failings open the council up to expensive appeals or even the loss of control of planning decisions.

The report claimed developers told inspectors they are actively avoiding Castle Point despite the “obvious locational advantages” because of the way the committee works.

The report, and peer challenge, goes on to state the council is only building half the homes needed and that there is a “dysfunctional relationships” between members and officers which is seriously impeding work.

It was also suggested that due to the concerns, the development control committee in Castle Point should be scrapped.

Instead, it should be replaced with a strategic planning committee with a “smaller more focussed group of well trained members”.

The council is yet to come up with an acceptable housing plan for the future which could mean power is removed from the council.

The Growth Changing Face of Canvey Island, Castle Point and the Thames Estuary! CPRE Essex Post

What Thames Estuary Growth Plans could mean for Climate Change and Accountability.

The government’s backing of proposals to target the Thames estuary for massive development flies in the face of wider calls to tackle climate change, according to one of CPRE’s leading lights in the area.
In June last year the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission published a report calling for the building of more than a million homes and the creation of 1.3 million new jobs in east London, Essex and Kent.
The commission, an advisory body to the government that was announced in the 2016 Budget and tasked to “develop an ambitious vision and delivery plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London up to 2050”, had also urged that ‘joint spatial plans’ be created in both Essex and Kent, which it said should take more of London’s housing need.
It also called for greater strategic planning and the creation of development corporations “with planning, and compulsory purchase powers to drive the delivery of homes and jobs aligned to major infrastructure investment”.
Responding in March this year, James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, stressed his support for the commission’s recommendations.
“The Thames estuary has long been a gateway to the UK economy and has enormous untapped potential, which has the power to benefit those that live and work in the area,” he announced.
“Having considered the recommendations of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, I have announced a number of steps we are taking to unlock an even brighter future for the estuary’s economy, marking the beginning of a new and bolder approach by this government to support the area.”
He said government “expects all local authorities to plan for the number of homes required to meet need in their area” and “would encourage cooperation between the London boroughs and neighbouring authorities in Kent and Essex and welcome further engagement with those places, including with groups of London boroughs, in exploring how we might support them to plan for and deliver significant increases in the provision of homes”.
The government is also “committed to exploring the potential for at least two new locally-led development corporations in the Thames estuary”, “subject to suitable housing ambition from local authorities, and we encourage local areas in the estuary to come forward with such proposals”.
The response included a commitment of £1 million to establish a Thames Estuary Growth Board to “oversee and drive economic growth plans for the area” and £4.85 million “to support local partners to develop low-cost proposals for enhancing transport services” between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet.
The wish to impose high levels of growth on an already desperately overcrowded part of the country is alarming and of course would entail substantially expanded infrastructure, most contentiously a Lower Thames Crossing, a road many believe would exacerbate traffic congestion rather than alleviate it.
Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “A new crossing, should it be built, is projected to reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 22 per cent. That is a minuscule benefit, but the environmental and community harm caused by the biggest UK road project since the building of the M25 would be substantial.
“A new crossing would be all about intensifying overcrowding in the South East and opening up countryside development. It is now beyond dispute that increasing road capacity results in more vehicle journeys – we cannot build our way out of congestion.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, yet here we are stuck with the government’s obsession with a new Thames crossing to help pave the way for colossal levels of business-as-usual development.
“To say the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date is to hugely understate the problem. Rather than investing solely in new roads, it should be promoting better public transport links, rationalising the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and supporting planning policies that support walking and cycling.”
The revised focus on the estuary comes after the previously mooted Thames Gateway project stalled, partly through a downturn in the economy and partly through the ditching by the coalition government, which came to power in 2010, of regional planning.
Now, perhaps ironically, there are concerns among some in the planning world that local authorities in north Kent have not engaged in joint strategic planning in the same manner as their counterparts in south Essex and the capital.
Six local authorities in south Essex have come together with their county council to form the Association of South Essex Local Authorities and pledged to prepare a joint plan.
Catriona Riddell, of the Planning Officers Society, which represents local-authority planners, said: “I think the south Essex part of the Thames estuary is way ahead of the game in terms of what it’s doing on strategic planning.
“The London Plan will cover the London bit of the estuary and you’ve got the south Essex joint plan being prepared. You’re going to have to have something in north Kent. You can’t have two out of three areas doing formal joint strategic planning without north Kent doing the same. That is a big hole at the moment.”
She says north Kent authorities have not worked together partly because of lack of agreement about whether a strategic plan should cover the whole of the county or just the northern part focused on the estuary.
“I suspect they will have to think quite quickly now because of the government’s response,” she said. “I don’t think they will have much leeway in terms of not doing something.”
Stuart Irvine, of planning consultancy Turley, added that the growth board would have influence with government, which could sway spending decisions. “It does potentially have the ear of government, which could be useful from a financial and infrastructure perspective,” he said.
“That could have a big influence on how Kent’s planning authorities choose to behave. If funding is channelled through the growth board, I think north Kent will have no choice but to change direction towards the Thames estuary.”
Some see the introduction of a growth board and emphasis on strategic plans as a renewed willingness by government to embrace regional planning again.
“We’ve got a similar approach being taken on the Cambridge-Oxford corridor,” said Thames Estuary Commission chairman John Armitt. “You need to look at it on that regional level.”
And at last year’s Conservative Party conference, planning minister Kit Malthouse said government wanted local authorities to come together in “regional groupings” and prepare strategic plans in return for Whitehall infrastructure cash.
Ms Riddell is not convinced, however, stressing that fewer than half of the councils in the Thames estuary would be represented on the new growth board.
“I find it really ironic that they abolished regional strategies and assembles because they were apparently unaccountable,” she says. “They’re reinventing regional planning but with less accountability and political representation than we had in 2010.”
Similarly, CPRE Kent’s Hilary Newport believes the future of the Thames estuary needs broader consideration.
“Sustainable transport should be prioritised over new road-building,” she said.
“If growth in the estuary is to continue, we need significant investment in the area’s public transport, walking and cycling options.
“As CPRE’s policy on transport makes clear, we need to manage our existing road network better, rather than expand it. As such, we would prefer investment in the estuary’s railway network, such as an extension to Crossrail, to be prioritised over the building of a Lower Thames road crossing.”
As for the push to focus development on the estuary, Dr Newport said: “There needs to be wide-scale public engagement and consultation on the overall growth proposals, allowing alternative options to be considered before policy decisions are made.
“We believe that there should urgently be a full Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into the proposals, to look at the potential impact on both the local environment and on the economies of more deprived regions in England.”

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing, Thurrock residents wish to see planned relocation to Canvey Island

Copyright: cpressex.org.uk

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Canvey Paddocks a Tale of Deceit, False Consultation, Guestimations and Land Grabbing?

The future redevelopment, or should we say “regeneration” of the Paddocks site on Canvey Island is causing some consternation and confusion amongst, it appears, not only Canvey residents but also those at Runnymede Towers CPBC, this following the CPBC Scrutiny committee meeting on the matter!

For those councillors, including the Leader, who may feel that residents are convinced by their conjecture, regarding there NOT being development in the form of Housing or Flatted development on the site to pay for a new Community Centre, let’s attempt to clear this up.

Extract from Castle Point Cabinet meeting 17th January 2018:

4.16 In order to test the financial viability of the feasibility study it is now necessary to prepare a detailed business case setting out the likely costs of developing the site in the way envisaged, the likely contribution from the potential future “enabling development” and the potential future arrangements with the NHS regarding car parking for the Canvey Primary Care Centre.

Reference not only in consideration of development, but also Car Parking Charges.

Extract from the Scrutiny Committee meeting into the Paddocks Consultation, agenda paper appendix, also CPBC Cabinet minutes 17th January 2018:

6.3 The construction of a new Community Centre will be dependent on “enabling development” on other parts of the site.signed off  by S.Rogers.

As we should all be aware, it is not what is said within committee meetings, but what the Minuted document from the meeting says! Let there be, NO CONFUSION!

Local Authorities are encouraged to seek to make “best use” of “their” properties and assets, including disposing of any sites considered superfluous, or a drain on public purses. The CPBC lead group, have shown a preference throughout the protracted Local Plan process and historically beyond, as population growth indicates, to develop on Canvey Island, particularly where it comes to protecting politically sensitive mainland Green Belt sites.

The Paddocks site would assist fulfilling this desire!

It can be agreed that the paddocks Consultation was flawed, undertaken by the Lead group rather than Castle Point Council with officer, or Agent involvement.

Consultation as a two part process, originally should have been undertaken as an informative during CPBC Cabinet exploration of the best means of regeneration.

Hard Facts and Figures estimates, should have been collected and made available as information for Cabinet, Councillors and Residents, Not the Guestimates of £4,000,000 plus figures, as has been the case.

As we have pointed out before Marshland St James, multi facility Community Hall opened in 2018 costing £1.1 million (see HERE). Even if a two storey facility was provided at the Paddocks, due to Canvey being in a Flood Risk zone and the build estimate was 3 times that of the Marshland St James facility, CPBC should still explain why their (guess)stimate is a further £1,000,000 more expensive!

A 50 year old facility, the Paddocks, considered past its useful life, can only be down to chronic mismanagement of a maintenance Budget!

Now the CPBC leader is quoted in the Echo as suggesting that this “deceit” and dispute will not be allowed to halt CPBC cabinet’s plans for the Paddocks site.

I can only refer readers to this LINK !

The Paddocks community centre, Canvey Island. Soon to be destined to the History Books, alongside many Canvey Island Landmarks.
What a £1.1M Community Hall looks like!

Equal Representation for Canvey Island, Time for Fair Representation at least! Time for Change Overdue.

Why are Canvey Islanders always moaning? Visit a social Media page, and up pops somebody complaining. Whether it’s the Paddocks, weather, dog poo, traffic or youngsters misbehaving, it would appear a grey cloud continually hangs over the Island.

Equal Representation for Canvey Island, is a case in point. For many years now it has appeared apparent that decision making in Castle Point Borough Council, particularly where development is concerned, has favoured the mainland, or so we are led to believe!

The Canvey Ladies with their Petition “Equal Representation for Canvey Island”, prompted  National media, newspaper and television, interest. Unfortunately and as expected the initiative petered out and came to nothing. This despite the 8,000+ signed Petition!

The proportion of councillors representing the wards, towns and areas of Castle Point is Fair, well it is according to CPBC CEO marchant and lead group members.

The new Castle Point Borough Council, following the 2019 local election that saw 2 Conservative held seats on Canvey fall to the Canvey Island Independent Party, consists of 41 members. Development committee membership, which deals with housing proposals that actually reach committee for consideration, is made up of 8 mainland lead group representatives and 5 Island representatives.

Of these 41 councillors the mainland have 24 ward members, whilst Canvey Island is allocated the remaining 17 seats.

The last time that an examination was carried out into the future Electoral Arrangements for Castle Point was during November 2000. It was then that the Local Government Commission recommended the current ward / area representation balance, that being an increase to 41 ward members across the 14 wards.

The Commission found at the time that based on the mean Average total number of Electors per ward, the Mainland electorate had a population of -49% overall compared with the Canvey Island  population of +98%.

Extract in explanation from the Commission report:

“The ‘variance from average’ column shows by how far, in percentage terms, the number of electors per councillor varies from the average for the borough. The minus symbol (-) denotes a lower than average number of electors. For example, in 1999, electors in Canvey Island Central ward were relatively over-represented by 18 per cent, while electors in Canvey Island Winter Gardens ward were relatively under-represented by 62 per cent. Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number.”

“Our proposals would have resulted in significant improvements in electoral equality, with the number of electors per councillor in all of the proposed 14 wards varying by no more than 10 per cent from the borough average. This level of electoral equality was forecast to continue with no wards varying by more than 10 per cent from the average in 2004.”

This over representation of councillors in favour of mainland residents, basically led to a redrawing of ward boundaries with the mainland retaining 24 councillors and Canvey island receiving an extra 2 councillors. Interestingly, despite the overpowering numerical evidence, 7 conservative committee members voted against the move towards more fairer representation for the Electorate! See below at 22  

Extract from the Commission report:

“21   During the consultation on our draft recommendations report, six representations were received. A list of all respondents is available on request from the Commission. All representations may be inspected at the offices of Castle Point Borough Council and the Commission.”

“Castle Point Borough Council

22   The Borough Council welcomed and agreed with our draft recommendations in their entirety. Its submission stated, however, that the seven Conservative members on the committee requested that their votes against this resolution be recorded.

Castle Point Conservative Association

23   Castle Point Conservative Association reiterated their support for their Stage One proposals, stating that, “our comments remain as before”.

Other Representations

24   A further four representations were received in response to our draft recommendations from councillors and a local resident.”

Returning to the original demand for “Equal Representation for Canvey Island”, we should consider whether Canvey islanders, having received an extra 2 councillors from the November 2000 report recommendations, are simply being Greedy.

It occurred to me that the 2000 Commission Report, entirely focussed on Electorate Numbers, when surely the representation should be Based upon Population numbers! After all to exclude residents in a Borough from being included on the Electoral Roll should be discouraged. Equally those that are under-aged, transient etc add to the burden and needs on the Borough. It can surely not be fair that those excluded from voting should not be represented!

So to investigate, the last confirmed population numbers for Castle Point, the 2011 Census, must be considered a Starting Point.

ONS revealed the population of Castle Point to be 88,011. This was split as mainland 49,552 whilst Canvey Island was 38,459. The percentage increase from the previous 2001 Census revealed that the Canvey population growth rate was 3 times that of the mainland.

Therefore, If 41 councillors is a desirable figure, then with a Castle Point population split of 56.3% mainland and 43.7% Canvey Island, that arguably equates to 23 mainland councillors to 18 Canvey Island.

That is a change to; 1 Less councillor than the current mainland allocation and 1 More councillor for Canvey Island.

Equally, in the case of the CPBC Development Committee made up of 13 councillors, using the population mainland / Island percentage split and the CPBC ceo’s rounding up to the nearest full number, their should be 7 mainland representatives, and 6 Island representatives. That is rather than the current 8 / 5 division.

However, currently the only Large Scale development being undertaken within Castle Point is, of course, on Canvey Island, at Sandy Bay.

According to our Police and Fire Commissioner no less, as CPBC are fully aware, a 3 year estimated development period will see “the old tenancy housing” replaced by new private homes. This has the potential to lead to a 1,000+ homes development. Leading to a clear increase on the current population.

Given the Rights and Wrongs of the Electorate being used as the basis to calculate the Councillor representation level, we can only find that as being, Discriminatory.

Using the Population levels, Clearly a Need for a minimum of a 2 councillor re-balance of control, towards Canvey Island.

Alternatively the Revival of the movement for the Independence for Canvey Island appears a logical Avenue to Explore. Given the woeful performances of Castle Point Borough Council of Late, a breakaway from the local authority for Canvey Island District Council appears clearly advantageous!

CPBC’s position is to Ignore, rather than Address the Representation shortfall. Question is are Canvey Islanders content being controlled by a Damaged and Undemocratic Local Authority? If not, then it is Time for Change!

Canvey Island Town Council coat of arms

Canvey Island Air Quality set to Deteriorate following Increased Traffic Congestion, Visitor Numbers to Local Attractions the Sea Front, Shopping and Employment areas?

Now that Easter and Summer are approaching Canvey Island with its revitalised Sea Front attractions, new Shopping and Employment sites and further Housing developments, we can expect to suffer more frequent Traffic Congestion!

Many Islanders, having for years endured the daily commute whether delayed by the piecemeal road works along the A13, the lack of improvement to the A127, the suspect faults with the Sadlers Farm junction, the crawl along Canvey Way before / after being further held up along Somnes Avenue or Canvey Road and Long Road, are now getting used to the regular weekend AS WELL AS the weekday traffic hold ups across the Island!

All this while the Roscommon Way Extension, intended to link the east of Canvey Island with Canvey Road, and the Somnes Avenue widening both appear more distant in being achieved than ever before, whilst the 3rd Access Road across the Sunny Uplands and Unicorn Meadows to Pitsea / Thurrock appears more like an Aspirational Fantasy!

Whether it be through badly phased traffic signals, vehicles breaking down, insufficient infrastructure improvements, or visitors to the local “attractions”, one thing that will deteriorate is the Air Quality!

CPBC claim that there are 34 Air Quality monitoring sites in the Borough, though only one site being permanent, off of the Island at Hadleigh, of course.

Even so, given the nature and whereabouts of the current traffic congestion Hot Spots, maybe the siting of the temporary monitors may be better located. For instance the site at the “Garden Centre” at the Northwick Road junction.

Wouldn’t it be more effectively positioned these days just a few yards south of the “King Canute” traffic signals?

This is where traffic is regularly congested and where the small parade of shops and the residential home are sited, after all air pollution affects peoples health. Why position in a more open less populated area? Unless a Lower Pollution Reading is the preferred finding of course!

Instead CPBC prefer to site the temporary Air Quality monitoring device, when it is being used, tucked tight away behind fencing to the rear of the Garden Centre! See photo Below.

Even, Castle Point Council’s own Public Health Service Officer warned, of the pollution expected from the Business development proposal for “Land opposite Morrisons” stating the department; “objects to this application on the grounds of ‘increase of traffic’, and the effects which this would have upon air quality, a topic which is of Public Health significance.”

“It is the opinion of this Service that if the proposed development was permitted at the current time there would be an adverse impact upon the local air quality, with initial impacts during the construction phase. It is believed that the air quality would deteriorate further following occupation by new businesses, regular delivery vehicles and visitors to the site.”

An Extract from the CPBC Air Monitoring Report for 2018 reads;

“Castle Point Borough Council is taking the following measures to address PM2.5 (Fraction of mortality attributable to particulate):

Working with Essex County Council (highway authority) to deliver Major Transport improvement schemes to improve infrastructure, reduce personal car use  and alleviate congestion. In addition to reduced exhaust emissions, these schemes will reduce non-exhaust emissions from brake and tyre wear by making traffic flows smoother.”

In practise these “Major Transport improvement schemes” amount to singularly, the Fairglen Interchange junction improvement!

“The main source of air pollution in the Borough is road traffic emissions from major roads, notably the A13, A127 and A130. Castle Point Borough Council has not declared any Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA).

Potential transboundary pollution sources include the power stations along the Thames Estuary and the oil refinery in Thurrock, which have the potential to impact on air quality in Castle Point.

Other pollution sources, including commercial, industrial and domestic sources, also make a contribution to background pollution concentrations.We monitor nitrogen dioxide using diffusion tubes at 30 monitoring locations around the district. We also have a continuous analyser site which is currently being installed at the former Hadleigh Fire Station and will provide real-time nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide monitoring information. Prior to the 16th July 2010, the continuous analyser was installed at Furtherwick Park School, Canvey Island and provided real-time nitrogen dioxide monitoring information. The Council has over fourteen years worth of monitoring data from when the continuous analyser was installed at Furtherwick Park School.”

Temporary Air Monitoring Unit Canvey Island

You can Download the Full CPBC Air Quality Report on the Page available via this LINK.

Info on the new London Ultra Low Emission Zone can be found HERE.

Photograph: Glyn Baker

Canvey Paddocks Consultation Report reveals new Community Hall Costs Spiral! Incompetence or Manipulation?

The cost of rebuilding Canvey Paddocks Community Centre looks likely to soar, whilst CPBC’s Housing scheme budgeting also appears wide of the mark, according to figures within the agenda paperwork for next week’s Castle Point Cabinet meeting!

This meeting, the first following the Paddocks Consultation reveals:

At the Cabinet meeting on 16th October 2018 it was resolved to demolish the existing facility and replace it with a new, modern facility

The Consultation revealed, “In total 613 questionnaires were submitted. Of the 613 responses 589 were from Castle Point residents and 540 of them lived on Canvey Island.”

“In terms of what people would like to see in the new facility, there was strong support for a licensed bar and café. The majority of people favoured the provision of a large hall capable of accommodating circa 500 people seated but there was also strong support for a range of smaller hall sizes”

“maintenance of the new facility was a key concern as was retention of the splash park and free car parking. Many respondents stated that they did not want any houses/flats to be built on the site and many commented that they would prefer the existing facility to be refurbished

“Specialist advice is sought in order to better understand potential future demand for larger scale entertainment events;

” The Strategic Director (Resources) in consultation with the Cabinet member for Finance, Policy and Resources is given delegated authority to drawn down from reserves the funding required to cover the cost of the specialist advisors;”

” A design brief is produced for a modern, multi-functional, flexible community facility capable of accommodating both small groups, i.e. less than 20 people through to functions catering for up to 500 seated guests;”

” An architect is appointed to develop conceptual building designs having regard to the design brief;”

Later in the Cabinet agenda paper it was revealed how the estimated costs for a NEW PADDOCKS had either Spiralled or been surpressed ahead of the original Cabinet decision to demolish the current Community Centre;

The estimated cost of building a new facility was originally estimated at £4.3m but this will need to be revised once the final building size and design has been agreed. An estimated additional £1.4m will be required for the works to the car park.”

Was this misleading information, so as to justify bringing  forward the whole development project?

 By that I mean the inclusion of Housing / Flatted development on the Paddocks site and the suggestion that the NHS facility  based in the old Town Council building, of local historic and architectural significance, be sold or used for development! Cllr Smith was reported as saying “that any future sale of the building is not directly linked to work at the Paddocks site. But he did admit the building may sold to make the most of council assets and money could subsequently be used at the Paddocks site.” Echo 12th Feb 2018.

If you remember the original estimates for the Project, (as councillors appear sensitive to have called the scheme a Plan), were £4,300,000 to rebuild, or £4,100,000 to regenerate. Now it appears that not only will a Rebuild cost £5,700,000, but will also require the added costs of hiring a team of specialist consultants to inform us of the ”potential future demand for larger scale entertainment events”, whilst “An architect is appointed to develop conceptual building designs having regard to the design brief”!

Surely a visit to view similar new and successful Community Hall projects, by an officer, a cabinet member and representatives of Canvey Town Council would be a more economical approach. From there, designs and experiences of how the new community halls had fared could be made available and utilised for our purposes, rather than starting from scratch!

Before CPBC part with our Cash they may wish to view what can be achieved in the right hands and for far less, elsewhere. See Here

Not only has the Paddocks rebuild costs been projected wide of the mark but the Cabinet Agenda reveals other apparent miscalculations. This time over the supply of temporary accommodation and ongoing affordable housing in Castle Point

At Hatley Gardens the chosen Tender “has a total expected cost of £806k, including a prudent contingency allowance of £70k. This is £102k higher than the original budgeted cost of £704k approved by Council in February 2019”

Whilst at Church Close “The budgeted cost for the scheme agreed at Cabinet in February 2019 was £594k over two years’, the revised anticipated price is in the region of £1.3m including an increased contingency.  This would equate to a build cost of £325k per property.”

“An evaluation of the local housing market showed significant variations between the mainland and Canvey Island, with property prices on Canvey Island for semidetached properties being 20% lower than on the main land at £260k compared to £322k.   In the price range £200k to £275k there were three 2 bedroom and one 3 bedroom properties for sale on the mainland and 113 on Canvey Island ranging up to 4 bedrooms.  This raises concerns over the value for money of this development on Canvey Island.”

Hopefully some realistic and transparent financial decisions will be made, however, it appears for these Housing considerations, debate will be held with the Press and Public excluded!

Apologies if this does not read as quite such a “Good News” Echo story!

What a recent £1.1M Community Hall looks like!