Tag Archives: Canvey

Canvey Island Nimbyism? RTPI attack on Ageism amounts to Stereotyping – who else to “Watch this Space”?

Protest against Green Belt development in Castle Point, is definitely not the sole domain of Canvey Islanders.

Whilst we feel we have more to protest about than most, despite being considered to be “not living in the Real World”, even by some of our own representatives, it cannot be argued that issues facing Canvey Island are not unique.

Whether it be the fact Canvey Island is the most densely urbanised part of the Borough, the removal of Canvey’s Rapid Response Vehicle, the 3rd access Road saga, the broken drainage system, the Roscommon Way Racers, lack of street lighting on unadopted roads, or living alongside 2 major Hazardous Industrial sites, concerned Canvey residents are often greeted with a “them again?” luke-warm welcome!

But that is not to exclude our mainland neighbours who are equally willing to object against planning issues where Green Belt and other supposedly worthy development proposals are concerned.

Now it appears it has been recognised that the majority of those willing to get involved in the planning process are of a certain age group.

“Currently, the majority of those who engage in planning are over 55 years. Response rates to a typical pre-planning consultation are around 3% of those directly made aware of it. In Local Plan consultations, this figure can fall to less than 1% of the population of a district. Yet planning decisions are based upon this sample.
Well-managed consultations start early, seek a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers to engage, but they too frequently fail to engage with the younger age groups – yet we are planning their future. What other organisation would base important decisions on this level of response without checking to see if it was ‘representative’. Yet this is what happens in planning decisions.”

So says Sue Manns, the Regional Director of national planning consultancy Pegasus Group, in an article for the Royal Town Planning Institute. Pegasus being the planning group involved in the Jotmans Farm development Inquiry.

The article appears to suggest that through the lack of engagement with a “younger” consultee audience, modern development plans struggle to be adopted through the objections from those more senior amongst us residents.

“We need to start a nationwide conversation around the spatial impacts of technology change, embrace young and dynamic thinkers and those who see change as exciting, and let’s rebalance the objection-driven engagement culture which has dominated planning over the past 50 years.”

Whilst Canvey residents may not be considered by cpbc, and perhaps Sue Manns, to be dynamic thinkers, they would be wrong in their assumption to consider us as not recognising change when it is exciting, as long as it is realistic!

The cpbc promise of the grandly titled “Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan” is a case in point. Unfortunately scepticism was well founded, as the lack of tangible progress alongside the failure to incorporate the proposed Dutch / seaside architectural features into new proposals, has led to blandly designed and cramped Flatted and Retail developments to pass approval!

 

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Building materials to reflect the overall palette, drawing on the Dutch, Coastal Town and Art Deco influences to create a scheme with a unique identity.
Colours should be vibrant to establish the new retail area as a destination. Shop front improvements along Furtherwick Road should be designed with the distinctive features of an English Seaside Town.

With prose being used, similar to that above, to encourage support for aspirational design schemes, it is hardly any wonder that Sue Manns has identified a failure of the industry to engage with a younger audience in planning consultations. The lack of younger generation involvement may be true, but that is not a reason to support the thought that adult and senior views should be ignored simply to support any particular development plan that may indeed, not be suitable for a particular area.

We on Canvey Island have seen the value of “local knowledge” within the Plan making process!

When the 2009 cpbc Core Strategy attempt at a local plan was published the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, through “local knowledge” recognised the attempt to mislead the Examining Inspector with its “inappropriate housing site selection” policies, which “commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk”, as well as it being obvious he would not be “convinced that maintaining the current distribution of development across the Borough is justified given the existing constraints”.

This despite cpbc officers being party to the clear intent of the mainland lead group to allow themselves to be influenced by, and produce a local plan driven by, what the Inspector politely described as “Local Factors”!

In this light, of course we HAD to get involved, despite being within the age bracket that Sue Manns and her planner colleagues have an issue with!

Committing to attending a 2 week Examination following production of a lengthy consultation submission is not achievable by all, however when your own local authority have schemed and approved such a discreditable document, it must be challenged and exposed for what it was. Not everybody is in a position, or willing to commit to taking part in plan making process, as it bound to require taking unpaid leave or using holiday periods. Something those with young families for instance may be unwilling or unable to commit to.

Perhaps Planners and developers would prefer that no residents, whatever age bracket they fall into, take part in the planning process? One thing we did find was that the Examining Inspectors appear to welcome local input!

The feedback from our Referendum equally challenged Sue Mann’s assumption that a younger demographic would automatically give the different response that she and her  planner colleagues would hope for, by achieving “a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers”.

Castle Point council gave evidence, indeed if it can be considered of value, that they extended their consultation to specifically target established groups of youngsters as part of the Core Strategy consultation.

What the Canvey Green Belt Campaign witnessed however, was perfectly clear. By calling on residents at their homes and putting to them our Referendum question, it was absolutely clear, that the loss of yet more Canvey Green Space to the Borough’s Housing Need was indisputably opposed across generations!

Planners may begin to achieve the respect they crave if they were more driven by an local area’s actual needs. Aspirational architectural computer imagery with green spaces screening dense urbanisation deceive nobody.

Equally the promises of Affordable Homes, later challenged as being unviable, is a deception we are getting more and more familiar with, especially in the light of Green Belt release and sky high housing prices.

RTPI and Sue Manns, nice try, but must try harder!

ps Lets not feel too much sympathy for the industry: “The chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon has insisted he deserves his £110m bonus because he has “worked very hard” to reinvigorate the housing market.” (Guardian)

A link to the Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan can be found HERE.

The full blog post by Sue Manns can be found via this LINK.

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Hokey Cokey Local Planning and confusing the defence of Green Belt Appeals!

Castle Point New Local Plan Task and Finish group members, retracted the work and decision making they had made during their previous meeting.

The proposed Housing development site H18, the Blinking Owl site having previously been decided to suspend background work upon until the Constraints issue had been re-visited, had that decision reversed so as to direct officers to continue seeking supporting evidence that H18 was a viable proposition.

The Local Plan process is appearing to be going through a period of taking one step forward followed by a another step backward.
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The decision to re-visit was, in part, considered a re-plugging of the breach of defence that Castle Point Council will offer in protection during the Jotmans Farm and Glebelands Appeal examination.
It appears that there has been a shift in Planning Guidance in that the previously “all deciding” need for an immediate 5 Years worth of Housing supply, has been relegated in favour of a requirement that, a Local Plan is continuing to progress towards a final document.
It now appears that being able to evidence a 5 Year Housing Supply is not as crucial as we were led to believe.
Arthur-Daley-FT
Or is it? Are we simply being told what suits policy makers at the time of delivery?
Whether confidence in this change of guidance will alter should local authorities extend their “work in progress” into an endless timeframe remains to be seen.
Until then it makes sense, ahead of two possible Green Belt Application Appeals, to use this tactic.
The Task and Finish agenda paperwork, again reminded members of the NPPF principles, that preparation of a Local Plan should be; Positively prepared, Justified, Effective and Consistent with national policy. The agenda paperwork then reminded members that “the Council has undertaken considerable work on developing an evidence base” and that “it is on this evidence that the policies and proposals within the Local Plan should be based if it is to meet the tests of soundness set out in the NPPF.”
Seemingly an officer’s warning that by re-visiting the H18 proposal as a priority, the Local Plan progress may be in danger of becoming unsound.
The fact that Castle Point is without a 5 year Housing supply, 0.7 years worth in the reckoning of the Glebelands Inspector, remains so far un-addressed by the Task and Finish committee.
This may be due to the 5 Year supply not being part of their remit. Then again the original remit of the committee appeared to be to simply consider the responses to the draft Local Plan’s consultation, prior to returning to full council with a recommendation.
There will be consideration on whether extra CPBC funding is to be allocated to appoint consultants Peter Brett to evaluate the viability of the H18 proposal.
Officers reminded members that should the Blinking Owl site be released for housing,  Castle Point Council would be undermining one of the main functions of the Green Belt in that area, that is to keep neighbouring districts from merging.
A decision would require a decision on what width of Green Belt does retain that function, ie 25 metres or 50 metres etc. The other option is that the whole of the site is taken out of the Green Belt and the area opposite, across the A127, Rayleigh Green Belt is solely relied upon to perform the required function.
Either way a decision by Castle Point Council, possibly objected to by Rayleigh, would have to be made.
This decision would then possibly undermine local opposition to other Green Belt housing proposals in other parts of Castle Point, chiefly alongside other main highways such as Jotmans and Glebelands, where the particular function of the Green Belt, in protecting districts from merging, is supported by neighbouring district’s land, during development Appeals.
The “new” Castle Point policy of defending Green Belt unless it has any examples  of development on it, theoretically only adds to the area of Green Belt that may become available for release. Other areas that poorly support the function of Green Belt but also are supported by developers will be found difficult to defend at Examination, unless sufficient sound evidence is available.
Site H18 contains some development, it is also linked along the A127 to other Castle Point land previously released for development. This in turn links to the released Green Belt across Rayleigh Road where the Fire Station is situated.
Therefore it is fair to say that the integrity of the Green Belt within Castle Point is allowed to be compromised when it suits!
What residents should be aware of, once these perimeter assets are conceded, is that the areas between these “new” sites and the existing urban areas may become available as “infill.”
This is one of the difficulties developed over many years in defending the area around Felsted and Bowers Road and why the Planning committee did not use loss of green land as a reason for refusal, despite the areas obvious amenity value, and was included in the Local Plan’s 5 year housing supply.
In re-visiting the viability of the H18 site access will be an issue, especially for County if a new access onto the A127 is considered necessary, and residents if the existing road network is to be expected to alone support the new development. If the H18 site is to reach its full potential then a new access onto the A127 will be critical.

Castle Point residents may need to be prepared to contribute financially alongside developers and Essex County Highways. Should funding be required to come singularly from County then the scheme will have to join a long list of aspirational improvements, not only in the Borough with Canvey’s new access road and Roscommon Way final phase, but other County projects.
Meanwhile the New local Plan Task and Finish group turn their attention to the subject of housing constraints.
It will be interesting to hear how, after the exhaustive discussion on mainland green belt, members value the safety concerns of living within range of hazardous industrial installations and within a Flood Zone, as on Canvey Island, when considering what constitutes an actual Constraint and the weighting they consider should be applied through the Local Plan!

This work commences this week and will be available to follow  on the Castle Point Council’s webcast.

Green Belt, Flood Zones! In Castle Point even Pestilence would not act as a Constraint!

I have come across an interesting conversation.  The content is not new, has been muted by others, but is of interest so I have taken the liberty of re-producing some of it in this Post.  The content and generality, I believe, leads it to not being considered to have broken any confidences.

Initial enquiry reads:

On 5th September 2014 it was reported that Keith Holland, an inspector for the department for communities and local government, stated at a meeting with Councillors in March 2014, “I want to be absolutely clear. If a local authority wishes to amend its green belt or use some of its green belt land for development, that is a decision for the local authority. It is not a decision which the planning inspector will impose on a local authority.

“It is purely your decision if you want to use green belt land or not and the National Planning Policy Framework is very clear.”

On 8th January 2015 it was reported that Minister of State for Planning and Housing Brandon Lewis told campaigners and Tory MP Rebecca Harris, “By placing local plans at the heart of the system, councils have the power to protect their green belt and take account of all local environmental issues, while at the same time working to meet their local housing need.

“So, I would urge Castle Point Council to get on and put its local plan in place, as the best way to deliver the homes local people want and need, while maintaining strong protection for its green belt.”

Mr Lewis supported the views of the planning inspector, Keith Holland, who was secretly filmed at a Castle Point Council meeting telling councillors they would not be forced to release green belt land to meet its housing quotas.

Despite these verbal assurances that any development on green belt land is purely at the discretion of the local Council, it was reported on 13th January 2015 that Castle Point Council is refusing to rule out building on green belt land – unless they get a cast iron guarantee from Government.

Norman Smith, chairman of the council’s local plan task and finish group, said: “It needs to be backed up by a government directive, rather than one minister just saying what he maybe feels we want to hear.” This was reaffirmed on Wednesday at the Richmond Hall meeting.

The response reads:

“If you go on the .gov website and look under planning and see the wording of the NPPF and all the accompanying guidance it’s already there in black and white.” 

“The councillors have to get a grip of this and understand for themselves what the new legislation says – and stop making a political football of it!” 

Through this we learn that the current Parliamentary message appears on the face of it quite clear.

Meeting Objectively Assessed Housing Need does not over ride the protection of any constrained sites.

Brandon Lewis

Only local choice would allow this to happen.

 At present, it appears CPBC officers are promoting the release of land on Canvey which is both Green Belt and within a Flood Zone 3A, thereby electing to disregard both physical and policy constraints!

This CPBC policy may also be considered to have been endorsed by councillors who voted to approve the draft New Local Plan for consultation.

 As the H18 Blinking Owl site appears to be being promoted as an alternative deliverable Green Belt site for development, officers suggest by its identification, it becomes an additional site.  There now appears a query as to whether Green Belt is the sole issue.

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If a collective or a group purports to vow to defend Green Belt per se, they weaken their defence by suggesting alternative sites.

Their strength of reasoning will be examined.

Why is one site more valuable than another? Other considerations must be factored, infrastructure, road access to main highways etc.

It has been suggested that those values supporting H18 Blinking Owl site are weaker than those used to promote Glebelands for development.

We must be careful, it is a difficult game being played with high stakes and consequences for the Borough.

What is known is that  recommendations by the Environment Agency that any new development on Canvey Island must be supported by a Flood Response Plan reliant on the EA’s early flood warning and that consideration must be given before approval that CPBC are confident that new builds will be able to obtain insurance against flooding during the lifetime of the dwelling.

Floods 2014

Firstly, the EA’s early warning fails to offer notice to residents signed up for the scheme of two of the three methods of flood.  Only should the sea defence be in danger of over topping can an alert be confidently be released.

Secondly, the to be introduced during 2015 FloodRE Insurance scheme will not cover new builds post 2009.

Despite these issues, not being discussed, approvals for development on Canvey is the norm.

These decisions undermine the physical constraining argument against building in areas vulnerable to Flood.

The identification of the Blinking Owl site and it’s furtherment, may be used to undermine the Green Belt constraining argument.

The upcoming Appeals may provide a debating chamber for these issues.

Our MP has gone to the lengths of delivering advice from an Inspector and the Housing Minister.

Better to heed this advice, use it to support a Local Plan and submit for pre-examination of the evidence in support, than continue along the current lines unsupported lines, or not?

I stand to be corrected but understand that no further meetings of the draft New Local Plan have yet been arranged. 

Peer Review report’s hidden messages on Green Belt development and the disenfranchised electorate!

Wednesday evening will see the Cabinet “note” the response from the Peer review group that attended Castle Point Council recently. The response letter whilst embellished with typical congratulatory Council jargon acknowledges the work done by CPBC to put Castle Point on a sound financial basis.
Generally the letter allows scope for a positive spin to be put on the content.

Reading between the lines though reveals a more concerning message.
It is recommended that Councillors speak with a united voice to “celebrate the area”, ”political point scoring through the local media is not helpful.”
The fact that the Peer Review team’s attention should be drawn to this indicates political point scoring during the Peer Review process itself.
I assume this may refer to the Canvey Independent Group which itself was formed on the basis of residents feeling disenchanted with the local Council process.

The Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group whilst working hard to maintain a non-political bias / leaning, was also formed due to a feeling amongst residents of being disenfranchised through the Core Strategy process.
An upbeat message in the letter is included concerning the 5 year housing land supply and the possibility that this will defend the Borough’s Green Belt from inappropriate development.

Fox Land and Property (Glebelands) and Persimmon (Jotmans Farm) beg to differ.

It is also noted that CPBC admit that future housing beyond the 5 year supply will be located within the Green Belt, whilst 3 Green Belt sites are actually included within the initial 5 year supply.

Councillors voted unanimously to refuse Green Belt development, their resolve appears to have crumbled.

Was it initial bravado?
Why are Councillors that previously vowed to defend our Green Belt now voting approvals?

We appreciate the difficulties, but avoiding political point scoring and speaking with a united voice appears easier said than done.

As the letter goes on to say “The council needs to continue to both acknowledge and work hard to engage with communities over the strength of local feeling while needing to make decisions which may be locally unpopular in the wider interests of the Borough.”
This can be interpreted as, continue to consult with residents, as consultation is worthless unless used as negotiation!

Engaging with communities over the strength of feeling and making unpopular decisions, may appear to be an opportunity to impose unpleasant policies upon the more weakly represented parts of the community.

How it should be interpreted is, if the Council had the desire to make honest, fair and difficult decisions they would have engaged with the Planning Inspector examining the Core Strategy when he offered his assistance in selecting sustainable development sites!

A full section of the letter is copied below.The section is un-cut so as not to appear out of context:-

“Local context, vision and priorities
Castle Point is a great place to live and the councils drive to make a difference to its people, its community, its environment and its local economy has delivered positive results.
The council has a good understanding of the communities of Benfleet, Canvey Island, Hadleigh and Thundersley, who benefit from living in the heart of the Thames Gateway, are well connected by road, rail and air and enjoy over 60% of green belt land.
The peer team saw many examples of partnerships delivering results, particularly on Canvey Island, such as the two newly developed secondary schools, Cornelius Vermuyden and Castle View, a brand new vocational skills campus, improvements to the seafront including a new bandstand and new public toilets, and the considerable refurbishment of
the Waterside Leisure Centre.
This is significant investment and the whole council should work together to celebrate the area. More will be achieved by speaking with a united voice and purpose for the long term benefit of the borough and decisions and communications should continue to be based on needs and evidence. Political point scoring through the local media is not helpful.
The peer team urge Members to refrain from this practice and to continue to work together for the benefit of Castle Point’s communities.
With three quarters of the UK predicted to own a smartphone by 2015 there are some significant opportunities to embrace the emerging and diverse communication opportunities available such as the use of social media and smart phone applications. Councillors, officers and their partners can use social media for a wide range of purposes such as a way to spark innovation, drive efficiency and engage in conversations with local people.
Going forward Castle Point should use its newly developing corporate plan to drive business in the changing context. The plan should: · Clearly state your ambition for Castle Point the place· Maintain strategic focus · Establish and articulate your key priorities
There is an opportunity to engage communities and stakeholders in the early development of the plan.
The Council has demonstrated its commitment to avoiding ‘predatory’ development and unwarranted loss of green belt by taking the positive approach of securing Council approval to a 5 year supply pending future adoption of the Local plan.at the end of 2014.
There is, as with many other local authorities, a challenge for the council to maintain this position. The council needs to continue to both acknowledge and work hard to engage with communities over the strength of local feeling while needing to make decisions which may be locally unpopular in the wider interests of the Borough.
Strategic partnerships
Future local government service delivery is facing major changes in response to significant austerity measures resulting in financial pressures. Castle Point Borough Council is in a strong position as a very well regarded partner who is seen as a leading player. The strong partnerships with your neighbouring councils of Rochford and Southend-on-Sea and within the wider Essex County in response to emerging challenges such as community safety,
public health & wellbeing and the troubled families programme provide opportunities for the council to further drive the leadership role within South East Essex.
There is a strong appetite for sharing services and collaboration within Castle Point with the council having solid foundations in place through the strong relationships already present and the joint partnership arrangements with Rochford through the local strategic and community safety partnerships. Further opportunities could also include exploring shared management and shared services with Rochford, who are similar in size and functions.
The council should plan for a range of alternative options for achieving a sustainable future, not just a single solution. As previously stated it should work to ensure the criteria for delivery partnerships are in place and through its leadership role set out the pace, timeframes and mapping for future partnerships.
The existing regeneration partnerships have influenced change and facilitated results such as the town centre developments in Hadleigh and Canvey Island with recent news that a £50million plan to transform Canvey Island town centre has moved a step closer after a developer was appointed for the project. This demonstrates a strong commitment to partnerships and demonstrates the council can deliver its vision.”

Green Belt land reduced by 130 hectares in the past year, statistics reveal

An interesting article read by Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group from Out-Law covers figures from DCLG that just 0.01% of Green Belt has been released for development during 2010 – 2012. Worryingly two of the three Authorities releasing the land are in Essex or the “Thames Gateway.” Uncomfortably near Castle Point!

Another interesting / surprising point for some, is that 13% of the land area of England is Green Belt whilst 9% is developed. 

“The amount of designated green belt land in England has been reduced by 130 hectares between 2010/11 and 2011/12, figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have revealed. The decrease represents less than 0.01% of total green belt land.

The DCLG said in the report (7-page / 130KB PDF) that the decrease is due to three local authorities, Chelmsford, Hyndburn and Thurrock, adopting plans resulting in a decrease in their green belt land. It said that the main reason the authorities have given for the loss of green belt was release of employment land.

The DCLG said that “real changes” are rare and are the results of new local plans being adopted, which must satisfy the “strong tests” for protecting green belt land set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Figures in the report showed that the extent of designated green belt land in England in 2011/12 was estimated at 1,639,410 hectares. This represents about 13% of the land area of England. Around 9% of land in England is developed, with more than a third being protected from development through being part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a National Park or part of the green belt.

The report said that there has been an overall increase in green belt land since 1997 when the Government first started to compile green belt statistics. It said that this took account of the re-designation of some green belt land as part of the New Forest National Park in 2005, however, it attributed some of the increase to “improved measurements” rather than actual changes.

The statistics follow comments made by Planning Minister Nick Boles on BBC’s Newsnight last week that an increase in development to cover around 12% of land in England would address the housing shortage. Boles said that new development would not be on green belt land but that open land will be targeted.”

Castle Point Housing

Information released by Castle Point Council revealed 55 per cent of people looking to get on the housing ladder can’t save up the deposit needed, is based on figures obtained from the Thames Gateway South East Housing Market Trends Quarterly Report for January 2012.

This is one influence source, unlike the East of England Regional Agency, that will not go away. The figures in the Thames Gateway report will likely have influence on the Castle Point Local Plan. There is an inevitability about the Thames Gateway’s demand for growth, and the lower land prices along the Thames flood plain, that indicates an increasing urbanisation of the towns between East London and Southend. Canvey has land to the South and West of the Island pencilled in as the Borough’s growth areas, rather than the more politically sensitive Mainland.

However the practise of using graphs, such as those used within the Thames Gateway Housing Market Trends Report, and their sliding scale increases to indicate growing demand maybe unsound. Graphs show indicators based on 2006 to 2011, when the report was being compiled ahead of census figures, being projected forward onto 2030. However during very recent years Castle Point has under delivered housing and affordable housing. Once actual figures become available, rather than the sliding scale projection, the indication may well show only a small growth in residents in the Borough. If this was built into the projections then a far lesser demand for housing growth may be interpreted.

There is however as I have said, an inevitability about the sprawl from East London continuing and so Canvey Islanders should brace themselves.