Tag Archives: Castle Point Council

A Tactical Withdrawal, temporary Reprieve? What is going on at Castle Point Council and its Local Plan?

In a letter from Castle Point Council, dated 31st May 2017, we learn of the latest developments in the Persimmons proposal to develop the Dutch Village Green Belt;

Dear Sir/Madam

 

Proposal: Erect up to 275 new homes and retail/community facilities (use classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, C2 and/or D1) with new roundabout junction onto A130 Canvey Road, associated parking, open space, ecological enhancements, landscaping, drainage and flood mitigation measures (outline)
Location: Land To The East Of Canvey Road Canvey Island Essex

 

I refer to my consultation letter in respect of the above application and write to advise you that the application has been withdrawn and the Council will not therefore take any further action in the matter.

 

I thank you for your interest in the proposal and I will ensure that you are consulted again if a further application is submitted in the future.

 

Yours faithfully,

S Rogers

Head of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods

Fair Play for Canvey Island in the light of the Jotmans Decision or are we still a “Special Case”?

And the Necessity for Castle Point Borough Council to produce a Local Plan is?

“National planning policy places Local Plans at the heart of the planning system,”

Even so, the National Planning Policy Framework states as early as Paragraph 14;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless:

– any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole;

or– specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted. 9

Paragraph 14, Footnote 9 Reads; “For example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.”

“so it is essential that they are in place and kept up to date. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.”

The Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss the Jotmans Farm Appeal in the light of the Inspector’s recommendation, raises some questions.

Is the Planning Inspectorate’s reading of the NPPF and Guidance similar to that of the Government’s?

There was agreement between the SoS and the Inspector that, Castle Point Council are only able to identify 0.4 years worth of the required 5 Year deliverable Housing Supply, this is an even worse supply than in 2013 when the SoS considered cpbc had a realistic housing supply of just 0.7 years!

In the case of the Glebelands 2013 Inquiry the SoS used a “totting-up” method of measuring harm to the Green Belt;

“the Secretary of State has identified moderate harm in respect of urban sprawl, moderate harm in respect of the merging of neighbouring settlements, and moderate harm to the visual appearance of this part of the GB.  The Secretary of State considers that together this represents a considerable level of harm. ”

” He also wishes to emphasise that national policy is very clear that GB reviews should be undertaken as part of the Local Plan process.”

So we appear to be in a situation where, as long as Castle Point council are in an apparent perpetual process of Local Plan making, the whole of the local Green Belt can be considered safe from development!

Residents should now be looking for a new, up to date cpbc Green Belt Review, based on the SoS’ guidance and embracing the protection afforded by Footnote 9 of the NPPF.

As was pointed out earlier in this post;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, … unless: – ….  specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted – For example, those policies relating to …. land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, … and locations at risk of flooding.”

This appears to be the clear desire of the Secretary of State’s interpretation of planning direction. The archived cpbc Green Belt Review was dated 2013 and produced in-house in support of the rejected daft New Local Plan, and clearly out of line with the Secretary of State’s consideration of  levels of “harm.” A new GB Review should be commissioned urgently, indicating the protection available through NPPF Policies and Guidance!

It would appear that the Castle Point council’s Local Plan2016, despite their failure to comply with the Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring local authorities, may have been more in tune with the Secretary of State’s interpretation of what is possible with Local Plan-making and stood a chance of being considered adoptable. Whilst an Inspector may feel the Local Plan2016 was worthy of withdrawal, seeking intervention via the Secretary of State, may supply a different decision, once the Duty to Cooperate has been complied.

More importantly, with Canvey Island in mind, is that NPPF Footnote 9 offers no  difference in the weight and importance that should be applied when considering whether a site is appropriate for development between that of Green Belt or Flood Risk!

Only in the minds of those in Control of Decision-making within Castle Point council, is Canvey Island deemed a “special case”!

If not now, then I do not know when, given the position of the cpbc Local Plan, and the direction given by the SoS, it would be more Timely and more Appropriate for Canvey Island Town Council to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan!

The Secretary of State is clear Footnote 9 should be applied to protect Green Belt from Harm.

It is obvious that an area within a Flood Risk Zone and with unresolved Surface Water Flooding issues, can expect that same level of protection using Neighbourhood Plan Policies under-pinned by that same Footnote 9!

Quite simply Canvey Island is thought to be unlikely to Flood. This is supported by no factual Evidence, simply that it is “unlikely”. The continual loss of Green Space to development on Canvey that serves as potential displacement for flood water, fails to register any concern to the planning decision makers!

The FloodRe insurance scheme is limited, limited so that it specifically discourages development in Flood Risk areas.

The list of properties excluded from the remit of Flood Re has been subject to significant debate however it has been agreed that the following properties will not be covered:

  • All commercial property
  • All residential property constructed since 1 January 2009
  • All purpose-built apartment blocks

Who will weigh this against Financial Sustainability? It appears nobody at Castle Point council!

It is time for the reservations contained within the NPPF Footnote 9 to be considered appropriately and evenly across the whole of Castle Point!

” ” All quotations lifted from the NPPF, Planning Guidance, Glebelands Inquiry and the Jotmans Farm Inquiry.

“Smoke Filled Rooms, Dodgy Housing Site Selection Processes and Failed Local Plans,” sound Familiar?

Yet another Local Plan is halted in its Tracks. In an Inspector’s Note, reminiscent of that sent to Castle Point Council during 2011 when Mr P.Crysell stated, amongst other concerns; 

“I consider there remain serious shortcomings in the (CPBC) Council’s Plan.” “These are firstly, the approach in relation to the Green Belt; secondly, the consequences of this on the distribution of growth across the Borough”

“I have reservations about the methodology employed and the way in which it appears to have been used, leading to inconsistent and inappropriate site selection.  For example, the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal is unclear as to why the most sustainable Green Belt site was discounted.”

“I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island yet fails to identify more than a token amount of land on the mainland where flooding is not a significant issue.”

The Shropshire Star commented of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan;

“It is pretty clear that a ‘smoke filled’ room process occurred behind closed doors with Cllrs where political rather than policy issues dominated – something the post 2004 Act changes was designed to eliminate.”  Shropshire Star

Evidence had emerged of a similar smoke filled room meeting in the CPBC Lead Group rooms, during which Canvey Island Green Belt was sacrificed so as to progress a Core Strategy document bent on protecting mainland Green Belt at all costs!

Of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan the Inspector commented;

Housing Site Selection Methodology

 7. You will recall the concerns that I raised at the Matter 8 hearing session in respect of this matter.  While I accept the need for a Plan’s evidence base to be proportionate, it is also the case that all parties need to understand why certain sites were allocated and why other sites were not allocated.

 8. In that context, I sought to examine the methodology that the Council has employed in selecting the 17 housing sites proposed for allocation in the Plan.  Unfortunately, the commentary set out in the Council’s (pre-hearing) written answer to my question in respect of this matter2 and in section 5 of the Housing Delivery Technical Paper3 contain only a brief summary of that process.  Indeed, the latter document states (para 5.6) that ‘the site selection or rejection reasons for each individual site can be found in the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report (2015)’ (the IA).

 9. However, Appendix X of the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report4 comments that ‘the IA findings are not the sole basis for a decision; other factors including planning and deliverability, play a key role in the decision-making process’.  Bearing in mind the position set out in Housing Technical Paper as described above, this suggests to me an element of circular reasoning.  

 10. Clearly, the detailed selection of sites for allocation involves an element of planning judgement.  However, that judgment needs to be both explicit and transparent.  In short, there needs to be a clear ‘audit trail’ that shows how the final decisions were arrived at, and what factors were taken into account in making such decisions.

 11. In response to my questions along those lines at the Matter 8 Hearing session, your officers offered to table working spreadsheets that would give more information about how the Council reached its decisions in this regard.  I accepted that suggestion and allowed other parties the opportunity to make representations accordingly.  However, the document that was subsequently produced5 was not the working spreadsheet that had originally been offered.  Instead it represents a commentary, apparently prepared after the event, that seeks to apply planning considerations to some (but not all) of the sites that were considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the site assessment process.  I have now been advised that the Council is unable to find the spreadsheets that were apparently referred to at the hearing session.

12. The evidence that has been submitted since the hearing session is inadequate for several reasons.  First, it does not represent the actual selection exercise, as it was prepared after the event.  Second, comments are only given on a number of some 315 sites considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the assessment.  Over 200 sites are missing.  This represents a substantial gap in the evidence base.  While the Council comments that the sites listed are only those that scored 5 or above in that exercise, it is clear that some sites with a lower score were also assessed – and indeed subsequently allocated in the Local Plan.  Clearly, an additional sieving exercise had taken place prior to the one that is presented in the new evidence.  Third, it is clear from the comments made in this document that a number of sites that scored highly against the ‘strategic fit’ criteria were then discounted on the basis of their existing use.  It is unclear why these were not screened out at the earlier site assessment stage, at which the site’s development potential was considered in terms of various factors – including use.

 13. I note the Council’s responses to the specific comments made by representors in respect of this additional evidence7.  For the avoidance of doubt, the present note does not seek to comment on the detailed scores that have been assigned to specific sites in the IA.  However, I share a general concern raised by some parties in respect of strategic fit criterion 2 (promoting sustainable urban extensions) that it is not immediately clear why some large sites (notably those that have been allocated) were given a positive score in respect of that criterion while other large sites – also adjoining the urban area – were deemed to not comprise a sustainable urban extension.

16. Drawing these matters together, and noting that some further comments are yet to be submitted by the Council, it appears likely that I will reach a finding that the housing site selection exercise underpinning the Local Plan is flawed.  Such a finding would call into question my ability to reach a finding of soundness on a Local Plan containing these site allocations.

13 years on from the 2004 Act, that the Shropshire Star referred to, appears to have resulted in very little impact!

Irresistible, Selling Off of Canvey Island Assets to boost Castle Point Housing Supply!

Firre Station downgraded

Recent reports have raised concerns on Canvey Island that we may be seeing a reduction in emergency cover.

In the press there have been articles suggesting the Ambulance station and Police station may be closing down.

The Fire station has already been down-graded to part time cover only.

In the almost desperate efforts to find Housing Land in Castle Point these Government assets would appear ripe for development in the very near future. The resultant sale of the sites would raise much needed tax funds and allow, the much abused on Canvey, Permission in Principle for Development!

Do not be surprised to hear that following the £15,000 feasibility work to be carried out by Castle Point Council the study advises the demolition of the Paddocks and a Flats Development, with a much reduced replacement community hall, in its place!

It is not beyond reason to imagine a token Police Station and Ambulance car park incorporated on the Fire Station site, releasing the Police and Ambulance stations for more development.

A Report from 2015, laid the building blocks for the start of the stripping of “government assets”; 

“Local councils will be allowed to keep all of the money raised from asset sales to reinvest in local services, the chancellor announced today, as part of a wider move to encourage the sale of hundred of billions of pounds of public sector land.

In his 2015 Autumn Statement speech, chancellor George Osborne said locals governments are sitting on property worth a quarter of a trillion pounds.

The government will encourage councils to sell land by allowing them to spend 100 per cent of their receipts from asset sell-offs on improving services and local projects. That includes thousands of pubs, theatres , golf courses and restaurants currently in local government hands.

He pledged to release £4.5bn of government land and property to make space for 160,000 homes, while unused commercial or industrial land will be released for starter homes.

Previously developed brownfield sites in the green belt will also be allowed to be developed in the same way as other brownfield land, providing it contributes to Starter Homes.”

CITYA.M.

Whilst more recently the Get Building accelerator pedal was pushed by the replacement government regime;

“In a bid to boost home building, councils will have to produce up-to-date registers of brownfield sites in their areas, the government has announced.

Today the housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell said local authorities will need to create, maintain and publish these registers to help housebuilders identify suitable brownfield sites quickly.

The government said this measure promises to unlock derelict or underused land for thousands of new homes.

As set out in the recent housing white paper, the registers are part of the government’s programme to speed up house building.

Barwell, said: “We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we re-use brownfield land is crucial.

“We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside.

“These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this.”

The regulations implementing brownfield registers and permission in principle through brownfield registers have been laid before parliament today as part of secondary legislation relating to the Housing and Planning Act – they will come into force in 21 days’ time.

According to the government, permission in principle will make it easier for developers to ascertain if particular sites are suitable before they draw up costly proposals to secure full planning permission.”

PublicFinance

The potential to boost the Castle Point Housing Supply, via the use of Canvey Island land will not be over-looked!

Photograph: copyright the Echo Newspaper

Echo ‘Why press freedom is vital in our democracy,’ except where Castle Point Council is Concerned?

Are Castle Point Council preparing the first steps to demolish the Paddocks?

Could it also be that Canvey Island residents are being Censored by the Echo Newspaper on Behalf of Castle Point council?

stock-vector-censored-stamp-208931752

Following the exhaustive Leveson judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press,  the Echo Under a banner Headline proclaimed; 

‘Why press freedom is vital in our democracy’

“Imagine a world where newspapers were unable to challenge hospitals over care and councils over spiralling costs.”

“Imagine a world where newspapers were fearful of taking their MPs to task over government policies.”

We must wholeheartedly support their dedication to democracy on this issue, especially on many occasions the Echo’s investigative journalism has in the past exposed many important issues.

However it has been brought to our attention that perhaps all may not be quite so transparent!

A Canvey resident has informed us of a letter he sent to the Echo regarding his concerns over Castle Point council’s approach towards certain issues.

The Resident apparently persisted with enquiries as to why the letter had not been published, and only following contact from the Echo to verify his credentials, did the letter eventually appear in the Letters column!

Why would the Echo delay in publishing a Canvey resident’s letter on a Castle Point matter, rather than reproducing at the time the information was topical?

This is not the first occasion, as at least one of the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group’s letters was also only printed following re-submission.

Now we learn of  yet another Letter from a different Canvey resident that has also been delayed from publication.

This time querying Castle Point council’s intentions for the Paddocks!

The Canvey Resident’s letter explained fears that, despite the reassurances of cllr Smith, concern remained for the continued existence of the Paddocks Hall, the number of Car Parking spaces already shared with the Health Centre and the possibility of the partial release of the site for more Town Centre Flats!

Once again this resident has not had his letter published, and has needed to write again, And then a third time, to ask the Echo staff to explain, WHY NOT?

We appreciate that what the Echo publish, or chose to omit, is entirely their perogative, but surely the Echo do not have to run a letter’s content past the powers that be at Castle Point council!

We note there is never a glut of Letters from Canvey residents printed in the Echo columns, whilst there are certain contributors that appear to find it easy to have their letters approved on a regular, often too regular, basis, despite many topics verging on being considered banal, or even more suited to a National Publication!

Maybe there is even a “Sensitive” Warning Alarm Bell that rings on the Echo Letters Desk when a Letter is received from a Canvey Island address?

The Echo asked us to “Imagine a world where newspapers were unable to challenge …councils.”

Is there a Transparency issue regarding Echo Editorial content and Castle Point Council?

We sincerely trust not!

If certain contributions from Canvey residents are becoming too sensitive for the Echo editor or Castle Point council for immediate publication, then there needs to be a closer inspection of what is considered “challenging” and yet fit for publication in Print, weighed against what appears on the Echo website!

The Echo allows, and fails to remove spurious, damaging and possibly libellous accusations of the receipt of “Brown Envelopes” and Back-handers, aimed at our Castle Point councillors, published under pseudonyms, to remain visible on the newspaper’s website!

And yet Canvey residents have difficulty in legitimately calling into question Castle Point council cabinet decisions, through the Echo Letters column!

Image credit: Shutterstock

 

Canvey Flats, Foksville Road, Flood Risk responsibility and Lack of Parking Spaces!

 

 

Canvey Flats Approved and Death of the Dream of ‘Canvey Comes Alive’ whilst Never a Truer Word said! Foksville Road.

Once Upon a Time…..

There was a Vision for Canvey.

This vision was fuel injected by  Ad-man and Design-man’s gobbledegook, encouraged by “our” local authority to intoxicate us simple local residents that the Vision would become a Utopian reality.

This Vision went by the title of the “Canvey Town Centre Masterplan” leading to the destination of “Canvey Comes Alive!”

Phrases used in the extensive Masterplan Report included;

“achieve coherence and a comprehensive approach to the future” “Empower and activate the strong local  community” “Deliver exceptional and lasting quality in the streets, spaces and buildings to develop a legacy befitting Canvey” “Create strategic gateway spaces and announce arrival into the Town Centre” – “Provide strong linkages, both visually  and physically between destinations with clear instinctive wayfinding” – “Establish a unique character and identity for the Town Centre, encapsulating history and heritage in contemporary style” – “Create a pleasant, calmed Town Centre environment” – “Create gateways that are linked to the key arrival points” – “The preferred masterplan option is based on an overarching concept of creating character areas” – “A step change in the Town Centre offer” 

Or as Jim Royle might have said “My A*se!”

The block of flats proposed for Foksville Road will come as no surprise to you to learn, were approved at last evening’s castle point council planning meeting.

As long ago as 2012 CPBC backed down on Canvey Island Town Centre

“As a result of the withdrawal of the Core Strategy, it is not now possible to adopt the Canvey Town Centre Masterplan as a Supplementary Planning Document. It is however possible to adopt it as supplementary guidance.”

Unfortunately Canvey residents dreams of a Regenerated Town Centre, unlike Hadleigh residents, have been blown away, possibly forever. Officers Agenda paperwork makes the concede the dream is over;

“whilst the Canvey Town Centre Master Plan is an adopted policy document it is at an embryonic stage and something of an aspirational document with limited commercial commitment. The proposals within the plan will not be delivered in the short or medium term and are unlikely to come to fruition in their current form” 

So the engagement with the Consultants, Canvey residents, councillors, cpbc officers and the Canvey Traders Association alongside the expense, has come to NOWT!

The desire to see new development, Retail and Housing designed in a Dutch themed style as residents wished or in the Consultants suggested Art Deco style, will be replaced by the piecemeal pre-designed offers from the architects back catalogue!

The Canvey Comes Alive “Dream” promised us:

“A number of interesting buildings in Canvey display characteristics of Art Deco / Modernist design. It is these buildings that the community highlighted as ones to save through the masterplan, and have features with the potential to translate into exciting modern forms.
Notable buildings of the Art Deco style in Canvey include the Monico, Rio Bingo Hall and Labworth Cafe. It is features from these and other art deco styled buildings that form part of the palette for the Town Centre”

Labworth cafe

“Canvey Town Centre should have local, Borough, County, Regional and National image. It is an opportunity to provide an iconic feature for Canvey Island and Castle Point as a whole The area should be a celebration of the sea, the elements and the people who use it. The theme in this case will be based on the history of the island as a seaside destination and with strong dutch heritage, and with connections to water as a coastal estuary environment. The following are principles that will inform a future public realm strategy and will ensure that the character of Canvey is expressed through the streets and spaces.”

The agreement amongst local politicians and residents that a “Dutch” themed design would be appropriate, failed to make it to paperwork stage for some reason!

Once again, where Canvey Island is concerned, the Applicant within his proposal paperwork is able to state, unchallenged, “There are no archaeological implications arising from this development.”

And we continue, through our development committee, to be provided with “piecemeal” new development leaving Canvey with less and less identity!

“At its meeting of April 2012, the Council’s Cabinet agreed to the adoption of the Canvey Town Centre Masterplan as a Supplementary Planning Document, to be considered when making decisions on planning applications for Canvey Town Centre”* see below

“A public realm strategy is needed to set out the aspirations and conclusions and is the first step in heightening awareness for the need of a quality public realm.”

And as a tempter to induce us to believe a prestigious Town Centre was nearing commencement we were encouraged to believe:-

“An initial viability appraisal of the Retail Core has been conducted to examine the financial prospects of the proposals in current market conditions. This analysis produced favourable results. For other masterplan proposals, the prospects of delivery are generally viewed to be good, and especially if property market conditions improve.”

“Additionally, there were two consultees who thought the proposals were a waste of money generally!”

Town Centre

The canvey independent party wish it to be known they voted against the development.

*Later downgraded to Supplementary Guidance