Tag Archives: Development Committee

Canvey Island Air Quality, Road Infrastructure, Never a Constraint on Development! Why even ask our Environmental Health Officer?

In the light of UK Air Quality concerns following brexit from the EU, it is “interesting” to note how Canvey Island is considered by Castle Point council on the same issues.

Canvey will see much Business / Industrial development, alongside housing, during the next few years. Flooding and Green Space issues are given scant regard at the Planning decision-making stage.

Screenshot (12)

Land opposite Morrisons

Alongside this we can confirm, that Air Quality issues are also being covered up. In typical cpbc fashion, rather than receive an objection to a Planning Proposal, cpbc prefer now to not ask Air Quality questions!

On consulting our Environmental Health department of any concerns over the new Business Park at Land Opposite Morrisons Northwich Northwick Road, Canvey Island, an Objection to the proposal was sent to the cpbc Planning Department.

Obviously cpbc did not want this response so now, prefer not to seek further advice or opinion over Air Quality, where new planning proposals are concerned! Consequently the Land opposite Morrisons proposal was Approved, whilst Air Quality remained Unaddressed! Because its on Canvey?

The cpbc Environmental Health officer commented on the 28th January 2016;

I have had the opportunity to view the above planning application and would like to make the following comment.

This Service currently 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.

One of our diffusion tubes (CP02 – approximately 500m from the proposed development), deployed for the purpose of measuring ambient nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations, has consecutively recorded higher than average levels of the pollutant, a pollutant which is produced as a result of road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes.

The degradation of the air quality in this area has arisen as a result of elevated levels of congestion and has been of increasing concern to this Service. If this pollutant should exceed an annual mean of 40μg/m3, as set by the European directives, this Council shall be required to submit a detailed assessment to the department for environment food and rural affairs (DEFRA). If it is identified that the directives are not being complied with, this Council may be required to implement an air quality management area (AQMA).

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.

This Service agrees with the design and access statement that this particular area is well connected for business, boasting “direct usage of the A130, which heads north to the A13 and west towards the M25 and London”, however the current road infrastructure, particularly those leading onto and off of the island cannot facilitate traffic movements which would not have a detrimental impact on the local air quality.

This Service would like to state that it is supportive of sensible and sustainable development and advocates business within its borough, however this cannot be at the cost to health of its residents.

Concerns raised in Parliament and across the UK on Air Quality following our parting with the EU will have little consequence to those decision makers at Castle Point council.

There decisions will though impact upon the Health of Canvey Islanders!

MP’s warn of UK “Poisonous Air” Emergency

MPs have demanded an end to the UK’s “poisonous air” in an unprecedented report from four Commons committees.
The Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees want a new Clean Air Act, and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry.
They are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars – currently set for 2040.
The government said air pollution had improved significantly since 2010 but there was “more to do”.
MPs have been frustrated by the response from ministers, who have promised to publish a comprehensive clean air strategy later this year.
Their report says: “Air pollution is a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20bn annually.
“It is unacceptable that successive governments have failed to protect the public from poisonous air.
UK air pollutants continue decline
Government loses clean air court case
Reality Check: Are diesel cars always the most harmful?
“Despite a series of court cases, the government has still not produced a plan that adequately addresses the scale of the challenge. Nor has it demonstrated the national leadership needed.”
The report – the first time that four committees are thought to have collaborated – urges the Treasury to take greater account of the costs of air pollution when setting tax and spend policy, after tax changes by the former Chancellor George Osborne left a Porsche driver paying the same tax as the owner of a low-pollution Prius.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told BBC News that a clear air fund worth £220m had already been set up by government, paid for by changes to vehicle taxation.
“In addition, vehicle manufacturers are funding scrappage schemes to get the older vehicles off the road,” Mike Hawes said. “Other sectors must also play their part in improving air quality.”
The government has called for evidence on pollution from other sources such as wood stoves, coal fires and smokeless fuel. It is also looking at the use of cheap agricultural red diesel in food delivery vans.
‘Mis-sold’
But Greenpeace said the car industry could not continue to be allowed to “shake off its responsibility” for the pollution crisis the UK was facing.
“The public was missold highly polluting diesel cars by manufacturers who knew road emissions were many times higher than in the lab,” said its senior political adviser Rosie Rogers.
“It’s high time manufacturers felt the heat, and contributing to a clean air fund is a good start.”
Consumer products ‘affecting air quality’
London’s January air ‘best in 10 years’
Scrutiny over wood and coal fires
The government’s long-term target of abolishing cars driven only by petrol and diesel by 2040 is regarded by environment groups as a red herring. They point out that India has made the same pledge – but for 2030.
It is most unlikely, they say, that manufacturers will still be making UK cars deemed unfit to drive on India’s roads after 2030.
The chair of the Environment select committee, Neil Parish, told the BBC government should work with councils to tackle pollution hotspots where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels are breached, some of which are very small.

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

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Persimmon approach the First Hurdle for Canvey Island’s Dutch Village Green Belt Development! CPBC Censorship!

Persimmon have Housing Development plans for Canvey Island. However they appear happy to play the Long Game.

Plans have been registered with Castle Point Council for Stables for 3 Horses at the Dutch Village. This will include the “Change of Use of Land” as it is Green Belt.

Their Application stresses the stables will be “Built Development”.

We have covered this in a previous blog post HERE.

For those concerned or wishing to make comment we thought it might be helpful to make public our Grounds for Objection as registered with Castle Point Council, these should be visible below for you to see:-

cpbc

Runnymede Towers

Please be advised WE DON’T HAVE TO MAKE COMMENTS VISIBLE TO OTHER RESIDENTS on  the Castle Point website. This may be due to us not wanting others to know what Residents think or just us choosing to Censor information.

Anyway we don’t care, cos the legislation says we don’t have to! Editor.

“As prescribed in article 15 of the Development Management Procedure Order, local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation, prior to deciding a planning application. There is however, as you correctly stated, no legislative requirements for any comments received as part of that consultation to be available to view online.

The Castle Point website does however show the number of comments that have been received on any application so the level of public interest can be clearly identified. We are not alone in this approach, it is commonly adopted by a number of authorities, our neighbouring authority of Basildon being one such example.

We have been working in this way for some time now and we certainly have no evidence to suggest that this is in anyway deterring people from commenting. Indeed we have an application which is currently open for consultation that has received 135 comments to date, demonstrating I believe that the community remain fully engaged in the process.

Planning guidance states that officer’s reports should include the ‘substance of any objections, contain technical appraisals which clearly justify the recommendation and should have a written recommendation for the decision to be made’.

Comments received in respect of a planning application can only be considered if they are, what is commonly known as, ‘material planning considerations’. Comments which are not material cannot be considered in the determining of a planning application and any such comments will not therefore be referenced in a report by an officer nor should they be considered by members at Committee.

The information you have appended below your email is indeed an ‘extract’ from a much longer report however I should point out that it omits to make reference to the consideration of all relevant objections in more detail throughout the body of the report, which more fully explain how the objections have been considered against planning policies and guidance.

Development Control Committee can, and often do, make a decision which is different from the officer recommendation and this will often reflect a difference in the assessment of how a policy has been complied with, or different weight ascribed to relevant matters.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Regards, Castle Point Borough Council”

Are Castle Point Councillors booked in for Castration? Are Nimby’s going into Extinction alongside Dinosaurs? CPBC Planning, 2018 version!

With Castle Point council indicating no Development Control meeting scheduled for March 2018 and confusion over the April meeting, there could be an indication that all is not well where Planning is concerned at our local authority!

Housing

Luckily our local newspaper, the Echo, has not picked up on this as cpbc may well have been made to reveal some difficult reasoning as to, not only, what is behind these meetings being cancelled, but also why Residents involvement in the Planning Process is being censored!  (see the link HERE.)

Clearly there is a move to apply a level of Autocratic control over planning in Castle Point, whether this has come from instruction from the Government department or the back offices of Runnymede Towers, we await answers!

There is either plotting being undertaken to prevent Government Intervention in Castle Point council, and / or the cpbc Development Control committee are seen by the cpbc officers as being the Root of the Problem!

Previously the Regional Spatial Strategies were the root of all problems where Housing Need numbers were concerned, causing Castle Point council to put forward Canvey Island Green Belt as the only sites that should be unconstrained by the GB policy!

Now it appears that the Joint Spatial Plan, supposedly emerging via the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA), is the New Driver behind the next New Local Plan.

However this appears less Open and Transparent, as little feedback from meetings and works carried out is made public.

Is it a case of if our representatives are cut out of the equation and work is carried out by officers and the Leader and his close colleagues, more planning is likely to be Approved and successful in Castle Point?

Where you might ask, the ECHO, and our local representatives, is the Castle Point council response to the Government threat of Intervention that was due to be delivered by the end of January?

In November 2017 Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State wrote to Castle Point Council to instruct:-

“The February 2017 Housing White Paper set out that we will prioritise intervention where:

* the least progress in plan-making has been made

* policies in plans had not been kept up to date

* there was higher housing pressure; and

* intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production

My decisions on intervention will also be informed by the wider planning context in each area (specifically, the extent to which authorities are working cooperatively to put strategic plans in place, and the potential impact that not having a plan has on neighbourhood planning activity).” 

Now in March 2018 Sajid Javid follows up with further pressure on local authorities with these instructions, as interpreted by the BBC News:-

“Nimby councils” in England that fail to build enough new homes, or allow them to be built, could be stripped of planning powers, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has warned.
Councils will be told how many homes a year must be built and inspectors will step in if that does not happen.
Mr Javid told the Sunday Times he would be “breathing down” the necks of local authorities to ensure targets are met.
However, Labour accused the government of “eight years of failure on housing”.
On Monday, the government will announce an overhaul of planning rules in an attempt to increase the rate of house building in England.
‘Market prices’
A new planning policy framework will contain new rules to determine how many homes councils must build – taking into account local house prices, wages and key worker numbers.
Higher targets will be set for areas where house prices outstrip annual earnings.
House price calculator: Where can I afford to rent or buy?
Your biggest financial decision – in charts
Reality Check: How does renting a home in the UK compare?
“For the first time it will explicitly take into account the market prices,” Mr Javid told the Sunday Times.
“If you are in an area where the unaffordability ratio is much higher you will have to build even more. It will make clear to councils that this number is a minimum, not a maximum.”
He said councils would also be held to account on house-building promises they make.
Mr Javid said councils that fail to meet targets will be stripped of the right to decide what is built within their boundaries, with inspectors making decisions instead.

Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the government would “release more public sector land” to facilitate more building of homes.
She added: “We’re saying to councils you’ve got to take local communities into account, you’ve got to ensure you’ve got a proper plan for your local area. If you haven’t got it the government will intervene.”
Nimby – short for “not in my backyard” – is a term that originated in the US but became popular in the UK from the 1980s to describe people who routinely object to any proposed development near their homes that might affect property values.
It is not often applied to towns or councils as a whole but Mr Javid said his new rules were designed to stop “Nimby councils that don’t really want to build the homes their local community needs” from fudging the numbers in their area.
“We have a housing crisis in this country. We need a housing revolution,” he added.
Mr Javid also revealed plans to build up to five new towns between Oxford and Cambridge.
“Along that corridor there’s an opportunity to build at least four or five garden towns and villages with thousands of homes,” he added.

Castle Point Council, their need to display Openness and Transparency Failure and how to Discourage Residents Participation!

Now I know a lot of people, both of Canvey Island and the mainland, take very little interest in the day to day affairs of castle point council.

But when they do, they like to think that their issues and points of view are given some respect and consideration.

cpbc

Runnymede Towers

Of late there has been a decision made to change the council’s Planning Procedure. This has involved the authority’s control of the Planning website.

Officers have decided to not publish comments or notice of petition of objection, or general comment in the list of documents.

We believe this will have a discouraging effect upon residents who are affected by local development, whether housing or business.

So now, only the developers paperwork and drawings and the agency consultees, such as Environment Agency and highways etc, are the only comments considered worthy of making public.

We believe that castle point borough council have a duty to embrace localism, and to actively display openness and transparency through their work.

We thought this important to challenge, as this will affect every resident at some time or another.

We wrote to the castle point borough council chief executive, the Leaders of both political parties and the Development Committee Chairman;

Dear Development Committee Chairman,

In your capacity as Development Committee Chairman.
We have noted that it appears that a decision has been taken to not publish, comments and objections raised by the community on planning proposals, on the cpbc website planning portal.
This is concerning, as residents may feel that no interest, or concern, is being indicated over a particular Planning Application. This in turn may well deter objection being raised or general comments being entered, through self-doubt or embarrassment that points of concern may be irrelevant.
This appears to amount to cpbc seeking to discourage community engagement with residents in local planning matters and of not acting transparently.
Generally the time to comment on planning proposals is early on in the planning process. Comments posted on the cpbc planning portal, offer committee members adequate time to view, at their own convenience, relevant community points raised, and to judge the level of public concern and feeling, so as to prepare themselves if any of the residents points were of enough weight to be considered important when it came to decision making.
Currently it appears that residents comments are severely edited and condensed into a clinical form and presented via Agenda paperwork in a 3rd hand fashion. Worse still officers, whilst we acknowledge that they should address issues raised, indicate their opinion directly following in the agenda paperwork, almost discouraging members from giving issues raised by residents any weight.
In fairness we have copied in below the very latest proposal brought before the committee.
Disregarding the merits of the proposal, the community comments are condensed into the following text. No indication of the strength of opinion, nor numbers commenting.
We believe the practise of withholding community comments from the website, whilst no doubt legally permissible, is a form of censorship, fundamentally in conflict with localism, and as such a matter that should be discouraged and urgently be reconsidered by council members.
Would you please consider this through the cpbc official complaints procedure.
Regards,
Representatives of; Friends of Bowers Road, Jotmans Farm group, Canvey Green Belt Campaign.

Example of Current cpbc Practise:
Agenda paperwork extract
Public Consultation
Neighbour notification and site notices – letters of objection and a petition have been received covering the following points:
o Overlooking of nearby properties
o Parking at the rear of adjoining gardens
o Additional on-street parking
o Restricted width of access, unsuitable for large vehicles
o Loss of parking for adjacent commercial unit
o Additional traffic
o Rise in crime/antisocial behaviour
o Smells or nuisance from vermin from bin store especially as bins are emptied fortnightly
o Insufficient capacity in the service road due to the need for vehicles to service commercial premises on London Road o Is there a business case for the development?
o Does the proposal represent best value for the council?
o Possible closure of access while services are laid o There may be more suitable sites for the development
Comments on Consultation Responses
o Concern over crime and antisocial behaviour are based on unfounded assumptions about the behaviour of the future occupants of the building.
o The applicant has been questioned about the loss of a parking space for 122 London Road. Their response is: “To our knowledge there is no loss of parking. We understand there is a garage used by 122 London Road and the development will not inhibit access to that garage. If the owner was previously parking on council owned land outside that garage then he or she was doing so without permission from the council.”
o The conditions suggested by the highway authority will be incorporated into any grant of planning permission where reasonable and necessary o Any other planning matters are dealt with in the evaluation of the proposal

And the official response from castle point borough council read;-

Good afternoon and thank you for your email.
As prescribed in article 15 of the Development Management Procedure Order, local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation, prior to deciding a planning application. There is however, as you correctly stated, no legislative requirements for any comments received as part of that consultation to be available to view online.

The Castle Point website does however show the number of comments that have been received on any application so the level of public interest can be clearly identified. We are not alone in this approach, it is commonly adopted by a number of authorities, our neighbouring authority of Basildon being one such example.

We have been working in this way for some time now and we certainly have no evidence to suggest that this is in anyway deterring people from commenting. Indeed we have an application which is currently open for consultation that has received 135 comments to date, demonstrating I believe that the community remain fully engaged in the process.

Planning guidance states that officer’s reports should include the ‘substance of any objections, contain technical appraisals which clearly justify the recommendation and should have a written recommendation for the decision to be made’.

Comments received in respect of a planning application can only be considered if they are, what is commonly known as, ‘material planning considerations’. Comments which are not material cannot be considered in the determining of a planning application and any such comments will not therefore be referenced in a report by an officer nor should they be considered by members at Committee.

The information you have appended below your email is indeed an ‘extract’ from a much longer report however I should point out that it omits to make reference to the consideration of all relevant objections in more detail throughout the body of the report, which more fully explain how the objections have been considered against planning policies and guidance.

Development Control Committee can, and often do, make a decision which is different from the officer recommendation and this will often reflect a difference in the assessment of how a policy has been complied with, or different weight ascribed to relevant matters.

Thank you again for contacting us.
Regards
Diane Logue LLB (Hons)
Transformation Manager (Planning)

Photograph: jobs.planningresource.co.uk

Canvey Dutch Village Green Belt under Fire, yet Again! The Cowboys set to take advantage – More Canvey Island Development by Stealth? Jotmans Farm beware!

In a crude attempt to negate supposedly protected Green Belt land on Canvey Island, a Planning Proposal has been received by Castle Point planners!

Persimmon, withdrew their long standing proposal to develop 300 dwellings on the Canvey Dutch Village, now a new proposal is shown as being received.

This time, no doubt an interim measure, for an equine facility, we assume in the current local climate as a move towards their real desire to develop over, the Dutch Village Green Belt site.

18/0118/FUL | Erection of stable block with adjoining hay storage/tack room and associated landscaping. Formation of access track together with the change of use of land for the keeping of horses. Installation of width restriction barrier to discourage unauthorised motorcycle access and main entrance gate alterations. | Land East Of Canvey Road And South Of Great Russell Head Farm Canvey Island Essex

The timing could not have been better, whilst Castle Point council remain under threat of Intervention from the Government Secretary of State, due to the failure of the Local Plan Duty to Cooperate requirement and the subsequent  withdrawal of the latest version of the cpbc Local Plan!

CPBC’s gamble to play with technicalities by differentiating between Green Belt and previously developed Green Belt will be tested, at Canvey Island’s expense.

The site served up to save mainland Green Belt, the Blinking Owl site, is not considered deliverable within Local Plan terms. So, the more previously developed Green Belt land in the Island part of the borough, the less required to be found elsewhere in councillors eyes.

Additionally it will be interesting to learn how this proposal for equine use can be Rejected, as a very similar application was granted in the Green Belt, by the Castle Point development committee, for Canvey west ward councillor J.King in January 2017!

cpbc officers applied the following logic, so as to overcome the Special Circumstances to allow development in this instance;

Sluice farm, Haven Road. 16/0433/FUL

“The Planning Authority defines a ‘very special circumstance’ as one which is unique to the site or, at the very least, incapable of frequent repetition. Very special circumstances need not be a single matter, but may result from a combination of matters which individually may not be considered very special, but which in combination, when viewed objectively, may be identified as very special.
Whilst the proposal will result in inappropriate development in the Green Belt which will have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt, suggesting that permission for the proposal should be withheld, the NPPF openly encourages the provision of opportunities for outdoor recreation, improved biodiversity and improved landscape. The proposal will provide opportunities for countryside recreation which would be consistent with the Government objective of seeking to provide positive uses within the established Green Belt.
It is considered that this factor, coupled with the limited harm to the strategic function, character and appearance of the Green Belt provide very special circumstances which weigh in favour of the proposed development.”

At the time, we were bewildered by the development committee’s eagerness to apply this logic, but……..

In contrast, where the supply of Housing is concerned, as in the Jotmans case, the Secretary of State concluded;

“The Secretary of State has considered carefully whether these considerations amount to very special circumstances which clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm. The Secretary of State has taken into account the extremely low housing land supply, and the withdrawal of the dNLP. This increases uncertainty about the future delivery of housing. He has also taken into account the Written Ministerial Statement confirming the Government’s policy that ‘subject to the best interests of the child, personal circumstances and unmet need are unlikely to clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances’.”

You can see the obvious danger where cpbc are concerned, apparently the provision of Stabling for Horses provide the Very Special Circumstances necessary to permit green Belt Release, whilst the provision of allegedly much needed Housing, in a borough with a chronic under supply of housing, doesn’t!

Or is it simply a case of Canvey Green Belt requiring a different level of Special Circumstances? We will be interested to learn the position our representatives will adopt and their logic in doing so.

We can imagine the wringing of hands and the apologetic faces, whilst they state that their hands are tied and that they can only consider the application before them!

Who knows the Canvey equine Green Belt proposal may be a ploy by Persimmon, so that when they resurrect their Jotmans Farm proposal, as they most certainly will, they will then be able to suggest that with a new equine facility on Canvey, there will be an abundance of equine stabling and facilities in this part of Castle Point. Jotmns Farm campaigners be warned!

It appears  however that for now, the Castle Point cowboys may be getting themselves a new Ranch!

“The Natives are restless, and seem desirous of fighting”, The question is, or are they?

640px-Buffalo_bill_wild_west_show_c1899

Image: Courier Litho. Co., Buffalo, N.Y.

We Must Build on Canvey Island in the interests of Sustainability, regardless of no future plan to Care for those made Homeless! And Inside Housing Report on Thorney Bay.

Soon Castle Point Council may well be faced with a Housing problem. One that has not been publically discussed, but nevertheless will one day soon need to be addressed. One that is out of the local authority’s ability to address or control.

Thorney Bay is “Home” to many people and families who, through no fault of their own, are in need of decent living accommodation.

Thorney Bay Beach Camp, Canvey Island, Essex

copyright Jason Hawkes

Some families may have been relocated to Canvey Island from distant areas, and now consider Canvey AND Castle Point their home.

Castle Point Council point out;

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement. To this extent the proposal does therefore have sustainability benefits. However, it must also be remembered that at the present time the site is occupied by park homes. These are single storey, relatively lightweight structures, which would offer little resistance to flood waters. The replacement of these structures with robust brick buildings, incorporating flood resilience measures and providing safe refuge in the event of a flood is considered to represent a significant sustainability benefit which far outweighs flood risk. In risk terms the proposal is considered to offer significant benefits for occupiers of the site”.

So as far as the “No Threat from Tidal Flooding” brigade are concerned, CPBC are also, it appears scare-mongerers! Or at least they are when it suits them!!

How kind of them to consider that they are compelled to continue developing on Canvey, for our own benefit!!!

Never mind that the increased Population and Property at Risk on the Island may have less sustainability benefits, and indeed may cause Economic Blight!

The substantial Land Raising that has been carried out on the Thorney Bay site, appears to be of little or no concern of Castle Point Council, this despite the implications for off-site Flood Risk, both from Tidal and Surface Water sources, to neighbouring properties in the Thorney Bay area!

Currently Thorney Bay has been identified in “recent” draft editions of their Local Plan as being allocated for Housing development of in excess of 600 dwellings.

Permission has been levered through,by CPBC development committee,  for a first phase of 89 Detached Dwellings plus 24 Flats.

Surprisingly, or perhaps Not, prior to any “bricks and mortar” dwellings, which would offer more “resistance to flood waters”, the site owners are going ahead with installing a new Park Home estate.

A Park Homes development at Thorney Bay, or Sandy Bay, presumably will side step the “agreed” requirements for the developer to provide;

affordable housing, £241 per Resident Dwelling towards the provision of adult social care, £73,774 per 100 Residential Dwellings towards post sixteen education services, £97.42 per Residential Dwelling towards adult education services, Net Early Years and Childcare Pupil Product contribution, £281.48 per Residential Dwelling towards the County’s library services on Canvey Island, additional access onto Thorney Bay Road in the form of a roundabout junction and access road, this Schedule requiring the Developer and Owner to transfer free from incumbrances the Roscommon Way Phase 2 Land to the County or the County’s Nominee, the provision of a 19m undeveloped and unfettered development protection zone, measured from the landward toe of the existing tidal defences and the financial contribution of £100,000 Index Linked towards the capital construction costs of the first phase of tidal defence improvements required by c.2040. 

CPBC themselves, appear to have a very low and demeaning opinion of the current occupants of Thorney Bay, indicating no comments on the local authority’s responsibilities towards their likely re-homing requirements;

” It is considered that Thorney Bay has contributed in the region of 330 additional permanent residential homes to the overall housing provision within Castle Point in the period 2001 to 2011.”

” Due to the relatively low costs of this accommodation compared to that on offer in London, the site has been advertised there, attracting a large wave of migrants in addition to local people in need of cheap and/or quickly available accommodation. This has resulted in the rapid creation, since 2006, of a low income, vulnerable community including many families with children.”

“when compared to other local authority areas in England, Castle Point has the 2nd highest proportion of households living in caravans in 2011.

In 2001 Castle Point had the 31st highest proportion of households living in caravans.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site (Thorney Bay) for traditional homes. However, it is the intention of the owner to retain a smaller caravan park of 300 caravans for residential use towards the west of the existing site.

The Council need to consider how it will ensure that the socio-economic issues that have arisen on the larger site do not occur again on the smaller site, and also how this smaller site should be brought forward in a way that co-exists happily alongside the larger community as Holehaven Caravan Park, Kings Park and Kingsley Park do.

In this regard it is recommended that the Council work with the Thorney Bay owner to ensure that the quality of accommodation, the tenure arrangements and the pace of provision are appropriate to ensuring the health and well-being of residents and creating a more stable community.”

“Thorney Bay meanwhile, also experiences issues associated with unemployment and crime. There are also a number of young people living in income deprivation upon the site. This has long-term consequences for the ability of these children to achieve their potential, and for the community in terms of supporting an economically inactive population. “

“Thorney Bay however has wider implications for the local community and the local economy. The use of mobile homes for accommodation has acted to concentrate low income families, resulting in a concentration of unemployed people, children experiencing income deprivation and increased criminal activity. “

This issue has been picked up on by the UK’s building and development press:

Inside Housing article

Thousands of people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes.

Martin Hilditch uncovers a hidden world that raises questions about the housing benefit system.

” Leanne McGowan lives with her daughter and two sons in a three-bedroom caravan in Canvey Island. It’s a squeeze. Her three-year-old son and seven year-old daughter share, while Ms McGowan and her fourteen-year-old son sleep in the remaining rooms.

Lack of options

The kids are at school now, but their scattered playthings mean their presence is still felt – a toy gun and motorbike lie on the floor and four Teletubbies are lined up like ornaments on a shelf in one corner of the room.

Ms McGowan occupies one of hundreds of static caravans that are sandwiched between a small, sandy beach and the looming terminals of a Calor Gas plant. She’s lived on the site for two years and housing benefit covers most, but not all, of the rent. She has to pay£18 a week top-up to cover the remainder. “It ain’t easy,” she says.

She ended up on the site after the landlord of the nearby private rented home she previously lived in sold the house.

“I didn’t have a choice when I moved here,” she says, adding that she thought the move would “just be short term”. But trying to get into another house that is affordable on housing benefit has proved impossible. “I phoned up all the [lettings] agents,” she says. “They never have anything at all.”

She’s lived in the caravan ever since. “It is cramped,” she admits, saying ultimately that “I don’t think it is suitable for families to be in here.”

Sitting between two electric heaters, Ms McGowan admits that the caravan gets “ever so cold” in the winter – and keeping it warm is an expensive business. She has spent £4 on heating in less than 24 hours. In the winter months the family sometimes keeps warm by effectively living in the lounge. “We get the mattresses in here,” she says. “We sleep here sometimes, yes. I don’t mind being cold, but it’s the kids. It is like we are camping out in the front room.”

The site itself is “not a bad place to be”, says Ms McGowan, who is on a waiting list for a council home.She adds that it’s well-maintained and there’s a friendly atmosphere. “There are some nice people on here and they look after each other,” she says. “It’s nice in that respect. We are all in the same situation.”

She’s not wrong there. In fact, there are currently 268 housing benefit claims registered to addresses on the site. Research carried out by Inside Housing this year has revealed Canvey Island’s Thorney Bay Village has more housing benefit claims registered to it than any other caravan or mobile home site in the UK. Last year, £1.9m of housing benefit was paid to addresses here. Our investigation reveals that the residents of Thorney Bay Village are far from unique. In fact, we found that there are thousands of people on low incomes currently living in caravan and mobile home parks across the UK. Responses received between May and August this year reveal the 271 councils that provided information to Inside Housing made more than 12,000 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home parks in the UK – with 11,162 of these being made in England (an average of 47 claims per authority. See box: Caravan counts).

The payments, obviously,do not reveal people’s motivations for making these choices – and clearly there will be variations in quality between permanent mobile homes and holiday caravans that people are occupying permanently.Nonetheless it does reveal a significant number of people living in non-traditional housing that the majority of councils know next to nothing about. Almost everyone Inside Housing spoke to at Thorney Bay Village cited affordability as one of their central reasons for ending up on the site.

The research certainly raises some serious questions, according to Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis.

“This investigation has revealed millions of pounds of benefits being spent on keeping people incompletely substandard living conditions,” he says. “This sorry state of affairs is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit combined with the failure of a succession of governments to build enough decent, affordable homes.”

Certainly, the availability of housing benefit is driving decision-making for a number of residents living in Thorney Bay Village – and housing benefit did not even cover the full rental cost of a caravan for any of the occupants Inside Housing met. Rents ranged from £145 to £175 a week, based on the people we spoke to. One woman, who lives in a van with her young children, said she was topping up her housing benefit to cover the rent. She picked the site because“it was this or a hostel”, she adds.

Other residents are more enthusiastic. Dean Simmonds and Helen Davies live in a three-bed caravan with Ms Davies’ two children. Helen has lived there for more than four years since moving from her native Wales (and a Welsh flag hangs proudly outside the couple’s home). Their front room is the picture of domestic life, with paintings by the kids decorating the wall and photos of the children dotted around the place.

“I love it here,” Ms Davies says. “The camp is very clean all the time.” The couple’s van is spotlessly tidy, but Ms Davies admits that the festive season is more complicated when you live in a caravan. “At Christmas time you have got to think about what [presents] you’re getting because you have got to find somewhere to put it,” she says with a laugh. Ms Davies pays £18 a week top-up to cover her rent, and says she has fallen slightly into arrears as a result. A similar story is told by a couple of other residents.

Clearly the fact that housing benefit can’t even cover the cost of a static caravan – when people on low incomes are choosing to live there because they are seen as the most affordable option locally – raises its own questions. Like Mr Downie, a spokesperson for Castle Point Council points a finger at the housing benefit system. The council is currently making 468 housing benefit payments to addresses on caravan and mobile home sites – more than any other local authority in the UK.

Thorney Bay’s caravanners’ struggles to cover the rent from housing benefit “is not unique to Thorney Bay”, the spokesperson suggests. “This is the story behind the majority of housing benefit cases within the private sector, where housing benefit is based on Local Housing Allowance rent levels, which do not reflect the increase year-on-year of the private rental market.”

Gathering evidence

Other councils have been investigating their caravan and mobile home populations too in recent years. In 2014, Folkestone Council found“emerging evidence from around the district that some residents are occupying holiday-let caravans as their main or sole home”. It found 45 occupants in receipt of housing benefit from holiday-let caravans. Denbighshire Council estimated that “175 individuals in the county were living all year round in‘holiday’ caravans.”

Some sites are marketing caravans specifically as a solution for people on low incomes. A post earlier this year on spareroom.co.uk advertised caravans in Greetham, Rutland for £90,stating that “DSS is welcome” and people could move into “not just a room – a full caravan to yourself at room rates”. And Falcon Mobile Homes makes an explicit pitch on Facebook to people on low incomes, asking: “Are you receiving housing benefit? If so you can rent one of our static caravans”.

Posts on property websites provide a snapshot into the lives of some people looking for or living in caravans. One 47-year-old man posting on Gumtree says he and his dog“desperately need a home as we have become homeless” and is looking for a flat,a house or a caravan. Other people are looking to move out of vans. One woman posts on behalf of her mother saying she is “currently sofa surfing from my house to a crabby broken caravan” and is “in desperate need of a home so she can have my brother live with her again”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions says it has “no evidence that use of this type of accommodation is increasing or that there is any link to welfare reform”.

While many councils appear to have little idea about the extent to which people are living permanently in caravans and mobile homes in their areas, some local authorities have carried out specific pieces of research – presenting them with an unanticipated windfall.

East Lindsey Council, for example, launched a review at the end of 2014 into the occupation of caravan/chalet sites and said residents had raised concerns about “breaches of occupancy at caravan sites”.

The results of East Lindsey’s research took it by surprise. It uncovered 502 residents living in mobile homes or caravans. In turn, the council effectively suggests the work has brought 502 “new” homes into use. This has led it to claim New Homes Bonus– the grant paid by the government to councils to reflect and incentivise housing growth in their areas.

Since the review was started it has successfully claimed £605,000 of New Homes Bonus for these properties, according to a council spokesperson. It’s not alone; a company called Mobile Homes Review claimed it has generated £4.2m in additional New Homes Bonus funding in 2014 by registering 700 mobile homes in seven local authority areas.

Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association, stresses that more research is needed to find out if claims were being made from high-quality residential parks (that look like “lovely bungalows”) or holiday accommodation.“Residential parks are an enormous form of low-cost market housing,” she adds.

Nevertheless, the scale of housing benefit payments uncovered by Inside Housing’s investigation suggests that more research should be carried out by councils and the government into the reasons people on low incomes are choosing to live in caravans and mobile homes – and the quality of the accommodation available to them.

Back at Thorney Bay Village, we meet Paul Birch and his husband Tom. They moved to the site after becoming homeless and had previously lived in a transit van for a month. The unpacked removal boxes in the corner of their room reveal the couple don’t see this as their permanent home. They have been on the site for the past year –and say winter is the worst time.

“The winter was hell,” Mr Birch states. “It is like a fridge.” His husband says they spent £35 a week on heating the van last winter. Both are looking forward to the future – as the removal boxes indicate. “As soon as we move out, hopefully it will be onwards and upwards,” Mr Birch says.”

Hypocrisy, the Use of Substitutes, a Deciding Vote and a Divided Borough? Sequentially Unsound!

It appeared that what can only be described as a level of Hypocrisy was displayed by certain Castle Point Development Committee members towards a view suggested by the opposition group at the 5th September’s meeting!

The suggestion appeared that Canvey was, put simplistically, being targeted for development so as to protect the mainland areas. It was expressed that Canvey should not be portrayed as an individual area, rather than an equal part of the whole Borough of Castle Point.

However the whole basis of the Flood Risk Sequential Test, as interpreted by Castle Point Council, is to treat Canvey Island in isolation!

“it is considered that continued development is necessary in order that the settlement of Canvey can continue to thrive economically and socially.”

” Canvey needs continued development if it is to continue to thrive economically. A lack of housebuilding on the island could mean that the island stagnates in economic terms which is likely to affect opportunities for employment. “

Indeed the Thorney Bay proposal for 600+ dwellings  was subject to a CPBC Planning Policy statement stating that “the site was identified as having the potential to contribute towards the 5 Year Housing Supply (of the Borough)”!

Regardless of the application being considered, whether for a single unit or a proposal for over 600 dwellings on Canvey Island, it is fairly clear that using this interpretation of the Sequential Test to support development proposals, there is no likelihood of any planning proposal Failing the Test!

It is a convenient and flimsy argument to accuse Islanders of focussing on cpbc’s apparent approach to Canvey development, whilst the Sequential Test is used to do precisely that!

It should be of concern, that since Canvey land was designated for the use of Housing in the 1998 Local Plan, and that since the Sequential Test approach towards its application on Canvey development proposals was adopted by CPBC in 2007, these events have occurred and these Reports have been published;

  • The Pitt Review-Learning Lessons from the 2007 floods. (Published 2008) !!!
  • The CPBC Strategic Flood Risk Assessment published in 2010. (In itself due an Update.)
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2013.
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2014.
  • Government Office for Science – Canvey Island Section 19 Report
  • The requested Drainage Improvement / Upgrade funding has not materialised.
  • We learned that the land on Canvey Island has a High Water Table, subject to influence by the Tidal Water encroaching Under the Sea Defences. (Land East of Canvey Road document).
  • The Integrated Urban Drainage Study was published, which challenged the credibility of the CPBC Surface Water Management Plan published 2012.

Quite clearly the Castle Point Council approach to the application of the Sequential Test on Canvey Island in isolation, is Obsolete and Unjustified!

Attenuation Tanks were discussed as a means of a suitable drainage system. Had the committee not considered that Canvey has a High Water Table, now known to be subject to Tidal influence? In this case the Tank would be sunk into the application site property, how efficient would this system of drainage be?

Photo Police helicopter 2014

The focus of the drainage system needs to be to prevent off-site flooding of neighbouring property and land. Without going through the exercise of producing a Practical Model on Canvey island and monitoring over an extended period councillors should not be in a position to simply go by unsubstantiated opinion in their decision making!

Whilst the protection of Green Belt, which is admirable, is at the forefront of councillors minds, it must be borne in mind that Paragraph 14 of the national Planning Policy Framework contains Footnote 9, which indicates;

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

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.

Whilst this specifically relates to Plan making, it is clear that, if the concern is present amongst decision makers development in a Flood Zone and in a Critical Drainage Area, in which Canvey Island falls into both categories, caution should be the operative position to adopt.

Residents suffering the Canvey Island Flooding of 2013 and 2014 may well feel appalled at the rigid Rejection of development applications on Green Belt, whilst a less than cautious approach appears to be adopted where Flood Risk is concerned, by certain cpbc development committee members.

The cpbc officer appeared unaware that the whole of Canvey Island is a Critical Drainage Area.

The questionable use of Substitute councillors to replace two absentees at the meeting, bearing in mind the technical issues highlighted in this planning proposal, proved to be decisive, as 1 voted to Approve and 1 voted to Abstain.

With the votes recorded as 5 to Approve and 5 Against, with 2 Abstentions, the Chairman chose to use his Casting Vote, and consequently rather than holding further deliberations on the subjects contained within this post and others not mentioned, the Application was Approved!