The concept of Canvey Island forming its own Neighbourhood Plan was inevitably rejected by the Canvey Island Town Council during a meeting last evening.
The proposal for the Motion was suggested, formally by the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group during early February this year, having verbally requested a councillor to propose the idea some 3 years previous.
Town councillors agreed that if the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan had come before them 8 years or so ago, there may have been an opportunity to form a useful Neighbourhood Plan. (?)
During the Town Council meeting, ahead of the debate, we put forward a short text of some of the possible benefits a Neighbourhood Plan might achieve, this read;
” 1. Many councillors consider that the Castle Point Local Plan is doomed to failure.
The Government have said that “In cases where no Local Plan has been produced by early 2017, we will intervene to arrange for the Plan to be written.”
Should this become the position with Castle Point, the supporting evidence may mean that an Inspector would revert to the previous Draft Local Plan, which proposed even more development for Canvey Island.
If this was to be the case, a Canvey Island Neighbourhood Plan, would stand as evidence of the issues facing the Island, as seen by Canvey people, rather than issues perceived by others in the Borough.
2. Admittedly a Neighbourhood Plan would not reverse development approvals. But it could challenge their suitability and viability. It could even offer evidence towards stipulating an appropriate Annual Rate of Housing Delivery, in light of the infrastructure issues facing Canvey.
I believe the rate of Housing delivery is probably the most contentious issue with the Local Plan.
3. English Heritage have issued guidance on Neighbourhood Plans. They state: “By its very nature local heritage is valued by its community and therefore it is important for it to be protected at the most local level. Including heritage in your Neighbourhood Plan can help protect those areas which are valued locally and ensure that they remain in productive use where appropriate. It may help to ensure that potential new development is properly integrated with what is already there and does not result in the loss of local distinctiveness.”
“Policies you include in the Neighbourhood Plan should be based on information on how a place has developed and evolved. This could include a description of the historic character of the area, as well as identifying conservation areas, or local heritage assets.”
There maybe the potential, within a Canvey Plan, to create a heritage area at Canvey Village and to provide some protection to the King Canute building, in a way similar to that at Benfleet around St.Mary’s church and the Hoy and Helmet pub.
4. An Inspector considering the Castle Point Local Plan will not himself make Housing site choices.
The current Local Plan rejects Persimmons proposals for the Dutch Village, a Canvey Neighbourhood Plan could endorse the “no development on Green belt” policy.
5. An Inspector examining the Castle Point Local Plan, will read and hear what Castle Point council have planned for Canvey Island. He may also read some residents objections.
He will not have available what the residents of Canvey would prefer to have planned for our Island.
A Neighbourhood Plan, even in an early stage, and despite the cost and effort involved, is the only means Canvey residents have of shaping and influencing the Island’s future. “
Canvey Town councillors were concerned that development sites included within the Castle Point Council (CPBC) Local Plan, could not be opposed or rejected, leaving little value in producing a Plan.
Councillors believed that the CPBC Local Plan2016 would fail and this would give them an opportunity to put forward their opposition to more development on Canvey via an Inquiry.
However, on checking the Local Plan 2016 planning portal, a submission in the name of Canvey Island Town Council, Elaine De Can is recorded as;
Soundness Q2) Do you consider the Local Plan is sound?
Soundness Modifications Do you seek to make modification(s) to make the Local Plan Sound?
Without any accompanying submission evidence it is hard to imagine an invitation to attend a Local Plan Examination would be naturally forthcoming.
The name of the organisation, Canvey Island Town Council (CITC), should carry enough weight for an invite to be extended, but the inevitably obvious question of the Examining Inspector could be, why has such an organisation not gone to the effort of entering into its own Plan making process?
Having personally sat through a Local Plan Examination in Public it would appear unreasonable for the Inquiry’s Planning Inspector to be expected to make notes of all of CITC’s challenge to the Local Plan, whilst constraints on development are suggested verbally.
Confidence was suggested that the Canvey Green Belt Campaign and others would appear at the CPBC Local Plan’s Examination to support a Canvey view of issues. As a group we have submitted a 76 Page Document, however fully committing to attendance and participation in the Local Plan’s Examination in Public is a huge undertaking in time and effort!
During the Town Council meeting views were expressed by members that the CPBC Local Plan 2016 would be rejected, the Government would intervene and an Inspector along with Castle Point officers would create a Local Plan. We feel that if this were to be the case a new Plan would be along the lines of the previous draft New Local Plan which received such great opposition from residents across the Borough.
The draft New Local Plan included even more development, and Green belt at that, on Canvey Island than the latest version, Local Plan 2016. The Town councillors felt that if this were to be the case, Canvey Green Belt would only come forward after 20 years or so as there is ample mainland green belt available ahead of areas within a flood zone. This suggested some inevitability about the levels of development forecast for the future on Canvey Island, and a blow to the no-development on Green Belt policy.
A Town Council member suggested that if the Government were to step in following the expected failure of the CPBC Local Plan 2016, Canvey Town Council would need to have a comprehensive document ready for submission by that stage.
Not however a Canvey Neighbourhood Plan!
Despite this, our view remains that our points of issue with the CPBC Local Plan 2016 would be far, far better represented by a positive document, in the form of a Canvey Island Plan.
Given the size of Canvey’s population and the unique issues that the Island faces a Canvey Plan is essential.
Here we will have to agree to disagree with our Town Council.
In the end there was no appetite for the work, and expense involved in forming a Canvey Neighbourhood Plan, and the idea was unanimously rejected by our councillors, 7 votes – Zero!
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”