Tag Archives: Flats

Canvey Island, Congestion – Lack of Infrastructure – Business, Retail + Housing Development and a Couldn’t Care Less attitude to Parking Provision!

For Canvey Islanders the daily commute, whether by car or public transport, can be, to put it politely, “challenging”! Castle Point Council will tell you that it is the same across the whole Borough.

As we are all aware there is pressure to supply yet more and more Housing development. This will inevitably add to the problem.

One would have thought that, CPBC would have adopted a strategy by now, especially over the extended period taken to arrive at a 3 times rejected Local Plan, that would at least start to address the congestion problem.

But no, where Canvey Island is concerned, the Town Centre Regeneration scheme has been ignored and dismissed where convenient to CPBC! The old Nat West building and neighbouring property, identified as space for road realignment is set to become a community centre and bakery, with new development adjoining.

More concerning however, is the lack of correlation between, new Builds and the accompanying Car Parking spaces, and the major Business and Retail Parks receiving all being Approved on the Island!

These planning proposals all due to impose a Negative Impact on Canvey Island’s Car Parking and Road Network, despite the fine words included within the Local Plan 2018.

The Castle Point Borough Council Emerging Local Plan proposed Policies that seeks “Opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport are pursued; The environmental impact of traffic and transport infrastructure is taken into account; and Movement, streets and parking are integrated into designs”

The Emerging Local Plan recognises “Many of the main routes within the borough are single carriageway roads with little prospect for widening due to the proximity of existing development. This also limits the potential to provide dedicated passenger transport routes and cycleways” “Castle Point is peripheral on the bus service network and whilst there are good services during the day on most routes, service frequency is not as good in the evenings and on Sundays.”” The cycle network within Castle Point is limited, and where it does exist it is disjointed and poorly maintained.”

The New Out of Town Retail / Business sites will not only be to the detriment of the Canvey Town Centre but also intensify the Congestion heading towards and from Canvey West. However, almost every Flatted development Approved on Canvey, has a shortfall of Car Parking Spaces, officers suggesting that isn’t their concern as Town centre Flats benefit from facilities being nearby and benefit from regular public transport!

Equally there is a consistency with the Approved Retail / Business sites, that they to, when residents and mainlanders arrive, will also have a Shortfall of Car Parking Spaces!

Below are a few examples indicating the Castle Point Council’s Planning officers and committee approach to the issues of Car Parking and new Housing Development and Retail / Business development.

Spot the Connections!

King Canute Flats, Vetenary practice and CO OP store.

“The proposed car park…..would result in a significant level of harmful conflict… between the 3 independent uses, adversely affecting the ease of movement within the site, and if approved, likely to accumulate in the displacement of the residential occupiers vehicles onto Edith road, to the detriment of safety and traffic flows,”

The Flats “attract a requirement of two parking spaces” each…. “the provision of 3 spaces (in total) would appear to represent a deficiency, however….””where Flats will have easy access to the bus network…” “the parking provision is considered satisfactory.”

“With regard to the retail element” the area of floor space results” in a maximum requirement of 25 parking spaces.”

The retail element is provided with some 13 parking spaces.” Recommended for Approval and subsequently Approved by Committee.

…………………………………………..

125 – 127 High Street Canvey Island. 14 x 2 Bedroom Flats

“ The currently adopted parking standards published by ECC require the provision of two spaces per property. Within Town Centres this may be reduced.”

“The site is remote from the core of the Town Centre…”

“Visitor parking should be provided at a rate of 0.25 spaces per dwelling.”

“Application of parking standards generates a requirement of 32 parking spaces.”

“The proposal would provide 15 spaces and should therefore attract a recommendation of Refusal.” Approved on Appeal

…………………………………………

Canvey Supply Ltd 74 High Street Canvey Island  16/0212/OUT

The scheme would provide 24 car parking spaces and 32 cycle parking spaces to serve the needs of the residential development and 4 spaces to serve the shops.

The maximum parking requirement for this development is as follows:

12 x 1 bed apartments 12 spaces, 12 x 2 bed apartments 24 spaces, Visitors 0.25 x 24 = 6 = 6 spaces 42 spaces parking spaces.

The proposed retail units have an area of some 268m2 and therefore attract a requirement for 14 parking spaces.

A maximum total of 56 spaces is therefore required on the site.

The proposal seeks to provide 24 residential parking spaces.

 The proposed development is deficient in parking provision and ordinarily would attract a recommendation of refusal. However, the site is located within a Town Centre where the availability of private parking and service areas is extremely limited and where access to other public car parks and public transport is available. Approved by CPBC committee.

……………………………………..

Now let’s look at our New Retail / Business developments!

Land Opposite Morrisons Northwick Road 15/0293/RES

Hotel and motor dealership. Approx. 27 Units various sizes.

This site has a total area of 7.5ha, the north of which connects to Northwick Road. The east of the site is bounded by Roscommon Way and the Morrisons site

Parking Requirement 590 Spaces. 565 Spaces to be provided. Projected Shortfall  25 Spaces.

………………………………..

Lidl foodstore 18/0868/FUL

Lidls presents itself as a local convenience retailer and therefore operates on the basis of a limited catchment area. Usually this would be a five minute drive time. However given the somewhat unique circumstances of Canvey Island, this has been extended to eight minutes in order, primarily to capture the whole of Canvey.

A significant proportion of turnover will therefore be derived from diversion from existing retailers.

 The impact of this diversion on the vitality and viability of the Centres must now be considered.

102 car parking spaces would be provided. The proposed store would attract a requirement for 149 car parking spacesShortfall of 47 Spaces.

………………………………..

Land South Of Roscommon Way Canvey Island  14/0707/OUT, Demolition of disused pumping station and construction of commercial and industrial development

7.41Ha site

The proposed Layout indicates the intention to provide 566 Parking Spaces. However the Actual Supply should be 662 a Shortfall of 96 Parking spaces.

…………………………….

Retail Site M and S, Costa, B and M, Sports Direct, Garden Centre etc

Land off Roscommon Way Canvey Island 16/0419/FUL

3.4Ha site (approx).

Approved with undersize car parking spaces, inconsistent with adopted parking standards.

The proposal should be required to provide 456 car Parking Spaces

Actual Supply 240 Parking Spaces. Just 53% of the Requirement “This deficiency would appear to represent a significant objection to be proposal.”

………………………………..

Next time you are out sitting in Traffic or wondering why people are Parking on Pavements etc, just Remember, it’s all part of somebody’s Big Plan!

Advertisements

Predetermination – Interference and Planning Matters, Castle Point Council style. The Need Outweighs the Inappropriateness in our Green Belt?

Castle Point council appear to have been rattled into some inconsistency where the Local Plan and Planning matters are concerned.

Intervention over the Local Plan appears a realistic possibility, whilst Housing Need and Green Belt concerns dominate decisions.

A follower of this Blog and of Local Issues sent in this comment;

“The Government has used the Localism Act to clarify the rules on ‘predetermination’.
These rules were developed to ensure that councillors came to council discussions – on, for example, planning applications – with an open mind.
In practice, however, these rules had been interpreted in such a way as to reduce the quality of local debate and stifle valid discussion.
In some cases councillors were warned off doing such things as campaigning, talking with constituents, or publicly expressing views on local issues, for fear of being accused of bias or facing legal challenge.
The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result.
This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate. People can elect their councillor confident in the knowledge that they will be able to act on the issues they care about and have campaigned on”.
I am not so sure that the Governments intention has become a reality, there is very little evidence that democratic debate is exercised at CPBC, particularly where planning on Canvey Island is concerned.

It will be imperative, or it should be, that a consistent approach is followed through Planning Policy, especially while the Government Chief Planner is taking a close interest in cpbc Local Plan affairs. One would expect this consistency to come from the top down.

Recently there have been two planning applications received that may hint at a less than consistent approach.

Firstly the proposal for the 57 bedroom Care Home at Canvey Way, Approved against Officer advice. Officers stated that amongst other reasons “the proposal constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt” and that “The application is presented to the Development Control Committee as the applicant is related to a Member of this Council”.

Unusually just ahead of the development committee meeting to consider the application, the Castle Point council leader, cllr Smith was quoted in the Echo as saying;

“The committee may think the need is enough for the plans to be passed.”

And that

“The people will only lose out if the plans are refused.”

There is a recorded need for facilities of this type in the Borough, however there is also a recorded Housing Need in the Borough.

It appears that the desire locally is to develop on Previously Developed land. This is where the cpbc leader may be indicating some inconsistency.

Residents on the mainland appear concerned with the possibility of 12 Apartments, being built on the Wheelers restaurant site at Bread and Cheese Hill. This is also Green Belt and previously developed with a far more permanent structure than that exists at the Garden Centre site at Canvey Road.

As yet there has been no officer advice issued, however cpbc leader cllr Smith has himself “called in” the application, on the Grounds of Inappropriate Development in the Green Belt, so that the Development Committee can make the final decision whether to approve.

This might appear contradictory in that having publicly stated “The people will only lose out if the plans are refused.”, on the Canvey Road application, to then personally call in another application, that maybe far less likely to be considered as inappropriate development in the Green Belt, just may be viewed as suggesting to his colleagues on the development committee that they should Refuse the Bread and Cheese Hill proposal.

Surely the evidence suggests that in both the case of Care Home facilities AND Housing, the need may well be “enough for the Plans to be passed.”

Policy makers may do well to set a better example if they kept their views private at crucial times for the cpbc Local Plan, and the Echo Newspaper may do well to go back to their more investigative style of journalism to add clarity to these topics.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Images Copyright: Google Earth

Admiral Jellicoe replaced by 40 Flats – whilst Canvey Island being sold off for 30 Pieces of Silver?

So a proposal that the Admiral Jellicoe public house on Canvey Island is highly likely to be demolished and replaced by 40 Flats has been lodged with Castle Point Borough Council.

Admiral Jellicoe

Admiral Jellicoe. Luke Baker Photography.

This is “timely” news as cpbc will be evaluating the next move forward with their new draft Local Plan2018 at Wednesdays special council meeting. Work is also imminent on the Brownfield Land Register, which will give Permission in Principle for Housing sites across the Borough to meet the Housing Need required of the cpbc Local Plan.

The Housing Need is likely to be set around 342 dwellings per annum.

Currently the Brownfield Land register reads as a paltry supply of a minimum 264 dwellings.

This Supply List appears somewhat misleading as the entry for the Admiral Jellicoe site indicates a minimum of just 15 dwellings, 25 less than the planning proposal applies for!

This misleading figure causes concern as the previous draft Local plans have carried a figure for Thorney Bay of 600 dwellings. This is 33% less than the intended figure, quoted by the Sandy bay site manager, of 900 Park Homes!

How many other discrepancies are contained within the figures for Canvey Island?

Whilst our esteemed councillors consider the new Local Plan2018 Housing Growth Distribution and the numbers they perhaps should consider their morals as they allocate Canvey Island’s proposed Housing Numbers.

According to data published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) figures show that 11% of new homes were built within areas of high flood risk, up 9% from 2015/2016.

Castle Point Brownfield Land register indicates that of the minimum numbers identified, 264 dwellings, 43% will be developed on Canvey Island, a Flood Risk Zone 3 area and a Critical Drainage Area!

Compare this 43% with the 11% National Average and you might just begin to realise it may be overdue for councillors to consider their conscience as they allocate yet more dwellings onto Canvey Island.

And that 43% is without allowing for the actual proposed numbers referred to above!

“Geoff Offen, managing director at Future Climate Info pointed out that the figures show that more than one in 10 new homes were built on sea or river flood plains which are prone to flooding.
‘While the national housing shortage compels us to seek out more land across England and Wales to build homes upon, buyers of these new properties must be aware of the risks their new bricks and mortar face,’ he said.”

CPBC Agenda paperwork explains; “Furthermore, Canvey Island is within Flood Risk Zone 3a, and as such planning applications for residential development normally require a Flood Risk Assessment. Advice is awaited from the Environment Agency as to if and how the Council could go about addressing this requirement before proceeding to consider any sites on Canvey Island for inclusion on the Part 2 of the Register”

Cllr Riley letter to Sajid “it (cpbc) will bring forward Part 2 of its Brownfield Land register – the “Permission in Principle” The council has a clear indication of the technical work necessary to bring forward sites from Part 1 of the Register and would commit to and complete this work by summer 2018”.

However cpbc are aware that “Part two of the register is optional” and that “planning permission would not be granted until Technical Details Consent is applied for and approved by the Council.”

Presumably an in-house application of the Sequential Test will suffice!

Furthermore much appears to be being made of residents comparing Canvey Island with the mainland and how this is wrong as we should be viewed simply as “one borough,” as though division is weakness.

Perhaps having considered some of the above the “one borough” approach can be seen as less suiting to Canvey.

However quite rightly the claim is supported by facts that more development has taken place recently on the mainland.

Once again we must point out, “yawn,” that since Castle Point was formed the vast majority of population increase, 42%, has been directed onto Canvey Island.

All well and good until the population level is considered in light of possible emergency situations from flooding or Hazardous Accidents and the inabilities of responders in coping!

We are pointed to the very recent Housing numbers allocated to the mainland compared with Canvey Island and how the mainland has absorbed more.

We need first to accept that recent new housing development numbers in the borough have been very low, little more than 100 dwellings on average per year. We would suggest that nowhere in the Borough has had much Housing development, compared with other areas.

In fact in very recent times only 2014 – 2015, when 214 Housing Completions were achieved, stands out as an above average year for the borough and the distribution of Growth hardly supported the argument that the vast majority were delivered on the mainland.

Information for this 2014 – 2015 period indicates that 86 were completed at Kiln Road, whilst 50 at Long Road, Canvey Island and 30 at Lubbins Car Park, Eastern Esplanade, Canvey Island were the only sites realising over 14 dwellings!

Whichever Local Plan the cpbc councillors are “entrapped” into adopting, whether the 2014 daft Local Plan or the 2016 version, we will hear that Canvey residents should be grateful that more Housing is scheduled for the mainland compared to the Island.

However cpbc do not impose Flood Risk, nor hazardous Industries, as a Constraint on Housing Numbers. Sites are allocated to Canvey Island because of “The Borough’s Housing Need”!

Let us remember on the day of local Plan reckoning that not only will Housing Land be released on Canvey Island but also Green Fields allocated for Industrial and Business Use!

Of which: Land Opposite Morrisons Northwick Road Canvey Island Essex
Area 7.5 Hectares site, Roscommon Way Canvey Island Essex 2.24 Hectares site, Land South Of Roscommon Way Canvey Island 7.41 Hectares site, Extension to Charfleets Industrial Estate Canvey Island 7 Hectares site, Land for Employment South of Northwick Road Canvey Island 8 Hectares site.*

All on Greenfield Land, on land affected by a High Water Table made worse by tidal water penetrating UNDER the sea defences, something never heard considered during planning matters.

As a group and individually, we have nothing against any of the residents of the Borough, and are known to happily collaborate with other GB campaign groups, but if we cannot see a fair and decent Local Plan emerging we will be intent upon challenging!

The cpbc Brownfield Land register, Dated 1. 12. 2017, can be found HERE.

* Happy to correct details if found to be incorrect.

Canvey Flatsland – Island to be Re-named after rumours of Jellicoe future emerge?

The Admiral Jellicoe Public House site is to be re-developed into between 40 and 50 Flats, according to rumour that has reached us!

pub

Preparation work to the site appears to have commenced, this despite a search of the cpbc Housing Portal revealing no application paperwork. If there is paperwork published, then it is very well hidden.

The opportunity for residents to comment appear to have been denied, if the rumour is true. Local parking, for one, must be a huge concern for local residents and businesses alike. The surface water flooding issue will not doubt be dismissed by reassurances supported by officers!

The probability that the government’s call for a Brownfield Site Register will include the Admiral Jellicoe site within Part 2 of the Register, sites granted planning Permission in Principle, is highly likely if cpbc’s Register is published by the December 2017 due date.

Alongside this is the news that the option has been confirmed to consider replacing the Canvey Island Paddocks with a new Hall financed by even more Flats.

The numbers of Flats needed to finance a new Paddocks Hall will undoubtedly be very many, given the Viability issues with the lack of provision of Affordable Housing emerging from lucrative developments of late.

The Canvey High Street is also the location for 2 more Flatted development sites, the old Dairy, and the 125-127 approved proposal, whilst the old Council Building in Long Road is also under threat from the Government call to release local authority land for Housing Development.

The Castle Point Council Crystal Ball indicated this profound finding;

“It is not thought that flatted developments on Canvey will become viable however, due to the additional costs associated with flood resistance and resilience.” *

Well the current frenzy of Canvey Flats development has blown that consideration out of the water!

On social media of late protests that Canvey isn’t more likely to be subject to development than any other part of the borough have emerged from mainland sources. And yet Thorney Bay is the largest actively promoted development site!

More relevant than Housing numbers as an indication of castle point council’s Housing Distribution record, is the population growth in the Borough.

During the last Census decade the distribution of the population increase, Canvey Island was 2.6% up whilst the Mainland saw just a 0.8% increase!

During the time period Castle Point has existed as a Borough; 

Historically, between 1971 and 2001 Canvey Island saw an increase in population of over 40%.  The Mainland saw just a 2.4% increase during the same period.

Quite clearly the demand exists for Housing, exactly where, and why in Castle Point, may require some close examining!

The removal of 8 Green Belt sites from the Local Plan Housing site Supply is to be commended, however the driver for this is questionable as a strategic area in the north of the Borough is to be promoted for release despite it being Green Belt, albeit partially previously developed. Only 1 notable site, of these 8 Green Belt sites, being on Canvey Island.

The cpbc focus of targeting Housing on Canvey Island appears to border on obsessive.

As recent as the 2016 Local Plan amongst their “evidence” to support Housing growth distribution the Sustainability Assessment focussed as early as Pages 4 and 15 of a 258 page document this point was repeated twice!;

“This has caused some people to choose to live in poor quality accommodation at Thorney Bay Caravan Site resulting in health and social issues arising. Housing land supply should be sufficient to enable a stable and regular supply of new homes that respond to local demand”

We suggest that in such a small Borough as Castle Point the focus on the “local” in Housing distribution, especially given the constraints, is too tightly focussed on Canvey Island!

*CPBC Strategic Housing Land Availability 2014

Photograph: Echo

 

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.”

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