Tag Archives: Glebelands

To Intervene or to Not Intervene, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer, as Simple Minded and Disobedient Canvey Folk suffer, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.

Much will be read and disclosed over the next year or so, when it will be wondered whether the June 2018 decision by Castle Point council, to rush into a Local Plan schedule, with the prospect of a New Local Plan approved by Council for publication by November followed by submission to the Inspectorate in April 2019, or alternatively to face the prospect of Government Intervention, is the best path to tread, especially where Canvey Island is concerned.

“sometimes orders given to the simple-minded have to be reinforced with a threat, a suggestion that something terrible will happen to the disobedient,”

And so it was, when the cpbc chief executive, the council leader and his deputy, stated the case for cpbc seeking to retain control of its Local Plan making, rather than allow Intervention from the Government Planner.

The councillors and residents were not permitted an address from the Government chief planner, choices and their consequences were expressed only third hand delivered by the cpbc triumvirate.

But whilst keeping control of the Local Plan process is in the very best interests of parts of the mainland, is it also in the best interests of Canvey Island, a reasonable question to ask?

Harking back to the Core Strategy we exposed a Plot by the “Ruling” mainland party to sacrifice Canvey’s Dutch Village Green Belt site, as the sole Green Belt site released for development, so as to appease their mainland concerns and allow publication of a cpbc Core Strategy, local plan!

We remember well, the mainland residents Green Belt campaign group, during the council Task and Finish group meeting, standing to address council members confirming that they agreed and supported the Plan “in its entirety!”

Where was the “united” Borough then?

When the Core Strategy was rejected by the Examining Inspector due to the unreasonable Housing Growth Distribution and the Dutch Village site being, a Green Belt site within a Flood Risk Zone, the cpbc ceo made sure that the Dutch Village remained within the list of Green Belt sites for development, whilst adding some mainland sites to meet the Housing Need of the Borough, within the 2014 daft Local Plan!

Of course the retention of the Canvey Dutch Village site, despite the Inspector’s opinion, meant that one large mainland site would be saved from development.

Now by returning to the 2014 draft local Plan as a starting place for the 2018 Local Plan, concerns return as to whether it is intelligent and responsible for Canvey residents to put their faith, as we are being told and advised so to do, within the “Ruling” party’s successful motion to Control the 2018 local Plan.

“sometimes orders given to the simple-minded have to be reinforced with a threat, a suggestion that something terrible will happen to the disobedient,”

The threat has been delivered and something terrible may still apparently happen!

We are reminded that the Dutch Village site is owned by Persimmon, implying that this would speed the process through Planning resulting in an early supply of Housing, For The Borough!

Meanwhile, the more lucrative development sites elsewhere in the Borough would, following this logic, remain undeveloped for longer, especially when the ongoing development of approximately 900 Sandy Bay Park Homes, also on Canvey Island, are put into the equation!

This may encourage some conspiracy theory, has the call for sites from cpbc entailed dealings between officers members and developers as to which site or sites would be released in which order, specifically if the developer were to agree to initially focus on Dutch Village first?

As it stands in practise cpbc focus on applying constraints on development in the so called “virgin” Green Belt areas of the Borough. Canvey Island Flood Risk is also applied to the constraints so as to limit numbers, but that constraint is applied to housing Need numbers across the whole Borough, rather than Canvey Island in particular!

Making cpbc’s approach to the application of the Sequential Test simply contrived and, a Farce!

But can Canvey residents be certain that the Government Planner would apply to Canvey Island, the supposed Constraints on Housing Development such as Flood Risk, the threat to what remains of its Green Belt and the Hazardous Industrial sites any less fairly than the cpbc “Ruling” party and officers?

Especially going by their proven Local Planning track record!

Under Cllr Riley’s regime Canvey fared better than during any of the previous attempts at Plan making.

Now Cllr Riley has been side lined by the Triumvirate now in control, and previously chiefly responsible for the 2014 daft Local Plan, despite two of them apparently also claiming to support the 2016 Plan’s attempt to constrain the borough’s Housing Numbers!

To mainlanders these thoughts may sound pessimistic and overly cautious, however being fed rumours and not having the access to decision makers that some residents appear to have, however furtive, leads to a lack of an Open and Transparent Local Plan process.

Faith in Leaders must be Earned, Blind Faith is a dangerous option.

PLANING-APPEAL-SIGN

 

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Castle Point Council supply of Affordable Housing severely Unviable? Canvey Island in the Spotlight Again?

The “Viability” reasoning used by developers to justify their low levels of Affordable Housing supply, serves them well in Castle Point.

Canvey_060309_1

Canvey Island, densely urbanised yet always room for more!

Going back to the Glebelands proposal, the Inspector considered that “the scheme would provide 35% affordable housing which would equate to about 58 dwellings” and that “I am satisfied that Castle Point has an acute shortage of affordable housing, and that this must have serious adverse consequences for persons in housing need. There is therefore an urgent need for additional affordable housing in the Borough.”

Given this it is surprising that such easy capitulation from cpbc, allowed the Kiln road scheme to argue viability reasoning to support a reduction in the supply of Affordable Housing units.

The Castle Point draft Local plan 2016 version stated “In Castle Point there is a need for at least 73% of new homes to be affordable, assuming delivery at 200 homes per annum.”

Records indicate that 16 affordable housing units were delivered in Castle Point during 2016/17.

Generally smaller schemes in the Borough appear to result in no affordable units being developed on site, but a financial contribution to cpbc being made.

It would be interesting to learn the route these funds take once they enter cpbc accounts, how soon they are released and where the affordable housing is actually located. we are aware of the Flatted development at Long Road Canvey for instance. Of course Affordable Housing is usually only affordable once!

It might be easily argued that with the lower land values at Canvey Island affordable housing could more easily be developed there, however given that the same cpbc 2016 draft Local plan indicated that-

“Compared with other parts of the borough Canvey Island is relatively more deprived, with pockets of income and employment deprivation, and wider issues associated with the education and skills of residents.”

However, more new affordable housing, especially in the form of social housing for instance, would further add to deprivation levels on the Island, especially as needy residents from across the Borough may be eligible to relocate to Canvey!

A report published by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has found that 63 per cent of UK councils rate their affordable housing need as severe.
Of the 141 councils that responded to a survey question about characterising their affordable housing need, a further 35 per cent said it was moderate.
Written and researched by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the report – Delivering Affordable Homes in a Changing World – says that a lack of investment in “genuine affordable housing” alongside “deregulation of planning” is reducing the ability of local authorities to deliver the homes the nation needs.
It says over two-thirds of councils in England state that statutory homelessness levels have increased in their local area in the past 12 months and 57 per cent state that rough sleeping has also increased during this period.
It notes that in an attempt to deliver more housing, the government has introduced permitted development rights, which requires a prior approval process but not a full planning application to the local authority. As a result, more homes have been created, but it has not enabled councils to secure much-needed affordable housing or help them to deal with rising homelessness.
Delivering Affordable Homes in a Changing World makes a number of recommendations, including:
· The social housing green paper should not just be “tinkering”. It should represent a step change in the role of central government as a powerful enabler of social housing, leaving delivery in the hands of local authorities and their delivery partners.
· The government should make clear that right to buy rules do not apply to local authority housing companies. However, if the right to buy rules are going to apply to homes built by local authority housing companies they must be able to replace them on a 1:1 basis to ensure that the long-term investment programme is not undermined.
· The government should reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.
· The government should not extend permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.
Paul O’Brien, chief executive at APSE, said: “Decent housing in a well-planned environment provides a foundation for helping people to maximise their contribution to society, and to create areas that are economically prosperous. What our report highlights is the extent to which insecure tenancy arrangements in the private rented sector are directly contributing to the rise in homelessness. We need local councils to act as ‘market disruptors’; bringing stability and capacity to the social rented sector which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping.”
Investment in high-quality social housing can also save public funds, O’Brien continued. It can reduce poor physical and mental health outcomes “currently experienced by those living in an unstable private rented sector or those in temporary accommodation”.
He said the government must be “bold and ambitious” in addressing the housing issues for those most in need. Part of the solution is to help councils return to providing homes.
Kate Henderson, chief executive at the TCPA, said the ability of councils to address the lack of affordable housing is being “undermined by planning deregulation”.
Henderson explained that if applicants aren’t obliged to obrain full planning permission, councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer, while “little or no thought is given to the most basic issues, such as where children can play or whether there are enough doctors’ surgeries in the area”.
“We are calling on the government to reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.”

Castle Point Residents Ill-informed or Gullible? Green Belt Saved or still in Jeopardy?

Be In No Doubt Canvey Island residents stand to be affected by the development of Jotmans Farm, as much as the Jotmans Farm residents do themselves!

Once all phases of the Jotmans Farm proposal is completed there is a plan to construct a Roundabout to allow traffic from the 800 dwelling estate, onto Canvey Way!

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Not only that, but the much Heralded retail extension nearby Morrisons on Canvey Island with the promised Marks and Spencer / Waitrose food, B and M and Sports Direct outlets, will add more Motorists Misery, entering and leaving via the Waterside Farm Roundabout and the local areas!

Recently the Jotmans farm Green Belt campaigners have been left to “discover” that Persimmons have decided to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision in the High Court.

The Secretary of State’s decision, generally portrayed to Residents as being a signal that not only Jotmans Farm, but also Green Belt in General, was Saved from Development, was Released on the 21st April 2017.

And so we headed for the Polling Stations, on the 4th May for the Castle Point Borough Council Elections and the General Election on the 8th June.

Possibly, Unfortunately the Election Period of Purdah may play some legal significance.* See below.

Through an email released by the Jotmans Farm campaign group, we gather that they are being led to believe that none of the Lead Group of Castle Point councillors were aware, or felt it unimportant to make the information known to Residents, that High Court action threatened the Jotmans Farm Decision!

Castle Point Council are an “Interested Party” in the High Court action. One only has to refer to the Glebelands case to be aware that CPBC should be involved:

Case No: CO/10476/201

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

 Manchester Civil Justice Centre

Date: 17/01/2014

Before :

THE HON MR JUSTICE BLAKE

Between:

 

FOX LAND AND PROPERTY LIMITED

Claimant

 

– and –

 

 

SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

-and-

CASTLE POINT BOROUGH COUNCIL

 

 

 

Defendants

Would the Castle Point officers not have immediately informed the Lead councillors, could the councillors not have been Open and Transparent and informed their Residents, of the Legal move?

In the Echo newspaper it is reported that Jotmans farm residents clutch at the possibility that the Persimmon legal team, left it beyond the 6 weeks to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision. CPBC appear to leave this desperate hope hanging.

In our humble opinion we find it inconceivable, not only that the Persimmon legal team would be so inefficient, surely the challenge would have been dismissed should the 6 week time limit to challenge the decision have elapsed, but that some lead group Castle Point councillors to be unaware cpbc are an Interested Party in the High Court case!

CPBC are quoted in the Echo “As the Appeal is actually against the decision of the Secretary of State it is for the secretary of State to defend.” …..”councillors have been kept informed…”

We fear on behalf of Jotmans Farm and Canvey Island residents, on whom this development will impact upon, that the release date of the Secretary of State’s decision and the dates of the Local Elections may well have had some influence, as well as having some legal impact.

* “The term ‘purdah’ is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The terms ‘pre-election period’ and ‘period of sensitivity’ are also used.
The pre-election ‘purdah’ period before general elections is not regulated by statute, but governed by conventions based largely on the Civil Service Code.
The pre-election period for the 8 June General Election will start on midnight on Friday 21 April 2017.
A ministerial statement gave details of the different ‘purdah’ periods for the different elections on 5 May 2016: The period of sensitivity preceding the local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections starts on 14 April”
Source: House of Commons Library Published Friday, April 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As was pointed out earlier in this post;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thorney Bay, change of Use Over-Heard on the Canvey Grapevine! CPBC Local Plan issues?

It started as a Whisper, became a Rumour and has now reached Conjecture level on the Canvey Grapevine!

Thorney Bay, the apparent answer to the Castle Point Council’s Local Plan dreams, has become the subject of unconfirmed speculation. With the humiliating Withdrawal of the cpbc Core Strategy in 2011, it was considered “timely” by cpbc officers that Thorney Bay, despite it being sited within the Hazard range of Calor Gas and within a 3A Flood Zone, should come forward to provide a Housing Development of some 600 dwellings plus sheltered accommodation.

Thorney Bay then became the Backbone, the largest single development site, of Castle Point council’s daft Local Plan and surviving the GB sites cull to remain as the spine of the Local Plan2016, 5 year Housing Supply!

The Thorney Bay proposal passed in Principle by the cpbc development committee, whilst in the following months / years a 1st Phase proposal has gained Health and Safety Executive’s permission and is apparently overcoming the Flooding Objections to the fundamental requirements of the Environment Agency and the ecc Lead Local Flood Authority.

Now then; Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once!

A little Bird has told me, and I must say there is little foundation, so to speak, for this to be considered information, but it could be that the development may not be going much further!

To me this would not be a surprise, I would have thought a more likely idea would be for the developer to follow the Kings Park, and remove the static caravans and replace with Park Homes.

The build cost would be far less, the speed of development would be probably twice as quick and success of the venture equally, if not more so, financially successful as Kings Park!

What’s to lose?

Park Homes and Luxury Lodges can easily reach an asking price of £300,000, the site is opposite Thorney Bay Road, and residents would likely be of an age not too concerned with, the daily commute.

Now that the Canvey Bay Watch team have created such an attractive area of the promenade and beach front, this forms another selling point for potential Park Home buyers. I would have thought that the Canvey Bay Watch team should soon be knocking on the site owner’s door for financial support, should this development rumour come to fruition!

Thorney Bay 1

Photograph courtesy: Dave Harvey

The question for cpbc is whether these Park Homes should count towards the official Housing Supply.

On one hand these Park Homes “are suitable for residential use throughout the year and are built to last at least 50 years”! (Omar park and leisure homes). Although whether 50 years lifespan is considered permanent is challengeable, however, their success is, and there are people desiring to own them.

The Planning Inspector examining the Glebelands, Thundersley, Appeal did not consider the numbers at Kings Park should qualify for inclusion in building numbers, but that may have been due to cpbc being unable to clarify how many caravans were replaced by Park Homes.

We do know that of the caravans at Thorney Bay the Inspector concluded;

“But that does not necessarily mean that the Households now occupying caravans would have chosen that type of accommodation, in preference to bricks and mortar.”

Well, “bricks and mortar” these Park Homes ain’t! But the appeal of Park Home life is generally popular across the UK, so if people are choosing to buy into this type of accommodation, then there is an argument for these dwellings to be included into the Canvey Island Housing Supply count.

With our “Broken Housing Market” leading to the apparent need to revisit Pre-Fabricated Housing, these Park Homes may well have some scope.

Whether or not any Affordable Home supply can be squeezed into the equation will be upto the negotiating abilities of cpbc, so we won’t hold our breath on that one!

What could be expected is for some Canvey Island “bricks and mortar” dwellings to become available, for local young families hoping to get on the property ladder, as older Canvey residents move into the Park Homes.

It may be doubtful , should the development come into fruition, whether the Housing Need in the mainland part of the Borough be part satisfied, as it will be difficult to argue that this type of dwelling satisfies the cross market “bricks and mortar” Housing Need. In fact it probably increases the pressure on mainland site supply.

I remind you this is only speculation.

As a reference, below, I include part of the text of the cpbc Report on Residential use of Caravan and Park Home Sites 2013.

“It is clear from both Census data and from Council Tax data that an increase in the availability of caravans for residential use resulted in an increased housing supply of the order of 800 homes in Castle Point in the period from 2001 to 2011. This increase was largely as a result of the change of use of Kings Park and Thorney Bay Caravan Parks from holiday use to residential use.”

“To date, the Council has only included those caravans registering for Council Tax at Kings Park within the housing figures for the period 2001 to 2011. However, given that caravans at Thorney Bay were included as homes within the Census 2011 outcomes, and this will be reflected in population and household data moving forward, it is appropriate that the housing supply figures for the period 2001 to 2011 are appropriately adjusted to include these homes also.”

“The change of use of static caravans from holiday accommodation to residential accommodation has made a significant contribution to housing provision over the last decade (2001 to 2011). Approximately, 800 additional caravans moved into permanent residential use over this time period, primarily on the Kings Park and Thorney Bay sites. This is supported by evidence from the Census and from Council Tax records.”

“However, whilst some of this provision has contributed positively towards the community, in particular at Kings Park, the nature of the provision at Thorney Bay has had negative socioeconomic consequences both for the surrounding community and for the vulnerable families who have found themselves living at the site.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site 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.”

“Assuming that the proposals to redevelop this site as proposed for traditional housing are delivered in full over the next 10 years, then it is unlikely that the number of households living in caravans in Castle Point will increase further between 2011 and 2021. Indeed, as a result of the development of traditional housing over this period, it is expected that the proportion of households living in caravans will reduce.”

“However, should the Thorney Bay site not be redeveloped as proposed, then there is the potential for a further 800 caravans moving from transient use into permanent residential use. This will increase further the number of households living in caravans, and the associated socio-economic issues arising from this. It is therefore imperative that the Council work alongside the site owners to encourage and facilitate the redevelopment of this site in an appropriate timeframe.”

Video copyright BBC

Castle Point Green Belt Conundrum- to Release or Not to Release, that is the Question!

Castle Point is no doubt not the only local authority hand ringing over providing housing need whilst protecting Green Belt.

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The possible problem cpbc may have made for itself is in the historical efforts that have been expended in the attempts at producing a Local Plan.

Of late:

Records indicate that there have been a net total of 202 dwellings completed in the borough to the year end March 31st 2015.

Against this the assessed housing need is for between 400 – 500 new dwellings per annum.

The cpbc Local Plan2016 proposes to allow development of 100 new dwellings per annum.

Planning Guidance expects local authorities to; “boost significantly the supply of housing, by; “identifying key sites which are critical to the delivery of the housing strategy over the plan period.

There are suggestions that by bringing forward the proposed site at North West Thundersley, with space for housing that may potentially result in a housing provision of 200 dwellings per annum.

However it appears that this possibility was not recorded in the council minutes during the meeting to decide the Local Plan2016.

Either way whether the housing supply is 100 or 200 dwellings per annum, the supply will not be boosted “significantly”.

Now the question will be raised as to what basis the parts of the Green Belt identified as developable and deliverable in the Plan, had been considered.

It is essential that the wording of the Planning Framework and Guidance is examined and applied.

“The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.”

Bearing in mind the need:
“To boost significantly the supply of housing, local planning authorities should: use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in this Framework”

We can point out that despite the need to boost significantly housing delivery, it should be accomplished by having regard to being consistent with policies set out in the NPPF, Green Belt being one such policy!

Castle Point Council have voted to adopt a Motion to release Green Belt, land using a criteria “they” consider to be previously developed.

However, Green Belt serves, and was originally identified by, five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

Green Belt land in Castle Point all fulfil at least one of these purposes, otherwise would not have been included.

But localism appears to have dictated that a new criteria, that of whether a particular piece of land is “virginal” Green Belt, should take precedence over protecting the 5 purposes.

Paragraph 81 of the Guidance, significantly the very paragraph following Paragraph 80, which covers the 5 Purposes states;

“Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt, such as looking for opportunities to provide access; to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation; to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity; or to improve damaged and derelict land.”

This suggests that the next most important features are included, and the land that supplies, or has the potential to, such provision contained within Paragraph 81, should receive the “most” protection.

Therefore it follows that more weight will be applied during consideration of Green Belt release to land potentially performing functions contained in Paragraph 81, than whether the land retain “virginal” status!

A further complication will be the Green Belt Review. This review was produced “in house” in November 2013, to physically support the daft New Local Plan (or previous version to LP2016).

Going back further, following the withdrawal of the Core Strategy (CS) a Councillors Conference was held in September 2011. The intention of the meeting was to address the Core Strategy Inspector’s concerns on the housing distribution across the Borough.

A briefing paper was issued to Councillors in which it was explained:

“The paper explains that the area of greatest concern for the Planning Inspector is the absence of suitable housing land; it then provides information regarding sites presently in the Green Belt but which could be allocated for housing purposes, which would be likely to address the Planning Inspector’s points.”

“He (the Inspector) also indicated that he was dissatisfied with the distribution of greenfield development between Canvey Island and the mainland towns. He indicated that the Council should review their assessment of sites in Green Belt locations in the mainland part of the Castle Point and identify land for 2.5 years worth of supply (around 500 homes) for the first five years of the plan, and a further 2.5 years worth of supply for years 6 to 15 (around 500 homes).”

There is the possibility that the latest appointed Local Plan2016 Planning Inspector, Mr David Smith BA (HONS) DMS MRTPI may also form a similar opinion

Essex County Council are reluctant to support the North West Thundersley initiative. this may not mean that development could not be accomplished piecemeal, just that the infrastructure would be late in arriving.

There appear more questions than answers, revolving around; protection of Green Belt, “type of Green Belt, Housing Need, Housing Supply, whether land (Green belt or otherwise) is deliverable, developers wishes, residents wishes.

Given that the Green Belt review written in support of the rejected daft New Local Plan has been added as Evidence towards Local Plan2016, one thing is clear, castle point officers have failed a duty of care in the production of the current Local Plan.

Given that Castle Point councillors have previously approved the daft New local Plan indicating release of sites such as Glebelands and Jotmans Farm as the Core Strategy Inspector had referred to the developers having provided him with proposals, and GB on Canvey Island, and now have voted to identify other mainland Green Belt sites in other parts of the Borough indicates that Green Belt, and possibly a lot of it, may end up being released.

The concern may be not, whether to Release, or not to Release Green Belt, but more a case of Release and How Much?

Mind you, the Local Plan2016 needs to get over its first hurdle yet, that of proving it has complied with the Duty to Cooperate.

The initial Hearing on that, will begin at 10am on the 12th December 2016 and will  involve representatives from the five other planning authorities within the South Essex sub-region! We assume that will be our “professional officer” friends from Thurrock, Basildon, Southend, Chelmsford and Essex County Council!

 

 

 

Daft New Local Plan, cllr Dick’s Motion deferred, Green Belt development, Appeals = unstoppable Inertia ?

Cllr Dick proposed a Motion during the June 2015 Cabinet meeting.

He had previously attempted to have the same Motion considered by full Council, but this had been deferred as financial implications required consideration.

4.1 The Motion put to Council was that;

‘This Council welcomes the statement by the Local Government Minister at a local meeting on green belt. This Council will therefore prepare a Local Plan protecting Virgin green belt areas and produce a realistic annually housing number that can ideally be achieved.’

Cllr Dick commented that only during 2004 had over 200 housing completions been achieved in Castle Point.

I note that the CPBC Annual Monitoring Report 2004-2005 reported:

“The delivery of new housing against the requirements of the Structure Plan is illustrated in figure 3.7. Delivery in the past has been variable and during the period 1999-2001 fell well below the annualised requirement. The inclusion of new residential mobile homes at Kings Park in the housing delivery figures has been important in helping the authority to deliver the requirement set out in the Structure Plan. Of the 1575 dwellings completed between 1996 and 2005, 905 were newly built dwellings whilst 670 were new mobile homes on Kings Park, accounting for 43% of all new dwellings.”

This appears to imply that although the number achieved may in the future be considered acceptable to the Inspectorate, their location may well not.

Static Homes on a Flood Risk Area appears incompatible.

The June 2015 Cabinet Agenda paperwork accompanying the Motion covered financial implications for both the Borough’s Residents and the Local Authority.

Surprisingly Councillors failed to find any relevant financial questions to seek answers from Cabinet members!

The most significant being that the officers consider no funds have been specifically put aside for fighting Appeals, as we had been previously led to believe.

Officers reiterated that 106 agreements would not be met following Appeals leaving little room for  local infrastructure improvements.

The fact that cllr Dicks Motion was agreed to be deferred to be presented to full Council at the time that they meet to consider the findings of the Task and Finish group may lead some to believe that the time of the meeting may become crucial.

With Glebelands and Jotmans development Appeals scheduled for September and October the Council members will be under enormous pressure to approve for publication a Local Plan, of sorts, as vital evidence during Appeals.

For cllr Dick’s Motion, for lower housing targets, to then be accepted would mean that new demographic evidence would need to be found, leaving the current daft New Local Plan suspended.

Some may suggest: Too Late!

I, on the other hand, will leave you to read and digest the relevant extract of the Cabinet paperwork. If this is solely an officers Plan, why did Cabinet and members not challenge the wording, which was, of course presented as factual?

Our MP has continued to insist the Government’s position regarding Green Belt preservation is absolutely clear. Why did the Cabinet continue along a dangerous pathway?

As I have suggested before, despite others protestations to the contrary, this Local Plan has developed its own INERTIA !

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General Financial Statement:

7.1 The Medium Term Financial Forecast, presented to Council in February 2015, indicates a significant funding gap in each financial year from 2017/18 which the Council must address in order to maintain existing service levels.

7.2 The Council is already effectively committed beyond its means in future years i.e. spending funds it does not have, and will need to identify reductions to existing services.

7.3 The position with regard to Council reserves is also serious. Whilst at the current time reserves appear healthy, there are very real and significant financial risks which may or may not materialise in future years, particularly around planning appeals and associated legal costs. These risks, coupled with the projected budget gap, will result in a complete depletion of general reserves within the next three to four financial years.

7.4 A programme of work is currently underway which it is hoped will contribute towards closing the funding gap. However, until each financial year is balanced, the Council should not enter into new and ongoing financial commitments, nor should it take any actions resulting in a significant ongoing reduction in any income streams.

Specific Financial Implications:

7.5 There are a number of financial implications arising from this report. Should the Council decide to proceed to prepare a different Local Plan; resources will need to be identified to meet the costs of new documents and evidence. Work carried out with existing evidence, as referred to in paragraph 5.1, will have been abortive.

7.6 Any new evidence to be collected is likely to incur a cost not less than that already spent(£184,000),together with new consultation costs (not less than £35,000). In addition to these costs, there will also be additional staff costs amounting to £31,000.

7.7 The Council had previously established a specific reserve for local plan development costs, of £250k. By the end of 2014/15 only approximately £55k remains unspent. Any costs of developing a new plan above this amount would require additional budget, and would further reduce General Fund reserves.

7.8 Should the Council decide to suspend work on the Plan, then there is potentially significant costs and resource implications to the Council in dealing with planning appeals. Any such costs would reduce General Fund reserves. The most recent calculation of the minimum recommended level of General Fund reserves, in the February 2015 Policy Framework and Budget Setting report, indicated a potential amount of £1.6m should appeals be found against the Council. (To clarify the position regarding reserves – No funds have been set aside to fight appeals. All that has been done is to quantify a financial risk that may materialise as a consequence of not having a local plan. Approval to draw from reserves would be required as each risk materialised. There is no approval to spend implied. ) The Council does not receive any New Homes Bonus for any new houses allowed on appeal.

7.9 With no Plan in place, it will not be possible to impose a Community Infrastructure Levy, putting at risk potential improvements to infrastructure.

Legal Implications

7.10 Where plans are not based on robust evidence, or Government policy and guidance, these may be subject to legal challenge.

7.11 At appeal, the Council must demonstrate that it has followed Government policy and guidance and has acted reasonably in order to avoid any award of costs.

7.12 Failure to have made significant progress with a New Local Plan will result in uncontrolled development through the appeals process.

7.13 At particular risk are the sites Jotmans and Glebelands which are subject to Public Inquiries respectively in September and October this year. These sites may well be sacrificed as a result of having no Local Plan in place or the prospect of having one any time soon. This point is not lost on Fox Land and Property who in their statement of case in relation to the Glebelands Appeal refer to the Secretary of State’s faith as expressed in his Decision in the Glebelands appeal in June 2013 being misplaced in that the “drivers” in the NPPF would see the Council press ahead with their new Local Plan.

Graphic courtesy: Dreamstime