Tag Archives: Glebelands

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

Hokey Cokey Local Planning and confusing the defence of Green Belt Appeals!

Castle Point New Local Plan Task and Finish group members, retracted the work and decision making they had made during their previous meeting.

The proposed Housing development site H18, the Blinking Owl site having previously been decided to suspend background work upon until the Constraints issue had been re-visited, had that decision reversed so as to direct officers to continue seeking supporting evidence that H18 was a viable proposition.

The Local Plan process is appearing to be going through a period of taking one step forward followed by a another step backward.
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The decision to re-visit was, in part, considered a re-plugging of the breach of defence that Castle Point Council will offer in protection during the Jotmans Farm and Glebelands Appeal examination.
It appears that there has been a shift in Planning Guidance in that the previously “all deciding” need for an immediate 5 Years worth of Housing supply, has been relegated in favour of a requirement that, a Local Plan is continuing to progress towards a final document.
It now appears that being able to evidence a 5 Year Housing Supply is not as crucial as we were led to believe.
Arthur-Daley-FT
Or is it? Are we simply being told what suits policy makers at the time of delivery?
Whether confidence in this change of guidance will alter should local authorities extend their “work in progress” into an endless timeframe remains to be seen.
Until then it makes sense, ahead of two possible Green Belt Application Appeals, to use this tactic.
The Task and Finish agenda paperwork, again reminded members of the NPPF principles, that preparation of a Local Plan should be; Positively prepared, Justified, Effective and Consistent with national policy. The agenda paperwork then reminded members that “the Council has undertaken considerable work on developing an evidence base” and that “it is on this evidence that the policies and proposals within the Local Plan should be based if it is to meet the tests of soundness set out in the NPPF.”
Seemingly an officer’s warning that by re-visiting the H18 proposal as a priority, the Local Plan progress may be in danger of becoming unsound.
The fact that Castle Point is without a 5 year Housing supply, 0.7 years worth in the reckoning of the Glebelands Inspector, remains so far un-addressed by the Task and Finish committee.
This may be due to the 5 Year supply not being part of their remit. Then again the original remit of the committee appeared to be to simply consider the responses to the draft Local Plan’s consultation, prior to returning to full council with a recommendation.
There will be consideration on whether extra CPBC funding is to be allocated to appoint consultants Peter Brett to evaluate the viability of the H18 proposal.
Officers reminded members that should the Blinking Owl site be released for housing,  Castle Point Council would be undermining one of the main functions of the Green Belt in that area, that is to keep neighbouring districts from merging.
A decision would require a decision on what width of Green Belt does retain that function, ie 25 metres or 50 metres etc. The other option is that the whole of the site is taken out of the Green Belt and the area opposite, across the A127, Rayleigh Green Belt is solely relied upon to perform the required function.
Either way a decision by Castle Point Council, possibly objected to by Rayleigh, would have to be made.
This decision would then possibly undermine local opposition to other Green Belt housing proposals in other parts of Castle Point, chiefly alongside other main highways such as Jotmans and Glebelands, where the particular function of the Green Belt, in protecting districts from merging, is supported by neighbouring district’s land, during development Appeals.
The “new” Castle Point policy of defending Green Belt unless it has any examples  of development on it, theoretically only adds to the area of Green Belt that may become available for release. Other areas that poorly support the function of Green Belt but also are supported by developers will be found difficult to defend at Examination, unless sufficient sound evidence is available.
Site H18 contains some development, it is also linked along the A127 to other Castle Point land previously released for development. This in turn links to the released Green Belt across Rayleigh Road where the Fire Station is situated.
Therefore it is fair to say that the integrity of the Green Belt within Castle Point is allowed to be compromised when it suits!
What residents should be aware of, once these perimeter assets are conceded, is that the areas between these “new” sites and the existing urban areas may become available as “infill.”
This is one of the difficulties developed over many years in defending the area around Felsted and Bowers Road and why the Planning committee did not use loss of green land as a reason for refusal, despite the areas obvious amenity value, and was included in the Local Plan’s 5 year housing supply.
In re-visiting the viability of the H18 site access will be an issue, especially for County if a new access onto the A127 is considered necessary, and residents if the existing road network is to be expected to alone support the new development. If the H18 site is to reach its full potential then a new access onto the A127 will be critical.

Castle Point residents may need to be prepared to contribute financially alongside developers and Essex County Highways. Should funding be required to come singularly from County then the scheme will have to join a long list of aspirational improvements, not only in the Borough with Canvey’s new access road and Roscommon Way final phase, but other County projects.
Meanwhile the New local Plan Task and Finish group turn their attention to the subject of housing constraints.
It will be interesting to hear how, after the exhaustive discussion on mainland green belt, members value the safety concerns of living within range of hazardous industrial installations and within a Flood Zone, as on Canvey Island, when considering what constitutes an actual Constraint and the weighting they consider should be applied through the Local Plan!

This work commences this week and will be available to follow  on the Castle Point Council’s webcast.

Castle Point Local Plan, or lack of, a factor for Green Belt campaigners to fear, or not?

The progress, or lack of, the Castle Point Council Local Plan may have little effect on the Jotmans and Glebelands Appeal cases, according to a report issued by Planning Resource.

There appears little difference in Appeal cases being over turned in local authority areas which have a Plan in place and those that are making slow progress.

Given the Aveley decision, reported on HERE, the issue of not having a 5 year supply of housing may also not carry the weight required to qualify as sufficient special circumstances needed to allow development on Green Belt.

Given Castle Point’s failure to meet its suggested historic housing need, its lack of a 5 year housing supply and the stalling of its Local Plan process any forthcoming Appeal will indeed prove interesting!

Whilst of course each appeal case needs to be taken on its own merit, the figures shown suggest that currently appeal decisions are based on whether the original decision taken by a local authority closely follow the national Planning Policy Framework.

I would also assume that this implies also following closely the Planning Guidance.

January 2015 by John Geoghegan writes on behalf of Planning Resource:

Having an up-to-date development plan appears to make little difference to how many of a council’s decisions are overturned at appeal, research by Planning has suggested.
Planning compared the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG’s) latest data on the rate at which councils’ major decisions are overturned on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate’s latest updates on local plan progress.

The latest DCLG appeals figures, covering the two years to December 2013, were published to assess English authorities’ decision-making. Any councils that have more than 20 per cent of their major application decisions overturned at appeal could be put into special measures, the DCLG has warned.

A comparison with local plan status shows that authorities with an up-to-date plan are less likely to have major decisions overturned, but only very slightly. Across all 337 English local planning authorities, an average of 2.5 per cent of major decisions were overturned, with 6.3 per cent of such decisions having been appealed.

For a sample of 24 authorities with plans adopted in the year after April 2013, when the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force, the average figures were 2.1 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.

But for the 146 councils which lacked an adopted local plan in December 2013, three per cent of their major decisions were overturned with 7.2 per cent of decisions appealed.

The DCLG data show that councils had, on average, each decided 81 major applications. Among the 15 councils that have had the highest rate of decisions overturned, ranging from 16 per cent to ten per cent , only two have had plans found sound and adopted since the NPPF was published in April 2012.

The findings come after a report on the NPPF last month by MPs warned that, in some cases, the framework is leading to unsustainable and inappropriate development due to speculative planning applications.

This problem is particularly acute where councils lack a local plan or five-year housing land supply, a key requirement of the NPPF, according to the report published by the Communities and Local Government select committee.

A second report, by conservation charity the National Trust, claimed that developers are exploiting councils’ lack of a housing land supply to overrule adopted local plans and get major schemes backed.

Experts said a lack of an up-to-date plan does not necessarily mean more decisions are overturned on appeal. Richard Pestell, senior associate at consultancy Peter Brett Associates, said authorities without a plan could still make decisions that survive appeal by following the NPPF strictly.

He said: “We cannot directly see the link between having a plan and appeal success rates. You could have no plan in place but follow the NPPF and succeed in a few appeals.”

Consultant Stephen Tapper, vice-president emeritus of the Planning Officers Society, said more research is needed to ascertain why appeal success rates are similar between councils with local plans and those without.

He suggested that windfall sites outside a local plan can become available, prompting applications refused by a council but accepted by the secretary of state.

Currently contracted at East Hertfordshire District Council, which does not have an up-to-date development plan, Tapper said he uses the NPPF, along with the recent Planning Practice Guidance, to assess major applications.

He said: “It’s been an effective set of policies to judge those applications. But the fundamental issue for councils is that, without an up-to-date local plan, you are much more vulnerable in terms of sites coming forward in a structured way.”

Emma Walker, associate director at consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, said councils without up-to-date plans are more and more keen to work proactively with developers to avoid costly appeals.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said: “Councils with an up-to-date local plan are in a very strong position to shape where new development should go. A local plan discourages speculative applications.”

Glebelands – Has time just run out on this piece of Castle Point Green Belt?

“You win battles by knowing the enemy’s timing, and using a timing which the enemy does not expect.”

News has filtered through that a new Appeal Inquiry has been launched for the Glebelands housing development proposal.

The timing is most intriguing, an expected hearing date during March.

The result may not be available until General Election time.

Does this mean that there is a possibility that the Secretary of State would not call in the decision? Allowing the Planning Inspectorate to decide.

Previously the refusal to develop has relied on the fact that Castle Point Council have been busying themselves with producing a Local Plan.

However this has proved, even since Mr Pickles’ decision, a timely exercise.

Last weeks Local Plan Task and Finish group meeting heard officers suggest that the addition of site H18, the Blinking Owl site, would quite possibly only add to the Green Belt sites available for development, rather than be in place of some named sites!

It appears this time consuming progress of the CPBC Local Plan may have led to an opportunity for the Fox Land and Property group to take advantage of the political calendar. The period of purdah may prevent some wishing to give evidence in defence of the Green Belt at Inquiry.

With Glebelands watching in the wings this will indeed be a test for Castle Point Council.

Much of the previous Appeal finding relied on the timetable and progress of the Local Plan process.

Officers suggested adhering to a strict timetable was achievable.
The 5 year housing supply / or lack of, may well also be a stumbling block for Green Belt campaigners despite cllrSmith’s re-assurances.

Extracts from the Appeal application paperwork suggest otherwise:

Progress of the Local Plan remains stalled since 2006.

 Reason for Refusal 1

that there are in actual fact a number of ‘very special circumstances’ under which the appeal proposal should be released from the Green Belt (as set out above), and believes that the proper consideration of this issue will require detailed evidence to be presented and tested in respect of policy compliance with the Framework; the current housing land supply position in the Borough; the need for affordable and market housing in the Borough; and, the contribution of the appeal site to the functions of the Green Belt and its suitability and a sustainable urban extension.

Reason for Refusal 2 states that the appeal proposal is premature to the emerging Local Plan, and so would prejudice the plan’s ability to allocate land for housing at the strategic level. Again, the factors that inform this position are complex and will require cross examination to determine at what stage in its development the emerging Local Plan is currently and to what extent the appeal proposal is of the scale and significance necessary to prejudice the planmaking process.

Following the previous Appeal the Secretary of State amongst other considerations found:

Housing Land Supply

The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s analysis of housing land supply at IR297-334. He share’s the Inspector’s conclusions that the requirement figure for assessing the 5-year forward supply should be 2,350 dwellings (IR323). Whilst the Secretary of State broadly agrees with the thrust of the Inspector’s overall conclusions on land supply and housing delivery, as set out in IR335-340, he does not agree with the Inspector’s comment at IR339 that the current programme for adoption looks somewhat optimistic, especially in the light of the Council’s experience with the now aborted Core Strategy (CS). In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead. With the publication of the NPPF, he is more positive than the Inspector that the Council can achieve its’ programme for LP adoption, especially given the drivers within it.

While he also agrees with the Inspector that there have clearly been difficulties for many years in planning for sufficient housing in Castle Point, he does not consider that this history means that the task of preparing a new local plan cannot be accomplished easily or quickly (IR359).

The Secretary of State has found that there are factors in favour of the appeal including a severe lack of a forward housing land supply and that, setting aside GB considerations, development of the appeal site would not cause demonstrable 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.

Whilst the previous Appeals Inspector’s findings revealed:

In Castle Point, there have clearly been difficulties for many years in planning for sufficient housing. The LP failed to plan far enough ahead. The long-term reserve sites all turned out to be poor choices, because none came forward to fill the gap.

The CS took too long to prepare, and in the end failed because the housing provisions were inadequate. In the light of this history, it cannot be assumed that the task of preparing a new local plan will be accomplished easily or quickly. Although it is right that planning decisions should be plan-led where possible, the Council’s own action in announcing a list of preferred housing sites, in advance of having any kind of draft plan , seems to acknowledge that some decisions will not be able to wait for the new plan to be in place.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this must be related to the lack of any up-to-date or adopted local plans, or relevant DPDs, since 2001. The lack of housing delivery in 2001-12 therefore seems to reflect a failure in terms of planning, rather than any failure of the housing market.

It is common ground amongst all those involved in the appeal that the task of finding suitable land for housing in Castle Point is not an easy one. The Borough has severe constraints, including the already high density of development, the close spacing of existing settlements, the widespread flood risk, the SPA, and the relative scarcity of suitable land. In the light of these constraints, the Council has acknowledged that there is a need to take land from the Green Belt, even for the lower level of housing provision that they currently propose.

Other than GB considerations, development at the appeal site would not cause demonstrable harm. There appear to be no particular constraints on delivery, and the site could thus make a valuable contribution to the District’s housing needs in the short term.

The development would not conflict with any development plan policies. Nor would it conflict with any policy in the NPPF, apart from the loss of GB. The protection of GBs is one of the Framework’s core principles, but it is not the only one, and may be outweighed in very special circumstances. Boosting the supply of housing and delivering sustainable development are similarly important. In all respects other than the loss of GB, the present scheme would represent sustainable development.

On the other, there is the severe lack of a forward housing land supply; the acute shortage of affordable housing; the Council’s very poor track record in delivering all forms of housing in the past; the past failures of the development plan process in the area, and consequent delays in the release of land through that route; the acknowledged need to release GB land; and the suitability and availability of the appeal site.

Castle Point Council may find difficulty in mounting a reasonable defence to these issues, given recent investigation work. However Green Belt campaigners will wish them well. It would be a shame if these recent investigations have in themselves caused an issue for Castle Point Green Belt.

What cannot be denied is that progress on the Local Plan has once again fallen way behind schedule.

Castle Point Local Development Scheme January 2014

Key milestones (for the Local Plan) are as follows:

Issues Consultation (Reg 18) Jan-Mar 2012

Draft Consultation  Jan-Mar 2014

Submission Consultation  Jul-Aug 2014

Submission Sep 2014

Examination Dec 2014 Inspectors Report

Feb 2015

Adoption Mar 2015