Tag Archives: Government Chief Planner

Castle Point Council remain on the Intervention “Naughty Step”, whilst other authorities stall and Protect Green Belt! Making an example of CPBC may come at a Cost!

Castle Point Council, having endured an uncomfortable Christmas, sat on the Government Intervention “Naughty Step”, continue to give no sign of any action they may, or may not, have been taking to put the Secretary of State, at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s, mind at rest that they have continued working hard on the CPBC Local Plan.

With the extended Christmas break for council officers and members, we can only assume that once the dreaded “phone call” from the Government chief planner is received, CPBC will by then have raised the White Flag of surrender above Runnymede Towers!

After all, the Local Development Scheme’s Timetable was more focussed on producing Any Local Plan on time, rather than a Good Local Plan! Sound familiar?

However, with the whole Country focussing on the Brexit position, now could be a very Bad Time to make an example of Castle Point Council. With local elections due in May it may be considered untimely for the Government to be seen to be criticising their colleagues within the Local Lead political group, particularly as some of their own members took such decisive action in opposing a Local Plan that proposed so much development on Green Belt!

Since the Local Plan process has been undertaken in Castle Point the current Lead group has maintained political control. Withdrawn Plans include the Core Strategy, the 2014 Plan and the 2016 Plan. Clearly some assistance may be required, but for the Government to make a move that could possibly unbalance the control of the council, would be interesting in the least.

Some public explanation as to what, if any, work has continued to be undertaken would be the least residents deserve, even if only a statement was released via the cpbc friendly Echo.

Meanwhile; The number of homes granted planning permission in England rose by two per cent in the year to the end of September, rising to 359,500.
“The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics reveal a slight increase on the 352,000 homes securing permission in the same period last year.” Housing minister Kit Malthouse welcomed the cooperation between “builders, developers and councillors”, claiming that government reforms to the planning system are “starting to deliver the permissions we need to reach 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s”. Planningportal.co.uk

From this we can ascertain that secured Permissions do not equate to the number of dwellings delivered.

Probably, and more threateningly to Canvey Island, similar to the number of sites identified for release in the CPBC Local Plan, will not equate to the number of sites being developed on the mainland!

County Border News reports December 2018

“Tandridge district council said, the plan would be submitted “in advance of the introduction of a new government target, which would require the district to plan for 12,900 new homes or 645 homes per year”.
It added: “Based on the rural nature, environmental and landscape designations and the significant proportion of the district covered by Green Belt, the council believes the number of homes the local plan can deliver is 6,056, or 303 homes per year.

Whilst elsewhere in Greater Manchester, the local authority have also revised downwards the number of new homes needed, whilst also halving the proposed Green Belt Loss!

“Insiders say this was because the original document was planning for more homes than the region needed.
It also concentrates even more ‘high density’ development in Manchester and Salford – apartments, essentially – as well as in town centres such as Stockport and Bolton, in order to reduce the amount of protected green space under threat elsewhere.
Around 15 green belt sites have been removed from the plan altogether.

The total amount of green belt space under threat has roughly halved under the new plan” **

Whether Localism is to become an empty promise, or not, with other authorities performing equally, if not worse, than CPBC, for the Government to make an example of Castle Point Borough Council at this “sensitive” time, may well be at the price of an upset mainland community.

smiff

*more can be read HERE.

** more can be read HERE.

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Master-Planning is left in the Paddock, whilst the Local Plan, Stalls! Could Castle Point Council appear anymore Inadequate? Government Chief Planner to eventually let us know!

Two issues have reared their heads locally, One concerning the Paddocks, Canvey Island, the other the whole of Castle Point through its emerging Local Plan and the Government threat of Intervention!

Firstly the Paddocks. It appears that 3 Councillors have visited the Paddocks and engaged with the Hall users.

Now our cllr Leader, cllr smith has enthused over his Local Plan’s promotion of “Master Planning” where development is concerned. During the Special Council meeting arranged to hurry / force through the approval of the Local Plan 2018, much was made of the Master planning initiative, through which local ward councillors would have input, alongside residents and developers on new developments.

So it was surprising to learn that these 3 councillors attending and engaging with the Paddocks users where not the local South Ward representatives.

The Local Plan 2018 reads: “The NPPF also explains that the creation of high quality buildings and places in fundamental to what the planning process should achieve. It goes on to state that design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of proposals. Early discussion between developers, the local planning authority and the local community is important for clarifying expectations. Proposals that demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement should be looked on more favourably.” 

So it appears that cllr smith’s preference for Master Planning, maybe somewhat selective!

The Agenda paperwork for the Local Plan 2018 Special Council meeting clearly indicates that the threat of Government Intervention in the Castle Point Local Plan is a dire consequence of not adhering to a strict agreed Timetable;

“Failure to keep to the programme as agreed by Council in the LDS to produce a legally and technically compliant local plan is likely to result in intervention.”

“Failure to make progress with the New Local Plan 2018 at this time will also be noted by the Secretary of State.”

“If the Council wishes to remain in control of the Council’s local plan process for the Borough the Council must make progress with a local plan. The New Local Plan 2018 now before Council has been prepared to an accelerated timetable, agreed in June following consultation with the Ministry.”

On the Local Plan 2018 itself; “The Chief Executive informed Council that the consultants, led by an experienced Planning Inspector had concluded ‘Lit appears that the Council should be able to submit a local plan for examination which meets current national advice’.”

” The decision (for councillors consideration, rather than that of approval of the Local Plan and its Green Belt development) was whether to keep control of the local plan making process for Castle Point or allow Government officials to intervene and take over the process.”

As we all know the Local Plan 2018 was rejected by Full Council despite these warnings!

Councillors found that amongst other reasoning the distribution of Housing Growth was generally Unjustified.

Since then there has been a further Full council meeting. This meeting produced NO  report on works being carried out on furthering or adjusting the Local Plan!

Such is the purported urgency with the Local Plan schedule that it would have been reasonable to expect, by Government Planners and the Secretary of State AND local Residents, that some work would have gone into addressing the concerns of the councillors that were “brave” enough to go against the council leader’s and ceo’s advice and warnings!

It would be interesting to learn from the Canvey Island Independent Leader and cllr A.Sheldon, possibly the most active Green Belt campaigning mainland councillor, whether officers and / or council leader have engaged with them in a seemingly important effort to continue a process of adjusting the Local Plan, to make it acceptable for councillors approval. Or are the leadership simply sitting and waiting to hear our Fate?

If nothing is being done, you can be sure Castle Point Borough Council will look even more inadequate than it did following the Duty to Cooperate debacle, in which the leadership and officers can be viewed as being seriously negligent!

 

How NOT to Build Cross Community Consensus, the Castle Point Way! A Joint meeting with Canvey and Mainland Residents apparently “Not Effective”!

Embracing the spirit of localism, a small contingency of Canvey Island and Benfleet community representatives, collectively requested an opportunity to discuss their Development concerns, with Castle Point Council leader, Cllr Smith.

smiff

Residents having recognised that the loss of Castle Point Green Belt sites, that are in close proximity, will have a cumulative impact on the local environment.

Unfortunately, seemingly wishing to avoid a combined group meeting, made up of the Dutch Village and Jotmans Farm Green Belt sites campaigners, the leader of CPBC, succeeds in promoting the perception, that communities from Canvey Island and Benfleet are being kept separate for an ulterior motive!

Local communities in this part of the Borough are clearly best placed to recognise that local and main roads are struggling to cope with the demands of today’s traffic, let alone the additional traffic brought about by the proposed large scale indiscriminate development.

The same communities are also best placed to understand how their health and wellbeing issues are directly linked to road traffic pollution and how their day to day functional requirements are already overstretched.
It was not unreasonable of us, to seek an open forum with cllr Smith, so as not to allow local campaigners to meet the leader in more “private” circumstances.

It may appear advantageous for residents with localised green belt site interests, seemingly at risk of development through the new Local Plan, to engage with cllr Smith via individual one to one meetings, however this may encourage the return to the problematic Local Factoring, that has blighted and festered mistrust, through previous versions of the CPBC Local Plan!

Having rejected the opportunity of bringing the community of Castle Point together, Cllr Smith has disingenuously failed to meet his communities public consultation expectations.

CPBC recognises that one of the key risks to the successful production of its Local Plan and its Policies is the possibility it would attract significant public opposition. This particular threat level has been scaled as “HIGH”, and mitigation measures were needed, in the face of Residents opposition to the Local Plan, to prevent slippage in the programmed time scale, raising the perceived Fear of Government Intervention.

CPBCs documented that:-
“The Local Plan will tackle contentious issues that could give rise to significant public opposition. Whilst every effort will be made to build cross community consensus, there remains risk of significant public opposition to the Local Plan proposals”

Cllr Smiths determination to meet with individual Green Belt groups in isolation contradicts this commitment.

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.

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