Tag Archives: housing

The Bell Tolls for the Paddocks, time for Canvey Island protesters to throw in the Towel?

No doubt scripts have been carefully prepared and are being rehearsed for this Tuesdays CPBC Cabinet meeting, so that the fate of Canvey’s, Paddocks Community centre, may be presented as another “Good News” story!

7.00 pm start time for those intending to attend.

The cabinet agenda item presents the case in such a way that clearly, the compiler of the “business case”, has been requested to balance the spend on the renovation and regeneration cost to meet, as near as possible, the cost of a very generous new build project! The list of new goodies can be seen below, whether they can be justified as being entirely necessary is doubtful!

As we indicated in the previous post, other Community Centres are available in other areas at far more reasonable costs than the £4,300,000 Castle Point council suggest.

However the £4,300,000 cost may just be inflated a tad by a developer hoping to develop Flats and Houses on the site and thereby avoiding a level of Section 106 agreements.* (see below)

The difference between renovation and a new build is just, £200,000!

It is good to see that Canvey’s own cllr mumford has the honour of presenting this agenda item to the cabinet. One wonders whether he has been handed a poisoned chalice, as usually “good news” stories are left to cllr smith to deliver!

* “Planning obligations, also known as Section 106 agreements (based on that section of The 1990 Town & Country Planning Act) are private agreements made between local authorities and developers and can be attached to a planning permission to make acceptable development which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms.”

Informative extracts from the Agenda;

“The existing Community Hall, whilst being a well loved landmark on the Island, is not well used and is a significant financial burden which is currently underwritten by the general council tax payers of the Borough.

The Paddocks is the largest community venue in the Borough able to accommodate events for up to 500 seated attendees, but is rarely used to full capacity.

The net operational cost of the facility for 2017/18, excluding apportioned corporate costs, was in the region of £89k. This is budgeted to increase to £110k for the current financial year with an element of this increase being driven by additional security costs. Net operational costs are anticipated to average £165k pa for the period 2020/21 to 2029/301.

In addition to addressing repair and maintenance requirements identified through specialist surveys, this option includes the following remodelling works:

1. Various options to improve entrance to and egress from facility

2. New reception and office adjacent to potential new Main Entrance

3. Sliding/ folding division to Main Hall

4. Lift access to First Floor proposed from Main Hall/Third Hall Lobby

5. Accessible WC proposed adjacent to Main Hall and Lift

6. Second Hall accessed from Main Entrance and North-East Lobby

7. New bar facilities proposed to Second Hall – all halls to have bar facilities

8. Existing Second Hall converted to Third Hall and rentable Office/ Meeting space

9. Third Hall and Office/ Meeting spaces to be accessed from additional entrance and reception, for improved security

10. New stair at West End to proposed First Floor (subject to first floor structural assessment)

11. Stage Facilities upgraded in existing location

12. Main Bar Facilities upgraded in existing location

13. Rentable Meeting space accessed from main corridor

The final result would to all intents and purposes “feel” like a new facility.
Demolish existing facility and replace with a new, modern facility specifically designed to meet current and future requirements.

A new purpose built facility, capable of catering for and presenting a wide range of events and activities to maximise the venue’s commercial potential. A detailed design brief will be drawn up after the completion of a comprehensive consultation process and the appointment of a specialist scheme architect.

The precise configuration would require careful design to ensure that peak time demand could be accommodated.

A new build facility would present opportunities to influence through design, ongoing operational costs as well as environmental considerations, energy efficiency, maintenance and improved security in order that the new build is fit for use as a modern venue for many years to come”

All to be read with a straight face, and I am assured this is not a fairy tale!

Poisoned Chalice

Poisoned Chalice

 

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Canvey Residents – Ignore the Castle Point Local Plan Consultation at your Peril! Changes – Development – Pipe Dreams and Promises are Afoot!

Whether you Bother to Answer, and How you Answer, the CPBC consultation questions, will have a direct bearing on how much Canvey Island changes in the immediate Future! Council Leaders and officers will have appeasement from the Government threat of Intervention in the cpbc Local Plan, uppermost in Mind!

Paddocks

The Paddocks community centre, Canvey Island

Make no Mistake, Development, both Housing and Business, on the most easily accessible large Green Field sites is the likely outcome of Castle Point’s Local Plan consultation!

Once the Local Plan consultation period is over the “Tricks of the Trade” of those charged with “interpreting” the responses come into play.

Previous consultations have seen many objections against cpbc proposed Local Plans, this has led to cpbc council Leaders suggesting that the “non responders” views mirrored those of the council Leaders, despite them having no evidence to suggest they did!

It is for this reason that Canvey Island residents should not only take part in the Local Plan consultation, but also be very careful how the questions are responded to!

Your responses may well be construed to mean something very much different in the hands of cpbc!

An eagerness for infrastructure, may be construed to indicate that residents are in favour of more large developments on Canvey Island. Whilst the Infrastructure improvements amount to pipe dreams, be sure that, the developments will be forthcoming!

Consultation Question 9, for example asks;

Which approach described below in providing new development is most suitable for the borough?

A Intensify existing built up areas with new development and increased density
B Create new settlements in the borough
C Disperse developments to the edge of the built up areas

Before you Answer A, we should remember that Canvey Island is already the most densely Urbanised part of the Borough!
Answer C flies in the face of the Purposes of the Green Belt, that is, “to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas”
Answer B would appear to have implications for residents elsewhere in the Borough.

Answer Question 11 without an explanation and you will be considered to support large site development on Canvey Island!

11. What type of housing do you feel is best suited to your area? (tick all that apply)
Affordable rents, Buy-to-let, Elderly care homes etc, etc.

None of which can be provided without Private Investment, likely off the back of large scale, market price, private development!

Housing allocations
“The new Local Plan 2018 will revisit all potential sites considered within the 2014 and 2016 Plans and assess their future suitability through technical studies,”

No they will not! All Canvey sites, with the exception of the “Triangle Site”, behind the Dutch Cottage Canvey Road, for some reason, were considered to be developable whether Green Belt or Brownfield, or in a Flood Risk zone or Critical Drainage Area, which incidentally the whole of Canvey is!

The Constraints on development revealed in the Technical Studies are all dismissed by cpbc where Canvey Island is concerned!

13a. Do you support the potential residential development at land at Thorney Bay Caravan Park, Canvey Island?

Absolutely irrelevant Consultation question. The owners have permissions in place for a Park Home site and are successfully developing one. CPBC have no jurisdiction over the likely loss of the Roscommon Way final phase land.

14a. Do you support the potential residential development at land at Point Road, Canvey Island?

The Business site was first proposed as a housing development, then returned with a vastly inflated figure of Housing, drawing many, many objections from local residents not least because of the reliance on the tiny roundabout access area and the Flats proposed. And, where would all of the current businesses be re-housed, well no doubt onto more Canvey Green field land around the Roscommon Way area!

20a. Do you support the potential residential development at land west of Benfleet?

Ask ourselves, can we really take more traffic on Canvey Way? And by the way, this is Jotmans Farm if you didn’t recognise the site name.

22a. Do you support the potential residential development at land east of Canvey Road?

Do they really need to ask? This is the Dutch Village Green Belt site, the one that out of the 6,534 Referendum Votes cast, just 56 Canvey Islanders said they were comfortable with persimmons developing!

23a. Do you support the potential residential development at land fronting Canvey Road?

This is beside the Dutch Cottage, Green Belt site, I am sure the extra traffic filing down from Sadlers Farm to Thorney Bay Road every evening, is something we could do without.

26a. Do you support the extension to Roscommon Way?

Given that there is no funding, and that Essex Highways do not wish to burden themselves with future maintenance costs, and that the Thorney Bay part of the land required may not be available for development anyway, this appears simply an unlikely aspiration.

27a. Do you support widening of Sommes Avenue?

Of course we do, but wouldn’t the installation of the cycle way along the North side of Somnes Avenue by ECC, mean that there is no space for the widening of Somnes Avenue by ECC?

29a. Do you support dualling of the northern section of the A130 Canvey Way in the vicinity of Sadlers Farm?

Or put another way, do you support development of Jotmans Farm with access an access onto Canvey Way.
Really?

32a. Do you support improved access to Canvey Island?

Well of course we do, but it will be at the likely expense of much more land released for development. Thurrock Council opposition will not remove their objection and cpbc will have to overturn their own Local Plan Evidence findings that; “it is not obvious that a new road access to Canvey Island could enable the area to benefit to a much greater extent from the major port and distribution development at London Gateway in Thurrock. The cost of such infrastructure would also need to be weighed against the scale of economic benefits likely to accrue to Canvey Island, and the extent of these do not appear likely to be major.”

And Finally, as they say:

34. Do you have any additional comments on the new Local Plan 2018?

Not unless you feel the fact that Canvey Island, the whole of which, is a Critical Drainage Area, is also a tidal Flood Zone 3a area, and has 2 Top Tier Comah sites, meaning should there ever be a need to evacuate the Island, the Emergency Services would be unable to cope with the current levels of Canvey’s population, has some bearing on the Consultation that castle point officers appear to be overlooking or ignoring!

Canvey Housing to replace Garages. The Borough’s Housing takes Priority although Officers need to Get a Grip of Fact over Fiction!

It might be Funny, if it wasn’t Canvey Island!

More Canvey Development will be the Agenda, for the Castle Point planning committee this week. This time demolish garages and replace with 4 houses at Church Close, Canvey.

This time around the Development Applicant is Castle Point Borough Council themselves!

Canvey Big Local £1 million

Fair enough, the Borough needs Housing and we have the Chief Planner to please, if Intervention is to be avoided. However the context may be worthy of some consideration in this instance.

Church Close, Canvey Island, falls within the “Canvey Big Local” area, the area allotted £1,000,000 as an area in west Canvey with social and deprivation issues.

“The area does suffer from some levels of deprivation with approximately 38% of children under 16 being classed as ‘in poverty’ compared to 18% on average for both Castle Point and Essex and 5.9% of households within the area deemed to be in fuel poverty.

Residents have reported that a key issue for them is crime and antisocial behaviour.” 

The thought did occur that the land the garages are sited on might have been better used as an area the “Canvey Big Local” scheme might have been able to utilise for the betterment of the youth of the area rather than Housing, especially as the garages are little used and must bring in little income to the local authority.

But Housing Numbers for the Borough is the tunnel vision focus and Canvey must take more is the order of the day!

Taking this focus forward cpbc case officer comments;

“The application site is located within Flood Zone 3a, which has a high probability of flooding.

Looking at the whole of Castle Point District it would seem that there are areas within Flood Zone 1 that could accommodate this form of development. However, given that the only areas of Flood Zone 1 in the district are on the “mainland” part, such an approach would direct all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh.

Canvey is a self-contained community with its own housing needs and directing all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh could have an adverse impact on Canvey socially and economically.

Furthermore, a need for housing on Canvey cannot be met by building around Benfleet and Hadleigh due to other constraints such as the Green Belt. 

Taking these factors into account it is considered that the ‘catchment’ for the sequential test ought to be drawn around the boundaries of Canvey Island, the whole of which is within Flood Zone 3, so there are no reasonably available sites appropriate for the proposed development in areas with a lower probability of flooding, and the application is considered to pass the sequential test.”

Some might suggest a little bit of a “giveaway” that council members have at some stage exerted their own preferred policy over officers’ ethical planning guidance.

Bordering on the comical is the case officer’s attempts to justify his/her decision Advice for committee members!

“The Flood Risk Assessment contains structural calculations at Appendix B, however, notwithstanding the illegible handwriting, it does not appear that these contain a non-technical summary explaining what the calculations demonstrate.

If members decide to grant planning permission, a condition is necessary to require the developer to submit demonstration that that the buildings will be able to withstand the hydrostatic and hydrodynamic pressures likely to act upon them in modelled flood events.”

“The proposed surface water drainage strategy states that attenuated discharge will take place to the existing surface water drainage infrastructure. The planning authority are aware that ground conditions in the area (clay soils) are fairly impermeable which means that infiltration techniques are unlikely to work effectively. There are no surface water bodies on or in the vicinity of the site which could receive surface water from the proposed development and the drainage of surface water to the surface water sewer would therefore seem to be an appropriate option.
The site is not considered to be at risk of flooding from other sources except from surface water. This form of flooding can be a problem on Canvey Island, although the site is not highlighted as a particular hot spot.

The proposed discharge rate is, however, not known, and there is no demonstration of permission in principle from the relevant water authority to connect to the surface water drainage infrastructure”

In normal circumstances one would expect finalised plans for flooding to be included in the proposal, especially as cpbc are the applicant and supposedly being fully experienced and informed of such local matters, rather than allowing plans to follow as a Condition!

All looking very Professional so far then?

So, being in a socially deprived area, what form of Housing would improve matters?

Certainly not Housing that offers;

“There are no first floor windows in the rear or other side elevations.

The proposed dwellings would be located 1m from the rear boundaries of the existing properties”

Will this standard of Housing do anything to alleviate the socio economical blight of the area?

And if this wasn’t all embarrassing enough, remember in this case Castle Point Council themselves are the Applicant, the proposal’s paperwork uses the withdrawn and ridiculed 2010 Core Strategy as evidence to support this application;

“The Castle Point Borough Council Core Strategy outlines a housing requirement of 5,000 new homes between April 2001 and March 2026. Most of the requirements can be meet by housing provision in the urban area, particularly town centres, main route corridors and other undeveloped land. However, it is not considered possible to meet the entire boroughs housing needs from the above sources, particularly on Canvey Island.

The proposed site although not in an allocated development area is surrounding by housing and lies equidistant to the proposed development areas of ‘East of Canvey Road’, Castle View School’ and ‘Canvey Town Centre’. The site can be considered a windfall site.”

The Core Strategy document is something even cpbc refer to as: “It should be noted that the Submission Core Strategy does not represent Council policy.”

Stand by for more committee member Hand Ringing tomorrow as they reluctantly give their Approval!

No, You Really Could Not Make It Up!

 

“Dear John” Letter from the HSE to Castle Point Council spells a loss of Trust over Thorney Bay!

“WOULD NOT ADVISE AGAINST” Is a phrase that is akin to music to Castle Point Planners ears!

So often does it extinguish any questioning by planning committee members of the extra conditional advice from the HSE, or the Environment Agency, or the Lead Local Flood Authority, when the committee consider Canvey planning applications!

At the Risk of being accused of Scare-mongering, and unlike some that “run with the fox AND hunt with the hounds”,  we prefer to refer to our approach to development as being Cautious, when we refer to Canvey’s constraint issues.

The proposal for the first phase of the Thorney Bay Housing development, cpbc planning application No: 14/0620/FUL, to sit alongside existing caravans is progressing, albeit in an apparently unusual sequence. Given the obvious issue of the neighbouring Calor, Top Tier Comah site, one would have thought that Castle point planners would have made early use of the Health and Safety Executive’s online planning advice app.

It appears however that despite cpbc receiving the planning proposal on the 6th November 2014, no such enquiry was made to the HSE, until the 12th January 2017!

Whilst an initial use of the HSE planning app was made for the original “proposal in principle,” cpbc planning application No: CPT/707/11/OUT, of 600 dwellings plus residential care homes, lodged with cpbc as long ago as 2011, this resulted in an acceptance that 10%, or 60, of the total number of dwellings could be developed within what is labelled the hazardous “middle zone”.

The more “recent” application, for 113 dwellings, sought to use a proportion of the 60 dwellings allowed, sited in the “middle zone,” BUT at a much higher proportion, in relation to the latest planning application, of over 26% !

Rather surprisingly this did not appear to occur to OUR local authority that they might just possibly feel they should refer this percentage level to the HSE!

The developer may indicate the future development phases will have a much lower level of percentage dwellings in the hazardous “middle zone”.

They MAY also find in future these development phases prove unviable without similar high percentage rates, 26%, within the “middle zone,” and having set a precedent within the first phase who could argue?

This seeks higher density development across the whole site, something that would suit developer and the cpbc Local Plan authors equally!

It is somewhat reassuring that the Health and Safety Executive appear to have lost faith in castle point council and with their policy approach towards increasing new residents risk to the exposure to the Hazardous Site.

The HSE have dictated to cpbc that they no longer can take advantage of the HSE’s online Planning Advice App, they have decreed that in future, NOT ONLY ALL future Thorney Bay planning applications which propose development in the “middle zone” must be referred directly to the HSE, but that the 30 dwellings proposed within the current application, is the TOTAL number they will permit!

It appears that Castle Point Council have, at least where the HSE is concerned, used the “Canvey is a Special Case” card once too often!

For those with a more sceptical attitude, we suggest the same may also have led to the problems at Buncefield which led to the events recorded in this resident’s video recording below.

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but in the meantime Caution may be the better option and it will be interesting to learn how the cpbc Local Plan Inspector views this approach, should the Plan reach the Examination stage and of course to observe the cpbc development committee’s consideration of the proposal.

 Grateful thanks go to Ian Silverstein for use of his video.

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.

castlepointmap-e1394532638198

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!

 

 

 

Tale of Two Motions! Brace yourself, CPBC Local Plan could get Messy!

In the month that Councillors Marigold switched on the street light, and Canute failed to arrange a low tide for the Environment Agency visit to inspect the disappearing Canvey Beach, further humiliation for the Borough is possible when Castle Point Council meet to debate the Local Plan Version 3.0!

Bewildered PIC

Officers consider that Motion 2 on the Agenda, “to remove all Green Belt sites from the draft New Local Plan,” “is clearer in that it does not seek to categorize Green Belt sites, and makes clear that all Green Belt sites are to be removed.”

So as to emphasise the so called clarity Motion 2, the requirement to investigate and debate the weight of application of Constraints, such as Flood Risk and Hazardous Industries, has been attached to Motion 1.

Motion 1 “proposes that the housing proposals in the Draft New Local Plan be amended. The amendment would prioritise the protection of the Green Belt above meeting housing needs. It proposes the removal of “virgin” Green Belt sites without planning permission from the Draft New Local Plan, including those 22 sites listed in the 2014 SHLAA. It also requires an investigation of constraints.”

Those of you who had been paying attention would have heard Cllr Anderson insist, despite the attempts of the mayor to ignore the hand waving, that through Motion 2 the application and weighting of Constraints on Housing were considered by the council members. Constraints and the draft Local Plan document itself were not considered during January’s council meeting.

The officers advice appears contrived to cause disruption. Whilst no development on Green Belt appears a clear policy, how would an Examining Inspector view GB land in the Borough that already contains development?

The NPPF seeks to increase the delivery of Housing in all areas.

The seeds for a catastrophic meeting have been sown. Canvey will likely receive the majority of the required 5 Year Housing Supply. The Sequential Test that would prevent more housing and people being put at Risk of Flooding, should be applied correctly during the Local Plan process. This could and should have been negotiated by our representatives ahead of this meeting.

We have suggested to both parts of the Borough’s representatives, that Canvey members should suggest what development is appropriate for Canvey Island, whilst the mainland representatives suggest what development is appropriate for the mainland.

That way each set of representatives have their say whilst residents will feel they are being represented rather than having a Local Plan inflicted upon them.

Perhaps that is too simple a solution!

However the failure to negotiate pre-meeting, indicates a meeting that could devalue what reputation Castle Point Borough Council claim to hold may be expected.

We are warned that Councillors have a gun at their heads with regards to the financial implications of not just having a plan but having a plan that brings money into the Councils coffers.
General Financial Statement: 
7.17 The Council is reminded of the Medium Term Financial Forecast, presented to Council in February 2015, which indicated a significant funding gap in each financial year from 2017/18 which the Council must address in order to maintain existing service levels.  
7.18 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. 
7.19 The position with regard to Council reserves is also serious. There are very   real and significant financial risks, particularly around planning appeals and associated legal costs. These risks, coupled with the projected budget gap, result in a complete depletion of general reserves within the next three to four financial yearsFinancial Implications have clearly become a material consideration contributing towards inappropriate developments.
We are told that other sites in addition to those already surrendered for development by the plan will come forward. It is expressed how embarrassing it would become if the Planning Inspectorate have to be engaged in putting a plan together for us.
I would ask embarrassing for whom?
The Planning Inspectorate could not fail to recognise that the documentation covering items such as Climate Change, Infrastructure, Hazardous Sites, the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and the Surface Water Management Plan have not been brought up to date, so as to meet the requirements of the NPPF.
We have since been notified that increased traffic movements will conflict with EU Directives with regards to Air Quality.
The Planning Inspectorate would not set about indiscriminately destroying our Green Belt for financial or political gain.
Where this will all end up no one knows what is certain is however is that our lovely borough will end up having its life strangled out of it.

Castle Point Local Plan’s rough passage to Calmer Waters!

The “eagerly” awaited Castle Point Borough “special” Council meeting that will consider the draft New Local Plan is scheduled for next Wednesday 24th February 2016.

RNP_MAI_281015Boat001JPG

The agenda paperwork indicate two Motions for debate:

 Motion 1 (removal of some Green Belt sites for housing development ) 

To alter the draft Local Plan to prioritise protecting Green Belt over meeting our objectively assessed housing needs and  remove all virgin green belt sites listed without current planning permission, including sites listed in the Castle Point SHLAA 2014 (22 sites).

or

Motion 2 (removal of all Green Belt sites for housing development)

To alter the draft Local Plan to prioritise protecting Green Belt over meeting our objectively assessed housing needs and remove all Green Belt sites and that the draft Plan as altered be resubmitted for public consultation.
The Motions share a common principle. It is clear that Members do not wish to see Green Belt allocated for housing development in the draft New Local Plan placing the protection of the Green Belt above meeting the objectively assessed housing needs of the Borough.

The Agenda then goes on to give CPBC officers opinion on the merits of, or lack of, each Motion. Extracts include;

Of Motion 1 they consider: “The Motion and its proposed amendments are unclear. First, there is no statutory definition of “virgin” Green Belt. Land is either allocated as Green Belt, or not. Within the Green Belt, sites may host buildings or other structures, such as farm buildings, sports pavilions or dwellings. The National Planning Policy Framework indicates that the essential characteristics of Green Belt are its openness and permanence.
However, the National Planning Policy Framework does define “Previously developed land””

Amendments to the Draft New Local Plan to exclude Green Belt sites which are not “previously developed land” would leave the following sites in the Plan; 
 H8 – Land at the Former Castle View School Site Canvey Island (the Draft New Local Plan site is occupied by former school buildings); 
 H9 – Land between Felstead Road and Catherine Road Benfleet (the Draft New Local Plan site includes land occupied by former commercial and current residential buildings).

And in an attempt to scupper potential support for Motion 1 officer advice suggests;

 For this reason, no account may be taken of any potential capacity at H18 in calculating housing land supply on the Plan.

Officers appear to suggest that ONLY  Motion 1 required the further investigation of other Constraints on Housing. This should include amongst other issues the Hazardous site at Canvey Island. however the officers consider that;

In considering responses to the consultation on the plan, the Task and Finish Group received a detailed briefing on all constraints.

Furthermore a separate session of the Task and Finish Group was devoted to the consideration of policies and responses relating to the hazardous installations on Canvey Island.

This particular meeting epitomised the constrained and futile manner in which these Task and Finish group meetings were conducted.

Despite numerous note taking and the input of experts, such as the Environment Agency, no alterations or changes were made to the draft New Local Plan presented for debate by the special council in January.

The Task and Finish group work was, in a nutshell, Futile!

Then, almost in an attempt to drive a wedge between council members, parties and elements the Agenda paperwork gives its approach to Motion 2;

This Motion (2) is clearer in that it does not seek to categorize Green Belt sites, and makes clear that all Green Belt sites are to be removed.

Of the Risks, officers consider that;

The Council is advised that there is a substantial risk that a Draft New Local Plan amended in the form of either Motion is unlikely to meet the four tests of soundness as set out in paragraph 182 of the NPPF

And of the Duty to Co-operate;

A draft New Local Plan which seeks only a limited ability to meet its housing need will not sit well with neighbouring authorities who are seeking to release green belt sites to meet their own housing needs: to expect those authorities to release even more of their green belt to meet the Council’s unmet need is unrealistic.

Addressing the potential next steps the paperwork advises;

As stated previously Motion 1 is unclear, inconsistent and contradictory  suggesting that it is acceptable to leave certain Green Belt Sites within the  Draft Local plan but excluding others. Council is reminded any attempt to  remove sites that is not supported by evidence will result in the Council’s  approach to meeting its housing needs being found unsustainable.
Motion 2 the removal of all Green Belt sites for housing development  presents the least worst option in that it is a clear unambiguous policy  statement that the Council’s priority is the protection of the Green  Belt and  the Council will not allow the use of any green belt sites to meet its  objectively assessed housing needs.

If Council is minded to direct that the draft New Local Plan is amended to  reflect either of the  two Motions then it is recommended that the Council  directs that the Draft New Local Plan be altered to remove all Green  Belt housing sites to prioritise protecting Green Belt over meeting the  Borough’s objectively assessed housing needs.

Quite clearly unless the different elements among the Political groups of councillors negotiate a compromise or agree a way forward, the potential for this next special council meeting may turn to farce!

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Councillors have had clear difficulty in altering direction of this version of the Local Plan, this effort has the potential to be wasted if clear decision on the way forward is not agreed and debated sensibly. Developers and those preferring the rejected version of the Local Plan, and we know who they are, will take advantage of a divided and split council.

PS for any officers or councillors interested, please note at Agenda Note 5.14 that H17 is NOT East of Canvey Road. East of Canvey Road is H16 according to the Local Plan Proposals Map!

Be careful what you agree to!