Tag Archives: Infrastructure

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!

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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!

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CPBC Local Plan capitulation on Green Belt Housing Growth – Canvey Island, Jotmans Farm and Glebelands Back in the Frame?

And so the time has finally arrived when the good people of Canvey Island and the Castle Point mainland get to see an inkling of what cpbc have-planned for us, in the way of development in the Borough!

Contained in the special council meeting agenda and looking like a speed writing composition time trial, is the Local Plan timetable required to satisfy the Government’s secretary of state, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire.

On first viewing the cpbc 2018 Local Plan could be renamed the Marchant Plan, after the cpbc chief executive (ceo), given the upset this is going to cause local Residents throughout the Borough!

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Like a bad Smell, this just will not Go Away!

Council members have been issued with an Agenda, which appears based entirely on the cpbc ceo’s interpretation of Government requirement, followed by a list of consequential threats if actions are not followed. Once again council ward members are getting this information 3rd hand.

Over the course of the next 12 months we will learn what the new leadership of the Castle Point borough council are made of. Whether Infrastructure is delivered in good time as per recent promises, or whether Housing land is released on the recommendation of the “professional officers” and requirement of Government.

The cpbc leadership itself will be judged by actions alone!

The new leader, representing 88,000 residents, was elected by just 1,241 voters.

His deputy we blogged of in April 2013 thus; During the debate during Council’s announcement of the 5 year Housing Supply, Cabinet Member cllr Stanley referred to the Borough’s silent majority of residents that may well be in favour of large scale housing development in the Borough.
If cllr Stanley is correct, the Council will need to communicate with, and motivate those residents, for it appears by the reaction against these proposals the new draft Local Plan 2014 will be unpopular.
The issue, especially for Mainland residents is whether they believe the Council have come up with a sound 5 year housing supply and whether they can come to terms and accept the sites selected.

During the recent 2018 call for sites, it is possible to see on social media that there were some mainland residents willing to travel onto Canvey Island seeking, what they considered to be developable sites to add to the cpbc register.

One commented “I drove virtually the whole of Castle Point (yes including Canvey) and listed plots that could be used for development where they had fallen in to rack and ruin” – “There was a lot!!!! More on mainland than Canvey by the way. The issue though is ownership and getting it sorted for development. Some would need compulsory purchase. They are ‘green’ spots but not Greenbelt.”

Very noble of him, but I would add he did so with absolutely no concern towards the other Constraints that should be applied when considering increasing the Housing Development, and Population of Canvey Island.

These people have some influence within the “Ruling” political party at cpbc!

Green Belt Campaign groups and Residents objecting to development, is recorded within the 2018 Local Plan paperwork as being a Threat!

Creating a High Risk to the Local Plan.

A Threat described as: “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.

Logistically this could cause a higher volume of work in the processing and analysis of representations than accounted for in the LDS timetable, which could set it back. To help reduce this risk, responses from the 2014 and 2016 draft Local Plan consultations will be used to assess public opinion. The 2014 and 2016 draft Local Plans will form the majority of the new Local Plan so previous consultation responses as well as updated evidence will help inform the Plan.

The first admission that the intention is to allow NO NEW Consultation Submissions! If you did not make a submission you will have No Say!

And that the intention is to revert back to the old daft 2014 Local Plan, the one that caused so much political disruption and saw 5 UKIP members elected onto the council to represent mainland wards, and also the downfall of cpbc leader P.Challis!

The Agenda paperwork includes these concerning passages:

“Assessment of all sites will be carried out in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as revised, and the National Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) – “assessing the suitability, availability and achievability of sites including whether the site is economically viable.”

The new Local Plan will have a timeframe of at least 15 years: however the housing delivery policies and site allocations will have a shorter timeframe of between 5 to 10 years. This shorter timeframe for the housing policy elements will ensure an upturn in housing delivery in the short term.

In 2017, the Government consulted on a standardised methodology for calculating housing needs, and this identified a need for 342 dwellings per annum in Castle Point.

Therefore the objectively assessed housing need (OAN) for Castle Point will be 342 dwellings per annum and previous evidence suggests that only approximately 100 dwellings per annum can be identified on brownfield sites. Whilst the plan must recognise nationally important physical and policy constraints, it is clear both from the evidence and from advice from the Chief Planner and consultants acting for the Secretary of State that some land in the Green Belt will need to be considered for housing.

Since all South Essex authorities are constrained by Green Belt, concerns are likely to be expressed again by those authorities if the Council has not taken difficult decisions on some Green Belt release.

The most important issue to bear in mind is that the Secretary of State needs confidence that the Council will prepare a local plan. If he detects that there is an unwillingness to commit to an accelerated timetable to have a plan prepared quickly, or to commit to difficult decisions regarding the allocation of sites for housing (including those in the Green Belt), then he will direct that others (either a County Council, or consultants) prepare a plan for him, at cost to the Council. If that were to occur the Council will then play no further part in planmaking.

Notwithstanding this work, and acknowledging that the plan must recognise nationally important physical and policy constraints, it is nonetheless clear that some land in the Green Belt will need to be considered for housing. Informal indications from emerging evidence and technical assessments, as well as discussions with Ministry officials and consultants, suggest that the figure in the new Local Plan will need to be significantly closer to the OAN as a reasonable and appropriate target.

For this reason, sites indicated for development in the draft New Local Plan 2014 will need to be considered again. For the avoidance of doubt these will include all those sites identified in the draft New Local Plan 2014 for development.

It is highly likely that almost all suitable, available and achievable sites will be required for the plan, including those in the Green Belt, to achieve a target which is likely lower than the OAN but which would be acceptable at Examination.

The first contentious point will be to learn which councillors will be allowed to participate in the Local Plan meetings, for amongst the council members maybe land owners, property agents and those with registered interests that may be considered to influence decision making.

Next week’s meeting will be the first in which we will see whether constraints such as Infrastructure, Green Belt, Hazardous Industries, and Flood Risk are priorities or just sound bites to be shelved in succumbing to the ceo’s interpreted Government’s cpbc Local Plan!

Let’s have no councillor Crocodile tears, this Plan has been 11+ years in the making!

A clear Message sent from Castle Point to the Government, Hands off the Borough’s Local Plan?

Canvey Island West Ward voted to elect the Conservative candidate J.Blissett by just 1 (one) Vote yesterday to replace the Canvey Island Independent Party candidate J.King, onto the Castle Point Borough Council.

This was the only change, as all other Canvey Island seats were held by the incumbent CIIP representatives.

Meanwhile on the mainland the Conservatives gained the seats of those held by an Independent and the UKIP representatives standing for re-election.

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The implications to the Borough regarding Infrastructure and the CPBC Local Plan will be unclear until further news emerges, however with the threat of Intervention over the Local Plan by the Government hopefully a message has been sent that the new administration at CPBC expect that Green Belt WILL be protected from Development AND that Infrastructure will be delivered ahead of Housing.

Photograph: Copyright Echo newspapers

 

Castle Point Local Plan Intervention – No Exclusion Zone! Are we being Misled ahead of May elections, or are we in Safe Hands?

The fear of Government Intervention over Castle Point Council, hangs over the Borough like some big Bogey Man in a Nightmare!

maco

I have seen it quoted on social media that “No Housing” is not an option for our Area.

The Secretary of State, having read cpbc’s explanation as to why they were amongst the 15 local authorities causing him most concern over their Local Plan replied, “In terms of the intervention criteria, Castle Point appears to have failed to make progress on plan-making, the policies do not appear to be up to date and there is high housing pressure. Given that your Council has said it will not produce a Local Plan until after the Joint Plan has been produced and that the Joint Plan is not due to be submitted until 2020 it appears possible that Plan production could be accelerated through intervention.”

And yet the cpbc leader Cllr riley suggests under the Echo introduction – NOT a single house in Castle Point should be built until plans for infrastructure has been in put in place, a council leader has claimed – despite the threat of government intervention looming over his head.

“We have never had the infrastructure contributions we should have had in Castle Point, and we are now in this position.” “They go hand in hand and we have been prioritising the infrastructure, and I think most of our residents would appreciate that.”

The previous attempts at a Local Plan, first saw Canvey Island basically stitched up to provide the Dutch Village Green Belt release for the Borough’s Housing Supply, then the Challis, Stanley, Smith 2014 Plan to again promote the Dutch Village release but this time to also include contentious mainland green belt sites.

There followed a massive reaction from Green Belt campaign groups on the mainland that came to a head at the local elections which saw a rise in ukip voting with the unseating of the then cpbc leader Cllr Challis.

Since then a 2016 Plan has been found to fail the Duty to Cooperate. Criticism has also been aimed at the lack of proposed Housing Numbers contained in the Plan. With some members of the Lead Group apparently suggesting that the officers failed to note the wish amongst some council members that the Blinking Owl should be released from the green belt so as to contribute to the Housing Supply.

This is an isolated site that is in need of infrastructure which may be what Cllr Riley had in mind.

The timing of the press response alongside the lack of information from cpbc as to the procedures of the Local Plan and the Intervention, may be an invite to speculate that Intervention is more likely than not.

What you make of the competency of the Local Plan makers is for you to decide.

Local Plan making is expected to:

“Local Plans should be aspirational but realistic. They should address the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change.”

“Local Plans should set out the opportunities for development and clear policies on what will or will not be permitted and where. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal should be included in the plan.”

“Local planning authorities should set out the strategic priorities for the area in the Local Plan. This should include strategic policies to deliver: ● the homes and jobs needed in the area;”

“the provision of retail, leisure and other commercial development; ● the provision of infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, ”

“Local planning authorities with Green Belts in their area should establish Green Belt boundaries in their Local Plans which set the framework for Green Belt and settlement policy. ”

” When drawing up or reviewing Green Belt boundaries local planning authorities should take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development.”

Given the concerns of some Castle Point Residents and Green Belt campaigners fearing that Intervention would remove local interests, concerns and input from the Planning process, it is good to hear this official message regarding the current situation:

From the Horses Mouth:

“Castle Point has failed to convince the Secretary of State that they are doing enough to get a Local Plan in place.

A final decision is still to be made and will be made once the Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain has provided the Secretary of State with further advice on the current status of Local Plan production and what can be done to speed it up.

If intervention were to occur then a Local Plan that meets all of the necessary legal and procedural requirements would be produced which would include consulting with members of the local community.” 

Link to the Echo article is HERE.

Persimmons seek Change of Use of Canvey Island Green Belt Land, with Stable Block for just 3 Horses, whilst Profits impress and Residents unaware!

On first glance it might be puzzling to explain why Canvey Island should be the first choice for Persimmon Homes to expand their successful business interests into the world of Equestrian pursuits at the Dutch Village on Canvey Island!

Persimmon’s profits more than triple over five years to £782.6million in 2016.

And yet they have registered a Planning Proposal with Castle Point borough council;

18/0118/FUL | Erection of stable block with adjoining hay storage/tack room and associated landscaping, formation of access track together with the change of use of land.

Persimmon, this mighty developer, seeks to enter into Equestrianism with a 16+ Hectare site for just 3 horses!

thelwell

Riding Roughshod through Planning Policy

Quite obviously the Change of Use of Land is tactical manoeuvring in preparation for their challenge to the next cpbc Local Plan, Housing Supply and its interpretation of Green Belt Policy.

Either way, should the Dutch Village site become developed with the anticipated 300 dwellings, the infrastructure issues on Canvey Island will be exacerbated.

Health Service, traffic, recreation and Flooding issues will all be worsened, affecting each and every Canvey Island and South Benfleet resident!

The Change of use of Land, should signify a warning to all of the Borough’s Green Belt site neighbours, many of the Borough’s GB sites have some Built Development on them.

CPBC needs to be working on a Red Line to define where GB land changes from their pristine, cherished “virgin” sites to, GB with limited development, before finally becoming Previously developed Green Belt with the same lack of protection as Brownfield sites.

The KEY to ANY Canvey Island development must be that it is, APPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT!

Castle Point council must respond in the correct manner to this application. We should all make our thoughts known to the council officers, otherwise Green Belt Policy will be undermined and Canvey Island and Sth.Benfleet residents will suffer.

The Link to the Application to view documents and to make comment is HERE.

Reasons to Object or comment upon could include:

Green Belt Development

as a whole, it should be considered that the proposal represents inappropriate development in the Green Belt. The NPPF identifies that such development may only be permitted under Very Special Circumstances.
NPPF Paragraph 83 instructs “Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.”
It can be argued that the “Change of Use of Land” should also only be considered, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan rather than by individual applications.

“All permanent stables and field shelters will require planning permission and, if the land is not in use for the keeping of horses, an application is unlikely to be acceptable.”

The term Very Special Circumstances implies that a desperate “Need” for this facility must be Obvious and Proven, or that there are very few similar facilities in the area.
It should be noted that there are many similar facilities in the local area.

The “facilities are small scale” indeed accommodating a maximum of 3 horses only. This will have no tangible impact on any suggested unmet need for such facilities, even if such need were proven to exist.

The applicant refers to the Purposes of the Green Belt and notes ‘to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas’;
The applicant points out that their intention is to construct “buildings in the Green Belt will give rise to built development”

Archaeological Features

The field abutting the proposed Stable Yard contains the Roman Saltern, a scheduled Ancient Monument, 260m south east of Great Russell Head Farm. This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance.

Proposed Access

The current access is on a busy dual carriageway, Canvey Road.

The design plans indicate the intention to “set back” the gated entrance 6 metres from the footpath. Whilst this “pull in” may make the actual entry to the field somewhat safer, other Canvey Road field entrances, with similar “pull in”design, have been the subject of serious “Fly Tipping” problems. This has been notably recorded at the entrances to the Canvey West Marsh RSPB site, directly opposite.

Vandalism and the protection from Harm of Horses

The Stable Block would likely act as a “magnet” for vandals being, unlit, housing unattended animals over night, out of sight of passers-by view thereby “secret”, and of wooden construction, containing feed and bedding, all potential fire hazards.*

*Extracted from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group’s 4 page Objection document.

Illustration with apologies to Thelwell

The Gloves are Off, the Duty to Cooperate works both Ways! Castle Point – Thames Gateway!

“Seconds Out – Round 1” – Would have been an appropriate opening introduction to the Castle Point examination into their Local Plan Duty to Cooperate process.

The meeting was attended by 5 of the local authority neighbours, half a dozen councillors, a handful of residents and a group of developer’s representatives.

It was noticeable that the Thurrock council representative adopted a particularly aggressive position in pointing out apparent flaws in the cooperation work undertaken by cpbc.

Claims were made that meetings to discuss areas such as a joint local plan for the Thames Gateway area had been undertaken, and claims were disputed as being un-evidenced.

CPBC officer Rogers, it must be recognised, acquitted himself professionally and was able to support his statements and generally produce the necessary evidence to support his points-made as and when required.

Whether or not enough cooperation has been undertaken will be the inspector’s decision alone, the agreement and success of cooperation is not necessarily the deciding factor. Given the levels of inter-borough ill will individual cooperation between the 5 local authorities on non strategic issues is apparently unlikely!

The concensus between the Basildon, Thurrock, Southend, Rochford and Essex county authorities was that Castle Point should have re-consulted them once the decision was taken to lower the local plan Housing Delivery from 200 dwellings per Annum down to 100 dwellings.  They felt a delay on publication of the cpbc Local Plan2016 should have followed.

Perhaps in hindsight, delaying publication of the LP2016 for 1 month, until the negative responses were received in writing, may have proved evidentially worthwhile!

However, our neighbours have indicated that they are also unlikely to be able to fulfil their own Assessed Housing Needs, therefore it can be argued that delay would have been fruitless as no assistance with adoption of some castle point Housing Need would be forthcoming!

It is a fact the Castle Point is in a position of being required to push ahead with the local plan process, not simply to comply with the Government’s requirement to complete by 2017, but are expected to by the Secretary of State following promises made during the Glebelands development Appeal inquiry. During which it was considered premature to find in favour of the developer as good progress was being made in the local plan making process.

Whilst Castle Point have published a plan for examination, Thurrock, the most judgemental of neighbouring authorities, expect to submit theirs around 2020.

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Depiction by Sir John Tenniel.

Essex County Council representatives appeared most concerned about Highways issues. On the 2nd access to Canvey Island they revealed that they have not, as yet, been supplied with evidence of the Need for a new or improved access route! ECC claimed they have applied for funding to research the matter.

The barrister representing cpbc at this stage even went to the lengths to point out that the 2nd access route to Canvey, in particular the Northwick Road to Manor Way Thurrock, had been demoted to an aspiration, or “low-level” option, within the Local Plan2016 rather than a crucial piece of infrastructure!

This point should be explored as Canvey Islanders have long been fed the line that this is a priority  piece of infrastructure by castle point council!

No mention was made of the Roscommon Way final phase.

The reduction in the intended castle point Housing Supply was then used to suggest that not only the 2nd access route for Canvey Island but also the Woodmans Arms and A127 Fairglen interchange, meant that Government funding would not be released!

Interesting then that the news of this funding block was released in the press just days before this Local Plan meeting.

One can only assume that such major improvement as in the case of the Fairglen inter-change is being used as a lever by ECC as a means of over-riding the adopted Green Belt policy being sought for adoption by castle point council.

It was clear that Castle Point are no better or worse than other neighbouring authorities where cooperation is concerned, perhaps others should have adopted a less aggressive approach.

The inspector’s findings are intended for release by the 6th January 2017 at the latest. “Watch this space” – as Pammie would say!

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!