Tag Archives: Inspectors letter

Canvey Island in the lap of the Gods, otherwise known as Castle Point Council Leader and CEO! Better for CPBC to Control the Destiny of Canvey Green Belt, or the Government Chief Planner?

Canvey Island and Castle Point residents should be concerned to know that in exactly 4 weeks time, to the day, we will learn whether the desperate attempts by our councillors, and professional officers, to avoid Government Intervention over the debacle of the cpbc Local Plan has been worthwhile.

We were told that Intervention, “Takes away the ability for us (cpbc) to control the destiny of land in the Borough for our residents”

Previously in the Local Plan process Canvey Island was the ONLY area within the Borough that these, mainly, same councillors could agree to the release of Green Belt land for development, during the whole Plan period!

Obviously the Inspector rejected this idea, stating quite clearly “some development at Canvey Island may be required to meet local need”.

Plain to see then, that the level of land needed for Housing Development on Canvey Island, did NOT require the release of Green Belt!

BUT NO, cpbc chief executive, in his infinite wisdom, thought the opposite, and further proposed that, Canvey Island Green Belt, should remain the single area forming the nucleus of the Green Belt Housing Growth in the Borough’s Local Plan, whilst adding the mainland Green Belt sites for the 2014 version.

This belying the Inspector’s clear intentions, contained within his critical letter, addressed to cpbc Head of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods, strongly suggesting the Withdrawal of the Core Strategy plan!

Canvey Green Belt was only removed, gratefully, from the 2016 version of the cpbc Local Plan’s Housing growth sites, to add support to the politically driven protection granted to, selected sites identified as, “virgin” Green Belt land.

Now we have just 4 weeks to wait to learn how, and why, the Local Plan process, is better in the hands of our local councillors, rather than the government Intervention team.

In CPBC’s own words; “the Secretary of State wrote again to the Borough Council in March 2018, indicating that he was minded to continue with intervention since there was no clear timetable for preparing and adopting a local plan for the Borough.”

“Intervention by Government in any area of local government business is a last resort and follows poor decision making and failure to follow Government direction and advice.
Members of the Council will not be involved and will be excluded from the plan making process.
In terms of decision-taking, the Government will wish to make certain after intervention that the statutory development plan and policies for the Borough will be implemented and will not allow the local plan once agreed to be frustrated by the Development Control process.”

“As one of the very few planning authorities under intense scrutiny by MHCLG, (ministry of housing community and local government,) the Council remains at great risk of intervention and this will lead to considerable reputational damage on a national scale. This may cause other non-intended consequences such as the inability to attract staff”

The mood of Residents, particularly mainlanders, suggest that only if substantial Green Belt is protected from development, will it have been worthwhile staving off Intervention.

Canvey Residents can be sure that the extra Constraints that should have been applied to Canvey Island in isolation, would ONLY have been applied correctly by Government officials. History has proven that lead group councillors, in collusion with certain officers, have only sought to use these Canvey Constraints, to lower the OVERALL Housing Supply figures ACROSS of the whole Castle Point area!

In effect cementing the lead group’s controlling status quo in the follow up local election by quelling the mainland unrest by removing the contentious Green Belt sites from the 2016 local plan.

Look also at similar protectionist decision-making at Brentwood council, with their plan to develop a Garden Village at Dunton.

Note also the effects the Brentwood plans will have on Castle Point residents, with the amount of proposed housing development alongside the main A127 commuter route adding to the Basildon planned development.

Divided by the A127, Dunton Hills Garden Village will have little or no impact upon Brentwood. Those of us living south of the A127, especially in Castle Point and Basildon, will bear the brunt of the strain on infrastructure and commuting issues.

Dunton Hills Garden Village, which Brentwood Borough Council says could initially deliver about 2,500 homes, with the potential for another 1,500, has come under the most fierce criticism from Thurrock Council, that along with Basildon, borders the borough close to where the development would be built on 260 hectares of land south of the A127. *
Brentwood Borough Council is meeting on Thursday, November 8, at the Brentwood Centre to discuss the next stage of the borough’s Local Plan – principally how and where to cater for the 7,752 new homes the borough needs to find between 2016 and 2033. (yourthurrock.com)
*wasn’t we informed by cpbc that in the case of a Garden Village proposal at the Blinking Owl site, North Thundersley, that 8,000 dwellings would be needed to make the installation of infrastructure financially viable?

Look at these statistics, area, population etc and judge whether there is a balance of growth distribution across ours and Brentwood boroughs.

Brentwood: Area: 153.1 km², Population 73,600 (2011). 7,752 new homes.
Castle Point: Area 45.08 km, Population 88,011 (2011). new homes tbd (see below)

The expectation, is for cpbc to capitulate to the Government Chief Planner, and reintroduce the 2014 daft Local Plan with these implications for us;

The council has identified 13 locations for housing development, with 4,000 more homes required in the period to 2031 to meet growing demands of our community. This means around 200 new homes a year would be built across the whole borough. Without the plan, it is feared that there would have to be at least 7,000 more homes.

Don’t forget that the cpbc lead group and some independent councillors, agreed this daft Plan. Only under the threat of a Mainland residents backlash at the Polling Station, was this Plan rejected!

Below are Maps of the Brentwood and Thurrock boroughs, the implications on Canvey Island and Castle Point, by the population and Industrial growths of these two neighbouring areas, can be easily imagined if complimented by similar growth in Castle Point!

What of cpbc leader’s promise of infrastructure before development? With growth in the neighbouring areas and no realistic likelihood of Highway improvements, new access to Canvey, dualling of Canvey Way, Somnes Avenue widening, Roscommon Way completion etc, the likely announcement of many large developments sites bodes ill for Canvey Island!

Castle Point Residents will be eager to learn, the benefits of “control of the destiny of land in the Borough for our residents”, over the dreaded Government Intervention!

Screenshot (18)

Screenshot (19)

“Smoke Filled Rooms, Dodgy Housing Site Selection Processes and Failed Local Plans,” sound Familiar?

Yet another Local Plan is halted in its Tracks. In an Inspector’s Note, reminiscent of that sent to Castle Point Council during 2011 when Mr P.Crysell stated, amongst other concerns; 

“I consider there remain serious shortcomings in the (CPBC) Council’s Plan.” “These are firstly, the approach in relation to the Green Belt; secondly, the consequences of this on the distribution of growth across the Borough”

“I have reservations about the methodology employed and the way in which it appears to have been used, leading to inconsistent and inappropriate site selection.  For example, the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal is unclear as to why the most sustainable Green Belt site was discounted.”

“I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island yet fails to identify more than a token amount of land on the mainland where flooding is not a significant issue.”

The Shropshire Star commented of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan;

“It is pretty clear that a ‘smoke filled’ room process occurred behind closed doors with Cllrs where political rather than policy issues dominated – something the post 2004 Act changes was designed to eliminate.”  Shropshire Star

Evidence had emerged of a similar smoke filled room meeting in the CPBC Lead Group rooms, during which Canvey Island Green Belt was sacrificed so as to progress a Core Strategy document bent on protecting mainland Green Belt at all costs!

Of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan the Inspector commented;

Housing Site Selection Methodology

 7. You will recall the concerns that I raised at the Matter 8 hearing session in respect of this matter.  While I accept the need for a Plan’s evidence base to be proportionate, it is also the case that all parties need to understand why certain sites were allocated and why other sites were not allocated.

 8. In that context, I sought to examine the methodology that the Council has employed in selecting the 17 housing sites proposed for allocation in the Plan.  Unfortunately, the commentary set out in the Council’s (pre-hearing) written answer to my question in respect of this matter2 and in section 5 of the Housing Delivery Technical Paper3 contain only a brief summary of that process.  Indeed, the latter document states (para 5.6) that ‘the site selection or rejection reasons for each individual site can be found in the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report (2015)’ (the IA).

 9. However, Appendix X of the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report4 comments that ‘the IA findings are not the sole basis for a decision; other factors including planning and deliverability, play a key role in the decision-making process’.  Bearing in mind the position set out in Housing Technical Paper as described above, this suggests to me an element of circular reasoning.  

 10. Clearly, the detailed selection of sites for allocation involves an element of planning judgement.  However, that judgment needs to be both explicit and transparent.  In short, there needs to be a clear ‘audit trail’ that shows how the final decisions were arrived at, and what factors were taken into account in making such decisions.

 11. In response to my questions along those lines at the Matter 8 Hearing session, your officers offered to table working spreadsheets that would give more information about how the Council reached its decisions in this regard.  I accepted that suggestion and allowed other parties the opportunity to make representations accordingly.  However, the document that was subsequently produced5 was not the working spreadsheet that had originally been offered.  Instead it represents a commentary, apparently prepared after the event, that seeks to apply planning considerations to some (but not all) of the sites that were considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the site assessment process.  I have now been advised that the Council is unable to find the spreadsheets that were apparently referred to at the hearing session.

12. The evidence that has been submitted since the hearing session is inadequate for several reasons.  First, it does not represent the actual selection exercise, as it was prepared after the event.  Second, comments are only given on a number of some 315 sites considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the assessment.  Over 200 sites are missing.  This represents a substantial gap in the evidence base.  While the Council comments that the sites listed are only those that scored 5 or above in that exercise, it is clear that some sites with a lower score were also assessed – and indeed subsequently allocated in the Local Plan.  Clearly, an additional sieving exercise had taken place prior to the one that is presented in the new evidence.  Third, it is clear from the comments made in this document that a number of sites that scored highly against the ‘strategic fit’ criteria were then discounted on the basis of their existing use.  It is unclear why these were not screened out at the earlier site assessment stage, at which the site’s development potential was considered in terms of various factors – including use.

 13. I note the Council’s responses to the specific comments made by representors in respect of this additional evidence7.  For the avoidance of doubt, the present note does not seek to comment on the detailed scores that have been assigned to specific sites in the IA.  However, I share a general concern raised by some parties in respect of strategic fit criterion 2 (promoting sustainable urban extensions) that it is not immediately clear why some large sites (notably those that have been allocated) were given a positive score in respect of that criterion while other large sites – also adjoining the urban area – were deemed to not comprise a sustainable urban extension.

16. Drawing these matters together, and noting that some further comments are yet to be submitted by the Council, it appears likely that I will reach a finding that the housing site selection exercise underpinning the Local Plan is flawed.  Such a finding would call into question my ability to reach a finding of soundness on a Local Plan containing these site allocations.

13 years on from the 2004 Act, that the Shropshire Star referred to, appears to have resulted in very little impact!

Letter from the Inspector; Castle Point Council Responds!

Castle Point Council have responded to the Inspector’s concerns over the apparent unclear attempts by the local authority to cooperate with neighbouring authorities.

The response is indeed a valiant effort, 18 pages in length, sadly much of it repetition and mainly covering work undertaken more relevant to previous versions of the local plan!

In relation to the Inspector’s veiled hint that cpbc may wish to clarify why the allocated reserved proposed development of the large Green belt site at north West Thundersley, should not be brought forward, no comment was offered by our local authority “professional” officers!

It appears the Local Plan2016 will survive, or perish, on the issue of the identified 100 dwellings per annum delivery being sufficient homes, despite the NPPF expectation – “For plan-making this means that local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area”, the possibility that by bringing forward the land at North West Thundersley may achieve 200 dwellings per annum, whilst the actual objectively assessed housing needs of the Borough are between 400 – 500 dwellings per annum!

What is illustrated in the cpbc response is their repeated efforts they maintain to bring Canvey Island, despite the Flood Risk and Hazardous Industries Constraints on Housing, to the forefront of the development initiatives contained in Local Plan2016.

In effect it must be considered a concern that a letter of this length and content, may be received by the Inspector as questioning, whether he has actually bothered to read or believe the cpbc Local Plan2016 and its evidence base!

Below we have reproduced, at the risk of being taken out of context, butchered extracts of the cpbc response letter. After all, it is a long and painful read in its entirety!

Our comments are in BOLD CAPITAL ITALICS. The Inspector’s concerns in italics, the rest are cpbc’s approved  contentious response.

CPBC write;- There was considerable interest in the draft plan, with nearly 5,000 representations received, the majority of which opposed a planning strategy of releasing land in the established Green Belt on the fringes of the built up area in order to try to meet a proportion of objectively assessed housing need. However neighbouring authorities were generally supportive of that approach, while acknowledging that Castle Point would have extreme difficulty in finding land to meet its objectively assessed housing needs in full.
In its further considerations, the Council afforded significant weight to subsequent statements by the Planning Ministers concerning the Government’s determination to protect the Green Belt, and also to further refinements to Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) explaining that objectively assessed housing needs would not necessarily need to be met in full where there are important constraints such as established Green Belt. Guidance from senior planning inspectors at the Planning Inspectorate in briefings to the Council also re-affirmed this approach.
Through the preparation of the former Core Strategy and the New Local Plan the Council has been an integral part of the Thames Gateway Area. Ministers and Government have made clear that the Thames Gateway is a nationally important opportunity for new homes and business, accommodated in an established landscape, close to London.

Castle Point Borough Council has been keen to play its part in the Thames Gateway so far as is consistent with the need to respect constraints and deliver sustainable development. Indeed, as a consequence of the PPG issued in 2014 regarding the “Duty to Co-operate”, the Council initiated what have now become regular monthly meetings to discuss strategic planning matters with South Essex authorities.

However it would not be desirable, in the interests of promoting sustainable development, or consistent with the Housing & Planning Act 2016, national policy and guidance, to seek to delay plan making in Castle Point…. South Essex authorities are at different stages in terms of plan preparation across the area, delay in plan preparation could range from a few months to several years.

……. Castle Point now happens to be in the position of bringing forward its plan at this time, ahead of other neighbouring authorities. Whilst regrettable, that position should not be seen as a failure to co-operate, since the Council can demonstrate extensive on-going and effective engagement on matters of strategic planning importance.

Furthermore, discussions took place with Basildon Council during 2014 regarding the strategic function of the Green Belt separating the two settlements of Benfleet and Bowers Gifford,

…..and with Thurrock Council over first a joint submission to the Department for Communities and Local Government for an Enterprise Zone covering key proposals sites in the draft plan at West Canvey in 2015 as well as adjoining land in Thurrock, and secondly a proposition for a third access road to Canvey Island as part of a North Thameside Link Road. EDITOR: mmmm, AND THURROCKS RESPONSE WAS?
cpbc continue; …….having considered all of the evidence from its own studies and assessments, it came to the view that on balance it was impossible to meet objectively assessed housing needs in full in Castle Point without serious harm to interests of acknowledged importance, notably the established open areas of Green Belt in the Borough.  Sacrifice of such areas to meet objectively assessed housing need appeared to be contrary to the clear Guidance which had emerged from central Government (and also contrary to the NPPF, when read in the light of that Guidance). SSSHHHH DON’T MENTION THE OTHER CONSTRAINTS!

OH GO ON THEN! The physical nature of Castle Point defines its characteristics – small in area with a significant proportion of land at or below sea level, and with RAMSAR and SPA sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), ancient woodland, areas at risk from flooding, as well as important areas of Green Belt, often quite narrow in extent, but fulfilling vital strategic objectives and functions of the Green Belt by separating individual settlements within the Borough and separating the Borough and adjoining settlements.

This was explained in the workshop with key partners in February 2014, and further details of the specific actions may be found in the New Local Plan 2016 Consultation Report August 2016 (CP/05/012*).

Prior to that (2014) was there any constructive, active and on-going joint working linked to the preparation of the New Local Plan?  If so, what form did it take?

cpbc:- As mentioned above, there has been a long-established practice of engagement across South Essex on strategic planning matters. For example the Thames Gateway South Essex Planning & Transport Board met on a quarterly basis to discuss and agree on strategic planning matters of common interest; this work culminated in the publication of a Thames Gateway South Essex Planning & Transport Strategy in 2013 (CP/09/020), and this is acknowledged in the New Local Plan in various places (e.g. paragraphs 3.26 and 11.5).

As an example of steps taken to meet the “Duty to Co-operate”, there is clear evidence of co-operation over many years in the preparation of numerous strategic housing market assessments for the area, starting from 2008, all of which have been used to inform the preparation of the New Local Plan, as evidenced in paragraphs 13.9 of the Plan onwards (see CP/14/001/c* and CP/14/001/d*).
Similarly for climate change, Basildon, Castle Point and Rochford as neighbouring South Essex authorities came together to prepare and publish the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment 2010 (CP/18/001*), which has been used as a basis for policies in Chapter 17 of the New Local Plan – see paragraphs 17.14 onwards.

The South Essex Surface Water Management Plan 2012 (CP/18/003*) is another example of co-operation and joint working, helping to inform preparation of the New Local Plan.
The outcome of these activities has been the preparation of a proportionate evidence base covering strategic cross-border planning matters; this has in turn led to the development of appropriate planning policies seeking to achieve sustainable  development based on a shared understanding of the issues facing Castle Point in particular and South Essex generally.

The Cabinet Member for Regeneration, who was also the Chairman of the New Local Plan Task & Finish Group, has been involved in South Essex Members level briefings and discussions regarding the Strategic Housing Market Assessment in April 2016 and its relationship to plan-making, and the Councillor for Planning from UKIP (WHAT, NO INVITATION FOR THE CANVEY ISLAND INDEPENDENT PARTY?) attended the presentation for Members in the South Essex Area prepared by the Planning Advisory Service regarding objectively assessed housing need and the “Duty to Co-operate” in October 2014.
Has the Council considered any more formal arrangements in terms of joint working on plan preparation as set out in the PPG (ID 9-016-20140306) and as required by Section 33A(6) of the 2004 Act?

The Council has not been invited to take part in any formal arrangements for joint plan making – either in terms of a joint committee, or a joint plan. Nor has the Council formally considered making any such approach to any neighbouring authorities, given the need to move ahead quickly with a local plan in the light of the NPPF, and the Secretary of State’s remarks encouraging that, when dismissing a Green Belt appeal in the Borough in Thundersley in 2012
 How have any DtC actions maximised the effectiveness of plan preparation?

The preparation of the New Local Plan has been significantly enhanced by the commission, preparation and publication of evidence on a shared basis with neighbouring authorities. Strategic planning issues have been clearly and thoroughly examined and analysed. An example of this has been Greater Essex Demographic Forecasts Phases 1 to 7 (2012 to 2015) (CP/11/001* – CP/11/007*) where a clear understanding of the demographic issues affecting not just Castle Point but its neighbouring authorities has been reached.

How have any DtC actions influenced the preparation of the New Local Plan and what have been the outcomes?

The joint evidence referred to above has been used to underpin policies in the New Local Plan, which themselves are now more effective because of the clear link to empirical evidence. Again an example of this can be seen by reference to the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (CP/18/001*) and the TE2100 Plan (CP/09/002) where requirements for improvements to flood defences are recommended and have been incorporated into the plan, and the South Essex Surface Water Management Plan 2012CP/18/003*) which has resulted in the designation of Critical Drainage Areas on the Policies Map with appropriate supporting policies in the Plan itself.
 What solutions have emerged to achieve effective strategic planning policies?

The New Local Plan has drawn on work from a number of sources of evidence in order to prepare effective strategic policies.One of the first key strategic pieces of evidence is the South Essex Green Grid Strategy. It describes an approach to the protection and promotion of open spaces across the Essex Thames Gateway area. It illustrates through various plans how Castle Point sits at a pivotal point in this area, with significant natural and coastal assets; this in turn illustrates how few opportunities arise in Castle Point for sustainable development without impinging on its intrinsic character.
The TE2100 Plan (CP/09/002) is also evidence of the work which has been carried out with key partners to understand and plan for climate change in the Thames Estuary over the course of the time frame for the New Local Plan and beyond.

The TE2100 plan describes the measures necessary in Action Zones – and for Canvey Island for example defence improvements are to be undertaken and new development designed to provide safe havens, high level access and shelters. This guidance has been incorporated in Policies CC2 and CC3 of the New Local Plan. SAFE HAVENS BEING ANOTHER OF THE CPBC NEVER MATERIALISING ASPIRATIONS? BESIDES WE THOUGHT WE WERE SAFE ON CANVEY, HAS THERE BEEN ANOTHER U-TURN CHANGE OF HEART??

Regulation 34(6) requires details of action taken in co-operating with other bodies under Section 33A to be given in a monitoring report.  Have any such details been provided in monitoring reports throughout the plan preparation period?

In the light of the strategy proposed for Castle Point what specific steps have been taken or mechanisms are in place to distribute unmet housing need elsewhere in the Housing Market Area (HMA) or beyond?

As described earlier in this response Castle Point finds itself in the unenviable position of being first in this housing market area to have submitted a plan for examination.

For example in responding to consultation from Basildon Borough Council on its draft Revised Preferred Options Report in January 2014, the Council specifically welcomed the approach being taken by that Council to seek to deliver a level of growth higher than that identified in the housing market assessment at that time and welcomed the benefits it might offer to Castle Point in seeking to meet its needs; it followed this by responding to the Basildon draft Local Plan in March 2016 by asking for assistance in meeting unmet housing need.

Similarly,  Brentwood Borough Council in March 2016 assistance was sought in helping to meet unmet housing need in Castle Point, when responding to consultation from that Council on its draft Local Plan.
In responding to consultation from Chelmsford City Council on its Duty to Cooperate Scoping Report in August 2015, the Council sought assistance in meeting unmet housing need.
Regrettably no positive responses were received.

For these reasons the Council decided to continue work on its local plan; although there was no formal mechanism in place to distribute unmet housing need at that time, there is a clear commitment to continue to participate in discussions with key partners on this and other strategic planning matters.

What is the rationale for reducing the housing requirement from 4,000 in the Draft Local Plan to 2,000 in Policy H1 ?

The Council established a New Local Plan Task & Finish Group to examine all the responses to the Draft New Local Plan, and to advise the Council of changes which may be required as a result of the consultation responses.
The New Local Plan Task & Finish Group met on 15 occasions and reviewed evidence and the significant number of responses from local residents and others on matters ranging from objectively assessed housing needs, to Green Belt and other constraints (see CP/24/001* to 015*).
In terms of constraints it paid particular attention to the significant physical constraints which impeded the ability of Castle Point to physically accommodate the levels of growth suggested by objectively assessed housing needs – such as the presence of SSSIs, RAMSAR and SPA sites, and ancient woodlands (see for example CP/24/004* and CP/24/011*), and in particular the point that most of the unbuilt-on land in the Borough consists of relatively narrow areas of open Green Belt, performing vital Green Belt functions. EDITOR; FLOOD RISK?
At the close of its work in November 2015, the New Local Plan Task & Finish Group was unable to reach agreement on the release of Green Belt land for housing, and so referred the Draft New Local Plan to Council for a decision.
Consideration of the Draft New Local Plan by the Council was deferred in December 2015 to allow a review of the latest Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to be undertaken (CP/25/013*). A further meeting of Council took place in January 2016, when it was decided that the Plan in its draft form could not be supported because of the proposed use of open Green Belt land for housing (CP/25/014*). A further meeting was held in February 2016, when a motion to support a New Local Plan which prioritised the protection of open Green Belt land and respected other constraints rather than meeting objectively assessed housing needs in full was agreed (CP/25/015*).
The New Local Plan 2016 was then agreed in its current form for consultation and submission at a meeting of the Council in March 2016.

When were neighbouring authorities within the HMA made aware of the Council’s intention not to meet its full objectively assessed needs and of the reduction referred to above?

The Council has always been clear with neighbouring authorities and key partners that it would not be able to deliver its objectively assessed housing needs in full. When consultation on the Draft New Local Plan was undertaken in 2014 it was considered that the objectively assessed housing need for Castle Point was in the range of 400 to 500 dwellings per annum (see Castle Point Housing Growth Topic Paper 2013 – CP/14/006). The Draft New Local Plan at that time made clear that because of the physical constraints of the Borough, it would be unlikely to accommodate more than 200 to 225 dwellings per annum (see Castle Point Housing Capacity Topic Paper 2013 – CP/14/007*).
These issues were rehearsed and acknowledged in a workshop with neighbouring authorities in February 2014, and are summarised in the Draft New Local Plan Consultation Report 2014 –CP/05/006*
The Council’s subsequent concerns regarding the housing requirements in the Draft New Local Plan, as expressed by the deliberations of Draft New Local Plan Task & Finish Group at their public meetings, were advised informally to officers from neighbouring authorities at the regular monthly “Duty to Co-operate” meetings from January 2015 onwards. At those regular meetings there was an acknowledgement that unmet housing need in South Essex would be a matter for all partners to consider.
Accordingly the eventual formal decision of the Council in March 2016, as described above, to reduce the housing target in the New Local Plan to approximately 100 homes per annum in effect confirmed the indications that had been given to officers from neighbouring authorities and partners over the preceding months at “Duty to Co-operate” meetings. The position of the Council was fully set out when formal consultation on the Council’s New Local Plan commenced on 16th May 2016.

Has the Council considered whether it should meet any unmet housing requirements from neighbouring authorities?

The Council has received no requests to take any unmet housing need from any of its neighbouring authorities. As referred to above, at this time there are varying degrees of progress with post-NPPF and post-PPG local plans in South Essex, and Castle Point is at the most advanced stage of all the authorities.
It is therefore unclear whether there is in fact any other unmet housing need to be distributed from other South Essex authorities.
However it is unlikely that the Council would be able to physically accommodate any unmet housing needs from elsewhere, for the same reasons that it is unable to meet its own objectively assessed housing needs in full – namely the physical constraints on development in the Borough as explained above, and set out in the Castle Point Housing Capacity Topic Paper 2013 – CP/14/007*.

Could the Council respond directly to the {CRITICAL} representation from Thurrock Council (NLPPS1451) concerning the North Thames Link Road and other routes to and from Canvey Island having regard to the DtC and paragraphs 11.15-11.17 of the New Local Plan?

It is the Council’s view that there is clear evidence of need for a further access to and from Canvey Island. The Transport Evidence for the New Local Plan (CP/13/006/a* – CP/13/006/b*) illustrates performance issues at the Waterside Farm junction (A130 Canvey Way/A130 Canvey Road /B1014 Somnes Avenue/B1014 Canvey Road), and B1014 Somnes Avenue/Link Road junction in the PM peak at present, which will worsen through the plan period so that these become performance impaired junctions in the AM and PM peaks in 2029.


It has been a long held ambition of the Council to seek to improve access between Canvey Island and the remainder of South Essex. Indeed the Council’s adopted Local Plan 1998 (CP/10/001) makes reference to the need to improve access to Canvey Island with a dualling of the A130 Canvey Way.


Discussions between officers of both Thurrock Council and Castle Point Council took place in 2015 concerning a proposition for a North Thameside Link Road as part of a series of proposals to improve the accessibility of the South Essex Thames Corridor. This is in effect the third access road to Canvey Island and was shown on the Policies Map for both the Draft New Local Plan 2014 and the New Local Plan 2016.
The Council’s aspirations were given further impetus by the announcement in the March 2016 Budget by the Chancellor of Exchequer of the Government’s intention to consider improvements to access to Canvey Island in the form of a third road (paragraph 1.319 of the Budget 2016).
As a consequence of this, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (of which South Essex is a federated area, including Thurrock and Castle Point as key partners), submitted its South East Growth Deal to Government in July 2016, which seeks funding support for an “improved access to Canvey Island through the delivery of a third road link”. This is in effect the North Thames Link Road connecting the A130 on Canvey Island at Northwick roundabout with the A1014 Manorway at Corringham via Northwick Road. This is shown as a Transport Improvement Corridor on both the Draft New Local Plan 2014 and New Local Plan 2016 Policy Maps (CP/01/002* & CP/01/006*).
New Local Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters, as required by the Localism Act 2011 and Guidance. As a result, the New Local Plan consists of effective and deliverable policies on strategic cross boundary issues.

Duty to Cooperate sabotage? CPBC Local Plan2016 left up **** Creek without a Paddle?

With an admittance of having little knowledge of the Local Plan process, we fear that the Castle Point Local Plan2016 may have already come across some major difficulties.

One of the very first stages pre-examination is for the local authority to gather and submit evidence on how they have attempted to cooperate with neighbouring authorities.

“Local planning authorities should make every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plans for examination.

Local planning authorities must demonstrate how they have complied with the duty at the independent examination of their Local Plans. If a local planning authority cannot demonstrate that it has complied with the duty then the Local Plan will not be able to proceed further in examination.”

It appeared apparent to us, during the Local Plan Task and Finish group meetings that little evidence of cross local authority cooperation work had been published.

Now we learn of the Planning Inspector’s letter to cpbc, expressing an opportunity for cpbc to offer an explanation on the missing gaps in the required work.

It appears to us that the letter underlines the chasm between the level of commitment to the Local Plan2016 between officers and members.

At the recent Council meeting the council leader made light of the issues, but unless a united effort is made by officers and lead group members, the Local Plan2016 may have hit stormy waters less than one calendar month after it being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate!

The Inspector wrote on 22nd September;

1. As an initial matter the PPG makes reference to the submission of robust evidence by authorities of the efforts they have made to co-operate on strategic cross boundary matters (ID 9-012-20140306).  This should include details about who the authority has co-operated with, the nature and timing of co-operation and how it has influenced the plan.  Whilst some information is given at Section 4 of the DtC Report precise details are scanty.  Future work through the South Essex Strategic Members Group and the completion of a written Strategic Planning Framework appear to be broadly in line with co-operation principles but clearly have no bearing on the preparation of the New Local Plan.  In responding subsequently I therefore request that the Council provides specific detail of actions taken to seek the co-operation of key partners in relation to the preparation of the New Local Plan.

2. Section 4 of the DtC Report indicates that officers have come together since mid-2014 to consider strategic planning issues affecting South Essex.  Prior to that was there any constructive, active and on-going joint working linked to the preparation of the New Local Plan?  If so, what form did it take?

3. Section 4 also includes a list of cross-boundary planning issues.  Compared to the topics identified in Appendix 1 communications infrastructure is omitted.  Having regard to paragraph 156 of the NPPF and the PPG (ID 9-013-20140306) could the Council confirm the full list of strategic matters that, in its view, fall within the definition in Section 33A?  Having done so it would be helpful to have a short resume of the steps taken to meet the DtC and to deal with questions 6, 7 and 8 in respect of each of these matters.

4. The PPG refers to the important role of Councillors in the DtC process (ID 9-0003 & 004-20140306).  To what extent have Councillors been directly involved in any specific DtC activities?

5. Has the Council considered any more formal arrangements in terms of joint working on plan preparation as set out in the PPG (ID 9-01620140306) and as required by Section 33A(6) of the 2004 Act?  If so, why have any such approaches including the use of formal agreements not come to fruition?

6. How have any DtC actions maximised the effectiveness of plan preparation?

7. How have any DtC actions influenced the preparation of the New Local Plan and what have been the outcomes?

8. What solutions have emerged to achieve effective strategic planning policies?

9. Regulation 34(6) requires details of action taken in co-operating with other bodies under Section 33A to be given in a monitoring report.  Have any such details been provided in monitoring reports throughout the plan preparation period?

10. Paragraph 13.22 of the New Local Plan recognises that the housing target of 2,000 new homes by 2031 does not represent objectively assessed need but reflects the capacity of the Borough to accommodate growth.  Paragraph 179 of the NPPF indicates that joint working should enable local planning authorities to work together to meet development requirements which cannot be wholly met within their own areas.  In the light of the strategy proposed for Castle Point what specific steps have been taken or mechanisms are in place to distribute unmet housing need elsewhere in the Housing Market Area (HMA) or beyond?

11. What is the rationale for reducing the housing requirement from 4,000 in the Draft Local Plan to 2,000 in Policy H1 as referred on p12 of the Consultation Statement (CP/05/013)?

12. When were neighbouring authorities within the HMA made aware of the Council’s intention not to meet its full objectively assessed needs and of the reduction referred to above?

13. Has the Council considered whether it should meet any unmet housing requirements from neighbouring authorities?


Castle Point Green Belt in the Firing Line? And Local Plan Bombshell?

“The mantra is often: There can be no change to the Green Belt – look somewhere else. However the need to meet housing need means that Green Belts should not be preserved without a rational review of their purpose set against the need for change.”

With the Government announcing renewed intent to solve the housing crisis by launching a Home Building Fund. In a press release Sajid Javid states

That’s why we’re taking further action ahead of a Housing White Paper later this year. The launch of a £3 billion Home Building Fund will:

  • provide £1 billion of short term loan funding – this will be used for small builders, custom builders, and innovators, delivering 25,000 homes in the short term
  • it will also provide £2 billion of long term funding for infrastructure – this will be used to unlock a pipe line of up to 200,000 homes over the longer term – with the emphasis on developments on brownfield land.

However, as is often stated, the Urban parts of Castle Point are tightly Constrained by the Green Belt. Hence the difficulties for cpbc in producing a Local Plan. It is clear that the cpbc Local Plan2016 has highlighted that one persons precious Green belt is another persons developable land.


The Green Belt review within the Local Plan2016 process will be scrutinised by the Planning Inspector. He will be looking to see the supporting evidence should land that better fulfils some of the 5 Purposes of the Green Belt if it were to be selected for development ahead of sites that fulfils less of the Green Belt Purposes.

“The big issue

The most immediate issue for the Green Belt is the maintenance of the purposes of the Green Belt set against the under-provision of housing across many parts of the country, where the capacity to accommodate sustainable development in urban areas is often insufficient to meet the housing requirement.”

Alongside this it is difficult to argue against the Government’s desire to “want to ensure everyone has a safe and secure place to live and that means we’ve got to build more homes.”

Green Belt as a Constraint on Housing principle, has been set out beyond any doubt by the Hunston High Court judgment in St Albans.  This section of the judgement is worth quoting;

‘Having identified the full objectively assessed needs figure the decision maker must then consider the impact of the other policies set out in the NPPF.  The Green Belt policy is not an outright prohibition on development in the Green Belt.  Rather it is a prohibition on inappropriate development in the absence of very special circumstances. 

It is entirely circular to argue that there are no very special circumstances based on objectively assessed but unfulfilled need that can justify development in the Green Belt by reference to a figure that has been arrived at under a revoked policy which was arrived at taking account of the need to avoid development in the Green Belt.’

This raises the inevitable question for the Castle Point Plan-making process, having conceded that Green Belt will be developed through the Local Plan2016, should more weight be awarded to the parts of the Green Belt that have been selected to be released over, the most likely parts of the Green Belt that developers are ready and willing to commence early development on?

On the one hand it appears we have a Localism lead site selection process, over an urgent National need to “want to ensure everyone has a safe and secure place to live” meaning “we’ve got to build more homes.”

It may be a case that by hurrying through the publication for Examination of the Local Plan 2016 cpbc officers may have invited criticism from an Inspector that a level of unfairness  towards those residents living near the Blinking Owl site H11, as they were unaware of the plans to bring this site forward during the Consultation process.

Many Castle Point residents feel that the area is too overcrowded and congested already. The Local Government Association however,suggest that “It might seem odd, for instance, as the designation of Green Belt implies, that at some entirely arbitrary point in the evolution of a town, it should not grow any more.” 

The Fact is though that the cpbc Housing Need development Numbers unpopular with residents, are already under scrutiny.

The Local Plan2016 Examination Inspector already has declared an interest in some of the content and processes of our Plan!

He has requested explanation of the local authority’s efforts to comply with the Duty to Co-operate.

He has also asked, “What is the rationale for reducing the housing requirement from 4,000 in the Draft Local Plan to 2,000?”

Presumably this was not self evident in the Local plan2016 supporting documentation!

The fear is that the Duty to Co-operate can lead to Local Plans to stumble at the very first hurdle.

We as Residents are left with a more obvious question, why was the Planning Inspector’s written enquiry not explained as to the consequences and an update announcement made public at last weeks cpbc Full council meeting?