Tag Archives: Intervention

Probity and Incompetency a damaging Report into Castle Point Planning! A Very Dark Day for CPBC!

At first sight the Echo headline disclosure of the “failings” of Castle Point Council development committee appears not a bad thing! It is clear that developers are actively looking to develop on Canvey Island and the mainland Green Belt sites.

Knowing the poor infrastructure capacity on the Island and the potential issues residents face, any increases in population needs keeping to a minimum!

And a Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Challenge team investigating the Planning set up at Castle Point Council, at what we assume a critical time with the risk of the Government taking over the Local Plan, appears little short of a disaster for our Local Authority!

However, despite the cpbc’s chief executive assertion that everything is under control, some extremely serious issues appear to have been uncovered by the LGA, especially when the accusation of a “perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making”!

This would appear a very serious accusation indeed!

The Development Committee chairman, in particular, appears to have been singled out for criticism, whereas, it must be said, we have always found him to have put public speakers at their ease and very fair in allowing members and speakers to make their points.

That the Echo have disclosed an apparent  committee weakness in the areas of; “”respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions,” appears to be a direct criticism of the chief executive and his planning team’s direction, training and control of the development committee members!

This Report, highlighting apparent incompetencies, appears to bode very badly indeed for CPBC and their hopes of maintain some level of control in their / our Local Plan process.

The Sword of Damocles appears to have fallen on the displaced Development Committee chairman, it remains to be seen whether others have been very lucky to have escaped, reputation unharmed.

It goes without saying that, as now there is a copy of the report in circulation, we the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group would be eager and grateful for a look at the entire copy, and so would appreciate it if the Echo, cpbc employee or council member would forward a copy through the usual contact channels, via this website, Facebook or Twitter.

 From the Echo:

“DEVELOPERS are actively avoiding Castle Point due to major council failings, a leaked report has revealed.

Dysfunctional relationships between officers and councillors, inappropriate behaviour and a lack of understanding are among the criticisms of Castle Point Council’s development committee in a report issued by the Local Government Association.

The report also questioned how decisions are being made with “a widespread perception concerning weaknesses in probity in relation to the planning decision making process”.

Castle Point Council is preparing a response after questions were raised regarding honesty and competency when it comes to planning decisions and following the law.

Castle Point Council chief executive David Marchant said: “An action plan to respond to the recommendations has been prepared which is scheduled to be considered formally by the cabinet later this summer.

“In the meantime members and officers are working closely together to examine the findings and respond to the recommendations in the report. The peer challenge report and action plan will be published with the agenda for the cabinet meeting as usual.”

Inspectors found a weak understanding among some members, and key concerns include “chairing, respect for the chair, clarity of stages of decision, weighting of appropriate planning considerations, probity and consistent reference to non-planning matters” when making decisions.

The failings open the council up to expensive appeals or even the loss of control of planning decisions.

The report claimed developers told inspectors they are actively avoiding Castle Point despite the “obvious locational advantages” because of the way the committee works.

The report, and peer challenge, goes on to state the council is only building half the homes needed and that there is a “dysfunctional relationships” between members and officers which is seriously impeding work.

It was also suggested that due to the concerns, the development control committee in Castle Point should be scrapped.

Instead, it should be replaced with a strategic planning committee with a “smaller more focussed group of well trained members”.

The council is yet to come up with an acceptable housing plan for the future which could mean power is removed from the council.

Advertisements

Castle Point Elections, more Under Representation for Canvey? Under the Cloud of Intervention – Time for Change?

Canvey Islanders will likely be asking themselves, as the Castle Point Council election fast approaches, what is the point of bothering to Vote? With the Lady Petitioners revealing that Canvey Residents feel under represented at Council, even though there wasn’t the political will to seek a split away from Castle Point Council, is it now time to look at the local Voting System?

Canvey Island population was recorded in the 2011 Census as being 38,459,
approximately 43.7% of a total Castle Point population of 88,011.

Castle Point Council members total 41 councillors, of which Canvey Island representatives number just 17 members. This indicates a reasonable argument that Canvey should now have an extra councillor representative, with the mainland being allocated one councillor less. A small start at redressing the balance!

However looking back at the 2018 CPBC local elections the total number of Votes recorded might indicate that the Lead Group are allocated too many members and with it far too much Control to boot!

This is of course the result of the First Past the Post UK election system. As with the EU Referendum with just a 2% majority in favour of Brexit, whatever your views, it is understandable that the 16,141,000 Remain voters are left feeling disenfranchised.

In the case of the 2018 CPBC local Election the number of Votes cast by Borough Residents was 20,399, however ONLY 10,420 votes were for what is the Lead Group!

With the Lead group being allocated 9 councillors, and one opposition group just 5 councillors at the 2018 local poll, some 9,979
Island and mainland voting residents, given the balance of control at cpbc, were left clearly under represented.

Electoral reform may have seen Labour and UKIP being allocated councillor positions to represent their supporters within the Borough. But others may, rightly or wrongly claim that this would lead to CPBC’s difficult decisions being unaddressed, and a lack of clear policies being passed. Also an argument used in support for the retention of the CPBC Cabinet system!

Part of the CPBC Constitution indicates its Purpose is to;

enable the Council to provide clear leadership to the community in partnership with citizens, businesses and other organisations;

support the active involvement of citizens in the process of local democracy;

help councillors represent their constituents more effectively;

enable decisions to be taken efficiently and effectively;

create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to public account;

How then are we left in such a mess with our Local Plan process? After abysmal progress, or lack of, has been made with the Core Strategy (withdrawn 2011), the Local Plan 2014, the Local Plan 2016 and the Local Plan 2018 all failing, we now look forward with trepidation to Government Intervention which we can expect as soon as the local and European Elections are behind us!

It would be fair to ask whether a more representative Council could have arrived at a more agreeable Local Plan Housing allocation and distribution policy to have avoided the shambles that Castle Point residents will be forced to live with.

CPBC Leader N.Smith

Fears Mount as Castle Point Council Election Candidates Concede loss of Green Spaces? Local Plan Intervention decision being Supressed?

Listen, don’t mention the Local Plan! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright. (PA Photo/BBC)

With the threat of continued inappropriate Housing and Business development on Canvey Island and across Castle Point generally, we have to ask “Are our Local Politicians now less committed to Saving our Green Belt and green spaces?”

As the CPBC Lead group of prospective Councillors release their Election Addresses on social media, it appears they may well be!

Of the 10 Lead group Candidates, shockingly only 3 candidates have even mentioned Development on Green Belt!

This includes one candidate who has declared an interest and is excluded from participating in the Local Plan process! Even then, none mention fighting for Green Belt as a Constraint on Housing and Business Development!

The Commitment from just 3 of the 10 lead group candidates amounts to:

“I will continue to oppose any development in our Green Belt that doesn’t provide homes for our residents and Government Funded Infrastructure Support.”

“Overbuilding must never threaten our area or our beautiful undeveloped Green Belt land.”

And coincidentally, as if written by the same hand;

“Overbuilding must never threaten our area or our beautiful undeveloped Green Belt land.”

Our concern must be that while a Local Election fast Approaches, Bad News of the Government’s intention to Intervene in the Castle Point Local Plan, is being Suppressed from Residents!

In November 2017, 15 Councils including Castle Point BC were served notice that the Government had begun the formal process of intervention in their Local Plan. The letter to cpbc commencing, “Following your Council’s persistent failure over many years to get a Local Plan in place, on 16 November 2017, I expressed concerns about the lack of progress your authority has made on plan-making.”

Following on from receiving a letter from the CPBC leader,  SoS Sajid Javid responded by rejecting CPBC’s lengthy attempts to placate, by informing within a letter dated 23rd March 2018 “My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting Essex County Council to prepare a Local Plan for Castle Point and with the neighbouring authorities on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.”

Twelve of the least tardy miscreant local authorities appeared to have done enough to fall off of the Government’s radar except, CPBC, the Wirral and Thanet local authorities.

Accordingly during January 2019, The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, informed the Wirral and Thanet LA’s, that “Having considered Thanet and the Wirral’s performance against the Local Plan intervention criteria, I am satisfied that intervention action is justified.”

However Castle Point Borough Council, 4 whole months after Refusing to Approve the 2018 version of the CPBC Local Plan and 18 months after originally being served Notice, “appear” not to have heard whether Intervention will be imposed upon the Borough!

 It is highly concerning for Castle Point Council to “act” as though no word has been received from the Government as to whether Intervention has been imposed upon us. It may be perhaps convenient that no implementation of Intervention should be imposed ahead of the Local Elections, this would not make for a leader’s “Good News” story!

It may be a total coincidence that neither the Wirral nor Thanet are conservative controlled Boroughs. Come what may, the fact that the CPBC Lead Group, once so vociferous in their defence of Virgin Green Belt and Green Spaces against Development, now appear on paper to be less committed. The concern must be that those prospective Candidates, not wanting to be associated with Bad News so likely to be announced soon after the Election, are content with the level, or lack of, Development in their own neighbourhoods, and are resigned to being forced to adopt the 2018 Local Plan!

A Reminder, in the Graphic below, for prospective local Councillors of the importance that the Electorate places on Green Belt and its protection through the Election process.

Castle Point Local Plan – Intervention Decision delayed for Housing + Business Growth Plans?

Brokenshire backs 2050 vision for the Thames Estuary

A multi-million pound package of commitments to drive forward growth in the Thames Estuary to create jobs, build new homes and boost local economic growth.

  • The government pledges support for the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission’s vision to create 1.3 million new jobs in the area by 2050
  • £1 million committed to set up a new Thames Estuary Growth Board to drive economic growth in the region
  • £4.85 million committed to support local partners to develop proposals for enhancing transport services between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet

A multi-million pound package of commitments to drive forward growth in the Thames Estuary has been announced today (25 March 2019) to create jobs, build new homes and boost local economic growth.

In its response to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission’s 2018 report, the government backs the Commission’s ambitious plans to create 1.3 million new jobs and generate an extra £190 billion for the local economy.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP also put forward a number of new measures as part of a wider government support to realise the 2050 growth vision for the Thames Estuary. These include a commitment to give:

  • £1 million to establish a new Thames Estuary Growth Board oversee and drive economic growth plans for the area
  • £4.85 million to support local partners to develop low-cost proposals for enhancing transport services between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet
  • a Cabinet-level Ministerial Champion will be appointed to act as an advocate and critical friend for the region within government will also be appointed

Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said:

The Thames Estuary has long been a gateway to the UK economy and has enormous untapped potential, which has the power to benefit those that live and work in the area.

Having considered the recommendations of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, I have announced a number of steps we are taking to unlock an even brighter future for the Estuary’s economy, marking the beginning of a new and bolder approach by this government to support the area.

The government’s response sets out its priorities for the Thames Estuary, including the delivery of jobs and homes, addressing local skills challenges and agreeing fully-evidenced Local Industrial Strategies.

Further information

Encompassing East London, North Kent and South Essex, the Thames Estuary has the potential to support growth right across the country. Served by international airports and seaports, it is home to an internationally-significant financial services cluster at Canary Wharf and is achieving huge success as a cultural and creative powerhouse.

Despite its strengths, the economic growth is slower and unemployment levels are higher in the Thames Estuary compared to the country’s averages. That is why in 2016 the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission was tasked with developing an ambitious vision for growth in the area.

Grateful for the expertise and independent challenge provided by the Commission, the government welcomed the Commission’s report, published on 25 June 2018. After considering its recommendations in detail, the government has now responded with its commitments to the Estuary, which marks an important first step towards delivering the Commission’s vision.

The government worked with local partners in preparing its response to set out its measures boost the region.

Copy: wired-gov.net

Stagnation at Castle Point Council, whilst other Local Authorities take the Local Plan Fight to the Inspectorate!

It appears that Castle Point Borough Council are far from being the only Local Authority struggling to meet its Housing Needs. Whether the Government step in to scoop up the left-overs of the various Local Plan versions devised within CPBC Runnymede Towers, or whether CPBC are Actually Attempting to resurrect a Local Plan, rather than twiddling their thumbs waiting for the Government Chief Planner, Residents remain in the Dark!

With the last version of the Local Plan 2018, voted down at the Special Council meeting, it may have been appropriate for a councillor, or a group of councillors, to have proposed a return to the 2016 version, and seen whether a concensus could have been gained on that within a council members meeting.

At least the CPBC Local Plan process would have been seen to be advancing rather than the pathetic Standstill we appear to be held in.

Whether CPBC have had word of Bad News from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, but we will not be hearing officially his verdict on Intervention ahead of the May local elections, we can only surmise.

But with news from Manchester that Government Ministers and The Planning Inspectorate not appearing to be on the “same page” where the calculation of Housing Targets and indeed the Supply of Land is concerned, CPBC may well have missed a trick in not continuing to at least try to advance its Local Plan!

We have to assume that CPBC council officers have been working to fulfil the Duty to Cooperate part of the Local Plan process, if not, why not, so why haven’t councillors taken it upon themselves to work on the Local Plan itself?

A Local Plan, whether fully Sound, but at least Agreed upon, could be considered and possibly consulted upon, outside of Intervention. The Green Belt, Flood Risk and the Hazardous Industries could be debated in open Examination, rather than in private!

The Local Government Chronicle Reported on the 26th February 2019:                                         

Greater Manchester CA mayor Andy Burnham has accused the housing minister Kit Malthouse of being ‘at best partial and at worst misleading’ over comments made regarding Greater Manchester’s plans for new homes.                                                                                                                

The issue of whether it is really necessary to build on greenbelt land in Greater Manchester is a contentious one right now. After being beset by delays, the latest consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework opened last month and runs until 18 March.                         

Greater Manchester has calculated how many new homes it will require by 2037 based on 2014 household projections, in accordance with the government’s proposed methodology for calculating local housing need.                                                                                                                         

This required Greater Manchester to plan for 73,500 more dwellings than had it used more recent 2016 projections. In order to meet these targets the combined authority has earmarked nearly 64,000 dwellings on a series of greenfield sites, predominantly within the green belt.       

The mayor claims that the government’s insistence on using these “outdated housing targets” had left him with “no choice” but to plan to build on green belt land. But housing minister Kit Malthouse denied that the government’s targets were mandatory.                                                     

Mr Malthouse stated that any inspector will accept a “properly evidenced and assessed variation” from that target.                                                                                                                                 

“If, for example, you have constraints like areas of outstanding natural beauty or green belt, or whatever it might be, and you can justify a lower number, then an inspector should accept that.”                                      

Mr Burnham claims that Mr Malthouse’s comments, which were made during last week’s parliamentary debate on the framework came as a “surprise” to him.                                                    

They do not reflect current government policy,” he said. “They give a very different impression to the one offered in private by civil servants.”                                                                                          

“Under pressure from Conservative backbenchers, it would appear that the Government is trying to soften its line on housing numbers and greenbelt and deflect blame towards councils…It is unfair and dishonest.”                                                                                                                      

Mr Burnham claims that Greater Manchester does not believe it has discretion over housing numbers, because the government’s planning guidance says local authorities are “expected” to use the government methodology to calculate housing need and will be required to “demonstrate exceptional circumstances” to deviate from it.                                                                

The government’s target, based on its standard methodology, is to build a million homes by the end of 2020. But a report released this month by the National Audit Office, ‘Planning for New Homes’, admitted this target will be “challenging to meet”, and found the standard methodology approach has “weaknesses” and “as a result will be revised”.                                                             

Although local authorities in the South and East of England are being pushed to build significantly more new homes, the report explains that the latest standard method of assessing housing need specifies that the minimum numbers of new homes needed in some areas is now less than the local authorities had previously assessed – in the North West, by 24%.          

Responding to Mr Burnham’s comments, Mr Malthouse said: “We need more homes in the right places and we are reforming the planning system to ensure this occurs. “But we have been clear that the use of green belt land should be a last resort, with the standard method not providing a mandatory target.                                                                                                               

“That’s why we strengthened green belt protection with councils now having to show they have exhausted all other reasonable options to meet development needs before even considering changes to the green belt and then evidence exceptional circumstances to justify development.”                     

Copyright: Jessica Hill, Local Government Chronicle

Residents of Canvey Island left to Face the Risks, whilst Castle Point Council, Fail to Develop an Adequate, operable Emergency Plan!

38,459+ Residents living on Canvey Island, seemingly oblivious to the everyday Risks and potential Harm facing them!

Whether the Risk is Tidal from the Estuary, Surface Water flooding or from the Hazardous Industries on the Island, a suitable Emergency Plan involving the Residents is essential.

The old Adage “we are safe from the Sea” is bunkum, as Castle Point Borough Council’s own evidence Highlights!   

 “Given the risk to the population, various measures are required to deal with the concerns to human health and wellbeing. These include:

• The need for an emergency plan to be in place;

• The need for sea defences to be maintained and improved;

• The need to maintain the population living in the flood risk zone at current levels or lower;

• The need for existing homes to be made more flood resilient, and include areas where people can remain safe in the event of a flood;

• The need for new development to incorporate design elements that make them safe in the event of a flood for occupiers;

• The need for building techniques to be used that enable easy restoration in the event of a flood.” (1)

Further CPBC Local Plan Evidence Documentation enforces the issues;

10.4 Tidal and fluvial flooding poses the most significant flood risk to the Castle Point Borough, in particular Canvey Island and Hadleigh Marshes. The topography and location of watercourses on Canvey Island means that the whole island is at risk from tidal and fluvial flooding. Although much of the Island is protected by the presence of defences, the island is still at residual risk of flooding if the defences were to fail or to be overtopped.

10.5 In the event that a breach in the existing flood defences was to occur, or a failure of one of the existing flood barriers (residual risk), significant depths of floodwater would be experienced on Canvey Island and the southern portion of the mainland.  Given the low lying nature of these parts of the Borough, floodwaters would propagate rapidly across Canvey Island thereby reducing the time for warning and evacuation of residents. (2)

During the Local Plan Intervention fiasco, CPBC informed the Secretary of State of particular physical circumstances of the Borough, considered to be legitimate constraints as to why the Authority could not provide for its Housing Development Needs.

“Of the urban areas of the Borough, Canvey Island, with approximately half of the Borough’s population, is defined by the Environment Agency as Flood Risk Zone 3a, being at or below sea level.

Further land is likely to be required on Canvey Island by the Environment Agency for improvement to existing sea defences in the lifetime of a Local Plan, further restricting opportunity for development

The Health & Safety Executive require significant exclusion areas to be maintained by the Local Planning authority around two top-tier COMAH sites on Canvey Island’s Thames Estuary frontage”, (3)

Direct Recommendations detailed within the CPBC Strategic Flood Risk Assessment state:

“The majority of the sites will rely on the provision of adequate emergency planning measures to mitigate the residual risk of tidal flooding in the event of a breach in the tidal flood defences.

It is therefore strongly recommended that the suitability of locating more residential accommodation on Canvey Island and the capacity of the existing egress routes off the island is further discussed with the Emergency Planning Team at Castle Point Borough Council and/or Essex County Council prior to site allocation” (4)

Remarkably, CPBCs Development Control Committee has taken responsibility, (having only aspirational resolutions for the various preventative requirements), for successfully seeing-through Housing developments at Canvey Island since January 2012.

In doing so exposing an increased number of residential and commercial population to Residual and/or Actual Societal Risks.

Emergency Plans supporting increased development on Canvey Island are seemingly only “Generic”, where by dealing with a wide range of possible scenarios such as for example Influenza Pandemics, with no “Specific Plans” that relate to a particular emergency.

Specific Plans are a detailed set of arrangements designed to go beyond the generic arrangements, when the latter are likely to prove insufficient in particular cases such as breaching of flood defences or total LPG tank failure. (5)

It would appear that CPBC have not considered the value of Specific Planning in relation to Canvey Island, if they have, they have not included the involvement of the community in the production of specific planning for viable emergency incidents.

Editor, I will leave the reader with an opportunity to provide a Rationale as to how our local authority, Castle Point Borough Council has managed “Residual Risks” via its Local Planning strategy.

Document References

  1. The CPBC Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment Scoping Report, New Local Plan January 2012
  2. Castle Point Borough Council New Local Plan 2018 Technical Evidence: Summary Document June 2018
  3. CPBC Response letter to Sajid Javid 31st Jan 2018, regarding why Government Intervention in the Local Plan process was unnecessary.
  4. Revised Castle Point 2018 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
  5. Chapter 5 Cabinet Office Revised Emergency Preparedness. Definitions of “Generic” and “Specific” Emergency Planning.

The Big Stick raised to Fall across Castle Point Council’s Knuckles! Government yet to send Letter, as the Wirral and Thanet hear their Local Plan Bad News!

Castle Point Council are now the sole Council awaiting the Government response to their “protracted” efforts towards producing a Local Plan.

Back in March 2018 CPBC were one of just 3 Local Authorities singled out for criticism at the lack of response and effort towards forwarding Local Plans amongst the 15 most feet dragging authorities threatened by the then Housing Minister.

In letters dated 28th January 2019 the Wirral and Thanet Councils have received further instruction on what is now required towards producing their Local Plan. Basically a streamlined group, consisting of a designated lead councillor and lead official, will be charged with responsibility of progressing their Local Plans.

No word as yet of Castle Point Council’s Fate!

In his letter to the Wirral Council, the Secretary of State, JAMES BROKENSHIRE wrote; “We note that in the Wirral’s case the Housing Minister points out “at least two communities in Wirral are currently preparing neighbourhood plans: Leastowe and Birkenhead North. Two further communities have neighbourhood plans in force: Devonshire Park and Hoylake. Communities can bring forward neighbourhood plans in the absence of an up-to-date Local Plan, but doing so can be more challenging for communities.””

Previously Housing Secretary SAJID JAVID had stated; “The government has abolished top-down regional planning. But a locally-led planning system requires elected local representatives to take the lead, listen to local residents and business, and set out a clear framework to build new homes, provide key infrastructure, support the local economy and protect the environment.”

The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group maintains the opinion that Canvey Island, as a whole, would have been better represented if we had made efforts to, at least, commence a Neighbourhood Plan.

This is no less relevant, now that we learn that within the next stages of a CPBC Local Plan, we will be represented by a Lead Councillor more likely to propose inappropriate development on Canvey Island.

A Canvey Island Neighbourhood Plan would have been a vehicle to illustrate the issues facing Canvey Island, in the process to produce a fair Castle Point Local Plan.

Instead we will likely be represented by a Lead Councillor supportive of the rejected 2018 Local Plan, and all of the Development that document proposed to deliver on Green Belt on the Flood Zone and away from politically sensitive areas!

Sources inform us that no Local Plan work is on-going at CPBC, they appear to sitting like ducks in the water, oblivious to the shotgun about to be fired at them!

Admittedly it is strange that of the 3 councils in most serious trouble with the Secretary of State, only CPBC have yet to receive a letter. Either way none of the councillors are feeding any information nor CPBC making comment as to Local Plan progress.

Councillors and officers have a responsibility to the Residents but show little regard as to keeping them informed.

We are likely to pay a heavy price for CPBC’s ineptitude!

We thank our friends at Basildon Residents Against Inappropriate Development for alerting us to the issuing of the Government letters to the Wirral and Thanet Councils, shame our local Echo isn’t more challenging where CPBC is concerned.

The Letters issued to the Wirral and Thanet can be found via this LINK.