Tag Archives: Jotmans Farm

Dates, Canvey Islanders won’t even Notice! Thorney Bay’s, on its way!

Canvey Islanders, it is said, haven’t the nous to have a cynical thought cross their little minds.

Firstly, following the Election announcement on the very last day prior to the period of Purdah commencing, the Jotmans Farm Appeal Inquiry was Rejected by the then Secretary of State, thereby saving important mainland Green Belt from development.

Secondly, tomorrow, 6.6.2017, just 2 Days prior to the General Election, castle point council development committee will decide the Recommended Approval “first phase” of the Thorney Bay vast green field development, on Canvey Island.

Thorney Bay Beach Camp, Canvey Island, Essex

copyright Jason Hawkes

This so called first phase at Thorney Bay amounts to 113 new dwellings.

The development committee Agenda paperwork indicates officers advise :

It is not considered necessary for Members to visit the site prior to determination of the application.

This despite :

To the north of the site is the Local Wildlife Site (LoWS) Thorneyfleet Creek, which comprises a water body with Common Reed and rough grassland; beyond this is residential development. To the east is Public Open Space, in the form of a grassed area and children’s play space. To the south and west is the wider expanse of the Campsite. A water treatment works lies to the west of the wider site and beyond this is the Calor gas terminal. To the south is the Canvey Island Sea Defence, beyond which is the River Thames.

Of the Health and Safety Executive’s comment;

..more than 10% of the housing development area lies within the (Calor Gas Hazardous) middle zone….and HSE Advised Against Granting Planning Permission.

The HSE then go onto excuse the proposed development layout, stipulating that castle point council must not in future use the self regulating facility, instead be referring any future development directly to the HSE!

The Case Officer comment, which will no doubt be pointed out to the planning committee members in the Agenda Paper states; 

Health and Safety Executive  No objection.

As far as potential flooding is concerned, especially as the site is directly reliant on the Canvey Sea wall Defences;

Environment Agency  No objection: following the receipt of a revised FRA, subject to conditions and the satisfaction of the LPA that the proposal will be safe for its lifetime

It should also be noted, should the are become flooded yet again that responsibility has been relieved of the Leal Local Flood Authority (Essex CC.);

It is the applicant’s responsibility to check that they are complying with common law if the drainage scheme proposes to discharge into an off-site ditch/pipe. The applicant should seek consent where appropriate from other downstream riparian landowners. 
The Ministerial Statement made on 18th December 2014 (ref. HCWS161) states that the final decision regarding the viability and reasonableness of maintenance requirements lies with the LPA. It is not within the scope of the LLFA to comment on the overall viability of a scheme.

But of course the Rumours emanating from CPBC is that Thorney Bay will become a Park Home site, So None of these Rules Will Apply!

1,600 static caravans could quite easily become 1,000+ Park Homes, and there is the next Local Plan’s 5 Year Housing Supply.

Let existing Canvey Island residents and future property owners be warned!

We make no apology for over-simplifying these issues but for anybody interested the webcast and recording should be available via;  https://castlepoint.gov.uk/webcasting

The meeting Agenda papers are available via; https://www.castlepoint.gov.uk/agendas-minutes-library

 

Fair Play for Canvey Island in the light of the Jotmans Decision or are we still a “Special Case”?

And the Necessity for Castle Point Borough Council to produce a Local Plan is?

“National planning policy places Local Plans at the heart of the planning system,”

Even so, the National Planning Policy Framework states as early as Paragraph 14;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless:

– any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole;

or– specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted. 9

Paragraph 14, Footnote 9 Reads; “For example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.”

“so it is essential that they are in place and kept up to date. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.”

The Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss the Jotmans Farm Appeal in the light of the Inspector’s recommendation, raises some questions.

Is the Planning Inspectorate’s reading of the NPPF and Guidance similar to that of the Government’s?

There was agreement between the SoS and the Inspector that, Castle Point Council are only able to identify 0.4 years worth of the required 5 Year deliverable Housing Supply, this is an even worse supply than in 2013 when the SoS considered cpbc had a realistic housing supply of just 0.7 years!

In the case of the Glebelands 2013 Inquiry the SoS used a “totting-up” method of measuring harm to the Green Belt;

“the Secretary of State has identified moderate harm in respect of urban sprawl, moderate harm in respect of the merging of neighbouring settlements, and moderate harm to the visual appearance of this part of the GB.  The Secretary of State considers that together this represents a considerable level of harm. ”

” He also wishes to emphasise that national policy is very clear that GB reviews should be undertaken as part of the Local Plan process.”

So we appear to be in a situation where, as long as Castle Point council are in an apparent perpetual process of Local Plan making, the whole of the local Green Belt can be considered safe from development!

Residents should now be looking for a new, up to date cpbc Green Belt Review, based on the SoS’ guidance and embracing the protection afforded by Footnote 9 of the NPPF.

As was pointed out earlier in this post;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, … unless: – ….  specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted – For example, those policies relating to …. land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, … and locations at risk of flooding.”

This appears to be the clear desire of the Secretary of State’s interpretation of planning direction. The archived cpbc Green Belt Review was dated 2013 and produced in-house in support of the rejected daft New Local Plan, and clearly out of line with the Secretary of State’s consideration of  levels of “harm.” A new GB Review should be commissioned urgently, indicating the protection available through NPPF Policies and Guidance!

It would appear that the Castle Point council’s Local Plan2016, despite their failure to comply with the Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring local authorities, may have been more in tune with the Secretary of State’s interpretation of what is possible with Local Plan-making and stood a chance of being considered adoptable. Whilst an Inspector may feel the Local Plan2016 was worthy of withdrawal, seeking intervention via the Secretary of State, may supply a different decision, once the Duty to Cooperate has been complied.

More importantly, with Canvey Island in mind, is that NPPF Footnote 9 offers no  difference in the weight and importance that should be applied when considering whether a site is appropriate for development between that of Green Belt or Flood Risk!

Only in the minds of those in Control of Decision-making within Castle Point council, is Canvey Island deemed a “special case”!

If not now, then I do not know when, given the position of the cpbc Local Plan, and the direction given by the SoS, it would be more Timely and more Appropriate for Canvey Island Town Council to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan!

The Secretary of State is clear Footnote 9 should be applied to protect Green Belt from Harm.

It is obvious that an area within a Flood Risk Zone and with unresolved Surface Water Flooding issues, can expect that same level of protection using Neighbourhood Plan Policies under-pinned by that same Footnote 9!

Quite simply Canvey Island is thought to be unlikely to Flood. This is supported by no factual Evidence, simply that it is “unlikely”. The continual loss of Green Space to development on Canvey that serves as potential displacement for flood water, fails to register any concern to the planning decision makers!

The FloodRe insurance scheme is limited, limited so that it specifically discourages development in Flood Risk areas.

The list of properties excluded from the remit of Flood Re has been subject to significant debate however it has been agreed that the following properties will not be covered:

  • All commercial property
  • All residential property constructed since 1 January 2009
  • All purpose-built apartment blocks

Who will weigh this against Financial Sustainability? It appears nobody at Castle Point council!

It is time for the reservations contained within the NPPF Footnote 9 to be considered appropriately and evenly across the whole of Castle Point!

” ” All quotations lifted from the NPPF, Planning Guidance, Glebelands Inquiry and the Jotmans Farm Inquiry.

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! or cynical! Jotmans Farm Appeal decision Overturned! To Castle Point Residents Relief!

A decision that can only be described as A-m-a-z-i-n-g  for the residents of  Jotmans farm, as they will be relieved to hear that the Secretary of State has overturned the Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for the initial 265 dwellings proposed by Persimmon’s!

Jotmans Lane Tank.JPG.gallery

Despite the Secretary of State considering that Castle Point Council have only identified 0.4 years Supply of the necessary 5.0 Year Supply of Deliverable Housing, which he considered as “falling well short of expectation”!

The SoS “further agrees with the Inspector that the proposal would bring forward market and affordable housing in an area where there has been a longstanding failure to provide sufficient new housing, and that in view of the prevailing housing supply situation in Castle Point, that carries very substantial weight in favour of the scheme.”

And that he ” agrees with the Inspector that the ecological benefits attract significant weight in favour of the proposal.”

However in relation to Green Belt issues the SoS considers “The proposal would represent inappropriate development in the Green Belt of a significant size. It would permanently reduce openness, and conflict with several of the purposes of designation. These harmful impacts on the Green Belt attract substantial weight.”

Then using Planning rules more intended for Travellers “unauthorised sites” than settled dwellings the SoS applies great weight to the rule that “subject to the best interests of the child, personal circumstances and unmet need are unlikely to clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances”.

This “Good News Story” for cpbc, despite the obvious response from cynics that the Secretary of State’s release of the decision of an Appeal held on the 11 September 2015, during the very same week of an announcement to hold a General Election, is conveniently “Timely”, Green Belt campaigners will take some comfort, albeit possibly temporary.

The fear remains that with a new 5 year term of government the likelihood of a Legal challenge in light of Castle Point’s chronic lack of a 5 Year deliverable Housing Supply, may yet be our undoing!

Canvey Island residents must therefore remain concerned that, in the eyes of the majority of cpbc development committee members, Flood Risk does not act as a Constraint on development, making this part of the Borough more liable to growth as has been the case over the previous 4 decades!

In the light of this decision, the actions of CPBC to Withdraw its Local Plan2016 and to Archive the Plan document and Evidence Base, must be of some concern!

The hope now is that similar ruling and defence of Green Belt will apply across Castle Point, congestion will not be increased and the Local Plan2016 may be resurrected.

The link to Secretary of State’s decision and Inspector’s report is below.

Jotmans Lane Castle Point 2216062 (1)

Photograph courtesy; Echo newspaper

Thorney Bay, change of Use Over-Heard on the Canvey Grapevine! CPBC Local Plan issues?

It started as a Whisper, became a Rumour and has now reached Conjecture level on the Canvey Grapevine!

Thorney Bay, the apparent answer to the Castle Point Council’s Local Plan dreams, has become the subject of unconfirmed speculation. With the humiliating Withdrawal of the cpbc Core Strategy in 2011, it was considered “timely” by cpbc officers that Thorney Bay, despite it being sited within the Hazard range of Calor Gas and within a 3A Flood Zone, should come forward to provide a Housing Development of some 600 dwellings plus sheltered accommodation.

Thorney Bay then became the Backbone, the largest single development site, of Castle Point council’s daft Local Plan and surviving the GB sites cull to remain as the spine of the Local Plan2016, 5 year Housing Supply!

The Thorney Bay proposal passed in Principle by the cpbc development committee, whilst in the following months / years a 1st Phase proposal has gained Health and Safety Executive’s permission and is apparently overcoming the Flooding Objections to the fundamental requirements of the Environment Agency and the ecc Lead Local Flood Authority.

Now then; Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once!

A little Bird has told me, and I must say there is little foundation, so to speak, for this to be considered information, but it could be that the development may not be going much further!

To me this would not be a surprise, I would have thought a more likely idea would be for the developer to follow the Kings Park, and remove the static caravans and replace with Park Homes.

The build cost would be far less, the speed of development would be probably twice as quick and success of the venture equally, if not more so, financially successful as Kings Park!

What’s to lose?

Park Homes and Luxury Lodges can easily reach an asking price of £300,000, the site is opposite Thorney Bay Road, and residents would likely be of an age not too concerned with, the daily commute.

Now that the Canvey Bay Watch team have created such an attractive area of the promenade and beach front, this forms another selling point for potential Park Home buyers. I would have thought that the Canvey Bay Watch team should soon be knocking on the site owner’s door for financial support, should this development rumour come to fruition!

Thorney Bay 1

Photograph courtesy: Dave Harvey

The question for cpbc is whether these Park Homes should count towards the official Housing Supply.

On one hand these Park Homes “are suitable for residential use throughout the year and are built to last at least 50 years”! (Omar park and leisure homes). Although whether 50 years lifespan is considered permanent is challengeable, however, their success is, and there are people desiring to own them.

The Planning Inspector examining the Glebelands, Thundersley, Appeal did not consider the numbers at Kings Park should qualify for inclusion in building numbers, but that may have been due to cpbc being unable to clarify how many caravans were replaced by Park Homes.

We do know that of the caravans at Thorney Bay the Inspector concluded;

“But that does not necessarily mean that the Households now occupying caravans would have chosen that type of accommodation, in preference to bricks and mortar.”

Well, “bricks and mortar” these Park Homes ain’t! But the appeal of Park Home life is generally popular across the UK, so if people are choosing to buy into this type of accommodation, then there is an argument for these dwellings to be included into the Canvey Island Housing Supply count.

With our “Broken Housing Market” leading to the apparent need to revisit Pre-Fabricated Housing, these Park Homes may well have some scope.

Whether or not any Affordable Home supply can be squeezed into the equation will be upto the negotiating abilities of cpbc, so we won’t hold our breath on that one!

What could be expected is for some Canvey Island “bricks and mortar” dwellings to become available, for local young families hoping to get on the property ladder, as older Canvey residents move into the Park Homes.

It may be doubtful , should the development come into fruition, whether the Housing Need in the mainland part of the Borough be part satisfied, as it will be difficult to argue that this type of dwelling satisfies the cross market “bricks and mortar” Housing Need. In fact it probably increases the pressure on mainland site supply.

I remind you this is only speculation.

As a reference, below, I include part of the text of the cpbc Report on Residential use of Caravan and Park Home Sites 2013.

“It is clear from both Census data and from Council Tax data that an increase in the availability of caravans for residential use resulted in an increased housing supply of the order of 800 homes in Castle Point in the period from 2001 to 2011. This increase was largely as a result of the change of use of Kings Park and Thorney Bay Caravan Parks from holiday use to residential use.”

“To date, the Council has only included those caravans registering for Council Tax at Kings Park within the housing figures for the period 2001 to 2011. However, given that caravans at Thorney Bay were included as homes within the Census 2011 outcomes, and this will be reflected in population and household data moving forward, it is appropriate that the housing supply figures for the period 2001 to 2011 are appropriately adjusted to include these homes also.”

“The change of use of static caravans from holiday accommodation to residential accommodation has made a significant contribution to housing provision over the last decade (2001 to 2011). Approximately, 800 additional caravans moved into permanent residential use over this time period, primarily on the Kings Park and Thorney Bay sites. This is supported by evidence from the Census and from Council Tax records.”

“However, whilst some of this provision has contributed positively towards the community, in particular at Kings Park, the nature of the provision at Thorney Bay has had negative socioeconomic consequences both for the surrounding community and for the vulnerable families who have found themselves living at the site.”

“Due to these issues there is support for proposals to redevelop a significant proportion of the site for traditional homes. However, it is the intention of the owner to retain a smaller caravan park of 300 caravans for residential use towards the west of the existing site.”

“Assuming that the proposals to redevelop this site as proposed for traditional housing are delivered in full over the next 10 years, then it is unlikely that the number of households living in caravans in Castle Point will increase further between 2011 and 2021. Indeed, as a result of the development of traditional housing over this period, it is expected that the proportion of households living in caravans will reduce.”

“However, should the Thorney Bay site not be redeveloped as proposed, then there is the potential for a further 800 caravans moving from transient use into permanent residential use. This will increase further the number of households living in caravans, and the associated socio-economic issues arising from this. It is therefore imperative that the Council work alongside the site owners to encourage and facilitate the redevelopment of this site in an appropriate timeframe.”

Video copyright BBC

CPBC Local Plan2016 Duty to Cooperate Failed. Plan Withdrawal Recommended!

Much as had been predicted by far greater planning minds than ourselves, it has been announced that the Examining Inspector of the Castle Point Local Plan2016 has Failed the LP at the first hurdle – the Duty to Cooperate.

This will be a great disappointment for some, whilst no doubt others will take pleasure in proclaiming “we told you so!”

Given the somewhat aggressive nature of the other neighbouring authorities, especially Thurrock, it is difficult to guess how the position can be brought together.

One can only assume this may cause quite some delay.

From the Inspector’s remarks and conclusions it may be assumed that the hasty conclusion of the cpbc Local Plan Task and Finish group work contributed to the demise of the process.

Whether certain senior councillors should have been aware of this pitfall is open to conjecture.

Officer and councillor work on progressing the Local Plan2016 appears uncoordinated.

This in turn has cost residents some great extra expense.

Furthermore the Jotmans Farm developer may press for the Appeal Inquiry decision and the Dutch Village developer see a loophole in the Green Belt policy in the light of this Duty to Cooperate Failure.

Cherry picked copy and pasted extracts of the Planning Inspector’s letter appear below. The full letter is available on the LP Portal.

Taken as a whole throughout the preparation period from 2011 to August 2016 it appears that cooperation was structured and frequent. Whilst there may have been some loss of focus on strategic planning matters between 2014 and the early part of 2016, activity did not come to a complete stop.  There is no chronological record of what took place when but the picture painted by all those involved is one of active and more or less on-going engagement.

However the information provided is weaker in showing how cooperation actually influenced the New Local Plan.

The New Local Plan is based on an objectively assessed need for housing of 400 dwellings per annum.  Paragraph 13.22 recognises that the target for new homes does not equate with this but it reflects the capacity of the Borough to accommodate growth.  A subsequent updated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in May 2016 gives a range for objectively assessed need of between 326-410 dwellings per annum.  Be that as it may the draft New Local Plan proceeded on the basis of providing 200 dwellings per annum but this was reduced to 100 dwellings after the failure of the Task and Finish Group to reach agreement on the release of Green Belt land for housing in November 2015.

As far as the Council is concerned no amount of further conversations would have altered the difficulties in meeting its objectively assessed needs within its boundaries.

…….

  1. The questions of whether the strategy for housing is the most appropriate one and therefore justified and whether it is consistent with national policy, including paragraph 14 of the NPPF, are soundness ones. However, paragraph 179 of the NPPF provides that:

Joint working should enable local planning authorities to work together to meet development requirements which cannot wholly be met within their own areas – for instance, because of a lack of physical capacity or because to do so would cause significant harm to the principles and policies of this Framework.

……..

This is precisely the situation in Castle Point. Indeed, the officer report of July 2014 which set out the full document representations on the draft New Local Plan (CP/05/008) includes the following as an action point:

………..

Given that the Council has not been able to identify a sufficient supply of housing to meet its objectively assessed needs, it is also necessary to engage with neighbouring authorities under the auspices of the Duty to Cooperate in order to determine how the objectively assessed need for housing, and other strategic matters, will be addressed within the housing market area.

  1. However, notwithstanding the lengthy and detailed engagement across south Essex there is no formal mechanism in place to distribute unmet housing need. In order to comply with the duty there is no requirement for this to be done by any particular means.  Indeed, the outcome of joint working in this respect could take a variety of forms and it is not for me to say what they should be.  Nevertheless, the position is that there is simply nothing in the New Local Plan to indicate how the unmet need for housing will be tackled.  This is because the authorities have not yet deliberated about the matter in any meaningful way.  Therefore the question of how the objectively assessed need will be addressed, as raised by officers in 2014, has not been adequately grappled with.
  2. The Council is now anxious to ensure that the delivery of its objectively assessed needs is addressed with neighbouring authorities and intends to play a full and active part through the various DtC mechanisms that are now operating. There is no reason to doubt this but a failure to demonstrate compliance cannot be corrected after submission (PPG ID 9-018-20140306).

There is no duty to agree (PPG ID 9-00320140306).  However, whilst it might be firmly in view now, there is no clear evidence that consideration of this admittedly difficult issue was attempted as part of the preparation of the New Local Plan.  Within that process it has been treated as an ‘afterthought’.

all the indications are that in this respect the Council decided to ‘plough its own furrow’.  Failing to address the wider impact of its ‘last minute’ decision to lower the housing target by a considerable amount is the very opposite of cooperation in plan preparation.

the Council fell well short of making every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on the strategic cross-boundary matter of housing before submitting the New Local Plan for examination.  The engagement undertaken as part of its preparation was fundamentally flawed.

Whilst the Borough may not hold all or any of the answers to the shortage of (travellers) pitches in Basildon it should attempt to play its part.  Ultimately it might be that providing more traveller sites in Castle Point is not the best planned solution but there is a duty on the Council to try.  In preparing the New Local Plan it simply has not done enough in this respect and there has been a DtC failing.

In specific terms the housing policies have failed to address how unmet need will be dealt with across the housing market area.  This is exacerbated by the lack of consideration of this matter when reducing the housing target by 50%.

However, there have been fundamental shortcomings in the steps taken, or not taken, to secure the necessary cooperation on the strategic cross-boundary matter of housing.  In addition, the Council has not made every effort to consider how it might deal with the significant unmet need for traveller sites in south Essex arising, in particular, from Basildon.

Therefore my final conclusion is that the duty to cooperate has not been complied with.  Clearly this is not the outcome that the Council would have wanted and it is not a view I have reached lightly or without full consideration of the material put to me.

Nevertheless I must recommend non-adoption of the New Local Plan under Section 20(7A) of the 2004 Act. In this situation the PPG advises that the most appropriate course of action is likely to be for the local planning authority to withdraw the plan under Section 22 and engage in necessary discussions and actions with others.  That is the course of action I would favour.  The alternative is to receive my report but the content of this would be substantially the same as this letter.

Gloves OFF-Round 2! Castle Point, Green Belt or Not Green Belt?

It can be argued that the “political row” was warranted when the Castle Point Council Development Committee met to discuss the development proposal for Solby Farm.

Whether all Green Belt is Green Belt, or whether some development means it automatically becomes a Brownfield site or previously developed Green Belt is a sensitive matter to councillors and residents alike.

Jotmans Magaret March Benfleethistory.org.uk

Jotmans Farm development proposal remains with the Secretary of State for decision.

What should not become a material factor is romantic rhetoric such as “pristine” or “virgin” Green Belt. There are clear long standing purposes for Green Belt and if these functions have been eroded then that marks a failure in the historic development patterns within the borough.

A quick look at Solby Wood on Google Earth indicates that incremental development has eroded the extent of the Green Belt around that area. The site itself contains some equestrian buildings and a few stored caravans, we assume these are not for permanent on-site living accommodation.

At the time of the Local Plan2016 publication 2 motions were considered, one to protect ALL Green Belt as indicated in the 1998 Local Plan, and the second motion to protect undeveloped Green Belt. Officers indicated that it may be easier to argue at examination stage for the protection of All of the Green Belt.

However as we know cpbc voted to include some Green Belt sites for Housing development.

This was referred to in general terms during the Castle Point Local Plan2016 Duty to Cooperate pre-examination hearing with reference to balancing the Housing Need and Green Belt Policies.

This being the case it may be argued that as a general policy cpbc are willing to release some areas of Green Belt. Should that be in areas in which there is no realistic appetite for developers to build at present, this policy may lead to an Inspector concluding that if cpbc are willing to release some Green Belt it may be timely to marry the developers preferred areas with the Need for Housing. That would be unfortunate as this is not what strategic planning should be driven by.

It may be a case of the Inspector being willing to give cpbc the benefit of the doubt and approving the Local Plan2016 but with an early review. Should the proposed 100 dwellings per annum supply not be achieved then, no doubt, appeals for developers preferred sites would inevitably be successful.

It could also have been argued, which I did not pick up on hearing during the cpbc planning meeting, that the application could be rejected as being Premature. The Local Plan2016 must get over the first hurdle of the Duty to Cooperate, ahead of going under Examination for the tests of Soundness and legality.

Instead this proposal was treated as a means of endorsing the unexamined Local Plan2016. Members suggested that to reject the proposal would be inconsistent with the draft Local Plan2016, however in effect the Approval indicated a dismissal of enforcing the Adopted Local Plan with its different approach to Green Belt defence.

Prematurity would then have served both purposes of enforcing the Adopted Local Plan whilst allowing for the timely emergence of the altered approach to Green Belt policy in the Local Plan2016 should that be successful under Examination.

The policy of allowing development proposals, as in the case of Solby Farm  with funding for off-site affordable housing supply, rather than actually including on-site affordable homes, almost inevitably increases the deprivation levels in already deprived areas – the “Not in My Backyard” syndrome!

Other serious matters such as lack of amenity space and under use of development land could also be given reasonable consideration, rather than the proposal being decided simply by the threat that we dare not Approve in case the Local Plan2016 should Fail on the result of the handling of a proposal for 46 “executive” dwellings.

Similar muddlings occur where caravans are concerned in our neighbouring borough of Basildon, as recorded in the Travellers Times earlier this year;

Before the eviction of the Dale Farm Travellers site at Crays Hill near Basildon, Essex, in 2011, local council leader Tony Ball said: “Dale Farm has been illegally developed on green belt land. By doing this … the Travellers have broken the law.” After the eviction Cllr Ball thanked Inspector Knacker and bailiffs and promised to restore the site in keeping with its green belt status. This hasn’t happened. It still looks like an urban wasteland.

Basildon council’s draft local plan now suggests building up to 2,500 houses in Crays Hill – much of which is green belt. Whilst the council says the draft does not propose any development of Dale Farm itself, an eager developer is canvassing travellers who own plots on both the legal site and the illegal site which was cleared, and exploring the possibility of building homes there. The council says there are no plans to build on the legal site, and that the draft local plan proposes to safeguard it for Gypsies and Travellers, but the developer can feed into the local plan and suggest developing the site.

Any developer would have a number of obstacles to overcome, including the fact that some pitches have injunctions protecting standing gates, fences and even three lawful plots, which would need to be quashed in court, and the fact that the land is severely contaminated. If the Travellers are to feel it is worthwhile to sell their pitches (most want a minimum of £100,000) then charges against the pitches that the council have taken out to cover the cost of the eviction will need to be dropped. These range between £60,000 and £360,000 per pitch and the council says it has no plans to remove them — yet. It is a great bargaining tool, after all.

The Travellers are well aware of the irony of the fact that they were evicted from the green belt because nobody is supposed to live on such cherished land – yet “settled” people could live there, possibly in their hundreds, in executive homes, just a few years later. One wonders what it would be called – Dale Farm Close, perhaps? But having lived in squalor for the best part of five years, they seem prepared to go quietly – if Basildon and a friendly developer are willing to help them.

By Katharine Quarmby (first published in Private Eye and republished with kind permission T.T.).

Castle Point must not appear similarly indecisive!

A link to the cpbc Solby Farm committee meeting can be found HERE.

Castle Point Green Belt Conundrum- to Release or Not to Release, that is the Question!

Castle Point is no doubt not the only local authority hand ringing over providing housing need whilst protecting Green Belt.

castlepointmap-e1394532638198

The possible problem cpbc may have made for itself is in the historical efforts that have been expended in the attempts at producing a Local Plan.

Of late:

Records indicate that there have been a net total of 202 dwellings completed in the borough to the year end March 31st 2015.

Against this the assessed housing need is for between 400 – 500 new dwellings per annum.

The cpbc Local Plan2016 proposes to allow development of 100 new dwellings per annum.

Planning Guidance expects local authorities to; “boost significantly the supply of housing, by; “identifying key sites which are critical to the delivery of the housing strategy over the plan period.

There are suggestions that by bringing forward the proposed site at North West Thundersley, with space for housing that may potentially result in a housing provision of 200 dwellings per annum.

However it appears that this possibility was not recorded in the council minutes during the meeting to decide the Local Plan2016.

Either way whether the housing supply is 100 or 200 dwellings per annum, the supply will not be boosted “significantly”.

Now the question will be raised as to what basis the parts of the Green Belt identified as developable and deliverable in the Plan, had been considered.

It is essential that the wording of the Planning Framework and Guidance is examined and applied.

“The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.”

Bearing in mind the need:
“To boost significantly the supply of housing, local planning authorities should: use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in this Framework”

We can point out that despite the need to boost significantly housing delivery, it should be accomplished by having regard to being consistent with policies set out in the NPPF, Green Belt being one such policy!

Castle Point Council have voted to adopt a Motion to release Green Belt, land using a criteria “they” consider to be previously developed.

However, Green Belt serves, and was originally identified by, five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

Green Belt land in Castle Point all fulfil at least one of these purposes, otherwise would not have been included.

But localism appears to have dictated that a new criteria, that of whether a particular piece of land is “virginal” Green Belt, should take precedence over protecting the 5 purposes.

Paragraph 81 of the Guidance, significantly the very paragraph following Paragraph 80, which covers the 5 Purposes states;

“Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt, such as looking for opportunities to provide access; to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation; to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity; or to improve damaged and derelict land.”

This suggests that the next most important features are included, and the land that supplies, or has the potential to, such provision contained within Paragraph 81, should receive the “most” protection.

Therefore it follows that more weight will be applied during consideration of Green Belt release to land potentially performing functions contained in Paragraph 81, than whether the land retain “virginal” status!

A further complication will be the Green Belt Review. This review was produced “in house” in November 2013, to physically support the daft New Local Plan (or previous version to LP2016).

Going back further, following the withdrawal of the Core Strategy (CS) a Councillors Conference was held in September 2011. The intention of the meeting was to address the Core Strategy Inspector’s concerns on the housing distribution across the Borough.

A briefing paper was issued to Councillors in which it was explained:

“The paper explains that the area of greatest concern for the Planning Inspector is the absence of suitable housing land; it then provides information regarding sites presently in the Green Belt but which could be allocated for housing purposes, which would be likely to address the Planning Inspector’s points.”

“He (the Inspector) also indicated that he was dissatisfied with the distribution of greenfield development between Canvey Island and the mainland towns. He indicated that the Council should review their assessment of sites in Green Belt locations in the mainland part of the Castle Point and identify land for 2.5 years worth of supply (around 500 homes) for the first five years of the plan, and a further 2.5 years worth of supply for years 6 to 15 (around 500 homes).”

There is the possibility that the latest appointed Local Plan2016 Planning Inspector, Mr David Smith BA (HONS) DMS MRTPI may also form a similar opinion

Essex County Council are reluctant to support the North West Thundersley initiative. this may not mean that development could not be accomplished piecemeal, just that the infrastructure would be late in arriving.

There appear more questions than answers, revolving around; protection of Green Belt, “type of Green Belt, Housing Need, Housing Supply, whether land (Green belt or otherwise) is deliverable, developers wishes, residents wishes.

Given that the Green Belt review written in support of the rejected daft New Local Plan has been added as Evidence towards Local Plan2016, one thing is clear, castle point officers have failed a duty of care in the production of the current Local Plan.

Given that Castle Point councillors have previously approved the daft New local Plan indicating release of sites such as Glebelands and Jotmans Farm as the Core Strategy Inspector had referred to the developers having provided him with proposals, and GB on Canvey Island, and now have voted to identify other mainland Green Belt sites in other parts of the Borough indicates that Green Belt, and possibly a lot of it, may end up being released.

The concern may be not, whether to Release, or not to Release Green Belt, but more a case of Release and How Much?

Mind you, the Local Plan2016 needs to get over its first hurdle yet, that of proving it has complied with the Duty to Cooperate.

The initial Hearing on that, will begin at 10am on the 12th December 2016 and will  involve representatives from the five other planning authorities within the South Essex sub-region! We assume that will be our “professional officer” friends from Thurrock, Basildon, Southend, Chelmsford and Essex County Council!