Tag Archives: Local Factors

Canvey Island Nimbyism? RTPI attack on Ageism amounts to Stereotyping – who else to “Watch this Space”?

Protest against Green Belt development in Castle Point, is definitely not the sole domain of Canvey Islanders.

Whilst we feel we have more to protest about than most, despite being considered to be “not living in the Real World”, even by some of our own representatives, it cannot be argued that issues facing Canvey Island are not unique.

Whether it be the fact Canvey Island is the most densely urbanised part of the Borough, the removal of Canvey’s Rapid Response Vehicle, the 3rd access Road saga, the broken drainage system, the Roscommon Way Racers, lack of street lighting on unadopted roads, or living alongside 2 major Hazardous Industrial sites, concerned Canvey residents are often greeted with a “them again?” luke-warm welcome!

But that is not to exclude our mainland neighbours who are equally willing to object against planning issues where Green Belt and other supposedly worthy development proposals are concerned.

Now it appears it has been recognised that the majority of those willing to get involved in the planning process are of a certain age group.

“Currently, the majority of those who engage in planning are over 55 years. Response rates to a typical pre-planning consultation are around 3% of those directly made aware of it. In Local Plan consultations, this figure can fall to less than 1% of the population of a district. Yet planning decisions are based upon this sample.
Well-managed consultations start early, seek a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers to engage, but they too frequently fail to engage with the younger age groups – yet we are planning their future. What other organisation would base important decisions on this level of response without checking to see if it was ‘representative’. Yet this is what happens in planning decisions.”

So says Sue Manns, the Regional Director of national planning consultancy Pegasus Group, in an article for the Royal Town Planning Institute. Pegasus being the planning group involved in the Jotmans Farm development Inquiry.

The article appears to suggest that through the lack of engagement with a “younger” consultee audience, modern development plans struggle to be adopted through the objections from those more senior amongst us residents.

“We need to start a nationwide conversation around the spatial impacts of technology change, embrace young and dynamic thinkers and those who see change as exciting, and let’s rebalance the objection-driven engagement culture which has dominated planning over the past 50 years.”

Whilst Canvey residents may not be considered by cpbc, and perhaps Sue Manns, to be dynamic thinkers, they would be wrong in their assumption to consider us as not recognising change when it is exciting, as long as it is realistic!

The cpbc promise of the grandly titled “Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan” is a case in point. Unfortunately scepticism was well founded, as the lack of tangible progress alongside the failure to incorporate the proposed Dutch / seaside architectural features into new proposals, has led to blandly designed and cramped Flatted and Retail developments to pass approval!

 

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Building materials to reflect the overall palette, drawing on the Dutch, Coastal Town and Art Deco influences to create a scheme with a unique identity.
Colours should be vibrant to establish the new retail area as a destination. Shop front improvements along Furtherwick Road should be designed with the distinctive features of an English Seaside Town.

With prose being used, similar to that above, to encourage support for aspirational design schemes, it is hardly any wonder that Sue Manns has identified a failure of the industry to engage with a younger audience in planning consultations. The lack of younger generation involvement may be true, but that is not a reason to support the thought that adult and senior views should be ignored simply to support any particular development plan that may indeed, not be suitable for a particular area.

We on Canvey Island have seen the value of “local knowledge” within the Plan making process!

When the 2009 cpbc Core Strategy attempt at a local plan was published the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, through “local knowledge” recognised the attempt to mislead the Examining Inspector with its “inappropriate housing site selection” policies, which “commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk”, as well as it being obvious he would not be “convinced that maintaining the current distribution of development across the Borough is justified given the existing constraints”.

This despite cpbc officers being party to the clear intent of the mainland lead group to allow themselves to be influenced by, and produce a local plan driven by, what the Inspector politely described as “Local Factors”!

In this light, of course we HAD to get involved, despite being within the age bracket that Sue Manns and her planner colleagues have an issue with!

Committing to attending a 2 week Examination following production of a lengthy consultation submission is not achievable by all, however when your own local authority have schemed and approved such a discreditable document, it must be challenged and exposed for what it was. Not everybody is in a position, or willing to commit to taking part in plan making process, as it bound to require taking unpaid leave or using holiday periods. Something those with young families for instance may be unwilling or unable to commit to.

Perhaps Planners and developers would prefer that no residents, whatever age bracket they fall into, take part in the planning process? One thing we did find was that the Examining Inspectors appear to welcome local input!

The feedback from our Referendum equally challenged Sue Mann’s assumption that a younger demographic would automatically give the different response that she and her  planner colleagues would hope for, by achieving “a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers”.

Castle Point council gave evidence, indeed if it can be considered of value, that they extended their consultation to specifically target established groups of youngsters as part of the Core Strategy consultation.

What the Canvey Green Belt Campaign witnessed however, was perfectly clear. By calling on residents at their homes and putting to them our Referendum question, it was absolutely clear, that the loss of yet more Canvey Green Space to the Borough’s Housing Need was indisputably opposed across generations!

Planners may begin to achieve the respect they crave if they were more driven by an local area’s actual needs. Aspirational architectural computer imagery with green spaces screening dense urbanisation deceive nobody.

Equally the promises of Affordable Homes, later challenged as being unviable, is a deception we are getting more and more familiar with, especially in the light of Green Belt release and sky high housing prices.

RTPI and Sue Manns, nice try, but must try harder!

ps Lets not feel too much sympathy for the industry: “The chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon has insisted he deserves his £110m bonus because he has “worked very hard” to reinvigorate the housing market.” (Guardian)

A link to the Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan can be found HERE.

The full blog post by Sue Manns can be found via this LINK.

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Canvey & Castle Point Council, No Plan-Better than a Bad Plan and Forever Watching this Space!

So, Castle Point Council are being threatened by the Government in the form of Secretary of State for Communities and local Government, Sajid Javid.

As you will by now know cpbc are named among the 15 local authorities, along with our cooperative neighbours, Basildon, accused of failing “the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes.”

The SoS went on to give the 15 local authorities an “opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan.”

The next step, should the Government department be unsatisfied with the reasoned response, would be Government intervention.

Greenbelt-challenge_S_01

Will this concern those in control of cpbc though? And besides what implications would enforcing an autocratic local planning system have on the democratically elected borough council?

simonicity blogged;

The February 2016 technical consultation proposed that authorities identified for potential intervention would be given an opportunity to set out exceptional circumstances why that should not happen:

“What constitutes an ‘exceptional circumstance’ cannot, by its very nature, be defined fully in advance, but we think it would be helpful to set out the general tests that will be applied in considering such cases. We propose these should be: 

• whether the issue significantly affects the reasonableness of the conclusions that can be drawn from the data and criteria used to inform decisions on intervention; 

• whether the issue had a significant impact on the authority’s ability to produce a local plan, for reasons that were entirely beyond its control.”

We can assume that those 15 authorities will now be looking very carefully at this passage. 

A political decision to intervene is one thing but what would then be the legal process to be followed?

Let me take you back to the early days of the cpbc Core Strategy (CS), ( I know I have been told that that process is long since dead and buried, but this is the Canvey Green Belt Campaign blog and we shall reflect on whatever we wish)!

That particular document (the CS) also stalled, until the cpbc officer in charge, along with his ceo, met privately with Lead Group members, and others with an interest, and came up with the bright idea of offering to Sacrifice Canvey Island Green Belt to development, whilst mainland Green Belt was removed from the CS.  That was, if the Lead Group would prefer and in return would vote in favour of moving the CS forward for publication!

So progress was made, more easier, when the Daws Heath and Hadleigh Hands Off Our Greenbelt Campaign representatives, spoke up to add their full-backing behind the Core Strategy document at the Council meeting to decide Canvey’s fate and approve the document for the next stage!

No wonder the Talk of Independence for Canvey Island is stamped upon, especially whilst the Island is so valuable to the mainland, if it was a burden it would be a different matter!

Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, that document came crashing down around cpbc’s ankles. A disregard of Flood Risk (sound familiar?) and a poor choice of (Canvey) Green Belt, and the influence of “Local Factors” was the Inspector’s finding, and away cpbc went to start again.

So Ms Challis OBE and her henchmen organised a Councillor Conference during 2011 that split members into groups so that they could select mainland green belt sites to add to Canvey Island Green Belt sites, and following that a further Local Plan document emerged.

local plan.jpg-pwrt3

Her battle cry then was “watch this space!” Well I can confess, we have been watching this space, and a b****y hard job it has been, staying awake!

The draft New Local Plan went down like a stone on the mainland, despite it “only” being a consultation document, with councillors losing seats, voted out by disgruntled and concerned mainland residents.

We have to remember the influence the 2016 EU Referendum had on our local politics.

So when cpbc issue a response to Sajid Javid’s letter, by the end of January, we expect him to be informed of the progress being made by cpbc and our neighbour’s as to the good progress being made in the Duty to Cooperate and that the cpbc Local Plan vers.IV is in place, un-examined.

And we would also expect a extra little note pushed under Sajid Javid’s office door, explaining to him not to take the electoral balance in Castle Point for granted!

Autocracy has a place but, not it appears anywhere near Runnymede Towers Castle Point.

No Plan better than a Bad Plan, now where have we heard that before?

 

 

Canvey residents left un-represented whilst others decide fate of our Local Plan!

As December 2015 approaches, the local press shows evidence of residents unease of what the Castle Point councillors may deliver when they come to consider the New Local Plan.

The Task and Finish group meeting tonight, we hear, is to be held in “secret” so that a planning inspector may educate councillors as to what is expected of them in producing a local plan.

Quite clearly the plan being forced through is not to the liking of local residents and some councillors are attempting, for whatever motivation, to have the current draft Plan withdrawn, abandoned or altered.

Some councillors must be giving the Draft Plan their full backing.

It would appear futile to hark back and suggest that residents, appalled at the original decision to send the draft Local Plan to consultation were correct, and the councillors whom supported and voted for its adoption were wrong.

No doubt when the local authority debate and vote on whether to adopt the Plan for final consultation, there will be some nervous head counting on both sides of the argument to assess the likely outcome.

Will the UKIP gains on the mainland, the Tory gains on Canvey and the Independent gains mean a different outcome can be expected from the original vote to progress the Draft Plan for consultation?

Previously, the Lead Group councillors were found to have allowed “Local Factors” to have influenced their decision making  during the Core Strategy.

This time around residents in Canvey West Ward, where 4 large development proposals (2 housing plus 2 “business”) are planned, will have no representation from their ward members when the debate and vote on the Local Plan is held!

The west ward members concerned declared pecuniary interests in the draft Local Plan’s development content.

Once again local residents find themselves having to take their consultation comments directly to the Examiner, or settle for having them dismissed by the local authority! A strange type of democracy.

A part of the draft Local Plan adoption resolved:

Resolution 6: To appoint a Master Plan Working Group for each site identified for master planning or planning briefs to work with officers, other service providers and developers to prepare a master plan or planning brief for report and formal agreement by the Cabinet. Membership to comprise the Chairman the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Business Liaison together with Ward Councillors for each site.

Again we ask, what REPRESENTATION from ward members was permitted within the Master Plan Working Group, whilst the Persimmon proposals for the Dutch Village GB site were considered.

The approach taken by the Cabinet member for Economic Development and Business Liaison during these meetings would also give grave reasons for concern, he also being the main driver behind the draft Local Plan the chairman of the Task and Finish group, Cllr Smith!

Come December who will be available to represent those residents lucky (or not) to have councillors present  and qualified to vote on the Local Plan process. The minutes of the adoption meeting for the consultation of the local Plan indicated those excluded and the reasoning. Some councillors will have been replaced and so there may be more or less members without a vote.

January 2014 meeting recorded :

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors, Ms G.Barton, C.N. Brunt, A.R. Cole, W.J.C. Dick N.R. Harvey, Mrs J. Liddiard P.J. May and W.K.Sharp.

Councillor Barrett declared a Discloseable Pecuniary as his home address was adjacent to a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Councillor Mrs. Wass declared a Discloseable Pecuniary Interest as her home address was adjacent to a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Councillor Hart declared a Discloseable Pecuniary as his home address was adjacent to a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Councillor Riley declared a Discloseable Pecuniary Interest as his home address was adjacent to a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Councillor Howard declared a Discloseable Pecuniary Interest as his home address was adjacent to a housing site in the Draft Local Plan and a member of his family owned land forming part of a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Councillor Mrs King declared a Discloseable Pecuniary Interest as she undertook equestrian activities including stabling and grazing of horses on a housing site in the Draft Local Plan.

Interesting to learn whether you will have representation, if you do we hope your members will spare a thought for those residents in West Ward.

I understand from a source that the list of excluded councillors may read:   Simon Hart  Victoria Ward
Colin Riley  Victoria Ward
William Sharp  St James Ward
Liz Wass  Cedar Hall
John Hudson  Cedar Hall
Ray Howard  CI West
Jane King  CI West
Wendy Goodwin  Boyce

The Mayor’s position may prove interesting as he appeared to be removed from his position on the Task and Finish group following his election.

Castle Point Green Belt – Assessments and Designations – Local Factors and Trust!

It is interesting to note how differently the Castle Point’s Green Belt is categorised and dealt with by the local authority.

Previously on assessing our Green Belt with a view to release / protect areas for development, the 5 functions of the Green Belt have been weighted against what has been politely named “Local Factors.”

Unusually “Local Factors” is not something referred to in the NPPF with its preference and direction being towards sustainable development.

“Local factors” are the influences that may lead to a particular Green Belt area, that would usually be considered to be less likely to be developed for housing, becoming preferred by site selectors in an attempt to seek popularity and thereby, to retain authority.

Quickly, and going over old ground here, the previous regime in charge of CPBC, were reluctant to name areas where housing should be sited in the mainland part of the Borough.

Land East of Canvey Road

Land East of Canvey Road

The Dutch Village fields, otherwise known as Land East of Canvey Road, we well know ended up being named the preferred single large housing development site in the CPBC Core Strategy (CS).

If you were not aware, the selection of this Canvey site was arrived at by the CPBC Lead Group of councillors, who, being unwilling to agree to select the most sustainable housing development sites in the Borough so as to progress the Core Strategy process, instead agreed to select, in a behind closed doors meeting, the Dutch Village site.

It doesn’t matter who introduced this initiative, adequate to say the policy failed!

From the start of the Local Planning process the Dutch Village fields have been treated shabbily.

Firstly the Castle Point Wild Life Sites Review, first conducted in 2002, was a review of sites listed at the request of Castle Point Council.

Unlike many other areas the Dutch Village fields were not selected for assessment, for whatever reason.

Neither were they included during the re-assessment of 2007, nor for the re-assessment during 2012.

I assume at the time it would suit CPBC, and it’s pressure from “Local Factors” to leave the wildlife assessment to associates of developer’s Persimmon Homes!

Recently I have come across a Natural England interactive Map.

Using this tool the viewer can locate, amongst other Statutory designations, the SSSI, Ramsar and Local Nature Reserve sites across the UK.

The Map also indicates the Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

Locally, with the amount of energy applied by the local authority to protect the mainland parts of the Borough, it is a surprise to find that only one area, Hadleigh Marshes is designated “Environmentally Sensitive.”

The area known as South Essex Marsh that extends onto Canvey West Marsh also has the same designation.

What may surprise some of the local authority officers, possibly those who created much of the Local Plan evidence base, is that the Dutch Village Fields, or Land East of Canvey Road, is also designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area!

It is clear to see that Persimmon are not maintaining the area, it does not pay them to as any rare species found may cause them difficulties if they were to be granted permission to develop.

However it appears conveniently remiss of the local authority to have not highlighted the designation when assessing and selecting their preferred Green Belt sites for development!

“The new administration in Castle Point, following the local election, has hinted that they will look afresh at the Local Plan housing allocation. They ask for residents trust while they carry out this work.

They could go a long way towards gaining our trust by maintaining much of the Borough’s Green Belt Boundaries plus acknowledging, respecting and recording within the Local Plan Evidence base the Environmentally Sensitive Area that includes the Dutch Village Fields.”

Natural England – Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA)

These are particular parts of the country where the landscape, wildlife and historic interest are of national importance. There are 22 ESAs in England, covering some 10% of agricultural land.

Developers Big Guns take aim at the Castle Point Green Belt and the new Local Plan!

It should have not passed the notice of those concerned at the potential loss of Green Belt on Canvey Island and Castle Point the number of major players that have submitted representations into the Local Plan consultation.

c/o stockfreeimages.com

c/o stockfreeimages.com


Representations have been received from Persimmon, Barratt Homes, Martin Dawn, Morrison’s, Redrow, Strategic Land Group, Gladman, Argent Homes, Countryside Property etc

What may have gone un-noticed, especially by mainland Green Belt campaign groups, is the potential opportunity lost by Castle Point Council by failing to complete the Core Strategy process.
At that time the RSS housing need figures were relevant, 200 dwellings per annum.
Figures now submitted by developer representatives suggest the Objectively Assessed Need could exceed 500 dwellings per annum.

There was a stage during the Core Strategy when the Inspector, examining Castle Point Council’s plan, offered the Council representatives the opportunity to alter the plan so as to release enough development sites to satisfy the 200dpa RSS figure required.

The Core Strategy was considered unsound by the Inspector fundamentally due to the local authority’s strategy of selecting the Land East of Canvey Road, Dutch Village site as the single large housing development Green Belt site, backed by brown field sites. A strategy that the Inspector accepted as being driven by “Local Factors.”

This was rightly criticised as the Dutch Village is in a Flood Zone 3A and many of the Brown Field sites were unlikely to be forth coming.

At this point the Council were given the opportunity to alter the list to include more realistic and sustainable sites for development.

This opportunity was discussed at a Councillor Conference during September 2011, and subsequently, rejected!

Now, nearly 3 years down the line, fresh information and projections are being suggested by developers’ consultants that claim the housing need numbers are far in excess of the previous levels, that Castle Point Council rejected achieving.

Instead of attempting to reach the RSS figures, 200 dwellings per annum, Castle Point now finds itself struggling to justify limiting the dwellings per annum numbers as low as 200dpa !

Future Employment potential affects the housing projections. However residents will be aware that Castle Point has failed to attract many businesses outside of the service sector, supermarkets, sandwich suppliers, replacement window suppliers and car breakers.
Hardly the type of employment that alone will support house purchase mortgages.

Submittors to the Local Plan consultation suggest that CPBC need to show evidence of attempts towards the “duty to co-operate” with other neighbouring authorities, willing to take on some of our housing need if CPBC persist in limiting capacity to the 200 dpa limit.
Inward migration needs to be accounted for and much of this is expected to come from London Boroughs.

However, London is clearly not planning to supply housing to satisfy its own need, covered in a previous post here. Unless the approach has not been made public it appears that London has not contacted Castle Point Borough Council under their own “duty to co-operate” requirement, to ascertain whether CPBC is able to accommodate some of it’s housing need as are some of our neighbouring Boroughs in criticising us.

To finish this post it is only correct to return to the initial point raised, if the CPBC had fulfilled it’s obligation under the Core Strategy for 200 dwellings per annum, they / we would not be facing this fight to prevent, at a minimum, double the number of new builds in the Borough.

If it is failed to be proven 200 dpa is a reasonable number given the constraints in the area and cansidering that 200 dpa was an option available during the Core Strategy, who will be held accountable?

Will the residents feel that it is worth fighting the housing need numbers all the way, if at the end the numbers are found to be inadequate?

The residents have been told to fear CPBC being put into designation.

I have not the knowledge on local authority matters to consider the dangers.
What is apparent is that without a Local Plan initially the Green Belt boundaries would remain intact.
Only those developers actually in a position to proceed with their proposal would be likely to file an application.
An Inspector would give approval or rejection on merit.
However, this is more likely to be approval if numbers are not reaching Objectively Assessed Needs which brings us back to one of my original points, why have Councillors allowed Castle Point to be faced with possibly finding space for 500 dwellings per annum, when the opportunity to settle for 200 dpa was available to them 3 years ago.

Hopefully we can have put in place a new Local Plan with no release of Green Belt, if not, then only suitable sustainable sites being added to the supply.

Blinking Owl ruffles a few feathers – will Castle Point Green Belt housing allocation switch or increase?

Canvey Island and Castle Point Green Belt was the subject, as a twist to the Local Plan was debated during the Council meeting last night.

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A group of ten Councillors headed by cllr Sheldon discussed a motion that moved that the Task and Finish Group (TFG), charged with reviewing the draft Local Plan consultation responses, would also be allowed to re-consider the feasibility of the “North West Thundersley Urban Extension” (Blinking Owl) coming forward for housing development ahead of the current time-frame.

The motion also requested that any “new” sites identified in the light of the Local Plan consultation should also be evaluated by the TFG.

Should the scheduling for delivery of the Blinking Owl site be able to be improved upon brings into question the impact this would have upon the Local Plan itself.
One Councillor stated the site could deliver 2,000 dwellings.
At the delivery rate CPBC believe is realistic and achievable this equates to 10 years worth of housing growth.

Access to the site is an issue that will only be resolved by overcoming Essex County Council’s objection to direct access onto main routes. Funding would probably be needed to be found to extend onto the Fairglen interchange for the site to realise the full development potential.

CIIP Councillors pointed out that the Blinking Owl site is currently in the Green Belt and as such should remain protected.

At least one mainland councillor stated his view was that the site should be considered brown field as it already contains development and in some areas is of poor appearance.
Currently appearance has no bearing on quality of Green Belt, measurement is based on function.

The NPPF considers that replacement of existing development in the Green Belt, should be restricted by Paragraph 89.
In the case of the Blinking Owl probably by the bullet point that reads:

“limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use(excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.”

However in the current UK climate over coming this obstacle would be achievable.
The Blinking Owl site being so close to the “Basildon Enterprise Zone” along with the recent saving of the Deanes School despite the recorded falling pupil numbers, may give CPBC’s Local Plan reasoning of an attempt to comply with the NPPF’s “Duty to Cooperate” requirement.

The Council Chamber’s public viewing area was full mainly with mainland residents boosted with those now concerned with the latest site identified for development, Glyders.
These residents would not be aware that Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, in their meeting with the local authority, had been told just last month by the Chief Executive that the development of the Blinking Owl site would not prevent any of the other Local Plan identified sites from being developed.

It was noted that Officers present were not called to speak to give direction during the course of the heated debate.

This development in the Local Plan process will surely cause the major developers to take notice.

None of the major developers, have submitted evidence in the Local Plan consultation, unlike the previous Core Strategy process where they were heavily involved and critical!

This suggests that they are content that the major sites named within the Local Plan for development will satisfy their requirements.

They have no doubt been assured at their pre-application meetings with CPBC that the review of the Blinking Owl site has too many un-resolved issues preventing it coming forward.
They should remind themselves that Castle Point has a poor historic record of under performance where development is concerned especially in the mainland areas.

Whilst the CIIP were prepared to stand by their – no development on green belt land – policy the body language and speeches of one or two mainland Cabinet members offered an insight into the job in hand if the Blinking Owl is to come forward.

The CIIP looked to the possibility of approaching the Government to test the possibilities of using the latest direction coming from the Secretary of State’s office regarding the protection of Green Belts.

The cabinet members putting their names to the motion were the same councillors responsible for the designing of the Local Plan. Apparently previously the thoroughness of site selection meant no stone had been unturned in their effort to find the most appropriate sites, and yet they are willing to be signatories to the motion to review the Blinking Owl and any other new sites.

Cllr Sheldon, it is clear has given his all for this cause.
One can only wish him well and hope he receives the support he deserves.

Whether this will save some of the mainland “popular” Green Belt sites we will have to wait and see. One hopes this effort is not a gesture ahead of May’s local elections.

From a Canvey Island viewpoint it is very, very doubtful that our development sites will be anywhere other than the very bottom of the list as far as offsetting Canvey’s Green Belt for development at the Blinking Owl. As cllr Tucker reminded, local factors were the reason for the failure of the previous attempt at a Local Plan.

Green Belt is Green Belt after all, and to identify another potential area is a dangerous move, especially whilst attempting to claim the Borough does not have the space to accommodate suggested housing figures.
More work needs to be done in examining the recent reasoning contained in the Secretary of State’s directions to the Planning Inspector regarding interpretation of the protection offered to Green Belts and the influencing on Local Plan making.

picture credit: dreamstime

The loss of Green Belt, Housing need and the weight of evidence, or the lack of!

Castle Point Green Belt is under pressure from planners to supply areas for development so as to satisfy housing need.
The level of need will have to be evidenced if the new Local Plan is to be found sound.
Evidence of need is available from various sources such as the Office for National Statistics, the Greater Essex Demographics report, the local Strategic Housing Market Assessment and the Thames Gateway Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
These figures, once collated should make redundant, the housing need figures imposed upon Castle Point, by the now revoked East of England Regional Assembly during the Core Strategy.
The Regional Assembly suggested Castle Point’s housing need was 200 dwellings per annum and drew rejection, anger and consternation from local Councillors.

Until recently Local Plan Planning Inspectors have accepted Regional Assembly housing figures as the appropriate figures despite the Assemblies having been revoked, due to them being the only evidence available.

Now the Thames Gateway suggest that between 1,700 and 9,000 homes are required in Castle Point during the next 20 years.

The benefits to Castle Point in remaining a partner of the Thames Gateway may need to be questioned.
There ia a definite cut off line for business growth east of the mid Basildon area.
It is recognised by Business Consultants that the logistical issues east of Basildon faced on the road network of Castle Point means little regeneration in the near to mid future is worth considering.

Therefore Castle Point is viewed as just a very limited supplier to the labour market, indeed in competition with surrounding and east London areas.
Infrastructure wise Castle Point appears to be reliant upon Essex County Council whilst expected to accept growth levels attributed to the Thames Gateway. Two totally different beasts, one a regeneration hub driven by the growth of Thurrock, Basildon, the new port and the M25 business area and the other a generally rural County.

The current Local Plan consultation suggests that 200 new dwellings can be accomodated within Castle Point per year, whilst the need is actually upwards of 350 per year.

The Local Plan has been adopted by the same Council that castigated the 200 figure when it was suggested by the Regional Assembly.
There appears to be a fixation with Castle Point Council with the Thames Gateway. No doubt grants have been forthcoming and welcomed, but this has encouraged a mindset that regeneration whether housing or industrial needs to be located principally South of the A13.

All the while the difficulty in arguing over which green belt sites to release prove to be distractions in the failure to regenerate our Town Centres, the most important housing sites for need and growth.

Local Factors were identified as driving the growth distribution planned for the Core Strategy.
Whilst the new Local Plan attempts to include other areas for development, the likelihood that these areas will be held back, cannot be ignored. Local Factors remain in play. It will not go un-noticed that Castle Point Council have been working on a Plan for some 9 years now.

I thought it worth copying and including a little of what has been written on the Core Strategy, Local Plans and housing need over these years.
Many points are touched upon by various people in supposed authority, including taken the will of local residents along with the Plan.

This will be achieved locally, whilst those residents engaged with the Local Plan mainly oppose development on green belt areas, the majority, either through apathy or disillusionment with local politics and administration, will fail to respond to the Consultation Questionnaire. Thus allowing Castle Point Council to claim that by not responding, they must thereby agree with the development plans!

Presumption or arrogance it may be, but as there is no compulsion to respond only those questionnaires received can be considere opinions that are valid.

You may feel after reading some of the extracts that the regional approach may not have been quite so bad, as a redistribution of growth with new road networks and infrastructure would realise a less intense distribution of growth for all.
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Extracts from CPBC proposed Core Strategy:
“Having regard to delivery in the period 2001 to 2008, and considering the current economic climate and the bleak projections of some economists, it is likely that if the Council continues to pursue a dwelling provision rate of 200 dwelling units per annum it will be unsuccessful. This will having implications for the delivery of the Core Strategy in respect of its objective to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development, which in turn will have implications for its ambitions to regenerate town centres.”

“ This proposed change would deliver the same overall quantum of homes as set out in the Core Strategy submission, but provides flexibility around the annual rate of delivery, recognising that Castle Point is not a key growth location, but a peripheral location focused on meeting its local needs. Flexibility around the annual rate of delivery is important for Castle Point, because it is a small area that has not previously delivered at high rates. Excessive pressure to do so would undermine other objectives of the Council and its partners to regenerate town centres and protect the green belt and the natural environment from inappropriate development. On these bases, the five year housing supply figure should be no less than 750 homes and no more than 1,000 homes.

This is considered to be a more realistic and deliverable approach to dealing with a complex issues such as housing, that is flexible enough to deal with highs and lows in the housing market. The economic recession may continue to impact on the
delivery of this target during the period to 2016.”

………………………………………………………………….

Meeting with Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Minister for Decentralisation & Planning
Monday 17th October 2011
Statement from Councillor Mrs Pam Challis OBE Leader of the Council
Rebecca Harris MP very kindly agreed to arrange for a deputation from Castle Point Borough Council to meet with Rt Hon Greg Clark MP Minister for Decentralisation & Planning on Monday 17th October 2011.

The Delegation comprised myself, Councillor Jeffrey Stanley, Deputy Leader, Councillor Norman Smith, Cabinet Member and Councillor Dick, Chairman of the Development Control Committee, accompanied by the Chief Executive and Head of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods. We were joined by Rebecca Harris MP and two members of her staff.

I put to the Minister that Castle Point was anxious to put in place a sound plan for its area. We had been working on a Core Strategy since 2005. However at the examination of the Core Strategy, the Planning Inspector indicated that the Council needed more land for housing. Given the small size of the Borough and extent of Green Belt, this had meant sites in the Green Belt had to be considered. This had caused considerable local consternation, and the Council had therefore withdrawn its Core Strategy.

I then asked if the Minister could clarify the position with regard to
national planning policy as it affected Castle Point. At this juncture
the Minister stated that currently the Localism Bill is not an Act of Parliament
and therefore until this goes through Councils still have to act under
the old regime. This has recently been confirmed by the Courts.
However, he did stress that the Government is determined to place the
preparation of new local plans into the hands of local people and was
supportive of the idea of not having too long a forecast but instead
having a five year rolling programme.

He also emphasised that the
Government was determined to ensure there was strong protection
for the Green Belt and stressed the allocation of land for housing should
start with land of the least environmental quality.
The Minister made it clear there must be clear evidence underpinning the
plan-making process. That evidence should also command a broad measure
of local support.

He also stated the role of a planning inspector in future would not be to change locally prepared plans but to test the evidence on which those
plans have been prepared.
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Statement release by R.Harris MP Castle Point
Rebecca has been campaigning hard on local issues, fighting for
the protection of green belt land from Labour’s centrally-imposed
housing targets, including volunteering with the Canvey Island
Green Belt referendum.
As well as working with residents groups against inappropriate
industrial development on Canvey Island and seeking improved
infrastructure across the Borough.
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Building.co.uk in 2005 reported under a headline of
East of England spurns housing targets:
At an emergency meeting last week the Conservative and Liberal Democrat-dominated East of England Regional Assembly stuck to its pre-Christmas decision to refuse to endorse the housing growth targets drawn up by its own officials. The meeting was to discuss feedback from the three-month consultation into the regional spatial strategy, which has just ended.

John Reynolds, chairman of the assembly’s planning panel, said the assembly had not been swayed by a letter from Rooker outlining how the government was putting money into the region to support the development of the Thames Gateway, M11 corridor and south Midlands growth areas.
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Thames Gateway South Essex Housing Group SHMA 2008 extracts:
Castle Point saw a decline in its population in the 1990s but has since recovered resulting in an overall population growth of 2% over the 15 year period.

Over the five year period 2001 – 2006, it is estimated that:
• While 13,000 people (gross) have come from overseas to reside in the TGSE Sub-Regional Housing Market, more people are actually estimated to have moved overseas.
The result is a net loss of 680 persons due to international migration.
•The population growth of 18,390 has instead been driven by domestic migration (within the UK), as well as natural growth in population.

We do not consider it appropriate to provide specific targets for the sizes of general market housing required through Local Development Frameworks. In the market sector, the market itself is quite effective at matching the size of dwellings to market demand at a local level.

The SHMA identifies that the majority of existing housing provision is of two and three bedroom properties. It sets out that demand is predominantly for entry-level family housing to the south of the A127, with stronger demand for larger properties in areas with a high quality
of place, particularly to the north of the A127. This we feel should remain the mainstay of housing delivery in the sub-region.
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Southern Daily Echo reported 5th Oct 2013
As many as 72,800 homes may have to be built across south Essex in the next 20 years, a report seen by the Echo suggests.

A draft document, called the Strategic Housing Market Assessment Review 2013, has been leaked setting out the potential demand for housing in Basildon, Castle Point, Southend, Rochford and Thurrock until 2031.

The report, compiled by the Thames Gateway South Essex partnership, provides four different scenarios for the number of additional housing that would be required of each borough based on population trends, employment and commuting patterns, existing land already allocated for housing, and previous Government housing targets.

Under the four scenarios, the number of new homes required in Basildon would be anything from 5,500 to 17,000, in Castle Point between 1,700 and 9,000 homes, in Rochford from 4,200 homes to 8,100 homes, in Southend between 5,400 and 20,700 homes and Thurrock between 16,500 homes and 22,000
Basildon council leader Tony Ball says the report is purely a “number crunching exercise”.

He said: “It is purely a mathematical exercise. What happens is it is up to local authorities to work out what homes we need in our core strategies.
“I said in our full council meeting in May that I am not going to play the game of number crunching. It is about the need for local people. These numbers are not deliverable and Government guidance says that that is the key
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Housebuilders and consultants point to secretary of state Eric Pickles’ decision in June to overturn an inspector’s recommendation to approve plans for 165 homes in the Essex green belt at Thundersley as evidence of the government’s commitment to the green belt.

In the decision, Pickles recognised that the local planning authority, Castle Point Borough Council, could show only an “exceptionally low” housing land supply of 0.7 years. But he concluded that this did not outweigh the presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt.

Andrew Whitaker, head of planning at the Home Builders Federation, says that this decision may discourage local authorities from bringing forward sites in local plans. “How bad does your housing supply need to be before being seen as special circumstances that would justify green belt development?” he asks.
Local authorities’ land allocations for future housing are the source of some of the recent controversy. Councils are tasked with identifying a five-year supply of housing in their local plans under the NPPF. But some are struggling to do this within existing town boundaries and are being forced by PINS to release land in the green belt to site new homes.

These directions are made more controversial by the fact that the inspectorate is using housing targets from regional spatial strategies (RSSs). These have technically been abolished, but the housing figures in them are the only ones that have been scrutinised through the independent examination process, and therefore are still being drawn upon by inspectors.

Rushcliffe Borough Council in Nottinghamshire is one council that has been required to release green belt land by an inspector. It was warned by PINS last year that its draft local plan was flawed, as it sought to provide only 9,600 homes by 2026, down from the East Midlands regional plan’s target of 15,000.
Planning Resource comment by C.Early August 2013.
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Westminster Hall
Thursday 24 October 2013
[Mr Dai Havard in the Chair]
BACKBENCH BUSINESS
Planning and Housing Supply
Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con):
There is concern among hon. Members and local planning authorities about apparent confusion in the Government’s planning policies. I requested this debate because I want to consider planning, the countryside and housing projections, as well as related issues, such as the Government’s professed preference for localism, as these matters are all interconnected.

Protecting the countryside was one of my main motivations for entering Parliament in the first place. As I represent the constituency of Tewkesbury, I am more sensitive than most to the need to avoid developing on or near flood risk areas.
What do I mean by confusion in policy? The Government have said frequently, for example, that their policy is to preserve green-belt land, yet my local planning authorities—my constituency covers three—are telling me that the Government are pressuring them to provide for so many houses in their local plans or joint core strategies that it will inevitably compromise the green belt, green fields and flood risk areas.

In a ministerial statement dated 6 September 2012, the Government said:
“The green belt is an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a ‘green lung’ around towns and cities. The coalition agreement commits the Government to safeguarding green belt and other environmental designations”.
That seems clear enough. However, the same statement goes on to say:
“As has always been the case, councils can review local designations to promote growth. We encourage councils to use the flexibilities set out in the national planning policy framework to tailor the extent of green belt land in their areas to reflect local circumstances.”

On the face of it, reaffirming councils’ right to re-designate the status of their land could be seen as promoting localism. However, the fact is that Government pressure to create high housing numbers is forcing such re-designations, which flies in the face of localism and contradicts the localism policy. The Government’s policies on the green belt and the wider countryside are confusing and contradictory; clearing up that confusion is one of the purposes of this debate. The Government’s insistence on high housing numbers is threatening the green belt, which leads me to question why the Government believe that we need so many houses in the first place. I wish to consider the question of housing projections.

The Government’s own figures seem to confirm that there is no shortage of houses. In an answer to a recent parliamentary question that I tabled, the Government informed me that at the last count, there were 709,426 empty properties in England. Add to that the number of houses with planning permission that are not yet built and the figure for available properties in England comes close to 1 million.