Tag Archives: local plan

Castle Point Councillors – Intervention and Fear, should they continue defying Logic! Local Planning under Duress. UPDATED

Fear and Intimidation appeared to be the message to Canvey Island and Castle Point councillors as they come to consider in Secret, the implications of being listed by Secretary of State Sajid Javid over their lack of progress on a Local Plan, and being  in danger of Government Intervention!

At the December 2017 council meeting the cpbc Chief Executive made clear that unless either good progress is being made regarding the Duty to Cooperate, or clear constraints are recorded in the reply to the Secretary of State as to why progress isn’t being made, Intervention is likely.

The CEO stated that he neither wished to, nor expected to be put in the position of drawing up the new Local Plan, whichever version is now being worked on.

Instead Intervention would likely be taken by an outside body, for instance the Planning Inspectorate, a specialist organisation or perhaps even those south Essex councils working collectively on the Duty to Cooperate.

If it doesn’t already this should Ring Alarm Bells for those Residents living on the mainland!

You may ask why those Residents in particular?

Well, during the cpbc Core Strategy process, during 2009 Baker Associates appointed to consider the Sustainability Assessment on the Housing Site selection process drew attention to their being puzzled, as to why cpbc should overlook choosing for development, the Borough’s Highest Scoring Sustainable site. They wrote;

The review of the outcomes of the site assessment revealed the site scoring highest against the assessment sustainability criteria has not been allocated.

This site is greenfield land to the east of Rayleigh Road.

Neither the DPD or site assessment process gives a justification for this site not being allocated. 

The Sustainability Assessment suggests that the allocation of this site could have preferable implications for sustainable development than other “mainland” allocations.

This Appraisal extract gives clear indication of how a planning consultant, and most likely the Planning Inspectorate would apply a logical approach to Housing Site Allocation, should they be appointed as a Local Plan Intervention measure!

Similarly, as Baker Associates were responding to a cpbc report, one must consider it most likely that a similar approach would be taken by cpbc officers if they were appointed to undertake compiling the next version of the cpbc Local Plan!

An Inspector, should one be required to Intervene and produce a Local Plan may likely produce one completely undesirable to mainland councillors preferences. Remember these comments from an Inspector;

Additional material…

“An exercise was then carried out to objectively assess these sites against a number of criteria. I have reservations about the methodology employed and the way in which it appears to have been used, leading to inconsistent and inappropriate site selection. For example, the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal is unclear as to why the most sustainable Green Belt site was discounted.”

“I therefore consider the Council needs to revisit its assessment of Green Belt locations paying particular regard to the five purposes of the Green Belt as set out in PPG2. I accept that other considerations will also influence the choice of sites but potential locations should not be dismissed because local factors are given too much weight. This appears to have happened previously.”

“The Council’s desire to protect its Green Belt areas is understandable but its approach has also had a considerable bearing on the overall distribution of growth promoted in the Core Strategy. In this respect, I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island….”

“While I accept some development at Canvey Island may be required to meet local needs and to support services, I am not convinced that maintaining the current distribution of development across the Borough is justified given the existing constraints.”

The above comments highlight the desired distribution of Housing Growth across “certain” parts of the Borough of lead group members and is indicative of the perceived use of Canvey Island to their retention of control of cpbc.

The latest drive is to seek out Brownfield sites to supply the new Housing Allocation.

The Brownfield site list drawn up by cpbc and included alongside the council meeting’s Agenda paperwork indicated a minimum of 254 dwellings on sites achieving the required criteria.
This supply was contained in Part 1 of the Brownfield Register.

No sites were put forward as being eligible for Part 2 of the Register, those having been granted by cpbc, Permission to develop in Principle.

The chief explanation given for this being;

“Canvey Island is within Flood Risk Zone 3a, and as such planning applications for residential development normally require a Flood Risk Assessment. Advice is awaited from the Environment Agency as to if and how the Council could go about addressing this requirement before proceeding to consider any sites on Canvey Island for inclusion on the Part 2 of the Register”

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It appears that behind the scenes there remains a refusal to apply development Constraints equally across the Borough, the focus has been and remains Canvey Island, where development is concerned!

Interestingly no specific reasons for sites in other areas of Castle Point not being granted Permission in Principle and inclusion in Part 2 of the Register were given. Presumably they were covered by the caveat “a decision on whether to grant “Permission in Principle” to a site must be made in accordance with relevant policies in the development plan unless there are material considerations”

For the record the Brownfield list may, just, fulfil one years development supply of Castle Point’s required 5 Year Housing Supply requirement!

The Paddocks site, was not included in the Brownfield site Register, possibly because, as we were informed by Cllr smith, all options are open and no decision has yet been made whether to demolish or carry out much needed work on the building!

Interestingly during the council meeting a question about the total sum estimated to renovate the Paddocks was raised by Cllr Campagna, to which we the council leader explained that the £1million+ is a figure estimated to be required spending over the next 20 Years, and NOT as we were allowed to believe by Cllr smith at the Canvey Community meeting, required immediately!

The Blinking Owl site, seemingly the answer to the mainland’s Housing Supply requirement is excluded from the Brownfield Register.

This site first made public during March 2014 appears yet to have had a firm development application proposed to cpbc.

A Local Plan Examiner would be more likely to take the Blinking Owl venture seriously, should there have been some development proposals for parts of this site already on the table, but there is not!

Duty to Cooperate work is ongoing with cpbc being represented by the council leader, his deputy and senior officer/s. It appears that officers are applying the results of the DtC work into a newest Local Plan.

Should the efforts of this cpbc delegation be found worthy and Government Intervention be avoided, in the least the cpbc Local Plan will represent a localised extract of a South Essex Regional Plan. Ironically Regional Spatial Strategies were abolished after 6 years in 2010.

The newest Local Plan version may bear severe repercussions should the cpbc council choose not to approve, given the Duty to Cooperate work being carried out by cpbc leader and officers.!

A meeting will be held in secret at cpbc, to presumably inform councillors of the Duty to Cooperate progress and the Fears of Intervention, during this week.

Castle Point is not the only local authority failing to find enough Brownfield site to fulfil their immediate Housing Needs. More can be read via this LINK.

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Can the Principle of “Localism” survive the Duty to Cooperate between Castle Point and Neighbouring Authorities attempts at Cooperation?

Local Development Scheme July 2017
This Local Development Scheme (LDS) sets out the programme for preparing planning policy documents in Castle Point. This version replaces all earlier versions of the LDS, including that issued in March 2016.
By giving this a new title will not hide the fact that there has been failing via the Core Strategy and two other versions of a Local Plan!

Castle Point Borough Council seeks to prepare a local planning framework based on a series of statutory and non-statutory planning documents as development plan documents and supplementary planning documents, covering strategic and local matters.

The LDS sets out the Council’s programme for achieving this.

Perhaps an indication as to why other plans have failed, let’s investigate;

In order to ensure that the planning policy documents that are prepared by Castle Point Borough Council are robust, and do not come under criticism at examination or appeal, the Council will be seeking to ensure that its evidence base is complete and that all work has been carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation and guidance.

Is this a suggestion that all other works have not been ROBUST and therefore unable to withstand criticism?
Or, worse still;
That the previous works were not carried out in accordance with relevant legislation and guidance!

This includes ensuring that consultation is effective, and also ensuring that opportunities to work with our neighbouring Councils, Essex County Council and other service providers have been fully considered and integrated into the documents where appropriate, consistent within the “Duty to Co-operate”

A Robust Evidence Base
Any development plan document must be based on adequate, up to date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area and takes account of relevant market and economic signals to inform judgements about demand.

Having an up to date local planning framework reduces the risk that the presumption contained in the NPPF will apply, to grant permission where the existing Local Plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or out of date.

This statement unfortunately speaks in-itself.

Some of the documents listed as being complete, are quite simply, out of date!

Not everyone within the local community engages with planning consultations regardless of the amount of effort taken by the Council. As a result, it is also necessary to use empirical evidence to ensure that the needs of everyone represented by the Council are fully considered.

Clearly there has been a huge failure on the Councils part to engage with our community

Community Engagement
Every planning policy document will need to be the subject of consultation in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

In practice, before each consultation, a consultation plan will be prepared by the Council detailing how the Council will:
• Promote the consultation; • Make information available; • Engage with residents; and • Manage consultation data.

It is the aim of the Council in all cases to engage as widely as possible with “duty to co-operate” bodies, statutory and non-statutory consultees, local residents and businesses on plans and proposals that may affect them.

Clearly there has been a huge failure on the Councils part to engage with our community despite seemingly its best efforts. CPBC blames the community for its failure of a successful community involvement outcome.

What CPBC appear to have missed is that the community feel, done too, by not being asked.

A petition of over 10000 signature demanding infrastructure prior to any further large-scale housing development, not being recognised by CPBC as community engagement is rather typical!

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Largest ever Canvey Island Petition: Ignored by Castle Point Borough Council!

Empirical evidence (based or acting on observations or experience NOT ON THEORY) has been the fundamental failure of the content of several of the evidence based documents used to support the previous debacle of CPBC Local Planning. To continue with this style of documentation will once again make the CPBC Local Development Scheme not only challengeable but unsound.

The NPPF explains that, to be sound, policies must be justified. The evidence will play an important role in ensuring that this is the case and that the local planning framework is sound.
The evidence base requirements for each of the documents in the Local Development Scheme are set out in the detailed programmes. Once a piece of evidence is completed, it is published on the Council’s website for inspection.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING IN SOUTH ESSEX.
CPBC will, in its response letter to the SOS, as to why intervention is not required in the formulation of its Local Plan, suggest that considerable weight be given to the fact that CPBC partakes within the protocol of the MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING IN SOUTH ESSEX ( MoU)
This despite declaring that its Local Development Scheme 2017 will not come to fruition until late 2019. This in the hope that other neighbouring Authorities may take some of its housing needs.
The National Planning Policy Framework encourages authorities to prepare joint, non-statutory documents, particularly where this provides evidence of having effectively cooperated to plan for issues with cross boundary impacts.

Whilst the Duty to Co-operate is not a duty to agree, local planning authorities should make every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plans for examination. Compliance with the Duty to Cooperate will need to be demonstrated at examination, prior to assessment of compliance with the tests of soundness.

The legal requirement of the Duty to Co-operate is noted as being separate from, but related to the Local Plan, Tests of Soundness.

In keeping with the principles of localism, this MoU respects the principle of the individual local development plan-making functions of the South Essex local authorities. Therefore, it will not seek to determine the locations for development within local authority administrative areas.

Furthermore, it will not seek to include prescriptive or directive policies which would limit the ability of the individual local authorities to meet their development needs in a locally appropriate manner.

Canvey Island, is there Foundation for Park Homes Boost at Roscommon Way’s Expense!

It almost appears inevitable that Canvey Island will once again supply the bulk of the Borough’s Housing Delivery in the near future!

The all important Local Plan 5 Year Housing Supply will be boosted, or drained, by the success of the Sandy Bay venture at the Thorney Bay caravan site.

The potential for 1,000+ dwellings, will impact upon the area for better or worse, one of the major impacts, is seemingly the death knell of the Roscommon Way final extension. That is unless the cpbc cabinet’s appeal to Essex County Council to intervene, produces a significant U-turn in the developer’s plans for the Park Homes site.

From the Map below it is difficult to envisage a different route for the Roscommon Way extension that would not divide or disrupt the Sandy Bay site and its community, nor one that would not involve substantial Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Screenshot (3)

copyright: Google

The Sandy Bay development is aimed at the over 50’s and retirees, people who will have invested substantial sums and expect the use of the facilities on offer as well as an element of peace and quiet. A main commuter route that may divide the Park Homes site would prove an obstacle in creating the proposed facility. One can only hope that ECC can come up with a solution, otherwise the almost annual, call for road infrastructure improvement funding for Canvey Island, will be added to that of Canvey Way and Somnes Avenue!

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 gave the Thorney Bay site the Green Light to switch tack from the application for 600+ “bricks and mortar dwellings, to an even more numerous Park Home development.

” ‘Park Home’ is the industry name for a caravan which is used for residential purpose.

National Planning Policy, as reflected in the NPPF, requires Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to produce Local Plans that will deliver the full, Objectively Assessed Needs (OAN), for market and affordable housing in the housing market area. The Government’s online Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) sets out the methodology for assessing housing need; it refers to specific types of housing which should be considered. No reference is made to Park Homes or residential caravans. Accordingly, there is no duty for LPAs to forward plan for provision of this type of housing.”

“”…the needs of people residing in or resorting to their district with respect to the provision of-  (a) sites on which caravans can be stationed…”

This suggests that local housing authorities (this includes District Councils and London Borough Councils) will need to start forward planning for provision of residential caravans.
This is a significant step change from other recent planning legislation because it is the first time non-gypsy caravans have been recognised as having a role in contributing towards the supply of housing in a given area.” *

All along CPBC have stated that their planning control powers are restricted to the point of no influence, this despite the apparent desire through the many versions of their Local Plan intending to seek central funding to provide the residents to the Eastern and Southern part of Canvey Island relief from the congested routes off of and onto the Island.

A balance between Homes, Congestion Relief and Profit, with congestion relief finishing an out of site 3rd!

Prior to the 2016 Housing Act it may have been necessary for a development application for Sandy Bay to have gone through the planning channels at CPBC. An apparent similar proposal went before Chelmsford Council’s planners, this site also is subject to Flood Risk so would have required sending to the Environment Agency, as consultees, for consideration. 

The use of the 2016 Housing Act, allows the Sandy Bay site to evolve outside of the Local Plan and cpbc planning processes.

Essex County Council may also have reservations in pursuing the remainder of the Roscommon Way link, as the original phases, whether as a cost saving exercise or not, were constructed with a shortened Life Span.**

The completion, however, of the final phase of Roscommon Way would increase usage of the existing phases from commuter, leisure and industrial vehicles, both hazardous and non-hazardous. ECC would need to ask what would be the likely effect of the increased usage on the road foundations, and subsequently the hazardous pipework beneath the existing Roscommon Way, especially where vehicles are filtered into the single lane areas of the carriageway?

Usually the provision of new Highways are restricted by the levels of new Business Use, rather than a level of commuter congestion. The completed stages of the Roscommon Way fulfilled this requirement, it will need compelling evidence, which may have come from a traditional “bricks and mortar” development at Thorney Bay, for the completion phase to be realised.

The problems of developing on Canvey Island are manifold, that one developer appears to understand ways of traversing these obstacles, is clear.

The residents of Canvey Island  are now encouraged by cpbc to direct their hopes and protest for highway congestion relief towards Essex County Council!

*The views of Sanderson Weatherall.                                                            http://sw.co.uk/property-consultancy/planning/911-the-housing-and-planning-act-2016

** http://planning.chelmsford.gov.uk/Planning/lg/dialog.page?Param=lg.Planning&org.apache.shale.dialog.DIALOG_NAME=gfplanningsearch&viewdocs=true&SDescription=14/00722/FUL

Dear Sajid, re: Intervention of 15 Local Plan Councils, didn’t realise it was a Race – it’s only been 10 years, Yours Castle Point Council!

We have to hope that the correspondence capabilities at cpbc Runnymede Towers, plus of course the delicate balance of political power in the council chamber, are such that Government intervention in the cpbc Local Plan process, as threatened by the Secretary of State Sajid Javid, will prove unnecessary following the cpbc response to gov. criticism.

On the other hand, how the emerging utopia, otherwise known as Sandy Bay, will be viewed by a Planning Inspector, should one be appointed through an intervention process, will be interesting to see.

The latest cpbc Local Plan vers.IV indicates Thorney Bay as scheduled to realise 600+ dwellings, Outline in Principle is considered to have already been granted for this including the condition that land is set aside for the completion of Roscommon Way, supposedly the answer to all of Canvey Island’s traffic congestion problems.

During the November cpbc cabinet meeting concerns, bordering on panic, were voiced by members that land required for Roscommon Way phase 2 may be being planned for development of the Park Homes development, namely Sandy Bay.

ThorneyBay

Sandy Bay – Roscommon Way route?

The Thorney Bay application for 600+ dwellings includes a Condition that reads;

“”Roscommon Way Phase 2 Extension Land” Means the land to be retained unfettered and free from obstruction and any ransom strip that might fetter the ability to develop the Roscommon Way Phase 2 Extension” 

However a visit to the cpbc Planning Portal indicates that a decision on the Planning Proposal has yet to be determined and that the Conditions, or S106 Agreement remains unsigned and in Draft form only.

Meaning that the consternation of the cpbc cabinet members over Roscommon Way land becoming a “ransom strip” may be outside of their powers of control!

So a Local Plan Government appointed intervening Planning Inspector, would arrive at Castle Point to discover that the only large site identified in the Local Plan vers.IV is within a 3A Flood Zone, part of a Critical Drainage Area, within the Hazard Range of a Top Tier COMAH site and is now outside of Planning Control, due to Thorney Bay having been granted, long ago, permission as a caravan site!

As Olly Murs might sing;

“Dear Sajid, please excuse my writing.
I can’t stop my hands from shaking
‘Cause I’m cold and alone tonight.
I miss you and nothing hurts like no Plan.
And no one understands what we went through.
It was short. It was sweet. We tried.

Park Homes being simply a progression from caravans thereby a new planning application being unnecessary according to cpbc.

Being outside Planning Control there is an unknown potential for the number of Park Homes should the venture be successful, 1000 -1,600 being a possibility.

How can this guess-timate be part of a Local Plan Housing Supply, an Inspector might ask given the unplanned for numbers of delivery.

Fortunately Park Homes are counted as Housing Supply. Perhaps a Local Plan exception can be made in the case of Castle Point Council so that they may leave the 5 Housing Supply as an open ended figure, to be confirmed by the Park Home owners!

Alarm bells should be ringing at the apparent stalling of the Kiln Road delivery adding pressure onto the lack of annual Housing Supply, meaning Sandy Bay becomes more and more important inclusion in the cpbc Annual Monitoring Reports.

So an Inspector would become aware that the sole large delivering “Housing” supply site is on Canvey Island in a most inappropriate area, delivering unsubstantiated numbers of dwellings, whilst all of the mainland sites are, in one way or another, contentious!

This will not look good IF the cpbc “Dear Sajid” letter is unconvincing!

The likelihood of intervention may yet be unlikely as the High Court has twice denied the proposed developer of Jotmans farm site permission to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision to disagree with the Planning Inspector’s Appeal decision.

One can only read into this that the allocation of Housing Supply sites are best done through the Local Plan process and that Local Plans are intended for local authorities to compile through the Town and Country Regulations.

As it appears that legal issues may require testing, the Government may be falling into the open can of worms with this Intervention initiative.

Maybe best if, even, Castle Point and the Sandy Bay developers are left to their own means!

 

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.

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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?

 

 

Castle Point Council Named & Shamed, Yet Again – this Time by Sajid Javid

Unwelcome Attention is directed towards Castle Point Council, yet again!
This time by the Government Minister Sajid Javid as he addresses the UK’s Broken Housing Market.

Once again the Borough’s Local Plan process, or should we say endless saga, is in the Government spotlight!

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Castle Point Council is included within a “select” band or 15 local authorities found incapable of progressing past the “Duty to Cooperate” stage of the Local Plan process!

An Official Letter from the Minister is being sent!!!

Residents wonder whether the letter from the Minister will ever see the light of day, where residents are concerned!

Not that this will have any impression on those controlling cpbc.

Once again Canvey Island residents will be left puzzled by the apparently informed and dedicated team, in charge of creating the Local Plan vers.IV and their lack of constructive progress.

To receive such a letter from their own government appears to be an indication of very strong criticism.

The possibility of Government Intervention looms Clear and Large!

If, as we are assured, the policies within cpbc Local Plan vers.IV are in tune with Government policies, why then was the important Duty to Cooperate part of the process so Badly Neglected?

Another reason for those considering the issue of Independence for Canvey Island to wish to be disassociated from Castle Point Council?

“Interesting” to note that Basildon Council, who attended the Castle Point Local Plan Duty to Cooperate public meeting to add their criticisms, were also Named and Shamed!

The Ministerial release reads:-

On 7 February we published our Housing White Paper in which we made clear that the housing market in this country is broken, and the cause is very simple: for too long, we haven’t built enough homes. We have identified three systemic problems: not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need; house building that is simply too slow; and a construction industry that is too reliant on a small number of big players.

Up-to-date plans, including local plans, are essential because they provide clarity to communities and developers about where homes should be built and where not, so that development is planned rather than the result of speculative applications. At present too few places have an up-to-date plan.

On 21 July 2015 we made a Written Ministerial Statement to the House on this same subject. At that point 82 per cent of authorities had published a Local Plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regime. Today that figure stands at 92 per cent.

In the 13 years that have passed since the 2004 Act received Royal Assent, over 70 local planning authorities have yet to adopt a plan and of those 27 authorities still have failed to reach the publication stage. I am particularly concerned about the 15 local planning authorities that have recently either failed the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes, the public timetable that all local planning authorities are required to put in place.

I am therefore writing today to the local planning authorities of:

Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet, Wirral and York.

These letters will start the formal process of intervention we set out in the Housing White Paper. We set out that we will prioritise intervention where:

  • the least progress in plan-making has been made
  • policies in plans had not been kept up to date
  • there was higher housing pressure; and
  • intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production

We also made clear that decisions on intervention will also be informed by the wider planning context in each area (specifically, the extent to which authorities are working cooperatively to put strategic plans in place, and the potential impact that not having a plan has on neighbourhood planning activity).

I am writing today to give the local authorities the opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan under the 2004 Act regime. I will take responses received into account before any final decisions on intervention are taken.

The remaining authorities who are not making progress on their plan-making and fail to publish a plan for consultation, submit a plan to examination or to keep policies in plans up to date are on notice that consistent failure to make sufficient progress will no longer be tolerated. My Department will begin formally considering the case for intervention as deadlines are missed.

We will also bring forward the important provisions we legislated for earlier in the year through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017. I will shortly lay the Regulations under section 12 to prescribe that local planning authorities must review their plans every five years.

We will also shortly be commencing Section 8 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 which will place a requirement on all local planning authorities to have plans in place for their area which set out their strategic policies. Those strategic priorities are set out at paragraph 156 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As we set out in July 2015 we recognise that production of Local Plans is resource intensive. On 19 October 2017 we laid the regulations which, subject to approval of both Houses, will bring forward our White Paper commitment to increase planning fees by 20%. This delivers on our commitment to increase resources for local planning authorities where they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. All local planning authorities in England have given this commitment. We will shortly announce details of the £25m of funding to help local authorities plan for new homes and infrastructure in their area that we announced in the White Paper.

We have, and we will continue to, support local planning authorities in plan-making, through the Planning Advisory Service, with support from officials of my Department and the Planning Inspectorate.

Where local planning authorities continue to fail to produce a plan to provide certainty to their community on where future development will be brought forward, we will use our intervention powers to ensure plans are put in place.

The Minister’s Full Speech can be accessed HERE

Canvey Island going it Alone? Better than always being on the Outside Looking In!

The Report following the recent investigation into a conduct complaint of a Castle Point councillor should be of some concern to Canvey Islanders.

It does not take much reading between the lines to question why Canvey Island, with its own Town Council, would want to be associated and controlled by Castle Point Borough Council!

We are happy to point out that the councillor under investigation was cleared of any accusation of wrong doing, more to the point of this Blog post are some of the issues raised in the investigation report of the activities and presumptions of councillors and officers inactions.

We are most concerned at the perception of how some cpbc Cabinet members  and officers appear to be content to operate in a manner that brings the local authority close to a position of ill-repute.

Officers seemingly unable to impose any control over councillors and the cabinet system oblivious to any requirement of operating within cpbc’s own Constitution!

Quite clearly the Adopted Local Plan, albeit out of date, regularly gets overruled and undermined where the proposed policies of whichever draft new local plan is current, if Green Belt development is before the cpbc development committee.

With the Chairman and 2 cabinet members all being “strong characters” it is not unreasonable to assume that some level of predetermination may be perceived by critics of the cpbc development committee, as the latest local plan policies are used as the basis for decision making. The 5 Purposes of Green Belt appear to take second stage.

Why would Canvey Islanders support such presumption?*

Extracts from the councillor Investigation Report compiled by ch&i associates:

“Certain local authorities only allow members to call-in applications from within their own ward; the Council may wish to consider whether it wishes to adopt a similar policy.

A Planning Audit report produced for the Council in December 2016 highlighted a number of issues about the call-in process and decisions made in Committee that I believe have been further highlighted by this investigation:

 

  • The Constitution does not provide detailed information about the process to be followed when a Member requests to have an application referred to Committee. • The Council does not formally document call-ins. • Material planning grounds were not stated for all applications called-in to the Development Control Committee. • Where Members of the Development Control Committee are minded to make a decision contrary to the officer recommendation, no further input from the officer is sought regarding the implications of that decision. • Members have rejected officers’ advice without giving clear and concise reasons for their decision based on material planning considerations. • Reasons for officer recommendations being overturned are not routinely analysed and lessons learnt.”

Referring to Committee members “calling-in” planning applications so that they may be considered by the committee, rather than being delegated to officers and thereby requiring said councillor to provide the required justifiable planning reasons  for doing so cpbc officers “Officers told me that councillors are not very good at this generally”!

“If they (planning  committee members) do wish to engage with applicants directly in connection with their planning application then they should ensure that they do not take part in the decision-making process.

The Secretary of State considers….. In addition, local authorities should consider including a member of the executive, if possible with responsibility for the Development Plan, on one or more committees which take development control decisions although she or he should not normally be the chair”. Currently the Council’s (CPBC) Constitution does not limit the number of Cabinet members on its Development Control Committee, although it does state that they must not be appointed as the Chair or Vice Chair. Councillor Smith’s appointment as Vice-Chair of the Committee appears to be in direct contravention of this.

Planning decisions are a non-executive function and therefore must be dealt with by the Committee and not by Cabinet. While there is nothing in the legislation to prevent members of Cabinet being members of the Committee, there is a need for councillors to take particular care in determining planning applications to avoid being perceived as being pre-determined. Where the Council’s Cabinet has encouraged and/or promoted a particular development or plan and a Member is both a Member of the Committee and also a Cabinet Member, it is arguable that the issue of predetermination may arise as a result of the Member’s perceived proximity to the proposal through discussions in Cabinet. There is a risk that even an apparently genuine consideration of the planning application by such a Member may be perceived as a sham.”

Editors emphasis.

* Presumption in this context taken as meaning; behaviour perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate: