Tag Archives: Localism

Predetermination – Interference and Planning Matters, Castle Point Council style. The Need Outweighs the Inappropriateness in our Green Belt?

Castle Point council appear to have been rattled into some inconsistency where the Local Plan and Planning matters are concerned.

Intervention over the Local Plan appears a realistic possibility, whilst Housing Need and Green Belt concerns dominate decisions.

A follower of this Blog and of Local Issues sent in this comment;

“The Government has used the Localism Act to clarify the rules on ‘predetermination’.
These rules were developed to ensure that councillors came to council discussions – on, for example, planning applications – with an open mind.
In practice, however, these rules had been interpreted in such a way as to reduce the quality of local debate and stifle valid discussion.
In some cases councillors were warned off doing such things as campaigning, talking with constituents, or publicly expressing views on local issues, for fear of being accused of bias or facing legal challenge.
The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result.
This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate. People can elect their councillor confident in the knowledge that they will be able to act on the issues they care about and have campaigned on”.
I am not so sure that the Governments intention has become a reality, there is very little evidence that democratic debate is exercised at CPBC, particularly where planning on Canvey Island is concerned.

It will be imperative, or it should be, that a consistent approach is followed through Planning Policy, especially while the Government Chief Planner is taking a close interest in cpbc Local Plan affairs. One would expect this consistency to come from the top down.

Recently there have been two planning applications received that may hint at a less than consistent approach.

Firstly the proposal for the 57 bedroom Care Home at Canvey Way, Approved against Officer advice. Officers stated that amongst other reasons “the proposal constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt” and that “The application is presented to the Development Control Committee as the applicant is related to a Member of this Council”.

Unusually just ahead of the development committee meeting to consider the application, the Castle Point council leader, cllr Smith was quoted in the Echo as saying;

“The committee may think the need is enough for the plans to be passed.”

And that

“The people will only lose out if the plans are refused.”

There is a recorded need for facilities of this type in the Borough, however there is also a recorded Housing Need in the Borough.

It appears that the desire locally is to develop on Previously Developed land. This is where the cpbc leader may be indicating some inconsistency.

Residents on the mainland appear concerned with the possibility of 12 Apartments, being built on the Wheelers restaurant site at Bread and Cheese Hill. This is also Green Belt and previously developed with a far more permanent structure than that exists at the Garden Centre site at Canvey Road.

As yet there has been no officer advice issued, however cpbc leader cllr Smith has himself “called in” the application, on the Grounds of Inappropriate Development in the Green Belt, so that the Development Committee can make the final decision whether to approve.

This might appear contradictory in that having publicly stated “The people will only lose out if the plans are refused.”, on the Canvey Road application, to then personally call in another application, that maybe far less likely to be considered as inappropriate development in the Green Belt, just may be viewed as suggesting to his colleagues on the development committee that they should Refuse the Bread and Cheese Hill proposal.

Surely the evidence suggests that in both the case of Care Home facilities AND Housing, the need may well be “enough for the Plans to be passed.”

Policy makers may do well to set a better example if they kept their views private at crucial times for the cpbc Local Plan, and the Echo Newspaper may do well to go back to their more investigative style of journalism to add clarity to these topics.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Images Copyright: Google Earth

Advertisements

Castle Point Council, their need to display Openness and Transparency Failure and how to Discourage Residents Participation!

Now I know a lot of people, both of Canvey Island and the mainland, take very little interest in the day to day affairs of castle point council.

But when they do, they like to think that their issues and points of view are given some respect and consideration.

cpbc

Runnymede Towers

Of late there has been a decision made to change the council’s Planning Procedure. This has involved the authority’s control of the Planning website.

Officers have decided to not publish comments or notice of petition of objection, or general comment in the list of documents.

We believe this will have a discouraging effect upon residents who are affected by local development, whether housing or business.

So now, only the developers paperwork and drawings and the agency consultees, such as Environment Agency and highways etc, are the only comments considered worthy of making public.

We believe that castle point borough council have a duty to embrace localism, and to actively display openness and transparency through their work.

We thought this important to challenge, as this will affect every resident at some time or another.

We wrote to the castle point borough council chief executive, the Leaders of both political parties and the Development Committee Chairman;

Dear Development Committee Chairman,

In your capacity as Development Committee Chairman.
We have noted that it appears that a decision has been taken to not publish, comments and objections raised by the community on planning proposals, on the cpbc website planning portal.
This is concerning, as residents may feel that no interest, or concern, is being indicated over a particular Planning Application. This in turn may well deter objection being raised or general comments being entered, through self-doubt or embarrassment that points of concern may be irrelevant.
This appears to amount to cpbc seeking to discourage community engagement with residents in local planning matters and of not acting transparently.
Generally the time to comment on planning proposals is early on in the planning process. Comments posted on the cpbc planning portal, offer committee members adequate time to view, at their own convenience, relevant community points raised, and to judge the level of public concern and feeling, so as to prepare themselves if any of the residents points were of enough weight to be considered important when it came to decision making.
Currently it appears that residents comments are severely edited and condensed into a clinical form and presented via Agenda paperwork in a 3rd hand fashion. Worse still officers, whilst we acknowledge that they should address issues raised, indicate their opinion directly following in the agenda paperwork, almost discouraging members from giving issues raised by residents any weight.
In fairness we have copied in below the very latest proposal brought before the committee.
Disregarding the merits of the proposal, the community comments are condensed into the following text. No indication of the strength of opinion, nor numbers commenting.
We believe the practise of withholding community comments from the website, whilst no doubt legally permissible, is a form of censorship, fundamentally in conflict with localism, and as such a matter that should be discouraged and urgently be reconsidered by council members.
Would you please consider this through the cpbc official complaints procedure.
Regards,
Representatives of; Friends of Bowers Road, Jotmans Farm group, Canvey Green Belt Campaign.

Example of Current cpbc Practise:
Agenda paperwork extract
Public Consultation
Neighbour notification and site notices – letters of objection and a petition have been received covering the following points:
o Overlooking of nearby properties
o Parking at the rear of adjoining gardens
o Additional on-street parking
o Restricted width of access, unsuitable for large vehicles
o Loss of parking for adjacent commercial unit
o Additional traffic
o Rise in crime/antisocial behaviour
o Smells or nuisance from vermin from bin store especially as bins are emptied fortnightly
o Insufficient capacity in the service road due to the need for vehicles to service commercial premises on London Road o Is there a business case for the development?
o Does the proposal represent best value for the council?
o Possible closure of access while services are laid o There may be more suitable sites for the development
Comments on Consultation Responses
o Concern over crime and antisocial behaviour are based on unfounded assumptions about the behaviour of the future occupants of the building.
o The applicant has been questioned about the loss of a parking space for 122 London Road. Their response is: “To our knowledge there is no loss of parking. We understand there is a garage used by 122 London Road and the development will not inhibit access to that garage. If the owner was previously parking on council owned land outside that garage then he or she was doing so without permission from the council.”
o The conditions suggested by the highway authority will be incorporated into any grant of planning permission where reasonable and necessary o Any other planning matters are dealt with in the evaluation of the proposal

And the official response from castle point borough council read;-

Good afternoon and thank you for your email.
As prescribed in article 15 of the Development Management Procedure Order, local planning authorities are required to undertake a formal period of public consultation, prior to deciding a planning application. There is however, as you correctly stated, no legislative requirements for any comments received as part of that consultation to be available to view online.

The Castle Point website does however show the number of comments that have been received on any application so the level of public interest can be clearly identified. We are not alone in this approach, it is commonly adopted by a number of authorities, our neighbouring authority of Basildon being one such example.

We have been working in this way for some time now and we certainly have no evidence to suggest that this is in anyway deterring people from commenting. Indeed we have an application which is currently open for consultation that has received 135 comments to date, demonstrating I believe that the community remain fully engaged in the process.

Planning guidance states that officer’s reports should include the ‘substance of any objections, contain technical appraisals which clearly justify the recommendation and should have a written recommendation for the decision to be made’.

Comments received in respect of a planning application can only be considered if they are, what is commonly known as, ‘material planning considerations’. Comments which are not material cannot be considered in the determining of a planning application and any such comments will not therefore be referenced in a report by an officer nor should they be considered by members at Committee.

The information you have appended below your email is indeed an ‘extract’ from a much longer report however I should point out that it omits to make reference to the consideration of all relevant objections in more detail throughout the body of the report, which more fully explain how the objections have been considered against planning policies and guidance.

Development Control Committee can, and often do, make a decision which is different from the officer recommendation and this will often reflect a difference in the assessment of how a policy has been complied with, or different weight ascribed to relevant matters.

Thank you again for contacting us.
Regards
Diane Logue LLB (Hons)
Transformation Manager (Planning)

Photograph: jobs.planningresource.co.uk

Local Plan, Neighbourhood Plan, No Plan, Leaves all of Castle Point at Risk?

It is common knowledge that Canvey Island town council (citc) was requested by the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan for the Island.

Following some investigative work by the Town Clerk the initiative was democratically rejected by the full council.

train crash

We remain convinced that a Neighbourhood Plan would, in the distinct possibility that the Borough’s Local Plan2016 were to hit the barriers, act as a valuable document indicating the areas and buildings worthy of protection, indicating clearly the Constraining factors limiting further development and creating a safer community, for the Planning Inspector to use as a positive democratic indicator of Canvey Island residents vision for our Island.

The Government website states

“Neighbourhood planning enables communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals. This is because unlike the parish, village or town plans that communities may have prepared, a neighbourhood plan forms part of the development plan and sits alongside the Local Plan prepared by the local planning authority. Decisions on planning applications will be made using both the Local Plan and the neighbourhood plan, and any other material considerations.”

“Neighbourhood planning can inspire local people and businesses to consider other ways to improve their neighbourhood than through the development and use of land. They may identify specific action or policies to deliver these improvements. Wider community aspirations than those relating to development and use of land can be included in a neighbourhood plan” 

The “other material considerations” are crucial to our area!

They are not best supported through any Local Plan alone!

With this in mind and given the criticism from mainland sources, towards citc for not progressing with a Neighbourhood Plan, we must wonder why no mention nor proposal for a Neighbourhood Plan has emerged in any single area of the Castle Point mainland!

Given that mainland areas have been most vociferous in their objections to proposals for development and given the supposedly undemocratic (allegedly officer led) development of a Local Plan from the Core Strategy days, it is a wonder that one or another group has not been formed to process a mainland Neighbourhood Plan.

This may be the result of One version of the Local Plan indicating one area of mainland Green Belt being suitable for Housing Development, whilst an emerging Plan indicating otherwise.

One can only assume that mainland residents are either content with the current Local Plan2016 having faith in their councillors, or believe the LP2016 will fail meaning it possible, or likely, that the previous draft Local Plan (2014 version?) will prevail.

This may indicate residents total faith in their councillors or may raise the question of what the value is in Localism and the Neighbourhood Plan process, if any at all!

What Canvey Islanders can be sure of is the need to defend Canvey against unreasonable development, because at the moment both Housing and Business Development is being approved, regardless of Constraints. We believe a Neighbourhood Plan, whether in agreement or conflict of the Local Plan2016, and at whatever stage of production, is a means of documenting Canvey’s issues.

To have a document in the form of an emerging Neighbourhood Plan would be invaluable to an Inspector to consider against a possibly UnSound Local Plan!

To rely on verbal evidence during Examination is a Risk. Indeed an Inspector may limit participation in the Examination in Public only to residents and groups who have previously submitted written evidence through the consultation process.

Looking at the lack of submissions on behalf of Canvey Island this could be a problem.

As indeed it could be for all of Castle Point as the Local Plan, whichever version is Examined, will be Supported by the Evidence of CPBC Officers, and in many areas this may be unforthcoming!

The extent of the considerations of Canvey Island town council into the undertaking of a Neighbourhood plan are recorded in the citc minutes for 15th August 2016;

CO/065/16 – TO CONSIDER AND AGREE PREPARING A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN OR NEIGHBOURHOOD DEVELOPMENT ORDER Cllr M. Tucker advised members that he would read through the report, inviting members to ask questions at each stage.

Cllr T. Belford enquired whether any members of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group set up to investigate the merits of having a plan were present to give a report of their findings.

Cllr M. Tucker advised that the findings were detailed in the report provided.  Cllr M Tucker proceeded to read the report to members.

Cllr M. Tucker asked the Town Clerk to provide information on the investigations carried out on the appointment of Neighbourhood Plan Co-ordinators.  The Town Clerk advised members that she had carried out investigations into other Parish and Town Council’s who had resolved to progress a Neighbourhood Plan and found that many had appointed Planning Co-ordinators to write the policies.  She explained that an average hourly rate of £12.00 per hour was advertised for appointments and that she had been advised by one Parish Council that during the busier periods of policy writing, the appointment had been on a full time basis.

Cllr M Tucker proceeded to continue to read the report to members.

Cllr M. Tucker invited questions.

Cllr T Belford commented that he had failed to understand that anything that was detailed in the existing Local Plan or proposed Plan must remain and cannot be conflicted.  Cllr T Belford added that he had thought that by completing a Neighbourhood Plan it would enable the Town Council to make representation to the Borough Council to say that it thought that it had not designated development properly and could suggest where development should be.  He added that having reviewed the paperwork he did not believe that completing a Neighbourhood Plan would achieve what he thought it could have.  Cllr T. Belford apologised to Mr Bracci as he had bought it to the Council to consider, explaining that he had misunderstood what a Neighbourhood Plan could achieve.

Cllr D Blackwell commented that everyone he had spoken with believed that by progressing a Neighbourhood Plan it would stop development.  He explained that Government statistics show that Parish and Town Councils that have progressed Neighbourhood Plans have, on average, increased development by 10% in their area which is not what the residents of Canvey Island want.  Cllr Blackwell commented that he had spoken with Steve Rogers the Head of Regeneration and Neighbourhoods at Castle Point Borough Council and he had said that all development sites already in the Draft 2016 Local Plan for Canvey Island would have to be carried forward into the Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr D. Blackwell commented that in his opinion the Government inspector will review the Draft 2016 Local Plan and it will be rejected.  He explained that they will then give the Borough Council six months to submit a new Plan.  He commented that in his opinion, there will be a public enquiry and when the Inspector launches this it will be a great opportunity for the residents of Canvey Island to give evidence of the constraints faced on Canvey Island including COMAH sites, flooding and the fact that it has traffic problems.  He added that he thinks there is a very strong case to challenge the delivery of development on Canvey Island even though it has been designated in the Draft 2016 Local Plan.

Cllr D. Blackwell advised that he had looked at Government Guidelines which state that you should not build on flood risk 3 areas until all other options had been exhausted.

Cllr D. Blackwell added that most other Parish Councils that have introduced Neighbourhood Plans are rural and have plenty of land surrounding them where they can take more housing, however, Canvey Island is an urban council with lots of constraints.  Cllr D Blackwell commented that he agreed with Cllr T. Belford recommended that the Town Council should not proceed to progress a Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr M. Tucker commented that he understood the concerns regarding the Dutch Village site, however, advised that new planning laws state that any development proposed to be built on a flood plain would be sent Government Ministers for consideration and also stated that any development already designated in the Local Plan must be considered as having outline planning permission.

Cllr J Blissett commented that she understood that the Dutch Village site had been removed from the Draft 2016 Local Plan.  Cllr M. Tucker commented that the site had been taken out to balance development across the Borough.

Cllr D. Blackwell commented that when the Draft 2016 Local Plan is rejected and unless the Borough Council can come up with a feasible plan, the Government will step in and deliver a Plan and there will be no control over the designation.

Cllr J. Blissett enquired about whether development on a flood plain is preferred over development on greenbelt sites in Benfleet.

Cllr D. Blackwell advised that all government guidance says that building on a flood risk areas should be the last possible option.

Cllr B. Campagna recommended that the Town Council should formulate a representation to present to the Inspector at the time of the public enquiry.

Cllr D. Blackwell explained that the Government Inspector will work with officers initially to discuss the Local Plan and will then look at all the evidence of the constraints that are in place on Canvey Island.

Cllr D. Blackwell advised that any person that wishes to have a say at the public enquiry must lodge their objection to that Draft 2016 Local Plan to enable them to speak at that enquiry.

Cllr M. Tucker advised members of the Clerks RECOMMENDATION.

Cllr T. Belford commented that this recommendation should only be considered if the Council agree to take this forward.

Cllr J. Anderson commented that the information detailed in the report provided is sufficient to make an informed decision and that there should be no need for further investigation in this matter with the RCCE and DCLG.

Cllr M. Tucker asked members for their RECOMMENDATION.

Cllr D Blackwell RECOMMENDED that following investigation into the merits of progressing Neighbourhood Plan that the Town Council go no further with the Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr B Campagna seconded this RECOMMENDATION.  Cllr M. Tucker asked members to vote on this RECOMMENDATION with a show of hands.

Members voted and unanimously RESOLVED not to proceed to progress with a Neighbourhood Plan.

This month’s Castle Point Council meeting, on the 29th March, is expected to give consideration of a suitable response to the Planning Inspector’s criticisms of the Local Plan2016 and the failure of cpbc in its Duty to Cooperate.

 

 

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.

Green Belt, a fresh approach from Castle Point Cabinet? Or is time up for our Green Spaces?

A crucial report concerning the future of Castle Point’s Green Belt will be discussed, or noted, on Wednesday the 17th July 2013 at the Borough’s Cabinet meeting. The implications on the new Local Plan from the Glebelands Appeal decision are immense.
As with the Planning Inspector’s letter criticising the withdrawn Core Strategy there appears a certain amount of local political opinion influencing the interpretation of the Appeal decision within the Cabinet report.

The Officer writing the report suggests that the Appellant’s querying of the existence of a Green Belt in Castle Point was a key part of their case.
In effect this appears to have been an aside to the Appellants main aim to prove that special circumstances exist so as to allow development at Glebelands. From viewing some of the proceedings and reading the Appeal paperwork it was obvious that the claim that the Green Belt no longer existed in Castle Point was to serve as a distraction, with the effect of watering down the Council’s case.

To spin this at Cabinet as a local success story is an irrelevance.

The Inspector, in his report, referred to Flood Risk 3 times when considering the 5 year housing supply and the future development sites in the Borough. Interestingly the officer’s Cabinet report fails to mention this. In 2010 Scott Wilson published the Flood Risk Assessment as part of the evidence base for Castle Point’s Core Strategy, the Cabinet still do not adopt the cautionary approach to development on Canvey that is recommended within this document.

The Local Plan’s 5 year housing supply illustrated how Castle Point Cabinet elect to allocate housing development at a ratio in response to existing population distribution rather than a land based allocation. This will result in an even more urbanised area within the Flood Zone.
This is not good planning practise and non-compliant with the NPPF requisites.

The Planning Inspector considered that the Glebelands Green Belt function of preventing towns merging was not effective enough considering the amount of land on the Bowers Gifford side of the A130. The Secretary of State disagreed thus protecting Glebelands from development.

If the Inspectors decision was to prevail there would appear to be a possibility of the option of the Blinking Owl site coming into development rather than the more unpopular and “sensitive” sites that developers are suggesting.

The problem with that is that Persimmon may be able to use the same argument with the Jotmans site.

Should our local authority be forced to allocate Green belt for development? The Canvey Green Belt Campaign believe it is wrong for any areas to be released, not without an open discussion as to the necessity.
Some growth is required, but not above local need, if it means destroying green areas.
On Canvey the Authority point to areas of deprivation as a reason for housing development preferring to deny residents the facility to access to some open green space. How is this a means of alleviating deprivation?

Castle Point Council Leader cllr Pam Challis was brave to admit that mainland Green Belt needed to be given over to development during the Core Strategy process, in an Echo interview.
This, understandably, caused consternation amongst councillors and residents alike.

Now it appears there are signs that our Green Belt boundaries are likely to come under consideration during the new Local Plan process.
Councillor Dick has publically questioned whether if the Barrrett’s proposal for houses on Daws Heath/ Rayleigh Road were to come forward, would this change the game plan of Essex County Council regarding Deanes School.

Is this a hint of compromise?

No Councillors have as yet come forward with evidence to support limiting development to brown field land as being sufficient to support future growth.

This will result in residents showing their disagreement at the polling station, and may well, in the long run, prove detrimental towards Canvey Island as was the case during the Core Strategy!

Forbodings are obvious within the Appeal Report as to the levels of development.
The Inspector disputed the Council’s 5 year housing supply as having only 0.7 years worth of sound development.
Clearly the Council evidence was not presented in a convincing fashion at the Glebelands Appeal. Detail must be put into the presentation, or more realistic sites will be required.

Better still, a clear policy statement as to whether we are able to challenge the population projection levels, and an indication as to whether Localism will, by the time we get around to publishing a Local Plan allow Castle Point to set it’s own housing growth levels.

At the moment reliance falls onto the old disolved RSS housing levels plus past under achiement, described as grossly inadequate by the Inspector.

The dwellings at Thorney Bay are likely to be treated as those at Kings Park and may not be allowed to count as part of the housing supply.
Even though they house many people with some attracted from outside of the district!
A clear strategy will be needed on these sites from the Council when drawing up the Local Plan.

Only in last weeks Echo cllr Smith suggested the district suffered from congestion, in opposing the proposal by Thurrock’s MP to locate the new Thames crossing at Canvey Island. And yet it was cllr Smith who announced that Canvey was to be allocated 46% of the housing distribution in the 5 Year Housing Supply.
We are either too congested or in need of growth. Clarification is needed, and urgently, hopefully he will expand on this at the Cabinet meeting.

If there is to be restricted development, we need to plan for an ageing population, other areas operate under this so called draw back. We believe that an ageing population can offer the local economy some great benefits, as the retired community are far more likely to spend their income locally.

Does our Green Belt matter, well Canvey’s referendum left no doubt about our thoughts and wishes. The poll, held door to door, did not indicate a “silent majority” in favour of development as cllr Stanley suggested.
Rather the 99.13% in support of retaining the remaining Canvey Green Belt was clear indication of the local view.

It appears there may be more budget required for contracting further evidence work to support the Local Plan, suggesting a further drain on local resources. A budget was previously allocated, approx £250,000, but wording in the Cabinet Agenda reads: “it should be noted that progressing the New Local Plan will incur costs that will be detailed when a revised Local Development Scheme is presented to the Cabinet.”

Let us hope for a new approach to the Local Plan, that will be welcomed by residents, is soon to be forthcoming.
The Secretary of State has recently issued clear views of what our Government’s intentions are for protecting the Green Belt, if there is any untoward altering of Castle Point’s GB boundaries then there will be a price to be paid.
Inspiration from Councillors and Officers is required.

Blinking Owl, and Cllr Sheldon opens a can of Green Belt worms!

Ten out of Ten for persistence awarded to cllr Sheldon over his examination into the possibilities of development of the Blinking Owl site in the North of the Borough.
When the possibilities were first brought to public attention a senior Castle Point Council Officer dismissed the possibility of development at the site as being unfeasible.
The Officers response in the Echo report this time around was less certain.
A major drawback though will be seen as the identification of there being 80 landowners to be brought together for the scheme to work.
A Planning Inspector would also need convincing that this is a possibility.
Some land owners may be reluctant to sell, others may feel their land of more value than others.
No doubt cllr Sheldon is wrestling with the desire to keep Mainland ward residents happy and feels that by selecting this site for development, being on the edge of the populated area, this may go someway to achieving this desire.
The land could be described as previously developed, although not to the extent of its whole area. This may not sit comfortably with an Inspector.
However a major drawback could be the site’s Green Belt status and the functions it fulfils.
Its situation sees it fulfill the function of separating Rayleigh from Castle Point. It also can be argued that it performs the same function with Basildon.
This has repercussions with the Glebelands proposal.
If Glebelands Appeal is successful and Castle Point Council were to support the Blinking Owl proposal the whole Green Belt along the western edge of the Borough will be susceptible to development, from the A127 to the A13!
The debate has now opened up to finding sites for development that cause less confrontation to the least number of people.
Previously this has been based on who can defend themselves least democratically wise, namely Canvey Island.
We do not feel that Canvey Island Green Belt sites are any safer under the current policies advanced by our Authority under the Local Plan than they were for the Core Strategy. So we continue to prepare to defend the over development of the Island.
On the face of what little news that emerges on the sites for development it appears that the Mainland electorate is the priority to protect, but are the principles any better?
Can the Blinking Owl site be considered any sounder than any other site? It is still Green Belt with similar protection as other sites. Worse still without a developer, with only a matter of months before the Local Plan should be published.
Residents were PROMISED by senior Councillors that by having a 5-year housing supply the Green Belt would be protected.
Does the site selection included within the 5 year supply make the residents around Jotmans Farm feel confident that Persimmon’s proposal will be turned down when they go to Appeal?
How confident can we be that the 5 year housing supply will convince the Inspectorate not to allow the Glebelands Appeal?
We will soon learn!
Remember that was the purpose of announcing the 5 year housing supply, in advance of an up to date evidence base.
Personally I fear for the Borough’s Green Belt.
Sites selection must make sense.
Is the Blinking Owl anymore sustainable than a site near a Town Centre or Railway Station?
Possibly being close to the major road networks that would take commuters efficiently away from Castle Point may be viewed as an asset point.
It is obvious though with the condition of the A127 and it’s ability to handle the current volumes of traffic urgent upgrading work must be put in place.
Are there any plans in place for this? No plans for this have appeared in the Local Plan evidence base to suggest improvements are in the pipe line yet.
Going public and referring to the Blinking Owl site gives a worrying clue that the Authority accept they cannot defend the Green Belt.
If Localism was able to offer the protection necessary then our Council could be expected to receive a sympathetic response from the Government. It appears the Council have given up on this course of defence.
They also appear to have given up on defending the numbers of population that can be expected to migrate to the area.
It may well be that without a radical plan and proposing population numbers that residents will support, accepting that Green Belt will be lost forever is an inevitability.
The dopportunity to receive the new housing bonuses into the Council coffers appears an irresistible desire.
The Authority will contend their position dictates they have to make difficult decisions. Previously the Mainland Group hid behind the selection of Canvey’s Dutch Village Green Belt site as the large development proposal in the Borough’s Core Strategy.
This they hoped would protect the votes in the Mainland wards.
That document was a failure.
Now the Authority are faced with naming Mainland Green Belt sites. They first chose previously developed sites hoping that argument would convince the Inspectorate and appease the electorate.
The unrest at the recent Polls has made them look elsewhere for other less contentious sites.
If they feel that the Blinking Owl is the site that causes least unrest, fair enough.
But they will have to convince other developers and an Inspector that the evidence behind their site selection is fair, just and sound.
Unless increasing population numbers the loss of Green Belt and infrastructure issues are addressed, massive repercussions lay ahead for the Authority, the Borough and residents!
The hardest thing for residents and especially Councillors to admit to themselves, and I definitely don’t aim this specifically at Cllr Sheldon, is whether they support certain sites for development because they are the most sound and sustainable sites in the Borough, or because they cause them least discomfort by being out of their own locality.

Fine words !

Political Developments Limited serving Persimmon Homes as their public relations spokesmen, on their website Home Page state:-    

 “Avoiding confrontation and building consensus is vital in this emerging era of localism and planning reform. The Localism Act received Royal Assent in November 2011 and reflects the Governments intention to increase the importance of consultation within the planning system.  Article 61W of the Act introduced “the requirement to carry out preapplication consultation” as well as the “duty to take account of responses to consultation.””

If only….                               

Canvey residents’ response to PDL consultation on the Persimmon Homes plans to develop the Dutch Village Fields was a strong objection, and also from potential home seekers, disinterest. In fairness they do not attempt to hide these responses on the Vermuydengate website.

Similar disregard of Canvey residents’ opinion was illustrated by the Castle Point Council within their Core Strategy.

We look forward to the New Local Plan with interest.