This month signals the 3rd Anniversary of this Blog, started as a means of sharing thoughts and comments in support of the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, itself formally started over 6 years ago last month.
This particular Post is in fact our 400th entry.
This month also sees the suspension of the New Local Plan Task and Finish group’s scheduled meetings.
It appears we were, as well as Castle Point Council itself, premature in posting that the work had been halted in January! Covered previously HERE.
We were informed by the Council Leadership that we were misinformed, however just 2 months later the sessions are confirmed as suspended.
The notable session since the original announcement considered the promotion of the Blinking Owl site H18 and a rather flimsy attempt to press through the sign-off of rather weak Policies favouring the Hazardous Industries over the interests of the residents of Canvey Island.
The situation arose where rather indignantly Canvey councillors were told to return with a preferably worded Policy having refused to accept the current suggestion, only to have the Task and Finish sessions suspended before another meeting could be arranged.
Was the timing of suspension to do with any controversy new Hazardous Industry policies could make in relation to the Local Plan preference to intensify development at Thorney Bay, or simply a Pre-Election decision?
copyright Jason Hawkes
Anyway, I digress. The subject of this post looks at housing need, Green Belt and in particular the Government Guidance that we have heard so much of lately. Hopefully I have not implied too much of a conclusion as to how we at CGBC read the situation. Reading too much into what the reader or listener wants to hear in these matters can lead to disappointment.
“The most successful tactic of the rural developers was the hijacking of ‘the housing crisis’. They claimed the crisis could only be ended by building in open country, even when their wish was for ‘executive homes’. This ideal of land lying enticingly ‘free’ for homeless people acquired the moral potency of the NHS.” “Housing makes politicians go soft in the head.” spectator
The efforts of Castle Point MP in her support for the protection of the Borough’s Green Belt cannot be denied.
She has arranged for visits from a leading Planning Inspector, Keith Holland, to give local councillors and officers a Local Plan “private” training session, also a visit by the Gov. Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, attended by invited mainland Green belt campaign group leaders, to spell out the requirements of Local Plan-making.
Recently the Housing Minister wound up a debate in Westminster that also spelled out the means of protecting Green Belt from release for development within the Local Plan process.
Within his speech he considered;
“Councillors have to make decisions on Planning grounds.
Local Authorities must use Standard data to identify housing need.
“Need” does not equal “housing supply”
Green Belt should only be released through exceptional circumstances and as a last resort.
Planning departments should have the resources needed to plan effectively.
Councils must give planning the priority it needs, as effective planning is vital in supporting sustainable growth in the right locations.
Planning departments should be seen by local authority as it economic regeneration department.”
It has also been announced by the Housing Minister that since the introduction of the New Homes Bonus, in 2011, Councils have received payments worth nearly £3.4bn from the delivery of more than 800,000 new homes.
“The answer to housing a rising population has to lie in towns and cities, in reducing the pressure on commuting and raising the efficiency of infrastructure.” spectator
In Castle Point the New Local Plan process has revealed a preference to explore the possibility of the re-development for housing purposes of the area known as the Blinking Owl site, Local Plan site H18.
This area is interpreted as being previously developed Green Belt by its proposers.
The approach to site H18 may be seen to be in line with the Governments release of a Standard Note dated 10 December 2014 in which is stated;
“(2) Approach: We must explore a joined-up approach to growth which once again twins discussion about the green belt with recognition of the need for development. In doing so, we must dispel the preservation myth that has emerged and recognise that unless actively pursuing a strategy of national spatial rebalancing which directs growth elsewhere in the country, new development will be required in London, including in some parts of the present green belt.”
This confirms to residents the local authority’s acceptance that it must supply sufficient dwellings to meet housing need.
By promoting site H18 for development it accepts defeat in that Green Belt must be released.
The NPPF document’s very first words of introduction are:
“The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development. Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations. Sustainable development is about change for the better, and not only in our built environment. So sustainable development is about positive growth – making economic, environmental and social progress for this and future generations.”
However locally the development at Kiln Road appears to have introduced a new interpretation Sustainable’ development was defined as economic, now should be defined more accurately as simply “profitable.”
The NPPF at Paragraph 14. states;
At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.
For plan-making this means that:
- ● local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area;
- ● Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless:
–– any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole;
specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.9
Footnote 9 reads as applicable to Castle Point:
For example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.
Our local authority appear reluctant to implement the restriction as should be applied to locations at risk of flooding!
Now by including the Blinking Owl site 18 the local authority appear to concede protection of the Green Belt.
They do so with the explanation that site 18 is previously developed.
It will be contested at examination that the previously developed category may not out weigh the Green Belt functionality of other far more likely deliverable sites.
Site H18 performs the function of keeping districts separate. Does this outweigh the fact that it is partially previously developed?
Whether the position that has been arrived at ahead of the May local elections is in preparation of a capitulation on the possibility of including site H18 in the Local Plan, when the Local Plan is examined by the Inspectorate, thus enabling blame to be placed on a new regime for failure to protect other GB sites;
Or a genuine opportunity to protect the Green belt as local residents prefer it, remains to be seen.
We are likely to be facing, and financing two Appeals, that of Glebelands and Jotmans Farm.
There are hints that councillors may be stealing themselves (ahead of the Election) t0 reject the New Local Plan in its current form.
If they were to do so, it could be argued they are only doing so as a delaying tactic, by legal representatives at the Appeals.
If we were to eventually arrive at a New, New Local Plan leading with the Blinking Owl site H18 as the main housing development site, with a 5 year housing supply in support then it is likely, even if it were to be accepted as “sound” by an Inspector, the Plan would face a legal challenge.
The concern must be what sites will make up the initial 5 year housing supply? As so far those indicated amount to between 0.7 and a little over 1 years worth of housing supply!
Further thoughts on the apparent housing crisis, although whether the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England are as committed to protection of an urbanised commuter Borough is unclear, can be read HERE.