Tag Archives: Planning Inspector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As was pointed out earlier in this post;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

£?,000,000 Block Buster – a Decade in the making Castle Point Local Plan IV – the Sequel! “Missing the Point”

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“Fear not, for I have a plan!”

Castle Point Residents should be concerned as to why Local Plan Version III has ended in withdrawal with the vast waste of time and tax payers monies.

The Examining Inspector pinpointed the failure of the Castle Point council’s legal duty to have engaged constructively with neighbouring local authorities, actively and on an ongoing basis so as to prepare an effective Local Plan, in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.

The Duty to Cooperate work requirement, supports the evidence base that in turn supports the Local Plan Policies.

However the Duty to Cooperate is not a duty to agree!

The Inspector has indicated that CPBC have failed to fulfil the expected working practises.

The Duty to Cooperate was created in the Localism Act 2011.

During September 2014 a senior Planning Inspector held a “Secret” training session with CPBC senior officers and councillors.

Following a briefing I learnt that the Inspector, Mr K.Holland, made very clear that CPBC were expected to;

“Objectively assess its Housing Needs, Plan to meet those Needs, and very importantly undertake the Strategic Planning using the Duty to Cooperate that used to be done at Regional level.”

He pointed out that the Government is “completely uncompromising about these points”!

This, I was told, was the very first point that he stressed to the councillors and officers.

However the meeting was arranged as councillors were seeking to protect Castle Point Green Belt and wished to hear what options were available to them.

It is likely that councillors may have missed the Inspector’s opening warning regarding the Duty to Cooperate, however it would Not Have By-Passed the Officers!

Having found that CPBC could not meet its Housing Needs, and settled for 50% as a target, the Local Plan2016 then further sought a reduced target of 25% of Housing Need.

This would clearly indicate that much work and involvement with neighbouring Boroughs, to examine whether agreements could be reached over sharing Housing Delivery, would be a fundamental requirement.

Instead the Local Plan 2016 was submitted for Examination, knowingly failing the Duty to Cooperate, and supported by the 2013 Green Belt Boundaries review written in support of the rejected draft 2014 local Plan.

In other words the local Plan2016 was submitted knowingly doomed to failure!

 The local government Assoc. Consider “Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.”

Given the time and expense, reaching many, many hundred of thousand of Pounds to Castle Point residents, it is surprising that the belatedly undertaking of steps to fulfil the Duty to Cooperate, and the likely emergence of Local Plan Mk IV, has commenced without any apportionment of blame on the local authority, nor apology issued  to Castle Point residents, nor explanation of the reason behind the decision to submit a local Plan that would fail at the first requirement! 

View the Echo comment and Green Belt part of the allegedly leaked cpbc video HERE

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

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

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

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

One can only assume this may cause quite some delay.

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

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

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

This in turn has cost residents some great extra expense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…….

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

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

……..

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

………..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eyes of Developers, councillors and Planners have a Duty to focus on Castle Point!

Castle Point council are probably aware of the Inspector’s decision as to whether the Duty to Cooperate on strategic matters has been complied with. The decision should be made public next week.

The Duty to Cooperate “places a legal duty on local planning authorities, county councils in England and public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local and Marine Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.

The duty to cooperate is not a duty to agree. But 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.

Local planning authorities must demonstrate how they have complied with the duty at the independent examination of their Local Plans. If a local planning authority cannot demonstrate that it has complied with the duty then the Local Plan will not be able to proceed further in examination.

Local planning authorities will need to satisfy themselves about whether they have complied with the duty. As part of their consideration, local planning authorities will need to bear in mind that the cooperation should produce effective and deliverable policies on strategic cross boundary matters.”

Castle Point representatives pointed out that through the Thames Gateway and South Essex Partnerships cooperation was underway between neighbouring authorities. Whether the areas of cooperation, and the levels of strategic success were satisfactory  in important areas, will be decided by the Inspector, Mr David Smith.

Development Committee

 

Castle Point is the smallest of the neighbouring Boroughs and therefore may not be expected to take lead responsibility in setting strategic cooperation agendas. By implication, should their duty to Cooperate be considered to have Failed, it could also be considered an indictment of the efforts of Essex County Council, the Unitary Authority that is Thurrock Council and Rochford, Basildon and Southend Councils.

Rose Grogan a barrister with 39 Essex Chambers and a specialist in planning and environmental law wrote, in March 2016;

“One particular issue is the question of how to get local planning authorities to engage with one another on the issue of housing.

The government’s answer to this in 2011 was the creation of a ‘duty to cooperate’ in the Localism Act. At the time, it was hailed as a better alternative to regional planning, removing an unnecessary layer of policy while still setting the framework for strategic planning across local authority boundaries.

On its face, the duty appears to provide a much-needed framework for addressing strategic planning problems. Local authorities are required to cooperate with one another on cross-boundary issues, and face having their plans found to be unsound by inspectors, leading to considerable delays in bringing forward a plan if the duty is not complied with.

There are cases where inspectors have found that a local authority has not discharged the duty: Central Bedfordshire, Aylesbury Vale, and Hart District Council are three examples. These local authorities barely engaged with their neighbouring authorities, and so it was a clear case of failing to discharge the duty.”

In practice, however, the duty to cooperate has been the subject of criticism, in particular because it is a duty of form, not substance. In some ways, the criticism is justified. For a start, it does not require agreement. All that is required is evidence that attempts have been made to cooperate.

A further criticism is that the duty is all stick and no carrot, there is little positive incentive for neighbouring authorities to cooperate, and the enforcement of the duty currently depends on inspectors taking a robust approach. What is not clear from cases where local authorities have fallen foul of the duty is whether the threat of unsoundness had any impact on their decision to go about cooperating (or not) in the way that they did.

Surprisingly, there have been very few challenges to inspectors’ conclusions that the duty has been complied with. The courts have therefore not had the opportunity to bolster the duty, nor do they appear interested in doing so. Very early on, the courts confirmed that the test on review is whether an inspector’s decision was rational, and the court will not embark on a more searching analysis of whether the duty has in fact been discharged.

Without a requirement that local authorities reach agreement, the duty will continue to fall short of achieving the ultimate aim of getting local planning authorities to meet housing need.”

“Do your duty as you see it, and damn the consequences.” George Patton Jr

Local Plan2016 a little background Reading before you respond to Consultation!

Canvey Island residents will now be receiving their invitations to take part in the Castle Point Local Plan2016 consultation.

Some concerns have been expressed via social media as to how the Plan will impact upon residents daily life.

The Local Plan2016 is at the stage where residents and developers and consultee agencies will expect their input to have an impact upon the final document following Examination by a Planning Inspector.

“Following the consultation, the New Local Plan will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.  Representations will be considered by a Planning Inspector alongside the published Plan.”

In other words, your final opportunity to have some input.

There is no rush to respond.

It may therefore be of interest at this early stage for some who have not followed the Local Plan2016’s progress so far to learn of the background influences that have been exerted in reaching this stage.

Most relevant maybe the consideration of the Castle Point Borough Council Chief Executive, expressed in Council meeting agenda paperwork, in which he expressed these concerns to councillors;

To re-consider the Draft New Local Plan at this stage exposes the Council to the risk of unwelcome development, “planning by appeal”, and potential Government intervention.

6. Risks and Corporate Implications

6.1 Members are referred to the report before Council on 9.12.2015, which were restated on 27.01.2016, which sets out the serious legal, reputational and financial risks at Sections 7 to 9 of the report of 09.12.2015 in failing to take forward a sound Draft New Local Plan. These sections are attached as an Appendix.

6.2 The Council is advised that there is a substantial risk that a Draft New Local Plan amended in the form of either Motion is unlikely to meet the four tests of soundness as set out in paragraph 182 of the NPPF, which are:

Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;

Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;

Effective – the plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities; and

Consistent with national policy – the plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework.

6.3 In addition the Council has a statutory duty to comply with the Duty to Cooperate to ascertain whether the Council’s neighbouring authorities are able to take some of the Council’s unmet housing need. A draft New Local Plan which seeks only a limited ability to meet its housing need will not sit well with neighbouring authorities who are seeking to release green belt sites to meet their own housing needs: to expect those authorities to release even more of their green belt to meet the Council’s unmet need is unrealistic.

Conclusion & Next Steps

7.1. It is clear that Members recognise that the draft New Local Plan needs to be progressed and as a general principle Members oppose the use of Green Belt sites for housing development giving  priority to the protection of the Green Belt above meeting the objectively assessed housing needs of the Borough.

7.2 As stated previously Motion 1(the removal of some Green Belt sites for housing development) is unclear, inconsistent and contradictory suggesting that it is acceptable to leave certain Green Belt Sites within the Draft Local plan but excluding others. Council is reminded any attempt to remove sites that is not supported by evidence will result in the Council’s approach to meeting its housing needs being found unsustainable.

7.3 Motion 2 the removal of all Green Belt sites for housing development presents the least worst option in that it is a clear unambiguous policy statement that the Council’s priority is the protection of the Green Belt and the Council will not allow the use of any green belt sites to meet its objectively assessed housing needs.

7.4 If Council is minded to direct that the draft New Local Plan is amended to reflect either of the two Motions then it is recommended that the Council directs that the Draft New Local Plan be altered to remove all Green Belt housing sites to prioritise protecting Green Belt over meeting the Borough’s objectively assessed housing needs.

Of course the Chief Executives idea of unwelcome Green Belt development may well differ from councillors and residents.

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That the councillors decided to press ahead with Motion 1 (see above) was their prerogative, as councillors make the decisions.

What we can be sure of is an interesting time ahead.

Only following the Inspector’s consideration will we learn whether councillors have been astute or foolhardy!

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Green Belt protection, agreed by Planning Inspectorate and Government, raises hopes in Castle Point!

During the meeting with the Housing Minister, Castle Point mainland Green Belt groups and the Council Leaders heard Brandon Lewis refer to Planning Appeal news that he was not at liberty to give details of until an official announcement was made.

Brandon Lewis

Possibly he was referring to the proposal for 500 dwellings on Green Belt in Aveley.

The Government have backed the Planning Inspector’s decision to refuse the development. Previously, under these circumstances, the Inspectorate’s decisions have been somewhat at odds with Government Guidance.

The Aveley decision is despite the local council having a “significant shortfall in its 5 year housing land supply.”

“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the development would reduce significantly the openness of this part of the Green Belt. As noted at IR14.10, the proposal would result in the permanent loss of some 14.5 hectares of Green Belt, harming the fundamental aim of the Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.”

Furthermore:

“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would cause some harm to the Green Belt purpose of preventing the merging of neighbouring towns.”

“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would encroach into the countryside, at least to some extent, and therefore that there would be some harm to this Green Belt purpose.”

“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that that the proposed development would not intrude unduly into the views identified at IR14.17 and that its impact on the character and appearance of the area would be limited (IR14.31). Accordingly he gives this only limited weight.”

So it now appears, as in the Glebelands Appeal, where the Government considered that harm to the the Green Belt purposes should be not be added accumulatively, the Planning Inspector is now in agreement with this approach in considering harm.

Affordable housing was not considered sufficiently covered. The old Local Plan, similar to Castle Point’s, required a 35% allowance, however locally we have seen the affordable housing requirement being adjusted by our local authority down to nearer 10% !

 “The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that, in this case (Aveley), the combined weight of the contribution of the proposal to housing land supply and the limited weight that can be afforded to the provision of some affordable housing and the education contribution, does not clearly outweigh the substantial negative weight he attaches to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, loss of openness and permanence, and conflict with at least three of the five stated purposes for Green Belt, and the additional limited weight he attaches to the harm to the character and appearance of the area.”

“On balance therefore, the Secretary of State concludes that very special circumstances to justify the proposal do not exist in this case (IR14.75). Even if the Inspector was incorrect in her reasoning in regard to the matter considered at paragraph 26 above, the Secretary of State considers that although the balance of benefits and harms would shift in those circumstances, this would not, in his view, alter the balance sufficiently to establish very special circumstances and justify grant of planning permission.”

This, Aveley, decision further supported the hopes of Castle Point campaigners that their own Green Belt sites can be protected.

Across the country there is a need for housing, locally we are considered to have a poor record in supply. We also do not have a current 5 year supply of housing land.

Recent decisions suggest that whilst the Local Plan is being processed it can be assumed there is a level of protection for Green Belt against development.

This will be used in support of the Thorney Bay development proposal, despite the locality of this site, being in a Flood risk Zone 3 area and in very close proximity to the Calor Gas hazardous site.

The Thorney Bay area, not being in the Green Belt, will not be afforded that status’ protection despite the fact it may be an unsuitable area to propose for permanent dwellings.

The main problem with Castle Point’s Green Belt may be to follow in the Local Plan’s Examination.

There is, I gather some further investigation into the feasibility on whether the Blinking Owl site may yet be available for housing development, despite that its position may be considered to fulfill the GB purpose of preventing towns merging.  This is a large site that is capable of realising in excess of 1200 dwellings.

Developers will be observing and concerned should this site be formally added to the medium term Local Plan housing supply.

These developers will, in support of their own site’s suitability, point out that their sites had been indicated as available and suitable within the Castle Point Local Plan within the first 5 years housing supply.

In effect the Castle Point Council have suggested, by voting that they considered the draft New Local Plan suitable for consultation, that local Green Belt is available for development.                                                                         And there is quite a lot of it that the Plan indicates suitable for  release!

What developers could be claiming is that Castle Point’s consideration of Green Belt release, rather than being decided by Planning Practice, with its 5 Purposes of the Green Belt etc, could be being “out-weighed” by Residents’ Preference.

Developers will suggest that that is localism gone too far.

This may well not be decided by local decision makers, but by an Inspector and / or the Government at Examination or Appeal.

The Government puts great store in the house building industry driving the economy back onto the track.

The NPPF has sustainable development as the “golden thread” running through it.

Green belt is important to local residents, hopefully not just on the basis that housing is not developed in their own locality.

There will need to be a balance between developing in the “correct” places and Green Belt protection within the Local Plan.

The level of protection afforded to Green belt sites under threat of development at present, is directly affected by the stage of progress the Local Plan has reached. Green Belt boundary consideration during this process will be expected and examined.

The new Local Plan will need to be re-addressed carefully and skilfully if housing need is to be fulfilled and Green belt protected.

Flood Zone and Green Belt, constraints on development? A Lesson in Technocracy for Task + Finish members!

The Castle Point draft Local Plan Task and Finish group meeting was held last evening on the topic of Housing Development constraints.

I was going to say to “consider” the constraints, but that appeared to be off agenda.

Last evening appeared to be the moment technocracy took over the democratic process.

In the public area I counted, what appeared to be, just 8 residents plus 1 developer. In the chamber were 5 of the committee members, and at the head table was a chairman with a team of officers united on the same agenda.

The purpose of the meeting was to EXPLAIN the constraints and how they had been applied to the draft Local Plan, rather than to debate and consider what the constraining total of new housing development is considered to be by our elected representatives, the Committee Members.

The Castle Point Objectively Assessed Housing Needs figure is between 310 and 320 dwellings per annum.
The Constrained housing figure is 200 dwellings per annum.

Constraints come in two forms, policy and physical.
It was explained for those who needed to know, that flood risk is, or should be, a physical constraint whilst Green Belt is a policy constraint.
The weighting of how the two categories of constraint are to be applied, was not defined.

An officer did explain that surface water flooding, such as that experienced on Canvey Island and other parts of the mainland during July, should not be considered a constraint!
The agencies responsible for maintaining the Canvey drainage network are expected to keep the drainage capacity in an efficient state so that flooding does not occur and housing development will continue.

The fact that our local planning authority has, and continue to, overload the drainage system with housing development, appears an irrelevance!

The fact that new development will not be guaranteed, or be covered within the FloodRE insurance scheme also, appears an irrelevance!

The fact that the contributing sources to the flooding have yet to be identified, likewise the extent of the problems, and the yet to be secured necessary funding to limit future flooding also, appears an irrelevance!

Whilst it may be the case that house insurance is not a reason for refusal of an individual planning application, surely Local Plan consideration stage is exactly the right time to apply some caution to developing in areas where the future ability to secure house insurance, and therefore mortgage insurance, casts doubt on the sustainability of such development.

One announcement, regarding the first 5 years housing supply, from an officer should ring some alarm bells.
Currently the 5 year housing supply is considered to be limited to just 1.7 years worth of housing.
Which sites will be added to the housing supply to make up for the missing 3.3 years worth?
These sites were not identified.

The officer announced that the first 5 year supply would be set at 200 dwellings per annum. The following years supply would adjust upwards to release sites to meet a 320 dwellings per annum figure.

No mention of the extra 20% worth of housing buffer, or the previous housing delivery shortfall that is generally expected to be recovered within the first 5 years of the Local Plan.

As I understand it, unless the first 5 year supply total identifies a realistic and achievable housing need, the Local Plan will fail.

At long last Master Planning was finally put out with the dish-water.
This policy attempted to sell large-scale Green Belt housing development to mainlanders and suggested that housing development would be low density with large green amenity areas.
Last night the proposal was that rather than sites being developed at the rate of 30 Dwellings per Hectare (dph), the density should be increased to 40 or even 50 (dph)!

In context, the proposal at 101 The Point, Canvey Island proposed a density of 52.9 dwellings per hectare (mainly flatted).

The Thorney Bay proposal is difficult to give as an accurate example, it considers there are 20 hectares of developable land at an average rate of 37.5 dwellings per hectare. The remainder of the site continuing as a residential caravan park.

On the mainland, proposals have been received since the “Master Planning” initiative was proposed by the Cabinet member and Task and Finish group chairman.

Glebelands proposed to deliver 140 dwellings at the rate of 18.7 dph.

The Jotmans proposal indicated 265 dwellings at the rate of 30.8 dph.

The Felstead / Bowers Road proposal indicated 178 dwellings at the rate of 20.5 dph.

Clearly if Canvey Island densities are to be imposed onto these mainland sites it would cause some very serious concerns.

Previously the Task and Finish chairman, during the meeting with the Canvey resident group under the old Council regime, displayed the skills of a “second hand” car dealer, attempting to “sell” us the Master Planning policy.

Arthur-Daley-FT

It is clear that lower housing densities mean that more Green Belt sites overall would be required for release.

And, there would also be less opportunity to realise a supply of affordable homes.

Throughout the meeting the Local Plan’s policy for the unsubstantiated possibility of new road infrastructure was maintained by officers.
Funding is not in place.

The Duty to Co-operate was touched upon.
It was clear that little or no work had been carried out up to this stage.
A request by a committee member was made that approaches should be made to local Councils to enquire whether they may take some of our housing need.
Evidence of these approaches should be identified and evidence in any case within Local Plan work.

Officers were adamant that Green Belt will be released in Castle Point to meet the housing need.
They implied that the Government are wrong to suggest that this need not happen for the Local Plan to be found “sound.”

Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

Officers suggesting that the “reduced” initial 5 years housing supply, increasing in the following years, is a realistic way of satisfying demand will also likely be an unsound result.

By suggesting that 200 dwellings per annum is a realistic early rate of supply, will also create the opportunity for Canvey Island development sites to be required earlier than expected to overcome an invented shortfall.

A means of overcoming the Sequential Test for land at Risk of Flooding.

The draft Local Plan may have been written by officers however by the councillors voting to release it for consultation may well have started a process that prevents it’s alteration.

This may well explain the apathy displayed towards the local authority’s consultation processes.

An examining Planning Inspector will simply consider that if the Local Plan proposes to release Green Belt and Flood Risk land for housing development, then that is the Local Choice!
It is not an Inspector’s job to allocate and distribute housing sites and land.

We have been warned.

This particular Blog post is not intended to be read as statement of fact, simply observations and thoughts of the writer.