Tag Archives: Planning

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.


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.
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.
Diane Logue LLB (Hons)
Transformation Manager (Planning)

Photograph: jobs.planningresource.co.uk


CPBC decision makers in need of Reminding of Accountability, via Local Government Ombudsman?

Canvey Residents may have witnessed the “flexibility” towards Planning Guidance as demonstrated by Castle Point Council’s Development Committee, where matters such as Flood Risk, Danger to Residents Safety, Drainage, undersized Parking facilities, Lack of Parking Spaces, lack of Space between Dwellings and the possibility of being Over-looked, to our cost!

Indeed mainland residents have also voiced frustrations on these matters, to no avail.

There is an apparent expectation that by fulfilling the minimum notification to residents of forthcoming proposed Development, opposition through the consultation process will be equally, minimal! And a Hope that nobody will notice proposals for development until Trees are being pulled down or Groundwork, or in the case of Canvey Land Raising, being carried out, which by then is of course, too Late!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is no doubt that on Canvey Island following the 2013 and 2014 Surface Water Flooding and the much Edited and Delayed 2010 cpbc Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA), in which Canvey Island is classed as being at Actual Risk of Tidal Flooding, that the approach to development on the Island is Long Out of Date, and in Need of Review!

As can be witnessed by our previous Blog Post the basis for reviewing development where Flood Risk on Canvey Island is concerned was decided in early 2007, long before the SFRA and the 2013 and 2014 flooding exposed the Castle Point council’s Development Committee decision as badly Flawed and long Out of Date!

The Responsibility for the impact of granting planning permission rests solely with the local authority and the development committee. The recent fire at Grenfell Tower has resulted in serious investigation of decision making, as is quite correct.

In Canvey Island there are obvious issues that would expect a limit on the population level, simply due to the issues of coping with the number of people should any evacuation be necessary or Safe refuges found. Recent events have shown Lessons are still being Learned, as Responses from all so called Agencies have been found inadequate!

Which brings us to the Accountability of our local Decision Makers.


Council which ignored Planning Duties reminded of Ombudsman Accountability Role

Local authorities across England are being reminded that the Local Government Ombudsman has the same powers as the High Court to require evidence, after Plymouth City Council failed to comply with its recommendations.

The LGO was called on to investigate complaints from two separate homeowners about a series of errors by city planners when approving a second application on an uncultivated field.

During the planning process, officers failed to publicise the new application properly in the neighbourhood, failed to ask for a flood risk assessment from the Environment Agency, included the wrong plans in the report to the planning committee, and significantly misrepresented how the new proposals would affect neighbours in the report.

Consequently, one resident says she no longer has any late afternoon sunshine in her kitchen, sitting room and dining room and has a Juliet balcony overlooking her garden and decking in the new garden affords an uninterrupted view into her bedroom

The other couple feel overlooked and their outlook is dominated by a two-storey house.

Both homeowners say their properties now flood because of inadequate consideration of drainage of surface water from the site

The Ombudsman’s report of the case says that the council was obstructive and challenged the Ombudsman’s findings of fault. It has had a number of opportunities to acknowledge the errors made but has refused to do so or to follow recommendations made.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“The role of the Local Government Ombudsman to hold councils to account when they get things wrong is well established and has a statutory basis.

“Authorities can and do have the chance to comment on my decisions before they are finalised, including providing evidence if they wish to challenge the findings, but they should cooperate with the investigation process. Compliance with LGO recommendations is extremely high, based on a relationship with local authorities of mutual trust and respect. This is essential for achieving redress for citizens.

“I would now urge Plymouth council to learn from my report and accept the recommendations for remedy I have made.”

To remedy the injustice caused Plymouth City Council has been asked to apologise to both families.  It should ask the District Valuer to assess the current value of the complainants’ properties and the value each would have had if the developers had built according to the original plans and pay the difference between the two valuations.

It should pursue the proposals in the drainage report completed in the course of the investigation and ensure adequate drainage is in place before the onset of winter. It should arrange for all members of its planning committee to have at least one day’s training from professionally qualified planning officers who are not employed by the council to ensure they can robustly challenge planning officers  views prior to making decisions

The council should also pay both families £500 each in recognition of the time and trouble to which they have been put.

Article date: 15 September 2016