Fear and Intimidation appeared to be the message to Canvey Island and Castle Point councillors as they come to consider in Secret, the implications of being listed by Secretary of State Sajid Javid over their lack of progress on a Local Plan, and being in danger of Government Intervention!
At the December 2017 council meeting the cpbc Chief Executive made clear that unless either good progress is being made regarding the Duty to Cooperate, or clear constraints are recorded in the reply to the Secretary of State as to why progress isn’t being made, Intervention is likely.
The CEO stated that he neither wished to, nor expected to be put in the position of drawing up the new Local Plan, whichever version is now being worked on.
Instead Intervention would likely be taken by an outside body, for instance the Planning Inspectorate, a specialist organisation or perhaps even those south Essex councils working collectively on the Duty to Cooperate.
If it doesn’t already this should Ring Alarm Bells for those Residents living on the mainland!
You may ask why those Residents in particular?
Well, during the cpbc Core Strategy process, during 2009 Baker Associates appointed to consider the Sustainability Assessment on the Housing Site selection process drew attention to their being puzzled, as to why cpbc should overlook choosing for development, the Borough’s Highest Scoring Sustainable site. They wrote;
The review of the outcomes of the site assessment revealed the site scoring highest against the assessment sustainability criteria has not been allocated.
This site is greenfield land to the east of Rayleigh Road.
Neither the DPD or site assessment process gives a justification for this site not being allocated.
The Sustainability Assessment suggests that the allocation of this site could have preferable implications for sustainable development than other “mainland” allocations.
This Appraisal extract gives clear indication of how a planning consultant, and most likely the Planning Inspectorate would apply a logical approach to Housing Site Allocation, should they be appointed as a Local Plan Intervention measure!
Similarly, as Baker Associates were responding to a cpbc report, one must consider it most likely that a similar approach would be taken by cpbc officers if they were appointed to undertake compiling the next version of the cpbc Local Plan!
An Inspector, should one be required to Intervene and produce a Local Plan may likely produce one completely undesirable to mainland councillors preferences. Remember these comments from an Inspector;
“An exercise was then carried out to objectively assess these sites against a number of criteria. I have reservations about the methodology employed and the way in which it appears to have been used, leading to inconsistent and inappropriate site selection. For example, the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal is unclear as to why the most sustainable Green Belt site was discounted.”
“I therefore consider the Council needs to revisit its assessment of Green Belt locations paying particular regard to the five purposes of the Green Belt as set out in PPG2. I accept that other considerations will also influence the choice of sites but potential locations should not be dismissed because local factors are given too much weight. This appears to have happened previously.”
“The Council’s desire to protect its Green Belt areas is understandable but its approach has also had a considerable bearing on the overall distribution of growth promoted in the Core Strategy. In this respect, I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island….”
“While I accept some development at Canvey Island may be required to meet local needs and to support services, I am not convinced that maintaining the current distribution of development across the Borough is justified given the existing constraints.”
The above comments highlight the desired distribution of Housing Growth across “certain” parts of the Borough of lead group members and is indicative of the perceived use of Canvey Island to their retention of control of cpbc.
The latest drive is to seek out Brownfield sites to supply the new Housing Allocation.
The Brownfield site list drawn up by cpbc and included alongside the council meeting’s Agenda paperwork indicated a minimum of 254 dwellings on sites achieving the required criteria.
This supply was contained in Part 1 of the Brownfield Register.
No sites were put forward as being eligible for Part 2 of the Register, those having been granted by cpbc, Permission to develop in Principle.
The chief explanation given for this being;
“Canvey Island is within Flood Risk Zone 3a, and as such planning applications for residential development normally require a Flood Risk Assessment. Advice is awaited from the Environment Agency as to if and how the Council could go about addressing this requirement before proceeding to consider any sites on Canvey Island for inclusion on the Part 2 of the Register”
It appears that behind the scenes there remains a refusal to apply development Constraints equally across the Borough, the focus has been and remains Canvey Island, where development is concerned!
Interestingly no specific reasons for sites in other areas of Castle Point not being granted Permission in Principle and inclusion in Part 2 of the Register were given. Presumably they were covered by the caveat “a decision on whether to grant “Permission in Principle” to a site must be made in accordance with relevant policies in the development plan unless there are material considerations”
For the record the Brownfield list may, just, fulfil one years development supply of Castle Point’s required 5 Year Housing Supply requirement!
The Paddocks site, was not included in the Brownfield site Register, possibly because, as we were informed by Cllr smith, all options are open and no decision has yet been made whether to demolish or carry out much needed work on the building!
Interestingly during the council meeting a question about the total sum estimated to renovate the Paddocks was raised by Cllr Campagna, to which we the council leader explained that the £1million+ is a figure estimated to be required spending over the next 20 Years, and NOT as we were allowed to believe by Cllr smith at the Canvey Community meeting, required immediately!
The Blinking Owl site, seemingly the answer to the mainland’s Housing Supply requirement is excluded from the Brownfield Register.
This site first made public during March 2014 appears yet to have had a firm development application proposed to cpbc.
A Local Plan Examiner would be more likely to take the Blinking Owl venture seriously, should there have been some development proposals for parts of this site already on the table, but there is not!
Duty to Cooperate work is ongoing with cpbc being represented by the council leader, his deputy and senior officer/s. It appears that officers are applying the results of the DtC work into a newest Local Plan.
Should the efforts of this cpbc delegation be found worthy and Government Intervention be avoided, in the least the cpbc Local Plan will represent a localised extract of a South Essex Regional Plan. Ironically Regional Spatial Strategies were abolished after 6 years in 2010.
The newest Local Plan version may bear severe repercussions should the cpbc council choose not to approve, given the Duty to Cooperate work being carried out by cpbc leader and officers.!
A meeting will be held in secret at cpbc, to presumably inform councillors of the Duty to Cooperate progress and the Fears of Intervention, during this week.
Castle Point is not the only local authority failing to find enough Brownfield site to fulfil their immediate Housing Needs. More can be read via this LINK.