Tag Archives: Referendum

Residents almost Total Disengagement with Castle Point Borough Council! Local Plan Consultation a Major Turn Off!

The CPBC Local Plan Consultation formally closed to submissions on the 15th August.

Alarmingly indications are that less than 0.7% of Castle Point residents took part in the process that will shape the future of the Borough!

“The Council invited comments on the contents of a new Local Plan…. Responses are yet to be analysed but initial indications show that more than 1100 comments were received  from over 630 individuals and organisations.”

We say that less than 0.7% of the 89,000+ Castle Point residents made their views known, as the total number of responses included those of neighbouring Councils and Developers!

There can be no doubt, that there is a disengagement with our local authority by residents!

That residents views are ignored, is a view challenged by councillors, but a view that, going by the number of responders, must be recognised!

This disengagement contrasts starkly from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign Referendum that managed to visit and ask residents their thoughts on Green Belt development on Canvey Island, and engaged with over 6,500 residents.

Also the Canvey Ladies who compiled a Petition against development on the Island and achieved over 10,000 signatures.

Not a week goes by without complaints on traffic congestion, and over stacked GP surgery lists. Flats and Houses being developed to more denser and higher designs. Industrial premises taking over important Green Spaces. Flooding becoming more frequent.

With latent feelings running high, why would residents NOT take part in the Local Plan consultation?

0.7% Response is a admittedly a paltry figure considering the number of campaign groups within the Borough.

However, what IS important is the content of the answers given and the documentation in support of what the Local Plan should and should not contain.

Despite this, going by previous experiences, Castle Point council will likely continue to do whatever it suits the current administration.

This is probably why so many attempts to achieve a Local Plan have been forced into withdrawal and fallen by the wayside, and the Government through the Chief Planner, are keeping a very close watch on cpbc’s Local Plan process.

This may be why such a small response was achieved through the Consultation.

 

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Local Plan – is it “Coming Home”, or Not? Roll up, Roll Up! Two Plans for the Price of just One – Castle Point’s Never had it so Good!

Canvey Island and Castle Point residents are being asked to add their opinions and thoughts to the latest Local Plan 2018 consultation process.

Town Centre
This is despite the fact that the Secretary of State, through the opinion of the Government’s Chief Planner, has yet to decide whether Castle Point council are deemed willing and capable of completing the Local Plan publication process themselves to the point of adoption!

The whole Castle Point Local Plan process is being carried out in a Rush under the threat of Intervention!

This despite the Secretary of State’s own office taking from 18 December 2015, when the Inspector issued his report into the Jotmans Farm housing Appeal inquiry, until the 21st April 2017, 16 whole months, to come to a decision. Apparently no hurry then to come to a planning decision, until an Election was imminent.

Residents entering the LP2018 process will note that there isn’t a Local Plan to actually consider, instead there are 2 !

Two Local Plans, from a single Evidence Base!

This shows, as Canvey Islanders should by now be aware, how “Local Factors” and politics can distort and manipulate the contents of Local Plans!

According to the cpbc Chief Executive officer up to 100,000 consultees are invited to respond, despite the 2011 population of Castle Point being just 88,011 and many of these being young children. this may lead to the Consultation response rate being skewed low! Previous response rates have been around just 12%

These Low response rates can lead to distortions of the “Feed Back” by the cpbc officers and our elected representatives. Previously, through these influences, we have seen Housing Growth directed onto Canvey Island despite Flood Risk being an issue, and the reduction of Housing Numbers, due to the concerns over Green Belt loss.

These influences on the Housing Growth have chiefly been in response to mainland residents concerns, indicated through the previous draft Local Plans consultations.

In recent times we have witnessed the pressure of residents and mainland councillors protest be successful in the prevention of the proposed Essex County Council closure of the Deanes school. This was strengthened by the cpbc chief executive’s supporting statement that there was to be a large Housing development site in the surrounding area, residents of which would be attending the Deanes to bring the attendance numbers nearer ECC expectations.

In contrast Canvey’s Castle View school, serving the most densely urbanised part of Castle Point and South Benfleet, was simply Closed!

A public facility closed, and sold off to a sectarian private enterprise.

The Paddocks, allowed to deteriorate despite money being available some years ago for improvements with a top up from CPBC funds, is now seen as a potential Housing development site.

If Canvey Island residents are tired of being dictated to, they must take the trouble to involve themselves in the Consultation.

This is crucial as, not only will a low response rate allow certain councillors to suggest that he, or she represents the “silent majority”, but will allow a potential disastrous Local Plan to emerge just so that it may appear CPBC are compliant with the 2 new strategic “Quango’s”, the “Association of South Essex Local Authorities” (ASELA) and the “Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission”!

Dalliance with either or both will lead to major growth changes, both in population from the 90,000 dwellings across the area and traffic especially locally, with no infrastructure improvements. Canvey Island, purely due to its situation will always remain an outpost. However many people are managed to be housed here, little infrastructure will be forthcoming simply because we are in Austere times.

Infrastructure requires maintenance, ECC are not looking to spend more on maintenance!

For all of the Canvey Island Petitions and Referendum the past has proved that election words and promises are cheap, we need to accept that due to our location, the area is seen as Developable, whether Housing, Business or Industrial, yet little benefit or financial return is gained by Infrastructure improvements.

As it stands your Local plan consultation response, in the first instance, will be weighed against mainland responses.

If you  as a Canvey resident consider;

that Canvey Island has become over developed to the point that New Large Housing development sites are unviable,

that the Traffic Issues mean the potential congestion is unreasonable,

that Tidal Flood Risk is not taken seriously enough when distributing Housing Growth,

that the whole of the increasing Urbanised area of Canvey Island is a Critical Drainage Area and the ever increasing development is putting too greater strain on the drainage system,

that the Road Access is inadequate for the current population, many of whom commute, and unsuitable and especially inadequate in the event of an Emergency Evacuation,

that in a severe Emergency, whether Flood Risk or Industrial, the sheer number of Residents on Canvey Island and the island’s location, mean that any response by the Emergency Services will be inadequate and a Danger to Life, despite responders best efforts,

that our Green Spaces and Green Belt are important to our well-being and should NOT be developed,

that our Town Centre is badly in need of Regeneration and Re-development and under serious threat from out of town shopping areas,

then you really should make the effort to Log onto the Castle Point council website and respond to the Consultation.

Otherwise it will be left to the Government, Council officers and the majority mainland representatives to impose on us “their” Local Plan.

To add your thoughts and concerns to the cpbc Local plan Consultation, log on HERE.

To view the documentation, log on HERE.

Canvey New Access Road, and the Promised Yachting Marina just a Dream! Any wonder Islanders take a Pinch of Salt with the Promises?

It is usual prior to Elections that Canvey Island residents are subject to certain infrastructure Promises from Castle Point Lead Group representatives.

This year has been slightly different in that Little, if Anything, has been raised about the proposed new access road to Canvey Island, via the Manor way to the promised land that is Thurrock!

Waterside Farm

Waterside Roundabout – Unusually clear!

Even though the Leader cllr Riley did touch upon no Housing prior to improved Infrastructure in an Echo interview, this was under the duress of imminent Government Intervention in the Castle Point Local Plan process.

More Telling with respect of Road Infrastructure and new Access to Canvey Island is contained in a personal response from Essex County Council (ECC) regarding unadopted Roads.
The ECC made perfectly clear the dire straits they feel they are in where finance for Highways is concerned.

It appears that even if Government finances were made available to construct a new Canvey Island Access Road, ECC may well be extremely reluctant to go ahead with the road’s construction, due to it being their responsibility to maintain!

Essex County council wrote;
“we have limited funds available to maintain those areas for which we actually are responsible.”

Canvey Island Residents should really be far more sceptical where promises from both Essex County Council AND Castle Point Council are concerned.

We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign were subjected to fanciful promises from no less than a team headed by the Castle Point Chief Executive and two Senior “professional” Officers, when it was arranged for us to meet following our successful Referendum on protecting Canvey Island’s Green Belt in the summer of 2009.

Having made clear to the cpbc representatives that, by a 99%+ majority, Canvey Residents were concerned over the cpbc plans to develop Housing on the Island’s few remaining patches of Green Belt, we were treated to a presentation of the proposed RSPB site on Canvey West Marsh and then an attempted engagement over the planned redevelopment of the Town Centre!

This we had to rudely interrupt the meeting over as they were distracting asides, only to then hear of cpbc’s intentions to convert the OIKOS hazardous Industrial site – into a Yachting Marina !!!

“The Council has a long‐term ambition to see operations at the Hazardous Installations at South Canvey cease, improving the safety of existing and future residents living on Canvey Island.”

“With regard to the deliverability of this ambition, the council’s Policy CP9 is a long term policy which looks beyond 2020 to a time when dependence on gas imports and fossil fuels in general is significantly reducing.”

The levels of intelligence that Castle Point Council credit Canvey Islanders with is woefully inadequate and insulting.

It is undoubtedly this arrogance that has taken cpbc to the threshold of Government Intervention following 3 attempted publications of a Local Plan, each ignominiously either forced into Withdrawal or Rejection, further endangering the Borough’s Green Belt and increasing the levels of population at Risk of Flooding or Industrial Accident.

Update.

Since this Post was published, an election leaflet has been delivered from the controlling group. 

It states that “Plans for the final stage of Roscommon Way are in progress.” and our MP and her colleagues “are demanding Government funds the third access road”.

Photograph Courtesy: Echo Newspaper and Google 

Canvey Island Nimbyism? RTPI attack on Ageism amounts to Stereotyping – who else to “Watch this Space”?

Protest against Green Belt development in Castle Point, is definitely not the sole domain of Canvey Islanders.

Whilst we feel we have more to protest about than most, despite being considered to be “not living in the Real World”, even by some of our own representatives, it cannot be argued that issues facing Canvey Island are not unique.

Whether it be the fact Canvey Island is the most densely urbanised part of the Borough, the removal of Canvey’s Rapid Response Vehicle, the 3rd access Road saga, the broken drainage system, the Roscommon Way Racers, lack of street lighting on unadopted roads, or living alongside 2 major Hazardous Industrial sites, concerned Canvey residents are often greeted with a “them again?” luke-warm welcome!

But that is not to exclude our mainland neighbours who are equally willing to object against planning issues where Green Belt and other supposedly worthy development proposals are concerned.

Now it appears it has been recognised that the majority of those willing to get involved in the planning process are of a certain age group.

“Currently, the majority of those who engage in planning are over 55 years. Response rates to a typical pre-planning consultation are around 3% of those directly made aware of it. In Local Plan consultations, this figure can fall to less than 1% of the population of a district. Yet planning decisions are based upon this sample.
Well-managed consultations start early, seek a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers to engage, but they too frequently fail to engage with the younger age groups – yet we are planning their future. What other organisation would base important decisions on this level of response without checking to see if it was ‘representative’. Yet this is what happens in planning decisions.”

So says Sue Manns, the Regional Director of national planning consultancy Pegasus Group, in an article for the Royal Town Planning Institute. Pegasus being the planning group involved in the Jotmans Farm development Inquiry.

The article appears to suggest that through the lack of engagement with a “younger” consultee audience, modern development plans struggle to be adopted through the objections from those more senior amongst us residents.

“We need to start a nationwide conversation around the spatial impacts of technology change, embrace young and dynamic thinkers and those who see change as exciting, and let’s rebalance the objection-driven engagement culture which has dominated planning over the past 50 years.”

Whilst Canvey residents may not be considered by cpbc, and perhaps Sue Manns, to be dynamic thinkers, they would be wrong in their assumption to consider us as not recognising change when it is exciting, as long as it is realistic!

The cpbc promise of the grandly titled “Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan” is a case in point. Unfortunately scepticism was well founded, as the lack of tangible progress alongside the failure to incorporate the proposed Dutch / seaside architectural features into new proposals, has led to blandly designed and cramped Flatted and Retail developments to pass approval!

 

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Building materials to reflect the overall palette, drawing on the Dutch, Coastal Town and Art Deco influences to create a scheme with a unique identity.
Colours should be vibrant to establish the new retail area as a destination. Shop front improvements along Furtherwick Road should be designed with the distinctive features of an English Seaside Town.

With prose being used, similar to that above, to encourage support for aspirational design schemes, it is hardly any wonder that Sue Manns has identified a failure of the industry to engage with a younger audience in planning consultations. The lack of younger generation involvement may be true, but that is not a reason to support the thought that adult and senior views should be ignored simply to support any particular development plan that may indeed, not be suitable for a particular area.

We on Canvey Island have seen the value of “local knowledge” within the Plan making process!

When the 2009 cpbc Core Strategy attempt at a local plan was published the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, through “local knowledge” recognised the attempt to mislead the Examining Inspector with its “inappropriate housing site selection” policies, which “commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk”, as well as it being obvious he would not be “convinced that maintaining the current distribution of development across the Borough is justified given the existing constraints”.

This despite cpbc officers being party to the clear intent of the mainland lead group to allow themselves to be influenced by, and produce a local plan driven by, what the Inspector politely described as “Local Factors”!

In this light, of course we HAD to get involved, despite being within the age bracket that Sue Manns and her planner colleagues have an issue with!

Committing to attending a 2 week Examination following production of a lengthy consultation submission is not achievable by all, however when your own local authority have schemed and approved such a discreditable document, it must be challenged and exposed for what it was. Not everybody is in a position, or willing to commit to taking part in plan making process, as it bound to require taking unpaid leave or using holiday periods. Something those with young families for instance may be unwilling or unable to commit to.

Perhaps Planners and developers would prefer that no residents, whatever age bracket they fall into, take part in the planning process? One thing we did find was that the Examining Inspectors appear to welcome local input!

The feedback from our Referendum equally challenged Sue Mann’s assumption that a younger demographic would automatically give the different response that she and her  planner colleagues would hope for, by achieving “a more balanced engagement and encourage the ‘strategic’ thinkers”.

Castle Point council gave evidence, indeed if it can be considered of value, that they extended their consultation to specifically target established groups of youngsters as part of the Core Strategy consultation.

What the Canvey Green Belt Campaign witnessed however, was perfectly clear. By calling on residents at their homes and putting to them our Referendum question, it was absolutely clear, that the loss of yet more Canvey Green Space to the Borough’s Housing Need was indisputably opposed across generations!

Planners may begin to achieve the respect they crave if they were more driven by an local area’s actual needs. Aspirational architectural computer imagery with green spaces screening dense urbanisation deceive nobody.

Equally the promises of Affordable Homes, later challenged as being unviable, is a deception we are getting more and more familiar with, especially in the light of Green Belt release and sky high housing prices.

RTPI and Sue Manns, nice try, but must try harder!

ps Lets not feel too much sympathy for the industry: “The chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon has insisted he deserves his £110m bonus because he has “worked very hard” to reinvigorate the housing market.” (Guardian)

A link to the Canvey Island Town Centre Regeneration Masterplan can be found HERE.

The full blog post by Sue Manns can be found via this LINK.

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Oh the Irony! Councillors Propose a Referendum!

Canvey Islanders feel they are Not Listened to!

Hence they held a Referendum to Protect what is left of the Island’s Green Belt, then a Petition was completed objecting to large scale development.

All to No Avail.

Both Referendum and Petition were Ignored by castle point borough council!

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Now we learn that it is the intention of Rochford councillors to carry out a Referendum over the district’s Local Plan.

Councillor John Mason, leader of the Green and Rochford District Residents Group said that during the early stages of the new housing plan, residents have complained “they feel that they will not be listened to” about their council and councillors.

No doubt Rochford council will spot the opportunity of the “Tick Box” exercise, as have castle point council, in suggesting this fills the community involvement requisite!

You may well remember that the Canvey Green Belt Campaign supporters went out in 16 groups of 2, over a two week period seeking the views of residents about cpbc plans to develop Canvey Island Green Belt.

Over 6,500 votes were cast and under MP Rebecca Harris, cllrs Ray Howard and Dave Blackwell’s observation an objection via 99.13% of voters was recorded!

Typically the daft Local Plan 2014 ignored these views!

Following this a Petition was raised by a group of 6 Canvey Ladies and a total of 12,000 names were added to their Petition list. The Petition was against large scale development on Canvey, whilst the opportunity to protect the local builders could remain.

The Petition has also had No Impact with those controlling cpbc!

This despite the constraints that would normally be applied to development in areas such as Canvey!

Whilst Rochford does not have constraining issues, such as 2 Hazardous Industrial sites, being in a Flood Risk Zone 3 area, having the access issues that Canvey is restricted by nor the whole of the town being a Critical Drainage Area, we do wish the Rochford councillors success in their Referendum.

Far greater success and acknowledgement than Canvey Island residents received by the controlling group of our local authority!

The Echo article on the Rochford Referendum news is available via this LINK HERE.

Calling Canvey Residents – sign the Petition and Shop Local!

The Canvey Island community Petition initiative, that emerged from the residents CPBC Local Plan information, meeting arranged by Castle Point councillor Martin Tucker, continues to gain momentum.

Concerned at the level of proposed housing development on an Island with well known infrastructure issues led to both an on-line Petition and a Paper version.

Signing the petition did lead to Cllr Tucker losing some of his voting rights at Castle Point Council where Canvey Green Belt issues are concerned, however this reflects worse on the Borough Council than Cllr Tucker as the focus of the petition is on large scale development rather than Green Belt in particular.

It could be suggested that for Castle Point Council to adopt their approach against a Canvey councillor protects the balance of power that the mainland enjoy.

A similar approach has not been taken towards certain senior councillors who have made public their particular Green Belt interests.

The response on Canvey to the petition has not been confined to residents, even businesses have actively shown support by displaying petition forms for shoppers to sign.

Well done to those residents collecting signatures, the Petition will sit nicely alongside the Canvey Green Belt Campaign’s Referendum in reminding our Borough and Town councillors that more should be done through the Planning process to protect residents in a vulnerable area.

Businesses supporting the Petition include:                                                                                     DISCOUNT PET SUPERSTORE
WELL PHARMACY                                                                                                                                     FORTUNA STORES
MACE STORE IN THE HIGH STREET NEAR MAURICE Road
THE PLAYGROUP AT TEWKES CREEK
CISCA HOUSE
SMALL GAINS HALL
CANVEY FITNESS, FURTHERWICK ROAD
CANVEY HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
ISLAND FABRICS
PIT STOP
CANVEY ON SEA POST OFFICE
SOPHISTICUTS HAIRDRESSERS
HAPPY DAYS CARD SHOP
ISLANDERS FISH RESTAURANT
THE CORNER CLUB
CANVEY CLUB
THE ADMIRAL JELLICOE PUB
PHARMA HEALTHCARE
GMD
HIGH STREET POST OFFICE
PINKIES CRAFTERS CAVERN
HOBBITS HAIRDRESSERS
ANNS HAIR SALON
BODYZONE HAIRDRESSERS
KIRSTYS CAFE, CHARFLEETS ESTATE
HOME TEC, JONES CORNER
JONES CORNER CAFE
PENNIES TO POUNDS
CAMPING AND GENERAL

 

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.