Tag Archives: Sequential Test

Canvey Island, the Development “Special Case” and Castle Point Council Failings!

Of late there have been reasons enough to query the sense in planning to over populate Canvey Island!

Following the “disputed” moratorium of housing development on Canvey, blamed upon the Environment Agency, a successful bid for Canvey Island to be viewed as a “Special Case” was launched.

Below follows the Castle Point committee meeting minutes whereby this cautious approach was over-turned and afterwards comes comment on the possibility of people investing in new properties with the danger of experiencing extremely high flood risk premiums or even finding themselves unable to secure flood risk cover at all.

We conclude with some Planning guidance that may suggest that development on Flood Zones and indeed in the Green Belt could, indeed should, be avoided.

We hope you find this locally enlightening.

Castle Point Borough Council decision to remove restriction of developing the Zone 3 flood plain of Canvey Island.

PLANNING COMMITTEE MINUTES
6TH FEBRUARY 2007
PRESENT:
Councillors Smith (Vice-Chairman who chaired the meeting), Anderson, Cole, Cross, Dixie, E. Egan, Mrs Goodwin, R.C. Howard, Riley and B.S. Wood
Councillors Mrs Challis Mrs B. Egan, Ladzrie and Mrs Liddiard
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Blackwell, Mrs Iles, Sharp and Mrs J.Govier.
73. PLANNING POLICY STATEMENT 25: DEVELOPMENT & FLOOD RISK
The Committee was informed and discussed the new amended national policy on development and flood risk set out in Planning Policy Statement 25, published in December 2006 which contained new and amended planning policies to mitigate and avoid the impact of flooding through good planning and flood risk management.
The Committee had previously commented on the consultation on the draft PPS 25 at the meeting on 7.2.2006.
The report before the Committee described the structure of PPS 25 which contained five sections covering background; key planning objectives; decision making principles; risk based approach and responsibilities; supported by a further eight annexes.
Members considered the implications for Castle Point arising from PPS25. The new PPS would have a particular bearing on the work for the Local Development Frame work and on the consideration of planning applications.
In terms of planning policy work, a strategic flood risk assessment had been prepared for Thames Gateway South Essex authorities and was to be published by Spring 2007. This would help inform the preparation of the Core Strategy by identifying broad locations within Castle Point and other authorities that would be appropriate locations for development.
In development control and for the purposes of PPS25, Canvey Island was located in Flood Zone 3 (High Probability), because the PPS ignored the presence of existing defences (acknowledged to be some of the most comprehensive in the country). Accordingly the requirement for flood risk assessments to accompany planning applications had also been in place for some time and in particular the application of both the sequential test and the exceptions test.
Planning Committee – 6th February 2007
This initially caused difficulties, particularly for smaller scale development, because of the uncertainty over requirements for these assessments and their relevance and applicability to such schemes. However experience had suggested that through discussion with the Environment Agency, developers, agents and landowners were now clearer about, first the requirements of the these tests, but more importantly, secondly, how to carry out development whilst at the same time mitigating the risk associated with flooding through careful design at the application stage.
Resolved –
1. That the Committee notes the policy guidance and advice of PPS 25.
2. That the Committee have regard to the guidance and advice in the preparation of the Local Development Documents and in the consideration of relevant planning applications, in order to achieve the Council’s community priorities and deliver sustainable development.
Chairman.

However the Insurance Industry does not share the Councils optimism
The short term solution Flood Re is a scheme funded by a levy on insurers that reinsures their customers’ flood risk, allowing them to offer flood insurance to those homes at risk at a more affordable price.
One of the most important aspects of Flood Re is that it provides time for insurers, the government and homeowners to address deficiencies in planning policy, invest in flood defences and improve the resilience of housing stock. The scheme is intended to be operational for 25 years, during which time there will be a role for central and local government, the insurance industry, environmental organisations, housing providers and homeowners in tackling flood risk. After this 25 year period, the Flood Re scheme assumes that improvements in flood resilience, as well as more sophisticated and readily available flood data will leave the insurance industry in a position to offer more affordable cover in a risk-reflective free market.
Properties built since 2009 are not eligible for Flood Re, which in theory should introduce pressure on planners to fully consider flood risk before new homes are built. However there remains a challenge in ensuring that a new property’s flood risk is properly communicated both to the buyer and the insurance industry, so that both parties can avoid any shocks further down the line.
As well as providing a period of breathing space for industry and policymakers, Flood Re also intends to provide a point of focus for the next 25 years, to continue the debate about addressing the root of the environmental and planning issues. But the inescapable realities of climate change, coupled with a seeming lack of a long-term approach to investment in flood defence measures means that the success of these ambitious plans is far from guaranteed.

Planning Guidance tells us that when :

Applying the Sequential Test in the preparation of a Local Plan;
“As some areas at lower flood risk may not be suitable for development for various reasons and therefore out of consideration, the Sequential Test should be applied to the whole local planning authority area to increase the possibilities of accommodating development which is not exposed to flood risk.
More than one local planning authority may jointly review development options over a wider area where this could potentially broaden the scope for opportunities to reduce flood risk and put the most vulnerable development in lower flood risk areas”.
The latest Castle Point Local Plan failed the Duty to Cooperate requirement. The Examining Planning Inspector noted in his failure Report:

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.

However, notwithstanding the lengthy and detailed engagement across south Essex there is no formal mechanism in place to distribute unmet housing need.

The problem is that this is once again only guidance and we have often been reminded by CPBC planning officers of this fact when they deliberate on planning proposal for Canvey Island.
It would seem that any guidance that has not been fulfilled can be ignored, as far as Canvey Island is concerned, as it is only for consideration purposes.

May Avenue, Canvey Island – Flooding Lessons Never Learned by CPBC- or were they never meant to be?

The controversial proposal to develop on a narrow green space in May Avenue, Canvey Island, returned for cpbc development Control committee consideration.

The previous application had been Rejected and on Appeal was upheld by the Planning Inspector.

The problem with cpbc being taken to Appeal over development is the crazy system of officers demanding Reasons for a development’s Rejection immediately the vote has been taken. There should be a process whereby the officers Report including Reasons for Objection is given further consideration before the officers are allowed to sign off their reports.

It is these Reports that stand as the Borough’s case during a written Appeal considered by the Planning Inspectorate and they appear to be practically made up on the hoof!

This time around some members voiced continued concerns, whilst the officer warned against the consequences of again Rejecting the proposal.

In the end a Motion to Defer the decision was Agreed.

One of the main issues MUST be that of the principle of Flood Risk.

No Objection from the Environment Agency, and the Developer indicated that the famed Canvey Integrated Urban Drainage study showed flooding, similar to that of the summer of 2014 would leave the proposed development dry.

Shame the same thing cannot be guaranteed for the Neighbouring Existing May Avenue Properties!

There is an agreed guidance between the Environment Agency and castle point council for small development sites.

Part of this guidance states;

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its supporting Technical Guidance Document set out the Government’s national policy on development in areas at risk of flooding. It seeks, wherever possible, to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding. Where it can be demonstrated that development is required in these areas, the NPPF seeks to ensure it will be safe over the lifetime of the development and will not increase flood risk elsewhere and where possible, reduce flood risk”

Developing what is a narrow greensward area between two properties can only add to the pressures on the Canvey Island drainage system.

Replacing a greensward with a bricks and mortar dwelling and driveway will likely increase the Flood Risk to Neighbouring properties, against NPPF requirement.

The cpbc planning officer was dismissive of these concerns stating that the local authority’s position regarding Sequential Testing (where development should take place in less Flood Liable Zones) falls within the usual mantra;

“With regard to the sequential test, the proposal seeks to provide dwellings on Canvey Island. For residential development to serve the community of Canvey Island it is considered that it would need to be located within, or immediately adjacent to, that settlement.
Since the settlement of Canvey Island is located entirely within Flood Zone 3 it is not considered that there are reasonably available alternative sites within the area with a lower probability of flooding that could accommodate the proposed development. Under the circumstances it is considered that the proposal passes the sequential test.”

This is ambiguous! The first paragraph implies that the community of Canvey Island should remain where it is, no migration allowed! Castle Point is one of the smallest Boroughs in England however, no similar concerns are applied to Benfleet, Hadleigh nor Thundersley.

These mainland towns have populations that are barely increasing, and yet they face no similar Flood Risks.

The cpbc New Local Plan Sequential Test for Housing Site Options states;

In order to deliver 200 homes per annum for the period 2011 to 2031 (4,000 homes in total), it is necessary to identify developable sites with a further capacity to accommodate 2,400 homes. Approximately, 500 of these homes will be secured at Thorney Bay Caravan Park, and 99 at the 101 Point Road, Canvey Island. It is expected that redevelopment within the existing residential areas of the borough will secure approximately 380 additional homes in this period also. Therefore, the sequential test will be seeking to identify developable sites with a capacity of 1,421 homes.

Quite clearly, development on Canvey Island is in support of the Borough’s Housing Needs! Therefore this isolationist application of the Sequential Test by castle point council, to Canvey Island alone, has No Justification!

It should be remembered that the National Planning Policy Framework gives Equal Protection to Green Belt land and Land at risk of Flooding;

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

9 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.”

Committee members concerns whether surface water flooding could be prevented by Attenuation Tanks were wide of the mark. Canvey Island has a notoriously High Water Table, create space for a tank below ground simply pushes flood waters higher and wider!

See if these extracts ring any bells, you should all, Canvey Islanders anyway, recognise where these words come from and relate to;

“pumps are the final element of a long, incredibly complex and interlinked surface water drainage system comprising of drains, culverts, sewers, open watercourses, main rivers, pumps and storage areas all with varying capacity, which need to be operating efficiently in order to drain the island. Rainfall on the island may flow a substantial distance before reaching the pumps, through infrastructure owned or managed by a large number of different organisations and individuals and in some cases without a clear understanding of ownership. Any constriction on flow either due to blockage or insufficient capacity for the rainfall event can affect the effective operation of the entire drainage system”

“The pressure on the drainage system on Canvey Island has intensified over the last 50 years due to further development, and it is evident that in some locations some drainage infrastructure is no longer at the necessary capacity to provide sufficient drainage”

” Given the unique nature of the drainage system and the scale of investment needed, to achieve significant results in Canvey Island will require that special support be provided by DEFRA. With this understanding, multiagency cooperation and additional Central Government funding it may be possible to make necessary and feasible improvements to the drainage system and effectively reduce flood risk in some areas.

The population of Canvey Island consisted of 38,459 people back in 2011, and yet cpbc position is that unless the population continues to grow, the Island will become unsustainable.

What utter Tosh!

There are 38,500 people at Risk of Flooding, local agencies have proven they cannot cope should we suffer from Surface Water Flooding, and yet the Local Plan proposal is to put more and more people at Risk!

If that is not what unsustainable development means then I don’t know what does!

The Sequential Test, as adopted by CPBC, is out of date!

The Strategic Flood Risk Assessment is out of date!

The agreement between the Environment Agency allowing Castle Point Council to decide (take responsibility for) the safety of new development over its Lifetime is out of date!

That Canvey is a “Special Case” where development is concerned, is out of date!

The £24,500,000 required to mend the Canvey Island “Broken” Drainage System has never materialised!

The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group maintain the position that the Island’s population should be maintained at the current levels or lower. All planned development on Canvey should be the subject of the Local Plan alone!

The infrastructure cannot cope with more, whilst the Island’s economy is reasonable given the UK’s circumstances. Whilst the Town Centre may be showing some signs of struggling in the more expensive locations, this is not helped by out of town commercial development in the pipeline.

Lessons clearly are not being learned despite assurances from senior officers!

RECOMMENDATION, – CAUTION! No, the Continued Development of Canvey is Necessary!

In March, this year, Castle Point Borough council cabinet addressed what at the time was one of the hottest topics facing the UK. Termed by our own government as our “broken housing market” invitations went out to consultation on the white paper.

Little can be found, via a general internet search, of castle point council’s response.

Following the “successful” approval of 113 dwellings on Canvey Island, 30% of which fall within what is known as the Calor Gas Hazardous middle zone by the development committee, we were soon all feeling appalled at the scenes of disaster at Grenfell House in Kensington.

Whether it is correct to connect any possible similarity between poorly located housing and a disaster through whatever reasons that come to fruition in a tower block, may be arguable.

However an early suggestion as to the tragedy at Grenfell House suggests “the organisations responsible for maintaining standards in the building industry have been advising contractors not to take the regulations too literally.”  *

Whilst this claim requires some substantiation, the application of the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive’s advice where Canvey Island development is concerned, as applied by Castle point council, equally is in need of some serious scrutiny!

We, ourselves are used to being called scaremongers, but quite possibly so were some concerned residents near Buncefield, and those users reliant of the rail line through Dawlish, where the section of sea wall collapsed under the rail track in 2014, may have also been grateful of a more cautious approach to safety.

untitled

Damage to the railway at Dawlish in Devon

The lack of brownfield land in Castle Point is obvious. It is also reasonable to expect Green Belt to be protected.

However Canvey Island is subject to perverse considerations by Planning Officers, no doubt instructed from above, or to put another way, from back offices and corridors!

Housing on Canvey Island must pass the Sequential and Exception Test (Look it Up yourself!)

This allows development in areas that NOBODY can guarantee safe for the development’s lifetime. You would have to be Psychic!

The excuse, sorry, reason, given is:

“In a very broad sense the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”

Strange, I have never heard or seen any concern of social and economic blight used to support a Reason to Support development where the mainland is concerned! Remember Deanes School??

But Canvey, don’t forget, is a “Special Case!”

Soon a Brownfield site list of local authority owned land will be compiled, just imagine it; the Paddocks, Canvey police Station, the old council building now Health Centre Long Road etc etc.

It is clear why Canvey is so often selected for development over mainland.

The Island is unsustainable as it is, so to it will be argued is the mainland, but Canvey is the council’s preferred choice.

On 7th February 2017, the Government published a White Paper concerning housing related matters, entitled “Fixing our broken housing market”.

Cabinet Agenda Item7a March 2017:

CPBC intention to respond to “Fixing our broken housing market” Government Consultation on Housing White Paper

The report identifies the problem as threefold – first, not enough local authorities plan for the homes needed, secondly house building is too slow, and thirdly the house building industry is too reliant on a small number of large concerns.

4.4 The report then analyses these issues and brings forward proposals to address them in four chapters;

  1. Planning for the right homes in the right places
  2. Building homes faster
  3. Diversifying the market
  4. Helping people now

Chapter 1 – Planning for the right homes in the right places – brings forward eight proposals;

“Maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements;”

“Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up the quality and character of new development, building on the success of neighbourhood planning”

“Making more land available for homes in the right places, by maximising the contribution from brownfield and surplus public land, regenerating estates, releasing more small and mediumsized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;”

In addition to those general comments the Cabinet is recommended to allow more detailed responses to the 38 questions posed by the White Paper to be issued by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Leader of the Council by the deadline of Tuesday 2nd May 2017.                        (abridged version)

Given cpbc’s previous History where development is concerned, we are left to wonder how seriously the government will take our local authority’s consultation responses. As I have said previously, a quick search for cpbc’s official response fails to be found.

*BBC Newsnight Policy Editor Chris Cook.

Photo: Network Rail Media Centre

Flood Risk! Canvey Island – The “Special Case,” the Sequential Test and the time to Reconsider!

The Approval of Flats in Canvey Town Centre caused Canvey councillors to mention fears of flooding.

Usually levels of development in areas liable to Flood would be restricted through planning, by consideration of the Sequential Test. This Test proposes that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk.

The effect of the policy approach of Castle Point council is to continue to increase the numbers of population at Risk of Flooding on Canvey Island.

CPBC justifies this by suggesting that “Canvey Island is a Distinctive Community. It has specific identified needs in terms of social, economic and physical regeneration, as well as housing.”

The result is that due to the 40% increase in population, since Canvey fell under the control of castle point council, there is a perpetual need for a never ending supply of Housing Development on the Island!

This is regardless that the Need for Housing is calculated as a Borough-wide figure.

The fact that it is admitted that there is “a need to maintain the population living in the flood risk zone at current levels or lower” on Canvey Island, has not deterred a reckless approach to the distribution of Housing Growth by the local authority!

This policy of increasing the numbers of population at Risk of Flooding and the deliberate manipulation of the Sequential Test stems from the efforts to label Canvey Island a “Special Case”!

Echo June 2008

DEVELOPERS seeking to build new homes on Canvey are being forced to think again because of growing fears about flooding.

The Environment Agency is resolutely pursuing its policy of recommending refusal of plans to build new homes on the island because Canvey is below sea level and therefore on a flood plain.

Castle Point Council is taking those recommendations to heart and rejecting applications for new homes, leaving some developers in limbo.

The council has pledged to continue upholding the Environment Agency’s recommendations until the results of a Government-initiated inquiry into flood plains publishes its findings.

The Government appointed Sir Michael Pitt to carry out the study, following catastrophic floods in Hull after heavy rainfall in June and July last year. It is likely the final report expected, this summer, will recommend tighter restrictions.

Ray Howard, Castle Point and Essex county councillor, said local authorities were reluctant to ignore the Environment Agency’s advice, while they are waiting for the results of the Pitt Report.

Mr Howard has received many letters from people struggling to build on Canvey.

He said: “It’s a big problem that needs to be looked at. We can’t have a blanket ban for building here.

“I believe Canvey is unique, as it has the best flood walls and flood water drainage system in the country.

“The flood plain rules should be relaxed for us.”

Last week localised flooding on the island, caused by heavy rainfall, affected hundreds of residents on the island.

But Mr Howard is convinced it is well protected against severe flooding from the Thames Estuary.

A total of £34 million was spent rebuilding Canvey’s sea walls in the 1970s and 1980s.

A further £6 million was spent last year on 14 giant pumps, spread around the island to force water back into the sea if the walls are ever breached.

Mr Howard said: “The reason Canvey is always considered high-risk is because of the 1953 flood.

“But back then the only sea defences were soil walls, built by the original Dutch settlers.”

Despite Mr Howard’s insistence that Canvey is well protected, the Environment Agency refused to budge from its policy of objecting to all new homes on flood plains.

Spokeswoman Rita Penman insisted the Environment Agency could not relax its planning guidelines for Canvey, even for special cases.

She said: “Although Canvey is well defended, the current understanding across the country is that if there are other areas not on the flood plains, they should be developed first.

“This is in the interests of everyone’s safety. We are therefore unable to recommend approval for any new developments on Canvey at the present time.”

Even if the Government report clears the way for new homes on flood plains, insurers are warning hundreds of thousands of homes built in high-risk areas may not qualify for insurance.

Nick Starling, the Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance and health, said: “Poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable”

Consequently in 2007 a Planning committee meeting considered, and were asked to “Note” the freedoms of decision making that were pleaded for, and “seemingly” allowed by the Environment Agency, in considering Canvey a “Special Case” that has led to the abuse of the levels of development we continue to see proposed.

How things have changed, in such a short space of time!

Since then we have received a concerning Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for Canvey Island in 2010, and suffered two Surface Water Flooding Events during 2013 and 2014!

Whether a Planning committee should have the power to approve such a policy with the potential to impact Canvey Island, or whether members were all actually made aware of the policy’s implications, is dubious to say the least.

Whether the 2007 planning committee meeting decision to allow increasing levels of population at Risk should now be re-considered in the light of the ominous Flood Risk Assessment and the Flooding incidents, appears obvious!

Floods 2014

The Full text of the Echo article can be read HERE.

Canvey Island, Dutch Village, Green Belt development Refused, but don’t mention the “F” word

A Unanimous decision to Refuse the Dutch Village, Holland Avenue Green Belt planning proposal was decided upon by the Castle Point planning committee last evening.

Objections from both the Environment Agency and the Lead Local Flood Authority, made the decision fairly obvious, although with CPBC you can never be certain.

At last the area was given the Green Belt recognition and respect that has been overdue. Previously the area had been the first in line for release for development. The Local Plan2016 shifts focus onto previously developed Green Belt, land that already contains a level of development, as that which is preferred for housing supply.

The fact that the Holland Avenue site is Green Belt within a Flood Zone should have offered more protection from development than most in the Borough, however logic doesn’t always prevail.

The reliance upon our “impregnable” sea defences, which by the way can do little to halt water seeping under them, and our “broken” drainage system, should result in a Sequential Approach to development. If similar development areas outside of the flood zone are available, then development in the flood zone would be Refused.

However using the overly simplistic logic, that Canvey is a “Special Case,” due to Canvey Island being a developed area it must follow that it must be continued to be developed!

The officers report offered no other reasoning nor explanation, than that!

A case was offered by us that the development in a flood zone, Sequential Test decision was challengeable, as was the Exception Test, which was actually mentioned as being failed in the officers report. We asked that both Tests should be recorded as Reasons for Refusal, most disappointingly councillors allowed this to slip the net!

couriermail.com

Members agreed that the access to the proposed site was inadequate, hardly surprising considering the condition and specification of the approach road, which we must add past planning administrations had allowed approval.

IMG_0324 (2)

Thankfully the “F” word wasn’t uttered by development committee members although in this instance we mean the “Flood RE” word.

Consideration should be given by as to whether the development committee can be assured that housing development in a Flood Zone will be able to obtain flood insurance over the life time of new dwellings.

The Flood RE scheme, which guarantees affordable insurance to such new dwellings, excludes all development built since 2008!

Therefore, as in the case of Canvey homes flooded in 2013 and 2014, insurance premiums and excesses are open to the market forces, meaning insurance premiums and excesses if offered, are extortionately high.

Whilst the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group made this point in representation, the issue received no consideration.

This is quite incredible as we hear that funding is neither identified nor allotted for improvements for the sea defence nor improvements for the drainage system.

ostriches-head-in-sand

Non-discussion will not exempt Castle Point Council from blame. A head in the sand attitude towards this evidenced Risk is a gamble. A gamble with residents and future residents, financial assets and well being. A gamble with the socio-economic stability of Canvey Island.

We welcome and endorse the committee’s decision, but  will continue to press for a realistic approach to local planning matters.

A link to the committee meeting can be reached HERE.

Castle Point Local Plan – confusing Outside Assistance with Outside Interference!

Blog Post 500!

So our councillor Letchford (according to Echo letters Oct 16th) suggests taking the Castle Point Local Plan out of politicians’ hands! He suggests the possibility of a “revenge vote” next year against Conservative councillors perceived to surrendered mainland sites to developers could give control of the council to the CIIP.” (?)

Also that the plan has taken six years to get to its current position. We suggest that many more years than six, have resources been spent during this saga.

Cllr Letchford continues “Whilst the task and finish group is made up of councillors with one eye on next year’s elections there is unlikely to be agreement on where houses should be built. This conflict of interest could result in the council having a plan imposed on it by the Government and £11 million will be lost.”

By introducing outside professionals who would take into account government requirements, the housing needs of the Borough, the local infrastructure etc a Plan would be conceived and the £11 million would accrue.

Cllr Letchford tells us that “I can live with future development based on good professional advice. What I cannot stomach is more development in one area just because councillors elsewhere were afraid of losing their seats and political power.”

Well during the process of the Core strategy much outside professional advice was commissioned, and much was ignored, including the Sustainability Appraisal and the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment.

The Sustainability Appraisal saw CPBC being questioned why no evidence was illustrated why the borough’s most sustainable development site was totally rejected.

The much delayed, embarrassingly so, Strategic Flood Risk Assessment was used in order to support development within the 3a Flood Zone.

Through the application of the Sequential Test the Flood Zone 3a should have the “more vulnerable” development directed away, onto Zones 1 and 2.

The area that the Sequential Test should be applied across should not be contentious, through a Local Plan it should be Borough-wide, especially in the case of Castle Point being such a small Borough.

The authors, Scott Wilson, of the Castle Point Flood Risk Assessment appeared to have their work under-mined on at least one occasion.

The Environment Agency wrote to Scott Wilson to request;

“Once again we would ask that reference to an agreement made between us and SOS BC (Southend on Sea Borough Council) regarding the area of application for the Sequential Test is removed. We are not aware of a formal agreement on this matter and such an agreement falls outside of our remit. However, as previously stated the LPA are entitled to reduce the area of ST (Sequential Test) application as per Paragraph 4.18 of the Practice Guide – this is their decision and something they should justify. We would not agree the detail of the Sequential Test, just ensure the correct methodology is applied.”

So, some unusual constraining of the area that the Sequential Test has been applied within the Borough by the local authority, has been clearly identified and the detail of the Sequential Test is identified the sole responsibility of CPBC.

The justification continually offered by CPBC being;

“the continued development of Canvey Island is necessary to sustain the local community and prevent the social and economic blight of the settlement.”

Some recent Canvey residents exposed to the surface water flooding and the increase in insurance charges may disagree with that sentiment!

Recent Planning Guidance gives some indication that Castle Point Council may be applying the Sequential Test in an “unusual” method;

“As some areas at lower flood risk may not be suitable for development for various reasons and therefore out of consideration, the Sequential Test should be applied to the whole local planning authority area to increase the possibilities of accommodating development which is not exposed to flood risk. More than one local planning authority may jointly review development options over a wider area where this could potentially broaden the scope for opportunities to reduce flood risk and put the most vulnerable development in lower flood risk areas.”

This Guidance clearly suggests that a Borough-wide application of the Sequential Test is expected, alternatively an even wider application would be correctly justified, as opposed to the Castle Point Council’s micro application of the Sequential Test.

Additionally;

“A local planning authority should demonstrate through evidence that it has considered a range of options in the site allocation process, using the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment to apply the Sequential Test and the Exception Test where necessary. This can be undertaken directly or, ideally, as part of the sustainability appraisal. Where other sustainability criteria outweigh flood risk issues, the decision making process should be transparent with reasoned justifications for any decision to allocate land in areas at high flood risk in the sustainability appraisal report. The Sequential Test can also be demonstrated in a free-standing document, or as part of strategic housing land or employment land availability assessments.”

You may have noted, although it has received less focus than other issues, that;

  • Flood Risk is a Constraint on housing development.
  • That the Sequential Test may be applied across more than one local planning authority.

And yet Castle Point Council select to apply the Sequential Test to a limited area, that of Canvey Island.

This despite the CPBC Sustainability Scoping Report identifying;

“Given the risk to the population(from the Risk of Flood), various measures are required to deal with the concerns to human health and wellbeing.

These include:

The need to maintain the population living in the flood risk zone at current levels or lower;”

As attractive as having the £11 million “enticement” for completing the Local Plan and the possibility of retaining positions as ward councillors, the influence on the Local Plan by influential council members may be quite considerably misplaced, and officers input maybe seriously questionable.

The Blinking Owl – Canvey, giving our wholehearted support – the Price to Pay!

Last evening the Castle Point Local Plan Task an Finish group met to receive and consider updates on the site known as H18 the Blinking Owl.

Members heard that developers had been engaged in producing viability evidence and proposals to support what they believed could be achieved in terms of housing supply if the site was released from the Green Belt.

Some major issues were touched upon; Current open space compensation, access roads, number of dwellings.

The open space issue will impact upon existing residents and the suggested changes should require consultation.

The H18 area has been divided into two parts and a prospective developer offered the opportunity to provide schemes for each part. Both indicated possible major access points within their schemes.

Area known as H18, 1 and 2 showed a proposal to provide a slip road access onto the A127. From memory this was a version of a previously rejected proposal some years ago, so this may involve some serious further research.

The area known as H18, 3 and 4 proposed providing access onto the area of the existing A130 junction roundabout.

Whilst this second proposal was accompanied by revenue funding evidence, both schemes would require Essex County Council Highways agreement and assistance.

The number of potential new dwellings discussed ranged from below 600 up to the full potential of approximately 2,000.  A major development opportunity for the Borough, the first for many decades.

Once again the issue of Castle Point Council’s “Master planning” policy must receive attention. What greater example can there be of not developing to reasonable density levels causing more Green Belt sites to be released to compensate for this low density policy failing to achieve assessed housing need?

Arthur-Daley-FT

The issue of development on Green Belt release therefore requires some consideration. Brandon Lewis has recently confirmed that Green Belt is a constraint that may be used to protect from development. To then promote one Green Belt site for development over others will require some site selection explanation, not least that of sustainability and Green Belt function.

The accompanying explanation should also involve some watertight evidence, so as to be defendable under Examination from developers with alternate proposals for other Green Belt sites.

There is no doubt that if houses are proven to be necessary beyond that supporting Local Needs, and must be built, then site H18 appears well sited being situated in a position to make full use of the expensively upgraded A130. This main highway has the ability to take vehicles efficiently away from and to the Borough.

It will also be argued however, as does the Glebelands site!

Further investigative work on the potential  and possibility of site H18 was agreed upon by Task and Finish group members.

Whilst the Lead Group of councillors hold a working majority, I understand that amongst them, there remains support for the draft new Local Plan in its current form.

For H18 to be brought forward, the current version of the Plan would require some substantial alteration.

Whilst Cllr Dick gave his support and sought explanations, three of the four Lead Group members remained noticeably silent during the whole meeting, only at the very last moment did one of the three request clarification on a point.

This leads us to assume that support for this change of direction in the Plan process may need support from either the UKIP, Canvey Island Independent Party and / or the Independent councillors to be successful.

The Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, given the evidence so far, believe that site H18 the Blinking Owl is of no benefit to Canvey Island residents.

Unless it was to take priority over the Jotmans Farm proposal, based specifically on traffic implications.

This may appear to be an unreasonable position to take to those whose primary concern is not the welfare of Canvey residents.

We would be looking for a major change in the Castle Point Borough Council’s approach to the Sequential Test before any support for Site H18. We make it clear that councillors, of whichever party, will be criticised if support is given to H18 whilst the Sequential Test retains its existing methodology and application.

CPBC’s approach is contained in this paragraph;

“Whilst applying the general policy of directing development away from areas at higher risk of flooding, it recognises that there are some areas around the Thames Estuary that are already substantially developed, and may require additional development to occur in the future in order to support the creation of sustainable communities”

The NPPF is clear, the Sequential Test should be applied Borough-wide.

Castle Point is a small Borough, to apply the Test under the selected criteria makes a nonsense of the true intention of the purpose of the Sequential Test!

In its most crudest terms it is implying that because we have already substantially developed Canvey Island, (remember this has only come about since the formation of Castle Point as a Borough), then we must continue to add to the levels of development!

Therefore we can only point out that H18 may well alleviate some of the pressure on mainland Green Belt sites and wish CPBC well in their aims.

For councillors to expect Canvey Green Belt Campaign group and Canvey residents support and backing for H18, then a re-visit of the flawed method of Sequentially Testing sites is an essential requirement.

We are not against the redevelopment of Canvey sites providing there is no increase in flood risk etc, so that local developers can continue to survive, and the redevelopment of single storey dwellings into two storeys is sensible.

What cannot be tolerated is the lengths that are gone to, to make badly sited proposals appear acceptable just to appease “Local Factors.”

Canvey Island has three Constraints to development, Green Belt, Flood Risk and the Hazardous Industries.

At the risk of receiving a barrage of complaint we say: CPBC, recognise this, apply this, and we will unreservedly give our support once it is recorded on paper.