Tag Archives: Virgin Green Belt

To Intervene or to Not Intervene, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer, as Simple Minded and Disobedient Canvey Folk suffer, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.

Much will be read and disclosed over the next year or so, when it will be wondered whether the June 2018 decision by Castle Point council, to rush into a Local Plan schedule, with the prospect of a New Local Plan approved by Council for publication by November followed by submission to the Inspectorate in April 2019, or alternatively to face the prospect of Government Intervention, is the best path to tread, especially where Canvey Island is concerned.

“sometimes orders given to the simple-minded have to be reinforced with a threat, a suggestion that something terrible will happen to the disobedient,”

And so it was, when the cpbc chief executive, the council leader and his deputy, stated the case for cpbc seeking to retain control of its Local Plan making, rather than allow Intervention from the Government Planner.

The councillors and residents were not permitted an address from the Government chief planner, choices and their consequences were expressed only third hand delivered by the cpbc triumvirate.

But whilst keeping control of the Local Plan process is in the very best interests of parts of the mainland, is it also in the best interests of Canvey Island, a reasonable question to ask?

Harking back to the Core Strategy we exposed a Plot by the “Ruling” mainland party to sacrifice Canvey’s Dutch Village Green Belt site, as the sole Green Belt site released for development, so as to appease their mainland concerns and allow publication of a cpbc Core Strategy, local plan!

We remember well, the mainland residents Green Belt campaign group, during the council Task and Finish group meeting, standing to address council members confirming that they agreed and supported the Plan “in its entirety!”

Where was the “united” Borough then?

When the Core Strategy was rejected by the Examining Inspector due to the unreasonable Housing Growth Distribution and the Dutch Village site being, a Green Belt site within a Flood Risk Zone, the cpbc ceo made sure that the Dutch Village remained within the list of Green Belt sites for development, whilst adding some mainland sites to meet the Housing Need of the Borough, within the 2014 daft Local Plan!

Of course the retention of the Canvey Dutch Village site, despite the Inspector’s opinion, meant that one large mainland site would be saved from development.

Now by returning to the 2014 draft local Plan as a starting place for the 2018 Local Plan, concerns return as to whether it is intelligent and responsible for Canvey residents to put their faith, as we are being told and advised so to do, within the “Ruling” party’s successful motion to Control the 2018 local Plan.

“sometimes orders given to the simple-minded have to be reinforced with a threat, a suggestion that something terrible will happen to the disobedient,”

The threat has been delivered and something terrible may still apparently happen!

We are reminded that the Dutch Village site is owned by Persimmon, implying that this would speed the process through Planning resulting in an early supply of Housing, For The Borough!

Meanwhile, the more lucrative development sites elsewhere in the Borough would, following this logic, remain undeveloped for longer, especially when the ongoing development of approximately 900 Sandy Bay Park Homes, also on Canvey Island, are put into the equation!

This may encourage some conspiracy theory, has the call for sites from cpbc entailed dealings between officers members and developers as to which site or sites would be released in which order, specifically if the developer were to agree to initially focus on Dutch Village first?

As it stands in practise cpbc focus on applying constraints on development in the so called “virgin” Green Belt areas of the Borough. Canvey Island Flood Risk is also applied to the constraints so as to limit numbers, but that constraint is applied to housing Need numbers across the whole Borough, rather than Canvey Island in particular!

Making cpbc’s approach to the application of the Sequential Test simply contrived and, a Farce!

But can Canvey residents be certain that the Government Planner would apply to Canvey Island, the supposed Constraints on Housing Development such as Flood Risk, the threat to what remains of its Green Belt and the Hazardous Industrial sites any less fairly than the cpbc “Ruling” party and officers?

Especially going by their proven Local Planning track record!

Under Cllr Riley’s regime Canvey fared better than during any of the previous attempts at Plan making.

Now Cllr Riley has been side lined by the Triumvirate now in control, and previously chiefly responsible for the 2014 daft Local Plan, despite two of them apparently also claiming to support the 2016 Plan’s attempt to constrain the borough’s Housing Numbers!

To mainlanders these thoughts may sound pessimistic and overly cautious, however being fed rumours and not having the access to decision makers that some residents appear to have, however furtive, leads to a lack of an Open and Transparent Local Plan process.

Faith in Leaders must be Earned, Blind Faith is a dangerous option.

PLANING-APPEAL-SIGN

 

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“Time to burst the myth that all Green Belt is green and use it for the homes our children so desperately need?”

Green Belt is put under further pressure from Housing and Business development by the fashionable approach that an area’s Rural Idyllic Value should become an addition to the existing agreed list of Functions.

A Point is made to support Green Belt being released for development that “over 60 percent is farmland, with herbicides and pesticides pouring air pollution into our cities“. This only proves that using an exaggeration provides a headline rather than gravity to the claim, that the answer to fixing our broken housing market, lies in the Green belt!

Releasing Green Belt isn’t the easy fix, especially where the need for affordable homes is concerned. Indeed quite the opposite, for despite the comparative ease and economics of developing on Green Belt over previously developed areas, levels of affordable housing being provided is low, apparently through viability reasoning!

Of course a Review of Green Belt should be included within a Local Plan process but challenging or undermining of the Green Belt Functions should not be the only test for release.

In the case of Canvey Island, Green Belt, what little that remains, and Green Field land perform far more than the 5 Functions.

Local planners would do well to remember this before it is too late and we have far more to worry about than “pouring pollution” into the urbanised area!

The level of proposed releases of Green Belt is concerning, it will not bring an immediate Fix to the Broken Housing Market. Developers will not build at a rate that would collapse the housing market values!

A balanced approach is required on Housing Supply and Population levels in areas able to support and keep safe current and future residents in appropriate areas. isn’t that what Sustainable Housing should be based on?

Politics of Planning blog posted, 11May 2018:

Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh has called for unused ‘wasteland’ in the Green Belt to be developed. The Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden argues that the development of such land would go some way to addressing the housing crisis, whilst preserving genuine areas of natural beauty.

Ms McDonagh is advocating that an extra million new homes be built in London, where 22% of the land within its boundaries is Green Belt, and has made a written submission to the NPPF consultation to this effect. She says that she has found many examples of such land within minutes of train stations across the country.

Commenting on the situation, Ms McDonagh said:
“I have no desire to call for building in our countryside or on the flowing fields of green that we should be so grateful to have. My frustration is not with parks and hills or areas of natural beauty. And of course, I have no intention of calling for housing in areas with environmental protection… There are 128,000 children in England living in temporary accommodation, desperate for a place to call home. In the hearts of our towns and cities, and close to public transport, scrubland, rubbish tips and car washes are inappropriately designated as Green Belt land. It’s time to burst the myth that all Green Belt is green and use it for the homes our children so desperately need. It’s time to grasp the nettle and to stop promising new homes without the means of providing them.”
Siobhain McDonagh said that the idea has support across both parties and amongst a number of thinktanks. Matthew Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute agrees with Ms McDonagh, and believes that there is a common romantic misconception over the true nature of the Green Belt. He commented:
“Far from rolling hills and daisy strewn meadows, the Green Belt is anything but a rural idyll. Over 60 percent is farmland, with herbicides and pesticides pouring air pollution into our cities.”

Siobhain McDonagh’s intervention came in the same week as the National Planning Summit, held on 10 May in London. Her opinions are in step with Christine Whitehead of the Government’s Build-out Review Panel – the Letwin Review – who told the Summit that a “very large proportion” of the problem of why planning permissions fail to be built out is an over-reliance on large housing sites. Ms Whitehead added that “between 2008 and 2014, over 50% of permissions were on large sites, and five per cent of the output was on large sites.”

Ms McDonagh’s idea would certainly free up many small sites within London, and it will be interesting to see whether this issue is considered by the Letwin Review, which is due to be published before the Autumn Budget in November 2018.

Basildon Council Stick 2 Fingers up at Whipping Boy, Castle Point and its Green Belt! Now “Watch this Space!”

Government Intervention. Canvey Island and Castle Point residents will now have to listen to the Borough’s decision makers feigning shock as to how badly they have been treated by the Government’s secretary of state Sajid Javid and his announcement of his intended Intervention in the cpbc local Plan process.

Harvey Smith

Feigning shock, as it is apparent that through contact and advice with the Government, cpbc would have been warned that their “feet dragging” had tested the SoS’ patience too often and for too long!

Glebelands SoS decision June 2013:

In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead. With the publication of the NPPF, he is more positive than the Inspector that the Council can achieve its’ programme for LP adoption, especially given the drivers within it.”

Jotmans Planning Inspector conclusion April 2017:

“However, events have not borne that out positive view. The Draft New Local Plan is currently sidelined and it is very obvious from elements of the Council’s case that there is no political will to take it further forward. In arguing that the proposal at issue is premature, the point is not that it would be premature in terms of the Draft New Local Plan but premature in terms of a different Draft Local Plan that takes a different approach to the provision of housing.”

Reading like a demand for a naughty child’s parents to attend a meeting with the Headmaster the SoS Letter to cpbc Leader Cllr Riley appears to be an illustration of total incompetence by our local authority:

” I gave you the opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances by 31 January 2018, which, in your view, justifies the failure to produce a Local Plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regime.”

” the submission accompanying your letter of 31 January 2018. The Council has failed to meet its deadline for publication of a Plan between January – March 2018, in accordance with your July 2017 Local Development Scheme. There has been a consistent failure to produce a Local Plan since the last Plan was adopted in 1998. The Council has failed to meet milestones in published Local Development Schemes at least five times since 2004 and two failures to take a plan through examination.”

” Given that your Council has said it will not produce a Local Plan until after the Joint Plan has been produced and that the Joint Plan is not due to be submitted until 2020 it appears possible that Plan production could be accelerated through intervention.”

And Damningly:

” the other constituent authorities of Basildon and Brentwood are proposing to submit plans ahead of the Joint Plan”

Equally scathing was the SoS’ consideration of the Basildon Local Plan, HOWEVER, it appears Basildon representatives had their ears open!

In the SoS’ letter to Basildon council he writes:

… your Council still remains without an up to date Local Plan which undermines public confidence in the plan-led planning system.

Therefore I will hold you to account for your Council’s actions. Your Council needs to continue to meet your published timetable.

I will continue to monitor your progress closely and any further significant delays in meeting your timetable will cause me to have considerable doubt as to whether your Council is doing everything that is necessary in connection with the preparation of its Local Plan.

I will not hesitate to consider how to use the full range of powers Parliament has given me to ensure that a Plan is in place.

My officials will continue to engage with your officers.”

“My officials will continue to engage with your officers”! Quite clearly talks held, advice given and meetings have been held, between the Government officials and inspectors and Castle Point representatives.

There is no place for feigned shock and surprise.

Castle Point Borough Council Knew This Was Coming!

And sat on their Hands!

Why then is there not a Call for Heads to Roll?

Interestingly we noted within the cpbc Duty to Cooperate examination that, “Thurrock does not expect to make a submission until 2020”.

“And where are we in Castle Point left?

Even the most recent version of the cpbc Local Plan failed to include the “saviour” site, the Blinking Owl. With its previously developed element, close to strategic Highway routes and politically “barren”, enthusiastically promoted by mainland representatives and residents, in advance of more “precious” and “virgin” Green Belt sites as developable.

Unfortunately Essex County Council refuse to allow direct access onto strategic routes.

It is with Alarm then to read that Sajid Javid is intending that;

“My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting Essex County Council to prepare a Local Plan for Castle Point and with the neighbouring authorities on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.”

Now we likely see the loss of Glebelands, Jotmans Farm and the Dutch Village and all will be blamed on the Nasty Secretary of State and the Planning Inspector!!!

All so that Castle Point can be used as a Whipping Boy!

local plan.jpg-pwrt3

In the meantime Basildon campaigners, officers and councillors have nothing to feel smug about

Basildon Council Spooked by the Government into hurrying through their Local Plan!

It appears that Castle Point have expressed to Basildon Council they will not be able to reach their Housing Needs, without breaching rules around flood risk and/or nature conservation.

Whenever has Flood Risk prevented Castle Point Council from approving development plans on Canvey Island?

With typical political divisive splits the towns of Billericay, Basildon and Wickford, reminiscent of the old Castle Point plan-making battles, narrowly managed to vote to approve their Local Plan.

This is despite the Plan appearing to be doomed to failure! Not because the development may be in the right, or wrong places, but questions remain over the Duty to Cooperate requirement. The DtC bringing failure to the Castle Point LP, also illustrated where Basildon may well fail!

With council officers warning members that BASILDON Council could be forced to build thousands of extra houses to make up for a shortfall in Southend and Castle Point, if its Local Plan is not signed off by the end of this year, the council appear to have panicked into completing the process.

Little Cooperation appears to be forthcoming! Pulling the Draw Bridge up early does not indicate that exhaustive exploration of cooperation, where Housing Need and Supply is concerned, has been completed.

And yet the formation of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) consists of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Essex County, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, and Thurrock councils, following the demise of the Castle Point Local Plan, is purposely intended to prevent future failure of the Local Plans requirement to comply with the Duty to Cooperate

Why then would Basildon rush into approving their Local Plan?

All is now clear, Buying Time!

The ASELA group of authorities had,  and probably still do, intend to adopt a strategic view of Planning and Housing allocations, across the Housing Areas.

Until ASELA agrees a Joint Spatial Plan, no small undertaking, the Basildon Plan will logically be judged to be Premature at the least, and Unsound at best.

But they have moved on in the process, something it appears cpbc were happy not to do!

Now there appears little option but to do so, and hurriedly! The Chief Planner and his appointed team will expect cpbc members to be compliant, otherwise expect exclusion!

Our neighbouring Boroughs, apparently willing to commit Green Belt for development, will expect Castle Point to commit the same. 

Government forcing its will on local authorities causes resentment.

Recently there has been the abolition of Labour’s centrally imposed housing targets and improved Green Belt protections laid out in the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework.

We have however a “Broken housing Market”!

Market forces dictate though that developers will NOT build at a rate that results in market prices falling.

Of course there is the small issue of local elections approaching in May, that may focus peoples attention.

Of course, we may have misunderstood the intentions of the Secretary of State’s letter to Cllr Colin Riley, the cpbc officers may have got it all wrong !

But the fact remains Castle Point published a Local Plan in 2016. Only the Duty to Cooperate was Examined. It has been assumed that the Plan itself would also have Failed. Must this assumption of Failure be correct?

If so on whose decision. The same people who have stalled updating the document through cooperation work that should have been taking place since January 2017, when the failing was announced!

There are questions requiring answers and we are not getting them.

We have been promised Localism and Neighbourhood planning, we are getting neither if the Government Chief Planner and Essex County Council are given control of our Local Plan.

Feel free to comment!

Coverage of Basildon concerns over cpbc and Southend Housing Needs can be read HERE.

Adoption coverage of Basildon’s Local Plan can be read HERE.

Persimmons seek Change of Use of Canvey Island Green Belt Land, with Stable Block for just 3 Horses, whilst Profits impress and Residents unaware!

On first glance it might be puzzling to explain why Canvey Island should be the first choice for Persimmon Homes to expand their successful business interests into the world of Equestrian pursuits at the Dutch Village on Canvey Island!

Persimmon’s profits more than triple over five years to £782.6million in 2016.

And yet they have registered a Planning Proposal with Castle Point borough council;

18/0118/FUL | Erection of stable block with adjoining hay storage/tack room and associated landscaping, formation of access track together with the change of use of land.

Persimmon, this mighty developer, seeks to enter into Equestrianism with a 16+ Hectare site for just 3 horses!

thelwell

Riding Roughshod through Planning Policy

Quite obviously the Change of Use of Land is tactical manoeuvring in preparation for their challenge to the next cpbc Local Plan, Housing Supply and its interpretation of Green Belt Policy.

Either way, should the Dutch Village site become developed with the anticipated 300 dwellings, the infrastructure issues on Canvey Island will be exacerbated.

Health Service, traffic, recreation and Flooding issues will all be worsened, affecting each and every Canvey Island and South Benfleet resident!

The Change of use of Land, should signify a warning to all of the Borough’s Green Belt site neighbours, many of the Borough’s GB sites have some Built Development on them.

CPBC needs to be working on a Red Line to define where GB land changes from their pristine, cherished “virgin” sites to, GB with limited development, before finally becoming Previously developed Green Belt with the same lack of protection as Brownfield sites.

The KEY to ANY Canvey Island development must be that it is, APPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT!

Castle Point council must respond in the correct manner to this application. We should all make our thoughts known to the council officers, otherwise Green Belt Policy will be undermined and Canvey Island and Sth.Benfleet residents will suffer.

The Link to the Application to view documents and to make comment is HERE.

Reasons to Object or comment upon could include:

Green Belt Development

as a whole, it should be considered that the proposal represents inappropriate development in the Green Belt. The NPPF identifies that such development may only be permitted under Very Special Circumstances.
NPPF Paragraph 83 instructs “Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.”
It can be argued that the “Change of Use of Land” should also only be considered, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan rather than by individual applications.

“All permanent stables and field shelters will require planning permission and, if the land is not in use for the keeping of horses, an application is unlikely to be acceptable.”

The term Very Special Circumstances implies that a desperate “Need” for this facility must be Obvious and Proven, or that there are very few similar facilities in the area.
It should be noted that there are many similar facilities in the local area.

The “facilities are small scale” indeed accommodating a maximum of 3 horses only. This will have no tangible impact on any suggested unmet need for such facilities, even if such need were proven to exist.

The applicant refers to the Purposes of the Green Belt and notes ‘to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas’;
The applicant points out that their intention is to construct “buildings in the Green Belt will give rise to built development”

Archaeological Features

The field abutting the proposed Stable Yard contains the Roman Saltern, a scheduled Ancient Monument, 260m south east of Great Russell Head Farm. This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance.

Proposed Access

The current access is on a busy dual carriageway, Canvey Road.

The design plans indicate the intention to “set back” the gated entrance 6 metres from the footpath. Whilst this “pull in” may make the actual entry to the field somewhat safer, other Canvey Road field entrances, with similar “pull in”design, have been the subject of serious “Fly Tipping” problems. This has been notably recorded at the entrances to the Canvey West Marsh RSPB site, directly opposite.

Vandalism and the protection from Harm of Horses

The Stable Block would likely act as a “magnet” for vandals being, unlit, housing unattended animals over night, out of sight of passers-by view thereby “secret”, and of wooden construction, containing feed and bedding, all potential fire hazards.*

*Extracted from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group’s 4 page Objection document.

Illustration with apologies to Thelwell

Virgin Green Belt, Rarer than Hens Teeth? Let’s Hope Not!

Dan Cookson has created a Map identifying buildings and development within the Green Belt.

development-in-green-belt

Within the Castle Point area it is difficult to identify any Green Belt areas without any development.

This could prove difficult somewhat to justify to an Inspector local opinion of which areas constitute the category of being “Virginal” or Un-developed Green Belt.

Whilst certain areas or sites will qualify as being Un-developed, a challenge may come via the erosion of the belt, as in Green Belt.

Lets hope this is not as tricky to defend in the light of “our broken housing market” and the intent to “build more homes.”

Dan Cookson’s Map of Buildings in the Green Belt can be found via this LINK.

The Map combines information provided by Alasdair Rae @undertheraedar and DCLG.

Dan Cookson is a housing market info. & research specialist. 

Castle Point Green Belt policies must be watertight to avoid dissection and withstand scrutiny!

The desire to protect Castle Point Green Belt will receive the closest scrutiny.

In Castle Point there was an attempt to protect ALL Green Belt, this wish was diluted into protection of Virgin Green Belt, or previously developed.

This protection policy has yet to be tested through the Local Plan process, however included within the cpbc chief executive’s statement are these words; “The Council takes the view that protecting the green belt is more important than providing new housing”.

Green Belt, it is accepted, should only be developed in Exceptional Circumstances and it must be remembered that Green Belt is considered to serve any of 5 Purposes;

● to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;                                                                               

● to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;                                                                          

● to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;                                                                    

● to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and                                                          

● to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

During Sajid Javid’s first DCLG questions in parliament July 2016, he was asked if he would “guarantee” during his tenure as communities secretary “there will be no dilution whatever to the vital protections of the green belt”. The new communities secretary replied, the green belt is “absolutely sacrosanct”.

January’s Castle Point Council’s development control committee meeting found that there were special circumstances within two planning proposals that warranted permitting development on two Green Belt sites within the Borough.

The first, allowed the enlargement of an existing property primarily on the grounds that it would benefit the owners personal circumstances. The adopted Local Plan denies such expansion, but it appears that the Local Plan2016 would make such allowance, should the Plan be adopted.

This decision suggests that sympathy towards a personal situation can be considered a very special circumstance!

This follows previous committee objections to change of use and expansion of properties in the Green Belt.

The second proposal (on what one member classed as “scrubland!”), was considered a “very large development in the Green Belt,” and sought to provide “much needed” equestrian facilities and offices on Canvey Island.

Agenda paper work described the area as a “Significant amount of development in the Green Belt.”

“Conclusion on the Principle of Development ; The Green Belt argument in this case is finely balanced.”

Also….“Clearly (Tidal) flood water depths of this magnitude would be likely to cause distress to horses present within the stables on this unattended site and owners would no doubt attempt to attend the site, if possible, in order to move/retrieve their animals and equipment, thus the proposal would be likely to increase risk to animals and humans during a flood event.”

“It would appear likely that stable buildings would not be built to the same level of precautionary specification as dwellings and it is considered unlikely therefore that the proposed buildings would be able to withstand significant hydrodynamic and hydrostatic impact without significant preventative investment.”

thelwell

The proposal is to provide stables and offices developed of bricks and  mortar.

Therefore this site would presumably become a previously developed  (non Virgin Green Belt) site.

In one single development committee decision the Green Belt land has an altered status,  potentially allowing  it to be available for change of use for Housing in the future, should the equestrian use become unviable at some time in the future..

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of both development applications.

It maybe inevitable that, in possibly the near future, the development committee’s decision-making in allowing  the change of status of Green Belt land  to take place, so as to satisfy the Borough’s need for equestrian facilities, is scrutinised against the local authority’s position on Green Belt release to support Housing Need.

The chief executive’s statement that “The Council takes the view that protecting the green belt is more important than providing new housing”, given the recent decisions, may not convey an entirely ethical position.

Furthermore the Daily Mail reveal that “A survey of local politicians reveals that 58 per cent believe their local authority will have to sacrifice precious countryside land by 2022 to keep up with Government demands for housing.”

Pic: Thelwell

Gloves OFF-Round 2! Castle Point, Green Belt or Not Green Belt?

It can be argued that the “political row” was warranted when the Castle Point Council Development Committee met to discuss the development proposal for Solby Farm.

Whether all Green Belt is Green Belt, or whether some development means it automatically becomes a Brownfield site or previously developed Green Belt is a sensitive matter to councillors and residents alike.

Jotmans Magaret March Benfleethistory.org.uk

Jotmans Farm development proposal remains with the Secretary of State for decision.

What should not become a material factor is romantic rhetoric such as “pristine” or “virgin” Green Belt. There are clear long standing purposes for Green Belt and if these functions have been eroded then that marks a failure in the historic development patterns within the borough.

A quick look at Solby Wood on Google Earth indicates that incremental development has eroded the extent of the Green Belt around that area. The site itself contains some equestrian buildings and a few stored caravans, we assume these are not for permanent on-site living accommodation.

At the time of the Local Plan2016 publication 2 motions were considered, one to protect ALL Green Belt as indicated in the 1998 Local Plan, and the second motion to protect undeveloped Green Belt. Officers indicated that it may be easier to argue at examination stage for the protection of All of the Green Belt.

However as we know cpbc voted to include some Green Belt sites for Housing development.

This was referred to in general terms during the Castle Point Local Plan2016 Duty to Cooperate pre-examination hearing with reference to balancing the Housing Need and Green Belt Policies.

This being the case it may be argued that as a general policy cpbc are willing to release some areas of Green Belt. Should that be in areas in which there is no realistic appetite for developers to build at present, this policy may lead to an Inspector concluding that if cpbc are willing to release some Green Belt it may be timely to marry the developers preferred areas with the Need for Housing. That would be unfortunate as this is not what strategic planning should be driven by.

It may be a case of the Inspector being willing to give cpbc the benefit of the doubt and approving the Local Plan2016 but with an early review. Should the proposed 100 dwellings per annum supply not be achieved then, no doubt, appeals for developers preferred sites would inevitably be successful.

It could also have been argued, which I did not pick up on hearing during the cpbc planning meeting, that the application could be rejected as being Premature. The Local Plan2016 must get over the first hurdle of the Duty to Cooperate, ahead of going under Examination for the tests of Soundness and legality.

Instead this proposal was treated as a means of endorsing the unexamined Local Plan2016. Members suggested that to reject the proposal would be inconsistent with the draft Local Plan2016, however in effect the Approval indicated a dismissal of enforcing the Adopted Local Plan with its different approach to Green Belt defence.

Prematurity would then have served both purposes of enforcing the Adopted Local Plan whilst allowing for the timely emergence of the altered approach to Green Belt policy in the Local Plan2016 should that be successful under Examination.

The policy of allowing development proposals, as in the case of Solby Farm  with funding for off-site affordable housing supply, rather than actually including on-site affordable homes, almost inevitably increases the deprivation levels in already deprived areas – the “Not in My Backyard” syndrome!

Other serious matters such as lack of amenity space and under use of development land could also be given reasonable consideration, rather than the proposal being decided simply by the threat that we dare not Approve in case the Local Plan2016 should Fail on the result of the handling of a proposal for 46 “executive” dwellings.

Similar muddlings occur where caravans are concerned in our neighbouring borough of Basildon, as recorded in the Travellers Times earlier this year;

Before the eviction of the Dale Farm Travellers site at Crays Hill near Basildon, Essex, in 2011, local council leader Tony Ball said: “Dale Farm has been illegally developed on green belt land. By doing this … the Travellers have broken the law.” After the eviction Cllr Ball thanked Inspector Knacker and bailiffs and promised to restore the site in keeping with its green belt status. This hasn’t happened. It still looks like an urban wasteland.

Basildon council’s draft local plan now suggests building up to 2,500 houses in Crays Hill – much of which is green belt. Whilst the council says the draft does not propose any development of Dale Farm itself, an eager developer is canvassing travellers who own plots on both the legal site and the illegal site which was cleared, and exploring the possibility of building homes there. The council says there are no plans to build on the legal site, and that the draft local plan proposes to safeguard it for Gypsies and Travellers, but the developer can feed into the local plan and suggest developing the site.

Any developer would have a number of obstacles to overcome, including the fact that some pitches have injunctions protecting standing gates, fences and even three lawful plots, which would need to be quashed in court, and the fact that the land is severely contaminated. If the Travellers are to feel it is worthwhile to sell their pitches (most want a minimum of £100,000) then charges against the pitches that the council have taken out to cover the cost of the eviction will need to be dropped. These range between £60,000 and £360,000 per pitch and the council says it has no plans to remove them — yet. It is a great bargaining tool, after all.

The Travellers are well aware of the irony of the fact that they were evicted from the green belt because nobody is supposed to live on such cherished land – yet “settled” people could live there, possibly in their hundreds, in executive homes, just a few years later. One wonders what it would be called – Dale Farm Close, perhaps? But having lived in squalor for the best part of five years, they seem prepared to go quietly – if Basildon and a friendly developer are willing to help them.

By Katharine Quarmby (first published in Private Eye and republished with kind permission T.T.).

Castle Point must not appear similarly indecisive!

A link to the cpbc Solby Farm committee meeting can be found HERE.