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Strategic Planning at Castle Point in a Spin

September 29, 2013 by  

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Council fears for a concrete jungle futureCouncillors are saying “We do not want Castle Point to be turned into a concrete jungle, but don’t know how to stop it !!”

“The Government wants to see more development in South Essex and has got us over a barrel.”

What do outsiders think?

It seems surprising that Castle Point Councillors have chosen to question the Conservative led Government especially when the Council has a Conservative Administration.

One wonders what they expect to achieve because most District Councils are managing to avoid a clash with Government by putting house building plans in place to avoid planning powers being effectively taken away from the Council.

But as Castle Point Council is so against the new house building targets as a resident you would have to agree that the Council is doing the right thing.

If Castle Point truly do not know what the heck to do then perhaps the Leader of The Council should be making an urgent appointment in Westminster to tell David Cameron and Eric Pickles that Conservative Government Policy is not for Castle Point.

It is all a bit of a mystery why all the Conservative run Councils in South Essex have not got together and challenged Pickles and Osborne because they all must know that saying to residents that they had no choice but to follow Conservative Government Policy will not rub on the doorstep.

Perhaps with Campaigning for the 2015 General Election already underway there might be change in Government Policy to let Castle Point off the hook?

As regards the Rochford Core Strategy speaking to residents of Hawkwell recently identified to us some significant flaws in what is happening.  They want to know that if their children, as young adults, wished to stay in the area then they could find housing to rent or buy.  They do not understand the term Affordable Housing.  Residents think that this means that there will be one and two bedroom houses to buy at prices they can afford.  Not so. Affordable Houses means that these houses are made available for rent from a Registered Social Landlord.  Unfortunately, there are more than enough people on the Housing Register to take these up already.

Whatever Government “Help to Buy Scheme” you look at, even with the 5% cash and the remaining deposit of 15% Guaranteed by Mr. Cameron announced today, you still need an 80% Mortgage.  Even with a property costing £300,000 you still need a Mortgage of £240,000.  Plus £45,000 provided by the Government on the 15% Deposit making a 95% Loan of £285,000. Can young adults with University Loans of 20,000 – £40,000 EACH afford a Loan of £285,000 on top? 

How can these new houses be for our kids?

If the houses for sale are too big and too expensive then young adults will have to leave the area which is what the Rochford District Census 2011 suggests has happened and will no doubt continue. Perhaps this explains why the Rochford District Census 2011 also shows that there has been no increase in 0-18 year olds over 10 years.

As regards our aging population Council Officers told us at a Hearing that if older people wished to downsize then they could also apply to rent Affordable Homes from Registered Social Landlords.  But why would they want to rent 3 bedroom homes even if the Registered Social Landlords could ignore the waiting list on the Housing Register?

There is something fundamentally wrong here if residents think that the young (children) and old (parents) are not properly catered for in Council Housing Strategies for the local communities that they serve.

The housing in Rochford District has increased at average of 183 per year (2001 – 2011 by Council figures) and apart from the housing stock for rent by Registered Social Landlords this has met the needs of all age groups.

Perhaps Castle Point has more to concern itself with before it decides whether to buck Government Policy or not.

And Rochford District needs to consider these facts and trends in its Revision of the Core Strategy which starts again in January 2014.

If you want to read the Echo Article (27 September 2013) entitled “Council fears for a concrete jungle future” then it is below;

CONCERNS have been raised that the future development of thousands of homes in Castle Point could be left in the hands of the Government.

Castle Point Council is in the process of creating a new Local Plan which will act as a blue-print for where new homes could be built in the borough over the next 15 years.

It is the authority’s third attempt at putting together the housing strategy, as the original proposals were rejected by a Government inspector in 2010 and again in September 2011, following opposition from residents and backbench councillors.

Now, councillors are claiming the new draft document, which is yet to be completed, might not get voted through as it bears too much resemblance to previous plans.

If the new plan is rejected at full council, councillors fear the Government’s Planning Inspectorate would intervene and take the decision-making powers away from the local authority.

Alf Partridge, Conservative councillor for St Mary’s ward, said: “When I last saw the latest scheme I was not happy with it because it would still mean seeing the demise of green belt. I cannot see any difference between this plan and the last one.

“Council officers are making a valiant effort to try to rescue us from a ridiculous situation and find new ideas of where to put these homes, but what the heck can we do?

“The Government wants to see more development in south Essex and has got us over a barrel. It was talking about 200 homes a year and now its 250 homes. I am not happy to commit to such high numbers of new houses.

“But if we do not come up with a practical plan to allow a certain number of homes to be and members at the moment as we try to agree something. There is a good chance of the Government coming in and taking over. ”

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said: “The council has found itself in a difficult position. If everyone doesn’t agree this time round, the Government could come in and decide things for us.

“I don’t think the Tories will vote it through because they are looking at a lot of development on the mainland which could lose them voters. But they have to make tough decisions.”

However, Tory councillor Bill Sharp said a new committee of six councillors has been put together to scrutinise all the potential development sites in the next few weeks.

He also said new sites have come to light, such as the Blinking Owl site off the A127, which could help relieve the pressure on the major green belt sites.

Mr Sharp said: “The Blinking Owl site has been left out in the past, but already has around six or seven entrances from the A127 and could be a suitable site. While I am concerned, I am not as concerned as I was a few weeks ago.

“I am confident we can come to a decision that will not see us lost our virgin green belt sites.”

 

 

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2 Responses to “Strategic Planning at Castle Point in a Spin”
  1. Editor says:

    From Facebook in response to this Article

    Linda Kendall

      John Your figures concur with those we sent with our objection to the Inspector. There has been minimal increase in our long term settled population. We wonder if these Government (all colours) housing requirements are linked to the mass immigration we have experienced.

      John Mason

      Linda Kendall, I am unable to comment on immigration issues because I have no facts but what I do expect from the new Strategic Market Housing Assessment for the Thames Gateway South East (Rochford District Council is a Member), which should be published mid November, is that it will address the issue of the housing needs for London and the extent that the Thames Gateway South East will be expected to make new homes available for migration from London.

      John Mason – I am unable to comment on immigration issues because I have no facts but what I do expect from the new Strategic Market Housing Assessment for the Thames Gateway South East (Rochford District Council is a Member), which should be publish…See More

      John Mason

      Following on from above:http://www.knightfrank.co.uk/

      Demand for housing in London will outstrip supply by 48% over the coming decade
      http://www.knightfrank.co.uk

      John Mason

      New household growth projections from DCLG, which take into account Census 2011 data for the first time, show a near 40% rise in the number of new households expected to be created in London between 2011 and 2021: a total of 525,790

      The supply pipeline suggests that delivery of new units will fall far short of this, with an estimated 277,240 new units expected to be delivered over the next decade
      30 minutes ago · Like

      Richard Lambourne

      the underlying problem in London and of course in Rochford is that developers can make more money with less density/large dwellings than they can with smaller homes suitable as starter homes so why should they build them. If planners insist they just appeal their way up the chain until they win. The real issue is that a government any government should reduce the magnetism of London and the south-east which is over populated. Say “NO MORE” development rather than the current more more more and invest in infrastructure like the HSL, Cross Country rail, better broadband etc and get people away into other parts of the country or working from home

      John Mason

      Richard – I agree with your analysis and would go further to say that developers are also only primarily interested in the South East rather than elsewhere because of the intrinsic profitability of that Region. So Government give them what they want otherwise they would stall. There is even a move to try to get Government to reduce the level of Affordable Houses below 35% by sitting on land in the South East to generate greater profit. I just wanted to let Members of RAG know what I see on the horizon. If there was good news coming from the New SHMA then it would have been leaked by now. It is firmly under wraps and I have not seen a Draft released to ordinary Members of RDC since January. I fear a sharp increase in the current quota of 250 per year. I am sure that the response to protest will be that the Council has no choice but to comply.

      Richard Lambourne – the underlying problem in London and of course in Rochford is that developers can make more money with less density/large dwellings than they can with smaller homes suitable as starter homes so why should they build them. If planners insist…See More

      John Mason – I agree with your analysis and would go further to say that developers are also only primarily interested in the South East rather than elsewhere because of the intrinsic profitability of that Region. So Government give them what t…See More

      Richard Lambourne – why do they have to comply ? if they refuse or just drag their feet what will the Government do…….with hold funding ???

      John Mason – Richard- Would it not mean the Council defying a Conservative Government? With penalties of even more in a developer free for all. This is all documented.

      Richard Lambourne – Mason best we get more “ratepayer” and “independant” councillors and do just that. Or maybe the local conservatives develop a backbone

      John Mason Yes, lets do that !!

      Richard Lambourne – I’m talking to Simon Smith this evening maybe I’ll suggest he stand up for Rayleigh, as it is it’s a nice safe seat for all……….if they upset the locals then maybe it wont be

      John Mason – Perhaps you can get an agreement to go back to 190 pa instead of 250 pa?

      John Mason – I thought that you might wish to see this having referred to it generally above.

      DUTY TO CO-OPERATE

      The duty to co-operate in the Localism Act requires local authorities to take a lead on strategic planning and tackle the issues that impact on the ‘larger than local’ area and cut across administrative boundaries.

      It is a legally enforceable duty on Councils. Section 110 of the Localism Act sets out the ‘duty to co-operate’. This applies to all local planning authorities, national park authorities and county councils in England.

      The ‘duty to co-operate’ is a legal requirement of the plan preparation process. It is the first thing that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) will look at. PINs will need to see sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the ‘duty to co-operate’ has been undertaken appropriately for the plan being examined.

      What happens if a council will not co-operate or cannot agree?

      Co-operation works two ways. Situations may arise where an invitation to co-operate is not accepted, or agreement on shared policy outcomes cannot be reached.

      Where co-operation is not forthcoming, PINs are likely to consider the extent to which the request to co-operate is ‘reasonable’ based on the evidence. If the deliverability of the plan is dependant on a reasonable request for co-operation by the plan-making body that is not forthcoming, the plan may still be found unsound unless some form of working arrangement can be brokered.

      If PINS consider that the legal requirement to co-operate has been met through joint working but there is disagreement about the policy outcome (for example the proposed level of housing provision), then this will need to be resolved through the examination process based on the evidence.

      All of these scenarios will cause delay and uncertainty and should be avoided if possible. Councils and other public bodies covered by the duty should make every effort to ensure that strategic issues are properly addressed at the formative stages of the plan preparation process, and that any major disagreements are resolved well before the examination.

      Richard Lambourne – thank-you for the explanation above. It seems from a brief chat with Cllr Smith if the council dont co-operate developers will propose new build and appeal under the pre-text that helps to fulfil the Plan so they will succeed with the council picking up substantial costs. He feels that the lower Rayleigh developments is the lesser of many evils. I dont subscribe to this view and have arranged a face to face in weeks time

      John Mason – the “stock” response from Cllr Smith that I mentioned to you above. The issue of Duty to Co-operate comes in for the Revision of the Rochford District Core Strategy which commences in January having been informed by the New SHMA which will be published in November. I believe that the New SHMA falls within the legal basis of Duty to Co-operate and therefore the Revision of the Core Strategy. But that does not mean that Council’s cannot decide otherwise. I quote “If PINS consider that the legal requirement to co-operate has been met through joint working but there is disagreement about the policy outcome (for example the proposed level of housing provision), then this will need to be resolved through the examination process based on the evidence.” That means that both the Council and Residents can present evidence at a Public Hearing before a Planning Inspector. But it might just be residents objecting and there must be evidence to support another proposal. I hope this helps inform and does not bore residents.

      Richard Lambourne – thanks again, although basically boring it is vital that more people take an interest

      John Mason – Richard, Yes I agree. All I am trying to do is inform residents of the process and where and how residents can interject into a decision making process where some Councillors are, may be, suggesting that the Council they run has no choice. There is, of course, a choice. I will go now having completed my objective to give information to residents groups.

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