Strategic Planning at Castle Point in a Spin
September 29, 2013 by Editor
“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.”