Castle Point to vote on Local Plan tonight, amid looming threat of Government intervention

CASTLE Point Council will vote tonight on whether to approve its draft Local Plan and send it out for a final consultation.

If the plan is not approved, Government may step in and take over the process, leaving residents and councillors with little or no say in where the new homes are put.

Local Plans are legal documents ordered by Government to allocate land to meet housing targets, which are calculated by a Government formula.

That formula has calculated that Castle Point must accommodate 5,130 new homes between now and 2033.

But prior attempts to approve a Local Plan have failed, due to massive opposition to building on green belt land.

In 2014, the council published a draft plan for consultation but received over 3,000 responses, almost all of which were objections to building on green belt.

In 2016, the council removed most of the green belt sites, which roughly halved the number of houses it could build, and then submitted the Local Plan for examination.

But that plan was criticised by the Planning Inspector and the council had to withdraw it.

In November 2017, Tory MP Sajid Javid – then Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government – wrote to Castle Point Council and warned that if it did not make significant progress on creating its Local Plan, Government planners could be appointed to take over the project.

In March 2018, Mr Javid wrote to the council again, saying there had been a ‘consistent failure to produce a Local Plan’ and the council had ‘failed to meet milestones… at least five times since 2004’.

He wrote: “I note the exceptional circumstances given by your council are that it is constrained by green belt, that the previous plan should not have been found unsound and that you are pursuing a joint plan in South Essex.

“These do not appear to be exceptional circumstances. Green belt challenges are not unique to Castle Point; I have not seen any convincing evidence as to why I should dispute the inspector’s decision to find the previous plan unsound, which is in line with decisions on 12 other authorities who failed the duty to cooperate.”

He added: “I have decided to continue with the intervention process. This will involve a team of experts, led by the chief planner, providing me with further advice on next steps. My officials will be in contact with your officers to discuss the next steps.

“My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting Essex County Council to prepare a Local Plan for Castle Point.”

Full council will commence at 7.30pm, at the council offices in Kiln Road.

Charles Thomson

Chief ReporterEmail: [email protected]