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Council fears for a concrete jungle future
5:40am Monday 30th September 2013 in News
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 blueprint 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 built, the Government could step in and take control. If we do not vote something through it also leaves us open to developers to take advantage.
“We do not want Castle Point to be turned into a concrete jungle, but we do not know how to stop it.”
Another Tory councillor who would not be named said: “There is a lot of ill-feeling between the planning officers 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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