At Last, Some Co-Operative Local Politics

YESTERDAY EVENING’S Cabinet meeting had two surprises in store: an admission by a Canvey Island Independent Party member that the borough has a housing problem, and the reported support of Canvey Island Town Council (CITC) for a cabinet proposal to introduce a borough-wide dog fouling scheme. (The Town Council has, of course, been endlessly debating its own costly proposals regarding dog fouling on the island, which have been heavily criticised).

Unlike the Town Council’s proposals, however, Castle Point will enforce its scheme using current personnel and introducing maximum fines.

Cllr Peter Burch

The plan was put to cabinet by Cllr Peter Burch, the cabinet member for Leisure and Environment, who recommended that:-

  1. The Cabinet endorses the proposal to make a borough- wide Dog Control Order which would make failure to remove dog faeces on all open land to which the public have access, an offence;
  2. The Cabinet endorses the proposal to set the fixed penalty fine at the maximum allowable, i.e. £80 and to prosecute persistent offenders (maximum fine £1000); and
  3. Officers undertake the necessary consultation and report back their findings prior to Cabinet determining whether to recommend to Council to proceed with the making of the Dog Control Order.

Castle Point Borough Council (CPBC) is obliged to consult with CITC on its plans.

Cabinet member and Town Councillor, Ray Howard, spoke of the Town Council’s strong support for the measures proposed, which were carried unanimously.

Cllr Jeffrey Stanley

Cllr Jeffrey Stanley, cabinet member for Corporate Policy Resources and Performance, provided a detailed assessment of the important Housing Revenue Account reforms, enacted by the previous Labour government and now under consultation.

Unlike the present situation, where the difference between rent income and maintenance costs disappears from the Borough to assist other local authorities with poor housing stock – and 75 percent of any revenue from tenant home-purchase is paid to central government – CPBC would be able to retain all those funds to build affordable housing of its own.

However, in order to ensure poor local authorities are not disadvantaged, the Borough would need to take-on a central government debt of £33.9 million – to be repaid over 30 years.

The proposals would not provide CPBC with the ability to meet its own housing needs; but would go a short way towards it – perhaps providing enough funds to build some six units per year. The vast majority of the borough’s affordable housing would still need to be met by local housing associations and private developers.

Cllr Lee Barrett

Surprisingly, Lee Barrett, of the CIIP, took time-out to attend the cabinet meeting and speak in favour of the proposal. He read a prepared statement in which he accepted the need for more affordable housing and, in his personal capacity as serving on the Audit Committee, provided his support.

It is the first time, to this author’s knowledge, that a CIIP member has ever formally accepted the need for additional housing in the borough – or address the financial issues involved.

It was agreed to note the report’s contents and approve the draft responses to the consultation.

Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers, Head of Regeneration and Homes, addressed the Coalition Government’s changes to PPS3 (its Planning Policy Statement regarding housing).

‘The government reissued its policy statement on 9 June,’ he said, ‘to give local authorities the opportunity to prevent overdevelopment and garden grabbing.’

Under the new PPS3, private residential gardens have been excluded from the definition of ‘previously developed land,’ and the national indicative minimum density of building 30 dwellings per hectare has been deleted.

However, he continued, local authorities are still expected to demonstrate the extent to which their existing plans identify and maintain a rolling five-year supply of deliverable land for housing. So it continues to be the case that CPBC needs to ensure that plans demonstrating a five year supply remain in place.

His explanation made clear the reasons why Cabinet was still obliged to present its Core Strategy for approval by the government inspector.

Cllr Pam Challis, OBE

In proposing: ‘That the Cabinet notes the commencement of the Examination of the Castle Point Core Strategy Development Plan Document on Tuesday 22nd June 2010, and agrees that the Chief Executive or the Head of Regeneration and Homes in consultation with the Leader of the Council may agree to minor amendments to the Core Strategy which the Inspector may suggest or recommend to the Council,’ the Leader of the Council, Pam Challis, highlighted:-

  • On 27 May 2010, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote to Council leaders highlighting the new Government’s commitment to rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and return decision-making powers on housing and planning (including housing supply and the provision of travellers sites) to local councils without the framework of regional numbers and plans.
  • Formal revocation of the RSS has not yet occurred and, in legal terms, the current RSS (East of England Plan) is still part of the development plan. National policy (including PPS12 & PPS3) also remains in force. Nevertheless, because the Government intends to abolish RSSs this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans. For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing (Matter 7) into the Castle Point Core Strategy until clarity is provided in a formal Ministerial statement.
  • It may also be necessary to revisit matters where the consequences of abolishing the RSS could have some effect although there is no intention to do so at the moment.
  • Should national or regional policy change, or the scope and nature of the examination alter as a result of new government statements, the agenda, nature and content of the matters and issues for examination may need to be further amended.
  • In light of these changes hearing statements on housing matters should not be submitted until indicated by the Inspector.

In addition, she noted that: ‘An additional question has been added to the opening session of the Examination (Matter 1) in order to provide all parties with the opportunity to comment on the changes now being proposed to the planning system.’

It remains to be seen how quickly the Coalition Government can act to prevent the previous government’s Regional Spatial Strategies from being adopted.

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New Political Year – New Mayor for CPBC

Mayor David Cross

TO MARK THE START of the new political year, Castle Point Borough Council elected a new mayor. He is David Cross, the Conservative councillor for St Mary’s Ward, who replaces last year’s mayor, Cliff Brunt.

His deputy will be Jackie Govier, the Conservative member for St George’s Ward.

Pam Challis, Conservative, St Peter’s, was officially re-elected as Council Leader, along with her deputy, the Conservative member for Boyce Ward, Jeffrey Stanley.

Godfrey Isaacs, Conservative, St James, was appointed as the Member for Safer Communities – replacing Tony Belford, who retired ahead of this month’s local elections.