Local plan "project fear" debunked


 

Local Plan “Project Fear” de-bunked

 

In 2018 the then Conservative-led Council made some helpful, but minor, changes to the Local Plan prior to putting it out to consultation and submitting it to the National Planning Inspectorate (NPI).

 

Many readers will remember how they argued they could not make more meaningful changes as the government had given Basildon, along with Castle Point and others, a deadline to submit a Local Plan or face the prospect of intervention. It was claimed that further changes would take extra time (true), triggering a government intervention, which it was further argued, would be catastrophic.

 

At the time we argued that there was little chance of any government intervention as they lacked the human resources and political capital to do so, we also doubted that any intervention would be worse that what the town now faces. We were described as naïve, and to be fair the decision to comply with the deadline was understandable – we had our doubts too.

 

But while Basildon buckled, Castle Point held firm.

 

Now, a year on, Castle Point and BDRA-BAG have been vindicated. An article in “Planning” magazine describes how, despite no further progress since their Councillors rejected a draft Plan that would have built on a great deal of Green Belt, Castle Point faces no foreseeable prospect of the government taking over. 

 

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The Local Plan doom-mongering was wrong, but the Council has already presented the NPI with a draft Plan which would give up large areas of Green Belt in order to accelerate migration to the area.

 

We know “Told You So” isn’t a gracious message, but it’s probably a necessary as BDRA-BAG and others have de-bunked a number of the Council-promoted myths in the last few years, for example:

 

  • That without a Plan, Green Belt protection would expire and developers would enjoy a ‘free-for-all’ on the local countryside.
  • That Objectively Assessed Needs (OAN) were a measure of local housing need – they go much further.
  • That OAN had to be met. Green Belt and other constraints are good reasons not to meet OAN – the current draft Plan, bad as it is, does not meet OAN. 
  • That it’s a zero-sum game - that protecting countryside in one part of the borough, means another part of the borough must suffer

 

These myths shaped the development of a Local Plan which threatens to be very damaging to Billericay and to the Borough as a whole. We don’t know how long the Local Plan saga will roll on for, but BDRA-BAG know the Plan, the sites and the evidence base, as well as anyone in the borough. 

 

We hope that as the situation develops, that the Council gives more weight to the views of community representatives such as BDRA.

 

 

 

Local plan "project fear" debunked