A high housing need and green belt restrictions has led to seven local authorities in Essex working in partnership to deliver a joint planning strategy.

The seven authorities are Essex County Council, Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford and Southend-on-Sea, and have come together to form the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) which was agreed at the start of the year to form working arrangements. The aim is to produce an “overarching framework within which more focused local development plans will be prepared”.

All authorities have now submitted draft statements of common ground to ensure they meet the challenging duty to cooperate. The statement commits them to prepare a formal join strategic plan for a green belt-constrained area where local plan processes have been delayed by an inability to resolve local opposition to new housing developments.

The final plan, which requires unanimous approval from all seven councils, will look to set housing targets their distribution, as well as identifying key employment sites and infrastructure priorities. One of the main aims of the plan will be to find suitable locations for 90,000 new homes in South Essex to be built over the next 20 years.

The production of a joint plan comes in the context of delays in local plan preparation in which three authorities (Basildon, Brentwood and Castle Point) were threatened with government intervention due to the slow speed of progress. Basildon and Brentwood have since been told that they will face no further action, but will be monitored closely.

Castle Point however withdrew their last local plan after failing in their duty to cooperate and for allocating only 100 out 400 new homes required per year. They are now seeking to submit an interim local plan to cover the next 5 to 10 years. Some fear, however, that the creation of a joint strategic plan will be used to justify the on-going delays.

28 June 2018