At a special Council meeting last week, Castle Point Borough Council pledged to develop a joint spatial plan with five other South Essex Local Planning Authorities and Essex County Council.

At the end of March 2018, the then Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced he was sending in a team of experts led by chief planner Steve Quartermain, to assess whether he should take over local plan preparation at Castle Point, Thanet in Kent and Wirral in Merseyside due to their continued failure to produce a local plan.

The three were among 15 authorities warned last autumn by Javid that they faced intervention unless they provided an adequate explanation for their lack of progress by 31 January.

Castle Point Borough Council formally withdrew their draft local plan from examination in April 2017, following an Inspector’s conclusion that it had failed to meet the duty to co-operate.

Last Wednesday’s special meeting was called to approve the preparation of a new local plan and agree a new local development scheme, which sets out the plan timetable.

The Committee report states that the new timetable would see the Council begin the first stage of consultation on the draft plan next month, with publication of the first draft in November 2018. Following further consultation, submission of the document for examination is earmarked for April 2019.

Moreover, since the start of April 2018, the report states that Quartermain and his MHCLG team have requested information to support their review to give confidence that the Council can deliver a Local Plan, including an accelerated delivery programme for a local plan.

At the end of May 2018, the Chief Planner encouraged the leader and chief executive not to delay the delivery of a new Local Plan, and to consider agreeing a new timetable in early June.

A final report on intervention from the Secretary of State is expected at the end of June 2018.

Furthermore, the Committee report states that it is clear both from the evidence and from advice from the Chief Planner and consultants acting for the Secretary of State, that some land in the green belt will need to be considered for housing.

The report then goes on to state that the most important issue to bear in mind is that the Secretary of State needs confidence that the Council will prepare a Local Plan. If he detects that there is an unwillingness to commit to an accelerated timetable to have a plan prepared quickly, or to commit to difficult decisions regarding the allocation of sites for housing (including those in the green belt), then he will direct that others (either a County Council, or consultants) prepare a plan for him, at cost to the Council.

If that were to occur the Council will then play no further part in plan-making. However, if the Council is to retain control over plan-making for the borough, it is essential that the Council now commits to the preparation of a New Local Plan for Castle Point 2018.

In addition, members also approved a statement of common ground prepared by the Association of South Essex Local Authorities, to guide the preparation of a joint strategic plan for South Essex.

The joint plan would involve Castle Point, Basildon, Brentwood, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock and Essex County Council.

The first stage of consultation is earmarked for January 2019, with plan publication in November 2019, and adoption in the autumn of 2020.