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Concerns Over Guildford’s Local Plan Raised Ahead of Public Consultation

Published on: 10 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 11 Dec, 2021

Local Plan Part 2

By Emily Coady Stemp

local democracy reporter

Councillors have raised concerns that Guildford’s Local Plan is not doing enough to tackle the “disaster” of infilling ahead of a planned round of public consultation.

The Plan outlines expectations on developers regarding heritage, environmental factors, design and infrastructure of an area. It includes provision for 1,500 homes on the Weyside Urban Village and development of the former Wisley Airfield.

This is the second part of Guildford Borough Council’s local plan process and when it is brought in the plan will fully replace the previous guidance agreed in the 2003 plan, and builds on the first stage that was controversially adopted days before the borough council election in May 2019.

The previous stage of the Plan under the last administration had aimed to deliver at least 10,678 additional homes by 2034.

Cllr John Rigg

Lead councillor for regeneration, John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Yrinity), said that all suggestions from councillors during the process of bringing together the document had been considered and responded to if not taken on board.

He said at a council meeting on Tuesday night: “There are bound to be areas of disagreement but there have been many changes made through the policy-making process and many responses accepted through the panel meetings.”

The consultation period will run for six weeks from early January to mid-February 2022. Five councillors abstained on the vote to put the local plan out to public consultation, with all others present voting in favour.

The borough council’s leader, Joss Bigmore, said the Plan includes a prioritising of total energy efficiency and the council will work with developers on building gas-free homes.

Cllr Catherine Young

Cllr Young (GGG, Clandon & Horsley), who abstained when it came to the vote, said she felt the council could be doing more to address climate change in plans for new housing. She said conversations were ongoing with Natural England about protection for ancient woodland.

She also raised the issue of infilling, where gaps between existing buildings are developed.

She said: “It’s proving a disaster in our villages whether you’re in or out of the greenbelt and I think we were hoping for a little bit more defined policy.”

Cllr Chris Barrass

Cllr Christopher Barrass (R4GV, Clandon & Horsley) said he was also concerned about infilling in the villages around Guildford but he felt the current plan was better than the version they had started with.

He said: “Like Councillor Young and many others I have deep concerns about climate change, ancient woodland and particularly about infilling.

“[This] is a particular issue for those of us who do live in the villages and are watching our villages slowly being destroyed by developers who are not allowed to put an extension on a bungalow but can knock that bungalow down and build two four-bedroom houses instead.”

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Liz Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham) pointed out that the planning committee is currently relying on a policy that is 18 years old.

She said the policies will give much more control in terms of design and protection for climate and heritage and she was confident the plan had been drafted to be the strongest it could be at this time.

She said there was a focus on neighbourhood plans which didn’t exist in 2003 when the last Local Plan was drawn up.

She said: “There is real recognition in these new development management policies that local people do know best about things in our villages, particularly things like parking and our protection of the environment and dark skies.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

In a statement the council leader, Cllr Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), said the climate emergency declared by the council in 2019 was reflected in the new draft Local Plan.

He said the council would be working with developers to ensure full electric and gas-free buildings. He said: “The draft local plan, and all the policies that it contains is so important.

“We get to set the standards that developers have to meet. Our proposed policies cover topics such as heritage, biodiversity, design, infrastructure and transport.

“Our policies also follow sustainable practice by prioritising total energy efficiency. It is better to use less energy than increase the amount of low carbon energy created with more solar panels. Our proposed policies require improved design and construction, better insulation, and efficient heating and lighting.”

The draft Plan will now progress to a second stage of public consultation.

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