Fringe Box



Council’s Plea To Pickles To Have Housing Target Deadline Extened

Published on: 13 Jan, 2015
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2015

Guildford Borough Council has asked the government to makes changes to current limitations on houses it must build, saying it could help to protect the green belt.

Green belt land south of Guildford.

Green belt land south of Guildford.

The leader of the council, Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, has written to Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government secretary, urging him to talk to planning ministers regarding the borough’s new Local Plan.

Currently, any housing backlog must be accommodated in the first five years of a Local Plan. Mr Mansbridge has asking the government to allow Guildford’s housing shortfall to be met over the full period of the plan.

In a council statement, Mr Mansbridge said: “All councils with high proportions of green belt or areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) are struggling with the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the supporting planning practice guidance.

“Guildford, with 89% green belt and acute infrastructure constraints compounded over decades, finds itself in a uniquely sensitive position given its inability to meet its suggested housing need without encroaching significantly on its existing green belt.

“We are therefore taking the government at its word and have decided to adopt a policy approach which will exclude all development in the green belt, unless it can be demonstrated that the list of constraints in the revised planning practice guidance (including green belt, AONB, flood risk, green space and heritage) can be overcome.

“We are now undertaking a rigorous reassessment of the potential adverse impacts on each site to assess where these impacts will ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh the benefits of meeting housing need, using the existing evidence base and comprehensive constraints, in the wake of a highly charged public consultation.

“One of our greatest challenges in preparing our draft Local Plan has been to accommodate the accrued backlog of housing since the start of our plan period in the first five years of the plan, as directed by planning practice guidance. However, we are aware that some inspectors are taking a different approach based on local circumstances, such as at Gravesham Borough Council [in Kent], where the backlog was apportioned over the whole plan period.

“If we could justify such a consistent approach in Guildford borough, this would enable us to phase our development sites more appropriately, including brownfield sites that have a longer lead in time, and thereby potentially minimising the reliance on green belt sites. This also allows time to address the current deficits in infrastructure and plan properly for any potential future development. Reducing the scale of the immediate five year housing land supply requirement could also potentially minimise the risk of ‘planning by appeal’ rather than through the democratic process.

“We have something of a perfect storm – Guildford is a vibrant retail and business centre with full occupancy and very few vacant sites. At the same time, the housing need has grown substantially. The government is also placing greater emphasis on the need for our Local Plan to align with the growth agenda set out by our Local Enterprise Partnership, Enterprise M3. It is simply not possible to meet the full backlog arising from the increased housing number in the first five years – other than by releasing green belt land, which could irrevocably damage Guildford’s character.

“We believe that our local circumstances are both unique and exceptional, and we urge the Secretary of State to consider making the strongest representations on our behalf, and that of all our residents in the borough of Guildford, so that our future Local Plan is seen by all as being entirely constructive.”

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Responses to Council’s Plea To Pickles To Have Housing Target Deadline Extened

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 13, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Reading Mr Mansbridge’s quote: “We are therefore taking the government at its word and have decided to adopt a policy approach which will exclude all development in the green belt, unless it can be demonstrated that the list of constraints in the revised planning practice guidance (including green belt, AONB, flood risk, green space and heritage) can be overcome.”

    Excellent, that means the stupid Slyfield to Clay lane link road across Zone 3b Flood plain and green belt land will be dropped from the agenda. As one metre of flood water spread over 200-plus metres of road can’t be ‘overcome’.

  2. Garry Walton Reply

    January 14, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Cllr Mansbridge is arguing for his same Local Plan but with a delayed roll out.
    He should be arguing for saving the green belt in perpetuity not concreting over it at a slower pace.

    Slow death is still death.

    The green belt should be protected like a national park and not be subject to the same targets as elsewhere.

    You can’t say you want to ‘Save the Whale’ and then allow the water to be poisoned however slowly.

    We all know this is a ploy to look like he cares about the green belt, but it is his Local Plan to sell off the green belt to foreign developers cunningly deferred until after the election, and now he will have to pay the price at the ballot box.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    January 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I’m trawling through the responses to the draft Local Plan.

    So far, I’m up to about 800 responses, I’ve found most people object to most of the proposed developments, generally to do with the green belt and infrastructure.

    Most of the support for the large green belt sites are from the developers, builders and estate agents that have a financial involvement, with only a very few members of the public supporting them.

    Most of those developers have also gone to great lengths to discredit the other large sites, laying out why they think their site is better for housing.

    There also some suggestions for new sites which the general public know nothing about.

    No wonder GBC is in a mess. It seems their eyes were bigger than their tummies when they started this Local Plan and now they’re suffering the consequences.

  4. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    January 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    So. if “Most of those developers have also gone to great lengths to discredit the other large sites, laying out why they think their site is better for housing” where does that net us out at?

    We should ignore the developers as they can’t be objective. All working on the same evidence base and they come to different conclusions. It is subjective at the end of the day, but what is worrying is that clearly the GBC Conservatives have their own subjective trajectory of excessive growth.

    The shortfall according to the new SHMA is only 161 over 12 years and there was no shortfall in the housing need until last summer.

  5. Evan Owen Reply

    January 15, 2015 at 10:02 am

    40% of England is a protected landscape, how much is actually needed for the people who live in the 9% that is developed? Is it an elitist concept drawn up by the elite for their own benefit?

  6. Neville Bryan Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Since when has looking after your environment been elitist?

    We all need clean air. We all enjoy open space. We all benefit from a quality of life brought by our great environment. Yes all of Guildford is fortunate and blessed with a great quality of life (12th in the best places to live according to last year’s Rightmove survey). It is logical that anybody who cares does not want to become a suburb, poisoned by concrete and fumes.

    And the really best bit – it is all FREE.

    I find Lisa Wright’s interesting observations on Local Plan responses, support the verbally expressed comments of people I talk to. To follow Evan Owens logic, that would make 95%+ of Guildford’s population elitist. That’s not elitist, that’s popular.

    When 7% (7,200) of the registered voters take the time and effort to respond (twice now in many cases) to the Issues and Options and Draft Local Plan, and say NO, that is a very clear message, which is crystal clear to our elected representatives.

    In turn those elected representatives have deliberately ignored that message.

    It seams the vast majority of people interested in developing Guildford in the ways proposed are those with a financial interest! That’s not elitist – that’s putting self interest first – that’s greedy.

    If you have any doubt, well the Local Plan responses are on line on the Guildford Borough Council website for everyone to read.

    Message received – roll on May elections.

  7. Susan Parker Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Within the Guildford Greenbelt Group we think that this is yet more muddle and disorganisation at Guildford Borough Council at best – and actually it looks as if it may be disinformation.

    We don’t accept that the timing of the housing shortfall is of fundamental significance.

    Until last summer there was no shortfall in the housing need by GL Hearn’s own calculations.

    The latest draft SHMA now shows a small total shortfall of 161 homes over the period 2001-13, (although we have not yet reviewed this calculation).

    All GBC are asking for is spreading the timing of the shortfall over 15 years rather than five – which doesn’t need a letter to the Secretary of State, they could just allocate the shortfall on this basis by normal and expected mechanisms.

    We think Cllr Mansbridge wishes to imply that he’s seeking to get approval for considering the actual five-year supply requirement on a deferred basis on the basis of Guildford’s special circumstances.

    If this is what he actually does want, we think that the letter to Eric Pickles will need to be redrafted to explain that it is the requirement to provide a five year supply of housing land which should be spread over the life of the plan, not just redistribution of shortfall.

    It is disconcerting and more than a little worrying that there seems to be some confusion both among our councillors and the appointed officers. They are paid to do this and we are not!

    People should remember that there has been repeated failure to adhere to promises and commitments on the part of the council.

    In 2011 Guildford Tories promised unequivocally to protect the green belt in their election manifesto – but they subsequently proposed a Local Plan which involved very substantial green belt development.

    The council has also refused – despite a number of freedom of information requests – to release the formulae and calculations used by GL Hearn (the consultants who worked on the Strategic Housing Market Assessment or the SHMA) in determining the borough’s housing needs for the Local Plan. This means that they are just asserting that this is the need rather than demonstrating the logic in detail.

    Furthermore, they are not permitting public consultation on the SHMA despite indicating previously that this current SHMA would indeed be subject to consultation.

    Barry Fagg, the new head of planning, has asserted that the evidence base is not subject to consultation, although Mr Mansbridge previously promised consultation on this report.

    We therefore question whether the current council can be relied upon to deliver what they promise?

    Nonetheless, we welcome this announcement of a change in policy in relation to the green belt and do hope it will be implemented.

    We therefore expect that the current proposals which have been submitted in relation to Effingham, to the Wisley Airfield site, and the Mastervision in relation to the Hog’s Back, will now be formally rejected by the council, following their announced policy that all development will be excluded in the green belt. Anything else will demonstrate that this press announcement is just spin.

    [Susan Parker chairs the Guildford Greenbelt Group]

  8. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    In response to Mr Owen, so there is still at least another 51% (some of the 9% is in the 40% I guess) not protected. Crack on, go for it.

    England is already the most populated country in Europe after the European Goliaths of San Marino and Malta.

    France is around 16 places below England if one ignores Wales, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, etc, with a quarter of the density and similar populations. Germany as a whole, is below the UK and around half the density of England. As a shire county (ignoring metropolitan boroughs etc) Surrey is the most densely populated shire in England.

    Therefore, one could clearly argue that more land needs to be protected in England and Surrey (and in Wales and in other part of the UK for that matter) and for the wholesale roll-back of the green belt and insetting of villages stopped or severely curtailed.

    We need to do this for future generations to enjoy clean unpolluted air and to have land to feed their families.

    And that is ignoring the decline of wildlife in this “green and pleasant land” Habitats need further protecting not further destruction.

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