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Delay Adopting Local Plan Until After the Election, Say Opposition Councillors

Published on: 6 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 6 Apr, 2019

Guildford opposition parties are calling for adoption of the Local Plan to be deferred until after the borough council elections on May 2.

In the wake of criticism of the council’s intention to adopt the Local Plan just seven days before the election, Independent councillor Bob McShee (Worplesdon) has proposed a motion, for consideration at the full council meeting on Tuesday, April 9: “That consideration of whether the council should adopt the Local Plan be deferred to a suitable and reasonable date after the Borough Council elections on 2 May 2019.”

Cllr Bob McShee

The motion also says that if deferral is not agreed then the extraordinary council meeting being planned for April 25 to debate adoption of the Local Plan, be held in a bigger venue to allow more public participation and that the public speakers be given an hour rather than 30 minutes.

Cllr Caroline Reeves is proposing an amendment to give time to revise the Local Plan before adoption.

The inspector’s report on the examination of the Local Plan was published on March 27. It concludes the Plan is sound, while accepting that the housing land supply provides for 14,602 new homes over the Plan period, compared with a reduced housing requirement of 10,678 new homes.

This provides a buffer of 37% more land for housing than is actually needed for the housing requirement. (The normal buffer is 20%, corresponding to a housing land supply for 12,814 new homes.)

The council’s Lib Dem group leader, Ms Reeves, said: “If adopted in its present state, this Local Plan takes much more land out of the green belt than is actually necessary to provide the homes we need in the borough.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

“Developers would be keen to build on these greenfield sites quickly in preference to the brownfield urban sites which are harder to develop.

“The Lib Dem manifesto for the borough council elections states that we will prioritise new development on sustainable urban and brownfield sites, and minimise building on green belt land. This Local Plan fails to meet those aims.”

Paragraph 85 of the inspector’s report states that allocating all the sites originally in the submitted Plan means “the council have aimed to future-proof the Plan”. Guildford Lib Dems believe that with the uncertain economic future resulting from the Brexit chaos, future housing need is too uncertain to justify the loss of so much extra green belt at this time.

Cllr Liz Hogger

Liz Hogger, the Lib Dem planning lead and borough candidate for the green belt ward of Effingham, said: “Taking surplus land out of the green belt to enable an extra 2,000 homes to be built cannot be justified in the today’s uncertain circumstances.

“Once that green belt is removed, it is lost forever. We can’t put it back in five years if we discover it’s not actually needed. The council must pause and revise the Plan to seek a sound alternative which minimises the loss of green belt.”

The report also argues that all the strategic sites are necessary to provide the highways improvements to mitigate traffic congestion from new development. Guildford Lib Dems point out that this is a circular argument: some of these highways improvements would not be needed if fewer homes were built.

James Whiteman

But in a published “Note To All Councillors” on the motion, signed by the council’s managing director James Whiteman, it is concluded: “…any deferral of the decision on adoption of the Local Plan… would be premature.

“…from a planning perspective, there should be no reason to delay consideration regarding whether or not to adopt the Local Plan. Rather, there are good planning reasons to support its adoption as quickly as possible and this approach is also supported by government guidance.”

Cllr Reeves said: “The Lib Dems have always recognised the importance of having an adopted Local Plan to guard against speculative development. But it has to be the right Plan, otherwise the damage of unnecessary loss of green belt and extra traffic on our roads outweighs the advantages.

“I am disappointed that after all the hard work by the council’s planning officers, this Local Plan is simply not yet ready for adoption.”

Other parties and groups have been asked for their reaction to the Lib Dem’s announcement. Watch out for the follow-up story on Monday April 8.

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test 6 Responses to Delay Adopting Local Plan Until After the Election, Say Opposition Councillors

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    April 6, 2019 at 1:08 am

    Why can’t those who claim they have got it right put the plan to the local electorate. Obtaining a mandate would be a good reason for the necessary delay. I challenge Cllr Spooner to put his plan to the electorate.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 6, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Great idea Jim, let’s have a people’s vote.

    This indecent rush to approve the plan before the election is a totally cynical political move, and will lumber us with a plan which will destroy Guildford.

    James Whiteman has taken a party political stance by siding with the Tory leadership on this. Shame on him.

    As to this new enlightened stance from the Lib Dems, this is rich, given their slavish support of this disastrous plan throughout its development. Why should we trust them again?

  3. Simon Mason Reply

    April 6, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    It should be delayed until the Community Infrastructure Levy is ready to be adopted. 25% of this levy was promised to local communities by the Conservatives to pay for local infrastructure but it would now seem that all these developments such as Keens Lane, Clockbarns, West Horsley, Garlicks Arch will escape having to pay this levy because the council are not ready to adopt CIL? Why Not?

    At £36,000 per typical 3-bed home, this is a huge let off for developers and a kick in the teeth for communities.

    Can the Conservatives explain why this levy is not ready to be adopted at the same time the local plan is adopted?

    • Lisa Wright Reply

      April 7, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      With GBC having to find millions to build a new bridge in Ash, what makes Simon Mason think there will be any “CIL” money left for the developments like Keens Lane or Garlicks Arch, even if they do manage to get the paperwork sorted in time?

      • Simon Mason Reply

        April 8, 2019 at 7:59 am

        One of the main reasons neighbourhoods have been working hard to get their Neighbourhood Plans in place is that by law neighbourhoods with an adopted plan receive 25% of the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy). Without a plan, they only receive 10%. The CIL was consulted on as part of the Local Plan evidence base.

        Many reports were commissioned and updated by the council throughout the process; viability was discussed by the inspector at the hearings and the plan ultimately found sound subject to a few main modifications. So why is it not going to be introduced when the plan is adopted? Communities are going to miss out on millions and landowners are laughing all the way to the bank. Can the Conservative Executive please explain to us all why CIL is not going to be adopted from day one of the Local Plan coming into force? Or is this another broken promise from a broken party?

  4. Julian Lyon Reply

    April 7, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Unfortunately, the approach that has been adopted since the Issues and Options Consultation in 2013 has been ‘Forward at All Costs’. This has been explicitly or implicitly endorsed by Cllr Caroline Reeves throughout this council since 2015 until this late conversion to what groups like the Guildford Society and Guildford Vision Group have been saying for several years without a listening ear in the council.

    This plan isn’t ready, it needs further work (particularly as it relates to the town centre) and it needs more guidance as to which of the 2003 policies will survive pending the second part of the Local Plan (the Development Management Local Plan) of which we have not even seen a draft.

    Some may want a more far-reaching review to address the green belt sites that are probably not required to meet the plan numbers. This would take longer and may require an, effectively, new plan, but if it takes Guildford and its villages forward in a better way than this plan, then it probably reflects the will of the electorate, and, if this plan is being railroaded through in spite of the electorate, that act in itself must make it inappropriate to approve the plan during purdah.

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