Fringe Box



Green Belt Petitions Cause Heated Debate – But No Change To Council Position

Published on: 14 Jan, 2014
Updated on: 14 Jan, 2014
Some of the land that the Save Hogs Back Campaign petitioned to have removed from the Local Plan as a site for potential development.

Some of the land that the Save Hogs Back Campaign petitioned to have removed from the Local Plan consultation as a site for potential development.

Calls by the Save Hogs Back and the Keep West Horsley in the Green Belt campaigns, to remove potential development areas from Local Plan consultations now, were rejected by Guildford Borough Council last night (January 13).

In a lengthy and, at times, bad tempered meeting, interspersed with numerous interjections from the public gallery, 11 members of the public spoke in support of the petitions. The council said that 115 people attended the meeting and 238 watched via the new online webcast service.

The Keep West Horsley in the Green Belt petition was signed by 626 people who live, work or study in the borough, and the Save Hogs Back petition had 782 signatures. Both petitions were submitted on November 29, last year, as part of the issues and options consultation to help develop the new Local Plan.

Borough councillors voted, apparently unanimously, in favour of motions proposed by lead councillor for planning and governance, Cllr Monika Juneja (Con, Burpham), in which the council reassured the petitioners that no decisions had been taken and that: “The council is not yet in a position to decide whether any further development should be limited to non green belt land…”.

But an undertaking was given to reappraise and correct the much criticised ‘evidence base’ on which the consultation rests.

Several councillors, in their speeches, mentioned their fear that if any potential sites were removed from the consultation at this stage it could compromise the validity of the Local Plan in the eyes of the Planning Inspectorate, to which all Local Plans have to be submitted for approval.

The Liberal Democrat Group, although only 12 strong, succeeded in winning support for two amendment motions that will ensure that the reappraisal of the evidence base will be scrutinised in public meetings.

The anger and emotions felt by the public speakers was clear. It spilled over to reactions and interruptions from the public gallery. At times these verged on the unruly and led to Cllr Diane Lockyer-Nibbs (Con, Normandy), who as the mayor was chairing the meeting, threatening to clear the galleries if such behaviour continued.

One area of disagreement between the public speakers and the council was the impact of a recent Appeal Court decision, in a case relating to St Albans City & District Council in December, on what constituted special circumstances that would allow development of green belt under the National Planning & Policy Framework (NPPF), used to regulate planning applications in the absence of a Local Plan.

In his judgement Lord Justice Keene said: “There may be nothing special, and certainly nothing ‘very special’ about a shortfall [of housing provision] in a district which has very little undeveloped land outside the green belt.  But ultimately that is a matter of planning judgement for the decision-maker.”

Campaigners feel that the judgement shows that green belt land is not at risk under the NPPF and that deliberations about the evidence base should not be rushed. But the council’s view is that it is still unsafe to rely on the NPPF and that the Local Plan needs to be put in place as soon as possible to ensure that developments conform with agreed policies reflected in the plan.

After the meeting Cllr Monika Juneja said: “We understand how strongly some in our community feel about the green belt land that makes up 89% of our borough. These petitions demonstrate their depth of concern and are all part of local democracy and getting involved. We appreciate everyone’s contributions to our recent consultation and care deeply about making the borough a better place to live.

“The new Local Plan is about more than just developing homes for local people. It is also about preserving our valued landscape and the infrastructure we need, along with economic and job opportunities.

“We must balance these requirements for the benefit of everyone who lives, works or studies in the borough. We must plan very carefully and I want to reassure everyone that we have not made any decisions on the number of new homes we need or where any development will go.

“The Government requires us to consider all sites across the borough for potential future development, and our priority will be to look at brown field sites first. We also adhere to their policies to consider permitting appropriate green belt development only in very special circumstances.

“The best way to make sure we can control development and protect key areas across the borough is to have an up to date Local Plan. To remove any land or specific communities for consideration at this very early stage, when we have just looked at the issues and options to help draft the new plan, could leave us open to a situation where planning decisions are made for us.”

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, council leader, added: “We welcome these petitions and the passionate response by our local community to the initial consultation. We need a new Local Plan to avoid the risk of inappropriate development and planning approval by appeal. We have a great opportunity to discuss our situation, and better understand national green belt thinking, when Cllr Juneja and I meet later this week with Nick Boles, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Planning.

“We thank everyone for their comments and will consider these and other petitions as part of the development of the new Local Plan. I encourage everyone to get involved in the next stage of consultation, which is due to start in a few months time.”

A council spokesperson said: “We also received a petition from residents on January 6 about our response to Mole Valley District Council’s consultation involving the green belt in Effingham and Bookham. The council will consider this at a future meeting. More details about the meeting and agenda will be available soon.

“Anyone who was unable to attend could watch the live debate, and anyone who wants to view the recording after the meeting can visit our website at:”

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Responses to Green Belt Petitions Cause Heated Debate – But No Change To Council Position

  1. jim Allen Reply

    January 20, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Nice to see the nimby’s surfacing. Not one word of the SARP plan which is documented (and money raised) to drive a road through Bellfields allotments through the Wey valley green belt and flood plain to add to over 9,000 vehicles potentially through Burpham on a daily basis. But it won’t affect West Horsley and the Hog’s Back – they are only included in a theoretical assessment of potential sites while Burpham is documented to happen unless people wake up to the proposed lane northbound of the A3 from the Stoke Roundabout to Clay Lane.

    If you don’t belive the figures, I’ll lay them out.

    116 vehilces per day per 100 sq metres of store – Aldi that’s 1,500 plus a day,
    new store on Slyfield – that’s another 116 times 200 per day
    264-plus HGVs per day
    1,500 houses Slyfield – thats 3,000 cars
    Gosden Hill Farm 2,000 houses – that’s 4,000 cars.
    Oh! and a new sliproad of north at Burpham Clay Lane, say another 1,000 cars a day.

    And West Horsley are whinging about being taken out the green belt. We have two sides to our community in the green belt – with current on-paper proposals we will lose our flood plane and both green belts.

    Noting that ‘new’ green belt accommodation is for persons ‘living and working the land’ how many people living in West Horsley are working the land?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 23, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Since he’s seen fit to attack well intentioned residents of West Horsley, who are just trying to protect the green belt, Mr Allen should declare himself.

    It appears he is coordinator of the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum, a group supported by GBC and their ward councillor, Juneja. See:

    I guess there are no NIMBYS on the BNF?

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    January 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

    None of the Hog’s Back nor West Horsley comments were Nimbyism, if you listen to the debate. There was a concern to protect as much of the Green Belt as possible, and that means all the Green Belt within the borough; also a concern to get the planning right rather than rush into a Local Plan that may be wrong or contain errors. There is concern to ensure that the housing needs assessment is limited to the real housing needs of the area. I hope that people will listen.

    Renovation of the old sewage works at Slyfield, using this site for affordable housing, is sensible, and think that most residents in the borough think that replacing a sewage works and associated brownfield land which is no longer fit for purpose with attractive well designed housing will be a sensible use of land.

    I note the comments re Aldi and the impact of additional traffic arising from that store. I’m not quite sure why the Burpham Neighbourhood forum are happy with the proposed Aldi store. This would seem a very suitable brownfield residential site, within the urban area, on a bus route, close to the A3 and not far from the town centre, next to attractive flats, opposite a traditional shopping arcade and near to Sainsbury’s. I’m not sure that we need an Aldi in Guildford as well as other supermarkets – we have a Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and will be getting a Waitrose. Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl are easily accessible by car; all supermarkets are available using online shopping. I think that if this specific area was developed for housing instead it would take a substantial number of potential homes – three storey flats like those next door would be reasonably high density, could be well designed and offer a large number of homes. It would also be much less disruptive for other local residents in terms of additional traffic and HGV traffic than a new supermarket. Perhaps this is something the Burpham Neighbourhood Forum should be campaigning about? If housing in well designed flats were put on the Aldi site, then this would contribute significantly to the 5 year short term supply, and there would be less pressure on all green belt sites, including Gosden Hill farm.

  4. angela gunning, [Lab, Stoke] Reply

    January 23, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    May I point out that at Slyfield it is not an ‘old sewage works’, but is THE sewage works, still operational and which serves a large part of the population of Guildford. It is owned and operated by Thames Water. Using that site, and adjacent land for housing depends on the viability of their business plan – the essential part of which is the cost of a new and relocated sewage works. That in turn depends on Ofwat’s 5-year plan of investment. When the plan comes to fruition – and I sincerely hope it does – true, not all the housing will be ‘Affordable’, but a substantial proportion will be, depending on GBC’s policies.

    At present, residents of Stoke ward still have to endure the appalling smells which this type of works generates. Every time these smells occur, they are reported to Thames Water and to the Environmental Health team at GBC. Stoke Councillors are in constant dialogue with Thames Water, pressing for better and acceptable operation of the present works.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    January 24, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    The Guildford Dragon quotes council officers (Juneja and Mansbridge) at great length in its article. It does not give equal space to the comments made by the speakers who spoke much more briefly for the petitions (3 mins each).
    The public should listen to the proceedings and form its own view rather than accept the Dragon’s report of the occasion.

    Is the Dragon just a mouthpiece for Council officers?
    If not why does it only quote them?

    [Ed: No, of course The Guildford Dragon NEWS is not a mouthpiece for the council. Also, think the writer meant to have written rhe ‘councillors’ instead of ‘council officers’?]

  6. Gerald Bland Reply

    January 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    It’s my recollection that there are restrictive covenants in favour of the Onslow Estate,of which other landowners may also have the benefit, which prevent Slyfield being used for housing.But perhaps they have been released ?

    With most titles to land now being open to public scrutiny at the Land Registry website on payment of a nominal fee it would be unfortunate if title had not been investigated to key development sites before fixed positions become entrenched and the insults fly.

    Perhaps the Council’s legal department or some enterprising local firm of solicitors could obtain copies of the registered titles,put them on their website and make a nominal viewing charge which could be donated to charity ?

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