Fringe Box



Letter: Local Plan Failed to Address ‘Sustainability’ in the Green Belt Developments

Published on: 18 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 18 Oct, 2020

From Ben Paton

In response to letter: We Protect Green Belt, Say Tories, As 20,000 Hectares Surrendered To Developers

Guildford has lost so much green belt because the politicians who designed the Local Plan appeared to have no coherent concept of “sustainability”. in a planning context, “sustainable” means putting housing where there is already public transport and employment. Location is nine-tenths of the problem.

Putting housing where people have access to the necessities of life, employment, public transport, shops, education, health and leisure facilities reduces costs all round. The costs to residents fall because they don’t need to run two cars or travel miles to work, school or shops.

The costs to the environment fall because CO2 emissions are lower. The costs to government and society fall because greater use is made of existing facilities and less investment is required in new infrastructure.

Sustainability in the Guildford Local Plan appears to have been an afterthought, not a governing principle. The “sustainable transport plan” is a pitiful sticking-plaster over a gaping wound.

Instead of focusing on sustainability, the Local Plan puts more than 60% of new housing on three or four greenfield, green belt sites. All these sites depend on the A3 for transport.

Three of the landowners are, or were, Surrey University, Martin Grant Homes and Wisley Property Investment. Some people believed the former council’s relationship with them was “too close”.

The result is a Local Plan in the interests of a small clique of developers that defies common sense and basic principles of sustainability.

All three main sites are primarily long-term viable farmland that has been productive for centuries. Some of it is environmentally and economically sensitive.

The choice of Ockham, site of the former Wisley airfield, for the third-largest town in the borough with a population two and a half times greater than Ripley’s, on an area a fifth of the size, is a monument to the failure of the planning system.

Like most of the Local Plan, it was a decision based on political considerations not planning evidence.

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Responses to Letter: Local Plan Failed to Address ‘Sustainability’ in the Green Belt Developments

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 19, 2020 at 1:12 am

    Have we not done to death complaining about this accursed Local Plan?

    We need to move on to discovering how bad the infrastructure shortfalls are and what can be done to rebalance the problem with real solutions, not just mitigation.

  2. James Wild Reply

    October 19, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    I fully agree with Ben Paton’s letter. Sustainability was not an afterthought but ignored by Cllr Paul Spooner and his council in favour of their green belt sensitivity study between the Reg 18 and Reg 19 consultation.

    Cllr Spooner, (who had just taken over from Cllr Mansbridge) clearly saw that allocating many smaller sites on the edges of the villages caused too much political pressure on his Conservative council, with protesting residents even marching on the town hall before an important meeting.

    To try to appease his party he probably agreed to a consultant’s suggestion that they might be able to resolve the situation with green belt sensitivity work to find a compromise.

    Regulation 19 came out having omitted many sustainably placed smaller PDAs in favour of another big one at Garlicks Arch and pressure on the council moved to the lack of town centre developments.

    The truth is that if you try to place housing close to existing amenities it is going to result in greater local opposition. Locate it away and the sustainability suffers. Politicians are not professional planners so a fair bit of the blame must lie with the senior planning executives at the council who have all probably left by now anyway.

    The winners were the big four housebuilders and the lucky landowners.

  3. John Sansom Reply

    October 19, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Could the developers be required to first build schools (+play fields), doctors surgeries, community centres, and so on, before any ground is broken for houses? And then only houses with, say, a minimum of eight solar panels and a minimum grass area, should be allowed.

    • Lisa Wright Reply

      October 20, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Better still, let’s wait until the A3 has been widened, the sewerage plant built and electricity supply sorted before we see a planning application.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        October 20, 2020 at 5:18 pm

        Hear, hear!

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