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Letter: St Albans Case Shows Green Belt Is Still Protected

Published on: 23 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 23 Dec, 2013

Hogs Back LetterSusan Parker

Chairman of a residents’ association near Shere, and part of the Save Shere, Gomshall and Abinger campaign.

Guildford Greenbelt Guardians or ‘GGG’, is a newly formed group of parish councils, residents’  associations and community groups concerned about the preservation of our local green belt.

The group has written to Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in relation to a ruling by the Court of Appeal, regarding a planning case in St Albans, with which many might be unfamiliar.

The ruling stated that in an area where most land is designated as AONB or green belt (which was the case in St Albans and is the case for us) then unmet housing need alone <em>does <em>not</em></em> necessarily represent a very special circumstance which will allow the green belt protection to be withdrawn.

To summarise 11 pages of legal judgement, housing need is not enough to overturn green belt protection for any particular planning decision. Also under the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) green belt boundaries cannot be changed except in the context of a Local Plan.

Put these two together, and it means that until there is a new Local Plan, everywhere that is currently protected by green belt will stay protected. So the threat made repeatedly by councillors, including at the debate on the petition, that the Local Plan must be rushed through because otherwise it will open floodgates for development, is not true.

There is no rush and we must get the plan right.  This includes consulting on whether or not the people of Guildford want growth.

GGG has also written to GBC to note that there is a legal requirement to consult on the basis of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) before it is prepared, not afterwards.

GBC has not yet replied to GGG on either the point in relation to St Albans or the SHMA.

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