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Planning Inspector Rejects Tandridge ‘Garden Village’ Local Plan

Published on: 22 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 23 Dec, 2020

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

A planning inspector has said he is unconvinced Tandridge District Council’s Local Plan is sound and he cannot see how issues can be resolved.

This is a major setback for the council but good news for those campaigning against a South Godstone development which would almost triple the size of the village.

The issue will resonate with those who campaigned against Guildford’s controversial Local Plan, adopted just days before the borough council election in April 2019 at which the electorate largely rejected the Conservative councillors responsible.

Local Plans set out where land should be developed over the next decade. Tandridge’s plan was submitted to the government’s Planning Inspectorate in January.

In a letter with preliminary conclusions, inspector Philip Lewis said: “As things stand, the submitted Plan has a number of significant soundness issues which do not appear capable of being readily fixed.”

Many residents were horrified by plans to build about 4,000 homes around South Godstone village, 1,400 between 2026/27 and 2033, and a further 2,600 beyond. The garden community development would also provide accommodation for gypsies and travellers.

David Hughes of the Tandridge Lane Action Group.

David Hughes, of the Tandridge Lane Action Group, has been campaigning against the garden village for three years. “I do feel vindicated,” he said. “Without completely killing it, I do believe the inspector has kicked it into the long grass for the foreseeable future.

“People will tell me, you’re being a Nimby, but it was a bad idea from the outset and we’ve called the council out on it.”

A key part of this garden community plan was to upgrade Junction 6 of the M25 and the A22/A264 Felbridge Junction, but the council was unable to secure a grant from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Highways England says Junction 6 is already operating over capacity at morning and evening peaks, even without building thousands more homes and the “severe” impact the inspector said that would have.

In his letter to Tandridge council he said: “I have significant concerns about the soundness of the Plan, given that I cannot conclude the spatial strategy is justified, a number of the proposals of the Plan do not appear effective and in terms of effects on the transport network, the plan would not be consistent with national policy.”

Tandridge is the easternmost local authority in Surrey

She also said that even if they could build those homes, they would not be built in time to have any impact on the number of homes needed for the period the Plan covers.

With proposed housing not deliverable, he said the housing land supply needed to be recalculated, based on more recent data and removing South Godstone Garden Community.

Tandridge Lane resident Mr Hughes, a chartered surveyor, said: “There does need to be more housing but it should be built in places where there are jobs and infrastructure and facilities to support it.

“It is a ridiculous location, it would lose 1,000 acres of pristine green belt land.”

But the inspector agreed with the council that it would be difficult to achieve sustainable development without removing land from the green belt.

The Plan initially sought to deliver 6,056 homes (302 per year) but the inspector thinks the need may actually be higher.

He suggested two options, either pause the examination and attempt to resolve the issues, but “even if this work is carried out, I am unconvinced the Garden Community proposal would make a significant contribution, if any, to housing land supply during the Plan period, or indeed whether I should be able ultimately to find it sound”, or withdraw the Plan and prepare a new one.

Mr Hughes added: “The biggest conundrum is what the council does next. It saddens me that they have pursued this doggedly for years at an enormous expense to taxpayers and now they’ve got to go back to the drawing-board.

“A sensible plan would be to start again but I don’t think they will admit they got it wrong.”

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