Fringe Box



Scope of Mandatory Local Plan Review to Be Considered

Published on: 25 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2023

By Martin Giles

The scope of Guildford’s Local Plan review is to be considered by Guildford Borough Council’s Joint Executive Advisory Board (EAB) on Monday, December 4.

The formal review of the Local Plan will then follow, with a report to the full council scheduled for February 2024.

The review, a mandatory requirement within five years of its April 2019 adoption, will determine whether the council decides any elements of the Local Plan require update.

The plan has remained controversial from the time of its preparation and public consultations in 2017/18. Some believed the council, under pressure from central government to set high housing targets, took too little notice of thousands of comments against development of the green belt.

In 2019, just two weeks after the plan was approved, the Conservative party, which had dominated Guildford’s politics for decades, suffered their worst-ever defeat at a borough council election.

Subsequently, there have been many calls for a review to be held, especially since evidence has emerged that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has agreed that population forecasts, which formed part of a secret formula that calculated Guildford’s housing target, had overstated expected population growth in the borough.

There has also been widespread concern that housing developments were progressing ahead of infrastructure improvements, something the Conservative leadership in 2019 had promised would not happen.

But the Liberal Democrats and a majority of R4GV councillors agreed with council officer advice that a review risked an increase in the housing target under an updated “standard” formula.

Cllr George Potter

Lead councillor for Planning, Environment and Climate Change, George Potter (Burpham), said that since the plan’s adoption “there have been changes in a range of circumstances that impact on our borough.

“It is now the right time to review whether the Local Plan should be updated. I look forward to the Joint EAB discussing the review process.

“Recommendations will go forward to full council for a decision in the new year, at which point the findings of the review will be available, and by which point we are hoping long-promised government changes to the National Planning Policy Framework will have been made.

“It is important to us that we are as transparent and accountable as possible throughout both the review process and any potential update of the Local Plan. The review process has already been discussed by the new cross-party Planning Policy Board and comments made by councillors at the Joint EAB will also be taken fully into account.

“As we go forward, we are committed to keeping residents informed about what is happening and we will continue to provide updates as more details become available.”

If the full council agrees any Local Plan update, GBC officers will prepare a timetable, budget and required action schedule before the start of any consultation and evidence gathering. The existing Local Plan would remain in place whilst this process is ongoing.

Cllr Philip Brooker

The leader of the Conservative group at GBC, Philip Brooker (Worplesdon), who voted for the plan in 2019 but was one of the 2019 election casualties, said: “The Local Plan passed by the last Conservative Administration was appropriate for that time, complied with existing government guidance and was conditional on the necessary infrastructure coming forward which, unfortunately, did not materialise, prior to significant housing development commencing.

“Local Plans must be reviewed every five years to adapt to changing criteria such as this.  We have been calling for a review for some time and we welcome this opportunity for it to be updated. However, the current administration should be careful of repeating the earlier review [to consider whether a formal review should be conducted] following the 2019 election when huge sums were spent but resulted in no change.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

And the leader of R4GV, Joss Bigmore (Merrow), cautioned that the housing target could still be increased. He said: “I think it’s clear that significant parts of the Local Plan are out of date, based on evidence that is stale and many would argue flawed from the outset.

“However the risk of having to allocate more sites is still very real. The ‘Standard Method’ of calculating housing reigns supreme and that currently implies we need to show the likely delivery of 1,000 more homes over a five-year period.

“I hope the council is robust in its challenge to these inflated numbers.”

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *