Fringe Box



Tandridge Local Plan Will Be Found Unsound

Published on: 25 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 25 Aug, 2023

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A district council must go back to the drawing board on its plan for 6,000 homes in the area more than four years after it was submitted to central government.

Inspector Philip Lewis told Tandridge District Council he thought its local plan could not be made “sound”, due to particular concerns around its proposed 4,000-home garden village in South Godstone.

Rather than spend the money on producing a report on his examination of the Local Plan, which happened in November 2019, the inspector has suggested the council withdraw the plan.

Councillors on the authority’s planning policy committee will discuss next steps at a meeting on Thursday, September 21.

Wisley residents campaigning against the proposed development of 1,700 homes, on the former Wisley Airfield, may spot some resonance to the planning history of that site. At one stage Guildford Borough Council hoped to obtain a government grant for garden village development there and an application was refused on appeal partly because of the inadequacy of the A3-M25 Junction 10.

Tandridge District which is 94 per cent green belt is in East Surrey Image Image Wikipedia

Key to the South Godstone garden village plans were updates to Junction 6 of the M25, for which funding was refused after hearings had taken place, and which Mr Lewis called “a significant change in circumstances for the plan”.

He said work done since then to find a potential solution at the junction remained untested, as did capacity issues on the A22 regarding the impact additional traffic would have on the area.

The inspector said further work on traffic impacts would take time, as would his reviews, and any future consultation and hearing, added to local elections in 2024 which would also delay proceedings.

He raised concerns about the time covered by the plan, which was submitted for examination in January 2019, being 2013-2033 and that the plan as it stood was halfway through the period it was covering.

Mr Lewis said: “Given the amount of work which remains to be undertaken, it could take several more years before a sound plan could emerge, if at all possible.”

At a meeting between the council and the inspector on July 27 other options put forward by the council included shortening the length of time the plan covered, and removing the garden village from the plan.

An Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group spokesperson said the group had always been concerned that the plan would fail because of problems with the garden community and about the risk, without an up-to-date Local Plan, of “unsuitable” development on the district’s green belt.

They added: “In an attempt to avoid that, and the appalling waste of £3.5 million of taxpayers’ money if the plan is lost, we have worked hard to try to address the inspector’s concerns by proposing amendments, including the removal of the garden community from the plan, which we believed was a pragmatic solution.

“Council officers presented this solution to the inspector at a meeting on 27 July. We are extremely disappointed that the inspector has not accepted it.

“We will continue to do everything we can to protect the district’s green belt.”

With a district that is 94 per cent green belt, the council said it still has plans and policies in place to “help guard against the risk of unsuitable planning development”.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has worked hard to address the inspector’s concerns about the plan, proposing various amendments, including the removal of the garden community from the plan.  

“The council is disappointed with the outcome of the procedural meeting, at which it believes a pragmatic solution was presented for the plan.

Staffing issues at Tandridge have impacted on the progress of the plan, which was submitted before the current minority administration of Residents’ Alliance councillors took control of the council.

While the inspector recognised more staff had been recruited, and the council’s commitment to getting a plan in place, he raised concerns that making changes to the plan would “protract the examination further and could give rise to a situation where further uncertainty arises”.

He said: “The council has offered a potential way forward for the examination.

“However, it is clear to me that given the nature of the soundness issues which need to  be addressed, and the effects of the protracted examination, there is no simple or rapid route to soundness.”

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