Mole Valley council’s announcement that it will focus new housing development towards urban areas and away from the Green Belt should be an example to other local councils around Surrey, according to CPRE. Andy Smith, director of CPRE Surrey, said: “We welcome the news that MVDC has halted its Green Belt review and that it will instead focus on meeting the vast majority of the district’s housing needs through the re-development of brownfield sites. This shift in MVDC’s approach, which removes the immediate threat to Green Belt land around Leatherhead, Dorking and the villages, is clearly a reflection of the change in tone of Government policy, as well as reflecting the overwhelming local opposition here in the district to any loss of Green Belt protection.”
The Surrey Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England has welcomed the new planning guidance issued by the Government which seeks to strengthen Green Belt protection within the planning system. Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey branch director, said: “The announcement of new planning guidance by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, indicates that the Government is keen to toughen the rules against development on Green Belt land. This is good news, as the guidance should, if properly followed by local authorities, make it more difficult for developers, and those within councils who support ‘economic growth at any price’, to grab Green Belt countryside and build on it.
Countryside campaigners are calling on the public to identify disused land across England that could be suitable for new homes. CPRE has launched a campaign to map brownfield land across the country in a bid to highlight thousands of empty sites in villages, towns and cities that could be suitable for new homes. The new digital campaign, #WasteOfSpace, will run till the end of the year. To take part, people are asked to nominate a brownfield site in their local area – for example an empty shop, disused post office, or abandoned factory – by tweeting or emailing photos which will be added to an interactive map online. A CPRE report earlier this year found that the Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and failing to prioritise the reuse of brownfield land and regeneration of urban areas.
CPRE Surrey Branch is objecting to the growing number of proposals for ‘solar farms’ in Surrey. The environmental group is opposing schemes that would disfigure the countryside with thousands of highly obtrusive solar energy panels. Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey branch director, said: “We are opposed in principle to solar farms due to the damage they do to the countryside and landscape, particularly in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Areas of Great Landscape Value, and the Metropolitan Green Belt. We do not consider that the minimal benefit that solar farms offer in terms of renewable energy is sufficient to offset the environmental harm they create or the otherwise useful land that is lost.”
Campaigners in Surrey are launching fresh calls for changes to national planning policies by urging local people to sign a Charter to “Save the Countryside”. The Surrey branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) wants to put stronger protection for green spaces firmly on the agenda ahead of next year’s general election.
CPRE has published new research which reveals plans for over 700,000 houses in the countryside across England – including 200,000 allocated for the Green Belt. The research also shows that over two thirds of appeals on planning applications for major housing developments have gone in favour of developers in the last year.
The Annual Public Meeting of CPRE Surrey will be held on Friday 9th May 2014 at 7.30pm, in the Abraham Dixon Hall at The Institute, 67 High Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8AH. Speakers include: Sarah Clayton (Airport Watch), Tim Harrold (CPRE Guildford), Lucy Quinnell (Teazle Wood), Ben Ruddock (Surrey Environmental Guardians). Doors open 6.30pm. All welcome.
CPRE Surrey has given a “cautious welcome” to comments by the Planning Minister on the role and importance of the Green Belt. In a letter to Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate, the Minister for Planning, Nick Boles, emphasises that under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) Green Belt boundaries may only be altered “in exceptional circumstances” and reminds the Inspectorate that reviews of Green Belt boundaries should only be undertaken where a local council “has chosen that path” and should not be imposed on a district by Inspectors. The letter expresses concern at the wording of the recent Inspector’s report on the Reigate and Banstead Local Plan which, the Minister says, “invited misinterpretation of government policy and misunderstanding about the local authority’s role”.
Mole Valley District Council needs to make more long-term provision for brownfield sites and for ‘windfall’ development opportunities than it has allowed for in its draft Housing and Traveller Sites Plan. That is the view of the Surrey Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. CPRE Surrey has been studying the sites plan issued by MVDC and has concluded that many of the sites put forward as options for housing development are “inappropriate” and should be removed entirely from the Plan. It adds that it believes the Council has been “misleading” and “unbalanced” in its interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) especially with regard to allowing for windfall sites in its housing supply figures. Whilst accepting that MVDC is required by Government to conduct a Green Belt review as part of the formulation of its Housing Sites Plan, CPRE argues that the Council – together with other local authorities throughout Surrey – should be more robust in opposing “excessively high, unrealistic and unsustainable housing figures”. CPRE believes that “Surrey is full” and that district councils such as Mole Valley should be concentrating on meeting “genuine local housing need” and not seeking to accommodate thousands of incomers from outside Surrey. There should be no question of “sacrificing Green Belt to meet market demand”, says CPRE.