The Surrey Branch of CPRE has welcomed the Government’s Housing White Paper, in particular its focus on addressing market failure in the housebuilding industry. Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey Branch Director, said: “The White Paper sets out policies that aim to give England the right houses in the right places, rather than just more urban sprawl into the countryside which is what the developers have been agitating for. It is a great relief that instead of giving in to the developers and opening up the Green Belt for development, which we had feared, the Government have opted to defend the planning system and push for more urban regeneration and brownfield development instead.
The High Court has ruled that Elmbridge Borough Council’s scheme to develop a ‘sports hub’ at Waterside Drive, by the Thames in Walton, was unlawful. The site is a large area (14 Ha) of Green Belt land which used to consist of a small playing field for Walton Casuals FC, a large grassed area, and scrub, overlying an old landfill site. CPRE Surrey branch director Andy Smith said: said “CPRE has supported the local campaign against this development since 2015, so we are delighted with today’s judgment. It is vital that we oppose unwanted, unnecessary and inappropriate developments like this, especially when they threaten the openness of the Green Belt and destroy local tranquillity. The fact that Elmbridge Council gave itself permission for this Sports Hub development, disregarding Green Belt planning constraints, was a major concern for CPRE and we are pleased that the High Court judgment reflects this.”
CPRE has written to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, urging him to call-in the application to build 2600 houses at Dunsfold.
Full text of CPRE’s letter follows…
Waverley Borough Council’s draft Local Plan is “not fit for purpose”, according to CPRE Surrey, which has submitted its reasoned objections to the Draft Local Plan. CPRE Waverley Group Chairman Anthony Isaacs MBE said: “We have examined the Draft Local Plan thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that it is not fit for purpose.” The group gives six reasons for its damning indictment of the Draft Plan. Firstly, the Plan is based on out of date information which greatly exaggerates the Objectively Assessed Need for housing (OAN). CPRE thinks it should be around 400 new dwellings a year, not 519.
A joint report by CPRE and the London Green Belt Council entitled “Safe Under Us?: An investigation into widespread threats from housebuilding in the London Metropolitan Green Belt” highlights how Government policies and sanctions appear to be forcing councils to release Green Belt land for development. Drawing on local evidence provided by CPRE branches in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, London and Surrey, the report demonstrates that the London Green Belt is likely to be under greater threat than ever. There are now plans for 203 sites within the London Green Belt including proposals for 123,528 homes.
The population of Kingston-upon-Thames & North East Surrey (Elmbridge, Epsom & Ewell and Mole Valley) is set to grow by a third over the next two decades, raising fears of massive strain on public services and the prospect of losing large swathes of the area’s Green Belt and countryside to development. This is the warning from the local Surrey and London branches of CPRE who are challenging the figures in the area’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), the strategic document that will play a major part in shaping the planning and housing policies of all four local authorities in this area. The SHMA sets out an overall requirement for more than 40,000 new dwellings to be built across the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, the Borough of Elmbridge, the Borough of Epsom & Ewell and Mole Valley District between now and 2035. CPRE said it wished to “raise the alarm about this population bombshell and what it means for local communities and countryside.”
Guildford Borough Council’s draft Local Plan has been described as “unrealistic”, “over-ambitious”, “misguided” and “unsound”. In CPRE’s 28-page submission to the Borough Council’s consultation on the Local Plan, CPRE Guildford Chairman Tim Harrold challenges Guildford’s calculation of figures for new housebuilding. Under the Plan, the Borough must find land for the building of 13,860 new houses over 20 years (693 houses per year), of which more than 8,000 are to be built on sites currently within the Green Belt. CPRE believes the maximum per-annum figure should be 481. This is based on extensive research undertaken for CPRE by planning consultants Green Balance.
Countryside campaigners have denounced Waverley Borough Council’s new draft Local Plan as “fundamentally flawed” and have warned that the Plan risks being declared “unsound” by the Planning Inspector as it relies on the inclusion of “unsustainable” development sites to meet its housebuilding targets. The local CPRE group says that the Plan, which was adopted by the Borough Council last week, has “many serious defects”. These include:
-insufficient weight given to countryside protection due to excessive and unrealistic housing numbers
-the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Areas of Great Landscape Value, the Green Belt, and important heritage assets, all put at risk
-inclusion of unsustainable development sites such as Dunsfold
-reliance on unspecified and uncosted infrastructure improvements for major development sites
-failure to give adequate weight to planning constraints, especially building on the Green Belt, contrary to clear Government Guidance.
-heavy reliance on a flawed consultation exercise