Lib Dems: Guildford Local Plan is not ready for adoption

April 8, 2019 11:42 AM

Guildford Local Plan

Guildford Liberal Democrats are calling for the adoption of the Guildford Local Plan to be deferred to allow time for the green belt site allocations to be reviewed. They will propose an amendment to the motion calling for a deferral at the 9th April Council meeting, to give time to revise the Local Plan before adoption in order to delete surplus green belt site allocations.

The Inspector's Report on the Examination of the Local Plan was published on 27 March. It concludes that the Plan is sound, while accepting that the housing land supply provides for 14,602 new homes over the Plan period compared with a reduced housing requirement of 10,678 new homes. This provides a buffer of 37% more land for housing than is actually needed to enable the housing requirement to be met. (The normal requirement is for a 20% buffer, corresponding to a housing land supply for 12,814 new homes.)

Lib Dem Group Leader Caroline Reeves says: "If adopted in its current state, this Local Plan takes much more land out of the green belt than is actually needed to provide the homes we need in the borough. Developers would be keen to build on these greenfield sites quickly in preference to the brownfield sites in the urban areas which are harder to develop. The Lib Dem manifesto for the Borough Council elections states that we will prioritise new development on sustainable urban and brownfield sites, and minimise building on green belt land. This Local Plan fails to meet those aims."

The Inspector's Report (paragraph 85) remarks that allocating all the sites originally in the submitted Plan means 'the Council have aimed to future proof the Plan'. Guildford Lib Dems believe that with the uncertain economic future resulting from the Brexit chaos, future housing need is too uncertain to justify the loss of so much extra green belt at this time.

Lib Dem planning spokesperson Liz Hogger, borough candidate for the green belt ward of Effingham, says: "Taking surplus land out of the green belt to enable an extra 2000 homes to be built cannot be justified in the current uncertain circumstances. Once that green belt is removed, it is lost forever. We can't put it back in five years' time if we discover it's not actually needed. The Council must pause and revise the Plan to seek a sound alternative Plan which minimises the loss of green belt."

The Report also argues that all the strategic sites are necessary to provide the highways improvements to mitigate traffic congestion from new development. Guildford Lib Dems point out that this is a circular argument: some of these highways improvements would not be needed if fewer homes were built.

Caroline Reeves concludes: "The Lib Dems have always recognised the importance of having an adopted Local Plan to guard against speculative development. But it has to be the right Plan, otherwise the damage of unnecessary loss of green belt and extra traffic on our roads outweighs the advantages. I am disappointed that after all the hard work by the Council's planning officers, this Local Plan is simply not yet ready for adoption."