CAMPAIGN FOR PROTECTION OF RURAL ENGLAND
Notes for Public Meeting, 8 February 2016 - Michael Sydney
Re Tandridge Plan
CPRE was founded in 1926. The objective was to preserve the existence and quality of the landscapes around London and other urban Centres. As a direct result of this the Governments of the day created the Green Belts. I say this for the benefit for the gentleman in Woldingham who has said that CPRE should not be involved in defending the Tandridge Green Belt!
In Tandridge District the Green Belt accounts for 94% of the landmass.
- CPRE were first alerted to the risk to the Tandridge Green Belt by the statement in the paper prepared for the Planning Policy Committee in 2013 which stated that ‘the concept of the Localism and protection of the Green Belt is defunct’.
- This was countered by an exchange of correspondence which, as the then Chairman of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I had with the then Minister of Planning, Nick Boles, which culminated in this letter to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate in March 2014. A copy of this will be found on the Surrey CPRE web site but the critical paragraphs are:
- 1‘The special role of Green Belt is also recognised in the framing of the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which sets out that authorities should meet objectively assessed needs unless specific policies in the National Planning Policy Framework indicate development should be restricted. Crucially, Green Belt is identified as one such policy’.
- 2‘It has always been the case that a local authority could adjust a Green Belt boundary through a review of the Local Plan. It must however always be transparently clear that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path - and it is important that this is reflected in the drafting of Inspector’s reports. The Secretary of State will consider exercising his statutory powers of intervention in Local Plans before they are adopted where a Planning Inspector has recommended a Green Belt Review that is not supported by a local authority’.
- With a new Government in May 2015, I took the precaution of asking the new Minister whether the statements of his predecessor still hold good and received that assurance.
- In February 2015 residents in the Oxted area became concerned at the direction which Tandridge was taking in preparing its Local Plan. They sought the assistance of their MP Sam Gyimah. Mr Gyimah arranged for a group of people to meet the Minister, Brandon Lewis. They included the residents who had raised their concerns, Mr Clive Manley, l who has become a District Councillor and from the District Council, Mr G Keymer the Leader, Mr David Weightman, the Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, the Chief Planning Officer Mr Piers Mason, and Ms Sarah Thompson the Senior Planning Officer responsible for the development of the Local Plan. The Minister was supported by three senior officers of the Department for Communities and Local Government. There are no minutes of the meeting. The residents recall that the only person who spoke on behalf of the District Council was the Senior Planning Officer Mr Mason. The discussion which took place, although the Minister and the Member of Parliament left before the end, covered many aspects of planning but concentrated on the risk to the Green Belt. The response from the DCLG officers can be summed up, as they did ‘the default position under the control of the local authority ‘NO’. Mr Mason was the only person who challenged this, seeking to obtain some possibility of granting planning permission in the Green Belt. This was not accepted.
The Officers also recommended that Tandridge should approach the preparation and consultation of the Draft Plan by releasing both the result of the OAN and the results of the assessments simultaneously. Tandridge have chosen not to do this which has resulted in a plethora of apparently at risk areas which will fail at the detailed assessment stage but not before causing a great deal of unnecessary disquiet among the residents.
- Given the above, CPRE do not understand why the District is pursuing their understanding of the need for housing development which will put an unsustainable pressure on the infrastructure.
- CPRE understand that Surrey County Council, having been requested by Tandridge to assist in reviewing the infrastructure needs generated by the development proposals in the Local Plan, haven been given a figure of 125 new dwellings a year, which is the figure contained in the old TDC Strategic Plan. This means that the SCC draft infrastructure plan is already unsounds.
- CPRE note that there is no indication of how the cost of new infrastructure will be met in Tandridge. The Government have indicated that the New Homes Bonus will be run down over the next three to four years. There will be income from the Community Infrastructure Levy on most new building of dwellings. Under the legislation the suggestion is that 15% of the Levy will be payable to the Parish Council,, which will rise to 25% if and when a Parish achieves.
The balance is divided between the District and the county. The District is the receiver of the funds from the developer and has to agree with the County how the money is invested. Surrey has eleven Districts and Boroughs. Currently, nine of the Districts and Boroughs have agreed to a method. Two, including Tandridge have yet to agree a method and with Tandridge there has been very little progress. This may have a negative effect on any new infrastructure needed as a result of this Local Plan.
- It has been suggested that the District is seeking these very considerable numbers of new dwellings as a means of financing the shortfall in the Council funds which they are alleged to exist in 2017. We have had assurances that their funding stream is sound which we accept. It still begs the question.
- If there is a plan to build 9,400 houses in the next twenty years, it will be equivalent of 20% of all new dwellings built in Surrey over the same period