Open letter from Keith Jecks, Chair of the Planning Policy Committee
I want to ensure residents are aware of the work taking place to prepare for the publication of the draft Local Plan. This letter sets out the timetable for the next few weeks.
On 6 June and 7 June we are giving your councillors briefing sessions about the sites, along with infrastructure improvements in their ward, which will form part of the draft Local Plan.
I am determined to make sure all councillors are pre-briefed, so they can help answer any questions you may have when the draft Local Plan document is made public.
I have also asked the planning officers to publish the draft Local Plan document earlier than is statutorily required. This will be available for everyone to read on 21 June and in addition we are preparing fact sheets for each area to make the information for where you live easier to understand.
The process is complicated and the documents necessarily huge. By sharing information as soon as we can, our residents, the Planning Policy Committee and anyone else with an interest, will have as much time as we can give them to read and understand the plan. This next draft Local Plan represents the culmination of three years’ work.
I am a passionate defender of the Green Belt. Our beautiful district is 94% Green Belt, the highest proportion of any district in the entire country and likely to remain in the top three when our Local Plan is adopted. We know our residents feel passionate about this too.
We have held three consultations about the Local Plan. We have listened to what you have said and have shaped the plan accordingly. The total number of new homes this district can accommodate is likely to be around 6,200, which is not anywhere close to the current need of 9,400 homes or indeed the government’s need calculation of 12,900. It is very likely we will be challenged about our much lower figure during the inspection process, by the government and by developers.
In preparing the draft Local Plan, excluding the potential sites for the Garden Community sites, we have had to look at 114 sites put forward by landowners in the Green Belt, which if all were developed would provide 30,759 homes.
Having carefully considered all the evidence, apart from the proposed Garden Community, we will only be proposing 14 of these sites which would allow the development of 893 homes on Green Belt sites and only when they can deliver a clear community benefit.
We can’t continue to rely on development of brownfield sites or within our existing towns to meet the overall housing need targets. We need to find the right balance. The proposed Garden Community will lead to the development of around 4,000 homes built over three decades, with associated infrastructure.
At this stage based on the evidence, the draft Local Plan will recommend the Garden Community is located in South Godstone. Once the Local Plan is adopted, the Council, working very closely with the local community, will draw up a Masterplan.
We have to prepare a Local Plan. Not just by law, but because we need a long term plan (20 years in this case). We have an ageing population and homes which cost so much our young people have no option, but to move out of the area. We need to provide for future generations. We need them to keep this district vibrant, thriving and economically successful.
This is our opportunity to provide more affordable homes for local families and create local well paid jobs which will help our young people get on the property ladder. This is also very much about new roads, healthcare facilities and schools to support existing and future generations. Our strategy for the Local Plan is the best approach we have been able to identify which will deliver infrastructure to a higher standard.
For the majority of our residents the Local Plan will deliver benefits and it will be good news. For those who will be most affected, I am committed to working with you to do everything we can to minimise the impact.
Please get involved and read the documents when they are released. This Local Plan marks a significant step forward in ensuring the viability and sustainability of the district.
Councillor Keith Jecks
Chair of the Planning Policy Committee