Open letter from Keith Jecks, Chair of the Planning Policy Committee
On Thursday 21 June, we will publish the Draft Local Plan. We are doing this as early as we can and earlier than is legally required because we recognise the complexity of its contents. We want to give everyone time to consider it properly before we decide at the Planning Policy Committee on 3 July, whether to approve the Plan for Regulation 19 consultation.
If the Local Plan is approved, the Regulation 19 consultation is scheduled to take place between 16 July and 28 August if these dates are agreed. This is a purely technical consultation, solely concerned with legal compliance and soundness (in planning language) of the draft plan and is the final step before it is presented to a government planning inspector.
As I’ve said before, the Local Plan is evidence led, with some of the evidence being the comments you made during the three consultations in which we have asked what you think and listened to what you have to say. This evidence has helped determine our strategy. Some significant changes have been made to our ideas for the plan as a result, for example giving greater consideration to farming, agriculture and the rural economy in the district and widening plans for employment creation.
Another change concerns the “insetting” of 12 villages from the Green Belt. This was a purely technical proposal, but clearly caused concern for many residents and as a result we have concluded it is only essential to inset one village - Godstone - and we will protect its character through other planning policies.
The Local Plan will deliver significant infrastructure, which residents also identified as critically important. We will provide two new primary schools, a new secondary school, improvements to the A22 (from and including its junction with the M25 to help keep traffic moving from Caterham to Felbridge), a new doctors’ surgery, flood relief measures in Caterham, Whyteleafe and Smallfield, better rail connections and improvements to parking facilities.
In addition, the evidence has demonstrated what many of us thought we knew - there are not enough well-paid jobs in the district, forcing people to travel outside the district to work. This plan seeks to generate thousands of new jobs, many of which will be high value jobs, by allocating a significant amount of employment space, as well as encouraging the development of existing employment sites.
Much of the discussion about the plan has, of course, focused on housing and we are planning for around 300 new homes per year. This seems a lot, given we have been building about 250 each year in the past, but we need to recognise there is a housing crisis in this district with our young families unable to find homes in the area they were brought up in, as well as insufficient accommodation for older “downsizers”. We are determined to do something to help solve this problem.
The government’s method for assessing our need indicates that 400-470 new homes are needed each year (the latest data from the government indicates a number at the lower end of the range) and we have made strenuous efforts to try to meet this need. We have looked at all our brownfield sites, whether we can build more in our urban areas and on sites in the Green Belt that do not meet its purposes. Despite allocating all these sites there is still a shortfall and like all our neighbouring authorities we will be forced to allocate some Green Belt land for housing.
We will be building council houses to help the 1,300 people on the housing waiting list. We will be making plots available for self-builders. We will be helping people with shared ownership schemes and wherever possible will ensure that those with an existing connection to the Tandridge district have priority.
For some however, the plan will result in housing where before there was countryside. We recognise this and regret it, but it is unavoidable. I will repeat here what I have said privately to a woman in South Godstone who contacted me. As long as I am involved in the formation and implementation of this plan, I will personally ensure we do all we can to reduce the impact on existing residents.
We hope you take time to read the Draft Local Plan when it is published later tomorrow and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. You can contact me at email@example.com.
Chair of the Planning Policy Committee