Open letter from Keith Jecks, Chair of the Planning Policy Committee
At 9am on Monday 30 July our six week Draft Local Plan Consultation (Regulation 19) begins. This will be the last opportunity for you to have your say about the plan before comments are analysed and it is presented to a government planning inspector.
Unlike earlier consultations which considered alternative options, Regulation 19 is solely concerned with legal compliance and soundness (in planning language) of the draft plan and these are the only comments we are able to consider at this stage. Having said that, all comments received will be made available to the inspector, so if you have something to say, and do not know whether it is relevant in terms of legal compliance or soundness, I encourage you to say it.
To help make the plan more relevant to where you live, we have delivered a fact sheet to every home in the district. This includes a map and details of the plan’s contents in relation to your area encompassing sites for new homes, employment and infrastructure improvements. These will help you focus on the part of the Plan which may affect you and I urge you to look at the detail. You can find all the documents on the website at www.tandridge.gov.uk/localplan. There are also copies of the draft plan to view in libraries and at the Council Offices, Oxted from Monday.
This Plan is not just about building houses. It is an infrastructure led plan, underpinned by a sound economic strategy. This Plan will deliver new roads, improved healthcare facilities and schools to support existing and future generations. It is about creating homes for local people, creating more highly skilled local employment opportunities and significant infrastructure improvements to benefit everyone in the district.
It 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.
We need a Plan which keeps this district vibrant, thriving and sustainable for the next generation. Standing still and keeping things as they are is not an option. 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 have looked at all brownfield sites in the district, as well as whether we can build more in our urban areas. I believe we’ve gone as far as is possible in these areas to try and meet our needs, but it is not enough to deliver the housing required and as a consequence would not produce the infrastructure we need.
We’ve had to look at sites within the existing Green Belt and have only proposed for housing those which are exceptional cases and provide wider community benefit. Despite allocating these sites there remains a housing shortfall. Releasing some Green Belt, as other councils have had to do, is a regrettable route we are being forced down, but this will put the Council in a better position to protect the rest.
During the preparation of the draft Local Plan over 300 sites, the majority located in the Green Belt, were sent to us by land owners and developers for consideration. Having carefully analysed all the evidence, we are only proposing 10 of the Green Belt sites for housing development. These have only been allocated where they can deliver a clear community benefit and where it is demonstrated that exceptional circumstances exist.
I appreciate those living in South Godstone will be affected more than any other community by our proposal to develop a Garden Community. We will do everything we can to reduce the impact on existing residents. Once the plan is adopted, we will prepare an Area Action Plan (AAP), which will set out the detail and guide the development of the Garden Community. This AAP will be drawn up in very close consultation with the existing residents, to ensure any benefits for them are maximised and any disadvantages minimised.
We have not made any of these decisions lightly. We have had challenging and robust debates at our recent committee meetings. Every councillor who represents you is doing their utmost to ensure this plan delivers a better future for the district. You can view these meetings online at https://www.tandridge.gov.uk/webcast.
The consultation ends at 5pm on 10 September. Please get involved, read the documents and make your comments.
You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Chair of the Planning Policy Committee