Council Leader Warns of ‘Difficult Choices’ Ahead On The Local Plan
Guildford Dragon report
The leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) has issued a statement this morning to coincide with the planned end of the consultation period.
No mention is made of the confusion over the deadline for the consultation. The extension of the consultation period is instead justified only by the “level of interest”.
The council has received over six thousand responses to the Draft Local Plan from nearly 3,000 residents. The population of Guildford Borough is over 130,000.
The council leader said that the housing numbers will be revised in line with new ONS (Office for National Statistics) population projections, and: “Like most councils in the South East, we are placed in a difficult position. On the one hand we are being asked to make a proportionate contribution to the national housing shortage, on the other hand 89 per cent of any new land in our borough is green belt… we are under no illusions that there are some very difficult choices ahead.”
This is Cllr Mansbridge’s statement, issued by the Conservative group at GBC, in full: “The consultation period for the Draft Local Plan has been extended to take into account the level of interest.
“The volume, quality and wisdom of public response is high and reflects the strong concerns that exist in our communities about the very difficult choices that we are being obliged to make in relation to both sites to build and housing numbers. We thank you all for the public spirited way in which you have participated in this important process so far. Your views are an integral part of it and highly important to us.
“2,873 residents and stakeholders offered 6,006 responses so far to the draft plan in its present form and we hope to be able to give you an initial view as to the themes that have emerged within the next six weeks. You have expressed understandable concerns about the new proposed housing need number that has emerged from the formula laid down in the Local Plan process and many of you gave strong reasons why not to build on some of the nominated sites under current consideration.
“We have decided that we will need more time to take full and proper account of all these views which will demand response, and of the constraints that are emerging from the process of bringing together all the various elements of the Plan. As a result we will seek to extend the current timetable for producing the next revised draft.
“The planning process requires that we cooperate as fully as we can with our neighbouring councils in Waverley and Woking in order to arrive at a defensible housing need number for each borough. The final number will also take into account the recently revised Office of National Statistics population projections which reflect population growth and the resulting pressures for new housing this places on all councils. We will publish the West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment [SHMA] with our own new housing need number well before Christmas.
“Like most councils in the South East, we are placed in a difficult position. On the one hand we are being asked to make a proportionate contribution to the national housing shortage, on the other hand 89 per cent of any new land in our borough is green belt.
“We plan to put forward the strongest possible case for ensuring that we protect our beautiful countryside, acknowledge and act on the constraints, and at the same time satisfy the Planning Inspector that we have done all that could reasonably be expected of us to meet the housing needs of our area.
“We intend to do our very best to achieve this but we are under no illusions that there are some very difficult choices ahead. We thank everyone engaged in the process for helping us arrive at the best possible outcome for the future of our borough.