Eric Pickles announces new green belt guidelines amid housing targets fears

October 17, 2014

By Alexander Robertson

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser

MOLE Valley’s treasured green belt has been given greater protections by the Government amid fears that councils are sacrificing land to meet housing targets.

Local Government secretary Eric Pickles unveiled the new green belt guidelines last week and added that brownfield land should be prioritised in the search for potential housing sites.

The news means Mole Valley District Council may have to abandon its Housing and Traveller Sites Plan, which would have decided where more than 1,000 new homes will be built in the district.

A proposal to officially scrap the plan in place of a new Local Plan is expected to be heard at a meeting of the council’s executive next month. The council had needed to provide land for about 1,100 homes by 2026 to meet targets published in its Core Strategy in 2009, with plans to remove dozens of sites from the green belt for housing.

Eric Pickles

However Mr Pickles said: “This Government has been very clear that when planning for new buildings, protecting our precious green belt must be paramount.

“Local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl, or see the vital green lungs around their towns and cities lost to unnecessary development.

“This new guidance will ensure councils can meet their housing needs by prioritising brownfield sites, and fortify the green belt in their area.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires councils to set out where new housing will be built over a five-year period in their area under new local plans.

The NPPF included protections for the green belt however there is increasing concern that councils are ignoring them.

The new planning guidance states explicitly for the first time that “once established green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances”. This overrides existing guidance which states that “inappropriate development” on the green belt “should not be approved except in very special circumstances”.


Councillor Stephen Cooksey (Lib Dem, Dorking South) said: “My understanding is that at the next meeting of the council’s executive, members will be presented with a proposal that the current plan be effectively abandoned.

“The council would then begin work to prepare a new Local Plan which will more closely match the new guidelines which have been issued by Government. The new plan will likely include the criteria that the council would need the support of local communities when removing any land from the green belt, which is a good thing.”

The council had hoped to publish a draft version of the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan by January, but resources will now likely be channelled towards the creation of a new plan, likely beginning at the start of 2015.