Following recent correspondence between Sir Paul Beresford MP and Effingham Residents Association the following will be of interest

“… refusal of plans to develop at Wisley Airfield especially in the light of a live application, removal of plans to “wash over” our rural villages and ensure the most intense scrutiny of proposals to expand the Howard of Effingham.”

Mole Valley MP Secures Green Belt Assurances From Secretary of State

10th March 2015

Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, has been unambiguously opposed to the Local Plan, produced by Guildford Borough Council, from the first day it was published. The Plan called for wholly unacceptable destruction of large swathes of the Green Belt in pursuit of an ill-thought-out ‘growth agenda’ which gave no thought to preserving our irreplaceable countryside for future generations.

Paul has pushed this vital issue to the top of government. On Monday 2nd March David Cameron said “For years Labour’s failed regional strategies cast a shadow over our fields and forests threatening to carve them up and cover them in ugliness. We’ve taken a totally different approach and protecting the Green Belt is paramount.” Paul Beresford has communicated with both former Planning Minister Nick Boles and current Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles to enlist their support. This has been forthcoming in a number of letters and published policy documents, though as Sir Paul commented ‘…despite the unmistakably clear advice I have secured from central government that housing need does not constitute grounds for building on the Green Belt, I felt that an absolute statement was required to ensure the Local Plan did not include sites being removed from the Green Belt’.

Sir Paul has recently contacted the Secretary of State again with the intention of seeking this absolute clarification on the importance of Green Belt protection. He has now received a response which clearly underscores the Conservatives’ total commitment to Green Belt protection.

This most recent letter from Eric Pickles draws attention to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that the Green Belt may be altered ‘…only in exceptional circumstances…’ Sir Paul commented that “we see in the NPPF that Green Belt protection is specifically cited as a consideration which would override the need to meet housing targets. This is a clear statement of government policy.

Understandably the Secretary of State has declined to comment on a case by case basis as this would be in breach of his quasi-judicial role in the planning process. However, his statements have only one possible meaning. Sir Paul commented that ‘while the Secretary of State quite rightly declines to comment on specific cases, I have no hesitation in doing so. Based on advice from Whitehall, based on the NPPF and based on numerous letters and comments from Ministers, the withdrawn Local Plan is unacceptable where it includes removing sites from the Green Belt unless there are exceptional circumstances. Fortunately the Draft (draft) Local Plan has been recalled for reconsideration and hopefully an extensive rewrite. This rewrite must necessarily include refusal of plans to develop at Wisley Airfield especially in the light of a live application, removal of plans to “wash over” our rural villages and ensure the most intense scrutiny of proposals to expand the Howard of Effingham. This is no less than what the Conservative led government has called for through its planning policies’.

The overarching issue of Green Belt protection is of paramount importance to Sir Paul and to Mole Valley local Conservatives. Sir Paul explained that ‘…to my mind the original Draft (draft) Local Plan does not represent Conservative thinking on the Green Belt. To address this issue I have worked closely with my local Party and ensured that every candidate running as a Conservative in the Mole Valley constituency for Guildford Council seats this year will be mandated to protect the Green Belt and indeed has been selected on the basis that they will make this a priority for the duration of their time on the council.  I want these Conservatives elected to help construct a new Local Plan which protects the Green Belt and to help steer it through the Conservative Group, through Guildford Council and through the Inquiry. As the election approaches, I recall the previous Labour Government’s Regional Plan that meant John Prescott would have forced the building of tens of thousands of new properties all over Surrey. I am further alarmed at Vince Cable – a potential Liberal Leader –  commenting that he wished for house building all over Surrey. I do accept there must be some development in Guildford but a new imaginative plan, not plundering the Green Belt, will enable this’.

To view the full letter sent to Sir Paul from Eric Pickles please click HERE