Mole Valley MP calls Local Plan a “destructive attack” on green belt

Dorking and Leatherhead AdvertiserPaul Beresford 

                     RSMD15151d Photo by Andy Newbold Photography

By Dorking Advertiser  |  Posted: October 23, 2014

By Alexander Robertson


MOLE Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford has called on Guildford Borough Council to completely rewrite its proposed Local Plan, calling the document a “destructive attack” on the green belt.  Sir Paul criticised the plan for having “absolutely no credibility or legitimacy” after new planning guidelines were issued by the Government this month.

A first draft of the plan proposed removing several villages, including Effingham, Shere and East Horsley, from the green belt as the council seeks to provide housing land up until 2031.

However, new guidance put in place by Secretary of State Eric Pickles gives green belt greater protection amid fears that councils were sacrificing protected land to meeting housing targets. Sir Paul told the Advertiser that the updated guidelines were “extremely welcome news” and questioned the “poor judgement and actions of the leadership of Guildford Borough Council”.

He added: “I have always said, and said loudly, that the Local Plan proposed by Guildford was inappropriate and destructive.

“In light of the guidelines laid out by the Secretary of State, this Local Plan and the false rationale it was based on now have absolutely no credibility or legitimacy.

“I call on the leadership of Guildford Borough Council in the strongest possible terms to rewrite this vital document along more sensible, more sustainable and fairer lines.”

Guildford Borough Council’s public consultation on the first draft of the plan finished last month, with a second draft expected next year.

When implemented, the policy will set out how the borough should be shaped for the next 20 years, covering issues such as jobs, affordable housing and infrastructure.

Several groups in Effingham, Shere and East Horsley have criticised the document, most notably Effingham Residents Association, which called on council leader Stephen Mansbridge to step down over the plan.

Sir Paul urged those who had submitted their views on the plan to “take encouragement” from the new Government guidelines and to make sure they were “ready to continue the struggle”.

He added: “This welcome intervention could have been made specifically for the case of Guildford.

“Eric Pickles highlighted the issue of councils using the spectre of intervention by Whitehall or Westminster as a means of progressing their own plans to build on green-belt land.

“Eric Pickles has shown this to be a nonsense argument and one which residents will not tolerate hearing from Guildford Borough Councillors in the future.”

The council did not respond to the Advertiser’s request for a comment.