Surrey Greenbelt campaigners celebrate with caution after council development

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‘We have to be wary about future development on the Greenbelt’ says leader of Guildford Greenbelt Group, Susan Parker

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6:00am 25th November 2014

It comes as both Guildford and Mole Valley councils hinted yesterday (24th November) that fewer homes than planned will be built in the countryside.

But leader of Guildford Greenbelt Group, Susan Parker, says they are still wary of development: “There’s an election in May.

“So I think they’ve realised within the council and possibly within the government how desperately unpopular the policy of building on the greenbelt is.

“I don’t think it’s job done.

“I think we have to be a little bit wary of packing up and going home at this stage.

“In the past the council have given undertakings about changing things and then not change them as much as they had indicated that they were going to.”

Councillor John Northcott, Executive Member for Planning at Mole Valley District Council, says they have not completely ruled out the idea of building homes on the Greenbelt: “If you’re interested in a bit of land which is very close to a (Greenbelt) boundary there’s always a feeling there will be development.

“But there is no intention of releasing land from the Greenbelt for the foreseeable future.”

Yesterday, both Guildford and Mole Valley councils said their housing plans are changing in light of new information from the Government.

Westminster now says protecting the Greenbelt should be a priority, even if it means missing housing targets.

In essence, it means it is now much less likely the Greenbelt will be built on.

Stephen Mansbridge, Leader of Guildford Borough Council, said: “I can state categorically that no site will come forward for development within the Greenbelt, any Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or area of flood risk unless it has been fully reassessed against the tests set out in the planning practice guidance as amended in October this year.

“The housing number, land availability and each development site will be rigorously reassessed against the test of harm set out in the revised guidance.”

Councillor John Northcott said: “The Housing and Traveller Sites Plan would in all likelihood have had to propose taking some land out of the Greenbelt and allocate it for housing development.

“Recent statements by Secretary of State Eric Pickles about the Greenbelt have emphasised the Government’s view that when planning for new buildings, protecting the Greenbelt must be paramount and priority given to brownfield sites.”

Guildford Borough Council says it will draw up a new Draft Local Plan which will go to consultation in 2015.

Mole Valley District Council is recommending that it starts work on a Draft Local Plan to replace its Housing and Traveller Sites Plan.

A decision will be made by the Executive on December 9th.

Eagle Radio has contacted Waverley Borough Council which says its Local Plan process is unaffected as it has not yet gone past the consultation stage.