The consultation on long-term development in Guildford got 19,500 responses from 7,000 individuals
Green belt land off Pewley Way, Guildford
The first findings have been published from a £106,000 consultation on long-term development in Guildford.
Throughout the local plan process there has been wide criticism of proposals to remove villages from the green belt and build settlements in the countryside – and many of the responses reflect that.
The Liberal Democrats have questioned why the draft plan was put to a costly consultation, despite being labelled ‘flawed’ by many groups.
Between July and September, the consultation received 19,500 responses from 7,000 individuals.
Leader of the council Stephen Mansbridge said: “The draft local plan raised many comments and concerns, which we are considering most carefully. This is not the final analysis of the recent consultation but it is a good interim summary of public opinion and the key feedback themes from the wide range of responses.”
Some respondents stated that many workers cannot find affordable homes, while others suggested that no more executive homes should be built for commuters.
A joint housing market study with Waverley and Woking is due to be published shortly, which could lead to an adjustment of the current housing need figure of 652 new homes a year.
Last month it was announced that the local plan would go to further consultation after May’s elections.
The decision came after MP Anne Milton described the draft plan as ‘lacking vision and ambition’ and cabinet minister Eric Pickles issued further guidance clarifying green belt protection.
Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, the leader of Guildford Borough Council added: “There will then be further work, largely around infrastructure, that, together with the other applied constraints, will allow the council to arrive at a housing number.
“We will continue to use every mechanism to get this number to the lowest sustainable point possible to pass the Inspectorate’s examination. We will also take into account recent statements from the Secretary of State and Department for Communities and Local Government.
“The Planning Inspectorate has now been given a clear indication and stronger ‘steer’ not to allow development that will harm the green belt.
“We will take great care to ensure the views of our community are at the forefront of our decision-making process.”
Next year’s consultation will be the third for the plan. In 2013, £140,346 was spent on an ‘issues and options’ consultation.
Kelly-Marie Blundell, the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary candidate for Guildford, said: “We have seen the expense of the local plan consultation process rocket. The Conservatives didn’t listen when they were told in June the draft local plan was flawed and there were huge questions about the housing target and whether or not the infrastructure could be delivered. They pushed ahead regardless, and threw away over £100,000 on a consultation that now has to be repeated.
“This fiasco is costing council taxpayers dear and the continued uncertainty is blighting many lives.”