“Victory for people power” as Mole Valley considers scrapping housing plan

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser


By Dorking Advertiser  |  Posted: October 23, 2014

By Alexander Robertson alexander.robertson@essnmedia.co.uk

“A VICTORY for people power was the cry from environmentalists in Mole Valley this week after the district council was forced to consider abandoning its Housing and Traveller Sites Plan.

Last week, the Advertiser reported the authority may have to scrap the policy after new guidelines were issued by the Government giving greater protection to the green belt.

Dozens of community groups have opposed the plan – which would have proposed the removal of several sites from the green belt – since the council started preparing it two years ago.

Roger Abbott, chairman of Nutwood Action Group, said: “This is a massive victory because it has happened because of groups like us.”

He added: “This shows the effect of people power and what happens when a community pulls together.”

When it first set out plans for a review of the district’s green belt, the council said it needed to provide land for about 1,100 homes by 2026 to meet targets published in its Core Strategy in 2009. This was reduced to 600 in April.

The latest Government guidance now states that green belt boundaries should only be altered in “exceptional” cases and that housing targets do not justify the harm done to the green belt.

Andy Smith, director of the Surrey branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “This is a victory in our campaign against loss of green belt in Mole Valley.

“We are especially pleased to see councillor James Friend’s plea to developers to locate more brownfield sites for housing. This is the way to meet Mole Valley’s housing needs.

“But we need the council to go further and to give an absolutely categorical assurance that there will be no shrinking at all of the green belt in this district, and that all the district’s housing requirements will be met on brownfield sites or within existing urban areas.”

A proposal to officially abandon the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan in place of a new Local Plan is expected to be heard at a meeting of the council’s executive on November 4.