Green belt in Effingham could be saved after council “U-turn”

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser

THREATENED Green Belt land in Effingham, Shere and East Horsley may be saved after Guildford Borough Council admitted it would have to review its local plan

Posted: December 10, 2014

By Alexander Robertson

PICTURESQUE: Shere village is one of 16 villages recommended by Guildford Borough Council for removal from the green belt

PICTURESQUE: Shere village is one of 16 villages recommended by Guildford Borough Council for removal from the green belt

A first draft of the plan, published earlier this year, proposed removing the three villages – and 13 others – from the green belt as it looks to provide housing land up until 2031. However, council leader Stephen Mansbridge announced last week that every green belt site put forward for development would have to be reassessed ahead of the plan’s formal adoption.

The move comes after new guidance by the Government in October gave the green belt greater protection amid fears councils were sacrificing land to meet housing targets.

Mr Mansbridge said: “I can state categorically that no site will come forward for development within the green belt, 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.”

Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford criticised the plan for having “absolutely no credibility or legitimacy” after the new guidelines were issued by Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

The council’s public consultation on the first draft of the plan finished in September, 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, whose members called on Mr Mansbridge to step down from his position as leader.

The council’s decision was welcomed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Branch director Andy Smith said: “The council, after trying for so long to force local communities to accept its plan for a massive roll-back of the green belt, now appears to have ditched this unpopular and discredited plan.

“The green belt is cherished as a vital safeguard for our countryside and open spaces and should not be compromised. It is a very welcome U-turn. It is late in the day, but better late than never.”

The decision comes after Mole Valley District Council announced last month that it would be terminating work on its Housing and Traveller Sites Plan following the new guidelines.

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