GREEN belt protection should come before any kind of new housing developments.
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That is the overwhelming opinion of those who voted in an online poll carried out on the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser’s website over the past few weeks which found a massive majority want to protect green spaces from being built on at all costs.
The Mole Valley Core Strategy, developed as part of the South East Plan, has identified that the district council must provide at least 3,760 new homes within the district between 2006 and 2026. But with limited space and a large target to meet – equal to 188 new homes per year for 20 years – it has been suggested that between 1,000 and 1,500 of those new homes may have to be constructed on the green belt. Now the difficulties facing the council and housing developers have been made clear after 87 per cent of respondents to our poll said it does not matter how many new homes are needed, the green belt should stay protected against any such development.
Of the 146 polled, 127 people responded in this way compared to just 19 (13 per cent) of the total number of votes – who said that if homes needed to be built on the green belt to meet housing targets then the council should allow them to do so. In an effort to avoid building on the green belt, the Core Strategy states that priority will be given to already built-up areas within Leatherhead, Dorking – including North Holmwood – Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham.
It has also stated that the new housing requirement can be met without building on the green belt until about 2016/17, by which point officers will have to look into the possibility of suitable locations.
THE CASE FOR GREEN-BELT DEVELOPMENT
Councillor John Northcott is the executive member for planning at Mole Valley District Council. In the following statement, he sets out the challenges faced by the authority in trying to balance the need for new housing against the public desire to protect Mole Valley’s green spaces.
IN CONSIDERING planning applications for development in the green belt, Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) applies the national planning policy, which indicates that inappropriate development in the green belt should not be permitted unless there are very special circumstances. MVDC has consistently followed this advice and has been successful in safeguarding the openness of the green belt in Mole Valley. MVDC appreciates that the boundary of the green belt in Mole Valley has not changed significantly since it was originally established over 50 years ago, and that it has been successful in preventing sprawl and safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
However, the council also recognises that it is necessary to ensure there is an adequate supply of land for new homes to meet the district’s needs. While new homes will continue to be provided on sites in the built-up areas, this source is unlikely to be sufficient. MVDC has therefore taken the decision to review the boundary of the green belt to ensure there is sufficient land to meet future development requirements. Over the past 18 months, the council has been inviting views on its review of the green-belt boundary and on the sites that land-owners and developers have suggested should be taken out of the green belt and allocated for development. It is presently carefully considering and balancing all the arguments for and against taking land out of the green belt for development.
MVDC will be publishing its proposals in the Housing and Traveller Sites Plan early in the New Year. There will then be an opportunity for formal representations to be made which will be considered by a Government-appointed independent Planning Inspector.
THE CASE AGAINST GREEN-BELT DEVELOPMENT
Jacquetta Fewster, Green Party member, puts the case for the protection of Mole Valley’s green belt from development.
THE green belt is a great invention. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England says that without the green belt the area between Cambridge and Brighton would now be urban sprawl.
Today the green belt is under the greatest threat in its history. Huge areas of land have been put forward as potential housing development sites. A field near you could be on the list.
Our stunning views, our precious wildlife and our quality of life are under threat.
The purpose of the green belt is to protect our green spaces from urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. That’s forever – our legacy from past generations and our gift to future generations. Not until we find it more convenient or lucrative to build on it.
That view is borne out by the majority of people in Mole Valley who want to defend the green belt and have objected to the sites put forward by landowners and developers.
Mole Valley Green Party recognises there is a need for more affordable housing. The party wants to see greater investment in social housing, and a return to the provision of council housing.
But we are not convinced there has been a rigorous enough search for brownfield sites, and we think the housing targets handed down by the Government are far too high and must be challenged by Mole Valley District Council. Many of the housing proposals seem to be for large, executive homes, designed to bring maximum profits to the developers, rather than the affordable homes which are needed. Woking District Council requires any new buildings to meet high environmental standards, and solar panels on new builds are a common sight. Not so in Mole Valley, where all the district council does is meet the Government’s disappointingly low standards for sustainable buildings.
If we don’t stand up and say “no” now, most of the green spaces in the South East will get swallowed up over the next century. The South East is already choking under the pressure of development and traffic. More and more people move to the South East to work and settle, whilst in other parts of the UK homes lie empty and investment is urgently needed.
Protect the green belt: