New Guildford Local Plan Adopted

The new Guildford Borough Local Plan was adopted at an Extraordinary Borough Council meeting last night (25 April 2019), after a comprehensive and wide-ranging debate. There was a majority vote by 28 councillors to adopt the Local Plan, 12 voted against adoption and 4 abstained to vote.

Details are on the Guildford Borough Council website here

8 thoughts on “New Guildford Local Plan Adopted”

  1. So where does this leave Wisley? Approved for development by virtue of being in the Local Plan, but having had the Planning Application refused all the way up to the Secretary of State? It also seems rather ironic that the day after the Local Plan was passed, it’s confirmed Debenhams in Guildford is to close, which one would naively think offers a great opportunity for developing flats and homes with all the advantages already present in an urban location.

  2. Any development at the former Wisley Airfield would still have to get planning permission. If, for example, the Government decided they couldn’t afford the A3/M25 junction ‘improvements’, I think that would give us good reason to continue to refuse the Wisley new town. After all, this Local Plan does take more land out of the green belt than is actually needed to meet the housing requirement, to the tune of 2000 homes. Which is of course the amount of housing proposed for the new town at Wisley.

    Personally I am sorry that we will lose the Guildford Debenhams, but that site does offer the opportunity for new homes in a highly sustainable location, as Jeremy suggests. But I understand from the Dragon website that the lease on that site still has 60 years to run, so it’s not yet clear whether or not it will be available for housing development.

  3. I was a Rule 6 Party for five or six weeks at the 2017 Public Inquiry into Caymans based Wisley Property Investments Ltd’s (WIPL) appeal against refusal of planning permission for a new town on Three Farms Meadow, the former Wisley airfield.
    The main reason that the appeal failed was that the site was still in the Green Belt, subject to the GBC 2003 Local Plan, and no ‘very special circumstances’ for building on the Green Belt were shown. This is what the Secretary of State said in his Decision Letter.
    “Main issues
    Green Belt
    17.The Secretary of State agrees that the proposal would represent inappropriate development in the Green Belt (IR20.30), and considers that this carries substantial weight. In accordance with paragraph 87 of the Framework, inappropriate development should not be approved except in very special circumstances.
    18.For the reasons given at IR20.32 – 20.37, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the scheme would conflict with two of the five purposes of the Green Belt as it would neither assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment nor assist in the regeneration of urban land due to the rural location. He also agrees that the scheme would reduce the openness of this part of the Green Belt (IR20.38).
    19.Overall, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the harm to the Green Belt would be very considerable (IR20.38); and that this would be in conflict with the primary expectations of paragraph 79 of the Framework and Policy RE2 of the GBLP. He gives this substantial weight and has gone on to consider whether the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations and whether very special circumstances exist to justify the development.
    20.The Secretary of State notes that eLP draft policy A35 proposes that Wisley Airfield removed from the Green Belt to provide a residential led mixed use development for about 2,000 homes and various elements of infrastructure, including access to and from the A3 (IR5.9-5.11), but he gives that proposal limited weight (see paragraph 14 above).”

    Ms Hogger says that approving the Local Plan is not equivalent to giving planning permission for the development of a new town on the former Wisley airfield. But since the Green Belt was one of the two primary reasons for refusing planning permission, and since the Local Plan removes the site from the Green Belt the key objection to planning permission has been removed. Approving the Local Plan was equivalent to approving taking this site out of the Green Belt, thereby making development ever more likely, some would say inevitable.
    2000 dwellings on Three Farms Meadows will be twice as many houses as in the whole of Effingham or Ripley. They will be packed into less than 200 acres, a tiny fraction of the area of Efffingham, an average density of housing of over ten dwellings per acre.
    The other primary reason that the appeal failed was that Highways England came in at a very late stage and objected to permission on the ground that it would have a severe adverse impact on traffic on the A3.
    WIPL’s consultants produced last minute analysis designed to show that the impact would not be severe. Despite being submitted less than 48 hours before the start of the hearing this evidence was permitted to be included. WIPL’s consultants and Highways England then spent the next six weeks of the hearing trying to come to some agreement. By the end of hearing no agreement had been reached. It was admitted by WIPL’s QC that HE’s objection meant that the appeal must fail.
    This is what the Secretary of State said about it in his Decision Letter:
    “Strategic road network (SRN)
    23.The Secretary of State has carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis at IR20.52–20.58 and agrees with his conclusion (IR20.59) that the proposed development would have a severe impact on the northbound section of the SRN between the Ockham Interchange and J10 of the M25 and this would be harmful to highway safety and contrary to advice in the Framework. He further notes that Highways England has maintained their objection. The Secretary of State, like the Inspector, gives this objection substantial weight against the proposal.”
    Mr Whiteman, MD at GBC was reputed to have been saying that WIPL would succeed in its appeal. Given that GBC wanted to include the site in the Local Plan, its position was always ambivolent.
    Most of the other objections to developing this site were set aside by the Inspector. For example local road constraints were waived aside, as was the effect on the Special Protection Area in the adjacent Ockham and Wisley Commons.
    It is a shame that Liz Hogger abstained in the vote for the Local Plan, unlike Colin Cross (ex LibDem) in Lovelace and Matthew Sarti and Jenny Wicks (Conservatives) in the Horsleys who all voted against it.
    Berkeley Homes needed to show an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to justify building on the Green Belt in Effingham. WIPL no longer need to jump that hurdle. But WIPL is doing something rather similar. It is claiming to help GBC fund infrastructure. In Berkeley Homes’ case the ‘infrastructure’ inducement was a new school. (The Inspector deemed that the need for a new school was an exceptional circumstance; without it permission would not have been granted.) In WIPL’s case it is planning to fund Highways England to build a new lane on the A3 and/or a new intersection at Burnt Common at the South end of Ripley. GBC finds this a compelling justification. I find it an unacceptable inducement, equivalent to selling our Green Belt environmental heritage ie the ‘family silver’ in Harold Macmillan’s phrase. What’s worse is that it is not really an infrastructure improvement at all. It is just a mitigation for the traffic harm that putting the wrong sort of settlement in an unsustainable car dependent location will cause.

  4. The A3/M25 junction improvement was approved in March this year. It may be delayed but it is not a question of if, only when it will take place.

  5. In answer to Mr Paton’s comment about my vote abstaining on adopting the Local Plan, I would point out that I had a responsibility to vote in accordance with the best interests of Effingham residents. That was not a simple or easy decision: I had to balance harm to our area from the Wisley Airfield site allocation against the very likely harm to our village of not having an adopted Local Plan. To explain:

    As I said at the Council meeting, I could not support a flawed Local Plan which takes far more land out of the green belt than we actually need to meet the reduced housing requirement. The Council could take the site allocation for 2000 houses at the former Wisley Airfield out of the Plan, and we’d still have the 20% buffer of extra land that we need to meet NPPF requirements. I fervently believe that the proposed Wisley Airfield new town would not be sustainable, it would pour traffic onto local rural roads which cannot cope, and it would damage the environment in all our local villages.

    However I had to weigh that in the balance against the potential harm to Effingham village if the Local Plan was not adopted. Without an adopted Local Plan, we don’t have a five-year housing land supply. Without that, it is harder to refuse planning applications for housing development which would harm our village, since they are likely to be allowed at appeal. Examples include:

    1. The recent application for 23 homes on the Church Street field in the heart of the Conservation Area. That was withdrawn at the last minute, but the officer report to planning committee commented that the recommendation to refuse was only ‘on balance’ because the application provided housing. That argument will no longer apply if Millgate Homes come back with another application for that site, since Guildford now has a five-year housing land supply.

    2. The possibility of an application to replace the Sir Douglas Haig with housing (it is thought this has recently changed hands). That would be contrary to Neighbourhood Plan policy to protect viable businesses and community facilities (ENP-G5). Without a five-year housing land supply, it is quite likely that such an application would be allowed at appeal, even if refused by the Borough Council. Neighbourhood Plan policies relating to housing carry less weight in the absence of an adopted Local Plan, as we discovered to our cost at the Berkeley Homes / Howard of Effingham planning appeal.

    3. The possible revival of the proposal for a ‘Leewood Park’ development of housing on green belt at the edge of the village along Effingham Common Road. Again, the lack of a five-year housing land supply would certainly have counted against us if such an application went to appeal.

    My worry about this potential significant harm to the village of not having a Local Plan was exactly matched by my outrage about the loss of green belt and the inclusion of the Wisley Airfield new town in the Plan. That is why I abstained.

  6. Liz Hogger says that she is ‘outraged’ by the loss of Green Belt and by the inclusion of Three Farms Meadow, also known as the former Wisley airfield in the Local Plan. She says that she ‘fervently believe[s] that the proposed Wisley Airfield new town would not be sustainable’.
    The idea of developing Three Farms Meadow was first raised in the Issues and Options Paper consultation that took place in 2014 ie some five years ago. Did Liz Hogger speak out against it then? Or at any point before this local plan for approved by the Council to go out to public consultation?
    Where are her speeches fervently opposing development on the former Wisley airfield?
    Here are some of mine:

  7. I trust Ben Paton is not implying I am a late-comer in objecting to the inclusion of the former Wisley Airfield site allocation in the Local Plan?

    He asks, did I speak out against the Wisley Airfield site allocation earlier in the Local Plan process? Yes of course I did. See for example the Borough Council meeting on 16 May 2017, when I seconded the amendment moved by Cllr Colin Cross to delete the site from the draft Local Plan before it went out to consultation.

    Effingham residents who read my regular Focus newsletter will know that I have been consistently against the Wisley Airfield/Three Farm Meadows site allocation from the very start.

    Please let’s have a courteous election debate. I don’t doubt Ben’s sincerity – why does he doubt mine?

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