Mole Valley’s Draft Local Plan: Time to have your say

January 8, 2020 12:22 PM

Three years in the making, Mole Valley District Council now has a draft Local Plan ready for consultation. The new Lib Dem administration has had several months to review all the work done to date and has made some substantial improvements. Potentially this plan will be our roadmap and guidance for all building development in our area for the next fifteen years.

Councillor Margaret Cooksey, Cabinet Member for Planning says: 'The preparation of the Local Plan is one of the most important responsibilities we have as a Council. It's now time for the people who live and work here to have their say on the draft Plan.'

A public consultation will be proposed and, if agreed by Members at the Council meeting on 28th January, this will run from 3rd February until 16th March 2020. (For details see below).

Central Government targets on housing mean tough choices for us in Mole Valley

Central Government dictates overall housing requirements and each Council is obliged to identify land to accommodate the requisite number of houses. Mole Valley comprises around 90% Green Belt or open countryside beyond the Green Belt, yet no consideration was allowed for this in its housing requirement to deliver at least 6,735 additional homes within the plan period (449 homes each year). As this target stands, there has to be some encroachment of Green Belt, even after all Brownfield sites are utilised.

When the Lib Dems won control of the Council in May, one of their first actions was to challenge the overall housing requirements with the Government when the Leader of Council and Cabinet Member for Planning met with the Secretary of State's Chief Planning Officer in the summer.

'Unfortunately, Mole Valley was advised that the numbers are immovable, which leaves us with some stark choices,' states Councillor Margaret Cooksey. 'We have either to approve a plan that meets government housing targets for Mole Valley or present good reason, endorsed by public consultation, for going forward with a reduced number of housing units in order to protect the Green Belt and that has to be evidence based. That is why the consultation is vital so that public reaction can be taken into account when a final plan is submitted for approval. Second guessing at public reaction is not evidence that the Inspector will take seriously. If central Government do not approve our Local Plan, they could take the decision out of our control and into the hands of government inspectors.'

The Lib Dems urge people throughout the district to engage with the consultation process to provide a strong evidence base of public opinion to present to Central Government. Margaret Cooksey says: 'I urge all residents to recognise the importance of responding to positive aspects to of the draft plan that they like as well as those that they are unhappy with.' This is because we will continue to oppose inappropriate development in the Green Belt except on sites which no longer meet Green Belt purposes and which have public support. We will continue to lobby and petition Government to mitigate excessive housing demands for Mole Valley. This includes a letter to the Prime Minister reminding him of concerns he himself voiced last year on the housing targets being imposed in Surrey.

Lib Dem improvements to the Local Plan

In the seven months since taking control of the Council, the Lib Dem administration has reviewed the overall content of the draft Local Plan and made significant improvements in two key areas: affordable housing and the environment.

The amended Local Plan specifies more affordable housing for rent and shared ownership as well as promoting development of more two and three-bedroom properties local residents need rather than larger, expensive homes.

It also now includes many new requirements to mitigate the effects of climate change including making new homes more energy efficient and cheaper to run, as well as reducing carbon emissions.

Find out more about the draft Local Plan

The draft Local Plan and supporting evidence will be available to view on and in hard copy at MVDC's offices and libraries throughout the District. There will be a series of public meetings and consultation response forms for online feedback for all interested parties to express their views on all aspects of the draft Local Plan.