Local Plan is necessary but there is too much for Hookwood
As the by-election campaign begins, I want to explain where I stand on Mole Valley's Local Plan and, in particular, the inclusion of about 560 new homes on Green Belt land to the west of Hookwood.
I believe we need an approved Local Plan to protect our environment and secure the right kinds of housing and infrastructure we need for our area
I oppose all developments on Green Belt land which do not have community support, and will do all I can to protect our environment from excessive Government housing targets.
Having a Local Plan is vital to protect the whole District
Not having a Local Plan would be a disaster for Mole Valley as it would let developers get permission on appeal for unsuitable developments, including in the Green Belt, by arguing that the Council has not made provision for future housing needs. It could even lead to the Council's planning powers being removed and instead the decisions taken by remote bureaucrats.
So it was disappointing that Conservative Councillors voted to delay the Plan and were willing to risk the consequences for our District.
The proposed development at Hookwood is excessive and I don't want to see Green Belt lost
The decision on these sites is now in the hands of the Government's Inspector. I hope the Inspector will decide to remove some or all of them from the Plan and I will be willing to speak at the public examination on behalf of any resident who has submitted an objection and argue their case forcefully.
The reasons why these sites in the Green Belt are still in the draft Local Plan are:
- Developers put them forward in response to a call for sites across Mole Valley put out by the previous Conservative administration at Mole Valley, and they were included in the draft Plan we inherited from the Conservatives in 2019.
- There is not enough so-called "brownfield land" (urban areas and previously developed sites) to meet the Conservative Government's excessive housing target of nearly 8000 homes for Mole Valley. The incoming Lib Dem administration did a further search that resulted in more brownfield sites being found. This contributed to the substantial reduction in Green Belt sites that was made before the draft Plan was submitted to the Inspector.
- Mole Valley is the first council in Surrey to propose scaling back the Government's housing target - by nearly 2000 homes. This was made possible by revisiting the Government's criteria for sites in a more objective way to provide an evidence base for deletion to put to the Inspector. Whilst over 40% of the Green Belt sites were removed on this basis, unfortunately the Hookwood sites could not be deleted at this stage, as they still meet the Government's criteria for development. However, the Plan provides for a delay until there is sufficient infrastructure available.
- In addition to defending our Green Belt, I will focus on the infrastructure proposed and how it is going to be delivered.
- As your Councillor I will investigate the detail of how the various upgrades to local services are going to be delivered. This would cover at least health, education, roads and transport.
- If there are gaps in the plans or uncertainties, I will press for them to be resolved at the earliest opportunity. It is worth remembering that there is time for this process as the draft Plan states that the Hookwood sites are expected to be developed towards the end of the 15 year Plan period.
The draft Local Plan has significant benefits
Some of the benefits expected to be achieved through the Local Plan are:
- More housing that local people can afford - the draft Plan has provision for 40% of new housing to be discounted in some way including a substantial amount of social housing for rent.
- The highest possible energy efficiency standards to minimise the impact on the climate and reduce the risk of fuel poverty - we would like to go even further but the Government's planning framework restricts what can be asked of developers
- Protection for local nature - Mole Valley is one of only nine Councils in England to have proposed to go beyond the Government's indicated standard of a 10% net gain in biodiversity from all developments. Mole Valley will require 20%. We will also set the baseline for measurement at a date before any work starts on a site.
- Improved flood mitigation for areas surrounding the development sites - as well as dealing comprehensively with flooding risk for the new homes, developers will be required to reach a higher standard that will reduce risk for the surrounding area.
I share residents' concerns about the massive West Ifield development
As with the Mole Valley Local Plan, I share concerns about the massive 10,000 home development being proposed for Horsham, which will place significant demands on Charlwood's infrastructure and in particular our roads.
I am happy to try to answer any questions. Just email me at Mikeward@mvld.org.uk