The following is the text of a letter sent by Stephen Cooksey, Leader of Mole Valley District Council, to the Prime Minister of February 5th 2020. The letter was signed by all 22 Liberal Democrats Councillors; all other District Councillors were asked if they wished to sign it and all declined.

Dear Prime Minister
Mole Valley District Council has spent the last 3 years preparing its Local Plan which will be the subject of public consultation in February and March.

The Council has prepared a draft Plan that will meet government requirements for housing numbers based on the standard methodology in national planning guidance. We did however delay the publication in order to request discussions with the previous Secretary of State to seek exemptions from the housing numbers imposed by the Government because of the nature of Mole Valley District. Around 90% of the area of Mole Valley District is either Green Belt or open countryside beyond the Green Belt, with much of the land designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and/or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, with the remainder comprising small settlements or rural villages. It is therefore impossible to establish a Local Plan that will meet government requirements for housing numbers without substantial Green Belt development.

The Council has real concerns about development in the Green Belt but in our previous discussions with Government representatives it was made clear that there was no room for manoeuvre and that land for the numbers required must be provided. I would add that all potential brownfield sites have been explored and there is no possibility of further incorporation of brownfield land into the Draft Plan. Moreover, we have maximised housing density assumptions in our plan making and neighbouring districts and boroughs have not been able to accommodate any of our housing needs.

We have noted that during your visit to Oxshott in neighbouring Elmbridge District on 25th June 2019 you were quoted by our local press as saying the following in response to their questions; 'What assurance would you give Surrey residents concerned over the escalation of green belt development? Are the current laws working and would you consider reviewing these as Prime Minister'.

Your reply was:
'We are being too tough. We should not be imposing targets on Councils that they are simply finding impossible to meet without building on the green belt, so we have to be much more sensitive in what we are doing'.

We recognise the Government's objective of significantly boosting the supply of homes but also the great importance it attaches to the Green Belt. The statement you made in Oxshott has therefore given us some hope that the new Government will be somewhat more understanding of our situation as a Green Belt authority and will act to reduce the amount of new housing we are expected to plan for, thereby reducing the need to require Green Belt land for development.

We are therefore respectfully requesting a meeting with the Secretary of State or one of his Ministers to review the housing numbers required by the Government so that when our draft plan is being considered by residents and businesses, they can comment in the knowledge that the Government is listening to our concerns and that the scale of new housing development suggested in the draft plan can be reduced accordingly.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Stephen Cooksey

Leader, Mole Valley District Council