Two councillors speak out as District agrees strategic approach to development

By Kevin Black in Environment

Tandridge District Council’s Planning Policy Committee has agreed the Council’s strategic approach to development for the district up to 2033.

This supports the proposal for a garden village, as part of the creation of the Local Plan, which would require the release of around 1% of Green Belt land.

The strategy proposes a new settlement of around 4000 houses, developed around garden village principals, will be pursued as part of the Local Plan. The aim,says the Council, is to provide a mix of affordable and starter homes and would include new schools, a doctor’s surgery, supermarket and investment in roads.

However, the strategy ran into opposition from Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group District Councillor Jackie Wren of Oxted and Lingfield’s Conservative District Councillor Liz Lockwood (pictured) who urged members of the Committee to vote against the strategy.

Councillor Wren said: “The Council says that its preferred strategy aims to protect the Green Belt. Please do not be fooled. The details make clear this Council wants to build as much as possible and has no intention whatsoever of protecting the Green Belt. Please do not make the mistake of believing that the new houses in the Green Belt will be “affordable” and will be for local residents. These new houses will be sold at the highest possible price that developers can achieve irrespective of whether those purchasers are from Tandridge or anywhere else.”

Councillor Wren told fellow Councillors: “By agreeing to this, you are agreeing to the wholesale release of Green Belt sites all around the district. This document skirts the key issue the whole of the district is shouting about – the current inadequate infrastructure and the consequences of infilling ad infinitum without any consideration of the consequences whatsoever. Flooding, congestion, surgery waiting lists and much much more. This strategy is completely unsustainable and I would not be able to look any residents in the eye if I voted for it.”

Councillor Lockwood told the committee: “I am not prepared to stand by in humble silence if I think the message is wrong or misleading. What we are now being presented with, is a preferred strategy which in my opinion is a testament to the vague and rudderless approach the plan has taken throughout its emergence.

“This document still skirts the key issue the whole of the district is shouting about – the current inadequate infrastructure and the consequences of infilling ad infinitum without any consideration of the consequences whatsoever. Flooding, congestion, surgery waiting lists and much, much more.

“The new garden village of 4,000 houses, is proposed on the strength of just 54 responses in the first consultation and the laudable belief it will in one stroke satisfy the bulk of the housing need number and boost the infrastructure.

This matter rests on the consciences of the members of this committee. By agreeing to this preferred strategy, you are agreeing to the wholesale release of green belt sites all around the district. By voting for this preferred strategy you are voting for a strategy which is unsustainable, will not deliver what Tandridge actually needs but will be voting for more of the same as we have had over the last 20 years and all over the green belt and precious open spaces as well.”

At this stage says the Council, the strategy does not set out in detail exactly where new development will take place, but sets out the principles on which decisions will be based.

Five sites will be further considered as the plan moves forward. These sites have been submitted to the Council by landowners and developers. These are on land in Blindley Heath, Chaldon - Alderstead and Tolsworth Farm, land west of Edenbridge. Redhill Aerodrome and South Godstone. Once locations which can be developed have been identified, further consultation will take place to ensure the final Local Plan caters for present and future needs.

Without looking at the Green Belt, the Council will only be able to deliver just over a third of the housing needed. This approach would not boost the supply of housing as required by the government and would not pass the independent examination of the Local Plan, which could mean the Council losing the ability to control and plan for development in the district, putting more Green Belt at risk.

Councillor Peter Bond, Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, said: “We now have a clear strategy which will be reflected in the development of a Local Plan that is infrastructure led and which relieves the pressure on existing facilities. Releasing a small amount of the Green Belt will enable us to deliver the infrastructure we so badly need, while protecting the rest from incremental development.”

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