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Council ignores 5,435 signature petition and refuses 2 hour free parking

Tandridge District Councillors have delivered a massive snub to public opinion and voted against 2 hour free parking in Ellice Road car park.

At the full Council meeting on 20 April, a petition with 5,435 signatures in favour of 2 hour free parking, organised jointly by the Oxted Traders Association and Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group, was presented to the Council leader, Oxted Councillor Martin Fisher, by Oxted businesswoman Barbara McNaughton-Khattri who owns Elements Hair and Beauty Salon in the High Street.

OLRG Councillor, Jackie Wren, then put forward an amendment to alter the proposed 1 hour free parking to 2 hours. Councillor Wren and OLRG's Limpsfield Councillor, Phil Davies, both made impassioned pleas for the free parking period to be increased to protect Oxted's businesses.

But the amendment was lost by 26 votes to 13 with one abstention. Apart from OLRG Councillors Wren and Davies, all the other Oxted and Limpsfield Ward Councillors voted against 2 hour free parking.

They are: Cllr Martin Fisher (Oxted North & Tandridge and Council leader); Cllr David Weightman (Oxted North & Tandridge); Cllr Lindsey Dunbar (Limpsfield); Cllr Simon Ainsworth (Oxted South); Cllr Barry Compton (Oxted South) and Cllr Elizabeth Parker (Oxted South).

Councillor Wren said afterwards: "It is very disappointing that the Council has not listened to the combined voice of business and residents. I was pleased that we managed to get earlier concessions increasing the original 30 minutes to 1 hour and dropping plans to charge on Saturdays, but 2 hour free parking is crucial and this decision is a smack in the teeth for Oxted. Sadly, the Council seems driven entirely by its need for money and its decisions are increasingly not in the interests of the local community."


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Tandridge District Council puts Green Belt up for grabs with flawed Local Plan proposals.

OLRG has now submitted its second expert opinion response to Tandridge Council's Local Plan Sites Consultation which makes clear the Council's proposals are not fit for purpose and do not form the basis for a sound Local Plan. It can be read in the box above or on this link: click here

In addition to comments on individual site assessments, the key points the experts have made are:

* The consultation is based on an inflated and unreliable objectively assessed housing need (OAN) figure.

* The Council's documents consistently misquote the definition of sustainable development set out in Paragraph 14 of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which explains that the Green Belt is a policy that indicates development should be restricted. This omission was first identified in the Collective Representation submitted last February by OLRG, 11 Parish Councils, 7 other community groups and the Tandridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Council acknowledged this omission in its Consultation Response. Despite that, the Sites Consultation documents once again misquote the NPPF and this once again calls into question whether there is any priority being placed on protecting the Green Belt in the Local Plan.

* The Green Belt Assessment Part 2 is flawed and has not been carried out in line with Government policy. There is an imprecise and inaccurate analysis of the Green Belt purposes performed by specific areas of the Green Belt promoted for development.

* In assessing suitability, the Council's site assessments (that is the HELAA 2016, as with the HELAA 2015), do not meet the requirements of Government guidance and omit key evidence.

* The Consultation is being conducted in the absence of any strategic planning context for the District.

* The Council has not corrected its earlier Local Plan documents despite the flaws being pointed out to it in the Collective Representation. Until they are corrected, they should not form the basis for assessing site options or for the long term planning strategy for Tandridge District.

We are most concerned about Tandridge Council's decision to keep open its Sites list for developers/landowners to submit sites for development until December 30 - the same day as its Local Plan Sites Consultation closed.

Inevitably, this has meant a number of sites were submitted too late for people to comment on them.

After persistent requests from OLRG Councillor Jackie Wren, Tandridge Council has now published a list of the extra sites. We felt it was very important to get these sites published as soon as possible so that residents were aware of them.

There are new sites in Hurst Green and Limpsfield together with some new large sites around the District including in Chaldon, Bletchingley, Blindley Heath, Dormansland, Lingfield and Woldingham.

To read the full additional site list click here

The Council says it has not yet assessed these new sites to see if it considers they are suitable for development, but will now be doing so.

We do not understand why the Council did not close the site list for the current Local Plan before going out for consultation. The big problem with what has happened is that a third Regulation 18 Consultation may now be necessary and - as well as the extra cost at a time when the Council is facing serious financial problems - this is likely to delay even further the next stage, Regulation 19, and the production of the final Local Plan.

Last June, the Council delayed the Local Plan by a year which meant it missed this year's Government deadline.

The longer the delay with getting a sound Local Plan before the Planning Inspectorate for Examination, the greater the risk of speculative planning applications being submitted by developers on Green Belt sites. This, coupled with the Council's inadequate Green Belt assessments which put the Green Belt at unjustified risk, is a real worry.

We are very anxious that a sound Local Plan is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate as soon as possible.

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On Thursday, July 21 , Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group Councillor Jackie Wren made another plea to Tandridge Councillors to correct the Local Plan documents. Her speech can be watched on this link click here

Councillor Wren said: "This Council has been given expert advice on two occasions now that its Local Plan documents are defective, but has not corrected them."

Later, Councillor Wren commented: "I made my points but they seemed to fall on deaf ears because the debate afterwards did not address any of them which was disappointing.

No-one seems willing or able to grasp what OLRG is saying which is that leading planning, legal and demographic experts have said the Planning Department's documents are badly wrong. As a result our precious Green Belt is unnecessarily threatened. Not only that, but if the documents are not corrected, the Local Plan risks being found unsound and tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money will be wasted.

It is frustrating but I'm not disheartened. We expected these setbacks and are determined to get the Plan corrected in line with national policy."

Councillor Wren also raised concerns that minutes of a Planning Policy Committee held on 28 June meeting are neither fair nor accurate.

She said: "My own speech has been inaccurately summarised and comments from other Councillors raising concerns about how the Planning Department is proceeding with the Local Plan have not been included. I have asked the Chief Executive to correct the minutes but my request has been refused. I will therefore be voting against the motion to adopt the minutes."


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On June 13, Tandridge Council told OLRG it does not think the expert opinion document "has identified any significant flaws in the process."

The Council's Chief Executive, Louise Round, said: "OLRG Regulation 18 response (incorrect reference to the Collective Regulation 18 response) - my position and that of the Council is that of course we would not want to proceed to examination of the local plan on the basis of a document which is fundamentally flawed which is why, given the complexity of the process, we have sought external advice where that is appropriate. That external advice has supported our approach."

As a result of that statement, we asked to see a copy of the external advice the Council had received to support its view on the expert opinion document. Ms Round then said there was none and that she had been using the words "external advice" that "has supported our approach" to refer to some of the original Local Plan work done by consultants many months before the expert opinion document was submitted...

And so the Council's view on the experts' work is based solely on the opinion of its own Planning Department.

Papers from Tandridge Council's Resources Committee show that for the current financial year, the New Homes Bonus provides 16.5% of the Council's income, rising to almost 17% next year. The more houses the Council allows, the more money it gets.


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London's new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said that he will not allow building on any of the London Green Belt and that he has instructed his planning officers to ensure his view is reflected in all planning decisions made by the Greater London Authority. He said it was vitally important to protect our precious green spaces and that must include opposing building on the Green Belt.

To read the May 26 news release from the London Mayor click here


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OLRG is an independent and non-political group. We stood for election because we were shocked by the poor quality of the Tandridge Local Plan documents which experts have made clear are seriously flawed, by the inadequate scrutiny of the planning officers' work, and by the inadequate and confusing public consultation.

The Local Plan documents claim 9,400 new houses are needed for massive and sustained inward migration from Croydon and other London boroughs that would require building on large swathes of the Tandridge Green Belt.

This is 470 new houses every year, almost 4 times the current housing target. It would mean a likely increase of a third in the District's population and approximately one new house built for every four existing.

Experts have shown that this need figure is inflated, unreliable and contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance.

In putting it forward, the Council has contradicted its own evidence given to the Planning Inspectorate at a recent Public Inquiry.

The Council has listed "deliverable and developable" sites for more than 1200 new houses around Oxted, Limpsfield and Hurst Green - 980 of them are on our local Green Belt.

The documents have provoked a storm of criticism from across Tandridge District for their poor quality, their misrepresentation of the District and the issues it faces, and their failure to give any information about how infrastructure would be provided to support the massive amount of new development proposed or to meet the existing infrastructure deficit caused by the massive amount of new development that has already taken place - for many years, Tandridge Council has been building roughly double its housing target.

This scale of building is putting intolerable and unsustainable pressure on infrastructure such as schools, health services, roads, rail services and parking which are struggling to cope with the existing demand. Other services, such as water, landfill and cemeteries are also at full capacity.


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OUR RESPONSE TO THE TANDRIDGE LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION - FEBRUARY 2016

OLRG commissioned legal, planning and demographic experts to review the Council's documents. The result can be read on the first link in the box at the top of this page - see Collective Reg 18 Representation.

It is more than 90 pages of expert evidence. As well as OLRG, it is supported by 11 of Tandridge District's Parish Councils, 7 other community groups and the Tandridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

It explains why the Council's work does not comply with national policy and unnecessarily puts our precious Green Belt, and our infrastructure, at serious risk.

It makes clear that the evidence base is flawed and contradictory, the housing need figure is inflated, and the Green Belt assessments have not been carried out properly. In short, the Local Plan documents are not fit for purpose for developing a sound Local Plan.

One of the many errors in the Local Plan documents is that no account was taken - when it should have been - of the existing strains on infrastructure or of how it would cope with such a significant increase in population.

In its documents, the Council stated that it had written to all 10 surgeries in the District to ask for comments but received "no responses" and so had concluded "there is no indication of any specific requirements at this present time."

Oxted Health Centre then made clear it never received any letter from the Council's Planning Department. Therefore its views were not taken into account in preparing the Local Plan documents.

The Health Centre has now highlighted how stretched resources are, with more than 2,000 patients per full time partner. The Oxted Health Centre Patients Participation Group (PPG), which represents the 17,000 patients, has also now submitted a response to the Local Plan consultation which says health services in the area are under significant strain with the present population.

None of the Council's options (Delivery Strategies) is compliant with national planning policy.

Options 3-6 propose large amounts of building on the Green Belt as well as open spaces and recreation grounds and require the Green Belt boundaries to be changed. These options are based on an unreliable needs figure which includes unrealistic economic assumptions that are being used to justify extensive release of Green Belt for inherently unsustainable development.

Option 2a requires building on open spaces/recreation grounds and 2b does this too, as well as relying on a blanket density of 70 dwellings per hectare with no regard for local character which in many areas is much lower than that.

Soon after submitting our representation, the Council's Chief Planning Officer insisted the Local Plan is not flawed despite saying that it will take five months to consider the comments submitted to its consultation. This appears to make a mockery of the consultation process.

The Council has carried on just as before, commissioning new work based on its flawed site assessments and employing consultants to carry out "capacity" assessments to work out how many houses can be built on each site. All the many Green Belt sites together with recreation grounds and open spaces have been assessed to see how much development they can take.

The second link in the box at the top of this page has a separate representation solely from OLRG, called OLRG Reg 18 Representation. It deals with the flaws in the settlement hierarchy assessment for Oxted, inadequate infrastructure assessment, procedural deficiencies, and the problems Tandridge residents have had with the consultation process.

There is widespread concern that the consultation was inadequately publicised and that the little publicity there was failed to make clear the contents of the Plan. The documents are opaque and confusing, at times misleading, with important facts buried in footnotes.

In particular, many residents are concerned about the Council's incorrect paraphrasing of the requirement to meet housing need which has misled some into thinking the housing need figure has to be met even if that means building on the Green Belt. That is not correct, Green Belt is specifically mentioned in national planning policy as a reason for not meeting a need figure.

The OLRG representation also includes a section on the Settlement Hierarchy document which persistently attempts to portray Tandridge's small settlements as larger and better resourced than they actually are. Efforts are made to equate them to large towns like Crawley, Redhill and East Grinstead. The larger and more sustainable they are made out to be, the more development will be directed towards them.

In another of the Council's Local Plan documents, Oxted, Limpsfield and Hurst Green are frequently erroneously described as an "urban conurbation." The definition of the word conurbation is 'an extended urban area, typically consisting of several towns merging with the suburbs of a central city.'

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who kindly donated money to pay for the experts' input. Thanks also to everyone who has copied us their emails and letters to Tandridge Council expressing their views on the Plan which have been invaluable in making our response.


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There are a vast number of Green Belt sites across the District together with open spaces and recreation grounds that the Council has listed as deliverable and developable. To see the sites near you click here and open "HELAA Appendix 3".

The sites include:

OXT 006 Chichele field, Oxted (150 houses)

OXT 007 Stoney field beside St Mary's Church, Oxted (250 houses)

OXT 025 Holland Road, Hurst Green (165 houses)

In addition, "Green Belt areas for further investigation" have been identified - to see the map of where, click here and open "Green Belt Assessment Appendix F". It is unclear what this means or why these areas are being investigated but residents will get no opportunity to comment on the findings of the further investigation. As the OLRG response to the consultation makes clear, this is unreasonable and does not meet the requirements for community consultation.

The Green Belt assessments have not been carried out in accordance with national guidance. In addition, there are numerous factual errors and inconsistencies in them.

Fears have been expressed that because the Council is so short of money, building on the Green Belt is welcomed in order to keep itself going as this Surrey Mirror article explains click here

The Local Plan documents were approved for public consultation on 10 December 2015 by all but one of the Councillors on the Planning Policy Committee despite widespread criticism from residents and some other Councillors.

Caterham Councillor, Clive Manley, the only member of the Planning Policy Committee to vote against the documents being put out for consultation, said they were "seriously flawed." He said the housing need figure (OAN) was "inflated" and it was "wrong" to put it before the public.


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OLRG is taking part in the Local Plan process with the aim of protecting the local environment, of protecting local infrastructure from being swamped by overdevelopment, of meeting local need rather than London's need, and of achieving a reasonable and proportionate outcome for Tandridge District.

Membership is free. Join now by emailing oxted.residents@btinternet.com

OLRG has 2,600 members - the larger it is, the stronger our voice. Please do join and encourage others to join. All you need to do is email oxted.residents@btinternet.com or write to: Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group, PO Box 233, Oxted Post Office, Station Road West, Oxted, RH8 9EH.

Most members are from Oxted & Limpsfield, but there are others from across Tandridge and anyone in the district is welcome to join. OLRG is a member of the National Organisation of Residents Associations.


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Ring Bark

NB: This picture shows one of the trees on the Chichele field in Oxted that was deliberately destroyed by developers. Ten large old trees, including a number of mature oaks, were ring barked. Men with chainsaws cut away the bark ensuring that the trees would slowly die. Very many people expressed their disgust at this behaviour.

For more details see the headline "The Story So Far". No planning application has yet been submitted for the Chichele Green Belt field but one is expected at any time.