Green Belt Fields
SAVE THE GREEN BELT APPEAL
The residents group needs your support to employ planning and legal experts to protect the Green Belt at a Public Inquiry being held from 17 - 20 June.
If you are able to make a donation - £100, £50, £25, £10, it will make a huge difference in the battle to protect our beautiful environment and to protect local infrastructure from being swamped.
The residents group needs to employ specialists, as the developers are doing, to make sure we are effectively represented.
You can donate via PayPal to Oxted & Limpsfield Residents by clicking here:
Or send a cheque payable to 'Oxted & Limpsfield Residents' to PO BOX 233, Oxted Post Office, Station Road West, Oxted, RH8 9EH. Thank you.
The Inquiry has been brought about by Village Developments which is claiming that many thousands more homes should be built in Tandridge. A Planning Inspector will be considering their case. If they are successful in this challenge, Green Belt land across Tandridge District, including the Chichele field in Oxted, will be under threat like never before.
In August 2013, Tandridge Council launched a prosecution of Village Developments and ATC Arboriculturalists Ltd regarding the ring barking of 4 oaks on Chichele field. The prosecution centred around a Tree Preservation Order - click here
The two firms challenged the prosecution in the High Court. In February 2014, after a two day hearing, the judge ruled that the Council had not served the TPO correctly. As a result, the TPO was quashed and the prosecution has been dropped.
The picture on this page shows one of the old oaks that was killed - men with chainsaws cut away the bark ensuring that the trees would slowly die. Very many people have expressed their disgust at this behaviour.
NB: As of April 2014, no planning application has been submitted for the Chichele field but one is expected at any time.
Early in 2013, it became clear that developers were preparing to submit a planning application for 140 houses on the Green Belt field behind Chichele Road between St Mary's School and Oxted School. Agents for Village Developments asked Tandridge Council if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be needed to support the application. The Council decided that it would be.
This was challenged by the developer, but the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, confirmed the Council's view, ruling that an Environmental Statement should be carried out on the field because 'the proposal would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, because of its nature, size and location.'
Soon after the Council's EIA decision, 10 large old trees on the land, including mature oaks, were deliberately destroyed by ring-barking.
An email to Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group (OLRG) from Nigel Greenhalgh, writing as managing director of Village Developments but who is also a director and shareholder of Oxted Residential Limited says: 'We have ring barked our own trees which in any event, would have been removed to enable development. We are fully entitled to deal with trees that are on land owned by Oxted Residential Limited.'
Several well used and established entrances to the Chichele field were blocked off with hoardings and barbed wire by Oxted Residential Limited so that residents could no longer access the land. OLRG has so far collected 74 statements from residents about their long standing usage of the field and, in November, we submitted an application to Surrey County Council for 4 rights of way across the field. Unfortunately, the County Council has said it takes several years to process such applications.
Members of OLRG also met with Sam Gyimah MP to express local concerns about the actions that had taken place.
On June 8th last year, OLRG held a 'Save the Green Belt' day when more than 1,000 residents signed up to save Tandridge's beautiful green fields. We had a stand at the Donkey Derby and a stand outside Boots and these were, at times, besieged with people wanting to pledge their support. The same day, the developers Oxted Residential Limited and architects John Thompson & Partners (JTP) held an exhibition to promote their plans to build on the Chichele field. We also had a stand outside the entrance to that event. Not many people attended the developers' exhibition and, of those who did, everyone we spoke to was vehemently opposed to the proposal and determined to protect the Green Belt, coming out of the exhibition to immediately sign an OLRG objection card.
June 8th saw a fantastic demonstration of the determination there is locally to preserve the environment from destruction by developers. We would like to say a tremendous thank you to everyone who helped deliver leaflets beforehand, everyone who helped on the stands on the day, and to all those hundreds of local people who share our wish to keep Tandridge special and to preserve our green spaces.
Residents also made their views crystal clear at a meeting on June 13th when JTP presented their so called "vision" for what they want to do to the field. To see the report, and other coverage, on Get Surrey: click here
As a result of the success of the 'Save the Green Belt' day, and because of the huge concern there is about the threat to the local environment and local infrastructure, OLRG had a stand at the Oxted Carnival on July 6th where, once again, large numbers of people pledged their support.
At the end of June, the developers carried out a traffic survey. It was done during a week when 90 children at St Mary's School (25%) were away at camp and more than 400 children had already left Oxted School for the summer (All upper sixth having completed their A levels and year 11 having completed their GCSEs.) See second headline. As many people pointed out, carrying out the survey at the quietest time of the school year inevitably gives an inaccurate picture of traffic flow and underplays the road safety dangers. At the end of January 2014, the traffic sensors were back on the roads around Chichele. From Wednesday 29th to Friday 31th January, once again 90 children at St Mary's School (25%) were away on a school trip.
Since news of this potential development became public the residents group has been bombarded with emails from people shocked and dismayed by the proposal and by the ring barking of the trees. The field is highly valued by the community as a green space and has been used for many years; we believe it is also of considerable ecological importance.
Oxted resident, Mohamed Al Fayed, has spoken of his shock at 'this appalling plan.' To read the statement on his website click here
People are also worried that the infrastructure cannot support this level of building. There are already huge traffic problems in the area. In their application for an EIA opinion, Village Developments say the main access to the site is likely to be via the track at the junction of Chichele Road and Silkham Road, next to St Mary's School, with a secondary access option being via The Larks access to Bluehouse Lane.
There's concern, too, about the waiting time for appointments at the health centre and that the recent planning permission for 172 houses at Hurst Green will push local services to breaking point.
If you value the Green Belt in Oxted and in Tandridge District, then please join the residents group by emailing email@example.com and make it clear that you do not support this development proposal from Oxted Residential Limited and John Thompson & Partners, you do not support the destruction of the Green Belt, and you do not support the ring barking of trees as a pre-emptive strike before any planning application has been submitted and before any environmental impact assessment can be carried out.
Please show your support for maintaining our precious green spaces and your opposition to the proposed development and the pressure it would put on local infrastructure like health services and roads/parking as well as affecting catchment areas for Oxted schools.
If the Chichele Road Green Belt planning application succeeds, it will set a precedent that will open the floodgates for planning applications on many other Green Belt sites in Oxted and in Tandridge District. The Chichele field is potentially just the beginning. Developers are targeting greenfield sites because they yield maximum profits. They see the government's new planning policy as a green light to target the Green Belt. We need to STOP the destruction now.
The Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group is absolutely delighted with the success of this weekend's Save the Green Belt campaign. So far 1,007 residents have signed up to save our beautiful green fields.
The OLRG stands at the Donkey Derby and outside Boots were at times besieged with people wanting to pledge their support for the Tandridge Green Belt.
We also had a stand outside Downs Way School where the developers Oxted Residential Limited, and architects John Thompson & Partners (JTP), were holding an exhibition to promote their plans to build on the Oxted Green Belt field behind Chichele Road. This one was not very busy and virtually everyone attending the exhibition said 'no' to the proposal and 'yes' to protecting the Green Belt, coming out of the exhibition to immediately sign an OLRG objection card.
The developers have already ring barked trees on the Chichele field before any environmental assessment of the land could be carried out, despite Tandridge Council advising them that one should be done. The picture on the front page of this website shows one of the old oaks that has been killed - the bark has been cut away by a chainsaw and the tree will slowly die. The Council is currently investigating a potential offence regarding Tree Preservation Orders.
This weekend saw a fantastic demonstration of the determination there is locally to preserve the environment from destruction by developers. The whole community made clear its opposition to this development scheme from Oxted Residential Limited and architects John Thompson and Partners (JTP), and its disgust at the killing of trees by ring barking as a pre-emptive strike before any planning application has been submitted.
The developers want to build 140 houses on the Green Belt field behind Chichele Road and between St Mary's School and Oxted School. They have distributed PR material around the town suggesting that the Chichele development is required to meet housing needs and to meet the Government's new planning framework. We say this is not the case - Tandridge Council has always more than met its housing requirements and continues to do so.
The developers have refused to give the residents group a copy of the study they are relying on and we are extremely sceptical about the basis for the figures they are quoting from it.
OXTED GREEN BELT THREAT - 140 HOUSES PLANNED
LATEST NEWS: Daily Telegraph - David Cameron aide and Mohamed Al Fayed fight Green Belt housing plan: click here
Many members of the residents group have watched in horror as a series of events has unfolded recently on the Green Belt field behind Chichele Road in Oxted. This has included the ring barking of trees which effectively kills them.
Tandridge Council has confirmed it is investigating whether a Tree Preservation Order has been breached.
No planning application has yet been submitted for the site but we have been told by the developer that any planning application will be made by a company called Oxted Residential Limited which owns the land. It is likely to be for 140 houses.
In January, a company called Village Developments asked Tandridge Council for a 'screening opinion' on whether an Environmental Impact Assessment would be needed to support any planning application. The Council told them that an Environmental Statement would be required. Since then ten large, old trees on the land have been ring barked.
An email to the residents group from Nigel Greenhalgh, writing as managing director of Village Developments but who is also a director and shareholder of Oxted Residential Limited says: 'We have ring barked our own trees which in any event, would have been removed to enable development. We are fully entitled to deal with trees that are on land owned by Oxted Residential Limited.'
The site is Green Belt and any planning application should be refused because there is absolutely no need to build on the Green Belt in Tandridge. East Surrey MP, Sam Gyimah, has made clear such development is 'completely unnecessary' - see second headline.
Oxted councillor, Martin Fisher, says: 'Only very special circumstances could justify development on the Green Belt. Personally I cannot see such circumstances exist. The Green Belt behind Chichele Road will be defended robustly. As Chairman of the Resources Committee I will ensure that Tandridge District Council has the necessary resources to defend its planning policies to protect the Green Belt. I am confident that any proposed developments around Oxted on Green Belt land will not be able to demonstrate the very special circumstances required.'
Oxted resident, Mohamed Al Fayed, has spoken of his shock at 'this appalling plan.' To read the statement on his website click here
Since news of this potential development became public the residents group has been bombarded with emails from people shocked and dismayed by the proposal and by the ring barking of the trees. The field is highly valued by the community as a green space and has been used for many years; we believe it is also of considerable ecological importance. All public access to the land has now been blocked off by the landowner, Oxted Residential Limited.
Residents are particularly upset because work by Tandridge Council has established that there is a more than adequate supply of land/sites for housing to meet the requirement for the next five years (which is required as a minimum.) Some local authorities are currently unable to demonstrate an adequate future supply and are in theory susceptible to early speculative applications on greenfield or Green Belt land - this is not the case in Tandridge. There are brownfield sites available for housing instead - like the big, rusting gas holder in the centre of town - these sites need to be prioritised and it is not necessary to build on the Green Belt and destroy the local environment. This site is totally unsuitable for housing development, but greenfield sites give maximum profits to developers.
Tandridge Council has always delivered a large amount of housing, much more than has been required of it, and continues to be proactive about housing provision with a clear plan for future development.
The Council has a recently approved Core Strategy, a robust five year supply of land for new homes - which does not necessitate building on the Green Belt - and has made good progress on implementing a new development plan. It should not be subject to speculative planning applications such as this one which take no regard of the local community or the local environment. It should not be forced to waste time and taxpayers money defending its position at Appeal.
People are also worried that the infrastructure cannot support this level of building. There are already huge traffic problems in the area. In their application for a screening opinion, Village Developments say the main access to the site is likely to be via the track at the junction of Chichele Road and Silkham Road, next to St Mary's School, with a secondary access option being via The Larks access to Bluehouse Lane.
There's concern, too, about the waiting time for appointments at the health centre and that the recent planning permission for 172 houses at Hurst Green, if developed without proper investment in local services, will push things to breaking point.
The Core Strategy made sure that the overall policy for development in Tandridge did not rely on Green Belt sites to fulfil the housing requirement. After that was approved, Tandridge Council began the next stage - drawing up 'The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment' (SHLAA) which shows sites where the housing requirements in Tandridge could be met. The Council set up a Panel to oversee this and OLRG was a member of it, along with a number of developers, local agents, Parish Councils, Nutfield Conservation Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The SHLAA was completed and approved in March this year. It demonstrates that there is absolutely no need to build on the Green Belt. There is a robust supply of sites, largely on previously developed land, to meet the identified housing requirement until 2026. Input into the SHLAA process, from OLRG and from a number of the other Panel members, ensured that the Green Belt sites which were proposed for development were not assessed for their housing potential and were kept on a separate list which makes clear that none of them is required for development.
The Council are confident enough of the identified supply of sites for new housing that they have decided that it is not currently necessary to proceed with the preparation of the Site Specific Allocations document.
We were encouraged to find that there was such strong evidence that the Green Belt is not needed for housing and we hoped this would put an end to developer demands to build on it but, unfortunately, this is not the case.
During the SHLAA process developers submitted a large number of Green Belt sites. These included those that came under attack at the time of the Core Strategy such as the 2 Oxted fields, Caterham's Essendene Park and Redhill Aerodrome.
Despite the final results of the SHLAA the Green Belt is still being targeted, in particular by Village Developments, the company pushing to develop the Oxted fields. For the avoidance of any doubt, OLRG would like to stress that it will strenuously resist all attempts to build on the Tandridge Green Belt and will also resist all attempts to gain permission to build on the Green Belt by offering 'deals' involving other less attractive sites. As the SHLAA has proved, there is no need to take any Green Belt land. If the principle of releasing Green Belt land is breached, then it will be open season on any GB site. Village Developments have suggested that they may pursue a planning application on both or either of the Oxted fields. It remains to be seen whether this will happen but OLRG will monitor the situation and alert members if anything progresses.
The coalition government has given more details about its new planning strategy underlining that it is committed to housing growth and will reward councils which press ahead with new housing.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has said: 'Imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of building. The coalition agreement makes a clear commitment to providing local authorities with real incentives to build new homes. I can confirm that this will ensure that those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions. Because we are committed to housing growth, introducing these incentives will be a priority and we aim to do so early in the spending review period. We will consult on the detail of this later this year. These incentives will encourage local authorities and communities to increase their aspirations for housing and economic growth, and to deliver sustainable development in a way that allows them to control the way in which their villages, towns and cities change'
For full details click here
So, as under the old system, local councils will be required to have a 5 year supply of land for housing growth. Tandridge Council has recently published its 5 year housing supply figures. They show a large surplus which means the Green Belt should remain protected from housing development. The Housing Supply Statement can be read on the council's website click here
This large surplus also means that the Core Strategy Policy, CSP3, which controls back garden building is in place at least until October 2011. But this Policy only protects the larger sites - where the proposed development is for a net gain of 5 units or more - not the smaller ones and developers are now submitting applications involving 4 extra units.
However, the government has given new powers to local councils to stop 'garden grabbing' by reclassifying garden land as greenfield instead of brownfield. This will give the smaller sites more protection but doesn't guarantee that they will not be developed if Tandridge Council sees fit to do so. To read the council's new approach click here
Therefore, if you are concerned about a back garden application you should check it against the policies referred to, that is, Core Strategy Policies CSP18 and CSP 19 and Policy BE1 saved from a previous development plan, and make objections based on these policies. To find them click here
The Council is currently drawing up a 'back garden land' development plan document which is due to be ready by the end of this year, with consultation early next year.
To keep Green Belt and back garden land protected, it is still very important that all suitable brownfield sites in the built up areas are identified for potential housing development. If you are aware of any such site that may be suitable for housing please let us know or call the Council's Planning Policy Team on 01883 732764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Queen's speech on 25 May the new coalition government said it would abolish regional spatial strategies. This means scrapping the South East Plan - the government's 20 year development strategy for south-east England. It is this plan that sets the house building targets for Tandridge. If the Plan is scrapped so too are those targets.
The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has written to Council leaders and planning officers highlighting the government's commitment to return decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. He says decisions on housing supply will rest with local planning authorities without the framework of regional numbers and plans.
The government said the Regional Spatial Strategy had forced councils to "redraw the lines of the Green Belt" and designate large areas of countryside for new development between now and 2026.
Mr Pickles said scrapping the strategy showed the new government's commitment to protecting the Green Belt, while giving councils and communities the freedom to decide where new development will go.
He said: "The previous government gave a green light for the destruction of the Green Belt across the country and we are determined to stop it.
"We've promised to use legislation to scrap top-down building targets that are eating up the Green Belt, but I'm not going to make communities wait any longer to start making decisions for themselves. That's why I have written to all councils to let them know from today they can make planning decisions in the knowledge Regional Strategies will soon be history.
"It will no longer be possible to concrete over large swathes of the country without any regard to what local people want. From now on communities will be trusted to make the right decisions."
In April 2009, the Core Strategy Policy CSP3, which restricts uncontrolled back garden development, was taken out of operation by Tandridge Council. When the Core Strategy was approved in October 2008, this Policy was widely welcomed by members, particularly in Caterham, who have suffered an onslaught from back garden building because current legislation categorises back gardens as previously developed 'brownfield' land and therefore suitable for development.
The Policy only operates when the Council's supply of future housing sites for the next five years shows a surplus of more than 20%. (this figure is calculated by the Council every April) In April 2009 the Council's figures showed a surplus of less than this. The residents group and others queried the figure and, as a result, the Council agreed to carry out a review. That review confirmed a surplus of 25% and CSP3 was reinstated on 1 December 2009.
We are currently awaiting the outcome of the April 2010 review. The Group understands that a number of large sites which were previously on hold, are now going ahead. This means there should be a much bigger surplus and we hope, therefore, that the Council will continue to operate CSP3 for the coming year.
During the last few years the numbers of homes built in Tandridge has far outstripped the government requirement. For example, for the period 1 April 2006 to 30 September 2009, 1,110 homes were added to the district's total housing stock which meant that within just three and a half years, 44% of the required 20 year supply (2,500) had been achieved.
It was to try to regulate this large oversupply that Policy CSP3 was brought in; it was designed to control back garden building which was not needed to meet the housing target and was causing a great deal of concern to residents.
For info, Policy CSP3 says that in order to manage the delivery of housing, if the surplus is more than 20%, the Council will not permit the development of residential garden land where there is a net gain of 5 units and above or where the site is larger than 0.2 hectares (subject to a few exceptions) Where there is a net gain of up to 4 units, it's important to check the site size as it may be possible to argue that the proposal should be turned down because the site is too large.
The Core Strategy Policy, CSP3, which restricts uncontrolled back garden development has now been reinstated by Tandridge Council. It was brought back into operation on 1st December.
The policy was dropped last April because the Council's housing supply figures showed a surplus of less than 20%. CSP3 is triggered when the surplus goes above 20%. The residents' group and others queried these figures and, as a result, the Council agreed to carry out a review. That review has now confirmed a surplus of 25%.
The figures will be reviewed again in April. We still have queries about some of the sites that are not being counted in the total and will be pursuing these.
Policy CSP3 says that, if the surplus is more than 20%, the Council will not permit the development of residential garden land where the proposal is for 5 units or more or where the site is larger than 0.2 hectares (about half an acre) or smaller sites where these form part of a potentially larger development.
The Council's latest statement on Policy CSP3 can be read on its website click here
The Core Strategy made sure that the overall policy for development in Tandridge did not rely on Green Belt sites to fulfil the housing targets imposed by central government. But that wasn't the end of the process. The Council then began the next stage - drawing up 'The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.' (SHLAA) Its aim is to identify all the potential housing land in the district, how much housing can go on each site and when that site can be developed. The Council set up a Panel to oversee this and the residents group is a member of it, along with a number of developers, Parish Councils, Nutfield Conservation Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Originally it was intended to include Green Belt sites in the initial assessment. These included the fields at the end of Wheeler Avenue and Chichele Road in Oxted which were targeted at the time of the Core Strategy examination when a developer put forward detailed plans to build 650 houses on them.
Once again the residents group took planning and legal advice and was told that the Green Belt sites should not be included automatically at the start of the process. We argued that they should be taken out and this was eventually agreed by the SHLAA Panel. As a result, all the Green Belt sites, including those adjacent to the built up areas, will not be assessed initially but will be held on a list. This list of sites will only be considered if, at the end of the process, there are not enough sites within the built up areas to meet the Council's housing requirement as set down by the government. At present, Tandridge is required to provide 2,500 homes over the period 2006 ' 2026 (average 125 per year)
It is now up to the Council to carry out a thorough and careful investigation which will ensure that all suitable sites in the built up areas are identified, brought forward and used to their full development potential. The residents group has been doing, and will continue to do, all it can to assist with this and to demonstrate that it is not necessary to build on the Green Belt.
It is very important that all suitable sites are identified so if you are aware of any site within the built up areas that may be suitable for housing please let us know or call the Council's Planning Policy Team on 01883 732764 or email email@example.com
Full details about how the assessment is being carried out are on the Council's web page click here
The residents group is now taking part in the next stage of Tandridge Council's development plan process which follows on from last year's Core Strategy. The adoption of the Core Strategy made sure that the overall policy did not rely on Green Belt sites to fulfil the housing targets imposed by central Government but, unfortunately, that isn't the end of the matter.
The next stage is drawing up 'The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment' (SHLAA). Its aim is to identify all the potential housing land in the district, good or bad. It's clear that, to start with, the Council intends to include the Green Belt sites which caused such uproar last year in the list of possible sites for development. (This would include the 2 Oxted fields where developers want to build 650 houses) We hope to persuade them not to do this but, if that's not possible, we will aim to prove that these sites should be eliminated from the process early on.
The Council is setting up a panel to oversee the SHLAA which consists of: developers, the Home Builders Federation, estate agents, registered social landlords, the Government Office for the South East, parish councils, residents' associations and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. To take part in this the residents' group needs to have a more formal status and we are therefore becoming a properly constituted residents' association.
Finally, residents may be able to assist by pointing out suitable development sites. If you know of any site in the urban areas, such as derelict land or redundant business premises, which you think would be suitable for housing, email the details to us within the next week and we will make sure the Council is aware (if you notice sites later on, please still send them through as they may still be considered) The more of these sites that can be found the safer the Green Belt (and back gardens) will be.
Tandridge Core Strategy adopted
The Tandridge Core Strategy was formally adopted by the Council on Wednesday 15th October and now forms the basis for all future planning decisions. It says the Green Belt should be left alone for the next 10 years. It also gives valuable protection against back garden development.
There were fears that the Government Office for the South East intended to challenge the Core Strategy in the courts but that has not happened. Developers had threatened a challenge but have not made one.
Now that the plan has been adopted the Council will draw up several other documents that flow from it, including a 'Site Allocations Development Plan Document' which sets out specific sites that will be developed and an 'Affordable Housing Development Plan Document'. Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group aims to contribute fully to these and to all other parts of the planning process.
For more details see the Council's web page
We are delighted that the Inspector's report says:
1) The Strategy is 'sound'.
2) The Green Belt should be left alone for at least the next 10 years.
3) There is no requirement that the plan should be subject to an early review.
4) The Council planners produced an accurate snapshot of the district and properly reflected the wishes of local people. They got it right when they spelt out their vision and objectives for Tandridge.
(para 1.3) says
'I consider this vision to be well founded and locally distinctive, and to be 'place-shaping' and spatial. Those who wished for something more radical, out of the ordinary, or ground breaking have missed the point of local spatial planning based on community involvement'.
' Tandridge is not an area of great change with major development allocations to be accommodated'. (para 5.2)
The report concludes that in the first 5 years of the plan (April 2008 - March 2013) the Council has identified many more development sites than it needs to meet the low housing number given to it by the Government. It also concludes that in years 6-11 the Council will satisfy Government requirements WITHOUT needing to release any Green Belt land for new housing. The Council will achieve this by a combination of known sites earmarked for development and by carrying over part of the surplus from previous years. (Years 6-11 were the ones the developers were arguing about)
Tandridge has been given a low housing number by the Government in the recently amended South East Plan (SEP) The report accepts the Council's argument that this low number reflects what the infrastructure can deal with. Building at a higher rate, which is what developers wanted, means a high risk of pushing services into tailspin leaving them unable to cope.
We especially welcome these statements:
* Para 2.4: 'In particular, local people understandably became concerned when a number of developers put forward specific sites for development which, under the 2004 Regulations, the Council was obliged to advertise. I deal with these sites later in my Report where it will be seen that I have not recommended any to be allocated.'
* Para 5.2: 'Tandridge is not an area of great change with major development allocations to be accommodated. There are a limited number of key challenges and opportunities because Tandridge is the sixth smallest District in South East England in population terms (2001 Census) and as a result has one of the smallest urban areas. It has the second lowest housing allocation in the SEP. There is no identified need for other significant development (e.g. retail and commercial). Over 90% of the District is GB with large Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)'
* Para 6.14: ' the (housing) allocation in the SEP is based on the fact that existing levels of infrastructure provision will be able to cope with the number of dwellings proposed. Building at higher rates brings a high risk that infrastructure and services would not be able to cope.'
* Para 6.25: 'Neither the Core Strategy nor its policies require any alteration to the boundaries of the existing built up areas or the Green Belt as currently defined in the Local Plan.'
* Para 6.27: 'I agree with the Council that other additional suggested changes by respondents would allow development involving a significant proportion of affordable housing to take place on green field land outside the built up areas, and thus they would be unsound as they would be contrary to the CS's fundamental strategy of concentration.'
* Para 6.45: Conclusion
'With the changes that I propose, I am satisfied that the development location and housing policies are soundly based, appropriate for this District, are supported by a robust and credible evidence base, and reflect national and regional policy.
There will inevitably be ongoing pressure on the Green Belt especially in the longer term, but this Core Strategy offers the best protection it can get. The result is a real success and reflects the tremendous effort by so many people in writing letters, delivering leaflets, making suggestions and, of course, attending all those meetings........
We are delighted to say that Tandridge Council has been told by the Planning Inspectorate that its Core Strategy has been declared 'sound'. That means the Green Belt should be protected because the Core Strategy will form the basis for all future planning decisions and it says that there's no need to build on the Green Belt in Oxted & Limpsfield or anywhere else in Tandridge.
Residents have always believed that the Council has done a great job in preparing its development plan.
The plan expertly balances the need to protect the Green Belt and quality of life of residents with fulfilling the need for new housing supported by sufficient infrastructure.
As well as protecting the Green Belt, the Inspector's decision means that the huge waste of public money and time which would have resulted if the Core Strategy had been rejected, has been avoided.
We don't yet know any more details about the Inspector's report because it is currently embargoed pending a fact check. It will be a while before it is cleared for publication. Until the full details are known we can't be certain that there won't be any surprises but the main goal - approval of the Core Strategy - has been achieved.
Tandridge Council has issued the following news release:
CORE STRATEGY IS SOUND
Tandridge District Council is delighted with the news the Planning Inspector has declared its Core Strategy to be sound. This is only the second Core Strategy to be accepted in Surrey.
The Core Strategy, a blueprint for the future development of Tandridge District, was the subject of a public Examination by the Inspector in June and July 2008. The event caused a lot of public interest, including large crowds outside the Council Offices in Oxted.
Some developers and landowners objected to the Core Strategy because they felt it did not allow enough new development. The Council's approach, based on restraint, has been supported by the Planning Inspector and he has declared the document is sound.
The Inspector's report is currently being factually checked before it can be made available. Once published, it can be adopted and used to help decide planning applications.
Councillor Gordon Keymer, Leader of the Council, said: 'This is wonderful news. To have a sound Core Strategy to guide planning decisions is a major achievement and a great bonus for the local community. The Inspector's decision is a vital contribution to the Council's policy of protecting the Green Belt. I would especially like to thank the council officers and councillors who prepared and defended the Core Strategy, as well as the local residents who supported them. This is a great example of the Council and community working together.'
The next stage is for the District Council to consider the Inspector's Report in detail when it is published in the next few weeks and then to adopt the Core Strategy.
A Government Planning Inspector has finished his hearings into whether there should be building on the Green Belt. Mr David Vickery will now decide if the Council's development plan, known as the Tandridge Core Strategy, should be accepted or rejected. He will give his verdict to the Council on 12th September. If the Core Strategy is rejected that will significantly improve the prospects for developers who wish to build on the Green Belt and pave the way for 650 houses on 2 Green Belt fields in Oxted. A third option is that the Inspector may accept the plan but order an "early review", primarily so that the Council can provide greater certainty as to the identification of housing sites for the later years of its plan. It is not clear how early that review might be. Whatever the Inspector decides is binding on the Council.
There were 3 main issues at the hearings.
1) Did the council have enough development sites for new housing during years 6-11 of the plan without having to release Green Belt land. (It was accepted that there is no problem with the first 5 years) The Council has drawn up a robust and detailed submission for the Inspector which shows that all the sites on its list have a reasonable prospect of development in the right time frame and that the yield from them will more than meet the housing target required, this without even considering any surplus from previous years completions (see point 2 below).
2) Residuals - that is whether the development surplus that Tandridge has built up since 2006 can be carried forward and used to offset some of the target for new building in the years ahead, bearing in mind the regional requirement covers the period between 2006 and 2026. Again, the Council has submitted a paper justifying the inclusion of the surplus. Its approach was given extra force by comments on 30th June from the South East England Regional Assembly confirming that Tandridge was right to be counting the surplus. The Assembly said that if allowance was not made for the surplus there could be serious problems with infrastructure.
3) Affordable housing. The Council was clear that its new strategy and revised policy thresholds would more than deliver the target of 50 affordable units per year. Developers disagreed. They are pressing for large Green Belt sites to be used with a high percentage of affordable houses.
Oxted & Limpsfield Residents were represented at all of the Core Strategy hearings and fully supported the Council's case and its efforts to balance housing provision with protecting the Green Belt.
The residents' barrister, Carine Patry Hoskins, pointed out that protecting the Green Belt and providing affordable housing are not incompatible and that the answer is a balance. She said that the Government recognises this in the housing targets that it has set for all local authorities. Tandridge's is the second lowest in the whole of the South East for the very reason that it is a Green Belt authority where huge development is not appropriate.
In addition, she expressed the residents' concern that if the Core Strategy were to be rejected it would be a huge waste of taxpayers money with the loss of four years of work by the Council.
So far 8 English local authorities have had their Core Strategies rejected as "unsound". (Just 22 have been passed) Millions of pounds of taxpayers money have been wasted as the Councils are told to start again.
During the hearings the Council was attacked by one developer after another. Village Developments, Asprey Homes, the Home Builders Federation, White and Sons, Arena Leisure, are all trying to get the Council's Core Strategy declared unsound so that building can take place on the Green Belt.
We would hope that notice will be taken of comments by the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears. She told Channel 4 News: "I've been trying to free up space at local level so that local councils can genuinely do what local people want because, if we don't do that, people increasingly see the political system as irrelevant and not addressing their concerns, so I think anybody will tell you this last year has been quite a significant time for freeing up local government to get on to the public's agenda and that's exactly what I mean to do"
When Tandridge residents were asked by the Council what their priorities were, the preservation of the Green Belt ranked as number One.
Hundreds of residents have written in from all over Tandridge appealing to Mr Vickery to save the Green Belt and supporting the Core Strategy which demonstrates that building on the Green Belt is not necessary.
788 letters and emails have been sent in.
522 of these are heartfelt pleas to save the 2 Green Belt fields in Oxted where developers want to build 650 houses.
To read some comments from the letters click here
The facts are:
The Council has done everything in its power to abide by constantly changing Government guidelines and has come up with a development plan that meets the guidelines, more than meets the housing targets it has been given, addresses the main concerns of Tandridge residents and proves that it does not need to build on the Green Belt.
It is one of the first local authorities in Surrey to bring forward its Core Strategy yet has been criticised by developers for doing so without what's called a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment. ( an assessment of potential development sites) It has conducted studies which provide this information and, had it held up the Core Strategy process to prepare a SHLAA, it would have wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers money.
Indeed, the latest version of PPS12 (Government guidance) that was published recently reiterates the Government's previous guidance that Core Strategies should be brought forward promptly. This is what Tandridge has sought to achieve. If it had delayed publication of its Core Strategy to provide sufficient time to carry out a SHLAA (for which there is no legal requirement in relation to Core Strategies) then it would have been unable to comply with the Government's guidance.
Below is the full list of sites put forward by developers who are trying to get the Core Strategy declared "unsound" or changed so that the Green Belt is up for grabs.
Site 1 is the field (known as Stoneyfield) and woodland next to St Mary's Church. Site 2 is the field and bluebell wood by St Mary's School. Surveyors have been marking out these fields in preparation for the housing developments. These fields are fertile pieces of agricultural land and of great landscape value. To see the evidence click here
1 Village Developments: Land adjacent to graveyard & St Mary's Church, Barrow Green Road, Oxted
Residential. 400 houses. To see the plan click here
2 Village Developments: Land adjacent to St Mary's School, Chichele Road & Laverock School, Bluehouse Lane, Oxted
Residential. 250 houses. To see the plan click here
3 Mr Keyte: Essendene Park, off Whyteleafe Road, Caterham
4 Mr Samarasekara: North west end Hillbury Road, Warlingham (267 and land adjacent)
5a Clifford W & R C Shrimplin: Redhill Aerodrome, South Nutfield.
Suggests a new settlement at Redhill Aerodrome would be a preferable strategy.
5b Jim Cobbe:Redhill Aerodrome, South Nutfield
Location for strategic housing and employment
6 Metropolis Planning and Design: Land north of Felbridge Hotel,Felbridge
Extra Care Housing
7 Mr D Post: Land opposite Doves Barn Nursery and 103-109 Copthorne Road Felbridge
8 Cophall Farm: Cophall Farm, Effingham Road, Copthorne
Major Developed Site in the Green Belt (commercial use)
9 Asprey Homes: Occasionally Yours Nursery, Lingfield Common Road, Lingfield.
10 Stephen Smith:The former Bays Nursery,Godstone Road, Lingfield
Suggests a green belt boundary review would resolve the situation with regard to the site
11 Mr Raison: Land at Willow Cottage, Newchapel Road, Lingfield
Refers to site on edge of Lingfield as boundary anomaly
12 Arena Leisure: Lingfield Park Racecourse and surrounding land
Lingfield should be designated as Broad Location for development, reference to 125 acres of surplus
To read the latest Core Strategy papers see this Council web page:click here
The Key Points
* The council has put together a plan, the Core Strategy, which does not involve building on Green Belt. We support this plan.
* We want this plan to be accepted by the Inspector, without any changes, in order to protect the Green Belt. The Core Strategy in our opinion is sound.
* We do not want the Inspector to say that the council has to change the Core Strategy by naming Green Belt fields to build upon. This is what the developers want (650 houses on Green Belt) and so, apparently, does the Government. We want our Core Strategy left alone because that way our Green Belt remains protected.
If the plan were to be rejected that would be quite against the publicly expressed views of local people, but quite in line with pressure from the unelected body "The Government Office for the South East"
Village Developments' recent article in the County Border News stated:
"Reading between the lines Inspector Vickery is giving the District Council clear indications that he thinks the whole strategy is unsound....."
"We will prove that this core strategy is unsound and eventually we will build our affordable houses. It is only a matter of time."
Oxted and Limpsfield's Green Belt is under threat like never before. Tandridge District Council have prepared their ten year development plan which says that they don't need to build on the Green Belt to meet their housing targets.
But that's being challenged by developers, and the central government Inspector, who has the final say, has said he thinks the Tandridge plan may be "unsound". He's asked the developers to tell him why they don't like it - and he's asked them to say it over and over and over again.
That's despite the fact that the council have done their best to come up with a strategy that meets local needs and jumps through all the hoops laid out in the continually changing legislation. Please see the pages below for details of what's been going on and do come on Thursday, April 3rd to show your support for the council's Green Belt policy.