Green belt guidance update prompts council to reassess local plan

A Surrey council has announced that it is to reassess its draft local plan in light of the publication of updated government guidance last month that reinforces green belt protection.

Guildford: council to reassess draft local plan in light of updated guidance (picture: Herry Lawford, Flickr)
Guildford: council to reassess draft local plan in light of updated guidance (picture: Herry Lawford, Flickr)

In a statement issued earlier this week, Guildford Borough Council said that its current draft local plan is to be reassessed in response to the "clear" guidance from the secretary of state and a high number of consultation responses stating "widespread opposition to building on the green belt".

In October, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) updated its Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) to say town halls should consider green belt constraints that "indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need".

Guildford Borough Council said that, since the National Planning Policy Framework was published in 2012, "advice from barristers and all other planning policy advisors was that the council had no option but to look at revising green belt boundaries to comply with the obligations of both national policy and guidance".

But the statement added: "However, the government has now placed greater emphasis on sensitive constrained green belt locations, such as Guildford, where the objectively assessed housing need can now be weighed against a set of compelling constraints."

The statement said that the reassessment of the council’s draft local plan would see all proposed development sites re-evaluated against the constraints highlighted in the revised PPG. "We will then publish a new version of the draft local plan for consultation next year," the statement said.

Council leader Stephen Mansbridge said: "I can state categorically that no site will come forward for development within the green belt, any Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or area of flood risk until it has been fully reassessed against the tests set out in the planning practice guidance as amended in October this year."

Planning reported last month that neighbouring Surrey authority Mole Valley District Council may scrap an emerging development plan after the publication of the guidance.

Mole Valley District Council has worked on its emerging Housing and Traveller Sites Plan, which includes a green belt review, for 18 months.

But John Northcott, executive member for planning, told Planning that he is "minded to propose" that work stops "in favour of commencing work on a new compliant local plan".

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