Surrey council's revised plan proposes series of major green belt releases

A Surrey council has published a revised version of its local plan containing proposals for thousands of green belt homes on several strategic sites, including 2,000 on a disused airfield that is the subject of a controversial planning application.

Wisley airfield: planning committee due to consider application at meeting on 6 April (picture by Alan Hunt, Geograph)
Wisley airfield: planning committee due to consider application at meeting on 6 April (picture by Alan Hunt, Geograph)

Guildford Borough Council this week published its revised local plan, which it said contains significant changes "that reflect over 20,000 comments and questions received from local residents" during a consultation held in 2014.

The council had announced in late 2014 that its draft local plan would be reassessed in response to updated government guidance reinforcing green belt protection and a high number of consultation responses stating "widespread opposition to building on the green belt".

In a statement this week, Guildford Borough Council said that "major consideration" had been given to protecting green belt land in the latest proposed submission version of the local plan, which proposes to make provision for 693 new homes a year during the plan period 2013 to 2033.

"Development is being directed at making better use of land that has already been built on under a ‘brownfield first’ preference," the statement said. "In total, across the borough, just 1.6 per cent of greenfield land will be taken from the green belt and allocated for development."

Nevertheless, the revised document includes plans for more than 7,000 homes on strategic sites within the green belt, including 2,000 at the disused Wisley airfield, 1,100 homes at a site previously safeguarded for development at Normandy and Flexford, as well as 3,940 homes in green belt extensions to Guildford at Gosden Hill and Blackwell Farm.

The plan also earmarks the Slyfield regeneration project, within Guildford, for 1,000 homes.

The document says that the council considers that "exceptional circumstances" exist to justify the amendment of green belt boundaries "in order to facilitate the development that is needed and to promote sustainable patterns of development".

It says: "Whilst the general extent of the green belt has been retained, land has been removed from the green belt in order to enable development around Guildford urban area, selected villages, and at the former Wisley airfield."

Meanwhile, other green belt allocations to feature in the 2014 version of the plan do not feature in the revised document. These include proposals for 310 homes at Effingham and 625 homes at Liddington Hall.

The scale of the green belt allocation at Blackwell Farm has been been reduced from 2,250 to 1,800 homes, according to the council.

The council’s decision to include designate Wisley airfield as a strategic site in the revised version of the local plan comes as councillors prepare to vote this evening on an outline application for 2,100 homes for the site.

The application has been recommended for refusal by planning officers, who concluded that the level of development proposed would "seriously harm the openness of the green belt".

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