Guildford cuts housing target and green belt homes in revised draft local plan

A Surrey council has cut the housing target in its updated draft local plan, including slashing the number of green belt homes by a quarter.

Guildford: revised draft plan published
Guildford: revised draft plan published

Guildford Borough Council this week published a revised draft local plan, following consultation on the document last year.

The new plan’s overall housing target is down by 1,400 units, proposing 12,426 homes compared to 13,860 last year.

However, the new plan period is just 19 years, from 2015 to 2034, compared to 2013 to 2033 in last year’s document. The average annual housing target is now 654 homes, compared to 693, a drop of about six per cent.

The changed housing target is due to a revised objectively assessed need figure, produced after a recent strategic housing market assessment for the borough, the council said.

A council spokeswoman said the revised plan reduces the number of homes allocated on green belt land during the plan period by 1,850 units to 5,000 homes, a cut of 27 per cent.

The council has removed some key housing sites completely from the plan, including a large green belt site in Normandy and Flexford for 1,100 homes.

Two green belt urban extensions to Guildford, at Gosden Hill Farm and Blackwell Farm, were to deliver 3,800 homes in total, but this figure has been cut by 600.

However, allocations on one greenfield site to the south and east of the villages of Ash and Tongham have increased from 1,200 to 1,750 homes.

The council said the plan has increased the number of homes on brownfield land in the town centre, including doubling the number of units for the North Street redevelopment, from 200 to 400.

The number of gypsy and traveller pitches are down by a fifth from 73 to 58, while the council has also cut allocations of office and research and development floor space and industrial employment land.

Meanwhile, retail floor space for comparison goods has been reduced from 46,955 square metres to 41,000 square metres.

The council’s borough, economy and infrastructure executive advisory board will consider the latest version of the draft local plan at a meeting on Thursday, 20 April.

According to an officers' report for the committee, last year’s consultation prompted around 32,000 comments.

It states: "There was ongoing concern regarding development in the green belt, a perceived lack of infrastructure provision to support development and the robustness of our evidence base.

"As a result of the consultation comments and an updated evidence base, we consider it is necessary to make a number of changes to the draft local plan."

Council leader Paul Spooner said: "We remain committed to fundamental principles, such as a 'brownfield first' policy of proposing sites with past development, and some of the changes increase the number of homes in the town centre with reduced or removed housing sites in the green belt."

Spooner said the administration would seek final council approval for the draft in May, with a public consultation on the updates in June and July. The authority aims to submit the plan for examination in December this year.

In November 2014, Guildford Council announced it would reassess its draft local plan in light of updated government guidance that reinforced green belt protection and a high number of consultation responses expressing "widespread opposition to building on the green belt".

More details on the latest draft plan can be found here.

NOTE: This story was updated at 12.45pm following information provided by Guildford Council on the number of green belt homes.

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