Guildford seeks lower housing target and less green belt allocations in wake of new household data

A Surrey council has called for a planning inspector to 'review and amend' the housing requirement in its emerging local plan in the wake of new household projections data showing lower rates of growth in the borough.

Guildford: council seeks local plan changes
Guildford: council seeks local plan changes

In August, Guildford Borough Council proposed delivering an extra 550 homes in the first five years of its draft local plan, 500 of which would be on four new green belt sites, as part of a series of modifications to the document.

The modifications were made in response to issues raised by the inspector Jonathan Bore during the plan's examination, who said the plan should deliver more homes in its early years and should accommodate unmet need from neighbouring Woking Council of 41 homes per year.

The council consulted on the modifications between 11 September to 23 October.

But the council has now issued a statement saying it believes that, in the wake of September's new Office for National Statistics household projections, which are used to calculate housing need, its housing requirements may be less than previously expected. It has also said there is now no need to allocate the four new green belt sites.

Council leader Paul Spooner said: "We reviewed the new 2016-based projections, published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last month, and consider that they will have a significant impact on the number of homes needed across our borough.

"This could potentially reduce the total number of new homes each year to 562, compared with the total of 630 using the evidence available when we submitted our local plan.

"Getting the right balance of sustainable places, jobs and growth that create opportunities for all our communities is essential.

"We think that the potential reduction in homes means that it is now possible to meet our borough's housing need, without having to allocate any of the new greenbelt sites proposed in the recent main modifications and consultation."

Spooner also said that the council considers it "unjustified that our borough should have to accommodate any of Woking's currently stated housing need".

A letter to the inspector sent on 23 October said the council would "not be recommending adoption of the new plan with proposed main modifications".

It asked for Bore to "review and amend the plan in light of the new household formation figures by amending the housing requirement to reflect the latest evidence".

It also asked that "all additional numbers applied to the Guildford Local Plan to meet [Woking’s] perceived [unmet] need be removed from the plan to enable the Executive to recommend adoption".

The council's new stance comes despite the government last Friday publishing a consultation on changes to its standard method of assessing housing need. It proposed that planners should use the 2014-based household projections published two years ago and ignore September's new projections, which produced drops in housing need in many parts of the country.

In his response to the council, also sent before last Friday's consultation on the the standard method, Bore agreed to a "further hearing to discuss the housing requirement arising from the latest household projections".

The letter said that Bore would give the council’s housing calculations using the new ONS figures "careful thought".

But the letter said that the situation with Woking’s unmet housing need "is complicated in that the government is considering an adjustment to the housing needs calculation method to ensure that its house building target is achieved".

"At the moment therefore it may be premature to come to a conclusion on the question of unmet need from Woking, because the basis of the calculation may change", the letter said.

Dates for the hearing have not been finalised.


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