Guildford Local Plan consultation ends Monday 18 July

Don’t forget to get responses in to the Guildford local plan before 18 July.

Details of the plan itself are here:
http://www.guildford.gov.uk/newlocalplan/

and suggestions, ideas and prompts for your own responses (feel free to agree or disagree!) are here:
http://www.guildfordgreenbeltgroup.co.uk/index.php/issues/guildford-local-plan-2016

Surrey County Council has approved gas extraction at Albury on 13 July

Surrey County Council approved gas extraction at Albury. The local county councillor, Keith Taylor, both spoke and voted in favour of the motion, apparently noting “locally it is not seen as a big issue”.

Surrey County Council has backed plans by IGas to convert an exploration site near Guildford to gas production.

This morning, members of the planning committee voted by eight to two to approve the company’s application to produce compressed natural gas at Albury.

The site, where gas exploration has been carried out intermittently since 1987, is in the Green Belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has nature and landscape protections.

Councillors accepted the advice of planning officers that national policy to maximise the exploitation of oil and gas amounted to exceptional or special circumstances and that they outweighed any harm from the development to the surrounding area.

For a fuller report see this link:

Surrey councillors approve 15 years of gas production in AONB

Surrey County Council to decide about gas extraction in Surrey Hills AONB on 13/7

A proposal to allow gas extraction at Albury Heath will be decided by Surrey County Council on WEDNESDAY 13 July.

This is clearly urgent – and it has been kept very quiet.

More information is given here:

Go-ahead recommended for gas production in Surrey protected landscape against planning policy

Independent bodies like CPRE have questioned whether it is right to go ahead. http://www.cpre.org.uk/what-we-do/energy-and-waste/shale-gas

The government promised NOT to allow fracking in AONBs (Areas of outstanding natural beauty). We’re told this isn’t fracking, in that there isn’t hydraulic fracturing, but is the production of Compressed natural gas, using HGVs along New Road in Albury. Compressed gas will be moved along our narrow rural roads; there will be some lighting associated with the development and the operation will be 24/7.

Surrey County Council have responsibility for planning in relation to mineral rights and so have the right to determine this. They have claimed that they have carried out 3 public consultations on proposed fracking at Albury Heath, but as far as we know, most residents were not informed.

If you aren’t happy about this, tell your Surrey County Councillor. This is the body that will make this decision and until Friday it will not be binding. There is a very short window to challenge this, but even if the consultation is formally closed, we can complain until the decision is made.

The Surrey County Councillor for the Shere ward is Keith Taylor. You can write to him at:

Keith Taylor
Tara
Send Marsh Road
Ripley
Woking
GU23 6JR

or keith.taylor@surreycc.gov.uk

but in case of non-reply you can copy Surrey County Council

Surrey County Council
Contact Centre
Room 296-298
 County Hall
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2DN

contact.centre@surreycc.gov.uk

too.

For background information, although they do not have a vote on this, you can also tell the borough councillors for the Tillingbourne ward (Richard Billington richard.billington@guildford.gov.uk and David Wright david.wright@guildford.gov.uk)

and the Surrey Hills AONB Board (Chairman, David Wright – this is the same David Wright who is the local borough councillor – david.wright@guildford.gov.uk)

and your MP ( paul.beresford@parliament.uk – his secretary is annie.winsbury@parliament.uk)

Letter on Albury gas from Frack-free Surrey

This is a template letter published by Frack Free Surrey, which we have been given kind permission to publicise and which may be a useful template:

APPLICATION NO: GU15/P/02110

 

Proposed development at: Albury Park Wellsite, East of New Road, Albury, Surrey.

Island Gas Limited.

 

Dear Councillor,

I wish to object in the strongest terms to the application by IGas for production at the above site. As you know, planning applications have to be decided against national and local planning policy. The IGas proposals conflict with policies in the:

  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • Surrey Minerals Plan
  • Guildford Local Plan
  • Metropolitan Green Belt

The recent planning officers report defined the proposal as a “major development”. Under the NPPF paragraph 116, planning permission should be refused for major developments in AONBs except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest.

The planning officers accepted the development would have:

“some detrimental effect on the landscape and would not enhance the natural beauty of the AONB during either the construction or operational period.” That the proposal amounted to “significant harm” to the Green Belt by encroaching on openness.

The proposal also breached policies designed to protect the AONB in the Surrey Minerals Plan and Guildford Local Plan.

The Surrey Minerals Plan policies MC2 and MC14 state that minerals developments in the AONB can be approved only if they have been demonstrated to be in the public interest, there is a need for them and there will be no significant adverse impacts on the appearance, quality and character of the landscape.

Policies RE5 and RE6 in the Guildford Local Plan seek to conserve the visual quality or distinctive character of the AONB. Policy RE2 states that new building would be inappropriate unless it prevents sprawl, reserves character or assists urban regeneration.

The planning officers’ report also says that the proposal would harm ancient woodland by creating car parking on the access track. The NPPF says loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, such as ancient woodland has to be outweighed by benefits.

I reject, in the strongest terms, the conclusion of the planning officer that all of the above negative impacts can simply be outweighed by a national ‘need’ for ‘indigenous’ gas supply.

 

The recently released DECC Committee on Climate Change report stipulates that UK onshore gas production should only be permitted

If three vital conditions are in place

https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CCC-Compatibility-of-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-UK-carbon-budgets.pdf

– none of these conditions, especially Carbon Capture and Storage technologies, are remotely certain to be met.

 

I implore you to reject this proposal in an AONB as there are no reasonable ‘exceptional circumstances’ and it is clearly not in the national public interest, given our legally binding climate change mitigation commitments, and it is certainly not in the local public interest.

 

Air pollution and emissions

 

The period of gas flaring is very concerning for a number of reasons.

 

The Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences 4(5): 525-528, 2012 states:

‘Gas flares have harmful effects on the health and livelihood of the communities in their vicinity, as they release a variety of poisonous chemicals. Some of the combustion by-products include nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulfide, as well as carcinogens like benzo(a)pyrene and dioxins. Humans exposed to such substances can suffer from variety of serious ill-health effects.’

 

No detailed analysis has been produced of the gas to be flared. This is a serious omission from the application.

 

Evidence of gas flaring from the USA and Australia suggests that the total harm caused by flaring pollutants is more than the sum of the individual components.

 

Natural gas processing is a significant source of fugitive emissions of both methane and volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs). The World Bank estimates that every year, some 360 million tonnes of CO2 is released to the atmosphere through flaring and venting. This has a detrimental effect on the environment, contributing significantly to global warming and acidification of both land and sea. A considerable proportion of this CO2 comes from the production of Oil and Gas. At a crucial point in human history, if we are to avoid runaway climate change ‘keeping it in the ground’ needs to be the concern of every public authority, and indeed the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 places legal obligations on public bodies to comply with emission reductions targets relating to climate change. These duties require that a public body must, in exercising its functions, act in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of emissions reduction targets. Flaring is incompatible with this objective, which is why there are international calls for ‘green completions’, involving the capturing of the gas – this is not proposed at this site.

 

 

Gas compressor emissions

 

Very concerning for the local population is the proposed notion of powering the gas compressor by burning some of the gas from the well 24/7 for 15 years. There needs to be a detailed analysis of the effects of the exhaust emissions of this from a variety of aspects: human health, ecology, local amenity impacts e.g. from those using the nearby playing fields. Moreover, the effect on vegetation is likely to be very significant.  

 

Traffic and Transportation

 

The increase in vehicle movements is very concerning, given the nature of their load. In effect there will be a couple of tonnes of compressed gas being moved on a daily basis. These vehicles are a serious danger to not only the local population around the site but to those on the route to the ultimate destination. A recent US study, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, showed that vehicle crashes are the single biggest cause of fatalities to oil and gas workers while the increase in onshore gas production has resulted in a 350% increase in traffic fatalities in regions where gas production is occurring.

 

The roads around in AONB are totally inappropriate for these sorts of vehicle movements, and the villages the HGVs will pass through are densely populated and the roads very narrow in places.

 

I urge you to reject this proposal.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

Surrey CC email list

 

tim.hall@surreycc.gov.uk; keith.taylor@surreycc.gov.uk; tim.hall@surreycc.gov.uk; keith.taylor@surreycc.gov.uk; steve.cosser@surreycc.gov.uk; carol.coleman@surreycc.gov.uk; margaret.hicks@surreycc.gov.uk ; ernest.mallett@surreycc.gov.uk; michael.sydney@surreycc.gov.uk; richard.wilson@surreycc.gov.uk; jonathan.essex@surreycc.gov.uk ; marisa.heath@surreycc.gov.uk; mary.angell@surreycc.gov.uk; ian.beardsmore@btinternet.com; stephen.cooksey@surreycc.gov.uk ; will.forster@surreycc.gov.uk; denis.fuller@surreycc.gov.uk; ramon.gray@surreycc.gov.uk; nicholas.harrison@surreycc.gov.uk; peter.hickman@surreycc.gov.uk ; john.orrick@surreycc.gov.uk; adrian.page@surreycc.gov.uk; chris.pitt@surreycc.gov.uk; fiona.white@surreycc.gov.uk; chris.townsend@surreycc.gov.uk;

Surrey County Council to decide on gas production at Albury on 13 July

A proposal to allow gas extraction at Albury Heath will be decided by Surrey County Council on WEDNESDAY 13 July.

This is clearly urgent – and it has been kept very quiet.

More information is given here:

Go-ahead recommended for gas production in Surrey protected landscape against planning policy

Independent bodies like CPRE have questioned whether it is right to go ahead. http://www.cpre.org.uk/what-we-do/energy-and-waste/shale-gas

The government promised NOT to allow fracking in AONBs  (Areas of outstanding natural beauty). We’re told this isn’t fracking, in that there isn’t hydraulic fracturing, but is the production of Compressed natural gas, using HGVs along New Road  in Albury. Compressed gas will be moved along our narrow rural roads; there will be some lighting associated with the development and the operation will be 24/7.

Surrey County Council have responsibility for planning in relation to mineral rights and so have the right to determine this. They have claimed that they have carried out 3 public consultations on proposed fracking at Albury Heath, but as far as we know, most residents were not informed.

If you aren’t happy about this, tell your Surrey County Councillor. This is the body that will make this decision and until Friday it will not be binding. There is a very short window to challenge this, but even if the consultation is formally closed, we can complain until the decision is made.

The Surrey County Councillor for the Shere ward is Keith Taylor. You can write to him at:

Keith Taylor
Tara
Send Marsh Road
Ripley
Woking
GU23 6JR

or keith.taylor@surreycc.gov.uk

but in case of non-reply you can copy Surrey County Council

Surrey County Council
Contact Centre
Room 296-298
 County Hall
Penrhyn Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2DN

contact.centre@surreycc.gov.uk

too.

For background information, although they do not have a vote on this, you can also tell the borough councillors for the Tillingbourne ward (Richard Billington richard.billington@guildford.gov.uk and David Wright david.wright@guildford.gov.uk)

and the Surrey Hills AONB Board (Chairman, David Wright  – this is the same David Wright who is the local borough councillor – david.wright@guildford.gov.uk)

and your MP ( paul.beresford@parliament.uk – his secretary is annie.winsbury@parliament.uk)

 

 

GGG objection letter to former Wisley airfield

March 24, 2015

Planning Department

Guildford Borough Council

Millmead House

Millmead

Guildford

Surrey GU2 4BB

 

Dear Planning Officer

Planning application REFERENCE 15/P/00012

Location: Former Wisley Airfield

GGG objects to this application reference 15/P/00012 re the former Wisley Airfield. This is a massive encroachment into the Green Belt.

This is land in the Green Belt outside the settlement boundary. Under NPPF80 Green Belt should protect countryside from encroachment, under NPPF79 the fundamental aim of Green Belt is to prevent sprawl by keeping land permanently open; essential characteristics of Green Belt are openness and permanence. This building/development would fail all these tests. It is inappropriate development in the Green Belt. No exceptional circumstances have been demonstrated in order to waive the status of Green Belt and so by default this application must be rejected.

Under NPPF87 inappropriate development is by definition harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances which have not been demonstrated in this case.

Under NPPF 89 a local planning authority should regard constuction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt – this does not meet any of the permitted exceptions.

The land in the area meets all the five purposes of Green Belt as set out in NPPF 80.  To build on this land would be to encroach onto countryside included within Green Belt.

Guildford Borough Council has announced that “we have decided to adopt a policy approach which will exclude all development in the green belt, unless it can be demonstrated that the list of constraints in the revised planning practice guidance (including green belt, AONB, flood risk, green space and heritage) can be overcome”. (GBC press announcement published 12 January 2015). We hope that Guildford will implement this policy, exclude this development from the Green Belt and so reject this proposal.

As noted by NPPF 83, once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. The site is not listed for development under the existing 2003 Local Plan and remains in the Green Belt, so its Green Belt status is clearly determined.

Under NPPF 88 “When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. “Very special circumstances” will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.”  No very special or exceptional circumstances exist or have been demonstrated. It has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Hunston v St Albans, and by the Secretary of State, that housing need (even if demonstrated) does not pf itself constitute a very special circumstance. No housing need has yet been determined for the borough.

This site will be visible from the AONB and so will affect views into and of the Surrey Hills AONB, in contravention of NPPF. The resulting impact on light pollution, traffic and infrastructure has been gravely underestimated and proposed mitigation measures are totally inadequate.

The impact of 2,100 houses on the environmentally sensitive TBHSPA cannot be mitigated.  Damage will occur to the habitats of the protected and endangered rare species in contravention of the EU Birds Directives and Habitats Regulations. The siting of the proposed Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space adjacent to the SPA will only increase visitor numbers causing further damage to the protected area. Para 119 of the NPPF “presumption in favour of sustainable development” does not apply where development requires assessment under the Birds or Habitat Directives and this fact has been totally ignored by the applicant.

This proposal will substantially increase traffic congestion in an area already subject to serious congestion. It will also seriously increase the flood risk, which should lead to a presumption of rejection.   The infrastructure cannot cope with the proposed development.

The prospect of causing serious pollution should be considered as part of the environmental assessment of this project, including its impact on human health.

The cumulative impact of development in the borough and in the neighbouring boroughs of Woking, Waverley and Elmbridge has not been taken into account. The additional 5,000 residents is the equivalent of doubling the population of East and West Horsley combined. The proposed housing density is completely out of keeping with the surrounding rural area – five storey buildings are not appropriate in a rural environment. The development will impact the listed buildings adjacent to it such as Yarne, Bridge End House and Upton Farm. There is not enough land to provide a sustainable community based on GBC’s own parameters.

Infrastructure for this project is inadequate. There is no provision for secondary school places – the Howard of Effingham is full and the headteacher has noted that even if the Howard is expanded, there will be no places for children of this development. Medical services will not be provided on site and the concept that sick residents should cycle along narrow, busy roads to a doctor’s surgery is ludicrous.

Any site that is dependent on the increased use of private motor cars cannot be considered sustainable. The proposed public transport provision is unrealistic given the nature of the roads in question and the level of congestion in the neighbourhood

The thought that residents will walk or cycle to a rail station on narrow, winding, unlit roads without pavements or cycle lanes is frankly ridiculous, as is the idea that nursery school children should be transported by bike. Parking at the nearest two stations is at capacity. Additional traffic will have a negative impact and cause irreparable damage to historic houses and other buildings in Ockham, Ripley, Downside and further afield.   The closure of a number of local roads coupled with a massive increase in traffic will impact a large number of road users from Cranleigh to Cobham and everywhere in between. This site is not deliverable within 5 years due to problems with sewerage and water capacity as outlined by Thames Water. There is insufficient information on the impact on the water table and flooding in the area.

Not only is infrastructure inadequate, but it will have an adverse impact on existing infrastructure which is already stretched. The proposal includes the site safeguarded for waste under the Surrey Waste Plan which Surrey County Council refused to give up in their response to the Draft Local Plan in September. Thames Water have written to express concerns about the capacity of the existing systems to deal with drainage both from surface water and sewage. . The OCK DVOR air traffic control beacon situated onsite limits development and is still operational.

The air quality surrounding the site gives grave cause for concern as levels of NO2 already exceed the EU limit.

There are a number of factual errors in the documentation – for example Natural England has not agreed SANG provision. There are a number of misrepresentations in the paperwork e.g. nine stations within 5 miles – this is however “as the crow” flies – only Horsley and Effingham Junction are within 5 miles by usable road from the middle of the development.

As a result this should not be given planning permission. GGG considers that no special circumstances apply which should lead to permission being given.

Yours sincerely

Susan Parker

Chair

Guildford Greenbelt Group

 

 

 

 

Guildford Greenbelt Group asked to comment on Wisley airfield

Guildford Greenbelt Group and a group of local residents have been interviewed on ITV’s “Tonight” programme, aired at 7.30pm tonight ( 5/3/15).  We’ve been asked to comment on the proposed development at Wisley airfield.  That interview will be apparently set against the Adam Smith Institute which has a habit of advocating development on green belt.

Wisley Airfield proposals – WAG objections

Wisley Action Group have published a list of possible objections to the Wisley Airfield development.

If you wish to object to this, do feel free to use this list as a prompt for any objections.

WAG’s note is here:

Please OBJECT now – DEADLINE 31st March 2015
The proposed development on Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley airfield is for 2,100 houses, a primary school, public green space and a local community centre.
If approved by Guildford Borough Council the development would effectively double the population of East and West Horsley to say nothing of the additional 4,000 or more cars on our overstretched local roads.
To clarify, unless you have written since January 2015 you must write again now. Any previous objections (e.g. to the consultations run by GBC) will not be considered as part of this process.
You can cut and paste from the list below but if possible please alter the list or make additional comments. You must say “I object”. Please ask your neighbours to write too. We need hundreds more letters.

YOU NEED TO EMAIL planningenquiries@guildford.gov.uk , please copy wisleyactiongroup@gmail.com
OR YOU CAN WRITE TO
Guildford Borough Council, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4BB

I write to OBJECT to planning application 15/P/00012 for the following reasons:
Green Belt:
– This is a massive encroachment of the Metropolitan Green Belt
– the proposal is inappropriate development in the Green Belt as defined by the NPPF paras 88 and 89
– the site is clearly visible from the Surrey Hill AONB and it will therefore have a negative impact on views to and from the AONB
– development of this site will result in harm to rural landscape character of the area and the openness of the green belt
– The protection of the green belt is this generation’s responsibility.
Thames Basin Heath SPA/SSSI/SNCI
– The impact of 2,100 houses on the environmentally sensitive TBHSPA cannot be mitigated. Damage will occur to the habitats of the protected and endangered rare species in contravention of the EU Birds Directives and Habitats Regulations
– The siting of the proposed Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space adjacent to the SPA will only increase visitor numbers causing further damage to the protected area
– Para 119 of the NPPF “presumption in favour of sustainable development” does not apply where development requires assessment under the Birds or Habitat Directives and this fact has been totally ignored by the applicant
Impact on the local area
– The additional 5,000 residents is the equivalent of doubling the population of East and West Horsley combined
– The proposed housing density is completely out of keeping with the surrounding rural area – five storey buildings are not appropriate in a rural environment
– The resulting impact on light pollution, traffic and infrastructure has been gravely underestimated and proposed mitigation measures are totally inadequate
– The cumulative impact of development in the borough and in the neighbouring boroughs of Woking, Waverley and Elmbridge has not been taken into account
– There is no provision for secondary school places – the Howard of Effingham is full and the headteacher has noted that even if the Howard is expanded, there will be no places for children of this development
– The air quality surrounding the site gives grave cause for concern as levels of NO2 already exceed the EU limit
– There is insufficient information on the impact on the water table and flooding in the area
– Additional traffic will have a negative impact and cause irreparable damage to historic houses and other buildings in Ockham, Ripley, Downside and further afield.
– The development will impact the listed buildings adjacent to it such as Yarne, Bridge End House and Upton Farm
– The closure of a number of local roads coupled with a massive increase in traffic will impact a large number of road users from Cranleigh to Cobham and everywhere in between
Sustainability
– Any site that is dependent on the use of private motor car cannot be considered sustainable
– The proposed public transport provision is unrealistic given the nature of the roads in question and the level of congestion in the neighbourhood
– The thought that residents will walk or cycle to a rail station on narrow, winding, unlit roads without pavements or cycle lanes is frankly ridiculous
– Parking at the nearest two stations is at capacity

Inaccuracy of the documentation
– There are a number of factual errors in the documentation – for example Natural England has not agreed SANG provision
– There are a number of misrepresentations in the paperwork e.g. nine stations within 5 miles – this is however “as the crow” flies – only Horsley and Effingham Junction are within 5 miles by usable road from the middle of the development
Other
– The housing need in the borough is yet to be determined
– This site is not deliverable within 5 years due to problems with sewerage and water capacity as outlined by Thames Water and the OCK DVOR air traffic control beacon situated onsite which limits development and is still operating
– No very special or exceptional circumstances exist
– Alternative sites exist
– The proposal includes the site safeguarded for waste under the Surrey Waste Plan which Surrey County Council refused to give up in their response to the Draft Local Plan in September
– The site is not listed for development under the existing 2003 Local Plan
– There is not enough land to provide a sustainable community based on GBC’s own parameters
– Surrey Police have concerns on their ability to manage the proposed population density

What is “pre-determination” in relation to planning?

Some other candidates for some other parties are suggesting that it isn’t worth voting for GGG because of “predetermination”.

They have suggested the fact that we have manifesto commitments, or that we have campaigned in relation to various matters, might mean that GGG candidates would not be able to vote on planning issues if elected.

Frankly, this isn’t true.  Is this dirty tricks? It might seem so.

As a result, it seems worth exploring what the law actually says here and what political candidates are allowed to say, and the views that they are allowed to hold, in relation to planning matters.

There are some useful extracts which is relevant in this context:

Click to access Appendix%201%20-%20Draft%20briefing%20note%20on%20bias%20and%20predetermination.pdf

This is from another local authority and gives guidance to actual councillors.  Once a councillor is elected, it is important to be sure that the councillor can demonstrate that they have an open mind on a particular planning proposal, and will weigh that issue in the light of the evidence shown to them, especially the evidence that will be disclosed and discussed at the meeting where decisions are taken.

In particular, note the following extract here:

“Section 25 Localism Act 2011

Section 25(2) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that a decision maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making a decision just because –

  1. (a)  the decision maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision maker took, or would or might take in relation to a matter, and
  2. (b)  the matter was relevant to the decision.

The section makes it clear that if a councillor has given a view on an issue, this, considered in isolation, does not show that the councillor has a closed mind on that issue. So, the mere fact that a councillor has campaigned on an issue or made public statements about their approach to an item of council business does not prevent that councillor from being able to participate in discussion of that issue and to vote on it.”

It also notes:

“The leading case on local authority bias and predetermination ((R(Lewis)v Persimmon Homes Teeside Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 746)  acknowledges the difference between judges sitting judicially and councillors making decisions in a democratic environment.”

It’s also worth noting the specific advice given by Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, in  a letter discussing pre-determination. This noted that the previous administration had fettered freedom of speech in local government but that has now changed.  The letter may be read in full here:

Click to access Letter-Predetermination-March2013.pdf

This reiterates the substance of the advice in relation to Section 25, noting

a councillor is not to be regarded as being unable to act fairly or without bias if they participate in a decision on a matter simply because they have previously expressed a view or campaigned on it. The effect is that councillors may campaign and represent their constituents – and then speak and vote on those issues – without fear of breaking the rules on pre-determination

“However, before the meeting, councillors may legitimately be publicly pre-disposed to take a particular stance. This can include, for example, previously stated political views or manifesto commitments.

This is detailed advice from a QC on this matter:

Click to access LocalismActSection25PredJS.pdf

“How does section 25 compare with the approach that the courts have taken without Parliamentary assistance? In fact, the comparison is a pretty close one. The general trend of court decisions in this area has been to recognise that local councillors really are politicians, and that they are required and expected to hold political opinions, particularly on matters of local controversy. The courts have also recognised the potential for rough and tumble in local politics, and to try where possible to distinguish this from genuine predetemination…

For example, the judgment of Collins J in R v (Island Farm Development Limited ) v Bridgend CBC ([2006] EWHC 2189 (Admin), [2007] BLGR 60). This concerned a refusal by a local authority to sell land to the claimant, who wished to develop it. There was strong local opposition to the claimant’s proposal. There had been a local election in which some members who were subsequently elected, and who decided not to sell the land to the claimant, had made the land sale a manifesto issue. Other  members had campaigned against it. The Judge was clear that members are entitled to take into account policies they believe in especially if they were part of a manifesto.

Here is another legal opinion:

Click to access biaspaperapril2010.pdf

which quotes a judge’s comments:

elected members who would be entitled, and indeed expected, to have and to have expressed views on planning issues. When taking a decision councillors must have regard to material considerations, and only to material considerations, and to give fair consideration to points raised… They are not, however, required to cast aside views on planning policy they will have formed when seeking election or when acting as councillors. The test is a very different one from that to be applied to those in a judicial or quasi-judicial position.”

 

Here are other blogs discussing the issue:

http://www.localism-agenda.com/2012/01/abolishing-predetermination-what-it-really-means/

 

Guildford BC consultation on the Community Infrastructure Levy

The “Community Infrastructure Levy” or CIL  consultation seems dry as dust, and unbearably technical.  But do please give it a glance.

It’s important to focus on the key issues, and what the problems are.  GBC’s website link is here: http://www.guildford.gov.uk/cil

Note the map of CIL zones on page 3.

CIL is money that developers have to pay to the local council in order to develop land. They pay at the rate below per square metre.  The Council are obliged by law to consult on the levels of tariff (don’t think they are asking out of the goodness of their hearts!).

However, we need to be aware that the differential levels of tariff imply certain levels of predetermination about the local plan, and the tariff rates will have an impact on planning.

The politicians may have told us that the local plan is subject to complete revision – but vote for the existing parties and the plan will go ahead in the version we’ve seen already.  That’s clearly implied by the CIL rates, which are set MUCH lower for greenbelt land than for urban land, and which still show the 3 “Strategic sites” of Blackwell Farm, Gosden Hill Farm and Wisley Airfield as though these have already been agreed (which they have not). The rates are as follows:

Residential:

  • Guildford Town £500
  • Ash & Tongham £100
  • Rural areas and villages £300
  • Slyfield £150
  • Strategic sites £400

Purpose built student accommodation: £75

Assisted care housing £100

Retail £200

Other forms of floorspace £0

What this means is that town centre development will almost all be “other forms of floorspace”, or retail, or student accommodation, because it is so much cheaper to develop that than residential accommodation.  So all residential units will be forced into Ash, Tongham, Slyfield, the rural areas, and the strategic sites. That’s neither in the interest of the residents of the town nor of the country; the town is going to stop being a place to live, and become a major commercial centre with housing squeezed to the periphery.

Note that as ever the online consultation system is “sticky” but you can send your responses as an email.

The GGG response I’ve drafted is as follows:

Qu1:  Charging rates:

Rates for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace
Zone 1 – Rural areas and villages

The rural CIL is too low at £300/m2; it is not clear why this is lower than urban development which is £500/m2. This is not a comment about the absolute quantum, on which we don’t necessarily have a view, but on the relative amounts.  This becomes an incentive to build on the countryside, and is contrary both to NPPG which states that there should be a prioritisation of urban development and to Guildford Borough Council’s stated policy. This rate relates to all land in the borough outside the urban area, proposed strategic sites and area outside the Green Belt. Together with the proposals for development on those strategic sites and on Ash & Tongham, it provides an incentive to build on all areas outside the town. This is contrary to the stated hierarchy of need in the draft Local Plan. It becomes clear that the Council’s plan is to develop the town centre for commercial/industrial/retail use, with some student accommodation, and to force all residential development outward.

It is noted that the land costs for urban brownfield and east Surrey rural greenfield are comparable, and that the remediation costs for urban land are higher; why then have a further cost loading to make building on urban land less attractive compared to rural land?

It should be noted on page 39 point 5.5.14 notes that the rep0rt assumes 14% of dwellings will be allocated to rural and village sites, and 56% to “strategic sites” (most of which are in fact greenfield); so it is likely that around 70% of dwellings will be sited on rural sites.

It is noted that the rural proposed rate “provides a comfortable buffer margin for most developments, with further scope for achieving some site specific S106 contributions.” Why should rural development provide such a buffer to developer’s profitability?

 

 

Rates for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace

Zone 2 – Ash and Tongham (excluding strategic location for growth)

he rate for Ash & Tongham, at £100/sq metre, forces development into the area beyond the Greenbelt. Where the area is urban, this may be an acceptable practice. However, in the rural sections of this area, this is forcing development that is unnecessary and inappropriate on to green fields. There needs to be much greater differentiation within this area of the urban and non-urban sections; this is particularly important here since this is land beyond the Greenbelt which is unprotected by primary legislation, but is still of significance as agricultural land. Agricultural land should probably have a comparable CIL rate to the rest of the Green areas of the borough, and this should be significantly higher than urban land.

 

Rates for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace

Zone 3 – Guildford town (excluding strategic sites)

At £500/sq metre the CIL rates for Guildford town present a serious disincentive for building residential accommodation in the urban area. This is the highest CIL rate in the borough.  It means that any urban redevelopment, throughout the whole urban area of Guildford, is incentivised to be retail, commercial, industrial or student accommodation, but that residential development is being forced into greenfield areas outside the town. This is a prescription for urban sprawl and huge urbanisation of our county town by the back door.  This rate  must and should be lower than the rates for building on strategic sites or on greenfield land.  If the rate for building residential accommodation on urban sites is £500/sq metre, then the rate for building on greenfield land in the borough (whether on strategic sites, outside the Greenbelt or on the Greenbelt) should be set higher, say at £600/sq metre (or, conversely, lower the urban CIL rate to a lower amount than the other rates). This as it stands is a perverse incentive – and, coupled with the proposals for student accommodation at £75/sq metre will force out residential accommodation from the town.

Furthermore, it is noted that this particularly high CIL rate will apply to the entirety of the Walnut Tree Close/Woodbridge Meadows areas, thus creating an incentive for a student housing zone here with industrial and commercial units, rather than the urban regeneration that would be better for existing residents and the town as a whole.

 

Rates for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace

Zone 4: Slyfield

Zone 4 rates for urban renewal zones should indeed be lower, and therefore the rate of £150 /sq metre is welcomed as a relatively lower amount for non-student housing. It is not clear however, why, even in this zone, it is higher than the greenfield areas of Ash and Tongham, or higher than student accommodation, or other uses.  This again is an inconsistent policy which is likely to generate perverse incentives.

 

Rates for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace

Zone 5: Strategic sites

This is odd. Firstly no strategic sites have yet been agreed, because the local plan is not confirmed.  However, the strategic sites are shown on the map, as Blackwell Farm, Wisley Airfield and Gosden Hill Farm, as though they had been agreed – surely a clear case of predetermination, which we had thought was not permitted.

Second there seems a desire to spread dissension between the various campaigning groups, in that the tariff for the strategic sites is set higher than for other greenbelt areas.  It is important to note that the tariff is still lower than for urban areas and so still represents a significant incentive for developers to attack these sites rather than to focus on urban land.  This is not a good thing; and it should not be seen as desirable from the point of view of the strategic site residents either.  The lower tariffs for industrial and commercial use are likely to force such other, undesirable uses on to the strategic sites, encouraging housing into the general greenbelt – with the consequence of appalling urban sprawl and congestion throughout the borough.

 

Rates for purpose-built student residential (Use Class C3/C2/sui generis) floorspace?

It is not clear why the rates for building student residential floorspace are so much lower (£75/sq metre) than other residential use, irrespective of location. If that use were assumed to be on campus, that might seem acceptable and appropriate -but for the rate to be set at this level irrespective of where it is in the borough. This is inappropriate – we need incentive for student accommodation on campus, not incentives to build student accommodation instead of other residential accommodation.

 

Rates for assisted living / extra care floorspace?

No comment – this seems an appropriate form of development in all settlement areas and an incentive for this form of development is not inappropriate.

 

Rates for retail floorspace?

It is not at all clear why this is £200/sq metre, compared to building residential accommodation at £500/sq metre in the urban area. Retail floorspace, whether in or out of the town centre, is lower than any other usage. We do not have a screaming need for more retail, but we do need more housing. In fact, retail commentators have noted that retail operations will shrink in the next few years and less floorspace will be needed for this; why then do we need this perverse incentive?

 

Rates for all other liable uses?

At £0 /squ metre, this is the oddest of all.  Residential accommodation is to be subject to aggressive and punitive disincentive, especially in the town- but “all other uses” – which are not fully explored – are without any cost whatever.  This has to be inappropriate.

These uses include town centre and out of centre offices, industrial factories, warehouses, stores and budget hotels. It is not clear that this is something that the residents of Guildford want to be either imposed on the town centre or the rural areas.

 

Qu 2

Do you have any comments regarding Map 1 in the Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule (PDCS) for the charging zones for residential (Use Class C3) floorspace?

See the comments in relation to Qu 1 above.

It is not clear why the strategic sites are differentiated from existing greenbelt, since until a Local Plan is approved, these strategic sites cannot be so designated.  Until it has been agreed that there are exceptional circumstances which justify their removal from the Greenbelt, the sites of Blackwell Farm, Wisley Airfield and Gosden Hill Farm are all  Greenbelt land.

It is also noted that there is no differentiation whatever in relation to building on the AONB.

It is also not clear why Ash and Tongham are undifferentiated between the urban areas here and the residential greenfield areas, which should be at a substantially higher tariff. There should be a demarcation between settlement areas (which could have an urban tariff) and greenfield sites.

It is not clear why the urban area as a whole is marked as a very high tariff for residential use with incentives for retail, commercial and student accommodation only. First, the desire to expand the retail and commercial activities within Guildford is an aspiration of the current council, which has never been subject to any form of consultation. Second, the residential areas of the town will find themselves swamped with more and more large retail and commercial sites. Better, surely, to opt for medium density housing as proposed by GGG than ever larger centres like the Friary, the new North Street redevelopment, the Quadrant, Solum, etc.

Q3 Economic Viability

Local Plan countdown 3 Do you agree that the proposed rates would not threaten the economic viability of development across Guildford borough?

No. We do not agree with this statement.

The very high rate of CIL attached to urban residential development challenges its viability. We have been repeatedly told that the reason that urban residential development is not achievable – for example along Walnut Tree Close- is that it is not commercially viable. Now GBC is proposing to use inflated rates – among the ten highest CIL rates in the country – not to act as a disincentive for using greenfields or Greenbelt, but as a disincentive to use urban land for accommodation. This is to make clear the intentions of Guildford Borough Council and the current administration, which intends to have the town of Guildford as a commercial, industrial and retail hub, forcing all accommodation into the periphery and triggering urban sprawl. This is not growth but a recipe for congestion, stagnation, pollution and ultimately decay.

Q4 Draft 123 List
Local Plan countdown 4Do you have any comments on the infrastructure included in the infrastructure/ draft Regulation 123 list?

It is concerning that the largest component of the CIL contributions will be allocated to Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (“SANG”) and Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area mitigation measures.  While SANG sounds superficially innocuous, what is implied is a designation of an area of existing green land, probably farm land, as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (ignoring the fact that it was green space already, or it wouldn’t qualify), building a car park next to it, and then using this amount of land as a “mitigation measure” in order to allow building within an otherwise protected distance of the internationally protected Thames Basin Heath.  So this contribution will allow building on green space which is designated as important. This is an almost wholly undesirable measure.

The second  item on the 123 list relates to transport and infrastructure intervention, then other items are also covered. This is perhaps what most would expect CIL contributions to cover. It is of course important to ensure that the impact of the additional building (i.e. the costs of the associated infrastructure) will not outweigh the CIL tariff. GGG does not have the skills to appraise this fully, but it is important to ensure that the actual costs of infrastructure associated with new development are all covered in full by the contributions from the developer. Anything that imposes a cost burden on the existing community can be argued to be unsustainable.   This would include roads, water management including supply, drainage and flood risk, community facilities including education, health service and fire service. Unless these costs are fully met by new development, that development should not proceed because it is imposing a burden on existing communities, which outweighs any cash benefit that is given by CIL.  Why should communities, who are disadvantaged by additional congestion and problems with increased pollution and poorer services, also have to pay for the cost of the new services for the new housing, effectively cross subsidising developer profits?

Q5 Development Viability Study
Local Plan countdown 5Do you have any comments on the Development Viability Study, and in particular on the methodology and assumptions of the study?

GGG has not undertaken a detailed technical appraisal of the viability study. However, certain points are worthy of note.  These demonstrate that there is a considerable degree of pre-determination in the study; that the study is assuming that the superseded, withdrawn local plan will be implemented as put forward last summer, which cannot be a valid assumption; and it assumes that it is acceptable for existing residents to subsidise the cost of development.

Paragraph 2.4.4. notes

“The revised Regulation 14 requires that a charging authority “strike an appropriate [undefined] balance between:

a. The desirability of funding from CIL (in whole or in part) the .. cost of infrastructure required to support the development of its area.. and

b. The potential effects (taken as a whole) of the imposition of CIL on the economic viability of development across its area. ”

In other words, it is national policy (or at least GBC’s consultants assert so) that the existing residents should subsidise developers for wrecking their area. (As glossed by the subsequent paragraphs).

NOTE the clause, in this research commissioned after the local plan was put on hold, in 3.2.1:

“the average annual target for completions in the Local Plan will be around 650 dwellings per annum” – which, given that the SHMA is still in draft, the constraints have not been applied, and the local plan and brownfield land available have not been subject to the promised appraisal, looks remarkably like adherence to the predetermined trajectory.

On page 22 there is a reference to the implications of the draft local plan policies – not that these are the policies in the draft that has now been WITHDRAWN. However, there is reference to spatial development, rural exceptions homes etc.  The council’s own spatial development strategy, or at least promises in relation to this, have not been taken into account in the charging regime.

Q6 Instalments Policy
Local Plan countdown 6What is your opinion of Guildford Borough Council introducing an instalments policy as we suggest in paragraph 22 of the background document?

No comment

 

Q7 Draft Infrastructure Schedule
Local Plan countdown 7Do you have any comments on the infrastructure projects and their costings set out in the draft Infrastructure Schedule?

In relation to the proposed amendments to the gyratory system, and the road systems in central Guildford, it is vital that there is a much wider consultation system for the community as a whole.  It is premature to propose infrastructure projects, much less to put forward costings, without consideration of what is desirable for the borough.  Why are projects being put forward that would facilitate the development of strategic sites before those sites are approved?  Why is there no proper consideration of the cost of the huge population uplift and its impact on the population as a whole? It is unacceptable to mark costs such as “new primary school” or “GPs surgery” as “TBD” (presumably “to be determined”) with the allocation of the cost as “developer contributions”. It is important, before any projects are approved, to determine whether those projects are sustainable from the viewpoint of the existing residents, and to ensure that they are not unduly burdened with the incremental associated costs.  If the developer will not be bearing the full cost of the incremental requirements, which seems likely in most cases from the context of the report, it must be questioned whether those projects can be deemed to be viable not from the viewpoint of the developer but from the viewpoint of the community -and so they should be subject to fundamental challenge.

As an aside, the borough has a habit of recruiting key chosen representatives who are deemed to represent the community as a whole, notably the Guildford Society (GSoc) and the Guildford Vision Group (GVG). It should be noted that neither of these entities has any form of democratic mandate, and that GVG in particular is a strictly limited group of self appointed experts; there is no general acceptance within the borough that they are suitable experts for consultation.  It is noted that a meeting was convened on 16 February involving the GSoc Chairman, Anne Milton MP, Penny Mordaunt MP, Chris Mansfield (head of development), Stephen Mansbridge (leader of the council) and Sue Sturgeon (managing director) to discuss proposed changes to the town’s infrastructure. Such a meeting cannot discuss the best infrastructure for the town and the borough without a wider consultation on what the best infrastructure should be.

Q8 Any other comments
Local Plan countdown 8Please let us know of any further comments you have on our CIL proposals or any of the supporting documents.

The CIL proposals need to be based on a current local plan document, but the local plan on which they have been based has already been withdrawn as unsound and based on inadequate evidence. There is an undertaking to review that local plan and all component elements of the evidence base in order to consider its direction.  These CIL proposals have not taken that undertaking in relation to fundamental redirection into account, and so are not in themselves fully supported.

The fundamental requirements in assessing CIL should be to:

1. ensure that the existing communities will not bear the incremental burden of cost associated with development

2. provide an incentive to use brownfield land for the required housing need.

It is not necessary to provide an incentive for economic growth in an area which is already thriving and economically vibrant, and certainly there is no reason for the local community to subsidise the provision of budget hotels or out of town offices or warehouses on precious agricultural or wild land.