South Woking Greenbelt threatened?
Please find attached the press release, ‘South East Plan welcomed by Council’, which was distributed earlier today to local media sources.
18 May 2009
South East Plan welcomed by council
Woking Borough Council has given a cautious welcome to the final South East Plan, which was published by the Government on 6 May.
The South East Plan sets out the region’s planning framework to 2026 and its strategy and policies will affect future planning decisions in Woking. It forms part of the development plan for Woking, which means that the Borough Council’s planning policies set out in the Woking Local Development Framework must be in line with it.
Much of the South East Plan remains the same as the previous version published during the summer of 2008, which set out the Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to the draft Plan following the Examination in Public and the report of the Panel of Inspectors the year before.
Headlines for Woking
Annual housing target
Woking’s annual housing target remains 292 new homes a year, as set out in the Proposed Changes version published during 2008.
The regional housing target has been trimmed back from 33,125 new homes each year to 32,700, with a few districts and boroughs seeing a slight reduction in their housing targets. The Government maintains that the number of households in the South East is growing rapidly with supply lagging behind and affordability worsening, and although it acknowledges the current difficulties in the housing market it stresses the importance of keeping up with the rise in demand and providing more homes.
More/ The final version…
The final version of the South East Plan makes one very important change to the housing targets. Instead of setting ‘minimum’ targets, as in the Proposed Changes last year, the South East Plan now sets them as ‘average annual’ targets. The former use of minimum targets made it difficult to understand what the actual level of housing to be delivered in an area would be, and seemed to give a green light to much higher levels of housing delivery. The Council, along with other local authorities, strongly objected to this approach due to the pressure that this would put on the area’s high environmental quality and its infrastructure.
Cllr Graham Cundy, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning, said: “We are pleased that the Government has taken notice of our concerns and we welcome the much more sensible approach to housing targets set out in the final South East Plan. In the current economic climate, meeting the annual housing target for Woking will be a challenge, but I am pleased to say that even in the last difficult year for the development industry Woking’s target of 292 new homes was met.”
Growth strategy and infrastructure
The South East Plan’s strategy to concentrate growth in the region’s hubs, including five strategic development areas in an arc from South Hampshire through Oxford to Milton Keynes in the north of the region, remains unchanged.
Woking remains identified as a regional hub because of its highly accessible location in relation to the rail network, importance as an economic centre and its potential to accommodate growth in a sustainable way. The Town Centre remains identified in the Plan as a centre for significant change due to its growth and redevelopment potential.
Woking’s status as a regional hub and the town centre’s identification as a centre for significant change is supported by the Council and reflected in its own approach. This status should provide greater access to regional funding for infrastructure improvements, for example, on the road and rail networks.
More/ However, the Council…
However, the Council is disappointed that the final version of the South East Plan does not reinstate the conditional approach to infrastructure provision that was a feature of the original plan. Instead it sets out that where new development creates a need for additional infrastructure, a programme of delivery should be agreed before development begins.
Where new homes will go
However, as before, the final version of the South East Plan says that there will be a possible need to review the Green Belt boundary to the south of Woking if the levels of growth set out for the Borough in the South East Plan cannot be accommodated within the existing built-up area. It does not say that the Green Belt around Woking must be reviewed and it does not say that Green Belt protection is being removed for land in Woking Borough or any other area in the South East. The Plan is more prescriptive about the need to review the Green Belt to the north-east of Guildford and in the area of the former DERA site at Chertsey but any decisions about changing the Green Belt boundary will be taken at the local level.
The main reason why the South East Plan mentions the south of Woking is because of the internationally important Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area to the north, which places some restrictions on new development in the interests of protecting the habitat of three species of ground-nesting bird.
The Borough Council is in the process of completing two major housing studies which will provide a great deal of information about what size, type and tenure of housing is needed and demanded in the Borough, and also the location of potential sites for future housing development. The studies will help to inform where new homes will go as the Council will need to ensure that the right size, type and tenure of housing is provided in the right location at the right time, with the necessary supporting infrastructure.
More/ It is only…
It is only after these studies and several other important supporting studies have been completed that the Council will be in a position to consult local people on the choices that will need to be made about where new development should be built.
For further information about the South East Plan, please contact:
- Kathy O’Leary, Planning Policy Manager, Woking Borough Council, on 01483 743427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Government Office for the South East (GOSE) at www.gose.gov.uk
- South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) at www.south-east-ra.gov.uk
For further information, contact Woking Borough Council’s Marketing Communications Officer, Andy Denner, on 01483 743026 or email email@example.com
What do you think are the implications for the WCRA area?