The new leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has denied that the Local Plan for Guildford can be quickly revised with a “Local Plan revision”, as claimed by Sir Paul Beresford, the Conservative MP for Mole Valley, and that any revision would probably take over three years.
Mole Valley is the parliamentary constituency to the east of Guildford which includes five of the GBC wards.
Sir Paul wrote in a letter sent to a number of councillors in different parties on Monday (May 27) that he had, “sought and received, verbal assurances from the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government that GBC could quickly revise the Plan by adopting a change at a full council meeting”.
But today (May 30) Council Leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “An adopted Local Plan is an important framework for everyone across our borough, to help provide homes, vital supporting infrastructure and community facilities. Particularly when homelessness and other major issues need tackling.
“The council and its officers followed national planning policy and legislation during the development of the Local Plan.”
Referring to Sir Paul’s primary interest in the former Wisley Airfield site, Cllr Reeves continued: “This includes the number of homes needed, and focussing on one site in the Plan does not solve the problems of housing for the whole borough, people still need these homes and somewhere to live.
“It is also important to clarify that the council cannot proceed as the letter suggests. A motion of full council would not have the effect of reversing the adoption of the Local Plan, or of removing elements of the Plan. The Plan (as adopted) has full effect until it is either quashed, revoked, or revised.
“In principle, and law, it is possible to revise a recently adopted plan. However, to facilitate the type of changes suggested in the letter, the process would be a comprehensive one – it would be lengthy (probably over 3 years), and would involve (as the law requires), consultation, and examination (by the Secretary of State).”
Caroline Reeves was the only Lib Dem councillor to vote for adoption of the Plan when it was controversially adopted just seven days before the borough council elections on May 2. Other Lib Dems abstained or voted against.
Campaigners are fundraising for at least one judicial review of the adoption process but have only until June 6 to lodge any applications.
He added: “While this could be great news, it appears to run contrary to other advice about our available options, so we shouldn’t get too carried away.”Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) leader of the second biggest group at GBC received Sir Paul’s claim warily. He said that his party would be seeking a meeting with him and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government “to try to add some substance to the verbal assurances” Sir Paul had been given.
Whether and how the council defends any judicial review may prove divisive. R4GV (Resident for Guildford and Villages spoke out powerfully against the Local Plan and have shown sympathy to those wanting a JR. Some Liberal Democrats may also have reservations about the council spending large amounts of public money defending the Local Plan adoption decision following their party’s unsuccessful attempt to defer the decision.
This evening, Sir Paul Beresford reiterated his claim about the possibility of a Local Plan revision when interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey.