Three JRs over Guildford Local Plan Green Belt Deletions submitted

Surrey Live

Ockham Parish Council claims the allocation of 2,000 homes at the former Wisley Airfield is “a strategy of massive overprovision at the expense of the green belt”

Opponents of the Wisley Airfield development protesting outside the council offices ahead of a planning hearing in 2017. Campaigners have launched a legal challenge over the site’s inclusion in Guildford’s Local Plan

Guildford’s new Local Plan is facing three legal challenges over its inclusion of green belt sites such as the former Wisley Airfield.

Ockham Parish Council, a long-standing opponent of the Wisley development, has already lodged an application with the High Court seeking to have the airfield excluded from the Local Plan. It has engaged leading planning barrister Richard Harwood QC to fight its case after raising £30,000 from residents to cover its legal expenses.

In court documents seen by SurreyLive, the parish council’s legal representatives claim planning inspector Jonathan Bore, who reviewed the Local Plan, failed to find exceptional circumstances for releasing land for 4,000 more houses than Guildford requires, including the 2,000 homes allocated for the Wisley site.

The documents claim the inspector’s reasons for allocating more houses than needed were “flawed, irrational and based on a misunderstanding of national policy”.

The Local Plan, adopted at a controversial emergency council meeting just a week before the Conservatives suffered a shock collapse at the local elections in May 2019, assessed Guildford’shousing need at 10,678 homes between 2015 and 2034, but allocated enough sites for 14,602.

 

In his report, Mr Bore explained the surplus by saying: “Circumstances may change, and new strategic sites cannot be brought forward quickly to meet revised housing requirements; they have to be planned well in advance. Therefore, by making the allocations now, the council have aimed to future proof the plan.”

However, in his written submission to the High Court, Mr Harwood argues that exceeding the housing requirement does not amount to exceptional circumstances, especially as much of the flexibility this allows only insures against other “unnecessary” sites not coming forward.

“It is simply delivering a strategy of massive overprovision at the expense of the green belt,” court documents state. “There is no need for these to meet the housing requirements.”

Ockham Parish Council representatives also argue that Mr Bore failed to explain why he was differing from the secretary of state, who rejected a planning appeal for the Wisley site in June 2018 mainly on the grounds of the harm it would cause to the green belt.

Two other applications for judicial review of the Local Plan have been lodged at the High Court, one by Compton Parish Council and another by Guildford resident Julian Cranwell.

The Compton application relates mainly to the Blackwell Farm site to the west of Guildford and involves many of the same arguments as Ockham Parish Council’s bid, claiming Mr Bore did not identify “exceptional circumstances” for removing the land from the green belt.

Compton Parish Council’s barrister, Richard Kimblin QC, also argues that the inspector failed to consider whether the construction of an access road for Blackwell Farm across part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was a “major development” and thus only justified in “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Cranwell’s application is believed to have been lodged on behalf of the borough’s villages that would be affected by changes to the green belt.

A High Court judge will now decide if the judicial reviews will be allowed to go ahead (Image: Jack Taylor/Getty Image)

Newly installed lead councillor for planning Jan Harwood (no relation) said the council would consider the basis of the challenges before deciding how to proceed.

“However, the council will carefully consider the terms and basis of the challenges and will participate in an open and transparent manner with the court and other parties. The council will fully and evenly consider the arguments made by all those involved in the proceedings and councillors will be advised in full of the council’s options.”

A High Court judge will now decide whether Ockham Parish Council and the other applicants have an arguable case and, if they do, will grant permission for a full hearing at a later date.

One thought on “Three JRs over Guildford Local Plan Green Belt Deletions submitted

  1. This is the sort of chaotic, piecemeal planning this country has had to deal with since the 1947 act came into being it seems. A plan led system, with no national spatial plan to underpin it all. One government attempts to plan beyond the local, the next one scraps it because the locals don’t like being told they need more housing by outsiders. Just another name for institutionalised NIMBYISM compliments of Sir Eric Piffles.

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