Thorpe among land facing removal from the green belt
ALMOST 200 hectares could be removed from Runnymede’s green belt to help meet housing targets over the next 20 years.
As the borough’s local plan consultation was launched last week, people were urged to have their say on potentially dramatic changes.
The plan outlines the amount of development expected in Runnymede and where it should be located.
It includes the level of housing, employment and retail development, plus changes in the protected green belt. Under the council’s preferred option outlined in the Issues, Options and Preferred Approaches document, several parcels of land in the borough would be removed from the green belt, including sites in Virginia Water, Thorpe, Ottershaw and Chertsey.
Part of that option, which would see 174 hectares of green belt released – reducing the total from 79% to 77%, would include removing Thorpe village from the green belt entirely.
Ian Maguire, corporate head of planning and environmental services said doing that would not significantly increase development, giving instead a ‘ handful’ of new homes.
“I don’t feel it will make a real difference for Thorpe, apart from taking away the bureaucracy,” he said. “All these people who live there and want to do things like a conservatory on the back of their house have to jump through hoops. There’s nothing big and scary with the Thorpe village review.”
Other changes would include removing the green belt status of land at the DERA site in Longcross Road, as well as two parcels in Virginia Water and Thorpe Lea.
In the south of the borough, land would be released at Ottershaw, in Rowtown next to the Franklands Drive development, and Chertsey ‘Bittams’ – an area of Bittams Lane bordering St Peter’s Way.
The council’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment identifies the need for 466535 homes a year in the borough, with this option deliver ing 302-383.
Mr Maguire said: “In an ideal world we would be providing more than the need, but in the real world there are constraints like green belt and flood plain.
“Under this option we would be providing 302 to 383 homes per annum. These figures are very important. The government wanted us to turn every stone and see what we could do.
”Having turned all the stones and looked at all the options, by taking some land out of the green belt we can build around 56% to 82% of the total figure. We provide about 200 dwellings a year at the moment.”
The local plan, described by Mr Maguire as the council’s ‘spatial vision’ for the borough over the coming years, needs to be in place by 2017. Although a tight timescale, he says it is ‘ambitious but realistic’, adding there is still time to ‘listen and make changes’ if needed.
Tthe local plan was withdrawn in 2014 after an inspector found failings in the council’s ability to produce evidence of working with other councils on crossboundary matters and its approach to housing provision.
Since then, work has been going on to resubmit the document.
Mr Maguire said the inspector made it clear he wanted ‘no stone unturned’.
He said: “It was a disappointment of course, but the inspectorate has gone through a different pragmatic and harder approach, and they wanted the most sustainable plan.
“We were hoping for a bit more pragmatism. We were hoping to do a review of the green belt after the process had started.”
With the six-week consultation underway, the council is calling for as much feedback as possible.
Mr Maguire said: “We want to make sure everyone understands how much and exactly where these homes would be built.
“If we are wrong about the evidence that underpins these suggestions, we need to know.
“We would be deeply disappointed if we don’t get debate. The Issues, Options and Preferred Approaches document is about n What is a local plan?
It is a document setting out the amount of development expected in the borough over the next 20 years and where it should be located.
This includes the level of housing, employment and retail development and the approach to be taken to the green belt, as well as allocating sites in the borough for development. suggestions the council have been making based on evidence we have got.
“Planning must be n Will there be any meetings on the issue?
Presentations and workshops will be held from 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm today (Thursday), with question and answer sessions from 4pm-5pm and 8pm-9pm at the Civic Centre, in Addlestone. n How can I get in touch?
The first round of formal public consultation has evidence based so that if someone can provide evidence [for changes] then we will discuss it.”