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Elmbridge's New Local Plan - Strategic Options Consultation   
As some of you will know, Elmbridge is preparing a new planning strategy.  This will materialise as a new Local Plan, replacing the current 'Core Strategy', which, together with the Development Management Plan, form Elmbridge Borough Council's main local planning policies.  The final draft of the Local Plan will go to the Government's Planning Inspectorate for examination in early 2018.  Before then there will be two consultations – the first, which began on 16th December and will continue until 4 pm on Friday 10th February 2017 (UPDATE:  Now extended to 24th February), looks at the 'big picture' strategic aspects:  where should the development which is needed take place within the borough.  The second consultation on a more detailed plan will be published for consultation in July 2017.
 
The need to do this exercise stems from the Government's determination to tackle the lack of housing in England. We have all seen the headlines about the Government's intention to increase the number of homes.  The Government has made it clear that if the council fails to seek to meet its housing needs then they will step in and make the planning decisions for it.  Clearly this means that a 'do nothing' option is not realistic.
 
An ageing population, internal emigration from London and increasing birth rates all contribute to an assessed increased need for nearly nine and half thousand new homes by 2035.  This equates to something like another Weybridge within the borough of Elmbridge.
 
The vast majority of this need is for smaller homes – one, two and three bedrooms – for first time buyers, key workers and growing families who need a secure a long term home for their children.  We need to have affordable housing to enable our children and grandchildren to continue to live in the borough.
 
The intention of the updated Local Plan is to create new homes and jobs for current and future generations, while retaining the unique and attractive character of the Borough – something of which, in Thames Ditton and Weston Green, we are very proud and protective.
 
With such development comes considerable impact on the infrastructure, particularly school places, GP surgeries, roads, transport and drainage.  These and more are all issues which make it necessary for the building of new homes to be undertaken through an established and agreed Local Plan which will consider all of these infrastructure aspects and seek to improve them.
 
As required by the government, the council is considering whether the boundary of the green belt should be amended.  As required by the Government, an independent review has been undertaken of the Green Belt boundaries in Elmbridge to assess whether they meet the purposes of the Green Belt as detailed in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  Three areas, two in Cobham and one in Long Ditton, which have been rated by independent consultants as 'weakly' meeting the purposes of the Green Belt have been identified as possible areas where the boundaries could be altered to allow further development.
 
Comments on any aspect of the consultation will be welcomed but Elmbridge Council has specifically produced three options for residents and local businesses to consider:
 
Option 1
Maintain existing Green Belt boundaries and deliver all development by concentrating development within the urban area by:

  • Significantly increasing densities on all sites in the urban areas; and
  • Identifying open spaces such as allotments and playing fields for redevelopment and relocating these uses within the existing Green Belt.
  • Using the Duty to Co-operate to enquire as to whether other authorities have the potential to meet some of our need. 

Option 2
As far as possible meet development needs whilst maintaining development at appropriate densities in the urban area by:

  • Increasing densities on sites in the urban area only where it is considered appropriate and does not impact significantly on character;
  • Amending Green Belt boundaries where:
     -  the designation is at its weakest;
     -  the areas are in sustainable locations; and
     -  the areas are not, or are only partially, affected by absolute constraints.
    Within these areas opportunities for accommodating our development needs will be explored, taking into account site constraints, land ownership, the need to support sustainable development, and compliance with other planning policies; and 
  • Using the Duty to Co-operate to enquire as to whether other authorities have the potential to meet some of our need. 

Option 3
Deliver development needs of the Borough in full and explore opportunities to meet needs of other Boroughs and Districts in the Housing Market Area (HMA) by:

  • Increasing densities on sites in the urban area only where it is considered appropriate and does not impact on character; and
  • Amending Green Belt boundaries regardless of the strength of the Green Belt and allocating sites in these areas for development. 

The Council's preferred option is Option 2.  The reasons are explained in the consultation document.
 
This is a very complex subject and the council genuinely do need to have people's views on how the additional need in the borough, for housing in particular, can be accommodated, starting with understanding the views of all the stakeholders (such as residents, developers, retailers, businesses, service providers).

 

We do urge all residents to look at this consultation – go to :-
     http://consult.elmbridge.gov.uk/consult.ti/lpsoc/consultationHome
to see the consultation document, along with the supporting documents (including the Green Belt Boundary Review) and FAQs.  Copies of all documents will also be available in local libraries and at the Civic Centre.
 
Remember, this first consultation period ends 4 pm on Friday 10th February 2017

     UPDATE:  Consultation period extended to Friday 24th February.
 
There will be a number of 'drop in' sessions across the borough which anyone who is interested can attend.  Officers will be available to answer questions and hear your views :-

  • Tuesday 10th January:  Lecture Hall, 1st Floor Weybridge Library, 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Wednesday 11th January:  Cobham Community Centre, 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Thursday 19th January 2017:  Hinchley Wood Secondary School, 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Monday 23rd January:  Cecil Hepworth Playhouse (Walton), 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Thursday 26th January 2017:  Civic Centre, Esher, 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Saturday 4th February 2017:  Civic Centre, Esher 10 am – 2 pm

UPDATE:

There was to have been a presentation by an Elmbridge Council officer at the next Residents' Association Open Meeting on Tuesday 31st January; however, due to the limited capacity of the Vera Fletcher Hall and the likely level of interest in this topic, the presentation on Elmbridge’s Local Plan Review - Strategic Options Consultation, will now be held at the Civic Centre in Esher on Wednesday 1st February, starting at 8 pm, to allow as many people as possible to attend.
 
 
Cllr Karen Randolph