|Green Belt Development - Against|
|Tuesday, 24 May 2011 13:22|
I write in response to your article on page 2 of The Caterham and District Independent about Green Belt development last month.
Over the years, targets for new housing set by successive Governments for Tandridge District have been low, reflecting the efforts of Tandridge District Council to defend the open land of the Green Belt (which covers 94% of the District) and the character of our small towns and villages. The most recent allocation set in the South East Plan is for 2,500 dwellings for the 20 year period ending in 2026. This is the joint second lowest allocation in the whole of South East England. Although the Coalition Government has in effect removed regional allocations and proposes to leave the determinations of targets to each local authority, the figures for Tandridge have been adopted locally so as to protect the local environment. This is particularly important for Tandridge in the light of demands for more housing from the Government.
Not only has Tandridge District Council succeeded in achieving low targets for its area, it also has published a technical document as required called the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment. This shows sites where the housing allocation could be met. The Council is also required to show that there is a five year supply of land immediately deliverable for housing and this is also achieved. With this work in place, Tandridge District Council is able to meet all its housing development requirements without the need to take any Green Belt land. Policies are already in place to ensure that such housing can be provided in the towns and villages without unacceptably changing their character. In certain cases, the Council can require that legal agreements take into account the need for improvements to local services and affordable housing.
The thrust of Mr. Greenhalgh’s comments are that Caterham takes the lion’s share of development and Oxted gets off lightly. The fact remains that Caterham has had a major hospital close down (St. Lawrence’s); and two major defence installations have become redundant (Caterham Barracks and Kenley Aerodrome). Although technically previously in the Green Belt, the Aerodrome land was covered with dense sub-standard and semi-derelict former married quarters housing. There is no reason why significant amounts of previous housing allocations should not have been made on these sites, especially as significant development-related gains were made. These include local road improvements, support for the Village bus service, new shops, school improvements, leisure and community facilities, new doctors’ surgery and large areas of open space. We believe the District Council should take some credit for planning this amount of development in a comprehensive and co-ordinated way.
The Oxted area (including Limpsfield and Hurst Green) has taken its fair share of development including redundant schools, hospital, smallholdings, police station and other sites. These may not amount numerically to the Caterham share, but it would be wrong to prevent otherwise acceptable new housing in Caterham just because land was not available in Oxted. Similarly, contrary to Mr. Greenhalgh’s view, it would not be acceptable to release Green Belt land in Oxted in order to balance development with Caterham. Apart from being wrong in planning terms, such an approach would only set one community against another with the result that all would lose out.
Without prejudice to any planning application Mr. Greenhalgh may make, there is no need to release Green Belt in Oxted (or anywhere else in Tandridge District). His suggestions for helping to resolve Gasholder and Rose & Young issues are well-meaning but have not been thought through. As well as being impractical, such arrangements would be unlawful on the back of Green Belt housing in Oxted. In response to Mr. Windridge, it is similarly difficult to see how unnecessary release of Green Belt land would help resolve the Rose & Young site. Mr. Greenhalgh’s comments about affordable housing do not give the full picture. No local authority in South East England even attempts to meet its need for affordable housing in full. In Tandridge, we rely on working with our housing association partners to provide affordable homes on the limited supply of Council-owned land; and with private developer partners (including Mr. Greenhalgh) to provide affordable units on appropriate sites. The current financial constraints make the provision of affordable housing more difficult, but the District Council aims to continue to maintain a supply.
Bob Evans, Head of Planning, Tandridge District Council