It has been almost two months since the Public Consultation on Elmbridge Borough Council’s new Local Plan, which closed on 24 February 2017. Councillors have confirmed that they received in excess of 3700 responses. We understand this is the highest response to any Elmbridge Public Consultation to date.
On 24 February, an open letter was published in the Surrey Advertiser, from Councillors S. Selleck, A. Davis and T. Oliver to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The letter highlighted the significant public reaction to the Local Plan Options and asked for clarification on several Government policies, including clarification around Green Belt declassification due to ‘exceptional circumstances’, funding for infrastructure, and timescales for delivery of the new Local Plan. We understand that there has been other correspondence similar to this, and Elmbridge has advised members of the HWLD Action Group that there may be a delay to the next stage of the process, as they are awaiting clarification concerning the new model for the calculation of housing requirement.
Following the close of the Public Consultation, the HWLD Action Group has formed partnerships with individual professionals on a range of issues surrounding the development of the Local Plan. We have also been in receipt of some interesting ‘alternative options’ presented by residents. If and when we hear of development of any of these ideas, we will post details on Facebook. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions as to viable alternatives – perhaps that you included in your own consultation response and would be happy to share – we would be interested to hear about them. Please email HWLDActionGroup@gmail.com. (Note that ALL public responses will be available to view online via the Council’s website, once they have been processed and reviewed by Council officials. We will let you know via Facebook when these are made available).
On 31 March, members of the HWLD Action Group met with Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton. Mr Raab was generally supportive and acknowledged that Elmbridge did not seem to have fully evaluated or researched all the potential options, jumping to a ‘Green Belt solution’ far too quickly. Mr Raab informed us that he has written to Sajid Javid on behalf of Elmbridge, highlighting various issues and also to request a time extension for Elmbridge to present its Local Plan. However, Mr Raab also explained that the Local Plan was a local government issue, and that he had limited ability to effect any change. We will continue to monitor developments.
Over the last few months we have taken comfort from the fact that we are not alone. Television and national press has been full of stories similar to ours and Green Belt Action Groups have sprung up across the country. We are hopeful that with so much negative press, the Government will take a more robust approach to Green Belt preservation and present clearer guidelines around 'exceptional circumstances'. We need to ensure that Councils across the country do not pick the 'easy option' and threaten our precious Green Belt land.
We trust that, with such a large response and many alternatives ideas, the Council have been encouraged to reconsider their initial set of options.
For a summary of events to date, please visit www.saveHWLDgreenbelt.co.uk
For updates, like us on Facebook/HWLDActionGroup and follow us on Twitter: @HwldGreenbelt