Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To hear questions (if any) from councillors of which due notice has been given in relation only to the business for which this extraordinary meeting has been called.

 

Minutes:

(a)        Councillor Colin Cross asked the Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Planning and Regeneration, Councillor Paul Spooner, the following question:

 

“There is an overwhelming and ever-increasing weight of evidence to the effect that submitting the current Draft Local Plan, with the inclusion of the Former Wisley Airfield Site (A35), for public examination would be unsound and would lead to its rejection. There are manifold unresolved issues regarding this site which include its unsustainability, A3/M25 highways matters, Greenbelt considerations and its overall undeliverability

 

Given that it is the role of this Council to act with the utmost responsibility in all such strategically important actions affecting the long term future of Guildford Borough, does the Leader of the Council agree that the Council should take the necessary action to heed the advice received and therefore act to remove site A35 from the Draft Local Plan so as to ensure its progress?”

 

The Leader of the Council’s response was as follows:

 

Whilst I can understand concerns being raised by those opposed to the scheme given views expressed by contributors at the recent Wisley planning appeal, I do not accept that there is an increasing weight of evidence either to remove the Former Wisley Airfield site from the submission plan or that the plan will be found unsound if included.  Highways England agree that the proposed new slip roads at Burnt Common is a modification to an existing junction. 

 

On this basis, Highways England does not object in principle to the new slip roads.  Nevertheless, they must be provided safely and with a demonstrable benefit to the economy. Highways England’s objection at the Wisley Appeal was technical in nature and related to the fact that at the time of the Appeal’s closure, insufficient technical information had been provided to them to enable them to assess whether the mitigation was technically feasible, and therefore they could not advise whether it mitigated the traffic impact on the strategic road network.  

 

There has been considerable progress since the Inquiry in relation to the technical approval process.  This information was not available to the Inspector.  The appeal was in relation to a specific planning application not the soundness of a local plan.  Clearly the Council did not support that specific planning application as submitted but for the local plan process the considerations are different.  The Inquiry was considering the planning application and if very special circumstances exist to justify allowing  this development in the green belt. The Local Plan will assess if exceptional circumstances exist to justify taking this site out of the green belt.  They are very different tests and we remain confident that exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated. With the appropriate highway mitigation, improvements to public transport, delivery of a primary and secondary school, a local centre for shops and some small scale employment, the site is considered to be sustainable.

 

In terms of the Council acting responsibly, then submitting this plan is the most prudent course of action.  Removing the site from the plan would constitute a main modification and would result in the need for a further consultation. The impact of this would be that Guildford would not be able to take advantage of the transitional arrangements in relation to the proposed approach to calculating OAN so a new plan would need to be produced based on the higher housing figure of 789 units per annum and not the 654 that this submission plan is based on. To simply remove this site will make the whole plan unsound.

 

We have considered the implications of the recent Inquiry and continue to think the plan is and will be found to be sound and recommend it is submitted to the Secretary of State.”

 

(b)        Councillor Susan Parker asked the Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Planning and Regeneration, Councillor Paul Spooner, the following question:

 

“In view of Government guidance that local authorities are all required to prepare a register of Brownfield land for publication before 31 December 2017*, can the Lead Councillor for Planning and Regeneration please indicate:

 

(i)   where the public can find the register of brownfield land for Guildford and summarise the amount of land available;

 

(ii)   also indicate the estimated number of sites (in aggregate, expressed in number of dwellings or hectares) that might provide housing sites but which individually fall below the de minimis threshold for 0.25 hectares or 5 dwellings required for the register;

 

(iii)  if such a register is not yet in existence, please may we be informed as to the date when the required register will be available?

 

(iv)  if such a register has not been prepared, and will not be available prior to 31 December 2017, can the Lead Councillor please explain why government guidance has not been complied with, and why (in the absence of such a register) the Local Plan can be deemed ready for submission?

 

(*please note Government guidance on the requirement to provide Brownfield registers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/brownfield-land-registers)”

 

The Leader of the Council’s response was as follows:

 

“(i)  The Brownfield Land Register is still being prepared and therefore currently not in the public domain; however, it is on track to be completed and on our website by the Government’s deadline of 31 December 2017.  The main area of work involved – the process of identifying and assessing suitable sites for inclusion – has now been completed and we have identified a total of approximately 92 ha of land that meets the criteria laid out in paragraph 1 of regulation 4 of the The Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017. This land will be included in Part 1 of the published register.

 

(ii)      There is no legal requirement for Brownfield Land Registers to identify potential housing sites that do not meet the criteria in regulation 4(1)(a) i.e. which fall below the 0.25ha and 5 dwelling threshold; therefore we have not assessed and do not intend to include any such sites. The sites that we have assessed and will include in the register are either a) at least 0.25ha and/or b) are capable of providing at least 5 dwellings.  The housing supply in the Local Plan includes an element for small ‘windfall sites’ based in part on historical completion rates. 

 

(iii)    As stated in paragraph (i) above, the register (Part 1) will be published on our website by the Government’s deadline of 31 December 2017.

 

(iv)    This scenario does not apply, as our register will be available by 31 December 2017. Furthermore, the completion of a Brownfield Land Register is not a requirement in terms of Submission of a Local Plan”.