To hear questions (if any) from councillors of which due notice has been given.
Councillor Susan Parker asked the Lead Councillor for Planning, Regeneration, and Housing Delivery, Councillor Jan Harwood, the question set out below. In the absence of the Lead Councillor, the Leader of the Council’s comments in response to each element of the question is set out in italicised text below:
“In July the full Council voted for a masterplan and a brownfield review to consider the scope of the urban area to accommodate housing and protect our rural areas, not least due to the impact of urban sprawl on climate change and our climate change commitments.
Could the Lead Councillor for Planning, Regeneration, and Housing Delivery please report on progress to date, and the implications for the Local Plan?
Since the Council resolved to bring forward a new Masterplan DPD the following has been undertaken:
(1) David Lock Associates have been appointed and completed a study to evaluate the previously undertaken work in relation to the town centre and provide recommendations as to the next steps and the future engagement of consultants.
(2) People and Places have been appointed and completed a consultation with 9 key Guildford stakeholder groups through an interview and feedback process to help establish that we are clear in relation to the vision for the town centre.
(3) Work is also underway with the Environment Agency in relation to Guildford’s Flood Alleviation Scheme. The outcome of this scheme will influence the potential outcome of the masterplan work and may create a material change in the functional flood plain in terms of risk.
(4) A Masterplan Briefing note will go to CMT on 18 February 2020 setting out how the Masterplan proposal will be progressed.
(5) Budget approval for the year 2020-21is being sought at this Council meeting.
(6) The procurement of a Masterplan consultancy is commencing.
(7) A Masterplan Programme Board is in the process of being set up.
The production of a Masterplan DPD would be required to be consistent with the boroughwide policies contained within the Adopted Local Plan. The housing site allocations in the Adopted plan outside of the specific town centre area will remain unchanged. The Masterplan would only relate to a specifically defined geographic area identified as part of the plan making process.
In particular can he please comment on the following questions:
(a) we have recently been informed that any proposed Mastervision for the town centre will be subject to DPD rules. I understand this will involve a Regulation 18 then a Regulation 19 consultation, followed by an examination in public with a Planning Inspector, before any approval and ratification. I understand the current DPDs which are due to come to consultation this spring and will follow this process are likely to be approved towards the end of this administration ie in Autumn 2022 at the earliest, or possibly in Spring 2023 depending on the level of responses, ie towards the end of this current Council administration at the earliest. Could a timetable for the consideration and adoption of the proposed Mastervision (since work on this, or even the remit, has not yet been started) be outlined for the benefit of councillors?
The Executive will be asked to approve an updated Local Development Scheme (LDS) on 24 March 2020, together with a report on the proposed Regulation 18 Development Management DPD for consultation, which will be recommended to full Council on 7 April for approval. The anticipated date for adoption of the Development Management DPD is September 2022. It is considered that inclusion of timeframes for the Town Centre Masterplan DPD would be best included in the LDS once there is further certainty emerging from work on the evidence base including transport, flooding and site assembly which would need to occur in advance of the production of a Regulation 18 document.
(b) what impact will this protracted timetable have on the development of brownfield sites within the urban area, especially those which are not yet included in the Local Plan as allocated sites? Given that some urban sites have already suffered considerable planning blight for years, is it possible for this process to be expedited so we don’t have derelict areas in our town centre for years to come?
There is nothing stopping brownfield sites within the town centre, that are not within the Local Plan, coming forward for appropriate development now. The Local Plan Policy S3: Delivery of development and regeneration within Guildford Town Centre provides a positive context that seeks to achieve a more efficient use of land and encourages regeneration and accelerated housing delivery within the town centre.
(c) can the Lead Councillor comment on progress on the North Street site and its capacity for providing urban, and reasonably priced/ social housing, and any consequential impact on the Local Plan and the housing requirement?
The Council is currently in negotiations with a potential developer in relation to land at North Street. A report to update councillors on progress will be considered at the next meeting of the Executive on 18 February 2020.
(d) what consequential impact will there be for greenfield sites if the Mastervision is delayed for a considerable period?
The Masterplan will be for the town centre and will not include any Green field sites. The Adopted Local Plan makes provision to actually meet housing need up to 2034. Consideration will need to be given as to the need to review the Plan five years after adoption. As has been noted by the Planning Inspector, Mr Justice Ouseley, and the Secretary of State, the plan has built in flexibility in the form of ‘headroom’ to give the plan every chance of meeting needs over the plan period.
Arising from a supplementary question, which sought reassurance that there would be no delay to use of brown field sites arising from the masterplanning process, and that councillors were updated and able to provide input into the decision-making process as it goes forward. The Leader of the Council responded by stating that she could see no reason for any delay on use of brownfield sites, subject to the submission of planning applications in that regard. The Leader also referred to the current consultation on various draft SPDs, in which councillors and the public could submit their comments.
In response to further supplementary questions regarding the importance of the master plan and who was responsible for taking it forward, the Leader of the Council agreed that, in common with all councillors, the master planning of the town was important as demonstrated by the written response to the question, but reiterated that until the budget was approved, only preparatory work could be undertaken. The Leader also confirmed that Councillor Rigg, as the lead councillor, was trying very hard to move the master plan forward and he had full support from officers and councillors, but acknowledged that the process was complicated.