Defending the Green Belt: This is not a decision for anyone else but ourselves.

This is the text of Cllr Essex’s speech on the Green Belt petition at the Council meeting on 11 April 2013

This is about the principle of not building on our Green Belt.

Green Belt was created to prevent urban sprawl such as around London – but most of our towns were already here, forming a daisy chain of settlements around the capital in the greenbelt – all of them have enlarged with time.

Cllr Miller says that such Green Belt building is inevitable at some time, and the Council’s current approach means we would agree to even more every fifteen years into the future.

This is just what developers would have said in the 1930s and would have led to us having semis carpeting our countryside. But this is not the view of our National Planning Policy Framework which, while in favour of development, is not for building on the Green Belt.

Our Core Strategy includes a proviso to build on the Green Belt if needed later in the plan period. We argue that this will not be needed if the housing targets in the Core Strategy are revised.

And as Full Council, we have already voted to give Mrs O’Leary and Cllr Miller the power to make amendments.

Fuelling housing demand

Reigate and Banstead is already the most densely populated of all Surrey’s boroughs, and has seen a very high rate of growth in recent years, which has resulted in large numbers of people moving here from London and other parts of the country.

The core strategy target of 460 new homes per year is based on the figure in the South East plan, and includes provision for more ‘inward migration’ – that’s people moving into the Borough from elsewhere.

As the Core Strategy admits, inward migration is directly related to the numbers of homes built. It is an open market. Houses go to those with the money. In the context of Reigate and Banstead, forecasting demand is purely academic. Build the houses and people will come.

Far from satisfying demand, this Core Strategy will fuel it.

Now that the South East Plan no longer applies, we don’t have to provide for inward migration. We only have to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework’s requirement to meet local demand. This means we can set a lower target such as 360.  And this means we don’t have to build on Green Belt.

We have a choice

The original recommendation chooses one of a number of options, with Option 1, Referral to Inspector, recommended.

But to just refer this petition to the Inspector, would, in fact, be signaling no change in the Core Strategy.

It’s not true that we only have a choice between our current core strategy or none at all. We can proceed with the present Core Strategy with a smaller housing target.

The Prime Minister recently confirmed to our MP that building in the Green Belt is a matter for local people. Through this petition, local people have clearly stated what they want. This is NOT a decision for anyone else but ourselves.

Fellow Councillors, many of you have already said in public that you are opposed to building on the Green Belt. Now the South East Plan has been scrapped, we have a chance to revisit details of our Core Strategy, particularly housing numbers, so the threat to our Green Belt is removed.

So we invite you not to simply refer this to the Inspector but to take the honourable course and endorse the petition, and act to ensure that there is no building on our Green Belt.

So I’d like to move the amendment.

I propose to amend the recommendation as follows:

Firstly, to replace ‘notes’ with ‘endorses’.

And secondly, after the word ‘petition’, to add the words: “to halt plans for development on Green Belt land within the borough”.

So the recommendation would read as follows: “Council endorses the petition to halt plans for development on Green Belt land within the Borough and refers it to the Core Strategy Planning Inspector to take into account as part of the Examination in Public of the submitted Core Strategy proposals.”




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