You will be aware that for the last few years Elmbridge Borough Council has been preparing its Local Plan. For a while, it looked as if our treasured Green Belt would be at risk from housing development. This produced a strong reaction from Elmbridge residents, and the latest Draft Local Plan seeks to protect the Green Belt from development
The Stoke D’Abernon Residents’ Association (SDRA) has benefited from the expertise and co-operation of other local groups, notably Cobham & Downside Residents’ Association (CDRA), FEDORA (Oxshott residents) and Cobham Heritage (CCHT). We are broadly satisfied with the Draft Local Plan (DLP) so the SDRA proposes to write to Elmbridge BC and convey its view that the DLP is legally compliant and fundamentally sound.
SDRA, CDRA, FEDORA and CCHT support the vision and strategies for the Borough outlined in the Draft Local Plan 2037 (DLP).
The DLP sets out the future development of all aspects of our Borough for the next 15 years and will be formally reviewed every five years. Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) have commenced public consultation in advance of an Examination in Public by a Government Inspector who decides if the DLP is ‘legally compliant’ and ‘sound’. Legally compliant means that it is in accordance with all legal and procedural requirements. It will be deemed sound if it has been positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with National Planning Policy.
If both requirements are met, the DLP will be adopted by EBC as the Elmbridge Local Plan in early 2023. If it fails the whole DLP will have to be rewritten and re-consulted. This is not in the best interests of residents as our current Local Plan is out of date and increasingly ineffective in resisting inappropriate development in our communities and Green Belt, and threats to the wider environment and amenities.
Together with CDRA, CCHT and FEDORA we considered the best way to respond to this complex document and supporting evidence. We do not recommend the online consultation response route set up by EBC. This forces stark yes or no answers to questions of legal compliance and soundness which are not in the best interests of residents.
SDRA fully supports the key elements of the DLP which focus on ‘good growth’ as follows:-
- No release of Green Belt for development
- A reduced housing target of 6785 homes across the Borough, not the 9700 proposed by central government, 870 are in Cobham, Oxshott, Stoke D’Abernon. None are planned for Downside.
- Infrastructure to support the development.
- A ‘Vision for Elmbridge 2037’ in which the Council accepts its responsibility:-
- To make a resilient environment, reduce carbon emissions and deliver positive outcomes for future generations.
- Prepare Design Codes for excellent new housing in consultation with residents.
- High quality digital connectivity.
- Support local businesses and communities to make local centres social, arts, and commercial hubs.
These are hard-fought gains over a six-year negotiation which will be tested at the public examination. Developers and landowners will vigorously contest the housing reduction and Green Belt preservation. Public support of the DLP is therefore of important. SDRA will make a response on behalf of their members co-ordinated with CDRA, CCHT and FEDORA to maximise its impact. We do not consider the DLP is perfect and will identify matters which require modification without inferring the whole DLP is unsound. This would risk losing all of those hard-fought gains. It is also impractical to try to advise members on individual responses to highly technical planning questions and judgements of legality and soundness only to be reduced to yes or no answers in on-line questionnaires.
Instead we propose the following responses on behalf of the membership of SDRA. In summary:-
1. SDRA members support the strategies and vision of the EBC DLP 2037 in principle.
2. We believe the DLP to be legally compliant and sound but only with the following modifications to be inserted prior to and during the Examination in Public as appropriate:-
(i) Omission of a strategy for impact of the Wisley Airfield Development on Cobham, Stoke D’Abernon and Downside risks rejection of the DLP for lack of recognition of this major strategic cross border project.
(ii) The Infrastructure Development Plan (IDP) does not place infrastructure as a prior condition to development and is weak on specific delivery and funding. The deliverability of the DLP is therefore questionable.
(iii) Recognition that reduction on reliance on the car requires different solutions in the IDP for different areas of the Borough.
(iv) Flood protection of existing assets not just new development to be included in the IDP in particular Plough Corner Conservation Area.
(v) The concept of a hierarchy of Green Belt performance in assessments by Arup are flawed. Land is either Green Belt or it is not.
(vi) Improved provision for protection and replacement for trees under threat by development.
(vii) Design Codes must protect the character of our streets as well as produce excellent individual buildings.
Access the full Draft Local Plan here:-
Stoke D’Abernon Residents’ Association