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What now for Guildford's Local Plan?

4 minute read
What now for Guildford's Local Plan?

Published at 2:40pm 10th May 2019. (Updated at 9:42am 20th May 2019)

Guildford's Local Plan setting out where thousands of homes will be built between now and 2034 is still open to a possible legal challenge and bid for a review following a change in leading parties at the borough council.

The 600-page plan was formally adopted by Guildford Borough Council on April 25.

But at the time Conservatives were the ruling party with a large majority who voted to accept the plan.

Following the party's defeat in the Local Elections on May 2, Conservatives in Guildford are now the third largest party slipping from 31 members to just nine.

At the April meeting some Liberal Democrats, Residents for Guildford and Villages and Guildford Greenbelt Group councillors voted against adopting the plan.

And a pledge made by some councillors who voted against adopting the plan when they were canvassing for votes means there could still be a push for a judicial review.

Lib Dem councillors, whose numbers have risen from eight to 17 making them the largest party, had a mixed response to adopting the Local Plan with some voting for, some against and one abstaining.

Leader Caroline Reeves, who could potentially become leader of Guildford Borough Council if voted in by her party at its annual general meeting this weekend and then by councillors next week, voted to adopt the Local Plan.

She said the borough desperately needed a five-year housing land supply which would help protect the town from over-development and deliver infrastructure.

But the Lib Dems also tried to put through an amendment to a motion to have the April 25 decision-making meeting on the Local Plan postponed until after the elections.

At the time they wanted to use the possible extension if the deferral was accepted to also seek revision of the plan and to delete surplus green belt allocations.

But in a comment this week Cllr Reeves said their hands are now tied by planning law:

"We explored the option of reviewing the Local Pan but it has now been formally adopted by the council and our hands are tied by planning law.

"Our plan is to get vital supplementary planning documents in place, for example a Town Centre Master Plan, and the development management policies.

"We need to ensure all planning applications provide the right infrastructure and the right sort of homes to meet local need."

But another group with a larger number of councillors since last week's elections has said it will seek advice on whether a review of the plan is possible.

The Independent Alliance formed by members of newly-formed Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) group rose from four to 15 members in the Local Elections.

At the April meeting, they voted against the Local Plan and part of their pledge to voters was to seek advice on whether they can review it.

Cllr John Rigg from R4GV, newly-elected for Holy Trinity ward last week, said:

"R4GV, like so many in the community, are very concerned about the Local Plan, its content and the process leading to its adoption.

"Whilst the plan has already been adopted, which is problematic, R4GV pledged to our supporters that we will seek to review it, and we intend to do precisely that.

"We anticipate that the plan may be challenged through a Judicial Review by a community group or groups.

"As soon as a new council is formed, R4GV will be pressing for independent advice on what options are available to the new council and to the community."

As set out in the Local Plan, the borough will see a delivery of 10,678 homes by 2034 - resulting in a total housing supply of 14,602 between 2015-2034, including those completed and with permission.

The population of Guildford is set to rise from 145,473 in 2015 to 167,126 by 2034.

A spokesman for Guildford Borough Council said councillors cannot "call-in" or "rescind" the decision to adopt the Local Plan:

"The Local Plan is now in place, has full weight in the planning process and cannot be changed.

"The next stage is to bring forward the Development Management Policies Development Plan Document and the suite of necessary supplementary planning documents that will help support the new Local Plan."

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