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Why TDC's Green Belt assessments are wrong

OLRG has had several reports of residents being put under huge pressure by developers to sell their Green Belt land for development. Landowners who do not want to sell and would rather protect the local countryside, are being harassed to sell up with phone calls, letters and visits from developers. This is a very stressful situation.

We believe what is happening is a consequence of Tandridge District Council's weak Local Plan documents, including the Green Belt Assessments which have not been carried out in line with Government planning policy, and which put all of the Tandridge Green Belt at risk.

These assessments look at how the Tandridge Green Belt serves the five purposes of the Green Belt listed in the Government's National Planning Policy Framework which are:

* to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
* to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
* to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
* to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
* to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

The Council's assessments unjustifiably weaken protection of the Tandridge Green Belt by understating its importance because the five purposes have not been assessed properly. As a result, the Council has concluded Green Belt land meets fewer of the purposes than it actually does. These weak conclusions can be used by developers to attack Green Belt sites with speculative planning applications, irrespective of whether these sites have been excluded from development in the new Local Plan.

To carry out the assessments, the Council divided all of the Tandridge Green Belt into 47 parcels. Our planning consultant reviewed 12 of the parcel assessments and these are a few examples of the problems with them:

1. In considering the gap between Oxted and Woldingham, the Council concluded that one of the five intervening parcels did not meet some Green Belt purposes because it was not physically connected to any built up area. That was only because the parcel had been artificially separated from the rest by using the M25 as its boundary. If that artificial boundary is removed and the parcel is assessed together with adjoining land which abuts the built up area, it would have fulfilled all of the purposes.

This artificial division of the Green Belt has also weakened some parcels' performance rating with regard to preserving the setting and special character of historic towns because they have been split off from Conservation Areas such as those in Old Oxted and Broadham Green.

2. In considering Limpsfield and Limpsfield Chart, the assessment states that intervening land features such as woodland and topography, are reasons for areas not merging. And a steep valley between Woldingham and Warlingham is given as a reason why the Green Belt there only performs a moderate role in checking unrestricted sprawl and a minor role in preventing the two settlements from merging. Trees and topography should not be used to downgrade the Green Belt's performance because the correct test is not what else might perform a role in preventing the merging of settlements but how well the Green Belt itself performs that role. The Council has misinterpreted the Green Belt test by including other factors.

3. In considering parcels to the south of Oxted, the Council appears to conclude that one parcel was only moderate at assisting in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment because of the presence of 'small isolated buildings and a sewage treatment works.' Development that was present when the Green Belt was designated should not be used to downgrade its current performance rating because that development has already been taken into account when the land was originally put into the Green Belt.

4. There are also omissions - for example, in considering the west Oxted parcels, the Oxted Sandpit in Barrow Green Road is referred to as if it is still operating. There is no mention of the fact that it is awaiting restoration having been deleted from the Surrey Minerals Plan in 2011.

It was not possible for us to review all 47 parcels but we believe the 12 we reviewed illustrate a range of problems in the assessment work and that these same problems are likely to be present in many of the other parcel assessments. The cumulative effect is that the value of the Tandridge Green Belt is unjustifiably undermined.

We are very concerned that some landowners are being harassed by developers. If it is happening to you, please do get in touch and we will do our best to help. Email or our Councillors Jackie Wren at and Phil Davies at