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Ward Councillors excluded from developer meetings

Ward Councillors excluded from developer meetings raising secrecy concerns.

Tandridge District Councillors representing the 5 possible Green Belt locations for a new settlement are being excluded from meetings between the Council and the developers involved.

Instead, these meetings are being attended only by Council officers and a special group of 5 Councillors. They are: Cllr Martin Fisher (Oxted North & Tandridge); Cllr Peter Bond (Burstow, Horne & Outwood); Cllr Keith Jecks (Woldingham); Cllr Gill Black (Bletchingley & Nutfield); Cllr Chris Botten (Portley, Caterham).

We are very concerned about this lack of transparency and that it now appears to be accepted practice to exclude local ward Councillors from meetings with developers regarding proposals that will have a significant impact on their constituents.

Attempts by Councillor Liz Lockwood (Lingfield & Crowhurst) to be involved in meetings regarding her ward were rebuffed at Tuesday night's meeting of the Council's Planning Policy Committee.

Government best practice says that ward Councillors should be involved.

And Tandridge District Councillors were given a briefing by Adam Dodgshon, from the Government's Planning Advisory Service, in September 2016, where he said it was good practice for ward members to be present at any meetings involving sites in their wards right at the beginning of the Local Plan process as they have valuable local knowledge and can input key information.

It is very worrying that the minutes for the one site meeting that we have seen - Area North of South Godstone including Posterngate Farm - do not mention flooding which is the single most important drawback for the site. The meeting notes suggest the Councillors who were present didn't know the area's drawbacks and other matters regarding the site, and flooding was not raised by the developers either.

At Tuesday's Planning Policy Committee meeting, Tandridge District Council approved a further delay to its Local Plan in order to undertake a consultation on the 5 possible Green Belt locations for the new settlement it wants to build. They are: Blindley Heath; Chaldon (land at Alderstead and Tollsworth Farm); land between Lingfield and Edenbridge; Redhill Aerodrome; South Godstone. The consultation is due to take place for 6 weeks in August and September.

In addition to the new settlement, the Council is proposing to release Green Belt land around all of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 settlements which are Oxted, Limpsfield, Hurst Green, Caterham on the Hill, Caterham Valley, Warlingham, Whyteleafe, Godstone, Lingfield and Smallfield.

OLRG has engaged planning experts, including a leading planning QC, to help us take part in the Council's Local Plan consultations. They have made clear that the Council's documents are not compliant with Government policy, do not achieve sustainable development, and are not justified or effective. In short, they are not fit for purpose.

We are determined to fight the unnecessary and unjustified release of Green Belt being proposed in the Council's Preferred Strategy and have launched an appeal for funds to pay for the experts' continued input.

If you would like to help and are able to make a donation - £100, £50, £25, £10 or anything at all - it will make a big difference in the fight to protect the local Green Belt and to protect local infrastructure from being swamped.

There are 3 ways to donate:

1. By bank transfer to: account name 'Oxted & Limpsfield Residents' at Santander, sort code: 09 06 66, account no: 43510171

2. Send a cheque made payable to 'Oxted & Limpsfield Residents' to PO BOX 233, Oxted Post Office, Station Road West, Oxted, RH8 9EH

3. The PayPal button under 'Donate Here' on this website's front page.

Thank you for your support.