Date: Tue 26 Sep 2023

Local Plan report requested

On 21 September 2023, Councillors on Tandridge District Council's Planning Policy Committee voted unanimously to ask the Local Plan Inspector to write a report setting out why the submitted 2019 Local Plan is unsound and should not be adopted. The full Council will vote on the matter on 19 October.

The committee meeting is webcast and can be seen on this link (see Item 5 Local Plan options): click here

The Inspector wrote to the Council on 10 August stating that he does not consider it is possible to make the plan sound and cannot recommend its adoption. He gave the Council two options: to withdraw the Plan itself or to ask him for a report.

The Tandridge Local Plan was submitted in January 2019 by the previous Conservative administration. A central part of the Plan was a “Garden Community” of 4,000 homes on Green Belt land at South Godstone. Delivery of the Garden Community hinged on improvements to junction 6 of the M25 and to the A22 and A264 Felbridge junction. Those improvements were reliant on a bid for £57m of funding from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund but that money had not been secured by the administration before submitting the Plan.. In March 2020, the funding bid was rejected.

In December 2020, the Inspector wrote to the Council expressing serious concerns about the deliverability of the garden community. But, for some reason, he didn’t reject the Plan outright and allowed the Council to continue with it and commission consultants to try to find a way to deliver the necessary highway improvements.

After the local elections in May 2021, our Residents' Alliance became a minority administration and so inherited the Plan which by that time had cost millions. We had always been concerned that the Plan would be found unsound because of the issues with the deliverability of the garden community and that, without an up to date Plan, all of the District’s Green Belt would be at risk from constant, unsuitable planning applications.

In an attempt to avoid ending up with no Plan at all and the threat that would mean to the Green Belt together with the huge waste of £3.5m of council taxpayers’ money, we tried to salvage something. We proposed amendments and deleted the garden community and attempted to do whatever might make the Plan acceptable.

We believed that having an adopted Local Plan was in the best interests of the District. Having no Local Plan leaves this District and its rural, beautiful landscapes open to constant attack from speculative, unsuitable planning applications.

We continue to believe that what we put before the Inspector was a pragmatic solution and we are very disappointed that he has not taken it forward. We will continue to do everything we can to protect the district’s Green Belt.