We have received a letter from the Inspector, Jonathan Manning, giving us some provisional feedback on a couple of issues associated with the Local Plan. I must stress that this is not his final report but the letter gives us a clear indication that, subject to the Council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan. It is a very important milestone because we have never reached this stage before.

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our objectively assessed housing need at around 388 dwellings per annum and recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because he considers that it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find further sites.

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not, at this time, pursue Policy SS3. In his view the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included within the Plan particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet our housing numbers within this Plan. The important point is that the inspector does not rule out a new settlement option for the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a new settlement to meet long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through (potentially an early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD. He says that this would not change any timescales.

The letter has been published on our web page.

I  intend to work with respective Group Leaders and through the Local Plan Steering Group to agree the next steps but it would seem to me that our best interests lie in getting a sound local plan swiftly in place in the form as recommended by the Inspector.

This is great news for both the Council and its residents because having a local plan in place will give us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and it removes the threat of planning by appeal.

Sent on behalf of Councillor Graham Cockarill

Portfolio Holder for Planning