Update from Peter Seaward – BRA Chairman
The BRA has been heavily involved in lobbying the Council to get a fair deal for Bookham from the Future Mole Valley Draft Local Plan. The BRA recognises, and wants the Council to respect, the effort and views expressed by all in the village as part of their engagement.
By far the largest number of responses came from Bookham. We have been asking when we can see a summary of the results as MVDC will have to ensure that when this Plan goes to an Inspector for final approval the comments all have to be dealt with. We were told that this summary maybe available this autumn. In the meantime we have been looking at two documents issued by Government about changes to the Planning rules one over 40 pages the other a 90 page White Paper. Some of the changes in outline that are being proposed are:
- house owners may be permitted to build up to 2 storey’s above the existing outline of their property with much less regulation than at present.
- commercial property owners will be permitted to convert a greater range of properties into residential use.
- land will be designated as Growth, Renewal or Protected. The designation will determine the ease with which planning consent can be obtained.
- There will be a “fast-track” planning procedure for what are judged “beautiful” buildings.
- Where new streets are created, they will be expected to be tree-lined.
- “Affordable” housing is to be made available at a 30% discount to the market for local people, key workers and first-time buyers.
- Section 106 payments and CIL are to be replaced with a new development tax.
Government changes now suggest that MVDC will now have to build 9571 new dwellings by 2037. That is the equivalent of a new Bookham and Fetcham combined plus over another 1000 dwellings.
We along with the other Residents Associations in the north of Mole Valley have repeatedly suggested that although we recognise that we have to be part of a solution to this problem our infrastructure especially our Victorian road network could not cope with this increase. We have assumed that money would be found for the other major infrastructure problems this amount of new building would bring, GP Surgeries , schools, utility requirements etc. This we spelt out in our response to the Local Plan during consultation.
We argued that more dwellings could be added to the villages in the south where only a small increase was planned and this would help some villages and so support local needs, schools, shops , pubs etc. For example we have repeatedly suggested more houses could be provided in the south close to Gatwick The answer given that the noise footprint from the airport would not allow this. We also suggested that to resolve this a new settlement be built in the south but were told that it would need a much larger settlement to justify the expenditure. An answer is that this problem should be looked at as a 30 year problem not just the immediate one.
We would hope that MVDC as they revisit the Local Plan will look again carefully at these suggestions. At present we believe because of these new requirements, the many objections raised at the last consultation and some major transport issues the Local Plan will have to be rerun under what is known as Regulation 18. That is back to where the present plan was when it was issued in early 2020.
To add to this mix the proposals for a new Local Government arrangement in Surrey could also mean further delay and uncertainty. Without a sound local plan developers can argue that any proposals they put forward should have decisions tilted in their favour due to lack of an agreed land supply which MVDC have to by law demonstrate. We have already seen developers deploy this legal and government agreed argument.