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Surrey council to reassess draft local plan in light of government guidance on green belt protection

Guildford Borough Council has announced that it will reassess its emerging local plan in light of local opposition to the alteration of green belt boundaries and new government guidance reinforcing green belt protection.

The emerging Guildford local plan is intended to guide development in the Guildford area until 2031. The draft plan proposed to review the existing boundaries of the Surrey green belt, on the advice of planning policy advisers following the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.

The Council held a public consultation on the draft plan from July to September this year. In a statement released this week, the Council said that, having processed around 15,000 of the 20,000 responses received, it was clear that "there is widespread opposition to building on the green belt". In response to the consultation and following new government guidance reinforcing green belt protection, the Council said that it now intends to reassess the housing numbers and proposed development sites in the draft plan.

The government amended its planning practice guidance in October. The updated guidance says that when a council assesses the availability and suitability of land to meet its housing need during Local Plan preparations, it should take account of any constraints such as the green belt which "indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need".  

"I can state categorically that no site will come forward for development within the green belt, any Area of Outstanding Beauty or area of flood risk unless it has been fully reassessed against the tests set out in the planning practice guidance as amended in October this year," said leader of the Council Stephen Mansbridge.

"We have been given a clear steer from the government in its revised guidance for making a significant change in direction on our strategic housing land availability assessment and draft local plan, which can now be fully reassessed against constraints," said Mansbridge. "The housing number, land availability and each development site will be rigorously reassessed against the test of harm set out in the new guidance."

The Council said that it would publish a new version of the draft local plan next year and that it hoped to have a sound local plan in place in 2016.

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