Catch up on the latest news, issues and events regarding Guildford Greenbelt Group.
On Saturday 3rd March, Jerome Starkey, Countryside correspondent for The Times reported that CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) and Shelter (charity for the homeless) commissioned a study to look at the number of affordable houses delivered by 150 developments versus the number promised at planning submission.
The study revealed that the number of affordable homes built was cut by almost half (48%) as developers were able to use a confidential viability assessment which permits them to reduce the number if they can demonstrate insufficient profit. The confidentiality factor means that it cannot be readily challenged.
At the same time, the profits of the three biggest housebuilders quadrupled since 2012.
The article confirmed that the term 'affordable' does not mean affordable for many local people.
The result is that the English countryside is being used to boost developers profits without providing the level of affordable housing that is needed.
Sajid Javid has promised a review of how viability is assessed. GGG poses the question; as the countryside diminishes and homelessness increases, shouldn't loopholes that feed the problem be dealt with and shouldn't the policies that exacerbate the problem be changed forthwith?
England is losing an area the size of Glasgow every year because of a record number of developments on greenfield land. Forests, fields and parks are disappearing under concrete at the fastest rate for a quarter of a century, an investigation by The Times has found. On average, 170 sq km of greenfield land were built on every year from 2013 to 2016 after the government relaxed planning rules to ease the housing shortage.
The rate of development is more than two-and-a-half times the 25-year average and five times higher than the rate between 2006 and 2011.
The problem of inflated prices lies in property speculation. That’s what we need to clamp down on. Everyone – from the government to housing charities, to housebuilders – has bought into the conventional wisdom that the dysfunction that racks our housing market is a matter of demand and supply. We’re not building enough houses, so house prices have been sent rocketing, taking home-ownership out of reach for growing numbers of young people. But in reality, our housing problems are not a simple feature of supply and demand. Rather, our housing market has a Bitcoin problem.
The green belt in England is being sacrificed to build new housing at the fastest rate for two decades, according to environmental campaigners. The number of homes planned for the rings of protected land around towns and cities has risen by 150,000 in a little over a year. Almost 425,000 are now due to be built in the green belt, up by 54 per cent since March last year, according to analysis of local authority plans by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Communities face a postcode lottery over how much of their countryside is blighted by new homes because some councils fail to use powers to protect it, research has found.
Susan Parker, leader of GGG, challenged Guildford council Executive to fundamentally review its proposed Local Plan. "This council urgently needs a Local Plan which is fit for purpose. GGG has argued - since before the first draft of this plan came to consultation - there are fundamental problems here. 32,000 replies to the last consultation confirmed the people of Guildford agree with us and meant that the plan had to go back to consultation."
Only last year my colleague Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, stood up in the House of Commons and described the Green Belt as ‘sacrosanct’. It was the right word to use.
Despite vowing in the Conservative 2015 Election manifesto to protect the Green Belt, all the signs coming out of Whitehall are that Ministers will use the new Housing White Paper to find a back- door route to concrete over our glorious countryside.
High Court win for a parish council over its district authority has big implications for rural housebuilding schemes.
The timetable for the appeal [APP/Y3615/W/16/3159894] by Wisley Property Investments in the matter of Guildford Borough Council's refusal of planning permission for "Outline planning permission for the phased development of a new settlement of up to 2,068 dwellings" [15/P/00012] at Three Farm Meadows, Hatch Lane, Ockham has been released to interested parties.
Highways England [HE] opens consultation and want your views on their plans to improve the M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange to tackle issues including congestion, capacity, safety, noise and environmental impacts.
Despite a looming deadline for all councils to write an up-to-date local plan by early next year — or face having it done for them — two in three have not yet adopted one. Green-belt councils such as St Albans, in the 14 rings around English cities where building is restricted to curb sprawl, are further behind: 70% of them lack one, according to exclusive data from planners at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.
So what is the government’s stance? Will it propose the rumoured swaps of ugly green belt for new protected land in its long-awaited housing white paper, now delayed until January?
Wisley is the biggest of four main sites in the green belt earmarked by Guildford council’s draft local plan, which together account for 58% of its proposed 13,860 new homes by 2033. They also include Blackwell Farm, next to the Hog’s Back, part of the North Downs, from which Jane Austen wrote that she had never seen the country “so advantageously” — but where the expanding University of Surrey plans to build 1,800 homes. The local response? Residents storming out of planning meetings with cries of “Shame on you”, and about 32,000 comments from 6,000 individuals on the local plan in July — among the highest in the country for such consultations.
The popular interpretation of this is it is all about supply. There just isn’t enough. That then makes the solution obvious to everyone: build more houses. “The way you get affordable homes is to build more homes,” says George Osborne, the chancellor. But once you start to look at things properly (and sign up to Uber) it is obvious that this isn’t quite right.
Look at rents. If there just weren’t enough places in the UK for everyone to live, rents would be rising as fast as house prices — and the rental yields that investors get wouldn’t be falling. That’s not what’s happening. Fathom points out that house price inflation has trumped rental inflation by 2.3 per cent a year since 2006.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is published today which will impact all communities involved in an emerging Local Plan, especially ones like Guildford.
Overseas speculators are driving up house prices in England’s largest cities by “gambling” on properties before they are even built.
An increasing number of premium developments in London, Cambridge, Manchester and other cities are being bought “off-plan” by investors who have no intention of living there or renting them, housing experts claim. The sole intention is to sell them on before they are built to take advantage of rising property prices.
When appearing to not realise her microphone was still turned on, councillor Marsha Moseley made the controversial comments. A Guildford councillor has been filmed branding the public "a bloody rabble" during the heated Wisley Airfield development meeting.
Agency reportedly worth £1.2bn and brought in a surplus of £100m in 2012/13. The Government has quietly announced plans to privatise the Land Registry, on the evening before the Easter holiday weekend. The Conservatives previously tried to privatise the agency, which records and oversees all property transactions in England and Wales, during the Coalition government but were blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Chancellor George Osborne revived the idea last year as part of his plan to sell £20bn of assets by the end of this parliament. The agency has been previously valued at around £1.2bn and made a surplus of £100m for the public purse in 2012/13.
The leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group - Susan Parker, calls on Guildford Borough Council to scrutinize the all-important housing number suggested by property consultants GL Hearne. Councillors however, rejected the proposal for reasons which will leave many residents open mouthed.
Developers would be allowed to build thousands of homes in the green belt in return for paying a levy to enhance the remaining land, under a proposal from leading landscape architects.
The levy would pay for creating parks and woodlands in England’s 14 green belts, which are rings of protected land around cities designed to prevent urban sprawl.
Something is wrong with the planning system, reports the Oxford Mail. Silly housing targets let developers get permission to build executive homes in rural villages where little, if any, expensive infrastructure, like new roads and schools, has to be paid for. Few existing residents can afford them and it isn’t going to create homes for our children. The Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment is fantasy and not soundly-based or supported by robust and credible evidence.
GREEN BELT LAND AND WILDLIFE UNDER THREAT
Fairview New Homes are proposing to build on Green Belt land on Enfield Road (EN2 7HX).
For many years this land has been used for grazing horses and is the habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including hedgehogs, bats, muntjac deer, pheasants, owls, woodpeckers and many species of birds. It also contains beautiful specimens of ancient oak trees and hedgerows.
THIS IS ALL NOW UNDER THREAT.
Councils have a public duty to estimate housing need. Guildford has delegated this calculation to a property consultancy called GL Hearn. Guildford has not disclosed the detailed arithmetic and assumptions to show how the housing need for the borough was calculated and even professes not to hold a copy of the model.
Guildford's Code of Conduct pays lip-service to 'Openness', 'Transparency', and 'Honesty'. Failure to oblige contractors and consultants to disclose their calculations to the public is not consistent with these values. Nor is it an acceptable method of conducting public affairs. It is not consistent with the principles of good public procurement contracting. Failure to explain in detail the assumptions and arithmetic behind the housing need estimates which underpin the Local Plan is a dereliction of public duty.
GL Hearn apparently subcontracted the work to Justin Gardner Consulting. GL Hearn claims to have worked for some 250 planning authorities across England. Failure to disclose may therefore be widespread.
When queried with the Information Commissioner's Office, the ICO decision can be found here.
This has led local resident Ben Paton to initiate an online petition "Councils must publicly disclose housing need calculations in Guildford and across England" seeking local support to for Guildford council to reveal how the Objectively Assessed Need in the West Surrey Startegic Housing Market Assessment was derived.
Britain’s nine biggest housebuilders have landbanked 615,152 housing plots that have not yet been developed – four times the total number of homes built in the past year.
The top four firms – Berkeley, Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey – also hold £947million of cash, according to a investigation by The Guardian.
Linden Homes’ controversial plans for the Weyburn Works site were thrown out byWaverley’s planning department, which cited 11 reasons for refusal in a notice byhead of planning services, Matthew Evans, published on Friday (December 4).
To protect Surrey from unsustainable and inappropriate development, the following petitions have been set up asking Surrey County Council to do a more thorough job before responding when consulted,
This concerns the validation of information concerning traffic generation and flow submitted by developers prior to large scale developments, following their construction and occupation, to check that they had made the correct decision when consulted and that the data provided by developers is not flawed.
The first petition is to request that Surrey County Council undertake a proper investigation and site visit, and take into account local resident's submitted information before providing their consultee response,
and the second is to request that they validate the traffic data provided prior to development afterwards, and report on their findings.
The government has a plan that’ll make it harder for us to find out what they’re really up to. They want to introduce fees - of up to £600! - for people who use Freedom of Information laws to find out the truth about what they’re doing.  But we’ve got 48 hours to have our say and knock these plans out of the water.
The government has been forced to hold a public consultation on their cover-up plan. They’re trying to keep this under the radar, and aren’t expecting many responses.  So if thousands of us feed in, we could overwhelm their consultation and topple these plans to make government information harder to get hold of.
Please could you take a few minutes to send a message to the consultation? It closes TODAY, so there’s just 48 hours left. There’s some suggested text to make it as simple as possible. Every single message we send will make it harder for the government to get away with this cover up.
Guildford Greenbelt group (GGG) welcomes confirmation of Green Belt protection in Hertfordshire
After a previous call-in decision was quashed in court, the secretary of state has accepted an inspector's advice that two developments in Hertfordshire should be rejected due to their adverse impact on the green belt and the area's character.
The EU is considering weakening its nature directives, and the RSPB, along with other environmental organisations, is urging everyone to fight this threat by taking part in the EU consultation. To add your voice, please visit https://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/campaignwithus/defendnature/
Save Hogs Back is now featured on the 38 degrees campaign website: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-hog-s-back-and-the-surrey-hills-aonb. It would be great if you would all sign this (it only takes a minute!) and pass the link around to your friends and family using the usual social media. If we can get thousands of signatures nationwide, GBC and the Government will have to take note.