Party leaders in Elmbridge have come together to issue an open letter to the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, seeking clarification on the Government’s demands on local Councils to build more houses.
The Leaders of the Residents’ Association, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives feel strongly that following the release of the Government’s recent white paper on housing, there is confusion and concern about numerous issues including building on Green Belt, infrastructure demands and delivery timescales.
The open letter, dated 22 February, asks the Secretary of State to provide clarification and detail on how current planning policy “states that there needs to be exceptional circumstances in order to amend Green Belt boundaries. However, it does not set out what these should be other than a ministerial statement outlining that housing need is not an exceptional circumstance.”
Infrastructure is a major concern to residents in Elmbridge. The roads and schools are already operating at capacity and more funding is required to support major strategic improvements, in particular to the road network and for public transport. The Elmbridge Group Leaders are asking;
“Will the government support the delivery of strategic infrastructure such as increased train capacity and possibly new highways and give assurances that the delivery of these will keep pace with the provision of new housing in Elmbridge and the surrounding area? If this funding is not allocated to new infrastructure projects supporting growth in Elmbridge or the Government is unable to give assurances on strategic infrastructure, will the Government support us in limiting the numbers of new homes we must provide in our Borough?”
As part of its Local Plan preparation, Elmbridge Borough Council has been consulting with its residents for the last 10 weeks on options to meet the Government’s demands for more housing, yet the Government’s recent Housing White Paper sets out new and different criteria for the assessment of housing need. Adopting the new criteria jeopardises the timing and submission deadline for the Local Plan (previously the Government stated that failure to meet Local Plan deadline could mean the Government takes over the process), the letter asks the Secretary of State if it can continue to work towards its Core Strategy housing targets, until it is able to prepare a Local Plan for examination based on the new criteria.
The Group Leaders conclude that “whilst we will be formally responding to the consultation on the Housing White Paper, we look forward to your response to our questions as soon as possible in order for us to determine whether we should continue with the work on our current Local Plan proposals.”
Read the open letter.