Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) update by Cllr Ashley Bowes, Portfolio Holder for Planning

11 April 2018

"In response to a question at the Council meeting on 8 February 2018, I agreed with the Leader of the Council that I would issue a statement about progress on preparing the Council's Site Allocations DPD by end of March 2018. Whilst I acknowledge this is slightly delayed, as Portfolio Holder for Planning, I needed to be satisfied that all reasonable options are tested and legal requirements are appropriately followed before the DPD is published for further public consultation. This statement is fulfilling that promise.

"I would like to first point out that unlike many other authorities who have not yet adopted their Local Plan, Woking is in a fortunate position to have adopted its Local Plan with a housing requirement that has been agreed until 2027.

"The Council is currently delivering against the requirements of the Local Plan by focusing housing development predominantly on previously developed land in Woking Town Centre, recognising that Green Belt land will be needed to make up for any shortfall in housing supply after 2022. Presently, the Council has identified sufficient land in the urban area to enable the delivery of 7.7 years worth of its housing requirement. This is against the national requirement for councils to identify land to enable five years worth of housing supply. Whilst I feel it is important to look to the future after that, I am also concerned to make sure that the necessary time is taken to consider all realistic options before the Council makes a decision on the sites it wishes to safeguard to meet future development needs.

"It is exactly a year ago that the Council sought the views of local residents and businesses on the option of substituting six proposed safeguarded sites in Byfleet, Mayford and Pyrford with land east of Martyrs Lane. This consultation was necessary for the Council to ensure that it has tested all reasonable options for development before the plan is submitted to the Secretary of State for scrutiny.

"During the consultation period the community was fully engaged in the process. As a result 3,018 individuals and organisations made comments comprising of 32,164 separate representations, which has presented a challenge regarding its analysis.

"As the plan will ultimately be examined by the Secretary of State at a public examination, it is therefore very important that the Council can demonstrate that it has considered all the representations received and has reviewed its evidence to justify its preferred plan. I have been working with my officers to ensure that is the case.

"It is in everyone's interest for the Council to submit a plan that it is confident can be found sound. I am aware and share resident's concern about the time it has taken to respond to the representations. However, as I said earlier, I also have to balance that with my wish to make sure that for a document that is going to shape the future direction of development in the Borough for many years to come, the Council must be careful to consider all relevant issues raised by the representations.

"The sheer volume of the representations, the complexity of the issues raised and the fact that its analysis is labour intensive has meant that more time has been required to consider them than originally anticipated.

"I am satisfied that officers are working as expeditiously as possible to complete the analysis of the representations and report to Members. It is also important that all councillors have the opportunity to consider the officer's report before making their decision on a preferred plan.

"In this regard, the report will be considered by the Local Development Framework Working Group and Council during September of this year. Subject to the Council being satisfied, my aim is for the Council to publish its preferred plan by the end of October 2018 for a further and final consultation to give residents another opportunity to comment.

"Whilst I agree that this process could be lengthy and frustrating for residents, I hope they will appreciate the work and commitment shown by officers to ensure that all Government regulations are followed and issues raised by residents are appropriately considered.

"Some of you would have heard or read about the changes that the Government is proposing to streamline the planning system. The Council will continue to monitor this and the impact they will have of the plan."

Anyone with questions regarding the Site Allocations DPD should contact the Council's Planning Policy Team on 01483 743871 or email planning.policy@woking.gov.uk