No ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ can justify changing Normandy & Flexford’s green belt boundaries

It is important to distinguish between the "exceptional circumstances" required to redraw the Green Belt boundary and the "very special circumstances" required to permit building in the Green Belt.

There is no legal definition of "exceptional circumstances". The circumstances are examined on a case by case basis. In the case of the Normandy/Flexford proposals, it is likely to be argued that lack of educational provision requiring the building of a 7FE secondary school to satisfy future need will contribute to the "exceptional circumstances" required to withdraw the land from the Green Belt. However, the Surrey County Council School Organisation Plan, December 2015 predicting school places 2016/16-2024/25, using July 2015 data provided by Guildford Borough Council, only predicts a requirement of 3FE secondary school places in the west of the borough that can be accounted for with existing/currently planned capacity. In addition, FoI requests to Surrey County Council by Normandy residents has reveled that even if the 1,100 homes were to be built, this would give rise to need for only 1FE secondary school places; furthermore, the building of 1,800 homes at Blackwell Farm would give rise to need for only only 2FE secondary school places. Due to under-utilisation of existing capacity, this new need can be catered for by existing schools and planned expansion of existing schools in the west of the borough. There appears to be no justification for an additional 4FE secondary school places, therefore rendering the proposal for the new school inappropriate, removing any capacity for its use as an "exceptional circumstance" that contributes to the removal of the land between Normandy and Flxford settlements from the Green Belt.

When it comes to considering a planning application to build in the Green Belt, the NPPF para 87 states 'inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. In legal terms, this is a stronger test then that required to prove "exceptional circumstances"

When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations (NPPF para 88).

In defining Green Belt protection, planning practice guidance states, ‘Unmet housing need (including for traveller sites) is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development on a site within Green Belt.’

Wednesday the 17th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template