At its meeting on 14 July the Planning Committee of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) approved application 20/P/01148 for 16 'affordable' dwellings on the vacant plot of land between on the south side of Beech Lane adjacent to Hawthorn Close, despite the objections of Normandy Parish Council and numerous local residents.

The GBC Planning Portal has not yet (as of 1 August) been updated to record this decision, but the Conclusion of the Officer's Report recommending approval is available in the Public Reports Pack for the meeting, available here. It reads as follows:

"The proposed development in providing 16 much needed affordable housing units, of a mix and tenure that meets an identified local housing need, falls within the criteria for development which can be considered under the rural exceptions policy.  The development comprising a rural exception development falls within the exceptions to inappropriate development in the Green Belt.  The provision of 16 affordable homes of a suitable mix and tenure is a significant benefit which outweighs the harm identified through the loss of biodiversity.  The proposal subject to a S106 agreement to secure mix and tenure of housing in perpetuity, SANG and contributions towards Thames Basin Heaths SPA mitigation, education and open space is recommended for approval."

On the subject of affordable housing the Officer's Report states that there is an identified need for affordable/social housing within Normandy specifically (“28 households in Normandy currently registered on the Council's housing register and applying for social rented housing”).

Concerning the Rural Exceptions Policy (which permits development in the Green Belt under certain circumstances) some local residents had argued that as Hawthorn Close had been allowed under this Policy, to a maximum of 0.4 hectares, the rest of the site was not eligible for consideration as an Exception. NAG queried this with the GBC Planning department and was told:

"The restriction for a rural exception site to be no larger than 0.4 hectares was in the 2003 Local Plan Policy H12: Affordable Housing for Local Needs in Rural Areas, which was the rural exception housing policy in force at the time that planning application ref. 12/P/00303 was submitted to the Council. That policy was superseded in the Local Plan: strategy and sites (2019) by Policy H3: Affordable Homes, which did not include a size restriction for a rural exception scheme but defines these developments as small scale.  Policy H3 applies to planning application ref. 20/P/01148, as this was adopted planning policy at the time that this application was submitted."

Major concerns have also been expressed about the impact of this development on drainage of this area, which is already subject to episodes of serious flooding. On this point the Officer's Report states that "the final drainage strategy has not been determined due to lack of information including ground conditions, specifically infiltration rates and ground water levels". Nevertheless GBC feel able to say they are satisfied that the proposed options for the drainage scheme meet all necessary requirements!

This decision is naturally a source of disappointment and concern to local residents, although if the development does genuinely serve to alleviate the claimed shortage of 'affordable' housing in Normandy that will clearly be a good thing.

 

Monday the 18th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template