Update : December 2019
As you probably know, Elmbridge Borough Council held an Options Consultation for their new Local plan between 19th of August and 30th of September.
They have just published a (55 page) statement providing a breakdown of respondents and responses which we have summarised below.
It is mentioned in the statement on more than one occasion that the consultation was not a vote on the options but merely an opportunity to give your views.
A link to the full statement, as held on the Elmbridge Council website, can be found at the bottom of this page.
The purpose of the new Local Plan is to set out the vision for the borough and approach to development over the next 15 years.
Option 1 : Intensify Urban Area
Option 1 would deliver all the new homes needed in our borough over the next 15 years by:
Option 2 – optimise urban area and 3 areas of Green Belt release
Option 2 would not meet need in full but would deliver new homes over the next 15 years by:
Option 3 – optimise urban area and large Green Belt release
Option 3 would deliver all the new homes needed in our borough over the next 15 years and would be able to help other boroughs and districts meet their housing need by:
Option 4 – optimise urban area
Option 4 would not meet need but would deliver new homes over the next 15 years by:
Option 5 – Optimise urban area and small areas of Green Belt release
Option 5 would deliver all the new homes needed in our borough over the next 15 years by;
85% of respondents chose Option 4 : Optimise Urban Area
Second Spoiler Alert!
Back in 2016 Elmbridge Borough Council are on record as saying that their preferred option is to increase urban density where appropriate and amend green belt boundaries – at the time there were only 3 options presented but this seems to be closely aligned to Option 5 above, as chosen by merely 5% of respondents.
It should be noted that in the Council Cabinet meeting of July 24th 2019 this preferred option was superseded:
“Given that the Council had been criticised in 2016/17 for supporting a preferred option, he (Cllr Browne) was content that Option 2 was being superseded as the preferred option and that there would be no preferred option identified going forward.”
Over 6,400 residents responded to the consultation which equates to merely 6% of the borough’s residential population.
The majority of respondents coming from Thames Ditton and Long Ditton, Cobham, and Claygate.
Not much interest from Hersham, Molesey or Weybridge!
One of the questions asked was:
Please give details of any alternative ways you think we could meet the government’s ambitious housing target for Elmbridge of 623 new homes each year for the next 15 years.
This resulted in some very interesting, and creative, responses:
There were comments relating to making efficient use of land and using brownfield land particularly in town centres. Others suggested higher density developments within urban locations as long as it is not to the detriment of the character of the area.
Additionally, respondents suggested identifying land close to railway stations and making suitable land acquisitions. One respondent suggested the reuse of commercial shops in the high street for housing.
The use of derelict land, industrial land, business parks and empty buildings were all suggested as alternative ways to meet housing need.
Another respondent suggested developing disused farming land. Whilst another suggested the use of infill development in villages and towns, building on underused car parks, subdivision of larger properties, building on top of shops and community buildings and providing smaller units.
There were several site-specific responses suggesting locations for housing such as Drake Park, Sainsbury’s car park, land at Brooklands, traveller site on edge of Claygate, land around Whitely Village, allotment in Telegraph Lane and the BT exchange, Claygate. One respondent suggested utilizing large areas of land on the way to Guildford from the Elmbridge area.
Someone else suggested using the Council building as well as other disused commercial buildings for flats.
Disused airfields at Wisley and Ockham, were suggested as being able to accommodate several thousands houses with better access to the M25. The borough’s golf clubs have also been suggested as appropriate land for housing development.
Others felt that housing should be built around the private estates and some felt it should be located near main roads for easy access. One respondent stated that development should be located next to train stations even if these are in the Green Belt.
Another respondent suggests everyone with a large garden should build a house in their garden. One even suggested purchasing land from homeowners with large gardens
One respondent suggested a Surrey wide plan where housing can be redistributed perhaps to a new town or urban area. Another suggested further Green Belt releases, held as reserve sites, in case those designated do not come forward in a timely manner to enable the Council to meet the housing need in full.
Another respondent wanted the luxury housing that foreign investors leave empty in central London to be repossessed and used for affordable housing.
Many respondents state that second homes should not be allowed. There was also comments that there were too many retirement developments.
A few respondents suggested the creation of a new town, one suggesting it should be in a very low populated area, another said it should not be in the Green Belt however they felt that this would deliver the housing needed along with the infrastructure required and that this approach would minimise the impact on other areas in the borough.
There were many respondents asserting that larger properties should not been allowed. Some suggested the conversion of larger developments to flats or development for more than one home.
Many people stated that smaller family homes should be built as well as flats, including those above shops.
There were comments about the conversion of large aging properties for more smaller properties in addition to the use of empty homes. One respondent suggested developing smaller isolated sites throughout the borough.
Viewpoints regarding older people downsizing to local centres would free up larger properties for families were given in several responses. There was a comment to identify empty properties which can be utilized or converted.
Other alternatives included adding storeys on buildings in high street locations and building high rise in the town centre. Many respondents suggested high density housing with one including green walls, balconies and roof gardens.
One respondent stated that the Council’s new housing company should be ambitious and deliver 100% affordable properties where viability allows for this. Another suggested we could have more areas with park homes such as those in Addlestone, to help meet the need for more affordable homes.
Whilst another suggested building a shared living eco centre for key workers and young people on brownfield land.
The point was made that there are enough planning permissions nationally to meet the target and that Council’s needed to force developers to build their planning permissions.
Solutions must be more creative and geared towards zero carbon new homes and conversion. Another respondent felt that there needs to be an investment in thoughtful design to optimise the use of urban sites.
One respondent suggested referencing other urban Councils for examples of how they built condense housing as well as burden sharing with northern boroughs.
Another respondent suggested spreading development equitably across the borough.
One respondent stated that the Council should allow and encourage property owners to split existing blocks. For example, any block with a land area of > 700m2, could be allowed to subdivide and build extra homes on that “new” block.
The only approval to build though would be if town houses or 1 and 2-bedroom apartments were built, on the new “block”. This would increase density and for older residents, it would also work as a method of equityrelease – without having to sell or leave their home.
Proper rules and control would be needed to manage this, but it is done in many other countries to great effect.
Another respondent felt the housing developments led by HRH Prince Charles were examples of large developments which provided attractive housing with infrastructure.
Whilst another respondent suggested providing houseboats as sustainable alternative to increase the number of homes and that they could be distributed across the borough to spread demands on infrastructure across the borough.
From section 7 of the EBC document linked below:
“Although many local people thought question 4 was a vote, this was not the case. The questions were designed to find out what option would best suit their area. As the feedback summary highlights, there were differing opinions across the borough, and many felt a one size approach would not work for all local areas.
Option 4 had the most support but there were differences in the strength of feeling depending on the local area.
This is highlighted in the table at Section 5 paragraph 5.29.
The responses to the Options Consultation in conjunction with those received 45 in 2016/17, along with the emerging evidence base documents, including infrastructure, the ongoing Sustainability Appraisal and the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2019, will inform the subsequent preferred approach for the Local Plan and site selection.
This is an iterative process.
At this stage in the plan-making preparations, it is not known what approach / strategy will underpin the Local Plan or the sites that will or will not be included.
Place-making should be at the centre of the new Local Plan and it must have a strong shared vision and objectives at its heart. As such, the next stage is to review our residents’ vision for their area against the Council’s vision for the Borough and objectives.
These must be considered against the requirement of the NPPF on matters such as employment, the environment, heritage, infrastructure as well as housing.
We will then have to “marry up” these with our own evidence on those subjects which has identified where we can grow, strengths and weakness as well as recommended policy approaches.
This again is an iterate process to identify an appropriate vision and objectives for the Local Plan.”
I would definitely recommend reading the Consultation Statement linked below, the latter half is quite readable and interesting.
I have also linked the Local Plan Consultation Portal which has a number of other documents as well as respondent comments.
On the 24th of July the Elmbridge Council Cabinet sat to discuss how to consult with its residents regarding a new ‘Local Plan’.
A ‘Local Plan’ is a statutory requirement which Government has made clear must be up to date, Elmbridge Council’s current plan was adopted in 2011 and it’s housing target is out of date.
Given Local Plan items relating to employment, retail and infrastructure have not significantly changed since the Strategic Options Consultation 2016 It’s this housing target which, in our view, forms the nucleus of this latest update to the Elmbridge Borough Council Local Plan and will be of great interest to residents.
At the Elmbridge Cabinet meeting of the 24th the draft Consultation Document and Consultation Questionnaire were approved along with a 6 week consultation period commencing on Monday the 19th of August till Monday the 30th of September.
Going back to the housing targets previously referenced, the Government has reinforced its objectives to significantly boost the supply of homes and expects Elmbridge Council to plan for 623 new homes per year – across the 15 Year lifespan of The Local Plan this adds up to 9,345 new homes.
Currently on average there are 282 new homes built each year in Elmbridge.
There is only enough land in our urban areas to build approximately 5,300 new homes.
There would be a shortfall of nearly 4,000 new homes.
As part of their consultation into the new Local Plan Elmbridge Borough Council will present you with 5 options as to how they could achieve the Governments target.
Click on each option to jump to more details.
Option 1 – Intensify urban area
Option 2 – Optimise urban area and 3 areas of Green Belt release
Option 3 – Optimise urban land and large Green Belt release
Option 4 – Optimise urban land
Option 5 – Optimise urban land and small areas of Green Belt release
The Call-In deadline expires today (6th of August) so decisions made, and reported below, will take effect tomorrow, Wednesday the 7th of August so we can be extremely confident the draft details published below will be what you see popping through your letterboxes and pinging your email inboxes in 2 weeks time.
You can find more detail on each of these options further below but in support of getting the highest level of resident engagement Elmbridge borough Council have setup a series of six public meetings to discuss these options in more detail.
The meeting will all take place at the Civic Centre in Esher, will all be webcast, and will each have a different area focus – so please book to attend the meeting that focuses on your area.
The meeting dates and area focus are as follows:
Following registration, residents will be sent an email with the opportunity to submit a question for the panel.
The format of the public meetings will be as follows:
19:00 – Presentation on the Local Plan options
On the panel:
19.30 – Questions and answers session – Questions should be submitted in advance.
This is the content of the draft Elmbrige Council Consultation document approved at the Council Cabinet meeting and due to take effect tomorrow.
[Content from Elmbridge Borough Council]
We are preparing a new Local Plan which will decide how the communities and places of Elmbridge will develop over the next 15 years.
It will allocate land for development and guide decisions on whether or not planning applications should be granted permission.
Our current plan is from 2011 and although it has been successful in delivering sustainable development, it does not plan for enough new homes. An up-to-date plan is essential to ensure that planning decisions are made for the benefit of our borough and our residents now and in the future.
The Government has declared a ‘national housing crisis’ and the number of new homes we need has increased significantly, beyond what we had planned for. Our biggest
challenge in preparing a new plan is the very high need for new homes; in particular, smaller homes (with 1-3 bedrooms) and more affordable homes. There is also a requirement to plan for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Elmbridge is the ninth most expensive place to live in England. As a result, too many young people and families are moving out of the borough to have a realistic prospect of owning or renting their own home. Our older residents are struggling to affordably downsize in a way that will enable them to continue to live independently or with care packages and remain in their communities.
The cost of housing and reliance on people travelling into the borough is also making it difficult for local business and valued services to attract and retain employees, this includes essential key workers, such as teachers and health care providers.
This consultation is focused on housing but while the main pressure is to deliver more homes, the Local Plan will also need to support key employment areas and
businesses, delivering vibrant local shopping centres and community hubs. We must protect and enhance our historic features, as well as encouraging alternative transport, such as walking, cycling and car clubs to reduce pressure on our road network and improve air quality.
A tall order indeed!
The Local Plan will also help to deliver many related local, national and European strategies and commitments including the Surrey Health and Wellbeing Strategy, the Elmbridge Economic Strategy and Heritage Strategy.
We have already done a lot of work and in 2016 undertook a Strategic Options Consultation and asked you for your views on how Elmbridge should grow over the next 15 years and what issues are important to you.
This included those relating to employment, retail and infrastructure, which have not significantly changed since the Strategic Options Consultation 2016.
At that time, we presented three possible options of where the new homes could be built, we also told you which option we preferred. This former consultation document is available to view on our website.
We listened and based on your feedback, recent changes in national planning policy and findings from our additional technical work the council has reviewed and re-evaluated its initial conclusions in relation to the options of where new homes could go.
As a result, the council no longer has a preferred option for the Local Plan and now has five options for housing growth to share with you.
Options 1, 2 and 3 from the Strategic Options Consultation 2016 have evolved and Options 4 and 5 are new, based on the findings of the further work you asked us to do.
It is time for you to help us to choose the option that will form the basis of our Local Plan. Whichever option we choose for the plan it will be robustly tested through an
examination in public by an independent Planning Inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State.
The Inspector will test our plan to see if it is ‘sound’ and complies with national planning policy and the law. There will be significant pressure for the Local Plan to plan for all the homes we need. In fact, national planning policy requires us to. If the Inspector does not think the plan is doing enough to deliver the homes needed they will likely force us to look again and choose a different option.
We all have different views on what is important for our borough’s future and the issues facing our communities. However, there are opportunities to provide the much needed new and affordable homes in our borough.
This document has been written with our communities in mind. We want to have an open and honest conversation with our residents about the housing challenges but
also the opportunities the Local Plan brings to ensure that Elmbridge continues to be a sustainable and attractive place to live and work.
We believe that we should have a plan that delivers ‘good growth’ providing much needed new and affordable homes which are supported by appropriate infrastructure and services but also protects and enhances the character and environment of our borough.
But we need your help. This consultation is your opportunity to shape the direction of the Local Plan. Please take time to consider the options carefully and let us know your views.
How do you know what needs to be built and where it can and can’t go?
In 2018 the Government set a ‘standard methodology’ that every Council preparing Local Plans must use to calculate how many new homes are needed in their area. The calculation for Elmbridge resulted in 623 new homes needed each year for the next 15 years.
Local Plans must also be informed by evidence and over the past 4 years we have been preparing a series of technical documents on a wide range of topics to help us understand what new development we need and how we could plan for it. Together, these are known as the ‘Local Plan Evidence Base’.
The technical documents use a variety of local and national facts, figures and data. Some elements require judgements and reasonable assumptions to be made. We have used our knowledge of the borough to inform this work.
All our assessments follow national and European guidance and requirements as well as standard industry practice.
There have been also several supporting documents produced to inform the plan as it is being prepared to make sure we are complying with national planning policy, law and important environmental, sustainability and equality matters have been properly considered.
The findings of each technical document are carefully considered against the results of other technical work, national planning policy and law. The evidence base should be read ‘as a whole’, as many technical documents work together.
The level of detail in each technical document is proportionate to the plan making stage.
Once we choose the preferred option, more detailed studies and assessments will be undertaken to inform and guide the finer details of the plan.
The key findings from the Local Plan evidence base are shown in the next few pages. Each option has been informed by the evidence available on matters such as employment, infrastructure, transport and the environment.
Each option responds to our housing challenges differently, specifically in terms of the location of where new homes could go in the borough. We have provided you with an assessment of their benefits and disadvantages.
A borough-wide map showing the potential location for housing development to support each option has been provided. At this stage, these are not proposed housing allocations and do not guarantee that planning permission will be granted in the future.
All the technical documents used to inform the 5 options including the choice of locations are available to view on our website. These include the additional technical work we have undertaken.
You asked us to focus on finding more land for new homes in our urban areas and assessing in more detail how Green Belt is working, specifically, whether larger parcels can be broken down into smaller plots of land.
More background information on the evidence base and how each option has been assessed is available in our ‘useful summaries’ on our website. All technical and supporting documents can be found on our website at elmbridge.gov.uk/localplan
The minimum number of homes the council is required to plan for is set by the Government through its ‘Standard Methodology’. The methodology uses the official household projections with an uplift required for areas such as Elmbridge where average house prices are not affordable for those on an average wage. The average
cost of a home in Elmbridge is £759,6359 this is 18.8 times the average resident’s income of £40,635.
In line with Government guidance the council has used the 2014 household projections and this has resulted in a minimum requirement of 623 homes per year. The plan must be for a minimum of 15 years so this would mean we need to plan for 9,345 new homes.
Currently on average there are 282 new homes built each year in Elmbridge. This would be a 16% increase in the number of existing homes in the borough (just over 1% growth per year).
The council’s own technical assessment of housing need in 2016 found that previously there had been too many large homes built and that 99% of new homes need to be
either 1, 2- or 3-bedrooms. There was also an acute need for affordable homes (nearly 70% of the homes needed).
National planning policy provides an extensive definition of affordable homes that covers homes to buy and to rent. This can include shared ownership schemes and
discounted rents below market rate. These homes are provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market.
The definition was broadened to reflect the range of needs to meet increasing affordability pressures.
The minimum number of new homes set by the Government exceeds the amount of urban land and brownfield land available in Elmbridge for development. The council has undertaken a detailed assessment of the urban capacity for new homes through its Land Availability Assessment.
There is only enough land in our urban areas to build approximately 5,300 new homes. There would be a shortfall of nearly 4,000 new homes. We need to decide how the Local Plan will meet this shortfall.
It is important to remember that not all sites will be delivered at once, many sites are not expected to come forward for 6 to 10 years or indeed 11 to 15 years.
Although new development will be phased across the 15 years of the plan we need to ensure we have a rolling 5 years of sites, known as a ‘5- year land supply’.
We also need to ensure we have made a contingency allowance if sites don’t come forward as planned.
The Local Plan must be supported by an infrastructure plan to ensure that the necessary facilities and improvements are delivered at the right time to support growth.
This will be provided through an Infrastructure Delivery Plan and continued close working with providers and agencies.
At this stage we have undertaken a high level assessment with the providers and agencies to assess the impact on infrastructure from delivering all the homes needed over the plan period. This indicated that there is unlikely to be a severe impact that could not be mitigated. Once there is a preferred option for the Local Plan more detailed work will be undertaken with the relevant providers and agencies.
We cannot simply say that Elmbridge is full, and the new homes will have to go elsewhere.
Our neighbouring boroughs and districts face similar challenges and will not be able to take our housing shortfall and we cannot force them to agree. However, we
are working closely with them alongside relevant organisations and agencies on strategic matters such as highways, education, health services and on securing infrastructure improvements under our Duty to Co-operate.
A new Local Plan will deliver much needed new homes and affordable homes and can ensure sustainable and cohesive communities offering high quality living environments for current and future residents.
The location of development must be guided by the Government’s national policy framework. The new Local plan can ensure that development is located in the most
sustainable places in the borough and safeguard our valued Local Green Spaces.
Through the Local Plan there is the ability to master plan larger sites. This means the council will be able to control the amount and type of development on sites as well as
the layout and design principles including the amount of open space provided through detailed policy and guidance. Communities and Councillors will also have an
opportunity to help shape policies and master plans.
The Local Plan policies will need to promote sustainable modes of transport, such as walking and cycling and introduce incentives to reduce car ownership, such as car share clubs. This would assist to relieve road congestion by reducing the number of shorter trips as well as having wider health benefits.
[End Content from Elmbridge Borough Council]
Option 1 – Intensify urban area
Option 2 – Optimise urban area and 3 areas of Green Belt release
Option 3 – Optimise urban land and large Green Belt release
Option 4 – Optimise urban land
Option 5 – Optimise urban land and small areas of Green Belt release
This option would deliver all development of 9,345 new homes but would require all housing sites in the future to be delivered at very high densities of over 85 dwellings per hectare.
This would be over double the current density average and would lead to taller buildings than currently in the urban area.
This option would deliver approximately 6,800 new homes across the existing urban area and within three Key Strategic Areas. Not all of the land contained within the key strategic areas is suitable for development. The part which could be suitable has been highlighted on the mapping on the next page, in total the three sites could deliver approximately 1,400 homes. The council would need to decide whether or not there are exceptional circumstances to alter the Green Belt boundary.
This option could deliver approximately 16,300 new homes across the existing urban area and within 2,920 hectares of land removed from the Green Belt. The council would need to decide whether or not there are exceptional circumstances to alter the Green Belt boundary.
We would continue to promote the use of good design to ensure the most effective use of all brownfield and urban land
If all 33 potential development sites in the Green Belt were included in the final plan, this option could deliver approximately 9,400 new homes across the existing urban area and within 366 hectares of land removed from the Green Belt. The council would need to decide whether or not there are exceptional circumstances to alter the Green Belt boundary.
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