Councillors debated the Local Plan at a special council meeting on Thursday 25 April and voted by a majority of 28 councillors to 12, to adopt the Local Plan, with 4 abstentions.
The plan will play an important role in shaping Guildford's future in terms of how its towns and villages will develop - improving leisure and visitor facilities, supporting more sustainable forms of travel and developing the local economy.
As part of this, the plan sets out where houses, shops and offices will be built, with proposed changes to road networks and infrastructure to meet the growing population.
The population of Guildford projected to rise from 145,473 to 167,126 by 2034, and the new Local Plan aims to deliver vital new housing to address this, including 10,678 new homes by 2034 which will result in a total housing supply of 14,602 between 2015-34.
However, it hasn’t been an easy road. It has taken many years for Guildford to reach this point.
The Council has faced the dilemma experienced by many local authorities throughout the country - the need to provide sufficient housing to meet demand, whilst also protecting its natural environment and green spaces.
Understandably, Green Belt is sacrosanct for many residents, and the Plan has faced considerable opposition from pressure groups resisting the loss of Green Belt in their locality.
This is a particular issue for Guildford, and many of its neighbouring authorities in Surrey. The demand for housing in Guildford is such that only with the release of Green Belt land could the Council meet both its housing needs and Government demand.
The Council’s approach, endorsed by an independent Inspector, involves development of three large Green Belt sites for a total of over 5,000 new houses.
It goes without saying that this has been a difficult decision for the Council to make – trying to balance the demands of their constituents with the lack of housing-land supply, whilst facing opposition and strict Government advice that Green Belt should only be developed as a last resort.
Guildford Borough Council recognises that it is a desirable location for residents to live and work, so in order to sustain its future it needed to accommodate the much-needed housing – both for existing residents and their families to live in, as well as for new residents, all of whom would help to sustain its vibrant economy.
With an adopted Local Plan, the Council can now confidently deal with planning applications, knowing that they must align with its plan, putting development in the right places, whilst addressing the need for a five-year housing-land supply to meet NPPF requirements.
However, there looms a strong possibility that there will be legal challenges to the plan, which would delay its final adoption.
Indeed, this is what happened in neighbouring Waverley, where objections to large scale housing development were also taken to the High Court.
With the Government’s desire to build around 300,000 new houses per year and more precious Green Belt land under pressure, this scenario will continue to be played out throughout the country, delaying the delivery of essential housing development in some of the areas it is needed the most.
If you are a local authority facing similar issues and would like to speak to a planning expert for help and advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch.