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Byfleet and West Byfleet’s remaining Green Belt

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

The petition of residents of Woking

Declares that no land should be removed from the Green Belt for development unless there are very special circumstances and all other options including brownfield sites have been exhausted; further that it is also imperative that no major developments are approved in Byfleet until the proposed Flood Alleviation Plan is implemented; further that the Office for National Statistics has recently revised its household projection to show that less new housing is needed than previously thought; and further that this petition refers to the Site Allocations Development Plan document, approved by Woking Borough Council on 18 October 2018, which has questionable long-term forecasts and does not include recent developments.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to remove any land from the Green Belt for development unless there are very special circumstances and all other options including brownfield sites have been exhausted.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Jonathan Lord , Official Report, 13 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 8P.]


Observations from the Minister for Housing (Kit Malthouse):

The Government remain committed to strong protection of the Green Belt. Our National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that most new building is inappropriate on Green Belt land, and should be refused planning permission except in very special circumstances.

Green Belts are established and protected by local, not central, government. Only in exceptional circumstances may a local authority alter a Green Belt boundary, after consulting local people and submitting the revised Local Plan to examination. We clarify in the revised Framework that a local authority can propose to alter a Green Belt boundary only in exceptional circumstances and only if it can show evidenced justification that it has examined all other reasonable options for meeting its identified development needs. That means the authority should:

make as much use as possible of suitable brownfield and under-used land;

optimise density of development; and

discuss with neighbouring authorities whether they could take some of the necessary development,

as agreed in a Statement of Common Ground.

The examination by planning inspector of a revised development plan or strategy, including any Green Belt review, is a formal procedure. The inspector acts on behalf of the Secretary of State, and this imposes a strict duty of impartiality across Government. The validity of any local housing need figure would be considered in that context, as part of the supporting evidence. A plan will be found sound only if it is properly prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in the Framework.

With reference to household projections produced by the Office for National Statistic (ONS), it should be noted that projections are not a measure of how many homes are needed to meet demand, they simply show what would happen if past trends continue. As confirmed by the ONS, lower household projections do not mean that fewer homes are needed. If more homes are not supplied, then households cannot form as there would be nowhere for them to live. More homes are still needed in the least affordable areas to inhibit soaring house prices. As a general rule, we would expect an increase in housing provision to improve the overall affordability of new homes.

It is for local authorities to consider the extent of flood risk and what effect it should have on development plans or planning decisions.