1. Localism and housing targets

    Mole Valley’s planning policy documents include a Core Strategy, with several supplementary planning documents. There is also a Land Allocations document on which work has been paused but which will identify areas of land could be used in the future for housing. The overarching guidance was the South East Plan, which amongst other things set the housing requirement for Mole Valley of 3760 new homes in the period from 2006 to 2026. 1245 have been completed so far, and there are a further 720 with planning permission, so on this basis there is a shortfall of 1,795 (or 168 each year on average).

    The Government is however abolishing the South East Plan, and the Council now has the chance to decide whether to stick with the housing requirement handed down from the South East Plan or set a new requirement itself for the next 15 years or so. But how can such a target be set? Clearly it must be affected by a number of factors such as likely need for affordable housing, the demand for market housing, population growth by birth or immigration, average household sizes, housing costs and so on, most of which are very difficult to forecast. Added to which, if the requirement set is demonstrably too low by reference to these factors, it could well be rejected when it is examined by an independent Planning Inspector.; and if it is higher than the South East Plan figure, more land will be needed from the Green Belt.

    So we have a problem to be solved. How many houses do you think are needed?  Let us know what you think or how the target should be set.

  2. Localism and neighbourhood plans

    The Localism Bill was published by the Government at the end of last year. It introduces a concept of neighbourhood planning, which seeks to empower local groups to draw up their own plans for their neighbourhoods. At present District Councils are responsible for planning in their Districts, and Mole Valley District Council is preparing a suite of planning documents for inclusion in its Local Development Framework (LDF). It has already adopted an overall planning strategy for the District and supplementary documents which explain how affordable housing is to be provided and an appraisal of the characteristics of each area as a guide for future development.

    The Bill also proposes that local groups, whether they are Residents Associations, Parish Councils, Street Committees, ad hoc groups of residents or even businesses, provided they number at least 21 individuals, can come together to form a Neighbourhood Forum to draw up their own plans for their own neighbourhoods. These plans have to accord with the Council’s own strategic plan, and agreed by a referendum of local residents, but once they have been adopted by the Council as part of its LDF they will be an important consideration in the Council’s determination of planning applications. The District Plan will cover only those places not subject to a Neighbourhood Plan.

    So there is an opportunity to be grasped – will anybody take up the challenge?