Epsom and Ewell Times reported in full the speech from a member of the public at the Licensing, Planning and Policy Committee (LPPC) of 22nd November 2023. He addressed Councillors forcefully on a response to the Government’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). See report here.
Undeterred the gentleman appeared again at the Thursday 18th January meeting of the LPPC. Cllr. Clive Woodbridge (RA Ewell Village) asked Chair Cllr Steven McCormick (RA Woodcote and Langley Vale) to identify the speaker. As far as we could tell his name is John Seaston or Seaton.
Following the private “members’ briefing” of 10th January about the Local Plan, reported in the Epsom and Ewell Times HERE, there was anticipation that something would be said in public about that meeting on Thursday. Nothing was said.
The only contribution about the Local Plan was the three minutes Mr Season/Seaton was permitted. Again, our transcript of his address is published in full. Epsom and Ewell Times invites corrections and responses to his opinions.
“Last year, this Council voted to pause the Local Plan process. In order to buy time to base its regulation 19 Local Plan on Government’s revised NPPF. The great news is that this pause strategy worked. The critical thing now is to take full advantage of the opportunity that you have created. To do this, you need to be very clear about the changes to NPPF that Government has made.
There are two very important points that you must fully understand. First point: Government has clearly stated that the standard method calculation just gives an advisory starting point. When I spoke to you at the start of your last meeting, I emphasized how Government has used its standard method to set a negotiation anchor. Government has now admitted that its anchor is not credible. So it has rebranded it as an advisory starting point. It is critical that all councillors and officers involved in a Local Plan process fully understand that there is nothing binding about the standard method number.
You do not need to meet this target in full. You do not even need to meet half this target. You do not have to meet any specific proportion of this target. You just need to meet the actual needs of our borough.
Second point: Paragraph 145 of the new NPPF states there is no requirement for Green Belt boundaries to be reviewed or changed when plans are being prepared or updated. That was a direct quote from NPPF.
Could government have been any clearer? In case you missed it, there is no requirement for Green Belt boundaries to be reviewed or changed. I have highlighted during previous LPPC meetings that this Borough can fully meet its actual housing need over the plan period using only brownfield sites and previously developed land within the Green Belt.
In the Regulation 18 Local Plan, Council used the brownfield sites shortfall versus government’s anchor to declare the exceptional circumstances required to alter Green Belt boundaries. The two changes to NPPF that I have just highlighted together with the quantum of brownfield and previously developed sites available in the Borough make this declaration of exceptional circumstances and resulting changes of Green Belt boundaries unjustifiable.
It would not be consistent with achieving a balanced Local Plan which meets Council’s legal duty to achieve biodiversity net gain and a credible local nature. Any proposals to change Green Belt boundaries in the regulation 19 Local Plan would expose Council to legal challenge. And the associated cost and programme overruns as well as angering the residents you are supposed to serve.”
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Image: Clockwise from Chair: Cllrs – Steven McCormick (RA), Peter O’Donovan (RA), public speaker (Seaston / Seaton), Keiran Persand (Con), Julie Morris (LibDem), Clive Woodbridge (RA), Phil Neale (RA), Steve Bridge (RA), Council officers.