Safeguarded for who and for what? It sounds so nice and cosy; oh, the land in my village is being “safeguarded”. Beware the weasel words of the clever drafter of the National Policy Planning Framework [NPPF], he’s out to fool you on behalf of this government.
The NPPF Para 85 gives the local planning authority [LPA] the right to declare land as “safeguarded” during the Local Plan process, so what does it really mean? It means a faceless planning officer, in cahoots with their paid-for lackeys the planning consultants, taking a pen and drawing a line on a map around parcels of Green Belt land, effectively re-drawing the Green Belt boundary, extracting them from the Green Belt and declaring them “safeguarded”. “Safeguarded” for what? Unfortunately, it doesn’t “safeguard” the land at all, in fact it does quite the opposite. It “safeguards” the land for nothing more nor less than housing development at some indeterminate point in the future 20 years of the Local Plan period up to 2031, when the national politicians and their apparatchiks who dreamed it up, and the local authority officers and councillors who implemented it, will either be dead or in their dotage. What will they care?
It’s like a badly designed sewer overflow system for house builders. When they’ve dumped enough excrement in the form of 21st century housing on the available land supply, the LPA can open up its ‘goody bag’ of the now urbanised “safeguarded” land parcels in the Green Belt so the house builders can relieve themselves again over the green fields of Surrey. When that land is suitably contaminated, the NPPF allows them to do it all over again, and again, and again, until there’s no green fields left, just the excrement of excessive housing. It stinks now and it will stink into the future.
In the new GBC draft Local Plan, sits the all-new Green Belt and Countryside Study [GBCS] Volume 5 evidence document that highlights those settlements under threat of being judged suitable to become ‘super-villages’ by reaching a plucked-from-the-air threshold of 4,000+ residents. Accompanying this unwanted imprimatur are lots of maps and assertions including the new “inset” boundaries drawn over the top of the 2003 settlement boundaries, extracting yet more land from the Green Belt in the form of each settlement’s built environment – back gardens beware, you’re about to be built on. If you think that’s bad enough, much, much worse for these communities are the new areas of “safeguarded” land that either join settlements together or are appended to them as great carbuncles.
In Normandy and Flexford’s case this is 72.2. hectares [Ha] of Green Belt land (Land Parcel H12) between the two settlements effectively joining them together in one potential suburban sprawl, containing environmentally important Ancient Woodland and benign fields that according to the GBCS, Land Parcels analysis contributes to at least three key purposes of the Green Belt and the openness of the Green Belt in and around the two settlements. This matters little to the development-crazed members of the GBC Planning Department in their Local Plan ‘bunker’, desperate to avoid a direct hit from a planning inspector when their chaotic and distorted evidence is examined in public, thinking that by maximising land supply coupled with an unconstrained new annual housing number (652) declared in a hardly-modified Strategic Housing Market Assessment [SHMA] document, they will have built their own Maginot Line – and we all know what happened to that!
This nasty, underhand and pernicious distortion of planning legislation, engineered by this government and this Chancellor of the Exchequer, desperate to create not sustainable but unsustainable economic growth through excessive house building, is being confronted across the country. Only this week, on 13th May, a debate was initiated in Westminster Hall by Julian Sturdy, MP (York Outer) who observed in his opening remarks on “safeguarding” that he was “deeply concerned that this policy is being abused by certain local authorities in an effort to undermine the permanence of the green belt, which, as we all know, underpins this country’s entire planning system.” In his response, Nick Boles MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, pointed out that “safeguarding is not a requirement for every local authority with green-belt land. It is something that it can choose to do, but only if necessary. If the plan that it puts forward has provisions to meet housing needs in full and if other sites are available for potential future development beyond the life of the plan, it may well be that safeguarding land is unnecessary.”
Residents of Guildford borough should demand that their councillors demand of the planning officers, if what they have dreamed up in the new draft Local Plan for large swathes of Green Belt land to be “safeguarded” is necessary and why might it not be better to use large swathes of “brownfield” land first.