Reigate MP Crispin Blunt and the chairman of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council's Planning Committee have taken the fight to protect the local Green Belt to Westminster.
Mr Blunt and Councillor Mark Brunt last week met with the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, and the Chief Planner for England, Steve Quartermain, to discuss options available to the council to further protect Green Belt in the borough through its Core Strategy.
The meeting came as the vote by the council's Executive to automatically adopt the Core Strategy was put on pause pending further meetings and council discussions.
Coun Brunt, with the MP's backing and the minister's direction, is now seeking final clarification on what qualifications and reservations are available to councillors to properly protect green fields in the Green Belt before the Core Strategy is formally adopted.
Mr Blunt said: "The meeting with Nick Boles was extremely constructive and I am now optimistic that green fields in the Green Belt, the so-called urban extensions, will not be made available for development.”
He said: “Following today's meeting, I am confident these additional measures can be secured. “I am pleased that I could link-up Mark and Nick for this discussion to take place, and it is now for councillors to progress."
Reigate and Banstead’s Core Strategy is the lynch-pin plan for development in the borough through to the year 2027 and has key implications for the Green Belt.
The Core Strategy was recently judged ‘sound’ by a Government Planning Inspector. The inspector's report was published after careful scrutiny, including public examination sessions held last May and December. Reigate and Banstead Borough Council greeted the judgement as providing “an appropriate basis for the planning of the borough over the next 15 years.” The borough council highlighted key details from it, stating: “The Inspector supports the over-all level of growth proposed by the council for the next 15 years, and agrees with the Core Strategy’s ‘urban areas first’ approach to the location of development.” The council statement continued: “He agrees that extensions to existing settlements, requiring some Green Belt development, will be needed during the life of the plan. “He concludes that the areas of search for these ‘sustainable urban extensions’ identified in the Core Strategy - around Horley, east of Redhill and east of Merstham and South/South West Reigate - are appropriate, and that these will only be developed if the council cannot demonstrate that it has a five-year supply of other housing sites.” The borough council anticipated formally adopting the Core Strategy at its Full Council meeting on April 10, following consideration by the council’s Executive this month.
However, the Executive vote to put on pause automatically adopting the Core Strategy may have implications for the council's work starting to develop detailed proposals for future development in the borough, with public consultation on potential development sites planned for this summer.
In early 2010, Mr Blunt, who was then the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Counter-Terrorism, vowed he would “die in a ditch to stop new development on Green Belt land." Addressing the Federation of Banstead and District Residents Association's annual general meeting in Burgh Heath, he said he was “personally committed to the Green Belt.” He said: "I can assure you that I am personally committed to ensuring that the Green Belt remains a bulwark against development in the whole of the constituency, but this is absolutely paramount to the north of the M25 to preserve the character of the area.” He added: “You can assume that if I am re-elected, your local Member of Parliament will die in a ditch to stop new development on Green Belt land."
People wishing to be added to the council’s consultation database should email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Planning Inspector’s report is available on the council’s website at: www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/csexam