GVA Response to Garden Village

Letter to Tandridge District Council

I write on behalf of the Godstone Village Association to register our strongest possible objection to the concept of any garden village anywhere in Tandridge district.

Your latest ‘Regulation 18’ consultation on Garden Villages has been one of the most misleading consultations to date. Firstly, the consultation itself is designed to deliver an outcome that Tandridge District Council wants to see rather than the views of the residents of Tandridge district. To ask residents to choose between four locations for a garden village is demonstrable of a level of arrogance and contempt for them in that you have decided to build a ‘garden village’ no matter what. If you consult the government prospectus for garden villages, ‘Locally-Led Garden Villages, Towns and Cities Prospectus’, it requires that a new garden village has local support. You have not given residents the opportunity to say whether they would support such a concept, you have imposed the concept without consultation.

You have pitched four different villages against each other encouraging people to choose between them. That is not community spirited and is unnecessary. You know, and more importantly knew in advance of this consultation, that the land west of Edenbridge will not be delivered because neither Sevenoaks District Council nor Edenbridge Town Council want to develop that land and to do so requires their cooperation. Yet you have included the site in this consultation. You knew in advance of this consultation that Redhill Aerodrome would not be deliverable within your timescales, even to the point that you said on your banners at the consultation ‘drop-ins’ that it would not be deliverable until years 15+ which is outside the timeframe for deliverable housing within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)(para 47. Footnote 11). Yet you have included this site in the consultation. This is not fair to the villages affected and it is even less fair to the residents of South Godstone and Blindley Heath because they are under the false impression that they are one of four potential sites, not one of two.

You have spent a huge amount of tax payers’ money on this consultation (£159,400) on a set of consultants who were the only respondents to your tender in order not to introduce a delay to the production of your Local Plan. You are already going to be at least 18 months late with the delivery of your plan. Was a further delay of up to two months before the next Planning Policy Committee sat really worth £159,400?

You have gone out of your way to mislead the public which we find to be unforgivable. You have repeatedly stated that the government has told you to build 9,400 homes. It took a letter from Godstone Parish Council to the Chief Planning Officer to elicit the truth that the government had not told you to build 9,400 homes. You have displayed a level of dishonesty that means you are no longer trusted. Martin Fisher, Leader of the Council, should have been stopped from repeatedly making this statement at the first instance, not allowed to continue to make false statements without check. You even produced a wrap to the Tandridge County Border News making the statement which was what prompted the Godstone Parish Council letter. A lack of honesty has not endeared you to the general public.

You have allowed, or encouraged, further untruths about the amount of inward migration included in the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN). At public meetings both Martin Fisher and others have stated that the OAN does not include any inward migration. This is untrue and should have been stopped immediately.

The statement has been repeated over and over again that a new garden village will result in just 1% of the Green Belt being released. That is not true. Tandridge district has an area of 24,820 hectares of which 94% is Green Belt. This means that 23,331 hectares are Green Belt. All of the proposed garden village sites are greater in size than 233.3 hectares and you have hidden the fact that your preferred strategy also includes building on Green Belt land in Oxted, Limpsfield, Hurst Green, Caterham on the Hill, Caterham Valley, Warlingham, Whyteleafe, Smallfields, Lingfield and Godstone. It is far greater than 1% of Green Belt land.

You have promised infrastructure that you cannot deliver. Tandridge District Council cannot promise schools or healthcare facilities, you have no remit or authority to do so. You can require that developers leave space for them – possibly that they build buildings (although this is far less probable) – but you cannot promise that the Department of Education will decide that a school should operate there or that the NHS or private practice will decide to introduced healthcare facilities. You have promised road improvements but none of the schemes proposed (apart from Redhill Aerodrome which it has already been established is undeliverable) include such improvements. The only road infrastructure that has been proposed to date is a couple of additional roundabouts on the A22 and using Tandridge Lane (a 4m wide country lane) as an alternative route into one of your developments.

You have promised affordable homes, but not given any explanation as to how you will deliver them. Much has been made of the cost of housing being 14 times average salary in Tandridge district. The garden villages scheme proposed by the government requires that a proportion of housing is offered at a 20% discount of market pricing. Do you really think that housing at 11 times average salary is going to be any more affordable? Housing will only be affordable to those migrating into the area from London boroughs and who have jobs with much higher salaries than locally.

You have continually talked of it being a ‘garden village’ and, whilst the government’s sales prospectus for the garden village concept does definite a garden villages as being between 1,500 and 10,000 houses, you know that what you are proposing is a large town at least the size of Oxted (Oxted South, Oxted North and Tandridge consists of 4,688 houses according to the 2011 Census).

In the Local Plan:Issues and Approaches consultation you played lip service to a ‘new extended settlement’ and said that the number of houses could not be determined. The implication was that you had included it for completeness and were not particularly serious about it. One year later you said in the Local Plan:Sites Consultation over 300 pages into the document that you might consider a development of ‘at least 2,000 homes’ in either South Godstone or Blindley Heath. One year later again, you are talking of between 4,000 and 9,000 homes (depending on which particularly councillor is speaking at the time). This ill thought out strategy seems to be more about how much development you can get away with than any defined requirement.

Your alleged OAN has been 9,400 homes to serve a population increase of 15,000 from the outset – why have you not been honest about your plans from the outset? A new garden village, (or extended settlement), is not a new concept to you. It has been evidenced that you were talking to developers in Blindley Heath (and probably elsewhere) even before the first consultation. You have never explained why you believe that 9,400 homes would be needed to support a population increase of 15,000 (an occupancy of just 1.59 persons per household versus the national average of 2.43).

 Your OAN includes a significant amount of inward migration (anywhere between 69% and 90% depending on which documents one is reading) yet the sales prospectus for the new garden village concept (para. 21) says that a new garden village should meet local housing need. You have not explained why you are seeking to meet need from elsewhere. The NPPF (para. 159) requires your Local Plan to support the needs of the local population, it does not mention inward migration to support out flow from Croydon and other London Boroughs.

The NPPF (para. 7) requires that development should be sustainable on three specific roles; economic, social and environmental. The Tandridge District Council preferred strategy of building on pockets of Green Belt land across the district and on dumping a large town in the middle of the Green Belt does not meet the sustainability requirements.

For the above reasons (and many others) it is the view of the Godstone Village Association that a new garden village is NOT NEEDED, NOT WANTED and NOT NECESSARY.

Yours faithfully,

Alex Rabbetts, Chairman