Following the Government’s decision, in December2022 to make changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), MVDC asked the Planning Inspector to pause the examination of Mole Valley’s Local Plan. After pressure from Ashtead Councillors, the Council passed a motion to withdraw all Green Belt sites (including Site DS1- land South of Ermyn Way).
In December2023, the Government published its new NPPF. In doing so the Government determined that Local Plans that were underway, such as MVDC, would continue to be examined using the old (pre- December) NPPF. To determine the way forward an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council was held on 23 January 2024b, with the Council having three options:
A) Seek to withdraw the existing Plan and start again
B) Continue with examination of the existing Plan, subject to Modifications by the Inspector
C) Seek main Modifications to the existing Plan to remove all Green Belt sites, including Site DS1
Only hours before the Meeting, the Planning Minister wrote to MVDC and issued the Council with a Direction not to withdraw the Local Plan. The Minister’s reasons were MVDC’s lack of progress in adopting a Plan, outdated policies, and local housing pressures. As it would be unlawful to ignore the Minister’s Direction this effectively ruled out option A).
At the Council Meeting, Ashtead Independent Councillors strongly argued for option C) – withdraw Green Belt Sites from the existing Plan. This was opposed by the Liberal Democrats Councillors, many of whom do not have Green Belt sites in their wards, who then used their large majority to vote through option B) – continue with the existing Plan. Interestingly, those Liberal Democrat Councillors, whose wards do have Green Belt sites were absent from the Meeting. Once again, we see the Liberal Democrats putting party politics before people!
The next stage is for the Council to inform the Planning Inspector of the Council’s decision to progress with the examination of the existing Plan. It is now up to the Inspector to make any Main Modifications and if so, she will ask the Council to consult on them. The timetable is unclear. However, if you have previously contacted the Council regarding the Local Plan, you will automatically be consulted. Regardless , Ashtead Independent Councillors will continue to fight for the retention of the Green Belt in Ashtead.
By Councillor Gerry Sevenoaks