Flawed data hits Local Plan consultation
Many councils are currently completing their new Local Plans – and no region is under as much pressure as South East England. However, the consultation in my local area on the Kent/Surrey border is not usually one where controversy strikes! On one side of the border, Kent Sevenoaks Council are about to start their 2015-2035 plan so I’m thinking I might get consulted a bit….
To their credit, Tandridge on the Surrey side ( we live 50 yards outside of Surrey! ) have just completed their exercise and it’s been pretty well publicised. There were several ways I could participate – I chose a walk in meeting at the Oxted Council Offices. It frankly was a bit chaotic! Small room, limited staff and plan documents available, and 30+ 60-80 year olds all putting forward their NIMBY cases!
Since then, I’ve been following the progress with interest. The public window has closed and we’re seeing some of the community feedback appearing in the local press :
This is just one example of the articles appearing – questioning the target total homes requirement of 9,400 and the length and complexity of the 3,500 pages of reading to fully understand the draft plan.
‘No attempt has been made to produce a simple summary document that could be read and understood by residents who for whatever reason have not accessed the thousands of pages on the TDC website. Whilst the Green Belt Assessment methodology is explained within the 3,500 pages it is certainly not understood by the average resident, nor is the criteria that defines Green Belt land’
The article uses ONS occupancy rates, 2011 census data and Surrey County Council population growth estimates to come up with a very different new homes need of 3,666 instead of 9,400. What’s more, they go on to suggest a struggling Redhill Aerodrome site as a potential new ‘garden community’ site. This offers significant potential for up to 4,500 new homes and new infrastructure and employment opportunities as well as up to £60m extra in Infrastructure Levy for Tandridge. TDC’s own plan makes few such really specific suggestions.
In short it appears that one of the highly interested local Parish Councils have put in more thought than the District Council.
Lessons from this exercise?
- Generally good communication plans can be torpedoed by not including all the options and significant impact detail.
- New housing requirement data needs to be diligently researched and double checked as any discrepancy will be challenged, especially in an area with many retired ‘experts’ with time to do that research!
- A summary document which is easy to understand and offers some of the potential outcomes, benefits and pitfalls that most can understand is essential.
- If some of your options are to be ruled out – say why to avoid doubt.
I now await my chance to get involved my side of the border – that’s if Sevenoaks have the same quality of involvement communications that Tandridge did!