News from the Chairman of the Village Assocation including feedback on the Village Open meeting on 4th September where MVDC presented potential sites for housing development that have been put forward by Westcott landowners.
Having worked really hard to be succinct last time round I fear that this month I will have to revert to a more lengthy piece in order to deal with the issues arising from the Village Open Meeting on 4thSeptember which around 150 residents attended. My apologies, but this is important for everyone.
At the meeting Guy Davies, the MVDC Planning Policy Manager presented potential development sites for Westcott Village; the context for this is that the District Council is embarking on its new Local Plan which will run for 15 years and is unlikely to be adopted before 2021. It will have to go through consultation of the draft Plan in 2019 and examination in public in 2020.
Central Government requires MVDC to identify sites across the Districtthat can deliver 6,600 new homes in the next plan period. That is 440 new homes a year including market and affordable housing. The current rate of delivery in MVDC is c.220 homes a year.
This is a big challenge for MVDC and they have concluded that all communities in the District should play a part in meeting the housing need, including the rural villages like Westcott. The WVA broadly accepts that Westcott should play its part in contributing to meeting the identified housing need in the District.
MVDC’s planning department made a call for sites from landowners late last year with a closing date of 5thFebruary. They have evaluated the sites that were put forward to them and have identified two preferred options for Westcott. These both involve extending the village boundary into land currently designated as Green Belt, the boundaries for which were last drawn in the 1980’s. It is worth noting that if boundary changes are made in this plan, they cannot be changed again until the next plan is brought forward in 15 years’ time.
The plots are shown on a map of the village which can be found on the WVA website (www.westcottvillage.com) or Mole Valley website at www.futuremolevalley.org/villages. The WVA had no involvement in putting sites forward or for proposing the two areas currently under consideration, nor did it have prior knowledge of what was being presented at the meeting.
The Westcott House site (to the north-east of the village) is 2.32 hectares in size and the combined Mill Way site (to the north-west of the village) is 2.04 hectares in size. 30 and 14 housing units respectively have tentativelybeen suggested by MVDC.
Other sites were put forward but rejected by MVDC and the WVA has asked to see details of these.
The Open meeting itself generated some helpful questions and observations, as well as the expected concerns when the subject of the erosion of the Green Belt is raised.
What was put forward at the meeting is an initial proposal, which the WVA and Mole Valley are seeking people’s views on. It is not a “fait accomplis” – we are being given the opportunity to consider what is right for the village. We do however need to respond with our views no later than the end of October.
There is more information which the WVA needs to gather and which MVDC needs to provide us, and I really urge that people do to express their opinions because these will help us achieve what is right for the village.
In considering your perspective I would ask you to think about the following
· The issues around Development on Green Belt and Brown Belt land have been going on for the last 5 years at least in Mole Valley and the Council has failed to resolve the matter. We are now at a situation where it is becoming increasingly obvious that we will be forced to give up some areas of Green Belt land to development. Do we want to resist that at all costs, or work with the council to come to an agreement about what is sensible and proportionate development for the village?
· In the last 5 years we have lost our post office, village store, the Day Nursery, the Youth Club, one pub and one restaurant; the numbers attending Surrey Hills CofE Primary School are worryingly low, and there are fewer young families moving into the village because of stagnation in our internal housing market. Do we accept that some new housing will reverse what is a worrying trend for amenities in our village?
· Unlike many villages in Mole Valley we have a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Some will argue that this now has little weight, but the indications that the WVA have had are that MVDC do see it as having weight, and are wanting to work with us to ensure that, ifdevelopment takes place, it will work with us to achieve what the village needs. The Springfield Meadow development did not give the village what it needed in order to stimulate movement in its housing market and we need to guard against doing this a second time. Do we believe that the Neighbourhood Development Plan, combined with a more open and proactive Village Association, can successfully manage a positive outcome for the village?
· The proposals put forward at the Open Meeting suggest that around 44 houses would be a modest addition to the village housing stock. Those numbers are not set in stone and need to be examined but are of a lower density than the council is proposing elsewhere in the District. Do we believe this is a reasonable number as long as it is what the village needs?
· New development can, in certain circumstances, generate money in the form of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which the village can use for community projects or enhancements to our village. Do we believe that there are projects which we can use this sort of money for?
· Both sites proposed by MVDC will be subject to “deliverability tests” – one key element of this is access onto the A25. In both cases one solution might be to install roundabouts on each entrance to the development site and as one resident suggested at the Open Meeting this could have a very dramatic effect on slowing traffic through the village. To what extent are there potential additional benefits which can be built into any development schemes which might come to fruition?
I pose these questions to stimulate thoughts and generate constructive comment as we go through the consultation process – nothing more – and the WVA will welcome your thoughts at future Open Meetings – the next being the Village Association AGM on Wednesday 17thOctober in St John’s Hall(the notice for which is published in this edition).
For more information about the Council’s proposals please go the Village Association web site where a number of pieces of information have been and will continue to be posted. www.westcottvillage.com
On other matters – some progress is being made on the speeding and noise issues raised in July and we are progressing the possibility of average speed cameras from Sondes Place, Dorking through to Gomshall as one way of dealing with the problem. These cameras have had a dramatic effect on reducing speeding along the Mickleham Bends and could do the same for us. The Department for Transport appear interested and ready to provide some capital financing to deliver it.
Again, some discussions have taken place about out of Village parking for weekend cyclist and walking visitors but it is still early days on finding a specific solution.
Finally, I want to thank Tony Winch for the fantastic job he has done in completely renovating the benches on Westcott Heath. We are very lucky to have craftsmen like Tony in the village and we are grateful for the time he has put in to achieve something which is in keeping with our rural setting and which will last a long time.