New Local Plan balances quality of life with need for growth
Runnymede's newly adopted Local Plan strikes a balance between protecting the Borough's heritage, natural and built environment whilst allowing for growth and opportunities for creating jobs, the Leader of the Council Cllr Nick Prescot has said.
This week the plan was approved by councillors, the final step in its development, and it will now guide development proposals in the Borough until 2030.
Since work began on preparing it, several rounds of public consultation have been carried out. More than 6,000 representations have been received from local people, businesses and others setting out their views on the policies and commitments it contains.
The plan has also been reviewed and endorsed by a government-appointed inspector, independent of the Council, subject to a number of modifications being made. These modifications were agreed to by councillors when they voted to adopt the plan.
The two key features are:
- The plan enables at least 7,500 new homes to be delivered during its lifetime, and
- to achieve this and all of the other areas of growth, less than five per cent of the Borough's designated Green Belt land will be released.
This means more than 70 per cent of the Borough will still be classified as Green Belt.
What is a Local Plan?
All councils are required to have an up to date Local Plan, which sets a vision and objectives for the Borough, and:
- Details the type of development needed to meet the needs of local people and those seeking to move into the area, as well as businesses and other key organisations.
- Sets out where development should take place as well as identifying key areas that should be protected.
- Contains policies relating to housing, employment, retail, leisure, community uses, and infrastructure as well as in relation to the protection of the environment.
The plan supports the delivery of at least 7,507 new homes across Runnymede, giving local people greater choice of where to live in the borough.
The extra homes will also accommodate people moving into the area, supporting the borough's economy and potentially leading to new jobs.
A large proportion will be in the pioneering Longcross garden village, where an enterprise zone has been created to support the business community.
The Council has set a Borough-wide target of 30 per cent of all new homes being affordable under the government's definition, allowing a wide range of people to live in the area. Affordable homes rules will apply to developments of more than 10 homes, with individual targets of 35 per cent per site.
Policies in the plan set requirements for ensuring homes:
- meet minimum internal space standards so residents can live comfortably,
- are resilient to climate change,
- are sustainably designed, and
- support those with specialist needs.
All local plans produced by councils in England have to address the needs of the traveller community. Over the life of the Local Plan, 35 new permanent authorised Gypsy and Traveller pitches are to be provided across nine sites, and 10 plots for Travelling Showmen are to be provided at Longcross.
Enhancing our environment
While the plan allows for a large number of new homes - essential to keep up with demand - the vast majority of the Borough's much-valued green space has been protected, as councillors recognise how important quality open space is to residents.
Less than five per cent of current Green Belt land is being re-designated. The remainder of new developments will be built on brownfield or other available land.
A large proportion of the small amount of Green Belt land which has needed to be released for development is in Longcross. Even within development sites, house builders will be required to provide open spaces for play areas and other uses.
Other smaller open spaces at sites at St Peter's Hospital and in Chertsey, Virginia Water and Egham will be made available. Additional allocations are also proposed through the emerging Thorpe Neighbourhood Plan.
Local green spaces designated
The Council has designated several areas of existing open land as local green spaces. These have been identified by communities as being of particular importance for future protection. These are:
- Walnut Tree Gardens,
- Hythe Park,
- The Arboretum at RHUL,
- The Frank Muir Memorial Field,
- Gogmore Farm Park,
- Chertsey Library Gardens, and
- Walton Leigh Recreation Ground.
A suite of new policies in the plan provide further protection for the environment, while design standards make clear that where development does take place, it must be of a high standard.
A renewed commitment to partnership working to prevent or mitigate flooding is also included in the plan, while the separate River Thames Scheme, which will reduce flood risks for people and businesses near the river continues to be supported by the Council.
Improving our economy
The plan includes scope for a new privately developed employment site at the southern tip of the Borough, near neighbouring Byfleet.
Existing key employment land will also be protected, while the prospect of incubator units to support emerging businesses is also promoted.
Supporting local people
Within the plan, scope has been allowed for local people to influence how their neighbourhoods are treated. The Council supports neighbourhood plans which are developed by community forums. Currently four neighbourhoods have entered the process:
- Englefield Green,
- Thorpe, and
- Virginia Water.
A neighbourhood plan, once adopted, forms part of the Development Plan for the Borough which gives residents a greater say over development which occurs in their local area.
Read the full set of Local Plan and related documents.