Personal Site of

Councillor Mrs. Shweta Kapadia

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Photograph of Councillor Mrs. Shweta Kapadia
Councillor Mrs. Shweta Kapadia

Correspondence address:
c/o Civic Centre
High Street
Esher
Surrey
KT10 9SD

Phone: 0208 399 7737

Email:
skapadia
@elmbridge.gov.uk

Current priorities and concerns

For more details on these and other matters please visit: |Elmbridge Liberal Democrats

The Borough

Consultation on the Strategic Options for the Elmbridge Local Plan closed at the end of February.  Around 4000 responses to the Consultation were received and are currently being processed by the Council.

 

The Strategic Options consultation was based on an Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing.  The current OAN was arrived at from a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which assessed the need for Kingston, Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell and Mole Valley.  Elmbridge's assessed OAN is 9480 over the next 18 years to 2035 of which Elmbridge has said it will need to find land for 5780 new homes.  The need in Elmbridge is for small homes and affordable homes.

 

In the meantime, the Housing White Paper was published.  The Government has also said that it will soon consult on a new standardised methodology for arriving at the Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing.  This may or may not affect Elmbridge's OAN.  If it does, Elmbridge may have to reconsider its options for the delivery of its housing need.

 

Where a Local Plan has not seriously considered all options and is showing a shortfall in meeting OAN, it can be overturned by a Government Inspector leaving a Council exposed to development by appeal.  This would mean that if a developer putting in an application for housing anywhere in the Borough including in the Green Belt and if planning permission was refused, the developer could appeal and there would be a high possibility that the appeal would be allowed as the Council would not have an adopted Local Plan.  Such unplanned development is not in the interests of anyone or any area of the Borough.

 

The Strategic Options Consultation identified 3 areas of Green Belt in Elmbridge which were found to be ‘weakly ‘performing’ in a Green Belt Review. One of the areas identified is in Long Ditton.

 

It has been assumed by some residents that the shortfall of 5780 homes would be divided over the 3 ‘weakly performing’ area of Green Belt and therefore Long Ditton’s Green Belt would need to take nearly 2000 homes. This is a crude analysis and does not take into account other policies which constrain development in Elmbridge. It has also been stated by some residents that Stokes’ Field could be built on. However the Consultation Document states clearly that Local Nature Reserves are a ‘constraint’ to development alongside other constraints such as cemeteries and heritage assets.

 

The Consultation document also stated that “The Housing figure for Elmbridge in the SHMA is not necessarily a target to be transposed into the Local Plan. Rather, it shows how many new homes would be needed if there were no planning restrictions on development.”

 

ALL 3 Long Ditton Councillors have every sympathy with the views of Long Ditton residents who do not wish Long Ditton’s Green Belt to be developed for housing. No Long Ditton Councillor wants Long Ditton’s Green Belt – or any Green Belt -  to be developed either.

 

However, Elmbridge and its Councillors are being forced by the Government to consider all options in order to deliver the OAN. Government ministers, on one hand, say that the Green Belt is sacrosanct but on the other hand – in less public arena – Ministers have made it quite clear that the Green Belt will have to be considered if all other options for development within the urban area or on brownfield land cannot deliver the amount of housing identified by the OAN.

 

A few weeks ago, the Leader and the Deputy Leader of Elmbridge together with the Leader of the Opposition, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing protesting at the lack of clarity in Government Policy and asking for assurances on the provision of infrastructure. That letter has not had a response. Below is the text of that letter.

 

Letter to the Secretary of State signed by the Leader of the Council, the Deputy Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition.

 

 

Rt Honourable Sajid Javid

Department for Communities and Local

Government

2 Marsham Street

London

SWIP 4DF

 

Dear Secretary of State

Elmbridge Local Plan

In December, the Council began a consultation on its proposed new Local Plan, following clear advice form the DCLG that, as our evidence base was pre NPPF, our Core Strategy was not considered sound. This consultation set out the strategic options open to the Council to meeting it's objectively assessed housing need identified by a Strategic Market Housing Assessment undertaken by the Council early last year.

 

As required by the NPPF the Council has examined alt options for meeting it's objectively assessed need. The first option was maximising density in the urban area and the other two options required the amendment of Green Belt boundaries and setting out the exceptional circumstances as to why these were being considered.

 

The public reaction to these options has been, understandably, significant with many people concerned and often angry about the potential loss of Green Belt. What is disappointing is that despite following the process set by Government in the NPPF, authorities have been put in a position that requires them to examine, and in all likelihood, amend Green Belt boundaries in the drive to deliver more and more new houses with little clarification on the implementation of the Government's Policy Framework.

 

Given the level of concern raised by our residents, we and our fellow Councillors want to be clear as the Government's policy before we proceed further. It seems to us that statements on the importance of Green Belt have not translated as yet into policies on preparing a Local Plan and that the hard decisions on the release of Green Bett have been left to local authorities. Set out below are a number of issues on which we would like confirmation before we progress our Local Plan. 

 

Green Belt

 

You have been quoted recently as saying that Green Belt is sacrosanct. Can you confirm that where a local authority has examined the opportunities to deliver more development in the urban area but cannot meet its objectively assessed need in the urban area then it is required as part of the NPPF to consider opportunities to amend Green Belt boundaries in order to meet that need? If this is not the case then can the Secretary of State make it clear that any local authority going to examination would not be required to release any Green Belt to meet its housing needs, regardless of the degree to which that land meets the purposes of Green Belt, and as such the Local Plan not be found unsound on this basis. 

 

The NPPF states that there needs to be exceptional circumstances in order to amend Green Belt boundaries. However, it does not set out what these should be other than a ministerial statement outlining that housing need is not an exceptional circumstance. Could the Government set out what it considers to be the exceptional circumstances for amending Green Belt boundaries? For example, would the delivery of smaller homes and/or more affordable housing, as identified in the objectively assessed need, be considered an exceptional circumstance? 

 

Infrastructure

 

The Housing White paper identified more infrastructure funding will be available to support those areas taking the most growth. What criteria will be used to identify areas taking most growth? Will it be those areas which take the most housing in absolute numbers or will 'growth' be determined by the percentage increase over existing housing in an area? Over what period will growth be measured before infrastructure funding will be made available to any area? What is needed is the right infrastructure to meet any area taking growth where the current infrastructure is at capacity. Will the government support the delivery of strategic infrastructure such as increased train capacity and possibly new highways and give assurances that the delivery of these will keep pace with the provision of new housing in Elmbridge and the surrounding area? If this funding is not allocated to new infrastructure projects supporting growth in Elmbridge or the Government is unable to give assurances on strategic infrastructure, will the Government support us in limiting the numbers of new homes we must provide in our Borough? 

 

 

Timescales for delivery

 

Finally, the Government has set out in the Housing White Paper that if plans are more than 5 years old then they are considered to be out of date and that the targets they contain should not be used to calculate an authority's 5-year housing land supply. As such Councils in this position must use the most up to date figures on housing need to calculate their 5-year housing land supply. 

 

At the end of 2014 the Council began the process of reviewing its Core Strategy recognising that its Plan had been adopted prior to the publication of the NPPF. As part of this process the Council prepared a new Strategic Housing Market Assessment to understand what it's housing needs were and whether this level of need could be delivered through our existing plan. The findings of this review indicated that we could not and that a new Local Plan must be prepared.

 

However, the Housing White Paper now sets out that the Government is planning on introducing a standardised national methodology to assess housing need. This will delay the preparation of our Plan and, as such, take us beyond our deadline for submission for examination by February 2018, a deadline which reflects Government recommendations on plan delivery. Would the Government, therefore, allow us to continue to use our Core Strategy target of 250 units per annum as the basis for our 5-year land supply until we are able to prepare a Local Plan for examination based on the Objectively Assessed Need identified by the proposed new standardised national methodology? 

 

Whilst we will be formally responding to the consultation on the Housing White Paper we look forward to your response to our questions as soon as possible in order for us to determine whether we should continue with the work on our current Local Plan proposals. In the meantime, if you or your officers have any further question pleased contact Mark Behrendt at mbehrendt@elmbridqe.qov.uk 

 

Signed

 

Long Ditton

 

 

Safety measures to be implemented around Long Ditton Schools. End is in sight and it is expected that the safety measures will be implemented over the summer/autumn of this year. My thanks to all those who contributed to the debate on this. Whilst it has taken much longer than expected to resolve, the agreed scheme has met with approval from the majority of residents.  

 

Junction of Rushett Rd and Ewell Rd. Work is now complete at this junction. We hope it will now be much safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. .

 

Fleece Road 'islands'. Whilst the walls to the islands were repaired some time ago for a number of reasons - difficult to remove existing vegetation, lack of funding -  the planting has not been implemented. Money has now been made available and I shall be doing all I can to progress works to the island as quickly as possible.

 

My beliefs, my interests

 

The Environment Protecting and enhancing the environment, particularly through the Planning process is of particular importance.  

 

Affordable Housing Provision of adequate affordable housing in the Borough poses a challenge. The Council’s Housing Need has identified a need for affordable housing in the Borough.  

 

The Arts My interest in the Arts is well known. I know first-hand of the immense joy it brings, and the wonderful sense of achievement in creating even a small work of art. The benefits are so well proven, so well documented that they need no repeating. I have advocated and supported the Arts through my work with Arts Council England South East where I was a Member of the Regional Council for 6 years and the R C Sherriff Trust on which I continue to serve.

 

Page updated: 23/03/2017, 10:00

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