Future Mole Valley – a new Local Plan
Future Mole Valley is the name Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) has given to its new Local Plan; a policy that will (once complete) set out plans for development across Mole Valley for the period 2020-2037, include targets for delivering new homes, identify locations for development and set out the areas which will continue to be protected.
Latest Update : 24th February 2023
Councillor Margaret Cooksey, Mole Valley District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, said: Having given a great deal of consideration to a response from the Inspector received on Friday last week (17 February), we have now sent our formal reply to her. This follows the decision to pause our Plan’s Examination taken prior to Christmas last year, and then our request to remove all green belt sites from our draft Local Plan last month.
“In her letter to us, while she could not accept our request at the current time given the Government’s consultation on changes to the national Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is still ongoing, she set out that we may wish to pause our Local Plan Examination process until there is greater certainty around future Government policy.
“In our response to the Inspector, we have welcomed this opportunity and formally requested a pause. Given the vital importance of adopting a Plan for our district, we have taken this decision in what we believe is the best interests of Mole Valley residents and businesses; future and present.
“The Government has outlined in its consultation document that it will respond, and make necessary changes to, the planning policy framework by “spring 2023”. That being the case, we have proposed our Plan’s Examination process is paused until 25 May 2023; the day the House of Commons takes a recess until it reconvenes on 5 June. We’ve also made it clear that, if there is a delay by Government, we would seek an extension to the pause to reflect this.
“The Government’s consultation is open until 2 March 2023 so, if you haven’t had an opportunity to comment and would like to have your say, there is still time. Subject to wider changes by Government to the planning policy framework, we will be working towards adopting the Plan by the end of October this year.”
Scroll down to learn more about the steps that have already been taken to reach this point:
Between 1st July and 1st September 2017, MVDC held a public consultation to invite views on the strategic options for Future Mole Valley. The consultation considered two main themes: making the best use of brownfield land, and the potential release of greenfield land.
MVDC received a significant number of responses to the consultation which were analysed by the planning officers – view the Consultation Summary.
A report was presented to the MVDC Executive on 28th November 2017 and MVDC members agreed the following preferred strategic development options to guide the preparation of a 2018 – 2033 Local Plan:
Town centre redevelopment
Limited reallocation of commercial and retail land
Mixed use redevelopment
Targeted increases in suburban densities
Expansion of one or more rural village
Modest additions to rural villages
Towards the end of 2017 MVDC launched a Greenfield Call for Sites that invited anyone who owned or had an interest in a site to submit details to MVDC if they wanted the site to be considered for future development. The call for sites closed on 5th February 2018
Buckland residents who attended the March 2018 Annual Parish Meeting heard Parish Council Chairman Nigel Husband deliver a talk designed to help everyone gain an appreciation of the work being undertaken by MVDC as it prepared its new Local Plan. Cllr Husband focused on the fact that whilst MVDC had established a target need of 5900 new homes by 2033, it had only been able to identify the potential to deliver 2900, leaving a shortfall of 3000 that MVDC had concluded can only be delivered if land is released from the Green Belt. To learn more download the minutes of the 2018 Annual Parish Meeting, that include a precis of the talk.
MVDC update issued August 2018
If you click Future Mole Valley you can read additional information about the new Local Plan.
The MVDC Planning Policy team has taken care to emphasise that at this stage the proposals remain subject to change and are being presented for review; in advance of a more formal public consultation that will take place “in due course” – possibly early next year. Within an explanatory note set out on the Future Mole valley website is the following paragraph: “In some cases a village may exhibit varying characteristics that mean that within the village boundary some parts are inset and other parts continue to be washed over by the Green Belt or countryside designation”. This applies to Buckland i.e. the proposals do not currently suggest any part of Buckland should be inset from the Green Belt.
MVDC recently explained that work on the other two preferred greenfield options (urban extensions and the expansion of one or more rural villages) is ongoing and no decisions have yet been made as to the criteria that will be used to decide how many or which rural villages will be subject to a proposal for significant expansion. MVDC has advised that the “Modest Additions to rural villages” workstream is, at this stage, being progressed independently of the other two workstreams.
Buckland Parish Council Meeting – September 2018
MVDC recently shared some initial ideas with Buckland Parish Council, and has, as indicated in the latest newsletter, now published a draft proposal map for Buckland.
When Buckland Parish Council last met, on Monday 10th September 2018, Cllr Husband (Chairman) presented, alongside the MVDC draft proposal map, a supplementary Parish Council proposal map, proposing an “additional village boundary for planning purposes” around an area of land to the east of Buckland Conservation Area.
Cllr Husband re-stated information that had been circulated via the village email group at the end of August, responded to queries seeking clarification and invited feedback from those residents who had attended to participate in this Open Forum section of the parish council meeting. Cllr Husband welcomed a statement from a Buckland resident who expressed his support for the “pro-active approach to engaging with MVDC the parish council is encouraging the local community to adopt”.
Cllr Husband asked everyone present, once they had taken time to read the background papers and consider the draft proposals to express their views to the Parish Council and encourage other parishioners to engage and to do so mindful MVDC had asked the Parish Council for a response before the end of September to this informal consultation.
A copy of the response Buckland Parish Council submitted to MVDC can be downloaded by clicking parish council response. A copy of the annotated MVDC draft proposal map was appended to the response together with a copy of the supplementary Parish Council proposal map.
In May 2019, shortly after the District Council elections, MVDC advised a six week consultation on a new Local Plan for Mole Valley, being referred to as a “Preferred Options Consultation” was expected to take place between 21st October 2019 and 1st December 2019.
MVDC, on Wednesday 11th September 2019, announced an intention to postpone the preferred options consultation until 2020.
On 26th September 2019, MVDC published an updated “Local Development Scheme (LDS)” that set out the timetable for delivering Future Mole Valley. and advised the “next public consultation was expected to take place between 3 February and 16 March 2020”. The public consultation on the draft plan commenced on 3rd February 2020 and closed on 23rd March 2020.
Buckland Parish Council convened a public meeting in the Reading Room on Monday 10th February 2020 to provide the local community an opportunity to meet to consider the proposals set out in the Future Mole Valley Consultation Papers. This meeting was primarily intended to encourage local residents to share their thoughts and views with the Parish Council and the MVDC Planning Policy team officers who attended and to raise any queries they may have with the draft local plan. This meeting complemented a series of exhibitions MVDC staged across Mole Valley which concluded on 7th March 2020.
Buckland Parish Council approved its response on 9th March – click Buckland Parish Council Consultation Response to download a copy of Council’s submission to this latest MVDC Future Mole Valley Consultation.
MVDC Update : 24th March 2020
A public consultation on the draft plan commenced on 3rd February 2020 and closed on 23rd March 2020. MVDC is now reviewing the consultation responses and will use them as they consider whether to make any modifications to the draft plan prior to the next stage of the process.
A further consultation will be held, currently scheduled for Autumn 2020, on a ‘Submission version’ of the new Local Plan. Following this consultation, the Council will submit this version of the Local Plan for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. At an ‘Examination in Public’, the plan will be assessed by a Planning Inspector. MVDC currently anticipates a new Local Plan will be adopted in Winter 2021
MVDC Update : July 2020
A full timetable for preparing the new Local Plan will be published towards the end of this year. Before this happens, MVDC will review the process by which sites were allocated in the draft Local Plan, include any sites submitted during the recent consultation in this assessment and no decisions on sites will be made until this process has been completed.
MVDC Update : November 2020
Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) has agreed a new timetable for progressing the district’s Local Plan, Future Mole Valley. Having carried out a first stage consultation over February and March 2020, MVDC will be seeking representations on the ‘Proposed Submission Version’ of the plan in the summer of 2021.
Councillor Margaret Cooksey, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “We received over 4,000 invaluable responses from people who live and work in our beautiful district earlier this year, and their views will make a tangible difference to the version of the draft plan that will next be consulted on. We are listening and acting accordingly. The changes being made, we believe, better reflect the very strong local concerns presented to us about the green belt. Public feedback received has also informed changes to the way sites will be selected for the final version of the plan.
After careful consideration, and in the knowledge that we are continuing to action feedback from the first stage consultation – in addition to establishing evidence for supporting infrastructure – the earliest we can further progress the Local Plan is next summer. We believe that, following the elections, summer 2021 presents an achievable window in which to seek residents’ views, with our draft plan being submitted for examination to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government in the autumn.
We’re only too aware of course that we are bound by the uncertain times the pandemic has, and continues to, create. “Finalising and adopting a Local Plan is amongst the most important things we will ever do as a council. It is that very fact which has led to us planning the next steps with the utmost care and attention. We will be doing everything in our power to keep to the new Local Plan timetable, with a view to the plan being adopted by the end of 2022.”
MVDC Update : March 2021
We are continuing to work on the draft ‘submission version’ of the Local Plan (called the Regulation 19 version). This is likely to be completed in June and will then be published prior to submission to the Planning Inspectorate before the end of the year. Comments made on the draft submission version will be sent with the Plan to the Planning Inspectorate so they can decide whether it has been prepared in accordance with the legal and procedural requirements, and then whether it is:
- positively prepared;
- effective; and
- consistent with national policy.
We would like to reassure those that took part in the consultation at the beginning of last year that their input is being very carefully considered and the Council will publish how it has taken this input into account when it publishes the draft submission version of the Plan in June.
Mole Valley District Council published its Regulation 19 draft Local Plan for a 7 week period from 20th September to 7 November 2021 and although the seven-week publication was not a formal public consultation invited comments on the Plan and supporting documents.
MVDC allowed a period of time to review the comments before meeting (3rd February 2022) to decide whether to submit the Plan, supporting documents and comments received to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. All comments submitted during the recent publication period will be appended to the Plan, for review by the Planning Inspectorate.
Your Parish Council held a public meeting on 4th October 2021 to provide an opportunity for any member of the local community who, having reviewed the local plan, wished to bring to Council’s attention any aspect of the MVDC draft local plan they would like Council to consider when drafting its representation. Council then met on 18th October 2021 to discuss what to include in its response. A draft version of Council’s representation was made available to download to provide a further opportunity for comment and the final version was submitted to MVDC on Friday 5th November 2021.
When MVDC met on 3rd February 2022, MVDC voted to submit its Draft Local Plan to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. MVDC has since issued a statement to advise the submission was made on Monday 14th February 2022. The Secretary of State has since appointed a Planning Inspector to:
- examine the plan, in detail to decide whether the plan is legally compliant and sound;
- hold public hearings, and
- when satisfied, produce a report.
Updates on the progress of the examination and key documents are being published on the Future Mole Valley website as the independent examination proceeds. If the Inspector’s findings are satisfactory, MVDC announced it’s intention would be to adopt the plan.
On Tuesday 13th December 2022, MVDC released a statement to advise “In light of recent announcements by the government, MVDC had taken the decision to pause before moving on to the next stage in its Future Mole Valley timetable. MVDC will await clarification on the government’s plans for the planning system and Green Belt before deciding its next course of action.
Councillor Margaret Cooksey, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, made three announcements* relating to housing targets and Local Plan production last week. Broadly, those announcements were suggestive of changes being made to the National Planning Policy Framework before Christmas. This has given us cause to consider and driven our decision to inform the Inspector in charge of the Local Plan Examination that we wish to put a pause to proceedings until we better understand what the government is saying.
“This decision has not been taken lightly and, given the very encouraging progress made during an exhaustive examination of the Plan between January and October this year, pausing this progression is not what we would otherwise want to do. However, it would be unwise to carry on when we are not sure what the wider national planning policy situation is so we have committed to wait until such time that the Inspector can advise us on what should be done next.
“We had been due to consult with stakeholders on the modifications proposed by us and the Inspector in January. We remain hopeful that clarity will be provided and we will take the best course of action for our residents.”
* Parliamentary Written Statement: Written statements – Written questions, answers and statements – UK Parliament
* Letter to MPs: Letter from Secretary of State Michael Gove – Planning and Local Control in England.pdf (liamfox.co.uk)
* Press Release: Communities put at heart of planning system as government strengthens Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
January 2023 Update
At an Extraordinary Council meeting held on Monday 16th January 2023, MVDC Councillors voted unanimously to seek the Inspector’s view on removing all green belt sites from the draft Local Plan, Future Mole Valley.
Councillor Margaret Cooksey, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “Having requested this meeting alongside five other Members of the Cabinet, it was gratifying to see the overwhelming level of cross-party support for us to seek the Inspector’s view on removing all green belt sites from our draft Local Plan.
“Now that we have the backing of all Members, as a matter of urgency we have already approached the Inspector. Once we have heard back from the Inspector with confirmation as to whether there is support or not for removing green belt sites, we will be in a position to plan what the next steps will be.
“To recap, we have reached this position after having taken the step to pause the progress of our Local Plan process. We took this decision in light of the government’s plans to consult on proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, which directly shapes the framework of Local Plans.”