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Briefing note and FAQs - Green Belt and Countryside Study

What is the Green Belt and Countryside Study?

It is a comprehensive review of all Green Belt and countryside beyond the Green Belt land. It consists of four volumes and a summary document. The study assesses each piece of land against the main purposes of the Green Belt, as set out in national planning policy. For the purposes of this study, the purposes are to:

  • safeguard the countryside from encroachment
  • prevent towns merging
  • restrict sprawl of urban areas
  • preserve setting and character of historic towns.

This information, together with other considerations, helped inform the identification of potential development areas (PDAs) across the borough. The other considerations include sustainability criteria (such as the walking distance to schools or shops) and environmental capacity (such as whether it is in the flood plain). The study identifies PDAs surrounding the urban areas of Guildford, Ash and Tongham and the villages not located in either the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA).

Following publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), we undertook further work to compile Volume IV. This assesses whether each of our villages should remain washed over by the Green Belt or if they should be inset instead. To inset is to draw a boundary around the village and exclude this area from the Green Belt.

We are in the process of commissioning additional work to form part of Volume V. This will respond to changing planning policy and guidance to ensure that the study is robust and has assessed all potential opportunities for growth across the borough.

Where can I find out details about land near where I live?

The study currently consists of:

  • Summary document - overview of the study
  • Volume I - summary, introduction and background to the study
  • Volume II - Green Belt and 'Countryside beyond the Green Belt' within the surroundings of the urban areas at Guildford, Ash and Tongham
  • Volume III - Green Belt surrounding villages across the borough
  • Volume IV - insetting of villages from the Green Belt.

To help you to easily find summary information, there are two separate maps which show:

Why do we need it?

We are currently producing our new Local Plan (up to 2031) which will replace the current Local Plan (2003). The NPPF states that we should meet our objectively assessed housing need where this is consistent with the rest of the framework. All our existing research suggests that our housing need is very high. The GBCS, alongside other studies, will help us demonstrate to an inspector what level of housing we are able to meet sustainably.

The NPPF also states that we should establish Green Belt boundaries in our Local Plan. When doing so we must ensure that we have regard to their intended permanence in the long term and that they are capable of enduring beyond the plan period. The GBCS will help us to fulfil this requirement.

Can we create new Green Belt land?

The study uses the same methodology to assess both Green Belt and Countryside beyond the Green Belt land. This helps provide justification should the findings suggest there is merit for some of the latter to be re-designated as Green Belt land. Volume II does go on to identify possible additional Green Belt land south of Ash and Tongham. This would serve to protect an area of high landscape value, part of which is located in the AONB, and prevent Tongham and Ash Green from merging.

Does this mean we will be building on all the potential development areas and in inset villages?

We did not give the consultants a target number of homes to find and neither did we ask them to rank the PDAs. As part of producing our new Local Plan, we will need to define our housing figure. We will also need to set out our spatial strategy, namely how we will distribute the sites across the borough. Together these will help determine which sites we should allocate through the Local Plan. There will also be other considerations such as whether a site is available for development.

It is also important to stress that the insetting of villages within the Green Belt does not automatically imply that development within such villages is appropriate. Development proposals would remain subject to other local planning policies and we can continue to protect the character of such villages through other means, such as conservation area status, as required by the NPPF.

How will the information in this document be used?

  • this study does not look at whether sites are available or viable for future housing development (see the Housing for further assessment)
  • the site boundaries do not take into account landownership and may be altered for the purposes of a planning application or Local Plan allocation
  • applicants/landowners are advised to carry out their own constraints and sustainability analysis for the purpose of a planning application
  • the estimated number of homes that each site could accommodate is for illustrative purposes only
  • planning applications will continue to be determined on their own merits rather than on the information contained in this study.

Where can I view the study?

You are able to view a hard copy at our main reception or at Guildford library.

To ensure your copy is available, we would advise you let us know of your order two days before you wish to collect it (collection only from the Main reception).

Alternatively should you wish to purchase a hard copy, they are priced as follows:

  • Full set £300.00
  • Volume I £24.50
  • Volume II £58.20
  • Volume II Appendix III £108.00
  • Volume III £49.50
  • Volume III Appendix VI £43.00
  • Volume IV £38.50

The study is also available on DVD. To ensure it is available, please contact us in advance should you wish to request a copy