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You are here: Home > Local Plans > Policy Documents > Mole Valley Core Strategy - Chapter 6 What the Strategy will Deliver

Chapter 6 What the Strategy will Deliver

6.0.1 In line with the Vision for Mole Valley, the District 'will make provision for its share of the Region's growth of homes and jobs and provide for the needs of its communities but in a way that is sustainable and minimises significant harmful change to its distinctive character, environment and feel, ...'Chapters 2 and 3 set out the issues, goals and delivery requirements for Mole Valley.The key areas of delivery over the next 20 years are therefore the provision of new homes; successful town, district, local and village centres; sustainable economic development; and open space, sports and recreation facilities alongside a continuing high quality environment. The following table brings together the goals identified in Chapter 2 relating to the delivery of these key areas and through an analysis of the District profile, policy context, Sustainability Appraisal work and the Vision, establishes spatial objectives to be achieved for each area. This is then followed by the Core Strategy policies.

Table 6.1

Goals

Spatial Objectives

What will be delivered (policies)

  • To ensure provision of sufficient land to meet the District's housing requirements and provide a range of homes to address needs and means.
  • Make provision for at least 3,760 new dwellings in   the most sustainable locations in the District by    2026.
  • Increase the provision of affordable housing and housing for the particular needs of groups in the community e.g. pitches for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople and housing for the elderly.
  • Balance the housing market through making provision for a mix of tenure, type and size of new housing.

New Homes for Mole Valley (CS2 - CS5)

  • To ensure the District's town, district, local district and village centres are successful and viable places for people to live, shop and spend their leisure time.
  • Increase the provision of convenience floorspace, particularly in Ashtead and Dorking.
  • Maintain the vitality and viability of the town, district and local centres.
  • Safeguard as far as possible against the loss of village shops and local facilities.

Successful Town and Local District and Village Centres (CS6 - CS11)

  • To maintain a successful, sustainable and diverse local economy.
  • Ensure there are sufficient opportunities to provide jobs for the sustainable growth of the District's economy through the retention and intensification of accessible and well located employment land. Balance the pressure to redevelop employment land for housing with the need to ensure sustainable economic growth and the provision of sufficient land for business needs.
  • Maintain diverse economic activity in all areas of the District, including rural communities.
  • Provide for visitors to the District both in terms of business related trips (focusing on Leatherhead and Dorking) and tourists across the whole District.

Sustainable Economic Development (CS12)

  • To safeguard and enhance the highly attractive and diverse natural, built and historic environment of the District.
  • The safeguard or enhance the high quality and varied landscape of the District, especially recognising the importance of the Surrey Hills AONB and the AGLV.
  • To protect and enhance biodiversity in relation to sites of designated nature conservation importance (including the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment SAC, SSSI's and SNCI's) and the objectives of the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan in relation to habitats and species.
  • To enhance biodiversity including within the built environment and along corridors linking green infrastructure.
  • To safeguard and enhance the built and historic environment of the District, including the many listed buildings, conservation areas, archaeological sites and historic landscapes / parks and gardens and the overall distinctive character of Mole Valley's towns and villages.
  • To ensure that all development makes a positive contribution to the built and historic environment and respects local distinctiveness.

A Continuing High Quality Environment (CS13 - CS15

  • To safeguard and ensure provision of sufficient land and facilities for open space, sport and recreation facilities to meet current and future requirements.
  • Retain and enhance the provision of open space, sports and recreation facilities.
  • Increase the level of provision for Ashtead and Dorking and for young people across the District.

Open Space, Sports and Recreation Facilities (CS16)

6.0.2 Chapter 7 sets out the key means of delivering the Core Strategy (where not already discussed within this section) including the provision of infrastructure, improvement of transport options and the introduction of sustainable construction standards.

6.1 New Homes for Mole Valley

Overall Housing Provision and Location of Future Housing Development

6.1.1 The Council's housing requirement, as set by the South East Plan, is to provide at least 3,760 new homes within the District between 2006 and 2026.

6.1.2 Within the context of national and regional guidance and based on the principles of Core Strategy Policy CS 1 'Where Development will be Directed' (A Spatial Strategy), the Council will seek to provide the majority of new homes within the most sustainable locations of the District. By adopting an 'urban focus' this approach will contribute towards the South East Plan's objective of an urban renaissance and will foster accessibility to employment, retail and other services, thereby avoiding unnecessary travel.

Policy CS 2

Housing Provision and Location

The Council will make provision for at least 3,760 net dwellings within the District between the period 2006 and 2026 in accordance with the South East Plan Policy H1.

In meeting this requirement:

  1. Priority will be given to locating new residential development within the defined built-up areas of Leatherhead, Dorking (including North Holmwood), Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham.
  2. Infilling and limited residential development (including redevelopment) will be permitted within Beare Green, Brockham, Capel, Charlwood, Hookwood and Westcott.
  3. Infilling will be permitted within Betchworth, Boxhill, Leigh, Mickleham, Newdigate, Ockley, South Holmwood, Strood Green, Westhumble and Woodlands Road, Bookham.
  4. Exceptionally, small scale affordable housing schemes (i.e. "rural exception sites") may be acceptable on sites outside of, but adjoining the settlement boundaries of the rural villages listed in paragraphs 2 and 3 above, subject to policies set out in the Development Management Policies Development Plan Document (DPD).

The Council's indicative Housing Trajectory shows that the District's housing requirement can be met without the need to use Green Belt / greenfield land until around 2016-2017. Before then the Council will prepare a Land Allocations Development Plan Document. This will allocate housing sites in the built-up area and incorporate a review of the Green Belt boundary to ensure sufficient land is allocated to meet the District's housing requirements and that a release mechanism is established to manage its delivery.

 

Definitions:

New housing development within the built-up areas of the District will be provided through the development, redevelopment, change of use, conversion and refurbishment of existing properties or through infilling.

For the purpose of this policy 'infilling' is defined as the development of a small gap in an otherwise continuous built-up frontage, or the small scale-redevelopment of existing properties within such a frontage. 'Limited development' is defined at paragraph 2.11 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 - Green Belts as "more than infilling", that is, more than just frontage development.

Infilling and limited residential development (including redevelopment) within Beare Green, Brockham, Capel, Charlwood, Hookwood and Westcott and infilling within Betchworth, Boxhill, Leigh, Mickleham, Newdigate, Ockley, South Holmwood, Strood Green, Westhumble and Woodlands Road, Bookham will take place within the boundaries of these settlements as identified in the Mole Valley Local Plan 2000. These boundaries will be reviewed as part of the Land Allocations DPD.

Rural exception sites are small sites specifically for affordable housing development in rural communities that would not normally be permitted for housing development. Rural exception sites should only be used for affordable housing in perpetuity. These sites seek to address the needs of the rural community by providing accommodation for households who are either current residents or have an existing family or employment connection, whilst also ensuring that rural areas continue to develop as sustainable, mixed and inclusive communities.

Meeting the District's Housing Requirement

6.1.3 The Council envisages that the housing requirement as set by the South East Plan will be meet by:

  • completions since 2006;
  • completion of developments with planning permission (existing
  • commitments); the development of sites identified within the Land Allocations
  • DPD; and the development of unidentified sites within the main built-up areas.

 6.1.4 The progress being made in meeting the District's housing requirement is set out below.

Table 1 Progress being made in meeting the housing requirement as set by the South East Plan

The housing requirement of the South East Plan

Total Housing Requirement 2006 - 2026:

3,760 net dwellings

Annual Requirement (over a 20 year period):

188 dpa

Net completions 2006 - 2009:

1,017 dwellings

Total Housing Requirement MINUS 2006-09 completions:

2,743 net dwellings
(3,760 - 1,017)

Remaining Housing Requirement 2009 - 2026 and per annum (over a 17 year period):

2,743 net dwellings
161 dpa

6.1.5 Table 1 shows the progress being made in meeting the District's housing requirement as set out in the South East Plan. During the first three years of the Plan period (2006 - 09), 1,017 net new dwellings were completed. The amount of new housing that will need to be provided for by 2026 is therefore 2,743 dwellings, an annual requirement of 161 dwellings per annum.

6.1.6 The indicative Housing Trajectory set out in Appendix C illustrates the forecast supply of housing land over the period to 2026. It has been based upon the 2008 Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and includes new planning permissions and completions up to 31st March 2009. It shows there is sufficient land to meet the five year housing requirements for the period to 2014. It also demonstrates that there is potentially sufficient previously development land in the built-up areas to meet the District's housing requirement until 2015-2016. From 2016-2017 it indicates that it could be necessary to develop land that is in the Green Belt in order to meet the housing requirements for the period 2016 to 2026.

6.1.7 This will be addressed through the preparation of the Land Allocations Development Plan Document which is planned to be adopted by the end of 2011. It will allocate sufficient land to meet the housing requirements of the District which have been established in the South East Plan and will include a policy mechanism to manage the release of land so that priority is given to previously development land in the built-up areas in accordance with Policy CS1. If there should be a shortfall of housing land in the period before 2011, the Council will bring forward the development of the reserve housing sites in accordance with the provisions of Policy HSG6 of the Mole Valley Local Plan (2000).

6.1.8 The indicative trajectory does not include an allowance for housing development that will be built before 2019 on sites that have not been identified in the SHLAA. Nevertheless such housing will contribute towards meeting the overall housing land requirements when permitted. The Council will monitor the amount of housing that is built on these 'windfall' sites. Their contribution to the housing land supply will reduce the residual housing land requirement over the period to 2026. This in turn will determine how much and previously when land that is excluded from the Green Belt through the Land Allocations DPD will need to be developed in order to demonstrate an adequate housing land supply.

The Location of Future Housing Development

6.1.9 In line with national and regional guidance and the overarching Spatial Strategy (Policy CS 1), new housing in Mole Valley will be focused in those settlements that are considered to be the most 'sustainable' locations for development. As identified in the Settlement Hierarchy (October 2008), the Council has used a number of sustainability principles to assess and to help shape the policies within the Core Strategy. Economic and social objectives have been balanced with an assessment of the impact of new development on the environment.

6.1.10 In accordance with the principles of sustainability, the Settlement Hierarchy (October 2008), and the results of the Sustainability Appraisal, it is proposed that development will be focused on the defined built-up areas of Leatherhead and Dorking (including North Holmwood) followed by Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham, where there is the greatest potential for the re-use of previously developed land and access to services and facilities.

6.1.11 Locating development in the existing built-up areas will minimise the impact on key biodiversity and landscape features and offers the greatest scope to reduce the need to travel by private vehicle because of the proximity to existing services, jobs and public transport. A spatial strategy based on these principles will also help safeguard the Metropolitan Green Belt, as far as possible, and support the general principle of making the best use of previously developed land.

6.1.12 Infilling and limited development including redevelopment within the boundaries of Beare Green, Brockham, Capel, Charlwood and Westcott (as shown in the Local Plan 2000) will however, be permitted providing that the proposed development is at an appropriate scale in relation to the size and character of the village. As identified in the Settlement Hierarchy these settlements offer some community services and facilities and are within a reasonable distance of the main built-up areas via public transport. It is also believed that they are capable of absorbing limited levels of development without causing significant harm to their rural character and that of the surrounding countryside and Green Belt.

6.1.13 The villages of Brockham, Capel, Charlwood and Westcott will remain excluded from the Green Belt and the village of Hookwood will remain within the countryside beyond the Green Belt. Within the Mole Valley Local Plan, Beare Green was located in ('washed over' by) the Green Belt and the Council's policy was to allow infilling development only. However, it is a substantially built-up settlement and has some services including a primary school, village shops and train station. The Council considers this rural settlement is a sustainable location where limited development as well as infilling would be appropriate. Consistent with the approach taken with other communities with similar characteristics, Beare Green has been classified as a Larger Rural Village inset from the Green Belt where the principle of both infilling and limited development within the boundary of the settlement as identified in the Local Plan 2000, would be acceptable.

6.1.14 Infilling is also considered acceptable in principle within the small rural villages of Betchworth, Boxhill, Leigh, Mickleham, Newdigate, Ockley, Strood Green, South Holmwood, Westhumble and Woodlands Road, Bookham. As identified in the Settlement Hierarchy these settlements offer some limited community services and facilities and are within a reasonable distance of the District's town and local centres via public transport. These villages are however, within the Green Belt and countryside beyond the Green Belt and are less compact. They therefore offer very few development opportunities and in the interest of safeguarding their character are only capable of accommodating infill development.

6.1.15 The future development potential of the five reserve housing sites identified in the Mole Valley Local Plan (Policy HSG6), for residential use will be considered through the Land Allocations Development Plan Document.

6.1.16 The need for affordable housing is acute within Mole Valley and ensures that members of the community can continue to live within the District is an important part of the strategy. Therefore it is felt that a policy which allows infilling and limited residential development within some of the rural villages, although not necessarily the most sustainable in purely locational terms, has wider sustainability benefits for these communities including support for local services and provision of contributions to affordable housing.

6.1.17 Within the Green Belt and countryside beyond the Green Belt there is a range of villages, hamlets and other areas of development that are excluded from the provisions of Policy CS 2. These include Abinger Hammer, Abinger Common, Buckland, Coldhabour, Forest Green, Headley, Mid Holmwood, Okewoodhill, Walliswood and Wotton. These villages tend to have only very limited services and facilities and limited access to the larger communities in the District. They are also not very compact or comprise scattered or loose knit groupings of buildings where infilling or limited development could not take place without significantly affecting their character or that of the surrounding countryside.

This policy will be delivered by working in partnership with planning applicants and delivered through development control decisions, supported by the Land Allocations DPD.

The following indicators will be used by the Council to assess the effectiveness of this policy:

  • an annual update of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) and a Housing Trajectory for the monitoring and review of housing provision.

Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) (October 2008): Local Authorities are required to undertake a SHLAA to identify how the housing requirement set by the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) will be met. The base date for the main Assessment is 1st April 2008 however, the Council has undertaken an update (April 2009) and incorporated the latest housing completions and permissions data at 31.03.2009.

Through the SHLAA and the update the Council has been able to identify specific, deliverable sites for the first five years covered by the Core Strategy and identified specific, developable sites for years 6-10 (2014- 2019). For years 11-15+ (2019-2026) the forecast supply also includes an allowance for small unidentified site.

Mole Valley Settlement Hierarchy (October 2008): See explanation under Core Strategy Policy CS 1 'Where Development will be Directed' (A Spatial Strategy).

Sources of Further Information

Balancing Housing Provision

6.1.18 In order to meet the future housing needs and aspirations of the Mole Valley community, the overall housing requirement as set out within Policy CS 2 'Housing Provision and Location', will need to be provided through a range of housing types, sizes and tenures.

6.1.19 Both national and regional guidance seek to ensure that a mix of housing types is achieved across the plan period to meet the needs of the community. Planning Policy Statement 3 'Housing' states that the planning system should deliver high quality housing which is well designed and built to a high standard and a mix of housing, both market and affordable. In achieving a housing mix local authorities should have particular regard to:

  • Current and future demographic trends and profiles.
  • The accommodation requirements of specific groups, in particular, families with children, older and disabled people.
  • The diverse range of requirements across the area, including the need to accommodate Gypsies and Travellers.

6.1.20 The South East Plan requires local authorities to plan for a range of housing types, sizes and tenures, as outlined in Policies H3 'Affordable Housing', H4 'Type and Size of New Housing' and LF4 'Affordable Housing'. Policy CC5 'Supporting an Ageing Population' of the South East Plan also requires local planning authorities to reflect within the LDF and other programmes the need to adapt the existing housing stock and make provision in new housing developments to support older people living independently in their own homes.

Policy CS 3

Balancing Housing Provision

  1. In seeking to provide a balanced housing market, the Council will require housing proposals to take into account and reflect local housing needs in terms of the tenure, size and type of dwellings.
  2. The Council will particularly seek the provision of two and three bedroom dwellings suitable for occupation for all sectors of the community including newly forming households, young couples and expanding families.
  3. New housing for the elderly, and supported and specialist accommodation will be encouraged in suitable locations.
  4. The Council will encourage new dwellings to include “Lifetime Homes” principles within their design so that they can be readily adapted to meet the needs of those with disabilities and the elderly.

Definitions:

In 2002, the Government introduced the concept of 'Balancing Housing Markets'. Whilst the Government has not formally defined the term, the Council believes it is important to provide some form of definition so that the purpose of this policy is clear.

A 'balanced housing market' is therefore considered as one where the majority of people have or are able to obtain a home which meets their housing needs in terms of type, size and tenure of dwelling required.

Supply and demand of the type, size and tenure of dwellings should therefore be in equilibrium.

6.1.21 Households within Mole Valley include single people, couples, families, young persons and the elderly whose housing needs are varied and generally range from 1-bed to 4-bed properties.

6.1.22 The recent supply of new homes within the District has predominately been in the form of 1 and 2-bedroom flats and 4 or more bedroom detached houses.

6.1.23 Through the Land Allocations Development Plan Document provision will be made, if appropriate sites can be secured, for specialist or supported housing, including housing for the elderly. This may include homes designed specifically for wheelchair users, older people, people with learning disabilities or other special needs groups. Such accommodation should generally be well located in areas of high accessibility.

6.1.24 The Council will encourage all new homes to be designed to ensure that they can be easily modified to meet future housing needs. The Council therefore encourages new developments to incorporate the principles of “Lifetime Homes”.

This policy will be delivered by working in partnership with planning applicants and delivered through the development control process.

The following indicators will be used by the Council to assess the effectiveness of this policy:

  • The number and percentage of new dwellings completed by tenure, type and size.
  • The number of new dwellings completed for the ageing population.
  • A review of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment to examine whether the type, size and tenure of dwellings required within Mole Valley is reflected within the policy.

The Mole Valley Housing Needs Study 2007: The Housing Needs Study provides information about the current and future housing needs of the District. The Study indicates that the largest demand for market housing is for two and three bedroom homes followed by one and four bedroom homes. Demand for three bedroom homes is largely from existing households living within the District looking to move elsewhere within the Mole Valley and those currently in-migrating to the District. Demand for two bedroom homes is largely from concealed households i.e. someone living with a household wanting to move to their own accommodation and form a separate household.

The largest need for dwellings by type is for flats and semi-detached homes. This is closely followed by the need for detached homes. The need for flats is largely from concealed households whilst the need for semi-detached and detached properties is from existing households and those migrating into the District.

The Study identified that the elderly population is set to significantly increase between 2004 and 2026. It is anticipated that there will be an increase of 5,700 people over 60 between 2004 and 2026 which represents a 36.5% increase. It is also anticipated that there will be a increase of 2,400 people over 80 between this period which represents a 51% increase.

It is estimated that there is the need for 1,374 sheltered homes over the next 3 years to support the elderly population who are looking to 'down size' and are already living within the District and those seeking to move into the District to be close to family. It is also estimated that there is a need for 374 Extra Care homes over the next three years. The projected 10 year need for Extra Care homes is for 1,247 units.

The Study identifies that the needs of the increasingly elderly population is likely to have implications for support services; extra care housing; long term suitability of accommodation; adaptations; and other age related care requirements.

The East Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2007/08: The purpose of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment is to aid the Council's understanding of the nature and level of housing demand and need, both affordable and market. This Assessment was undertaken jointly for the local authorities of Mole Valley, Elmbridge, Epsom & Ewell, Reigate & Banstead, and Tandridge.

The Market Assessment looked at the level of supply of homes by size within the District and made a comparison with the level of need. The Assessment identified that the largest level of supply of homes within the District was two, three and four bedroom homes. However, when compared to the level of demand for these homes, the Assessment revealed that there was a 47.2% shortfall in three bedroom homes within the District. Further shortfalls were also seen for the number of one, two and four bedroom homes by 10.5%; 21.3%; and 21.0% respectively.

The Assessment recommended that the Council should encourage a mix of market housing comprising three bedroom homes (50%); two and four bedroom homes (20% respectively); and one bedroom homes (10%).

Sources of Further Information

The Provision of Affordable Housing

6.1.25 Mole Valley District is an area of high house prices and demand compared to incomes and as a consequence many local people, particularly first-time buyers and low income households, have difficulty in gaining access to suitable accommodation available on the open market.

6.1.26 One of the key priorities of the Mole Valley Community Plan (2006 - 2016) is improving the supply of affordable housing to rent or buy in the District'. The Community Plan identifies that more homes for young people on lower incomes are required; more sites for affordable housing for local people in and around the villages should be identified; and that the minimum size of housing development sites where the Council has the power to require an element of affordable housing should be reduced. The increased provision of affordable housing through the planning system seeks to contribute towards achieving this aim of the Community Plan.

6.1.27 Policies within the Core Strategy must accord with national and regional guidance which set out the broad framework for issues relating to affordable housing. Planning Policy Statement 3 'Housing' (2006) sets out the national policy framework for delivering the Government’s key housing goal of ensuring that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home, which they can afford, in a community where they want to live. To achieve this the Government is seeking:

  • To achieve a wide choice of high quality homes, both affordable and market housing, to address the requirements of the community.
  • To widen opportunities for home ownership and ensure high quality housing for those who cannot afford market housing, in particular those who are vulnerable or in need.
  • To improve affordability across the housing market, including by increasing the supply of housing.
  • To create sustainable, inclusive, mixed communities in all areas, both urban and rural.

6.1.28 The South East Plan states that a substantial increase in the amount of affordable housing needs to be delivered. The South East Plan, includes Mole Valley within two sub-regions where specific policies apply - the London Fringe and the Gatwick Area. Affordable housing policies relating to the two sub-regions (policies LF4 and GAT3) both require 40% of all new housing to be affordable with the tenure split between social rented and other types of subsidised housing to be determined by local housing needs assessments.

6.1.29 In addition, Policy LF4 recommends that local development documents should seek the provision of affordable housing on all sites where it can be justified by local housing assessments and the economics of provision. In cases where on-site provision of affordable housing is not feasible, Policy LF4 states that commuted payments will be required. Non-residential development which generates needs for additional housing will also make an appropriate contribution to affordable provision.

6.1.30 Policy H3 'Affordable Housing' of the South East Plan, which applies to the whole of the region is supplemented by Policies LF4 and GAT3. Policy H3 recommended that local authorities work with local communities in rural areas to secure small scale affordable housing sites within or well-related to settlements, possibly including land which would not otherwise be released for development (as referred to in Policy CS2 'Housing Provision and Location').

Policy CS 4

The Provision of Affordable Housing

  1. In order to increase the provision of affordable homes the Council will aim to secure a minimum of 950 net affordable units within the District between the period 2006 and 2026 (contributing towards the sub-regional target of 40% of all new homes being affordable).
  2. In order to achieve this target the District Council will require where viable:
    1. that on all housing developments of 1 to 9 gross dwellings, a financial contribution equivalent to providing 20% of the total number of dwellings as affordable is made;
    2. that on all housing developments of 10 to 14 gross dwellings, 30% of the total number of dwellings are affordable; and
    3. that on all housing developments of 15 gross dwellings or more, 40% of the total number of dwellings are affordable.
  3. On sites of 10 or more gross dwellings, on-site provision should be made and must incorporate a mix of dwelling types and sizes which reflect the site's characteristics, the development as a whole and the type of need identified in the most up-to-date Housing Needs Study and Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
  4. Affordable housing provision must also incorporate a mix of tenures. The Council will negotiate the exact tenure split on each site. However, the presumption is that at least 50% of the total number of affordable homes provided on site will be for social rented accommodation. Where the Council considers it is appropriate, a higher level of social rented accommodation may be sought.
  5. Small scale affordable housing schemes may be acceptable on an exceptional basis on sites outside of, but adjoining the settlement boundaries of the rural villages.
  6. Where rural communities wish there to be provision of affordable housing, in their area, the Council will seek to identify and allocate land limited to affordable housing only, within the Land Allocations DPD having regard to the provisions of Policy CS 1 'Where Development will be Directed' (A Spatial Strategy) and CS 2 'Housing Provision and Location'.

Definitions:

For the purpose of this policy the term 'affordable housing' is defined as in Planning Policy Statement 3 'Housing' (2006):

'Affordable housing includes social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Affordable housing should meet the needs of eligible households including availability at a cost low enough for them to afford, determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Affordable housing should include the provision for the home to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or, if these restrictions are lifted, for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative housing provision'.

'Social rented' accommodation as defined in Planning Policy Statement 3 'Housing' (2006) is considered as:

'Rented housing owned and managed by local authorities and registered social landlords, for which guideline targets rents are determined through the national rent regime. It may also include rented housing owned or managed by other persons and provided under equivalent rental agreements to the above, as agreed with the local authority or within the Housing Corporation as a condition of grant'.

Financial Contributions

6.1.31 On all housing developments of 1 to 9 gross dwellings a commuted sum (equivalent to providing 20% of the total number of dwellings as affordable) will be negotiated by way of legal agreement i.e. S106 contribution. Developer contributions will be 'ring-fenced' and used to provide affordable housing in partnership with RSL's. The majority of contributions will be directed towards providing affordable homes in the built-up areas of Dorking (including North Holmwood), Leatherhead, Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham where more development opportunities are available.

6.1.32 The mechanism for calculating the contribution will be based upon applying the relevant proportion of affordable housing required (20%) to the per unit guide sums as set out in the Mole Valley Affordable Housing Financial Viability Assessment 2008 (see Key Pieces of Evidence). A Supplementary Housing Document (SPD) on calculating the contribution will be produced.

On-site Provision of Affordable Housing

6.1.33 Apart from sites of 1 - 9 gross dwellings, affordable housing should be provided on-site and secured through a S106 agreement, as part of the proposed development unless the District Council and the applicant both consider that it is preferable for provision to be made on an alternative site or for a financial contribution to be made. Providing affordable housing on a site as part of a larger development will promote socially inclusive and sustainable communities and minimise the delay in making affordable housing available. The Council's preference is for affordable housing to be provided and managed by Registered Social Landlords (RSL's).

6.1.34 To further aid the promotion of inclusive and sustainable communities, the provision of on-site affordable housing should be integrated seamlessly into the layout of the development through 'pepper-potting' within private housing. Within apartment blocks it is accepted that management issues mean whole blocks will generally be affordable or market housing. Affordable housing must not be distinguishable from market housing in terms of design and should meet the latest design codes and standards set out by the Housing Corporation or other relevant body, as well as those stated in national guidance.

6.1.35 Only in exceptional circumstances will off-site provision be considered appropriate and this is dependent on the suitability and availability of alternative sites. The off-site provision of affordable housing will only be acceptable if it can be proven that on-site provision would not be feasible, supported by evidence within a financial viability statement for the development. If an off-site contribution is considered appropriate, the District Council will wish to work with the applicant to ensure that arrangements are made to secure its delivery. The location of off-site provision would need to satisfy the objectives of the Core Strategy Policies.

Financial Viability

6.1.36 Over the lifespan of the Core Strategy it is anticipated that economic conditions will vary. In times economic downturn the Council will be particularly mindful of the need to ensure that housing development proposals, where suitable, are also viable.

6.1.37 Those applicants / builders who cite non-viability as the reason for not complying with the requirement to provide affordable housing or a financial contribution, must support their case with financial evidence to be submitted with the planning application. This evidence must be based on the assessment of the site by using a recognised appraisal tool. The evidence will then be open to scrutiny.

6.1.38 If the District Council is satisfied that the financial appraisal confirms that the affordable housing requirement cannot be provided in accordance with the policy, then negotiations with the applicant will take place to ensure that an alternative level of provision is secured.

6.1.39 The affordable housing should be provided through private subsidy, and where economically justified, a public subsidy. The private subsidy will be serviced land at nil cost or reduced value. Public subsidy, from the Homes and Community Agency or other relevant body, may be applied for where it will provide clear additional benefits or the level of developer contribution represents an appropriate response to site economics. This will be determined on a open book basis.

Artificial Subdivision of Sites

6.1.40 The District Council will be alert to and not permit any benefit to be gained from the artificial subdivision of a site to circumvent the operation of this Policy. The District Council will be attentive to the danger of allowing artificial boundaries to be created.

Conversions/ Change of Use/ Ancillary Residential Accommodation

6.1.41 This policy will be applied to the conversion and change of use of any building, whether or not already in residential use. This policy will not however, apply to ancillary residential accommodation, which is to be used as incidental to the main dwelling, or to staff/ student accommodation. A developer contribution will not be required for a replacement dwelling, i.e. when no net gain in dwellings is being proposed.

Specialist Residential Developments

6.1.42 The requirement for affordable housing extends to all types of residential development, including market retirement homes (sheltered accommodation) and Extra Care schemes (see Glossary for definitions). The Council will agree with the applicant a suitable contribution towards the provision of affordable housing via financial contribution. This policy does not apply to residential care homes and nursing homes (Use Class C2), which are not fully self contained units.

This policy will be delivered by working in partnership with planning applicants and Housing Associations / Registered Social Landlords.

The following indicators will be used by the Council to assess the effectiveness of this Policy:

  • The number of affordable homes completed within the District.
  • The number and percentage of affordable homes completed within the built-up areas and rural areas of the District.
  • The number of affordable homes completed as a percentage of all completed dwellings.
  • The number and percentage of affordable homes provided as social rented accommodation and other forms of subsidised housing.
  • The number and percentage of affordable homes completed by type (no. of bedrooms, flats/ houses).
  • The amount paid in contributions to the provision of affordable housing and the number of improvements made/ provision of affordable housing made as a result.
  • The number of planning applications for housing development and number of units provided that met the threshold but did not include an element of affordable housing or make a financial contribution.

 

The Mole Valley Housing Needs Study 2007: The Study strongly indicates that the existing 'affordability' issue experienced within the District is set to continue with problems arising from the relationship between local incomes and the price of local properties.

The Study indicates that the total number of affordable homes required within the District is 1,334 units per year over the 10 years until 2017. Due to the lack of affordable homes to buy or rent within the District it is estimated that approximately 849 households intend to leave the District within the next 3 years.

The Housing Needs Study recommends that at least 40% of the total of new units on all future suitable sites should be affordable, subject to viability. It is recommended that the Council could consider an overall balance of 50% social rent and 50% intermediate housing to meet the needs of low income households, key workers and those on average incomes now unable to purchase.

The Housing Needs Study identifies that the largest need for affordable housing is in the form of 1 and 2-bedroom units however, that there is still a need for 3 and 4-bedroom homes. The Study also identifies that the largest need for affordable housing is in the form of flats and semi-detached properties with residents preferring to live in Leatherhead, Dorking, Fetcham and Bookham.

The East Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2007/08: In addition to the information on the need for affordable housing contained within the Housing Needs Survey, the Market Assessment recommends that 65% of all new affordable homes should be in the form of 1 and 2-bedroom dwellings, principally flats, and 35% in the form of 3 and 4-bedroom dwellings to meet the needs of single, couple and family households. The Assessment also recommends that 50 - 75% of new affordable homes should be social rented with 25 - 50% being in the form of intermediate housing.

The Assessment recommends that dependent on financial viability, 40% of all new housing should be affordable on sites of 10 or more units in main towns; and on sites of 5 or more units in local centres; and that on sites of 2 or more units in smaller villages 50% should be affordable.

The Mole Valley Affordable Housing Financial Viability Assessment 2008: The purpose of the Assessment is to examine the economic viability of potential housing development in relation to affordable housing thresholds and proportions, to ensure that provision of affordable housing is optimised without jeopardising the overall delivery of housing in the District. The Assessment therefore tests a range of scenarios and provides advice on the threshold and proportion of affordable housing that are broadly viable taking into account tenure, type, mix, location and wider planning infrastructure burdens on the development of residential sites.

The Assessment highlights that new build property values in Mole Valley are consistent throughout the District and that the land values, after making an allowance for the provision of affordable housing, still remain relatively strong.

The Assessment identifies that a 'sliding scale' for providing affordable housing is the most appropriate option and provides three alternatives as to how this can be achieved, of which Policy CS4 'The Provision of Affordable Housing' is one.

It is suggested that if any greenfield site were to be developed then there is the opportunity for 50% of the sites capacity to be provided as affordable housing units.

Supplementary Work to the Mole Valley Affordable Housing Financial Viability Assessment 2008: The purpose of the supplementary work was to examine whether the 'downturn' in the housing market which occurred towards the end of 2007 and into 2008 would impact upon the financial viability of developing a site. The supplementary work reviewed the latest housing market information, appraised two 'real' sites and explored the impact the introduction of the tariff on 1st February 2008 would have on viability.

The findings of the supplementary work were consistent with those from the main study, and thus further examination of viability gave no reason to depart from the recommendations that were made. To alter the policy approach was considered to be inappropriate and unhelpful (given the need to create clarity of expectations and consistency in approach) in the short term to much more lenient policy positions which could then need updating/ moving back. The supplementary study recommended that the Council undertake monitoring of local markets, practical operations of policies, periodic reviews and contingency measures - rather than moving targets based on a reaction to short term trends. It was however, recommended that the Council take a practical approach to implementing the policy especially on those sites within lower value point areas.

Affordable Housing Target: Local Planning Authorities are required by PPS3 'Housing' to set a target for the number of affordable homes which they will seek to provide during the plan period. Having regard to the target that 40% of all new housing within the London Fringe Sub-Region should be affordable, the Council believes it can contribute to this by providing 950 new affordable homes over the period 2006 - 2026.

This target has been based upon the number of completed affordable homes (2006 - 2008); the number of affordable homes with planning permission at 30.06.2008; planned Housing Association developments; applying Policy CS 4 to the sites identified with housing potential in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA); and calculating how many affordable homes could be provided through the financial contributions received via unidentified sites and smaller sites (1-9 units) identified in the SHLAA.

Some discounting has been allowed for as it is envisaged that not all sites in the SHLAA will be developed.

Sources of Further Information

Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

6.1.43 The Government and the Council are committed to ensuring that members of the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople communities have the same access to decent and appropriate accommodation as every other citizen, and that sufficient sites should be made available to meet their housing needs. Existing Government guidance makes it clear that local authorities should consider the accommodation needs of the travelling community through the LDF process.

6.1.44 Circular 01/2006 'Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites' (February, 2006) and Circular 04/2007 'Planning for Travelling Showpeople' (August 2007) set out the objectives of the Government with regard to the planning system and meeting the Travelling Communities' accommodation needs.

6.1.45 In order to assess the housing needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople, local authorities are required to undertake a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA). Travelling Showpeople are included under the definition of 'Gypsies and Travellers' by the Housing Regulation (Assessment of Accommodation Needs) (Meaning of Gypsies and Travellers) (England) 2006.

6.1.46 Information from the GTAA undertaken across East Surrey has been submitted to the South East England Partnership Board (SEEPB) who are undertaking a Partial Review of the South East Plan with regard to Gypsy and Traveller Sites. Once the Partial Review has been completed the number of pitches which each local authority within the South East will have to provide by 2016 will be identified.

6.1.47 The current indication is that by 2016 the Council will be required to provide an additional 6 or 7 Gypsy and Traveller pitches and at most 1 pitch for Travelling Showpeople within the District. The location of these pitches will be determined by the Council through the Land Allocation Development Plan Document (DPD). The criteria that will be used to identify such sites and to determine planning applications relating to sites not identified in the Land Allocations DPD is set out in the following policy.

Policy CS 5

Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

  1. To meet the identified need for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople pitches within the District, as set out in the South East Plan, sufficient sites will be allocated within the Land Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). In allocating sites and for the purpose of considering planning applications relating to sites not identified in the Land Allocations DPD, the following criteria will need to be satisfied:
    1. safe and convenient vehicular and pedestrian access to the site can be provided;
    2. there is easy and safe access to the strategic road network and the site does not generate traffic of an amount or type inappropriate for the roads in the area;
    3. the site is able to accommodate on site facilities for the parking and manoeuvring of vehicles and storage, play and residential amenity space;
    4. the site is located within a reasonable distance by foot and/or by public transport of local facilities and services including schools and health facilities; and
    5. does not have an unacceptable impact on the physical and visual character of the area or on the amenities of neighbouring land uses.
  2. A sequential approach will be taken to identifying sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople within the Land Allocations DPD. Potential sites within existing settlement boundaries will be explored prior to the consideration of any site in the Green Belt or countryside beyond the Green Belt.
  3. Existing authorised Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople sites will be safeguarded unless no longer required to meet identified need.

 

Definitions

For the purpose of this policy the term 'Gypsies and Travellers' is defined as in Circular 01/2006 'Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites' (February 2006):

'Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds of their own or their family's or dependents' educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or
circus people travelling together as such'.

For the purpose of this policy 'Travelling Showpeople' are defined as in Circular 04/2007 'Planning for Travelling Showpeople' (August 2007):

'Members of a group organised for the purpose of holding fairs, circuses or shows (whether or not travelling together as such). This includes such persons who on the grounds of their own or their family's or dependents' more localised pattern of trading, educational or health needs or old age have ceased to
travel temporarily or permanently, but excludes Gypsies and Travellers as defined in Circular 01/2006'.

Current Provision

6.1.48 There are currently (October 2008) 26 Gypsy and Traveller pitches within the District. 17 pitches are provided across 4 public sites (Young Street, Leatherhead - 10 pitches; Swanworth Lane, Mickleham 2 pitches; Ranmore Road, Dorking - 3 pitches; and Coldhabour Lane, Dorking - 2 pitches). There are a further 5 pitches on privately owned sites and temporary planning permission for another 4 private pitches.

6.1.49 In March 2008 the Council's bid for a Government grant to help fund the extension of three publicly owned Gypsy and Traveller sites was successful. An additional pitch on three sites is now planned. The additional pitches provided will count towards the required number of pitches to be provided within the District as set by the SEEPB through the Partial Review of Gypsy and Traveller Sites.

6.1.50 There is currently 1 pitch used by Travelling Showpeople within the District. It is privately owned.

Site Location, Design and Tenure

6.1.51 In accordance with PPG2 'Green Belts' and Circulars 01/2006 and 04/2007 the Council will take a sequential approach to the identification of sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople through the Land Allocations DPD. Sites within existing settlement boundaries will therefore be explored before sites within the Green Belt or countryside beyond the Green Belt are considered.

6.1.52 In considering planning applications for the development of a site within the Green Belt, not allocated within the Land Allocations DPD, the Council will require that 'very special circumstances' be demonstrated in accordance with national guidance. It will also be necessary for anyone proposing a site in the Green Belt to demonstrate that the suitability of alternative sites outside of the Green Belt have been explored.

6.1.53 Unless the Council insets a site from the Green Belt through the Land Allocations DPD, all Gypsy and Traveller sites within the Green Belt (exception sites) will be restricted to residential use and ancillary facilities, unless the particular circumstances of the site would enable work space to be accommodated satisfactorily. The Council will consider imposing conditions limiting the parts of the site which may be used for residential or other purposes where this is justified in terms of visual and other amenities.

6.1.54 Sites for Travelling Showpeople, due to the nature of the occupants work, are likely to include some land for the storage and maintenance of equipment. The Council will consider imposing conditions limiting the proportion of a site which may be covered by equipment or the hours during which equipment may be tested.

6.1.55 The layout of proposed Gypsy and Travellers Sites should comply with the design principles set out by Government Guidance which is currently in the form of consultation paper ‘Draft Guidance on the Design of sites for Gypsies and Travellers’ (May 2007). The layout of sites for Travelling Showpeople should comply with the latest Government Guidance available.

6.1.56 The District Council will encourage the development of small sites of up to four pitches so that they can be integrated into the existing landscape and community. The preference for smaller sites also reflects the wishes expressed by the travelling community through the GTAA (May 2007) and in response to the consultation exercise undertaken in July 2007.

6.1.57 The tenure of sites i.e. whether they will be private or public sites, will be considered through the Land Allocations DPD taking into consideration the information within the East Surrey GTAA, the wishes expressed by the travelling community within the District, and sources of finance available.

This policy will be implemented by working in partnership with the travelling community and the Council's Housing & Environmental Health and Development Control Teams:

  • to allocate sites in the Land Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD);
    to
  • progress applications through the development control process; and
    explore
  • available Government grants to assist the delivery of public sites.

The following indicators will be used to assess the effectiveness of the policy:

  • the total number of new permanent pitches available within the District per annum;
  • the number of unauthorised and illegal encampments or developments, and enforcement actions carried out by the Council, County Council and Police within the District per annum; and
  • the level of need for pitches identified within the latest Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment or Housing Need Study.
  • the number of planning applications submitted for new sites or extensions and / or alterations to existing sites and their outcome.

The East Surrey Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) (May 2007): Mole Valley District Council in collaboration with Epsom & Ewell, Reigate & Banstead, and Tandridge Council's commissioned a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) for East Surrey. The focus of this study was to identify the accommodation needs for Gypsies and Travellers at a local and sub-regional level and consider their education, health and housing related support needs.

The GTAA identifies that there is a need to provide 14 additional Gypsy and Traveller pitches within Mole Valley District between 2006 and 2016. Of the 14 pitches, 9 pitches are required to be provided between 2006 and 2011, and a further 5 pitches between 2011 and 2016. The GTAA and further discussions with the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain reveals a need to provide an additional 9 pitches for Travelling Showpeople's accommodation across East Surrey.

The South East Plan Partial Review of Gypsy and Traveller Sites: The results of the GTAA were used to advise SEEPB on the level of future pitch provision for Gypsies and Travellers. Having regard to the likely level of turnover of pitches in the District over the 10 year period, SEEPB was advised that 6 or 7 additional pitches would be required in Mole Valley between 2006 and 2016. The advice was accepted by SEEPB who have, as part of the partial review, published for consultation (September 2008) four options for the number of pitches each local authority may need to provide by 2016. The early indication is that the Council may be required to make provision for 6 or 7 more pitches for Gypsies and Travellers and at most 1 pitch for Travelling Showpeople within the District by 2016.

Sources of Further Information

6.2 Successful Town, District, Local and Village Centres

6.2.1 Dorking and Leatherhead are both small market towns containing a range of shops, businesses and leisure facilities in their centres. They are also social hubs and entertainment centres for people living in the towns, villages and countryside around them. They are the District's two main town centres providing the greatest range and choice of facilities in the District. It is important to maintain their vitality and viability for the general well-being of the District and the local economy as well as for those who live in, work in or visit Mole Valley. Both centres are facing competition from larger centres at Guildford, Crawley, Horsham and Kingston as well as from changing retail patterns, including the use of the internet and mail order purchasing. There is also pressure to convert shop premises to restaurants and takeaways.

6.2.2 Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham have smaller centres which are focal points for their communities providing easy access to a more limited range of local shops and services than the two town centres. Like the town centres, they also face competition from other centres and other evolving retailing practices and experience pressure to change the use of shops to restaurants, takeaways and offices.

6.2.3 The Council's strategy is to maintain this hierarchy of centres. The principal focus of new retail development will be directed to the town centres. The Council will seek to ensure that the nature and amount of new development in each centre is appropriate to its scale and character and role in the hierarchy.

Dorking Town Centre

6.2.4 Dorking has an attractive town centre with a good range of shops, including a high proportion of independent and specialist traders and a good range of cafés, restaurants and leisure facilities. However, there are not many large shop units or key national multiple shops in the town centre and some of the small business premises behind the main shopping streets have been redeveloped for housing, altering the traditional mix of uses. Increasing rentals are making it difficult for small independent retailers to remain viable and there is some pressure to increase the proportion of cafés and restaurants at the expense of shop units. It fulfils the criteria of a town centre as defined in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning For Town Centres as it functions as an important service centre providing a range of facilities and services.

6.2.5 Although the town centre has many attractive historic buildings and interesting townscapes, particularly in the roads and streets adjacent and behind the main High Street frontages, the pedestrian's enjoyment of the main shopping frontages and these features is diminished by the constant and intrusive flow of traffic through the town. The one way system at the west end of the town and the practice of loading and unloading in the High Street leads to congestion on the town centres road network.

6.2.6 The town's vitality and viability is closely linked to its attractive environment and location in the Surrey Hills. Maintaining and enhancing the environmental quality of the town centre and its setting are important to safeguarding its economic health and prosperity.

6.2.7 A study in 2007 of town, district, local and village centres in Mole Valley concluded that Dorking is performing well with a low vacancy rate of shops, the highest rents in the District and strengthening yields. However, it also found that the mix of shops needs to improve if sales densities are to increase. This could be achieved by some redevelopment of existing units to provide larger modern units. The study also concluded that the town's existing supermarkets are overtrading and that there is a case for increasing the amount of food retail floorspace in the town.

6.2.8 The Dorking Market Town Healthcheck, which was carried out by volunteers in 2006/07, concluded that although Dorking appeared generally to be doing well, there are some concerns about its future. These include the frequency with which some shops change hands or close, the leakage of shoppers to larger shopping centres elsewhere, the lack of major national multiples and the mismatch of retail units with retailers expectations. It also concluded that visitors to the surrounding countryside were not visiting the town centre.

6.2.9 The Council's vision for Dorking town centre is as follows:

Vision for Dorking Town Centre

A vibrant, economically healthy and attractive historic market town centre set in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which provides a range of facilities and services for living, working and recreation appropriate to its scale to meet the needs of its residents, surrounding rural communities and visitors.

6.2.10 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Ensuring that new development recognises and builds on the high quality townscape and character of Dorking and contributes to conserving and developing the town's sense of place.
  • Improving the town's retail attraction by encouraging an increased range of the type and size of shops and other town centre facilities.
  • Increasing the retail floorspace for convenience goods which is in keeping with the scale, character and appearance of the town and planning for it through the Dorking Town Centre Area Action Plan.
  • Ensuring the amount of retail floorspace is maintained at a level which sustains the town centre's core shopping raison d`etre.
  • Encouraging the redevelopment of some existing shop units to provide larger modern units, particularly for comparison shopping.
  • Identifying existing properties for redevelopment through the Dorking Town Centre Area Action Plan.
  • Enhancing the existing town centre marketing strategy and the customer experience of the town.
  • Working with partners to improve public transport, cycling and pedestrian access to the town centre from the outskirts and surrounding rural areas, reduce congestion and the impact of traffic in the town centre.
  • Increasing the promotion of the town's markets.
  • Increasing the promotion of the town centre's cultural facilities.
  • In partnership with others to develop a sense of safety and security for users, during the day and night.
  • Enhancing the physical appearance of the town's public areas and developing a strategy to enhance its Conservation Area.
  • Encouraging the provision of residential accommodation above shops and in new developments and resisting the loss of town centre dwellings.

Policy CS 6
Dorking Town Centre

The role of Dorking town centre as the focus of the historic market town will be consolidated and enhanced through measures which increase its attraction for shopping, business, leisure, cultural and recreational activities taking into account:

  1. The town centre's capacity to accommodate change and its particular characteristics , including its appearance and architectural quality, scale, linear road layout and setting in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  2. The need to sustain the town's vitality and viability over the next twenty years.

6.2.11 Policies and proposals for the delivery of this strategy will be brought forward through an Area Action Plan for the town centre. This will concentrate on identifying opportunities and bringing forward proposals to improve the town centre, and enhance its appearance and historic market town character.

6.2.12 This proposed approach to the improvement of Dorking town centre will also contribute to the delivery of the vision of smart growth within the Gatwick Diamond area.

Leatherhead Town Centre

6.2.13 Leatherhead town centre fulfils the valuable role of being the focus of many activities for its own community and for the communities of Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham notwithstanding their own smaller scale centres. The town centre is compact and has two supermarkets and a good range of national multiples, but relatively few independent traders. It has a town centre hotel, theatre, recreation and leisure facilities including a range of restaurants and cafés which are supporting an evening economy. During weekdays the town centre provides a focus for the extensive workforce employed on the business parks to the north of the town centre. It fulfils the criteria of a town centre as defined in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres as it functions as an important service centre, providing a range of facilities and services.

6.2.14 A study of the District's town centres found that the vacancy rate of shops is low, rents are only slightly below those of Dorking and yields are strengthening. It concluded that the mix of shops needs to improve if sales densities are to increase. This could be achieved by some redevelopment of existing units to provide larger more modern ones which would be attractive to retailers.

6.2.15 The Leatherhead Healthcheck was carried out in 2005 and found that the community would like to see improvements to the town centre, particularly its streetscape, the mix, size and number of shops, parking provision and access by public transport.

6.2.16 The Council's vision for Leatherhead town centre is as follows:

Vision for Leatherhead Town Centre

A vibrant, economically healthy and attractive modest sized multi-purpose centre that those living and working in the town and the surrounding area look to as the focus for their local shopping, business, entertainment and cultural needs.

6.2.17 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Ensuring that new development recognises and builds on the character of Leatherhead and contributes to conserving and developing the town's identity.
  • Improving the town's retail attraction by encouraging an increased range of the type and size of shops and other town centre facilities.
  • Encouraging the redevelopment of existing shop units to provide larger modern units.
  • Identifying existing properties for redevelopment through the Land Allocations Development Plan Document.
  • Enhancing the existing town centre marketing strategy and the customer experience of the town.
  • Working with partners to improve access to the centre for staff working in the business parks to the north of the town centre, especially during the lunchtime period.
  • Ensuring a more 'legible' town by enhancing signage and information
  • Increasing the promotion of the town's markets.
  • Increasing the promotion of the town's cultural assets.
  • In partnership with others to develop a sense of safety and security for users, during the day and night.
  • Encouraging the provision of residential accommodation above shops and in new mixed-use developments and resisting the loss of town centre dwellings.

Policy CS 7
Leatherhead Town Centre

Measures to improve Leatherhead town centre, including new development, will be encouraged especially where they contribute to consolidating and enhancing its role as the focus for the day to day local shopping, business, entertainment and cultural needs of the town's residents and business community and those of the adjacent communities of Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham and which build on the particular character of the place.

6.2.18 Future development proposals relating to Leatherhead Town Centre will be considered in the light of the above policy, national guidance in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres and criteria based policies in the Development Management Policies Development Plan Document which will concentrate on managing change so as to maintain an appropriate range and mix of uses, while promoting design which enhances the character of the town centre.

Dorking and Leatherhead Town Centre Policies

The policies will be delivered through:

  • The development control process. Applications will be assessed against criteria based policies in Development Plan Documents which will focus on maintaining an appropriate mix and range of uses ensuring high quality sustainable design.
  • By working with partners who have responsibilities for the delivery of infrastructure in the town centres.
  • The preparation of an Area Action Plan for Dorking Town Centre.

The following indicators will be used to monitor the effectiveness of these policies:

  • Amount of retail floorspace gained or lost (by type) in the town centres and the percentage within defined primary or secondary shopping areas.
  • Amount and percentage of all completed residential, business and recreational/leisure development in the town centres.
  • The percentage of vacant retail premises

District / Local Centres

6.2.19 District and Local centres provide an essential service to local communities, particularly for those who prefer to shop locally or who are dependent on the services or facilities they offer perhaps because they do not have a car or experience mobility problems. These centres also provide a limited range of community facilities and services and employment opportunities and can help reduce the need to travel. They offer a sustainable alternative to supermarket shopping in the main towns in the District for some households and for others a facility for topping up weekly shopping trips that are undertaken in larger stores elsewhere.

Ashtead

6.2.20 Ashtead contains two main areas of retail floorspace: the older village centre astride the A24 and Craddocks Parade. There is also a small parade of shops in Barnett Wood Lane. In total there are 69 retail units and a further 34 units which include restaurants, takeaways and financial and professional services. The total floorspace of these 103 units is around 5,700sqm. This is considerably less than Dorking and Leatherhead but greater than Fetcham and Bookham. The centre does not contain any large foodstores but does provide a fairly wide range of specialist convenience stores and has two small supermarkets. These stores provide for top-up shopping but a high proportion of residents travel elsewhere to larger stores for their main convenience shopping. There are few national multiple retailers and a limited range of comparison shops. Local residents tend to visit larger nearby centres for their comparison shopping. The centre also has several pubs and restaurants.

6.2.21 In terms of the District's retail hierarchy, Ashtead is considered to be a district centre as defined in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres, as it contains a group of shops with at least one small supermarket and a range of non-retail services such as banks and a public library.

6.2.22 The Council's vision for Ashtead village centre is as follows:

Vision for Ashtead Village Centre

A district centre catering for the day to day needs of the local community.

6.2.23 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Maintaining the vitality and viability of the centre
  • Safeguarding the existing provision of shopping floorspace
  • Making provision for an increase in convenience shopping floorspace that is appropriate to the scale, nature and function of the centre and complements its existing provision.

Policy CS 8
Ashtead Village Centre

Measures to safeguard and consolidate the role and function of Ashtead's retail centre will be encouraged. Proposals which would harm the retail function of the centre, detract from its vitality and viability or create an imbalance in the hierarchy of centres in the District will not be permitted.

Bookham

6.2.24 Bookham village centre contains approximately 41 retail units and a further 31 units including restaurants, financial and professional services and offices. This is less than the other centres in the District apart from Fetcham. There are no large foodstores in Bookham, but there are two small supermarkets and a selection of independent specialist shops, including butchers, greengrocers and a fishmonger. In 2007, an independent study of the District's centres concluded that this provision of convenience shopping is good for the size of the centre and its catchment. There are no national multiple comparison shops in the centre due to its small size and mainly local catchment but there is a range of independent shops providing a limited range of goods. Comparison shopping by Bookham residents tends to be carried out in Leatherhead or Guildford.

6.2.25 In terms of the District's retail hierarchy Bookham is considered to be a district centre as defined in Planing Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres as it contains two small supermarkets and some non-retail services including banks and restaurants. There are also other limited facilities in the centre including a library and youth centre and pubs and a small parade of shops on the Guildford Road to the east.

6.2.26 The Council's vision for Bookham village centre is as follows:

Vision for Bookham Village Centre

A district centre catering for the day to day needs of the local community.

6.2.27 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Maintaining the vitality and viability of the centre
  • Safeguarding the existing provision of shopping floorspace

Policy CS 9
Bookham Village Centre

The existing retail role and function of Bookham village centre will be safeguarded and consolidated. Proposals which would harm or alter the retail function of the centre or detract from its vitality and viability will not be permitted.

Fetcham

6.2.28 Fetcham is mainly a residential area and its centre is the smallest of the five main centres in the District. It contains just one foodstore and a small number of independent convenience shops. The main role of these shops is to provide top-up shopping for local residents. The limited choice of convenience outlets suggests that local residents travel elsewhere for the bulk of their food shopping. The range and variety of comparison shops is very limited although there are some specialist outlets. In the main residents travel to the larger centres in the area for comparison goods shopping.

6.2.29 In terms of the District's retail hierarchy, Fetcham is considered to be a local centre in the typology of centres defined in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres, as it contains a range of small shops of a local nature serving a small catchment.

6.2.30 The Council's vision for Fetcham village centre is as follows:

Vision for Fetcham Village Centre

A local centre catering for the day to day needs of the local community.

6.2.31 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Maintaining the vitality and viability of the centre
  • Safeguarding the existing provision of shopping floorspace

Policy CS 10

Fetcham Village Centre

The retail role and function of Fetcham will be safeguarded and consolidated. Proposals which would harm or undermine the retail function of the centre or detract from its vitality and viability will not be permitted.

6.2.32 Future development proposals relating to Ashtead, Bookham and Fetcham centres will be considered in the light of the above policies, national guidance in Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres and criteria based policies in the Development ManagementPolicies Development Plan Document which will concentrate on managing change so as to maintain a range and mix of uses appropriate to the centres' role and position in the retail hierarchy, while promoting design which enhances the character of these centres.

Rural Village Centres

6.2.33 Most of the larger rural villages in the District have some retail or service provision. The villages with the most units are Beare Green and Westcott. Others, including Betchworth, Headley, Mickleham and Strood Green have very limited provision. A further six villages - Leigh, Westhumble, Forest Green, Walliswood, Okewoodhill and Coldharbour - have no provision at all. Most of those villages with a retail provision have a general grocery store of some kind. These range from small farm shops to mini-supermarkets. Some of the villages have specialist comparison shops, a few have a café but most have a public house, often located outside the village centre. In addition, there are hotels, inns and bed and breakfast establishments in or close to several of the village centres. Some of the villages have community facilities including village greens, schools, recreation grounds and village halls. There are also some offices in the rural areas often in farm building conversions.

6.2.34 Village shops play an important role in maintaining villages as sustainable communities. However, changing patterns of retailing which have seen retail expenditure becoming concentrated in a smaller number of larger centres and increased levels of personal mobility have resulted in the closure of some shops in the District's rural areas. In particular, Leigh, Newdigate and Strood Green have experienced a decline in retail and service provision.

6.2.35 This decline in the District's rural village shops is part of a national trend and one that is likely to continue as economic and lifestyle patterns change. While the Council cannot prevent the closure of rural facilities including shops, it can discourage alternative uses for the premises and resist the loss of key services and facilities (see Policy CS17- Infrastructure, Services and Community Facilities).

6.2.36 The Council's Vision for the rural village centres is as follows:

Vision for Rural Village Centres

The focus of local facilities and services to meet day to day needs of local rural communities.

6.2.37 The Council's strategy for delivering this vision includes:

  • Supporting the provision of small-scale local facilities to meet local community needs.
  • Taking into account the importance of shops and services to the local community in assessing proposals that would result in their loss or change of use.
  • Supporting proposals to improve the viability, accessibility or community value of existing services and facilities that play an important role in sustaining village communities.

Policy CS 11
Rural Village Centres

Proposals for the provision of small scale facilities that would support the vitality and viability of rural village centres will be supported.

District / Local / Rural Village Centre Policies

The policies will be delivered through:

  • The development control process. Applications will be assessed against criteria based policies in Development Plan Documents which will focus on maintaining an appropriate mix and range of uses.
  • By working with partners who have responsibilities for the delivery of infrastructure in the centres.

The following indicators will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the policies:

  • The amount of retail floorspace gained or lost in the centres and vacancy rates.

Town, District, Local and Village Centres Study (November 2007), plus Supplementary work October 2008:The Council commissioned Roger Tym and Partners to undertake an assessment of the District's town, district, local and village centres in accordance with the provisions of Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning For Town Centres. The headline strategic recommendations in the report are:

  • It would be appropriate to define Ashtead as a District Centre in view of its alignment with the typology of centres in PPS6. Bookham has some of the characteristics of a District Centre and could be considered for such designation.
  • If it is intended to maintain the District's current market share of 16% of the study area's comparison expenditure, then there will be a requirement for approximately 6,500sqm (net) of new floorspace by 2017.
  • If the District's market share of convenience shopping is to be maintained there is a forecast requirement for an additional 630 sqms of floorspace by 2017. If the level of overtrading at some stores is taken into account, there will be sufficient expenditure to support an additional 4950 sqms of convenience floorspce by 2017. The consultants recommend planning for a mid point between these two figures of 2800sqms. The majority of provision should be made in Dorking and Ashtead.
  • There will be an increase in expenditure available to support the existing level of leisure activities in the District and there is likely to be available expenditure to support some additional facilities.
  • There is market potential for new hotels in Dorking and Leatherhead.
  • Office space should be retained in town centres as office workers' use of shops and cafés during the day adds vitality and viability to the centre.

The report also contains site specific and detailed policy recommendations in respect of the District's main centres, local parades and villages. These will be used in the preparation of detailed policies in the Land Allocations Development Plan Document and the Dorking Town Centre Area Action Plan.

In addition to the Roger Tym report the Council also received the findings of the Dorking Market Town Healthcheck which had been carried out by volunteers in 2006/07. This concluded that although Dorking appeared generally to be doing well there are some concerns about its future, in particular:-

  • The frequency with which some shops change hands or close.
  • People are shopping elsewhere as Dorking is not providing the retail offer they require.
  • There is demand for well known high street brands but not at the expense of Dorking becoming a clone town.
  • Existing shops are not well suited to the needs of prospective retailers.
  • Visitors to the surrounding countryside are not spending money in the town.

The Leatherhead Healthcheck which was published in January 2006 and identified the community's wish for improvements to the town centre, particularly its streetscape, the mix, size and number of shops, parking provision and access by public transport.

Sources of Further information

  • Mole Valley Town, District, Local and Village Centres Study - Roger Tym and Partners, www.molevalley.gov.uk/localplans (See Evidence Base pages)
  • Dorking Needs Action - Report of the Market Town Healthcheck, www.dorkingdna.org
  • Leatherhead Tomorrow - Report of the Market Town Healthcheck, www.leatherheadtomorrow.co.uk

6.3 Sustainable Economic Development

6.3.1 The District’s economy is based on a significant number of small firms and several major headquarter premises of national and multinational firms.

6.3.2 Leatherhead is the main employment centre and there are high concentrations of employment and firms in north Leatherhead. These include clusters of knowledge based firms (see Glossary) in the business and research parks. Dorking is a traditional market town with a strong service sector.

6.3.3 In the countryside, agriculture remains an important element of the rural economy particularly in terms of maintaining the character of the landscape. There is also a variety of businesses and employment activity taking place in the countryside. These range from firms in the service sector operating from converted agricultural and other rural buildings to larger established manufacturing firms. Mineral operations - sand and clay extraction and related brick making - also take place in several locations in the countryside along with waste management operations.

6.3.4 The District is also significant in the regional and county visitor and tourism sector hosting several key attractions including Polesden Lacey, Box and Leith Hills, Denbies vineyard and visitor facilities for businesses.

6.3. According to the 2001 Census the District's residents are well qualified with 28% having a first degree or higher (compared with 20% nationally). The proportion of residents in managerial and professional occupations at 38% is significantly higher than the national average of 27%. However there are local disparities between the skills levels of residents and the employment needs of many of the employers especially in the Leatherhead area.

6.3.6 In 2006 some 87% of jobs were in the services sector compared with 83% nationally. Some 34% of jobs are in the finance, IT and business sectors (21% nationally). The proportion of economically active residents who are self employed is significantly higher than the national average. The unemployment rate is, historically, one of the lowest rates nationally.

6.3.7 The District's existing commercial stock is more modern than the national average especially with regard to office and B1 premises. In 2005 some 45% of the stock was less than 30 years old.

6.3.8 At March 2008 there was some 24,900m2 office and business floorspace with planning permission and a further 19,900m2 vacant and to let. There was some 19,450m2 of industrial and storage floorspace with planning permission and 5,500m2 vacant and to let.

6.3.9 The Council's vision sets out the framework for the continued prosperity and the evolution of the District's economy. The Council's strategy for employment land reflects that of the South East Plan and emerging Government advice (PPS4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Development Consultation Document) which stresses the need for a flexible approach to the supply and use of land. The objective is to ensure economic development is directed to the most sustainable locations and that employment land is protected. Land for economic development will be provided by the reuse of employment land, encouraging employment in town, district and local centres and by having regard to the needs of the rural economy and rural diversification. Smart growth (see Glossary) is encouraged through Policy RE5 in the South East Plan.

6.3.10 The Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) (see paragraphs 3.10 - 3.12) seeks to attract to the area high quality knowledge based industries. The delivery of this aim is reflected in Policy CS12. Knowledge based industries are already present in the Leatherhead area and Policy CS12(2) seeks to reinforce this and encourage other firms operating in this sector. Moreover, criterion 7 of the Policy indicated that the District's strengths as a knowledge based local economy will be supported.

6.3.11 The GDI also seeks the development of smart business infrastructure, through improving the ability of existing business areas to accommodate high value-added activities. This could include the provision of science / technology parks, business incubator facilities, conference facilities and hotels. The recommended provision of such business infrastructure is reflected in research commissioned by Tourism South East identified the market potential for a further budget hotel and a three star hotel in Leatherhead and a budget hotel in Dorking. The need for this supporting business infrastructure is reflected in Policy CS12(8) which encourages the provision of accommodation for business visitors to the District.

Policy CS 12
Sustainable Economic Development

The sustainable growth of the District's economy will be supported through the provision of a flexible supply of land to meet the varying needs of the economic sectors by:

  1. Safeguarding and recycling accessible and well located industrial and commercial sites which will be identified through the Development Management Development Plan Document.
  2. Encouraging, where appropriate, mixed use development.
  3. Supporting development which maintains and enhances Leatherhead's role as a desirable location for knowledge based companies.
  4. Supporting development which maintains and enhances Dorking's role as a town with a strong service sector.
  5. Supporting a diverse and sustainable rural economy in accordance with Planning Policy Statement 7 - 'Sustainable Development in Rural Areas'.
  6. Working with partners and supporting initiatives and development which assists in improving the skills base of local residents especially in those localities where there is a significant disparity in the skills of residents and the types of local job opportunities available.
  7. Supporting development of the District's strengths as a knowledge based local economy and encouraging the establishment of new companies especially those at the leading edge of new sectoral employment opportunities such as sustainable development.
  8. Making provision for accommodation for visitors to the District, especially in Dorking and Leatherhead, both in terms of business trips and tourism related visits.

6.3.12 South East Plan Policy RE3 states that accessible and well located industrial and commercial sites should be retained where there is a good prospect of employment use. Continuing provision should be made for a range of sites and premises to meet more general needs in locations which have regard to labour supply, make efficient use of sites, focus on urban areas and promotes the use of public transport. In this District there is also a need to retain well located sites which provide services to local rural communities in order to maintain their vitality and viability and reduce the need to travel. A subsequent Development Plan Document will set out a criteria based policy for the use and re-use of employment land.

6.3.13 The Surrey Waste Plan identifies those locations where waste can be recycled, stored, transferred and materials recovered and processed to assist with the delivery of sustainable development. This includes land that is or has been used, allocated or has planning permission for industrial storage purposes to assist in the delivery of sustainable development. The need and scope for delivering waste related development on the type of sites identified in the Surrey Waste Plan will be considered through the Land Allocations Development Plan Document.

This policy will be delivered by:

  • The development management process through the Development Management Development Plan Document.
  • Continuing to build on relationships with businesses through the ongoing work of the Local Strategic Partnership.

The following indicators will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the policy:

  • Level of new commercial development and additional jobs in the town centres.
  • Number of proposals which seek to support a diverse rural economy.
  • Improvements in the skills base of the resident population.
  • In addition the Council will seek to asses whether the more intensive use of employment land is resulting in an increase in jobs and if the District's role as a centre for knowledge based firms is increasing.

The Local Economy and Employment Land Review (monitoring data at March 2008): has followed government guidance in carrying out Employment Land Reviews. The guidance considers land within Use Classes B1-B8 rather than all forms of economic development.

The Review indicates that at March 2008 there is sufficient Class B1- B8 employment floorspace (in planning permissions and vacant premises) to meet demand led employment growth forecasts in these land use class sectors to 2026 and to provide a flexible supply of employment land. However there is a challenge in meeting such increases in jobs. The current economically inactive population can absorb a very limited increase in jobs and forecasts indicate the working age population will decline. Consequently significant increases in employment numbers would have to be met by further in-commuting or increasing the number of residents who work in the District. Such significant additional employment growth could give rise to local labour shortages, cumulative impacts on infrastructure and other resources and the wider environment of the District.

Sources of Further Information

6.4 A Continuing High Quality Environment

Landscape Character

6.4.1 The landscape of Mole Valley is one of its greatest assets, appreciated by residents and visitors alike and the source of inspiration for writers, composers and artists throughout history. Safeguarding and enhancing the highly attractive and diverse environment is therefore a key objective of both the LDF (including Sustainability Appraisal) and the Mole Valley Community Plan and is strongly supported by the community as a whole.

6.4.2 The District has four main landscape character areas:

  • Thames Basin Lowlands
  • North Downs
  • Wealden Greensand
  • Low Weald

6.4.3 These are then further divided into more local character areas as set out in the Landscape Character Assessment. Particular features include the chalk hills of the North Downs which cross the District from Abinger in the west to Buckland in the east. The distinctive profile and scarp face of the Downs dominate and influence much of the landscape of the District. The Downs are parallelled to the south by the undulating sandy, acid soils of the Greensand Hills rising to Leith Hill south-west of Dorking. There are several small villages and hamlets in the area but generally it is sparsely populated and undeveloped, dominated by open countryside and extensive attractive views punctuated by woodlands and hedgerows. Further south the landscape is open and undulating Weald set against the back drop of the North Downs and Greensand Hills to the north. It contains large numbers of small woodland blocks, ancient or semi-natural in nature, and is actively farmed. To the north of the Downs the landscape is gently undulating and the River Mole valley broadens out.

6.4.4 The Surrey Hills is a landscape of national importance. It is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and therefore has the highest level of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. Planning Policy Statement 7 (2004) states that 'The conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside should therefore be given great weight in planning policies and development control decisions in these areas. The conservation of wildlife and the cultural heritage are important considerations in all these areas.' The area is covered by the Surrey Hills AONBManagement Plan which guides the future management and enhancement of the area. It is also a consideration in the determination of planning applications in and around that area.

6.4.5 There are also areas of landscape outside the nationally designated areas that are particularly highly valued. In the Surrey context the Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) has been a long standing policy designation used to identify land of particularly high landscape quality outside of, but adjoining, the AONB. The policy approach to the protection and enhancement of the landscape in Mole Valley is to provide the highest level of protection to the AONB, supported by the continuing designation of the AGLV (most of which is considered to have the same level of landscape quality as the AONB) which in itself is an area of high quality landscape. In the AONB and the AGLV, protection of the landscape is a priority when considering development. The AGLV designation is based on a comprehensive robust assessment and review of the landscape across a number of Surrey Authorities.

6.4.6 In the remaining areas of the District development will be required to respect or enhance the landscape character area in which it is proposed as set out in the Landscape Character Assessment.

Policy CS 13
Landscape Character

  1. All new development must respect and, where appropriate, enhance the character and distinctiveness of the landscape character area in which it is proposed. Landscape enhancement works may be required to avoid adverse impacts associated with new developments.
  2. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is of national significance, and as such, the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape will be a priority in this area. The AONB will be protected in accordance with the objectives in Planning Policy Statement 7 (Sustainable Development in Rural Areas) and the Surrey Hills Management Plan, with particular focus on the impact of development on ridgelines, significant views, peace, tranquillity and levels of artificial light.
  3. The AGLV (Area of Great Landscape Value) will be retained until such time as there has been a review of the AONB boundary. Development in the AGLV area will be required to be supported by evidence to demonstrate that it would not result in harm to the AONB, particularly views from and into the AONB and the key features identified in point 2 above.
  4. Small scale development for the reasonable needs of the rural economy, outdoor recreation as well as that for the local community in the AONB or AGLV, will be supported subject to meeting other relevant criteria within the LDF.

The policy will be delivered through:

  • Preparation of the Mole Valley Landscape Character Assessment in order to assist applicants in identifying key landscape features.
  • Working with partners to secure a review of the AONB boundary by Natural England.

In order to monitor the policy the Council will work with the Surrey Hills AONB Office to implement the AONB Management Plan and will review the results of their annual monitoring of that Plan.

Mole Valley Landscape Character Assessment (ongoing): There has been extensive work undertaken by a variety of organisations on assessing the landscape character of Mole Valley. The Mole Valley Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) will draw all of this together to provide a basis from which to make judgements on the impact of a proposal on the landscape. The LCA has identified 14 separate character areas, highlighting the variety that exists within the District. This study will be completed in 2009.

Surrey Hills AGLV Review, 2007, Chris Burnett Associates: This work compares the AGLV with the characteristics of the Surrey Hills AONB in order to identify areas with identical characteristics, some shared characteristics or no shared characteristics. Within Mole Valley the AGLV was generally felt to have identical characteristics to the AONB. The study recommends that an urgent review of the AONB boundary take place and that the AGLV should be retained until this has happened. It also recommends that the majority of the AGLV within Mole Valley is capable of inclusion within the AONB without further assessment.

Sources of Further Information

Townscape, Urban Design and the Historic Environment

6.4.7 The high environmental quality of both the built-up and rural areas in Mole Valley is important to the quality of life of local people and visitors. There is wide diversity in built character across the District from historic rural villages to tight town centres and leafy suburban residential areas. There are also areas where improvements could be made. There is a continuing need to find locations for development, but this should not be to the detriment of the valued character of the District's towns, villages and historic environment and is an area of considerable and growing concern for many residents. In accordance with Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development, design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, will not be accepted. Applicants will therefore have to demonstrate that they have considered the wider setting of the development proposed and ensure that it respects and enhances local character.

6.4.8 In terms of residential development, the South East Plan (Policy H5: Housing Density and Design) sets an overall target of 40 dwellings per hectare across the Region. Density standards are, however, not set within the Core Strategy as these need to be based on the more detailed Built-Up Area Character Appraisal work. The density of development has traditionally been low within Mole Valley and the Council will look for developments to be imaginative and make the best use of land, providing that this is not damaging to the character and appearance of the area and takes into account policies on the mix of dwellings sizes. Through this approach the District can make its contribution to meeting the density target within the South East Plan.

6.4.9 The South East Plan also seeks substantial networks of green infrastructure (South East Plan policy CC8). The following townscape and urban design policy therefore seeks to ensure that consideration is given to the use of trees and hedges within development schemes, particularly in preference to fencing a site. This not only supports the South East Plan but contributes to the continuation in the abundance of trees and greenspaces throughout the District and provides enhancements to biodiversity (See also Policy CS15 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation and CS16 Open Space, Sports and Recreation).

6.4.10 Finally it is considered that guidance through Planning Policy Guidance / Statements, National / European Legislation (e.g European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage) and the South East Plan (Policy BE6) provides sufficient protection of the historic environment and archaeology at the strategic level, including Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Historic Parks and Gardens. However, it should be recognised that that this is not limited to the built environment and archaeological sites, but includes historic landscapes. Mole Valley contains a number of the regionally significant historic features identified in the South East Plan, including:

  • An historic countryside of varying character
  • An outstanding archaeological heritage including Roman, Saxon and medieval development
  • Historic market towns and villages with medieval churches and other historic buildings
  • Stately homes and historic parks and gardens.

6.4.11 In total there are 27 Scheduled Monuments, 7 County Sites of Archaeological Importance, Areas of high Archaeological Potential in the District, together with 5 gardens on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest and just over 1,000 listed buildings.

6.4.12 These are an asset to the District and the Region and are irreplaceable.

Policy CS 14
Townscape, Urban Design and the Historic Environment

  1. All new development must respect and enhance the character of the area in which it is proposed whilst making the best possible use of the land available. This will be assisted through the work on Built-Up Area Character Appraisals.
  2. The Council will resist development of a poor quality of design and will expect to see sufficient detail set out in the Design and Access Statements, where required, to enable planning applications to be properly determined.
  3. Development must incorporate appropriate landscaping with particular attention to the use of trees and hedges native to the locality.
  4. Areas and sites of historic or architectural importance will be protected and, where appropriate enhanced in accordance with the legislation, national and regional guidance.

The policy will be delivered through:

  • The Mole Valley Built-Up Area Character Appraisals of the main built-up areas will be prepared with local communities in order to assist applicants in identifying key characteristics.
  • In rural areas the Council will support communities if they wish to prepare a Village Design Statement. In some cases it may be possible to adopt these statements as Supplementary
  • Planning Documents. Conservation Area Appraisals are being undertaken: A Conservation Area Appraisal for Dorking is currently underway.

The following indicators will be used to assess the effectiveness of the policy:

  • The Council will keep under review the level of and reasoning behind planning appeals allowed contrary to local character and design considerations.
  • Monitoring the number of Grade 1 and 2* listed buildings at risk.

Mole Valley Built-Up Area Character Appraisal (ongoing): The aim of this work is to set out the key characteristics of the main built-up areas in Mole Valley (Dorking, Leatherhead, Ashtead, Fetcham and Bookham), key features that should be preserved, the landscape setting and the vulnerability to change. These areas are most likely to experience development and continued infilling. It is therefore important to ensure that future development contributes to the character of these locations and is integrated into its location rather than appearing as an isolated infill plot or an after thought. This has and will be developed in consultation with the local community and will help to inform decisions on planning applications.

Sources of Further Information

6.4.13 There is a significant amount of guidance available on urban design, just a few examples are listed below:

  • Planning Policy Statement 1 (Delivering Sustainable Development), Communities and Local Government - www.communities.gov.uk
  • Design and Access Statements, CABE - www.cabe.org.uk By Design, CABE - www.cabe.org.uk
  • Active Design, Sport England - www.sportengland.org Surrey Design, Surrey County Council www.surreycc.gov.uk
  • European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, Council of Europe - http://conventions.coe.int

Biodiversity and Geological Conservation

6.4.14 The Council's strategy is to protect and enhance biodiversity and areas of geological importance but, with exception of those cases within the following Core Strategy policy, this is felt to be best done through the application of national policy / guidance, the South East Plan Policy NRM5 (Conservation and Improvement of Biodiversity) and the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan.

6.4.15 There are a considerable number of sites of importance to biodiversity across the District including:

  • Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment (Special Area of Conservation)
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI)
  • National Nature Reserve (NNR)
  • Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
  • Ancient woodland
  • Watercourses

6.4.16 Alongside these designated sites there are also, for example, protected species throughout the District, areas of ancient woodland which due to their small size are not yet individually identified and other areas of valuable woodland. In addition it is important to recognise the potential impact of the overall development strategy of concentrating the majority of development on previously-developed land. In many cases this is not devoid of biodiversity and it is important that valuable features are retained and enhanced. In many cases development takes place in back gardens in the form of redevelopment and intensification and it is important that the biodiversity of these sites is recognised. Gardens are important habitats for birds, invertebrates and some mammals. Development in urban areas provides opportunities to make a contribution to the range of habitats in the District. This could for example be through landscaping, enhancing connections with existing green infrastructure or incorporating some forms of Sustainable Drainage Systems into a scheme. Further information can be found in the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan.

6.4.17 Mole Valley District includes a significant part of the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a number of other European or Ramsar wildlife sites are located within the wider area. The South East Plan identifies the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment SAC as one of the few sites in the region where it had not been possible to conclude that the proposals in the Plan would result in no adverse effect on a sites integrity due to urbanisation and 'in combination' effects. It concluded that Local Authorities and partners have to ensure that development proposals affecting the site are able to demonstrate that in combination they will have no adverse effect on the integrity of the site. This may include the need for mitigation measures.

6.4.18 This Core Strategy has therefore been assessed under the provisions of the Habitats Regulations and this assessment has been recorded through the Mole Valley Appropriate Assessment. As a result an 800m buffer preventing most development around the SAC is to be applied. This is intended to reduce the chance of damage as a result of a potential increase in usage of the site from new residents or occupants in this area and the general effects of urbanisation. This is the only practical means in which it is considered that the Core Strategy will not have a significant impact on the SAC.

6.4.19 Mitigation may include improvement works to areas near to the development site, funding towards schemes at the main honeypot locations, the provision of high quality open space as part of the development proposal (probably only appropriate on large schemes) or contributions or works at alternative areas of open space and recreation facilities to ensure that these are an attractive alternative to the SAC for at least some users. It is accepted that tourism / visitor related development may on occasions take place in these areas, these will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis, in consultation with appropriate specialists, such as the Surrey Wildlife Trust or Natural England. Extensive mitigation may be required but this must be weighed up against the benefits that such development can have on an area, including increased educational opportunities and improvements to facilities resulting in an overall reduction to the level of visitor impact on the site. A guidance note will be prepared to assist in the application of this policy.

6.4.20 In addition all watercourses, mature hedges and trees within development sites across the District should be, as far as practicable, retained, protected and enhanced, particularly where they link areas of existing green infrastructure. It is intended that this should contribute to the overall retention of biodiversity in the District, support and conserve areas of existing green infrastructure (in accordance with the South East Plan) and help to mitigate any harm caused by the Core Strategy on the SAC (in accordance with the recommendations of the Appropriate Assessment). The use of native species as part of planting schemes is particularly important alongside watercourses due to the potential for non-native seeds to be carried downstream.

6.4.21 To help lead and co-ordinate work on biodiversity across the County, the Surrey Biodiversity Partnership has been formed and a Biodiversity Action Plan prepared. The aims of the Plan are to conserve and enhance the biological diversity of Surrey and contribute to conserving and enhancing both national and international biodiversity. It aims to halt the decline in habitats and restore biodiversity across the County in a more sustainable condition and relies on joint working by organisations and individuals. Chalk grassland, farmland, urban areas and wood pasture and parkland are just some of the habitats within Mole Valley recognised within the Plan. The Biodiversity Action Plan is an important source of information and guidance for applicants, particularly in sensitive areas.

Policy CS 15
Biodiversity and Geological Conservation

  1. Biodiversity and areas of geological importance will be protected and enhanced in accordance with European and National legislation / guidance including that set out in Planning Policy Statement 9 (Biodiversity and Geological Conservation), the South East Plan Policy NRM5 (Conservation and Improvement of Biodiversity) and the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan.
  2. In order to reduce the impact of development on the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Special Area of Conservation (SAC), there is a presumption against any increase in residential or employment related development within 800m of the site boundary, unless its impact can be mitigated.
  3. All water courses, mature hedges and trees within development sites should be, as far as practicable, retained. Only where no realistic alternatives are available or replacement of such features elsewhere in the site would result in biodiversity enhancements above what already exists, will removal of such features be permitted. In these cases the replacement will be expected to result in biodiversity enhancements to what previously existed and where possible should seek to contribute to a network of green infrastructure and the objectives of the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan.
  4. Planting and other schemes that promote biodiversity will be expected as part of all development schemes, focusing on native species from the locality and particularly trees, a key feature of the environment across Surrey.

The policy will be delivered through:

  • Working with existing organisations and groups - Lower Mole Countryside Management Project, Gatwick Greenspace Partnership, River Mole Working Group, Surrey Biodiversity Partnership.
  • To help to protect and enhance biodiversity, Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) recommended to the Council by the Surrey Nature Conservation Liaison Group will be considered for inclusion in a Development Plan Document. Sites are selected based on the Surrey Wildlife Trust, 2008, Guidance for the Selection of Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) in Surrey.

The following indicators will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the policy:

  • The quality of SSSIs and SNCIs (which includes habitats within the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan)
  • The number of applications permitted contrary to advice from Natural England.
  • The amount of land managed primarily for biodiversity purposes
  • The biological quality of water courses

Mole Valley Appropriate Assessment of the Core Strategy (October 2008):

The Appropriate Assessment has been published alongside the Core Strategy. Its purpose is to assess the impacts of a land-use plan against the conservation objectives of the European Sites of nature conservation importance. The assessment must determine whether the plan would adversely affect the integrity of the site in terms of its nature conservation objectives. Where negative effects are identified other options should be examined to avoid any potential damaging effects. The study identified the following key issues in relation to the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Special Area of Conservation (SAC):

  • Adverse effects of reduced air quality
  • Increased recreational pressures
  • General effects of urbanisation
  • Site specific issues relating to Bechstein bats

The study identified a number of avoidance and mitigation measures which, if implemented, would result in the Core Strategy having no significant adverse impact on the SAC. These are set out within Policy CS15 'Biodiversity and Geological Conservation'.

Sources of Further Information

  • Planning Policy Statement 9 (Biodiversity and Geological Conservation), Communities and Local
    Government - www.communities.gov.uk
  • Biodiversity by Design, 2004, Town and Country Planning Association - www.urbed.com
  • Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC), 2006
  • Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan and other related information via www.surreybiodiversitypartnership.org
  • Mole Valley Appropriate Assessment - www.molevalley.gov.uk/localplans (See Evidence Base page)

6.5 Open Space, Sports and Recreation Facilities

6.5.1 In 2007 Mole Valley District Council undertook an assessment of all open space, sports and recreation facilities in the District (known as a PPG17 Assessment). The work identified that provision across the District is reasonable or good for most types of open space, sports and recreation facilities but that there are some localised deficiencies felt most acutely in the more urban areas. In many cases deficits are to some extent compensated for by large areas of natural and semi-natural greenspace, a key feature of the District. All facilities were considered to be important and no sites were identified as surplus.

6.5.2 The importance of providing for open space, sports and recreation facilities is recognised at all levels of Government. The South East Plan (Policy S5: Cultural and Sporting Activity) states that increased and sustainable participation in sport, recreation and cultural activity should be encouraged by local authorities, public agencies and their partners.

6.5.3 In addition to the protection of open space, sports and recreation facilities there is also a continuing need to ensure that the District's wider natural environment remains of a high quality and that the existing excellent level of access to natural and semi-natural greenspace, footpaths and cycleways for residents and visitors is maintained and enhanced.

6.5.4 Open space, sports and recreation facilities are key components of the District's green infrastructure. Therefore in support of the South East Plan Policy on green infrastructure (Policy CC8) and enhancements to biodiversity, developments should contain landscaping to add to the greening of the environment and should where possible seek to enhance networks of green infrastructure. It is also recognised that high quality public open space, sports and recreation facilities near to where people live and work can help to reduce the impact of visitors on the most environmentally sensitive areas such as the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Policy CS 16
Open Space, Sports and Recreation Facilities

  1. Open space, sports and recreation facilities will be safeguarded from development. If development of a site is proposed, the scheme will be assessed against Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (Planning for Open Space, Sports and Recreation). In particular evidence will have to be presented that either the existing use is no longer required and that no other open space, sports or recreation provision is required or appropriate in that area, or that suitable alternative provision can be made.
  2. To address needs as a result of development:
    1. developer contributions (in accordance with Policy CS17) will be used to fund improvements to existing sites and facilities in order to allow more intensive use;and
    2. the provision of appropriate facilities will be required on site as part of any development scheme of around 50 dwellings or more.
  3. Where existing deficits in open space, sports and recreation facilities are identified, the Council will explore allocating land for these purposes through the Land Allocations or other appropriate DPD.
  4. The Council will encourage the provision of new open space, sports and recreation facilities provided they accord with the principles of PPG17 and the Mole Valley PPG17 Assessment.
  5. All development, except for the most minor, will be expected to contribute to the continued greening of the Districts towns and villages and the provision of, or connections to, the network of green infrastructure e.g. through the use of landscaping, retention of important mature trees, hedges, use of some forms of SUDs for example.

6.5.5 The results of the PPG17 Assessment identified that within the District, the priority is to provide play facilities for children or young people, general amenity space and in some areas allotments. There is also a need to ensure that access for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties is improved. Deficiencies in provision appear to be most acute in the main built areas of Dorking, Leatherhead and Ashtead. As these areas are expected to accommodate the greatest levels of development over the next 20 years, this pressure is set to increase. It is therefore these areas around which the search for suitable new sites will be focused. The Council prepared a Play Strategy in 2008 which drew on much of the PPG17 Assessment. It will work in tandem with the Local Development Framework to improve facilities particularly for children and young people.

The policy will be delivered through:

  • Working in partnership with Mole Valley District Council Wellbeing Services.
  • The greening of the environment, improvements in biodiversity and enhancements of the existing green infrastructure will be undertaken in partnership with various existing organisations such as the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project, Gatwick Greenspace Partnership, River Mole Working Group and through the Surrey Biodiversity Partnership.

The following indicators will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the policy:

  • Change in the provision of open space, sports or recreation facilities.
  • The Council already undertakes surveys on the quality of facilities, these will be kept under review to ensure that more intensive use of certain sites is not to the detriment of their quality.

Mole Valley District PPG17 Assessment of Open Space, Sports and Recreation (2007): This study is the culmination of extensive research and consultation on the provision, use and quality of facilities across the District. An annex to the Assessment sets out the facilities available in each area of the District and will be used to assist in identifying more local deficiencies.

 

Sources of Further Information




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