Panel gives thumbs up to Borough Local Plan, despite chairman's opposition

James Harrison

Fears the government could step in to dictate planning policy in the Royal Borough have been dismissed as 'myth' by a senior councillor.

The comments were made by Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray), the chairman of the council’s Planning and Housing overview and Scrutiny panel, who also criticised the amount of greenbelt land that could be built on under the latest draft of the Borough Local Plan.

Speaking at the panel’s latest meeting, on Thursday, he claimed the proposed policy could see about 77 per cent of the new homes it hoped to build constructed on greenbelt land.

Like other local authorities, the borough is trying to get the plan approved and adopted by the end of next year and has been warned that failure to do so could see it forced to accept one drawn up by the government.

But this was disputed by Cllr Walters, who said: “I think [the threat of] government intervention in a local authority is a myth,” he told the meeting.

“They are not going to just come in with a bunch of people to do our work.

“It would take longer for them to do it than it would us and all I’m saying is, yes, we’re building in the greenbelt, but I think this plan is too much building in the greenbelt.

“About 77 per cent of the houses in this plan are in the greenbelt, but a plan can still be found to be sound without that number.”

The Royal Borough has been set a target of building more than 700 homes per year until 2032, which it has been able to meet in the latest version of the plan.

Cllr Walters also argued that other local authorities have been able to have their own local plans approved without meeting house-building aims by using greenbelt as a mitigating factor.

But rest of the panel disagreed with his assessment, with the other councillors stating their own main concerns mainly related to infrastructure.

It instead voted to recommend cabinet approve the draft plan, but added a desire to receive reassurances about infrastructure provision.

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