The Surrey local authority wants more time to look for brownfield sites 

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Epsom & Ewell council has announced it has become the latest local authority to pause its local plan in the wake of government proposals to change planning rules. 

Councillors agreed at an extraordinary council meeting last week officers need more time to identify brownfield sites for development to avoid building on greenbelt land. 

They said they wanted to wait to hear what the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ firm plans for local housing targets would be. The council also wants to review its own future housing needs based on 2018 data. 

There has been a wave of councils pausing their local plans since housing secretary Michael Gove announced in December last year planning legislation would be changed so housing targets were advisory not mandatory and there would be a greater push to build on brownfield land.

Housing Today has kept an updated list of local authorities that have done this since Gove’s u-turn

Steven McCormick, chair of Epsom & Ewell’s licensing and planning policy committee, said: “We recognise that there is strength of feeling in the community regarding the inclusion of green belt in the draft local plan, and it is a vital part of our democratic process that motions such as these can be brought to full council and voted on by all members.

“We are still at a very early stage of the process in developing a local plan for the borough.”

He added: “The decision to pause in progressing the draft local plan means that we will wait for more detail on the government’s intentions with regard to the current mandatory target for housing numbers and the data that must be used when developing local plans”. 

The government is expected to give more direction on planning in the spring, following the end of the consultation on the revised National Planning Policy Framework on 2 March. The revised planning rules include dropping the requirement to review green belt land in order to deliver a local area’s housing need and setting out of a raft of reasons why authorities might be able to justify not meeting the housing numbers produced by the government’s “standard method” formula. 

McCormick said whilst awaiting more information from government the council would “continue in identifying potential further brownfield sites that could be used for development” and would “carefully analyse all responses received during the recent public consultation to ensure that all views are taken into consideration”. 

“We remain committed to developing a local plan that reflects our vibrant community and allows all those who live, work, visit and study in the borough to thrive,” he explained. 

Of the 26 councillors who attended the meeting, 20 voted for the motion, four voted against the motion and one abstained. The mayor did not vote.

Industry bodies have warned of a huge drop in the supply of new homes if the changes to the planning rules go ahead.