Headline Debate from Last Night's Full Council Meeting - Housing Need vs Green Land Protection
Cllr Caroline Warner writes:
The heated debates that have been raging on line about the Local Plan over the past months were articulated pretty clearly I thought in last night's Council Meeting. I'll try to boil it down.
On one hand, we need housing desperately. It is now the case that a family would need to earn not far off a 6 figure income in order to be able to afford to buy any house in Tandridge. This means that key workers and younger people are pretty much priced out wholesale. Population growth is a fact of life (as we're all living much longer) so unless we are prepared to become a community with only very elderly people living here, and not enough working age people to look after them, we are going to have to make room somewhere for the next generation.
On the other hand, we all want very much to protect our local green spaces so that we can enjoy a decent quality of life in the already well-developed areas. And then, there is the greenbelt that provides lungs to our environment and wildlife while preventing conurbation. Broadly, green spaces are more important to the residents in the North of the District who are living in largely urbanised areas (My ward, Westway is 18% green belt and has 55 people per hectare) and the green belt is largely a concern for residents South of the District (Most wards here over 94% green belt and accommodate fewer than 3 people per hectare).
The further issue to overlay on this, that matters fundamentally to Caterham on the Hill, is one of infrastructure. The planning department and administration accept that we have been underfunded and that serious investment is required in CotH after a decade or so of pretty intense house building - especially for flood protection. However, this is complicated by the fact that infrastructure is largely Surrey County Council's department whereas it is Tandridge District Council's responsibility to plan for housing.
What we need for Westway is clear to me - before anything else, we need a plan to sort out infrastructure that is focused on flood protection. Yet, I'm wary of this whole debate falling into a black hole if we each fight only to protect the sites on our particular wards. There needs to be a clear vision laid out by the administration, in my view, that acknowledges the variations across our District. Nothing good will be achieved if we don't all work together for the good of all.
There are no easy answers here but we need to ask ourselves the questions honestly and debate the solutions openly and considerately, without malice or grandstanding.