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Nick Surrey Adv. articleThe latest Surrey Advertiser features an article on 'Area 58' greenbelt, based on an interview with RA County Councillor, Nick Darby.  It is reproduced below.


Long Ditton green belt land at risk of turning into 'London Borough of Elmbridge'

By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter, Surrey Advertiser

11 October 2019

Residents are fighting to get village green status for the land known as "Area 58"

It's known as Area 58 in council documents.

But the open space in Long Ditton where families toboggan down the hill in winter and watch the sun set over Surrey in the summer is a vital piece of green belt land separating their borough from the capital.

For one councillor it is green open space land bordering London and stopping the area becoming "The London Borough of Elmbridge".

The land known as Stokes Hill and One Tree Hill is owned by a housing development company with potential for 900 homes. But families and residents in The Dittons who value the open space are fighting to get village green status to protect their dog walking and children-playing areas, as well as now fighting to get it out of Elmbridge Borough Council's Local Plan where it is classified as Area 58 and highlighted as a potential space for development.

“It’s a real threat. Even if it’s not immediate, it’s one that could come,” says county councillor Nick Darby who represents The Dittons.

Cllr Darby says he is worried for the future of the site and the borough as the Local Plan is reviewed.

The council recently carried out consultation on five options for the blueprints to meet its housing need. This included releasing green belt land for development as well as making more use of brownfield and urban sites.

More than 6,500 questionnaires responding to the consultation are now being reviewed with a report back expected in mid-December. The next consultation will be held early next year with a view to have the draft plan ready to be submitted to the planning inspector in March next year.

Local Plan documents label Area 58 - land north of the A309 and east and west of Woodstock Lane North, Long Ditton - as weakly performing green belt land but that it “plays an important role in meeting the fundamental aim of preventing the sprawl of Greater London built-up area”.

Cllr Darby fears if homes are built on the land then the area would become “London Metropolitan of Elmbridge” as it borders with the Kingston-upon-Thames borough

The leader of the main opposition group at county level - independents and resident association members - want to see a more joined-up approach to Local Plans in Surrey and for school places and roads to be considered when building houses.

“Lets get homes built near where schools are,” he said.

Cllr Darby fears that once exceptional circumstances are allowed for one green belt site then it will be “open season” and the “floodgates will open” for developers to build on more.

“We need that openness and separation from London”, he adds.

In February’s Housing Delivery Action Plan, the council said it required 623 new homes every year to keep up with central government’s targets.