Recent planning laws allows a community to add extra planning policies for their own area. A Neighbourhood Plan sets out those polices.
A draft Dormansland Neighbourhood Plan is being prepared based on consultations that were carried out in 2015/16 with residents and businesses.
The Parish Council has obtained governments grants and consultants have been employed to ensure that the plan will be compliant with legislation and provide practical help in writing policies.
There will be further public consultation and a local referendum before a Neighbourhood Plan is adopted.
The plan has been delayed for a variety of reasons since the second public consultation event in February 2016 and the situation has changed in a number of respects since then.
At that time there was concern that the future of the village would be directly affected by the Tandridge District Local Plan. A Neighbourhood Plan would have helped protect the village against any adverse effects of planning policy changes as a result of the Local Plan.
Tandridge District Council published its preferred strategy for the Local Plan in June 2018 which confirms that Dormansland will not be directly affected. The village continues to be included in the Green Belt which surrounds it and therefore benefits from the considerable planning protection that such status provides. Whilst the urgency has now receded the Parish Council remains of the view that a Neighbourhood Plan would be helpful for the long term benefit of the village.
Since February 2016 there have been changes to the situation around three key things that the Neighbourhood Plan was intended to address, these being:
In brief the changes have been as follows.
1. Car Park at Dormans Station
In February 2017 Tandridge District Council received a planning application (TA/2017/212) in respect of 0.541 hectares of land immediately behind, to the north of, the railway station building. This is a fenced off triangular piece of land behind the station, not the field through which the footpath passes. The application can be viewed on the Tandridge website. The application was for formation of a station car park for 70 cars and erection of 9 affordable dwellings. As with all planning applications Tandridge consulted the Parish Council. The Parish Council’s established policy is to resist loss of any Green Belt land. However, after careful consideration it was decided to support this application because it presented a unique opportunity not only to alleviate the parking problems on Station Road but also to provide 9 affordable homes, two key elements that the public consultation in February 2016 identified that the Neighbourhood Plan should address. Important considerations in favour of the application were its small scale and sympathetic design. Discussions indicated that there was the possibility of a ramp being included to provide disabled access to the station on the “down line” presenting another unique opportunity to resolve a longstanding issue of inadequate disabled access at the station . The developer also committed to mitigate any negative impact on the ecology of the site. It is intended that the houses will, to a large extent, be prefabricated off site thus minimising local disruption during construction.
The Parish Council was aware of two other schemes that were being prepared that would have provided car parking at the station and potential for some affordable housing through enabling funding. Neither had progressed to planning application stage and therefore would have a much longer lead-in time and their overall deliverability was less clear.
One scheme, on the other (south) side of the road would have involved a development of 5.2 hectares of land for higher end market housing (30 -40 houses was suggested) to fund affordable housing elsewhere in the village and a car park to take 150 cars.
The other scheme was for a mix of around 15 family and starter homes and a car park for around 65 cars on the 2.2 hectare station field between Dormans Station and Mill Lane through which the footpath to the station runs.
The current position (July 2018) with the planning application for the site north of the station is that it has received approval from Tandridge District Council Planning Committee and will be granted planning permission subject to agreement on a number of outstanding issues that are currently being discussed between Tandridge District Council, Surrey County Council, Network Rail and the developer. These are expected to be resolved within the next few months.
In approving the application, Tandridge Planning Committee had to be satisfied that, in planning terms “very special circumstances” existed in order to outweigh the harm caused by loss of green belt land. It was accepted that the absence of any car parking at the station was a sufficiently unusual circumstance to amount to “very special circumstances”.
2. Memorial Hall
The Memorial Hall Site belongs to a charitable trust. Under the terms of the Trust Deed there should be at least 3 trustees who live in the village responsible for the site’s upkeep and maintenance. In January it became clear that the Memorial Hall Club (effectively the tenant of the site) was no longer able to generate sufficient funds to maintain the Memorial Hall building which had already fallen into disrepair. When it was discovered that there were no valid trustees appointed to the Memorial Hall Trust the Memorial Hall Club sought advice from the Parish Council as they did not wish to simply walk away and leave the building to become derelict.
The Parish Council took legal advice and it was clear that if nothing was done the Charity Commission would ultimately take ownership of the site and its value would be lost to the village. In line with legal advice the Parish Council called a Public Meeting which took place on 1st February and in accordance with the Trust Deed four residents of the village put themselves forward as new trustees and were duly elected at the public meeting.
The current position is that the new Trustees are investigating the possibility of selling the site for development, purchasing the Royal Oak site and converting it into a Private Members Club encompassing a new Memorial Hall all owned by the charitable trust. Further details were published in the June 2018 edition of Village Voice and the trustees have undertaken to provide regular updates as plans develop.
Two of the trustees are also members of the Parish Council. This is useful in that the Parish Council is able to be easily kept informed on what the Trust’s plans are. The Parish Council has no involvement in decisions taken by the Trust nor vice versa. In the unlikely event that a potential conflict of interest should arise this would have to be declared through usual procedures.
3. Provision of Affordable Housing
In preparation for the Neighbourhood Plan a Housing Needs Survey was undertaken in 2015 which established a need for up to 9 affordable homes to meet local need.
If the car park and affordable housing development to the north of the station is built this will meet that need.
Two sites within the village were identified at an early stage for inclusion in the Neighbourhood Plan as potential development sites for affordable homes. These being the garages to the rear of houses in New Farthingdale and the car park behind houses in Hollow Lane backing onto New Farthingdale. Tandridge District Council , which owns both sites, has advised the Parish Council that they intend to apply for planning permission for affordable homes on these two sites before the end of 2018.
If these schemes proceed Dormansland will have exceeded the identified local requirement for affordable homes. There is therefore no need for new housing developments to generate enabling funding for more affordable homes.
The Future for the Neighbourhood Plan
The Parish Council is mindful that the overwhelming view of residents is that they do not want large scale developments in or around the village given the already overstretched infrastructure. This was recently reinforced by the reaction of residents to the planning application for development of the field at the bottom of West Street (subsequently refused). Experience in other areas of Tandridge where developments are taking place has shown that the local roads cannot take heavy construction traffic and there has been significant damage and disruption. Delays in road repairs are made worse due to disputes over responsibility for damage between Surrey and developers.
The Parish Council will not be supporting a Neighbourhood Plan that provides for large scale development.
The Parish Council will be carefully considering the revised draft Neighbourhood Plan which was received from the Steering Group on 26th June. It is our view that now is not an appropriate time to go out to public consultation given that three key elements of the plan are moving forward in any event and will not be influenced by the plan. To consult the public on these at this stage would be pointless.
The three elements being:
Our view is that no further work be done on these three elements of the Neighbourhood Plan until the outcome on each of the current schemes is clear. Should any of these not proceed for any reason then we would look for alternatives to include in the plan that may achieve the same aims.
Once the revised draft of the Neighbourhood Plan has been duly considered we anticipate that there will be a need to refine some of the other elements of the plan and this work can continue pending final outcomes on the three elements. It will also be necessary to discuss the plan with Tandridge District Council before any further public consultation.
The Parish Council is determined that the Neighbourhood Plan will reflect the wishes of residents. Before the plan can be finalised there will be further public consultation and ultimately a referendum on whether to adopt the plan or not.
At a meeting of the Parish Council on 4th July 2018 the Parish Council voted to remove from the draft Neighbourhood Plan the 5.2 hectare site south of Dormans Station reserved for a large housing development and car park along with the Memorial Hall and Farthingdale garage sites. All three matters are likely to be resolved before the year end as explained above.