Guildford Borough Council has voted to spend up to £20,000 on appointing a Queen’s Counsel to give a second opinion on whether its local plan is sufficiently robust in the event of it being challenged in the High Court.
The money has been allocated to ensure that the processes used in the determining the local plan, which was adopted in April 2019 and is set to be place until 2034, would withstand a judicial review being brought against it.
The development of the local plan proved controversial amongst some residents due to the extent of green belt land that was included and members also voted to carry out a review of whether more of the 10,678 homes it needs to build can be on brownfield sites instead of green belt land.
The plan identifies three major green belt sites for 5,200 new homes, at the former Wisley Airfield site, Blackwell Farm and in the city centre and removes green belt protection from 15 villages in the borough. Since the local plan was adopted, council elections in May 2019 changed the political control of the council from a Conservative majority to a minority administration headed by the Liberal Democrats, with the newly-formed Residents for Guildford and Villages party in second place.
In March a government planning inspector said the plan was sound and the use of rural land was justified to meet a pressing need for housing. However, in June, three claimants – represented by Richard Buxton Solicitors – announced that they were seeking a planning statutory review of the decision to approve the local plan which they say deletes an excessive amount of land from the Green Belt.