Chapter 2 - PLANNING STRATEGY

PLANNING STRATEGY & OBJECTIVES

General Approach

2.1 The Borough of Reigate and Banstead comprises a number of towns and villages set within attractive countryside, stretching either side of the North Downs escarpment. This pleasant environment, adjoining Greater London to the north and Gatwick Airport to the south and crossed by the M25 and M23 motorways, results in considerable development pressures.

2.2 Successive development plans have therefore included policies of firm restraint on development, which seek to protect the character of the area and the level of amenity currently enjoyed by residents.

2.3 This Local Plan seeks to restrain development in three principal ways. Firstly, by the maintenance of the Green Belt which is aimed at preventing the outward spread of existing settlements; secondly, by allocating land for only a modest increase in the housing stock, in line with Structure Plan requirements; and thirdly, by strictly regulating the amount of additional business, industrial, and storage or distribution floorspace to be permitted over the Local Plan period.

2.4 Over recent years there has been a growing public awareness of, and concern over environmental issues and these are given the highest consideration throughout this Local Plan. Indeed, the first policy chapter of the Local Plan concerns the protection of existing character, since without clear identification of the best and most sensitive areas of the Borough it is difficult to provide for their protection and to determine the optimum location for new development.

2.5 Within areas in which development is acceptable, the impact of a proposal on the surrounding area, including its effect on the character of the area, will be of paramount concern. Throughout the Local Plan environmental assessment criteria and comprehensive design and layout requirements have been set down and the Borough Council will seek high standards of development in pursuance of its aim to enhance the character of the Borough wherever possible.

Objectives

Protection of Existing Character

2.6 The Borough is fortunate in possessing both countryside and urban areas of exceptional quality. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the North Downs escarpment is of national importance, and Banstead Woods, Chipstead Valley, and Walton and Reigate Heaths are also areas of notable landscape and wildlife value.

2.7 Virtually the whole of Reigate town centre is recognised for its historic and architectural qualities as a designated Conservation Area, as are the older village centres such as Merstham and Walton-on-the-Hill. The Borough Council has designated several more Conservation Areas, making a total of 17 (2005), including recognising the contributions made by the architects of the Arts and Crafts Movement. There are 425 listed buildings within the Borough and a further 528 recognised as being of local architectural or historic merit (2005).

2.8 Development proposals within these areas or which involve historic buildings or protected trees, will not be permitted if they would endanger the identified character. Development which is inappropriate or would have an adverse effect will also be resisted. Only proposals which conform to the policies of this Local Plan and are designed in a sympathetic and traditional form will be acceptable.

Objectives

Countryside

2.9 Agriculture is the predominant land use in the Borough's countryside, although much is now probably surplus to current farming needs. Many farms are classified as part-time with their owners often having other incomes. There has been some diversification into farm shops, pick-your-own businesses and other pursuits. A number of golf course proposals have been made on farmland, while much land in the Banstead/Tadworth area has gone over to horse keeping. It is in the urban fringes in particular, where land commands prices far in excess of its value for agriculture, that much fragmentation and speculation has taken place.

2.10 The countryside also contains large areas of open commons and woodlands to which the public have access, as well as various institutions in large grounds, including a number of redundant and potentially redundant hospitals, together with scattered commercial, recreational and residential properties.

2.11 Because of the development pressures much of the Borough has been within the Metropolitan Green Belt since the 1950s. Its purpose is to contain the outward spread of London, to prevent the merging of settlements, to preserve the character of towns and to safeguard the countryside from further encroachment. Green Belt policy is a major factor in the control of development, both within towns and the countryside, and in providing for recreational opportunities.

2.12 The Borough Council recognises that in the changing agricultural climate, real problems exist in sustaining farm incomes and hence in maintaining an attractive and well managed countryside. Therefore, agriculture and its problems are given a high profile in the Local Plan, with a flexible approach to diversification, in accordance with Government policy, in an endeavour to provide a stable long-term future, which can reverse the tendency to fragmentation.

2.13 However, there is still a need to protect the traditional character of the countryside, and its ecological and recreational value, as well as maintaining local amenities and ensuring that any new development does not merely amount to asset stripping. Therefore, proposals will be carefully examined to see if they meet all these objectives. Positive measures will also be taken to resolve conflicts between farming and other activities through Countryside Management Projects and other initiatives.

Objectives

Housing

2.14 The housing stock at the time of the 2001 Census was 52,895 dwellings. Owner occupation comprised 79% of the stock. In March 2002 the Borough Council transferred its housing stock to a Registered Housing Landlord (RSL), giving a total of 13% in that tenure. 7% of the stock was privately rented. The average household size comprised 2.38 persons.

2.15 House prices are amongst the highest in the country and access to all forms of housing for first time buyers and those on low incomes is extremely limited. As a result many would-be home owners move away reducing the potential supply of younger persons for the resident workforce. Incoming families tend to be already established in employment or of retirement age. The provision and occupation of new housing therefore does not necessarily equate to an equivalent increase in the labour supply.

2.16 The Surrey Structure Plan 1989 housing requirement was for a net increase in the dwelling stock of 4,520 dwellings from 31 March 1986 and by 31 March 2001, to be provided in two phases. Revised Regional Guidance in 1989 required Surrey to make provision for an additional 4000 dwellings in the 1990s. The agreed share to this Borough was 550 dwellings, making the total requirement 5,070 dwellings. In view of the level of existing commitments at the time, there was no justification for additional large land releases for housing, more that the housing strategy should be one of slowing down and husbanding the rate of housing provision. In the event, 6,462 dwellings (net) were completed between 1986 and 2001.

2.17 The Surrey Structure Plan 1994 requires provision to be made in the Borough for 6,300 additional dwellings from 1991 to 2006. This provision is in two phases, 4,300 units (of which 900 are to be in Horley) between 1991 and 2001, and 2,000 units (of which 1,300 are to be in Horley) between 2001 and 2006. Provision for a further 1,300 dwellings is to be made in Horley post 2006. Allocations to meet the Horley requirement are made in the First Alteration, principally in the form of two new neighbourhoods but no allocations are made in the rest of the Borough, due to high level of outstanding “windfall” commitments. Further details are included in Table 1 in the Housing Chapter.

2.18 Given these housing requirements (the highest in Surrey) and the current level of outstanding commitments, the Borough Council considers it both reasonable and necessary to continue to reduce pressures for redevelopment in established residential areas. This is to prevent the type of problems associated with town cramming and generally to maintain the current level of amenity enjoyed by the Borough's residents.

2.19 Within an area subject to restraint policies, it is important to protect the existing supply of housing and housing land, and a presumption in favour of this is pre-eminent throughout the Local Plan. However, the pursuit of higher densities upon redevelopment, irrespective of the effect upon the overall character, is not considered necessary or desirable. Policies are included which are aimed at ensuring the protection of existing character through greater care in the design and layout of housing developments, rebuilding and extensions. In Residential Areas of Special Character there are additional controls on development to protect their particular character.

2.20 High house prices and limited new house building by RSL’s continue to make entry into the housing market extremely difficult for young couples, single persons and those on low incomes. The solution to this seemingly intractable problem is likely to result from a combination of policy initiatives, mainly outside planning legislation. In an effort to contribute to the housing needs of the Borough and following national policy guidance, all major sites are expected to include an element of affordable housing. The type and amount of such housing will be determined following discussions with the Borough Council.

Objectives

Employment

2.21 In 1991 the Borough's resident workforce stood at 55,470, of which 28,020 (50.5%) worked within the Borough and 27,450 (49.5%) commuted out to work. The Borough has traditionally had a partial dormitory function with a pattern of journeys to work into London. Whereas in past years this would have entailed daily rail trips to the City and the West End, now a greater proportion work in outer London. The commuting pattern is generally a diverse and car borne one and the actual numbers commuting represent a growing trend both in terms of out-commuting and in-commuting into the Borough. Past experience shows that the provision of new employment floorspace is unlikely to reverse commuting trends and at a time of economic buoyancy will only add to the problems of limited labour supply and local traffic congestion and parking difficulties.

2.22 There is no requirement for Surrey to be self-sufficient in employment terms and the level of existing net outflow is assumed to continue throughout this Local Plan period. It is therefore central to the overall planning strategy of the Borough to prevent significant and uncontrolled increases in employment generating floorspace. Despite the need for overall restraint on additional employment growth, some development is required in order to maintain a healthy local economy and to ensure that a range of job opportunities is available locally.

2.23 Employment generating development is often an essential element or "pump primer" to bring about town centre redevelopment or to assist in the provision of infrastructure or other planning benefits. The sites proposed for employment development in this Local Plan have generally been selected where they can assist in the provision of significant benefits, either for the regeneration of town centres or industrial estates. In addition, encouragement will be given to proposals which replace outworn premises within existing Employment Areas. Where such schemes are acceptable, in all respects, they will be exempted from regulatory policies aimed at controlling the rate of implementation of employment developments.

2.24 The actual level of provision made within this Local Plan is difficult to determine precisely, since it will be dependent, for example, upon the actual mix of uses and levels of benefits required in each of the Integrated Mixed Use Schemes when they come forward for planning permission. The Structure Plan does not set precise requirements and therefore the level of provision is a matter of judgement, set against a range of factors. These include increases in the economically active population, the current level of unemployment, the extent of the Metropolitan Green Belt, the level of amenity within the urban areas, the current amount of land suitable for employment development, priorities for redevelopment or planning gain which are reliant upon employment development, past completions and take up rates and the capacity of the existing and proposed infrastructure.

2.25 The Borough Council considers that given the Green Belt planning context of this Borough, the amenity considerations within the urban areas, the need to conserve land for a range of competing uses and the actual level of employment provision being made, employment development should be directed only to identified employment policy areas. Proposals for employment development will therefore initially be assessed on the basis of their location and those outside employment policy areas will normally be resisted.

2.26 Proposals will then be assessed having regard to the local labour and housing markets and against the level of existing commitments. Should the proposal adversely affect those markets or the Borough Council considers there to be sufficient commitments at that time, then permission will not normally be granted.

2.27 Proposals will be assessed against the environmental and other criteria set out in each of the area or activity based policies of the Employment chapter only after these initial assessments have been complied with.

2.28 Significant increases in employment development outside but close to the Borough, can also add to the pressures on the local housing and labour markets. Some development related to Gatwick Airport falls into this category and can also result in increased levels of noise and of vehicle traffic. The Borough Council will make representations to Crawley Borough Council and to Gatwick Airport Limited if it considers development proposals at the airport would adversely affect the objectives of this Local Plan.

Objectives

Shopping and Town Centres

2.29 The Borough contains four main shopping centres, namely: Redhill, Reigate, Horley and Banstead Village. Compared to surrounding centres such as Croydon, Sutton, Crawley and Epsom, they are relatively small and cater more for the needs of the immediate catchment area, in particular for convenience goods with some comparison shopping.

2.30 Redhill is the principal centre serving eastern Surrey, a role which it has been more able to fulfill following the completion of The Belfry Scheme in 1993, which provides comparison shopping on a scale not previously in evidence. The scheme, which includes 22,800 sq.m. of gross retail floorspace, increased the overall retail floorspace provision in the town centre by 60% and brings much needed multiple stores into the Borough. The earlier diversion of the A23 allowed through traffic to be removed from the principal shopping streets and further paving works have been completed following the opening of The Belfry scheme. The South East Quadrant fronting Station Road, High Street and Marketfield Way is in need of major refurbishment and presents an opportunity to expand Redhill's shopping role further.

2.31 Reigate’s historic character, recognised by its designation as a Conservation Area in 1973, makes it unsuitable for major large scale redevelopment. Shops tend to be small and the town centre suffers from considerable levels of through traffic within its shopping streets. With a major supermarket provided in 1993, the creation of a pedestrian priority area is the most pressing requirement in order to enhance its shopping environment.

2.32 Major redevelopment within Horley town centre commenced in the mid 1980s and this process is at an interim stage with two schemes completed. A small pedestrian priority area has been implemented at the western end of the High Street. The building of a food superstore on the outskirts of Horley diverted a significant level of trade from the town centre, but the subsequent opening of a replacement Waitrose store and other improvements have helped consolidate Horley’s role as a “local” town centre.

2.33 The opening of a new supermarket in Banstead High Street has successfully anchored the future shopping role of the Borough's smallest main shopping centre. The Village remains buoyant and there is little need or opportunity for further retail provision at this time.

2.34 The Borough's principal local shopping centres are shown on the Proposals Map and despite the loss of some retail units, due to changes outside planning control, remain relatively buoyant. Policies aim to protect both their shopping and community roles because of their importance to local areas and to the less mobile sections of the population.

2.35 With out-of-town food superstores at Burgh Heath, Banstead and Hookwood, near Horley, there is reasonable access to this type of shopping facility from all parts of the Borough. In view of the level of existing provision together with supermarkets within town centres, it is not envisaged that there will be any significant demand for further provision within the foreseeable future.

2.36 Given the level of investment in the established shopping centres by both the public and private sectors and the continuing programme of pedestrian priority works, it is the firm intention of the Borough Council to maintain Town Centre Shopping Areas and Local Shopping Centres as the principal focuses for shopping in the Borough.

2.37 The approach adopted in this Local Plan is to supplement existing floorspace where required. Additional retail floorspace has now been provided in Reigate town centre on land south of the High Street and further retail floorspace is proposed for the South East Quadrant, Redhill. It is proposed that Horley town centre will develop further, as a result of the major new housing development and the additional customers who will live there. Shopping schemes implemented on these sites, together with any net additional floorspace arising from the redevelopment of existing shops, are likely to meet both the quantitative and qualitative requirements for shopping floorspace.

2.38 In order to maintain and enhance the viability and vitality of existing established shopping centres, the Borough Council will resist the loss of shopping, including strictly controlling the level of service uses within shopping streets. In addition, the need to make shopping centres attractive and safe environments has long been recognised and schemes for the creation of pedestrian priority areas in Redhill and Horley town centres have already been partially implemented. Parking provision and management will be carefully monitored and every opportunity taken to enhance provision in all of the established shopping centres.

Objectives

Recreation

2.39 The Borough as a whole has a generous provision of heaths, commons and other large amenity spaces, in all some 1,300 ha (3,200 acres). However, the distribution is not uniform with the main concentration being in the Banstead area where the inhabitants enjoy over 20 ha (50 acres) of amenity space per 1,000 population. The Horley area by comparison has a very poor level of provision with 1.3 ha (3 acres) per 1,000 population.

2.40 There are some 190 ha (470 acres) of outdoor playing space within the Borough. When assessed against the National Playing Fields Association Standard of 2.4 ha (6 acres) per 1,000 population there is, however, a shortfall in provision of about 90 ha (220 acres). The Reigate/Redhill area has a shortfall of over 36 ha (90 acres); the Banstead area of over 32 ha (80 acres); and the Horley area over 21 ha (50 acres).

2.41 With the Donyngs Recreation Centre at Redhill, and the facilities at the Horley Anderson and Banstead Centres, the Borough is well provided for, particularly for wet, but also for dry side indoor sports and has a higher level of provision than most other Surrey districts.

2.42 The provision of recreation facilities, including open space within the urban areas, is difficult as land prices often effectively prevent the implementation of non-commercial uses. It is, therefore, essential to protect existing open space from development pressures and to make the optimum recreational use of such land wherever possible.

2.43 It is unlikely that there will be sufficient financial resources available for the purchase of land, and its development as outdoor playing space, to meet the shortfalls. The selected approach in this Local Plan is, therefore, based on an examination of opportunities that may arise for open space provision within the deficient areas. A combination of direct open space provision, in some cases utilising existing under-developed land, agreements for the dual use of existing school playing fields and provision as part of major housing and employment developments, is seen as a more realistic approach, which is likely to achieve a greater level of provision for the community as a whole.

2.44 The retention and continued improvement of the three indoor established recreation centres is given priority in the Local Plan. It is recognised that other sites could be developed, either by the Borough Council or in partnership, to meet the growing demand for indoor sports and a range of other activities.

Objectives

Movement

2.45 The Borough is traversed by two major roads, the A23 and A217, running north-south radially from London, and by three which run east-west across it, the A25, M25 and A2022. The London-Brighton railway line, also serving Gatwick Airport, occupies the same corridor as the A23, and provides services to Redhill and Horley town centres as well as smaller stations. Redhill Station is a junction giving access to Tonbridge and beyond to the east, and to Guildford and Reading to the west.

2.46 This level of accessibility contributes to the established popularity of the area for both workplace and housing. This factor together with the higher than average car ownership and usage by the Borough's residents, and the greater choice of work place now available, has led to a complex pattern of car commuting and recurrent traffic congestion in the peak hours. Indeed, Surrey's main roads carry twice the national average volume of traffic. A side effect of congestion has been a noticeable increase in 'ratrunning' as motorists try to avoid main road bottlenecks.

2.47 Government and County Council funding for road improvements is limited. Given the lack of spare capacity in the road network, it is important that major new developments fund any alterations to the road network or public transport facilities required as a result of the developments, whether on-site or off-site.

2.48 The County Council has proposed removing through traffic from Reigate's High Street by providing an alternative route skirting the northern edge of the town centre but studies in 2004 concluded that the safeguarded scheme could not be progressed.

2.49 Another effect of the Borough's enhanced level of economic activity can be seen in the main town centres, with public car parking generally in short supply, and with an ever-widening ring of overflow parking within residential roads close to the town centres. This has important implications for parking provision within new developments; for public parking to be considered as the key community benefit in mixed use schemes; for management and control of parking spaces within private commercial developments in order to maximise use of an existing asset; and for parking control within residential areas adjacent to town centres, in order to restore to them a reasonable level of residential amenity and contribute to a safer environment.

2.50 There have been improvements in public transport services and facilities, notably in rail services to the west and Redhill's bus and railway stations. However, in view of the current complexity of worktrips, it seems unlikely that public transport will gain a significantly greater share of passenger traffic in the absence of any radical Government policy initiatives.

2.51 The Borough's town centres straddle the main traffic routes and this has resulted in a deteriorating shopping environment as traffic and congestion have increased significantly during recent years. Redhill's shopping core and part of that at Horley have seen dramatic improvements with the diversion of vehicular traffic away from the main centres of activity. The paving of shopping streets has transformed them into relaxed, safe pedestrian environments free from danger, noise and pollution. This process of improvement is set to continue in Horley, and is also proposed in Reigate High Street. This Plan also recognises the upsurge in popularity of cycling, and will aim to make proper secure parking provision for cyclists within newly paved areas in town centres. It will also provide a context within which advisory routes for cyclists can be planned.

Objectives

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