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Guildford Borough Council

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications - Part 1: Policies

2. Key facts about the borough

2.1 Guildford is the county town of Surrey, known for its historic buildings and landscapes, cultural associations and the picturesque town centre. Situated in the south west of the county and surrounded by Green Belt and countryside, the urban areas of Guildford, Ash and Tongham are home to many of the borough's residents, with further communities in village settlements. We are within commuting distance from London and about 70 kilometres from the south coast.

2.2 We are the second largest borough in the county in terms of area, covering approximately 270 square kilometres. Guildford Cathedral, the University of Surrey, the Hog's Back and Surrey Hills are dominant landmarks of our borough. We are one of the safest parts of Surrey and part of one of the safest counties in England.


2.3 Our borough's population has risen steadily from 93,000 in 1951 to 137,183 in 2011. The population is predicted to grow from 145,473 in 2015 to 167,126 by 2034[1].

2.4 Our residents are largely healthy and enjoy well above average life expectancy. The workforce is generally well educated, highly skilled and well paid.

Pockets of deprivation

2.5 The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 provides a measure of deprivation based on factors such as income, employment, health, education, housing and crime. The Index ranks our borough amongst the least deprived 10 per cent of boroughs in England.

2.6 Despite the borough's relative affluence, pockets of deprivation exist. For the purposes of the Index of Multiple Deprivation, our borough is divided into 84 smaller areas called lower super output areas (LSOAs). Whilst none of the borough's LSOA's fall within the most deprived ten percent nationally, one is located in the top twenty percent and a further 14 areas are classified within the most deprived half of lower super output areas[2]. The impact of such relative deprivation is felt more keenly in an affluent area such as our borough.

2.7 The Council's Project Aspire aims to improve the lives of residents in the borough's least advantaged areas by working with partners, businesses and communities to deliver the changes local people wish to see. The project will run in parallel to the Local Plan and will initially focus on enhancing the quality of life and prospects of residents in north Guildford by encouraging these less advantaged communities to become more self-confident and self-reliant. Work may include the implementation of measures to reduce social and economic exclusion, improve health and wellbeing or enhance outcomes for young people at school.


2.8 The number of jobs in the borough continues to grow in line with our role as a regional administrative and commercial centre. Employment opportunities available in the borough reached 95,000 in 2015 across a wide range of industry sectors[3]. The main employment sectors that are continuing to grow include public administration, education and health, finance, distribution, hotels and restaurants. The tourism and service sectors, commercial services and manufacturing industries are also significant employers in the borough. Job opportunities in the retail industry are particularly concentrated within Guildford town centre. We also have a growing cluster of high tech industries that continue to create new jobs, particularly focused around the Surrey Research Park but also a cluster of gaming companies in Guildford town centre. New employment land is required to sustain such growth.

2.9 Although the economy has a relatively high public sector element, the private sector remains robust. The borough is home to the headquarters of major global companies including Allianz, Ericsson, Phillips, Electronic Arts and Avaya. The University of Surrey is also a significant employer in the borough along with the Surrey Research Park, which is home to over 140 companies.

2.10 We are fortunate that the level of unemployment in Guildford is low. Approximately 3.5% of working age adults in the borough are unemployed (as of Jan- Dec 2016) compared to 4.8% of working age adults nationally. However, we do have a skills shortage in some sectors and many workers are unable to afford homes close to work. This creates additional pressure to make sure that adequate provision is made for housing.


2.10a Pressure on existing infrastructure and additional stress caused by planned growth must be addressed if we are to maintain and enhance the borough's prosperity and quality of life. Many people are attracted to Guildford by the quality of life and environment. This places a high demand on school places and access to amenities such as open spaces. The local and strategic road networks, rail network and local facilities in village settlements are also facing increasing pressure.

Transport and accessibility

2.11 Guildford is a busy town with a wide influence on its surrounding area. The M25, A3, A31 and A331 are the principal routes that connect Guildford to the rest of the Strategic Road Network. The A3 trunk road cuts through the borough and provides a direct link to London and the south coast.

2.12 The borough benefits from twelve rail stations, including Guildford railway station, the busiest in the county, which provides access to, and interchange between, four lines. These rail lines fan out to serve our other stations and destinations beyond including London Waterloo, Woking, Reading, Redhill and Gatwick Airport.

2.13 Most of our communities are served by bus, which are operated on a largely commercial basis, with park and ride available on several approaches to Guildford. On most local roads in the urban areas and in the villages there is at least one footway, and usually two. Facilities to assist pedestrians in crossing roads are commonplace. There is a fragmented and disjointed network of cycle routes, consisting of routes both on and adjacent to local roads, with the latter often comprising shared lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. Many cycle lanes and tracks are narrow and some are unattractive to the average cyclist. There is also a network of footpaths and bridleways forming a rights of way network, which includes various routes that can be used by off-road cyclists.

2.14 The success of our borough, and the wider region, places significant demands on our transport networks. For instance, car ownership is high in the borough (86% of households own at least one car or van) compared to regional and national levels (81% and 74% respectively)[4]. We also have a significantly greater proportion of households with two or more cars. Journeys concentrate on key parts of the road and rail networks at peak times of day, leading to congestion or over-crowding, delays and unreliability, which have direct costs to people and businesses.

2.14a Significant, recurrent traffic congestion is experienced during peak hours on the A3 trunk road through the urban area of Guildford, with queuing extending back onto the dual carriageway section of the eastbound A31, and to the east between the Ripley junction and the A3/M25 (Junction 10) Wisley interchange junction. Traffic congestion also afflicts the Guildford urban area during peak hours. Whilst most local roads are single carriageway, with a lane in each direction, it is at their junctions that the free flow of traffic is most often impeded during peak periods, in some cases resulting in significant delays.

2.14b Bus services are also affected by the traffic congestion on local roads. On rail services, as patronage of rail services has continued to grow, more passengers are required to stand on peak services. A growth in cycling has occurred despite limited improvements to facilities for cyclists.

2.15 There are significant opportunities to progressively improve the opportunities for making sustainable travel choices and to improve the capacity of the road networks through transport infrastructure and service improvements. Surrey residents are generally very dissatisfied with the condition of the highways in the county[5] and this issue and the desire for more effective maintenance of local roads has been a key issue recurring in consultations on the Local Plan.


2.16 Housing is an issue of great significance to the borough and forms a major theme of the Local Plan. We have devoted considerable effort to understanding what the borough's housing needs are and have demonstrated this through our Land Availability Assessment (LAA) and Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). These documents form a key part of our evidence base.

2.17 The LAA has helped us to consider where new homes could be built by assessing the suitability, availability and viability of land to provide additional dwellings. The document is an audit of land at a point in time and does not decide where new homes will be built or grant planning permission. The LAA helps to inform the process of deciding how many new homes we may be able to deliver and when, and provides information about possible land that could be used to provide those new homes.

2.18 The SHMA is an assessment of peoples' housing needs within our borough based on statistical evidence. The document provides us with our objectively assessed housing need. This detailed evidence is required to ensure that the new Local Plan is based on up-to-date and robust information. The West Surrey SHMA, which covers the administrative boundaries of Guildford Borough Council, Waverley Borough Council and Woking Borough Council, was published in October 2015 and the West Surrey SHMA: Guildford Addendum Report in 2017. Both have informed the number and type of homes we have decided to plan for over the lifetime of the Local Plan.

2.19 The NPPF requires councils to identify the housing needs of their area and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth. The document instructs us to use our evidence base to ensure that our Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable homes in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in the NPPF.

2.20 Our work has developed in parallel with the production of the Council's Housing Strategy 2015-2020 and has taken into account the Homelessness Strategy 2013 - 2018. We have also considered surveys carried out by our Parish Councils on local need.

2.21 Our borough is in the main an affluent area. House prices are high, sustained by high demand, and are considerably above the national average (average house prices are currently £231,205 across England and Wales, £439,509 in Surrey and £445,524 in Guildford[6]) . This in turn has led to a vibrant private rented sector that provides housing for those who cannot afford to access the private sale market. There is an ongoing shortage of affordable housing, particularly for first time buyers, which in turn contributes to skill shortages in the borough. The total Guildford Borough Council housing stock is 5,210 units[7], with 65 new units having been added since the Housing Strategy was adopted in 2015 and planning permission for a further 103 units. There is also insufficient accommodation suitable for people wishing to downsize.

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Natural environment

2.23 Our borough has some spectacular scenery designated for its long-term protection. The south of the borough lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounding land is designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value. There are Special Protection Areas (SPA) (particularly surrounding Ash), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS), local Sites of Nature Conservation Importance and nature reserves across our borough. Approximately 89% of the borough is located within the Metropolitan Green Belt.

2.24 Guildford has its origins growing up where the River Wey flows through the North Downs ridge. This constrains development and creates a clear sense of separation between the town and outlying settlements, protecting the highly valued environment that is a distinctive part of the borough's character. The western border of the borough lies within the Blackwater Valley.

2.25 Some areas of our borough, including Guildford town centre, are at risk of fluvial and surface water flooding. Flash flooding can cause severe disruption to people and businesses, closing main roads and damaging homes. Over recent years we have witnessed more frequent flooding in the borough.


2.26 Our borough has a particularly rich and varied architectural heritage with 1,200 listed buildings and 38 conservation areas. It contains 151 designated Areas of High Archaeological Potential, 37 County Sites of Archaeological Importance, 35 scheduled monuments and 10 registered parks/gardens. The borough is also home to a series of great historic country houses set within designed landscape and parklands.

Competing and conflicting demands

2.27 The Local Plan needs to protect our attractive and valued environment whilst reconciling the need to accommodate our development needs. The balance between protecting our environment and meeting our development needs, including the provision of appropriate infrastructure, is at the centre of our spatial strategy.

2.28 It is the role of the Local Plan to balance the borough's competing and conflicting demands for land. We have sought to achieve this through a controlled realignment of the Green Belt boundary and development of a small number of strategic sites, which will allow us to provide for mixed and inclusive communities supported by new infrastructure.

Other plans and strategies

2.29 The South East Plan was published in May 2009. Whilst the majority of the plan was revoked in March 2013 as part of the reforms made to the planning system by the previous Coalition government, policy NRM6 remains in place and is relevant to development in the borough. The policy relates to new residential development close to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. The South East Plan can be viewed on the National Archives website.

2.30 Surrey County Council is responsible for the preparation of the Surrey Waste Plan. The Plan was adopted in May 2008 and sets out a framework for the development of waste management facilities in Surrey. Its provisions are a material consideration in the determination of planning applications. The Key Diagram and Sites Maps identify the allocated sites for waste management that are safeguarded from development.

2.31 Surrey Minerals Plan Core Strategy and Primary Aggregates Development Plan Documents (DPDs) were adopted by Surrey County Council in July 2011.They form part of the Surrey Minerals and Waste Development Framework. The Plan provides the policy framework to guide minerals development in the county. It replaced the Surrey Minerals Local Plan 1993. The Policies Map illustrates designated Mineral Safeguarding Areas within the borough.

2.32 Surrey County Council adopted its Aggregates Recycling Joint DPD in February 2013. The Aggregates Recycling Joint DPD forms part of the Surrey Minerals and Waste Development Framework and its provisions are a material consideration in the determination of planning applications. The document sets out proposals with regard to the provision of aggregates recycling facilities across the county for the period up to 2026. The Aggregates Recycling Joint DPD allocates the preferred areas for locating aggregate recycling facilities. It should be read alongside the Surrey Waste Plan 2008, the Surrey Minerals Plan Core Strategy 2011 and the Surrey Minerals Plan Primary Aggregates DPD 2011.

2.33 The borough is located within the Enterprise M3 Local Economic Partnership (LEP) area. The LEP aims to drive economic growth over a region covering most of Surrey and Hampshire by working with key partners (including Local Authorities), businesses and central government. The LEP published its 'Strategic Economic Plan, Growth Deal and Delivery Plan' in March 2014. The Enterprise M3 Strategic Economic Plan identifies Guildford as a Growth Town. Whilst the document does not form part of the development plan, it provides an important overview of the LEP's priorities and plans for delivering economic prosperity in the region.

2.33a Surrey Nature Partnership (SyNP) is the nature partnership for Surrey recognised by the government. The NPPF requires us to collaborate and consult with the SyNP when drawing up plans. The SyNP has produced 'Naturally Richer: a Natural Capital Investment Strategy for Surrey' (2015), to plan and coordinate investment in the natural environment of Surrey. The State of Surrey's Nature (2017) provides a base line against which to measure changes in biodiversity and identifies priorities for nature conservation and investment.

Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

2.34 We are required to carry out a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Local Plan to assess its impacts on social, economic and environmental objectives. We have undertaken the SA as an integral part of the Local Plan process. This has been an iterative process where outcomes have been fed back to inform the policies and proposals of the 'Local Plan: strategy and sites' document.

2.35 The process includes an appraisal of options to demonstrate that those chosen are the most suitable when tested against reasonable alternatives. Each policy and site has been appraised. We will publish the SA as a separate document to support the Local Plan. Full details of the SA can be found on the Council's website via the following link:



[1] Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2014-based sub-national population projections

[2] – English indices of deprivation 2015

[3] Office for National Statistics (ONS) Jobs Density - Total jobs includes employees, self-employed, government-supported trainees and HM Forces, quoted on Nomis

[4] Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2011 Census: Car or van availability, local authorities in England and Wales (Table KS404EW)

[5] National Transport & Highways Network Public Satisfaction Survey 2016

[6] Land Registry House Price Index December 2016

[7] February 2017