During the COVID-19 lockdown, we at ECF have taken the time to reflect on one of our most active areas of interest when it comes to planning, Surrey.
Despite Surrey being represented entirely by Conservative MPs, indicating that it is a relatively homogenous block at the national level when it comes to its colour at Westminster. In recent years it has become home to some of the most dynamic local politics in the country.
Indeed, at the local government level, its political representation is much more eclectic than at Westminster; with the divide predominantly being between Conservatives, resident groups, and the Liberal Democrats. This makes for interesting points of departures between each of the individual boroughs, in large part reflecting specific local priorities.
With that said, we have taken the time to see how this dynamism translates into planning approval rates across the county. Specifically, we have analysed how each of the county’s 11 boroughs compared on their planning consent rates between May 2019 and April 2020 – the equivalent of a single council year.
The results make for interesting reading, with our research suggesting that there were ultimately wide disparities between each of the boroughs on their planning consent rates and the number of units approved.
A summary of the findings are below:
- The total number of units approved across the 11 councils was 3,473: an average of 316 units per council.
- The highest number of decisions made among the local authorities during the time analysed was 57 at Elmbridge Council. However, this figure is composed of applications determined by its three area sub-committees (north, south and east) and main planning committee.
- The highest number of applications decided by a single committee was at Reigate & Banstead, whose Planning Committee made 36 determinations.
- The council with the highest percentage rate of approvals was Runnymede Council who consented all 19 of the applications they saw.
- Tandridge Council had the highest percentage rate of going against the officer’s recommendation at 71%, delivering the smallest number of residential units across the local authorities.
- Guildford Council consented the greatest number of total units with 867.
- Guildford Council also deferred the most applications (7), mainly for site visits.
- Spelthorne* determined the single largest planning application; a scheme from Berkeley Homes for 467 residential units at 17-51 London Road in Staines-upon-Thames, which contributed towards 62% of the borough’s housing delivery over the time analysed.
- Epsom & Ewell’s Planning Committee determined the fewest number of planning applications (9), but still consented the 5th highest number of units among the boroughs, with 320.
- Surrey Heath had the highest percentage rate of refusals, which made up 58% of its planning decisions, closely followed by Tandridge, with 57%.
- Waverley consented the smallest number of units per approved application, with an average of 3.5.
If you would like to receive ECF’s paper, have any questions on this article or need any stakeholder or community engagement advice on a project you are working on within Surrey, feel free to contact Will Hamill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*In our report we reference Spelthorne as being under the control of a Conservative majority administration, which was correct for the time analysed. The control of Spelthorne Council has been subject to changes since the report was published due to the newly formed United Spelthorne Group (making it likely that the Council, now under no overall control, will move to a minority Conservative administration). However, this is still to be confirmed.