CHOBHAM parish councillors are asking for a meeting with Surrey Heath’s chief planning officer to clarify how the new local plan for the borough will affect green-belt land in the village.

With the preparation of a neighbourhood plan for Chobham in its final stages, councillors are unsure how the document can seek to protect open spaces from development. 

The neighbourhood plan cannot conflict with the borough plan, which will set out Surrey Heath’s approach to development up to 2038.

Alarm was expressed by local councillors, Chobham Society and villagers when it was discovered the draft borough plan intended to end the parish being “washed over” by the green belt.

This designation assumes new building can mainly take place across the parish in exceptional circumstances.

But the draft borough plan suggests the Chobham settlement area should be extended, so residential areas including The Avenue and parts of Mincing Lane, Station Road, Windsor Road and Leslie Road will no longer have “washed over” protection.

Preparation of the Surrey Heath plan was delayed following the government’s publication of proposed changes to national planning policy. In March this year, the council’s executive agreed a revised timetable, and a draft will now be ready between November this year and January 2024. 

A final draft will be submitted to the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities in April next year.

Chobham parish councillors submitted a 26-page letter containing their comments on the draft during a public consultation in May 2022. 

They are hoping that Surrey Heath’s attitude to development on green-belt land will change now the Liberal Democrats have taken firm control of the authority.

The submission expressed concerns that removing the “washed-over” designation will destroy the village’s character by allowing so-called backland development in large gardens, higher-density infilling between buildings and buildings higher than the current restriction to two storeys.

A final draft of Chobham’s neighbourhood plan is being prepared by planning consultants employed by the parish council. The plan – setting out a shared community vision to shape the development and growth of their area – will eventually be put to a parish referendum.

The initiative is being led by Cllr Emma Kennedy, who told the parish council at its meeting last week she was concerned about how much the Chobham plan could protect green-belt land.

“We can’t go against the contents of the local plan by conflicting with its green-belt policies,” she said. “We should keep pressing to change the policy for Chobham until the document is signed off.”

The council agreed with her proposal that its representatives should meet the Surrey Heath chief planning officer to discuss the borough’s current intentions on removing Chobham’s “washed over” status.