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Local elections 2014: Will Surrey house prices affect voting?


Jack Fiehn

Local elections 2014: Will Surrey house prices affect voting? Jack Fiehn

Hogs Back

By Jack Fiehn

BBC Surrey political reporter

Hogs Back Some councils in Surrey are considering the future of the green belt

Voters go to the polls in local council and European elections on Thursday at a time when house prices in Surrey are among the highest in the country.

According to the National Housing Federation, the shortage of affordable homes has put many properties out of reach for local workers and young people.

Some developers want less restrictive planning laws. But at the same time there are fears for the future of the countryside, particularly green belt land, from groups like the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The Conservatives run most of the borough and district councils in Surrey, including those where elections are taking place. In the past the party has pledged to protect the green belt, with the MP for Reigate, Crispin Blunt, saying he will "die in a ditch" before allowing it to be harmed.

But the government also wants more housing to be made available and has told local authorities to work out what the future need is likely to be and allocate sufficient land to meet it. This has led councils such as Mole Valley, Runnymede and Guildford to consider whether some places should lose their green belt status.

The Liberal Democrats say Surrey's green belt must be protected for future generations. The party acknowledges the extreme shortages in parts of the county and says there must be "some give and take" over affordable housing. It says borough and district councils should be encouraged to maximise the use of non-green belt land for future developments.

Labour claim that the budget for building affordable homes has been cut by 60% across the country and that the Government is building the lowest number of new homes since the 1920s. It says there should be a "brownfield first" policy in order to help families and create jobs.

UKIP says residents should be able to petition to initiate local referendums on planning matters so that communities have the final say. The party in Surrey wants incentives to develop brownfield sites, renovate empty properties, and encourage business development in areas where there is a housing surplus.

The Green Party argues local councils should be allowed to choose to protect the green belt rather than meet nationally driven housing targets. It says there should be a focus on providing more affordable homes for local people instead of expensive homes for London commuters.

Surrey also has a significant number of councillors who are independent or from residents associations. They take different approaches depending on where they are in the county. For example, the Elmbridge Residents Group has criticised the Conservatives for allowing developments on green sites.

Meanwhile in Mole Valley, where the independents are in coalition with the Tories, they are involved in carrying out the review of green belt sites.

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