The Planning Policy Manager introduced a report that informed Members about the results of the consultation exercise on the potential release of Green Belt sites for family housing.
It was recognised that there was a particular need for more family housing in Slough and most sites in the town were not suitable for family housing which meant new housing was predominantly flats and small units. Greenfield sites provided an opportunity for family and affordable housing. The consultation had set out ten possible sites for release. Consultation had taken place between 5th November to 17th December 2021 with a leaflet sent to every household in Slough. A total of 417 responses had been received and 60% of respondents thought there was no need for more family housing in Slough. Only 11% of respondents thought that the need for more housing justified building on some Green Belt sites in Slough, which reflected the high level of public support for protecting the Green Belt.
In relation to alternative solutions, 40% thought more family housing should be built in Slough’s urban areas at a higher density and 45% thought family housing should be built outside the Borough but close to Slough. Whilst the respondents were generally not supportive of Green Belt site release in Slough, or of the provision of more family housing in general, it was noted that the response rate was relatively low and range of consultation mechanisms had been limited due to Covid restrictions.
The Committee discussed the survey results, next steps and how the consultation responses would be used. It was noted that public opinion was one factor to take into account, but the Council would have to take balanced decision overall when it produced its Local Plan. It was emphasised that no decisions had been taken, including on the possible sites included in the consultation. There would be further more formal stages of consultation on the draft Local Plan at a later stage.
In response to a question about the potential to bring forward more family housing sites in Colnbrook with Poyle the Officer explained why it had been discounted at this stage, primarily due to the proximity to Heathrow airport and potential future expansion; the area being relatively unsuitable for more family housing due to environmental reasons; and the importance of maintaining the strategic gap to London.
Members commented that there was a clear need for more family homes in Slough and the Council needed to try to find a way to provide a balanced housing mix that gave people the opportunity to stay in Slough. At the conclusion of the discussion the report was noted.
Resolved – That the response to the consultation on the proposed release of Green Belt sites for family housing be noted.