Fringe Box



Letter: Is Housing Plan For Wisley Stacking The Deck Against The Public?

Published on: 13 Dec, 2015
Updated on: 25 Sep, 2017

emails letterFrom Ben Paton

The planning application to build a new town in Ockham (15/p/ 00012) was submitted by Savills on behalf of Caymans company Wisley Property Investments (WPI) on December 16, 2014. Guildford Borough Council stated that it expected to determine the application by August, 7, 2015. It then put back the date to December 24.

And now it has stated in a press release: “The applicant has been reviewing the comments received, in particular the concerns expressed by statutory consultees, and is likely to submit further information to support their application. 

“This is likely to require further consultation with stakeholders and interested parties.  The council will therefore seek to agree a further extension of time  – it is currently estimated that the application will be presented to the committee in spring 2016.”

I believe GBC is putting back and putting back the date of the hearing expressly to allow the applicant to alter its case to address arguments which it has been put on notice will be made against it. Savills is making new representations to GBC which are not being made public.

Applicants are not normally given an extra 15 months to alter their proposals. Why should WPI?

Planning is a quasi-judicial process. It should be transparent and fair.

Instead of extending the time for a decision the council should make its decision now and allow resulting procedures, whether by way of a fresh application or appeal to take their course. By continually deferring a decision it is implying the development is agreed already.

It is likely that over 2,000 people in Ripley, Cobham, Ockham and the Horsleys have made written objection to this application, including Elmbridge Borough Council, Ockham, Ripley, Cobham and East Horsley Parish Councils, Thames Water and Surrey Highways. Will they be given 15 months to find further reasons to object to whatever Savills come up with next?

To most readers it is plain that this proposal is contrary to multiple elements of the current 2003 Local Plan.

It is positioned in one of the least sustainable places in the borough – according to the Settlement Hierarchy.

It is right next to a special protection area. It has no direct road access to the A3, contrary to the applicant’s repeated and misleading claim that access for a waste composting facility which has never been built (and which it states in writing that it does not intend to build) constitutes access to the A3.

It is positioned next to one of the two worst congestion zones on the A3 between London and Portsmouth. It is a proposal to build three times more houses than exist in Ripley – without any infrastructure.

Despite this, GBC needs 15 months to make up its mind? Why? Is there an ulterior motive?

Is it because it wants to keep this site in the draft Local Plan?

Is it because it wants this application to be determined under some prospective future local plan rather than the existing one?

Or because it intends that the applicant should refer this matter to the Secretary of State?

Is this a case of ‘regulatory capture’?

If not, why is it so difficult to determine this application?

An application to put up one new house next door was refused in short order. Is there one rule when you apply for one house and another when you apply for a whole new town?

How does GBC manage the inherent conflicts of interest involved in advising WPI about its planning application and in fulfilling its duty to apply the planning rules?

Is this the way to run a planning system?

Does it give everyone confidence in the system and its ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’?

Is this not stacking the deck against the public?

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Responses to Letter: Is Housing Plan For Wisley Stacking The Deck Against The Public?

  1. Roland McKinney Reply

    December 14, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    The author asks good questions. Another facet of this application is the high levels of air pollution recorded at the Wisley air quality monitoring station, which GBC admit is not located in the worst possible position, so that this station does not show just how poor air quality is.

    Even in its current location, this air quality monitoring station reveals that the air quality limit on nitrogen dioxide concentration necessary to protect public health has not been met for several years.

    Given this, it is astonishing that GBC have failed to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which they are required to do.

    The reason GBC give for this is the absence of residences in the area, but in fact the EU Air Quality Directive refers to the absence of fixed habitation and where members of the public do not have access.

    Both of these conditions have to be to be met in order for the air quality limit values in the Directive not to apply. But members of the public do have access to Wisley, there is a car park and a café within 50 meters of the A3 carriageway.

    There is another reason why an AQMA should have been declared – Wisley is a Special Protected Area (EU designation) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and so is an important ecosystem.

    The air quality limit to protect vegetation and ecologically important sites is 30 micrograms of nitrogen oxides per cubic metre of air.

    According to the DEFRA website which provides relevant air quality objectives “If a local authority finds any places where the objectives are not likely to be achieved, it must declare an Air Quality Management Area there.”see

    So GBC should have declared an AQMA to comply with this DEFRA requirement on either or both the need to protect human health and/or the protection of an important ecosystem, but have failed to do so. GBC are in breach of the EU Air Quality Directive at Wisley.

    One cannot help but wonder if this failure has anything to do with this planning application.

  2. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    December 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Perhaps GBC are taking the same line as Conservative central government that NOx [nitrogen oxide limits] do not matter?

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