Fringe Box



Protesters And Developers Again Make Their Cases Over Wisley Airfield Development Plans

Published on: 7 Jan, 2016
Updated on: 7 Jan, 2016

Protesters fighting plans to build on the the former Wisley airfield site have accused the owners of making misleading statements and claims.

The Wisley Action Group (WAG) has said that the site, known as Three Farms Meadow, has been described by Wisley Property Investments (WPI) as lowest Grade 4 land, while WAG counters that the majority of it is Grade 3 prime agricultural land and was advertised as that by estate agents Knight Frank in 2014.

Helen Jefferies of WAG said: “WPI has specifically stated that the land has been taken out of the green belt as part of the Guildford Greenbelt Review and this is simply not so.”

In its latest statement WAG added: “This fundamentally misleading statement is only one of many regularly presented by this Cayman Island-based company – including claims to already have direct access on to the A3 at Ockham interchange; an existing daily bus service; areas of land which it does not own and which are unavailable to them; and a statement that it is the only assembled site available for development now as part of the five-year housing supply.”

The area at Wisley earmarked for development. Picture from the Wisley Action group's website.

The area at Wisley earmarked for development. Picture from the Wisley Action Group’s website.

Mrs Jefferies goes on to say: “It is well documented that the approval for the access route was only for a waste composting facility with limited truck movements. As this development will not now take place, the approval for the spur road will lapse and a new application must be approved.”

WAG also says WPI’s claim of a daily bus service is “false as there exists no service other than a school bus”, adding “equally WPI’s application is based on an assumption of utilising land which they don’t own and which has been expressly excluded by local land owners. And the notion that this land would be available to contribute to the five-year housing supply is contradicted by the fact that the site is subject to up to three years’ work by Thames Water – subject to funding – and Natural England agreeing a SANGS area of 10 ha per 1,000 population.”

Pollution levels in the area have also been misrepresented, according to WAG.

Referring to nitrogen oxides [NOx] levels at Wisley, WAG points to WPI representatives having stated: “New residents will not be negatively affected due to predicted concentrations of these pollutants being below the relevant air quality objectives as set out in the UK Air Quality Strategy.”

WAG states this is untrue, adding: “Current data available suggests that NO2 levels should not exceed 40. The NO2 level at Wisley has been recorded as 44 in both 2011 and 2012 and nearly 45 in 2013. And levels are rising.”

Aerial view of the site as shown on the developer's website

Aerial view of the site as shown on the developer’s website

WAG also points to WPI’s website and says it claims the site has 70 acres of hard standing or the equivalent of 70 football pitches.

Mrs Jefferies said: “This is a typically flagrant exaggeration of reality since 70 acres represents just 35 football pitches – exactly half. But WPI seems unconcerned about allowing the facts to interfere with their ambitions.”

Artist's impression on what the development would look like. Image from the developer's website.

Artist’s impression on what the development would look like. Image from the developer’s website.

Claims that WPI has undertaken a comprehensive consultation programme, which included engagement with stakeholders, is blatantly untrue, says WAG, adding: “One of the key heritage properties adjacent to the site has objected and stated that they have never been consulted at any time. And neither WAG nor Ockham Parish Council or the Ockham & Hatchford Residents’ Association has any record of an invitation to discuss the project.”

In response, Mike Murray, from Wisley Property Investments, said: “There is a huge housing shortage in Guildford. The council’s latest report says that this has driven prices up to 14 times annual earnings, making owning their own home unaffordable for many local people.

“Wisley Airfield itself can help to solve Guildford’s urgent housing crisis by providing a significant proportion of the new homes Guildford needs over the next 15 years. Making the best use of previously developed brownfield sites like Wisley Airfield is also in line with Government policy.

“We’re proposing a new community with schools, shops, medical facilities, a community hall, cafe, sports facilities, a huge country park and more as well as up to 800 affordable homes. As stated, the site has a consented access to the A3.

Developer's survey stats shown on its website.

Developer’s survey stats as shown on its website.

“We’ve carried out a comprehensive consultation which started in April 2014 and is still ongoing. In 2015 we commissioned independent telephone and on-street surveys of Guildford borough residents. These showed that 65% of under-35s, and 46% of survey respondents are more generally in favour of developing a new community at Wisley Airfield. Just 30% overall were against using the largest area of previously developed brownfield land in Guildford’s area of green belt for desperately needed new homes.

“The consultation included five exhibitions, a focus group and workshop sessions as well as the telephone and on-street surveys. WAG and other local stakeholder groups were directly invited to all of these. Specifically they were invited to the focus group but chose not to attend.

“We continue to seek engagement locally, in particular through the Lovelace Neighbourhood Plan group.

“As a direct result of the consultation process, the plan now includes a secondary school and we have provided a host of new information to Guildford Borough Council about the plans.”

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Responses to Protesters And Developers Again Make Their Cases Over Wisley Airfield Development Plans

  1. George Potter Reply

    January 8, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I do love that phrase “two thirds of respondents were supportive or neutral”.

    It’s a brilliant way of hiding the number of respondents who were supportive and claiming neutrality as support.

    After all, if 35% of respondents opposed it, 1% opposed it and the remaining 64% were neutral then they could still say that “two thirds are supportive or neutral”!

    I know we should never fall into the trap of NIMBYism, but it’s impossible to see any way in which the justifications for this proposed development aren’t massively contradicted by reality.

    And let’s not also forget the disingenuosity of surveying the residents of the borough (presumably mostly on Guildford High Street) rather than residents in the area which will actually be affected!

    And I say this as a Guildford resident myself.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      January 9, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      In reply to George Potter’s comment:

      You’ve failed to note that the local authority survey is set out as pro-forma answers.

      What are you meant to do if don’t arrgree or believe none of them represent your views?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 8, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    What is more worrying is that GBC has been co-operating with the developer, to the point of advising them how best to improve their chances of planning permission.

    This is not their job! Why is this part of their ‘trajectory’?

    We deserve to be told.

  3. Tony Edwards Reply

    January 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Mike Murray, representing off-shore, Cayman Islands developers, trots out the same old misinformation about ‘Three Farms Meadows’ being a brownfield location – when it patently isn’t – but fails to answer most of the specific allegations presented by WAG.

    He claims he’s continuing to engage with locals when the owners of property immediately adjacent to the former Wisley airfield have yet to hear from him. And his so-called survey statistics – which suggests we all think his plans are nothing short of marvelous – have already been shown to be a sham.

    He ignores WAG’s questions about A3 access – probably because he knows that his housing project has no such access – and says nothing about the dangerous NO2 levels at Wisley.

    Mr Murray apparently lives in La La Land where Mickey Mouse facts and figures support the notion of building all over Grade 3 prime agricultural land in the heart of Wisley’s green belt.

    • James Petal Reply

      January 11, 2016 at 11:20 pm

      In reply to Tony Edwards:

      Perhaps he’s not so on the ball because he’s working for Vale of the White Horse District Council as the cabinet member for planning policy, including the local plan.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    January 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

    Its a great shame that developers and planners seem to have a different dictionary on many words associated with planning and development in and around Guildford.

    Personally, I try to us the shorter Oxford English Dictionary for long words like ‘honesty’ and ‘verified facts’ which I find most comprehensive, and while a heavy tome it is sadly lacking in developers’ interpretations of these and other words.

    Does any one have a ‘developer dictionary’ so those of us concerned with the day-to-day noise and gaseous pollution, excessive traffic and lack of infrastructure details of the way forward can understand (translate) this alien language used by these developers?

    I support the concerns expressed above.

  5. Terry Stevenson Reply

    January 11, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Interesting that while there is a severe shortage of runway capacity in the South East, three major development sites (Wisley, Dunsfold and Manston) involve airfields.

    A missed opportunity?

    Personally, I would prefer a huge reforestation programme and reintroduction of bears and wolves into rural areas of England. That’s what the green belt is for, right?

  6. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    February 8, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Tonight (February 8) is going to be an interesting evening at the Ockham Parish Council’s public meeting where GBC representative make an appearance.

    Looking at some of the objections to the development recently posted on the GBC website, it is clear that none of the public support this proposals and important statutory consultees are either absence (Natural England) or have grave concerns and with many questions still left unanswered.

    For example, Highways England seem perplexed, to say the least, that the development, according to the applicant’s own studies, will reduce traffic in the area.

    They also seem perplexed as to why their previous advice and communication has been ignored by the applicant during formal consultation with them.

    In their conclusion Highways England concluded that “the applicant has not provided sufficient information requested and agreed during the consultation process following the submission of the previous application…Given that there is outstanding evidence, we are of the view that the soundness of the application has not yet been proved”.

    Forgive me, one would be right to conclude the applicant would make sure they complied with Highways England’s advice as highways and access to the site from the A3 is at the heart of a successful application.

    Is because in doing so it would be detrimental to the applicant’s case? Why given them more time, they should have a good application by now, surely?

    Also, the wildlife trust who are providing feedback on the application as Guildford Borough Council’s “ecological planning advisor and is restricted to biodiversity/nature conservation/ecological issues”. Reading their report they are very damming with regards to loss of biodiversity and the limited impact of the proposed mitigation measures put forward in the application.

    In their conclusion: “The Wildlife Trust would advise that further advice is sought by the planning authority from Natural England regarding the potential impact of the proposed development on the SPA and SSSI and the species these habitats support and regarding the appropriateness of the
    applicants proposed mitigation/compensation proposals.

    “We would further advise that the planning authority seeks further information from the
    applicant regarding the effects of the proposed development on the biodiversity value of the
    site with specific regard to the loss of the SNCI and the appropriateness of the applicants
    proposed mitigation to protect and enhance the biodiversity value of the site and the status of
    the species it supports.”

    Why give the applicant more time? After all, determination of this application by GBC has already been delayed on numerous occasions?

    Why are GBC allowing an application, following thousands of objections, to be put forward which still contains factual errors and untruths which have already been pointed out to the applicant before the latest submission?

    They can’t even get the names or locations of train stations in the area right let alone understand current traffic flows in the area and NOX levels.

    How much of UK tax payer’s money is being wasted on telling a Cayman Island tax haven company how to destroy our legally protected green belt?

    Let’s listen to common sense and the man on the Clapham omnibus, this is the wrong development (too big or too small) in the wrong place with a total disregard to the biodiversity and health and wellbeing of the population of the area.

    Applications get thrown out all the time in the GBC chamber with no additional time, consideration or recourse offered to the applicant. Why is this one being treated so differently?

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