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The Ash Aspect: Up To 400 New Homes – But Where Is The Infrastructure?

Published on: 28 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 30 Nov, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-18-06-54By David Reading

Life is about to get more stressful for the people of Ash, and I don’t mean because we’re all still fretting about Donald Trump.

As most people here in Ash know, up to 400 homes are planned for Ash Lodge Meadows – the land south of Ash Lodge Drive. The phrase “up to” suggests it could be lower.

Some councillors, and certainly the residents, believe it should be cut to 250 and that this could be done by reducing the density of the housing on the north and south fringes of the site. But clearly the developers, Bewley Homes, would not be happy about that.

Dusk at Ash Lodge Meadows. This is what will be lost when the new estate has been built.

Dusk at Ash Lodge Meadows. This is what will be lost when the new estate has been built.

Of course, people have got to live somewhere, so the principle of building new homes somewhere has to be accepted. But this plan is likely to have serious repercussions for Ash.

Take the traffic. Anyone driving along Ash Street or Manor Road in the morning or evening rush hours will tell you that the streets are already heavily congested. When the Ash crossing barrier comes down, four or five times an hour, traffic is backed up in both directions. Four hundred new homes will equal 800 extra cars, assuming every household has two cars, as is the Surrey average.

Opinion Logo 1There are also concerns about flooding. The land is already susceptible to being waterlogged when there’s heavy rain. At the moment the water slowly soaks into the ground. Where will it go when the place is concreted over? With rainwater flowing down from the Hog’s Back, and to the north from Ash village, do the developers really know how much water we’re talking about? This is one thing that local people – notably the Ash Residents Association (ASHRA) – are seeking have clarified.

Then there is the likely pressure on local health services. One can wait three weeks to get a non-urgent appointment at Ash Vale Health Centre. The developers have talked about providing space for a “health facility” but I understand that both local practices say they have no idea how the money could be found to build and staff another surgery. So will it ever happen?

One of the deer that roams Ash Lodge Meadows

One of the deer that roams Ash Lodge Meadows

There is also a real threat to the wildlife in the area – notably the deer, rabbits, bats, woodpeckers and spring nesting birds such as blackcaps. One of the joys of living in Ash is to be able to wander out into the meadows at dusk and go deer spotting. Their territory will be obliterated.

It’s sad to think about what might have been. Some years ago – back in the nineties if I recall correctly – there used to be something in place called the Western Wards Action Plan, a community led strategy set up by the parish council and supported by the borough council. It sought to protect Ash from inappropriate development.

One of the approved facets of this plan was that Ash Lodge Meadows should become a countryside park. Think of Frimley Lodge Park, with its nature trails and children’s play area. We could have had something along those lines.

That Action Plan was formed within the framework of a Borough Plan – an overall strategy that assessed the housing needs for the whole borough and determined which sites should be released for housing. With the Borough Plan in place, it was difficult for developers to argue their case for building inappropriately on any specific site – including Ash Lodge Meadows.

But the Borough Plan from 2004 is so old that it has little authority and now, in the absence of an approved Local Plan, one that is taking so long to agree, there seems to be no coherent strategy in place.

Of course developers will take advantage of this, which is why the application to build on Ash Lodge Meadows eventually won the day. Outline permission exists for “up to” 400 homes and now all that is being discussed is the detail, such as the layout, appearance of the development and landscaping.

Unfortunately, in common with plans for housing developments elsewhere in the borough, the necessary infrastructure, such as roads, will not be there to prevent an Ash nightmare.

It’s a small world…

Walsh Memorial School Choir

Walsh Memorial School Choir – Album Cover

This picture is at the centre of a rather extraordinary story.

The picture shows the record sleeve of an album recorded in 1987 by the choir at Walsh Junior School, Ash. The children are probably in their forties now.

The story began when the album was recorded at St Peter’s Church in Ash under the direction of David Victor-Smith. I bought a copy because my daughter Sarah, who died in 1993 at the age of 17, is one of the choir members pictured on the sleeve.

Jump ahead to 2016: a copy of the album turns up 150 miles away in Westleton, Suffolk. It is among a batch of miscellaneous records that find their way into the hands of a local vinyl dealer, Carole Homersham, a former Guildford girl.

Now, Carole just happens to be a close friend of our family from way back. So when she looks through the batch of albums and sees a familiar face in the fourth row back, she knows exactly who she is looking at. How the album made the journey from Surrey to Suffolk must remain a mystery because the person who sold it to Carole didn’t leave her name.

The extraordinary coincidence of how it ended up in the hands of an old Guildfordian with connections to Ash remains a tale to be told over dinner.

The album has now been returned to Ash, where it hangs in a frame on the wall of my home.

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Responses to The Ash Aspect: Up To 400 New Homes – But Where Is The Infrastructure?

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 28, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    To the people of Ash I say, you are not alone!

    Hon Alderman Bernard Parke is a former Mayor of Guildford.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    There should be no development anywhere in the borough, whether it is in Ash, Wood Street, Blackwell Farm, Wisley or the Horsleys (where there are plans for over 6,000 new homes under the Local Plan), until such time as the infrastructure has been addressed.

    On what planet do our planners live?

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    November 29, 2016 at 12:08 am

    How many people from how many wards in the borough will have to raise this question before someone actually takes notice?

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    November 29, 2016 at 8:24 am

    The people of Ash have consistently voted for councillors who have formed the leadership of Guildford Borough Council in recent years, i.e. Messrs Mansbridge, Manning and Spooner.

    Over that time policy has not changed materially. It has been to try and force an exaggerated housing quota on the unsuspecting residents of the borough. The arithmetic of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, which is supposed to set out the need for new houses, has, apparently, never been disclosed – even to councillors.

    There is a shortage of social housing in the borough – but the council did not built any for twenty years and continues to sell them off. Now its plan is to form an unholy alliance with developers to ‘sell off’ some of the green belt on condition that for every 100 houses given permission 40 of them are so-called ‘affordable’ houses.

    The development of the agricultural land at the former Wisley airfield – in the second least sustainable parish in the borough (according to the council’s own green belt and countryside study) has some well known Tories associated with the project.

    Isn’t it about time that the people of Ash chose representatives who worked in the real interests of the residents?

  5. Christopher Dalby Reply

    December 3, 2016 at 11:59 am

    When Britain has net immigration at the levels they are [recently officially reported as 335,000 for the twelve months to June 2016] it is no surprise we don’t have the infrastructure to cope. But until we get control back of our borders housing will continue to need to be built in high numbers and developments like this are inevitable everywhere.

    So for all those people that voted remain at the EU referendum and support mass uncontrolled immigration, this is the consequence you need to live with and one that will continue for many years to come.

  6. Thomas Thorne Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 2:35 am

    It is quite busy on Ash Green Road (in Ash Green) when the railway crossing comes down as it is used as an alternative route by many.

    There are proposals and two sets of plans to build several hundred houses along this route right now. This would add a roundabout on one bend and add further traffic load to the small bridge designed to take light local traffic. This is in addition to the development underway near the station. If it all goes through it will be solid houses from the A331 until the fields by Wyke!

    The people of Ash should raise their concerns on all the plans and proposals. The same story of destroying habitat, concreting over fields that have standing water over them and increasing the burden on infrastructure applies in all cases so far.

  7. Valerie Thompson Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Nowhere has enough surgeries, parking spaces at stations or shopping areas, schools or wide enough roads to accommodate the number of people GBC want to bring to the area.

    At an average of three per household, they intend to increase the Borough’s population by about 36,000 and the number of cars by about 24,000.

    Guildford is only planning 90 houses in the town centre in the next 5 years. Why?

    There are brownfield and underused sites all over town, eg, Waitrose carpark, the huge carpark by the river near the Theatre, the open air car park near the bus station and the awful pop-up village, also near the bus station. With five-story flats in these areas, and underground car-parks, GBC could house a large number of the population in need.

    They are still confusing need with demand and want to develop areas such as Ash, Send, Ripley and the Horsleys where the demand for executive homes will bring them in a lot of money, £7,000 for each house from the government.

  8. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I would say that Ash has got off pretty lightly, if one compares 400 homes against 6,000 planned for in and around the Horlseys.

    Maybe the fact that the leader’s ward is in Ash explains this?

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