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Ash Aspect: More Homes for Ash Will Have an Environmental Cost

Published on: 4 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2017

By David Reading

So the battle has finally been lost. After many years of campaigning by Ash residents, Guildford borough councillors have given their approval for 400 homes to be built on Ash Lodge Meadows.

Persuasive arguments about traffic chaos, pressure on local services and loss of wildlife habitat were not enough to have the plans overturned. And, of course there was – and still is – the deep concern about potential flooding on the site.

The land is already susceptible to being waterlogged when there is heavy rain. At the moment the water soaks slowly into the ground. Where will it go when the place is concreted over?

Part of the land in Ash, subject to waterlogging, earmarked for the new development.

The developers, Bewley Homes, have argued that their proposed flood alleviation measures, including balancing ponds and streams, will be sufficient to deal with any excess water.

But can they really offer a credible reassurance that the problem is unlikely to turn into a disaster? Ash councillors and residents remain profoundly concerned.

One serious result that 400 new homes will bring has been hardly mentioned – the effect that the increase in traffic emissions will have on people’s health, a subject very much in the news at present.

Another part of Ash land now scheduled to be developed.

According to Friends of the Earth, air pollution from various sources results in around 40,000 early deaths every year in the UK. It is linked to lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes. Diesel fumes have been classified by the World Health Organisation as a group 1 carcinogen.

Of course, even with an extra 400 homes, Ash is not London or Birmingham and the government maintains that if you are young and healthy, moderate air pollution from vehicle emissions is unlikely to have serious short-term effects. However, not enough is known about long-term exposure.

For susceptible people, this is likely to lead to chronic health problems – a fact admitted by DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Unfortunately, such a threat to human health does not qualify as a planning reason for turning down new housing schemes.

There are ways of reducing emissions substantially. More affordable public transport would be high on my wish list. And commuters could do their bit by setting up car sharing schemes. But the problem is that vehicle emissions are virtually invisible, and so the threat is unseen and, by some, disregarded.

Ironically the new estate is likely to put heavy 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.

Today I took a walk over Ash Lodge Meadows and was reminded of what we will miss. I saw a buzzard, a red kite and a kestrel. I heard a great spotted woodpecker performing its “drum roll”, made by hammering its bill against a branch. Deer and foxes are common sights, and on recent nights I have heard what was probably a tawny owl.

With the threatened loss of habitat, these sights and sounds will be joys of the past.

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test 2 Responses to Ash Aspect: More Homes for Ash Will Have an Environmental Cost

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    March 4, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    It is appalling. I expect many councillors were against this too but that is for them to say.

    Unfortunately, the government has put in place a planning system that favours developers and both government and developers have no respect for the environment or existing residents in an area where they want to build. Nor are they concerned about the problems they create for residents of the houses they build.

    This kind of thing is going on all over England and especially in the South East.

    So far as the environment is concerned, think about the huge sum of money that will be spent destroying habitats for the current vanity project – HS2 – while cutting down on the length of the proposed Stonehenge Tunnel (a world heritage issue).

    The shame in this particular local case is also that the children of local residents will lose the opportunity for contact with wildlife close by. I think we all know what we need to do on May 4th.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    March 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    This all rather begs the question as to why Ash Councillors are determined not to constrain the housing numbers in this borough? Heritage and Environment are legitimate and respectable reasons for introducing constraints.

    It also begs the question as to why the Ash Councillors have never scrutinised the housing numbers model. They have decided that Guildford, Waverley and Woking Councillors should not see the housing needs model prepared by Justin Gardner Consulting. Why?

    But on the other hand they have slipped in a proposal into the draft Local Plan to create new green belt in Ash – despite no legal arguments being presented to show why ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist to justify it.

    These are some of the reasons why the draft Local Plan is intellectually dishonest.

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