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Ash Aspect: The Ash and Tongham Housing Boom – Enough is Enough

Published on: 7 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2021

By David Reading

For years, people have complained that Ash and Tongham would seem to be the borough’s “dumping ground” for new housing developments.

Twenty-five years ago about 50 people – adults and children – gathered outside Guildford Borough Council’s offices to protest. Their leaders included Alan Hilliar, the Liberal Democrat community campaigner, and the late Conservative councillor John Ades.

The message expressed in their banners was clear: “No more development in Ash and Tongham.”

The campaigners were protesting specifically about the housing plans for the open land south of Ash Lodge Drive – a favourite area for recreation – but they also had the whole of Ash and Tongham in mind.

Fast forward 25 years and you can see the battle was a hopeless one. Today, what was once open land stretching from Ash Lodge Drive to the old railway line is now occupied by a huge new estate.

Eventually there will be 481 homes on the site. Some are already occupied. The rest is under construction.

But this is just one part of the picture. Take a tour around Ash and Tongham and at every turn you will see construction sites and land earmarked for housing.

The Manor Farm site at Tongham – soon to be a new estate. Residents and councillors are particularly incensed by the removal of the poplars running along the edge of The Street.

  • 254 homes planned at Manor Farm, Tongham, on the site of the old hop fields. This was refused by GBC at outline stage but allowed on appeal.
  • 154 homes being built near Ash Station, on land off Guildford Road. Approved by GBC.
  • 100 homes planned on land at May and Juniper Cottages, Ash Green Road. Approved by GBC, but residents have applied for a Judicial Review into the council’s procedure.
  • 73 planned near the site of Ash Manor, the ancient moated manor house in Ash Green. Approved by GBC but quashed by a High Court judge, who ruled that a planning officer’s report misled the planning committee. This committee will be ruling on a fresh application soon. A duplicate application will be going to appeal in September.
  • 60 homes being built on a disused stables and paddock in Grange Road, Ash. Approved by GBC.
  • 59 at Dene Lodge, White Lane, Ash Green. Approved at appeal.
  • 58 at Warren Farm, Ash Green. Approved by GBC.
  • 50 at Grange Farm, Tongham. Approved by GBC.
  • 50 next to The Granary, Grange Road, Tongham. Approved by GBC.
  • 35 at Kingston House, Poyle Road. Approved at appeal.
  • Plus nine on the Tilthams Garage site, off Ash Street. Approved by GBC.

All these are in addition to at least 200 homes in small and medium scale developments that have been completed during the past few years.

The new estate under construction south of Ash Lodge Drive – a target for local opposition for at least a quarter of a century.

The loss of trees and other rural features has formed a major part of local opposition to development. The land south of Ash Lodge Drive was home to a multitude of wildlife including deer, foxes and summer visitors such as whitethroats, blackcaps, and willow warblers.

A gentle rural scene – how the land south of Ash Lodge Drive appeared before the battle was lost and development began.

The threat to a 400-metre hedge in Ash Green as part of the May and Juniper Cottages application is continuing to cause an outcry among people in the area.

And a planning inspector has ruled that a line of poplars at the Manor Farm site in Tongham can be removed, despite opposition from councillors and residents. Cllr Paul Spooner expressed his anger on social media, directing his comment at the inspector. “Please hold your head in shame,” he said.

A protest banner on the Ash Manor House site. A 250-year-old oak stands on the land, and the area is rich in wildlife.

There was little the council could do about the loss of the trees. Cllr Jan Harwood, Lead Councillor for Climate Changes, said: “Although we understand how residents feel about losing some of the poplar trees for this development, we have to respect the legal decision of the Planning Inspectorate.”

Campaigning groups such as the Ash Green Residents Association (AGRA) have been relentless in their questioning of council decisions and procedures. A major concern is that the weight of the housing boom could put an unbearable strain on the area’s infrastructure and on local roads.

Sixty homes under construction on a disused stables and paddock in Grange Road, Ash.

AGRA said in a joint statement: “Unlike the other strategic sites of approximately the same volume, the Ash Green and Tongham applications provide no community facilities, pubs, employment or office space, schools or nurseries.

“We have had to fight to keep the hotspots projects and local children are being refused local school places. There is an increasing crime rate and the promised health centre (on the Ash Lodge Drive site) has shown no progress. We feel like we have just become a dormitory for Guildford town.”

It is argued frequently by those unaffected by the housing boom that with the UK’s population growing, people have to live somewhere and the “NIMBY attitude” is selfish and narrow-minded. But surely the people of Ash and Tongham are justified in their cry that “Enough is enough.”

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test 3 Responses to Ash Aspect: The Ash and Tongham Housing Boom – Enough is Enough

  1. Peter Rafano Reply

    June 7, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    Yes, enough is enough. Unfortunately this level of construction is way above what should have been acceptable.

  2. John Ferns Reply

    June 8, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    “A dormitory for Guildford town”? That’s far too genteel. “Dumping ground” might be a more apt description.

    The “dormitory” will become reality when all the remaining open space north of the Hog’s Back through Normandy has been claimed for development. For the moment we are just the “posh end” of Aldershot, which in itself has developed a mini town of 4,000 homes within two miles of where we, in Ash, live.

    The scale of this development is stretching the infrastructure far more than is reasonable or imaginable.

  3. Lyn Lowdon Reply

    June 10, 2021 at 10:24 am

    It is a disgrace, as a resident in Tongham all our frustrations and objections have been dismissed and ignored in favour of the developers by the planning inspectorate.

    The wildlife has been destroyed.

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