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Campaigners Condemn Wisley Airfield Plan for New Homes as ‘A Recipe for Disaster’

Published on: 25 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 26 Jul, 2022

Wisley Airfield plans as illustrated in May. Image: Taylor Wimpey and Vivid, click on image to enlarge

By Martin Giles

The long-anticipated application for a major housing development of 1,730 homes on the former Wisley Airfield has been made by developers Taylor Wimpey but local residents represented by the Wisley Action Group remain angry.

The site was controversially included in Guildford’s Local Plan despite being rejected by a planning inspector in a failed appeal in 2018. Its designation as green belt was removed when the Local Plan was adopted by Guildford Borough Council in 2019.

The council has unusually extended the deadline for comment until September 12. Normally only 30 days are allowed.

Cllr Tom Hunt

Lead councillor for Development Management, Tom Hunt (Lib Dem, Friary and St Nicolas), said: “We want to ensure that anyone wishing to comment on this application has enough time to do so. That’s why we have taken the decision to extend the deadline.

Anyone reviewing the application or making comments can do this on our website. This helps us to speed up the process of reviewing comments.”

Developers Taylor Wimpey says that its “hybrid” planning application for up to 1,730 homes and community facilities follows a “wide-reaching programme of public consultation” which has taken place since the homebuilder acquired the site in March 2020.

According to their press release: “The proposals will feature 40 per cent affordable homes, delivered through its affordable housing partner, VIVID. The development will also target a minimum of 20 per cent increase in biodiversity across the site by improving and actively managing habitats.

“Alongside local shops, the proposed Local Centre will include a healthcare provision and sustainable Mobility Hub, with a community centre and two form entry primary school. There is also the provision for a secondary school, subject to a decision by Surrey County Council.”

Consultation

Taylor Wimpey held a series of consultation events, both online and in-person and are upbeat about the result: “The ongoing consultation has directly shaped the development of the masterplan. The engagement process has helped Taylor Wimpey to understand local aspirations and fix the locations and format of key infrastructure, giving the community the opportunity to find out about the proposals for the site through discussion with the panel of expert consultants.

A dedicated Community Liaison Group of 21 community stakeholders, designed to discuss issues in depth, has met 15 times, feedback from which has also been incorporated into the proposals wherever possible.

Antonis Pazourou, Community and Green Infrastructure Manager for Taylor Wimpey, said the proposals: “…will transform this disused site into a new settlement in Guildford, with the right type of homes and facilities that will benefit both new and existing residents.

“We will continue to engage with the community on the details of the application while it is being considered, and encourage people to continue to contact us with any comments and questions.”

Action Group remains critical

But the Wisley Action Group (WAG) which has been campaigning for years against plans to develop the site have condemned Taylor Wimpey proposals as:  “a recipe for a social and environmental disaster at Wisley”.

The campaign group of local residents claims that the proposals seem to have totally ignored the recent planning history of the site.

“A similar application by the previous owners for 2,068 dwellings was rejected on appeal just four years ago in June 2018 when the appeal inspector cited 14 reasons for refusal. All but one of them remains valid in 2022,” said Tony Edwards, a WAG committee member.

Tony Edwards

“In dismissing the appeal, the Secretary of State referred to the lack of transport infrastructure as a “fatal flaw in the scheme” and went on to say that a settlement of this nature would inevitably cause substantial harm to both the character and appearance of a rural area.

“The impact on air quality, on education, policing and health infrastructure were among other key references by the SoS.”

Since that time, Guildford’s controversial Local Plan has been called into doubt with specific reference to an overestimate in housing need. And major questions relating to population figures provided by the Office of National Statistics [ONS] also remain unanswered by the government.

The office for Statistics and Regulation [OSR] found that estimates for Guildford “seem to be inconsistent with and potentially higher than local evidence would suggest”.

According to Edwards, “Taylor Wimpey’s cosmetic veneer of “community liaison” has failed to explain how their proposals would override 13 of the reasons for rejection of the 2018 application.”

The spokesperson for WAG also claimed that the last ‘Community Engagement’ presentation amounted to a six hours time slot on a Tuesday afternoon, inconvenient for those working, especially if they were commuting. “It was clear that if you didn’t have a pre-booked time slot or could not produce your ‘ticket’ when asked, you were refused entry,” says Edwards.

“But the primary complaint related to a lack of answers to key questions about building heights, the provision of schools and medical services, and the absence of adequate transport systems.”

“The proposals are a clear recipe for a social and environmental disaster of epic proportions,” says Edwards. “And we have yet to see any evidence of “affordable housing” in this curious mix.”

Cllr Catherine Young

Catherine Young, a Guildford Greenbelt Group borough councillor from the nearby Clandon and Horsley ward was pleased that GBC had extended the deadline for comments.

She said: “Knowing that there would be a significant number of documents to review by both residents, parish councils, and other interested parties, I felt that it was essential that the usual deadline of 30 days be extended and had asked for this during briefings with the council officer’s involved.

“I am therefore extremely pleased that GBC has responded to this request, with an extension until September 12.”

“It will be interesting to see how Taylor Wimpey has responded to overcome the 14 counts for refusal on the previous application and the Secretary of State’s reasons for dismissing the appeal.”

“Let’s also hope that the comments made during the ‘Community Consultation’ have also been acknowledged, and the many points of concern raised during these sessions are listened and responded to.”

You can add your comments on any planning application here on the GBC website. The reference number for this application is 22/P/01175. The link will be open early next week.

The local plan and vision for Guildford can be found here: Guildford Local Plan – Guildford Borough Council.

Cllr Colin Cross (R4GV, Lovelace) and Ockham Parish Council were also invited to comment.

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test 3 Responses to Campaigners Condemn Wisley Airfield Plan for New Homes as ‘A Recipe for Disaster’

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    July 26, 2022 at 5:20 pm

    How many homes occupied by the objectors were created out of garden and field developments?

    I’ve known Ockham for most of my life as a grandmother’s family originated from the area down by the river.

    The objectors and others wouldn’t be aware that although I don’t live in the immediate vicinity of Wisley Airfield I was a lone voice, at public meetings, pressing the leaders of the former Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (now part of Surrey Heartlands) for proper medical facilities at the Wisley Airfield development. I now I see they are included in the plan, but to be funded from the Planning Application monies that Guildford Borough Council will receive from the developers. I was also asking for a similar provision from the Howard of Effingham development, again in Guildford borough.

    I was also in discussion with Surrey County Council over the provision of an enhanced safe road towards East Horsley village and its railway station, plus a bus service along that road as the present secondary schools are George Abbot in Burpham and the Howard of Effingham School which has provided for school coaches.

    Cobham has the “Chatterbus” to take people to and from the Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon railway station linking up with several schools, so why not a similar bus service for Wisley and Ockham to East Horsley? The 462/463 bus service from Guildford comes through Ripley to the roundabout under the A3 before going to Woking and beyond.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    July 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    I think Mr Francis will find that previous spurts of urbanisation in Guildford’s countryside were never on anything like this monstrous scale, and took place in response to a rapid increase in population. Official figures show that the borough’s population is not due to increase in the next 20 years or so, and may even shrink.

  3. Keith Francis Reply

    July 27, 2022 at 11:20 pm

    Gosden Hill Farm is in the Local Plan and it has, for as long as I can remember, been GBC’s ambition to allow development despite wishing it to be delayed until “the time is right” to build a new estate there, extending from the A3 beyond the railway line to the A25. It is also an area that SCC has had its eye on for a new secondary school.

    County councillor John Furey (Con, Addlestone) was on BBC Surrey on Wednesday and he was having to be careful in what he said as it was the Tories that agreed to all the tower blocks in Woking town centre which future ones are subject to review by the new Lib Dem administration. Although saying they didn’t want to put new homes on green belt he did not mention that infilling has already taken place, with council approval, on former farmland south of Woking at Westfield.

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