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Campaigners Jubilant as Ash Manor Housing Scheme is Rejected

Published on: 10 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 11 May, 2022

By David Reading

Determined campaigners have won the latest round in their battle to prevent developers from building housing at Ash Manor, the ancient moated manor house in Ash Green. 

After a lengthy debate on Wednesday this week (September 8), Guildford Borough Council’s planning committee rejected two applications by Bewley Homes to build 69 houses.

Protesters campaigning against housing at the Ash Manor site, Ash Green. On the left is Sue Wyeth-Price.

The campaigners consider the site to be of immense value to Ash Green’s heritage and rural character. A 250-year-old veteran oak stands on the land, and the area is rich in wildlife. The site is regarded as an important buffer between Ash Green and Ash, without which the villages would merge. Around 75 people turned up to protest when councillors held a site visit in May.

Bewley Homes was granted approval in 2020 but local campaigner Sue Wyeth-Price applied for a Judicial Review on behalf of the Ash Green Residents’ Association (AGRA).

In December 2020, a High Court judge over-ruled the council’s permission because a planning officer’s report “seriously and materially” misled the planning committee. The criticism was that the final report to the committee did not explicitly direct councillors to give added weight to the harm caused to the heritage assets of Ash Manor.

Responding to this week’s decision by the planners, a statement from AGRA said: “We are delighted that we managed to overturn the officers’ recommendation and congratulate the planning committee on reaching the correct decision.

“We are especially grateful to our ward councillors, Graham Eyre and Paul Abbey, who spoke on our behalf, and to Cllr Paul Spooner, who raised the motion to refuse. We are also pleased that some members of the council took the time to read the massive number of confusing documents to also come to this decision.”

The land on which developers want to build a new estate. A veteran oak stands on the site.

Bewley’s strategic land director, Andy Morris, commented: “It is disappointing that members chose to overlook the professional officers’ recommendation for approval on our Ash Manor scheme after all the hard work and compromise all parties put in over many months.

“Bewley Homes underwent substantial consultation with council planning officers and Historic England to address all of the key concerns and comments to ensure it successfully reflects the setting of the listed buildings and diminishes the harm to an acceptable level.

“We have already lodged an appeal for non-determination on a duplicate scheme which we were hoping to avoid but have been working in the background to prepare our case for the inquiry.”

This duplicate application had been submitted by Bewley at the time of the Judicial Review last year, but that application was not considered by the planning committee within a 13-week determination period, so Bewley went to appeal. An inquiry will be held in January.

After this week’s meeting GBC’s lead councillor for development management, Cllr Tom Hunt, said members voted to refuse both identical applications for three main reasons:  Harm caused to the listed buildings at Ash Manor, lack of plans for sustainability and possible harm to the existing pond.

Cllr Hunt said a further reason was the lack of a completed Section 106 agreement, which would provide money to improve the area around new housing developments.

Aware that the battle is not over, AGRA said it is preparing a case for next year’s inquiry. A statement said: “There are still issues with the heritage assets and setting, drainage and ecology of this site which we will evidence at the appeal inquiry next year.

“We have the persistence, passion and drive and the support of our local residents, which gives us confidence to proceed.”

Over the months the council has received a large number of local objections to the housing. These include:

Over-development in the Ash and Tongham area generally.

Scant consideration of climate change and lack of a sustainability report.

Loss of trees and wildlife habitat.Road safety concerns as well as pollution and traffic noise.

Pressure on local infrastructure.

Flooding concerns due to high water table.

Adverse impact on Ash Manor, a Grade II listed building.

Reduction of the buffer between Ash and Ash Green.

Surrey County councillor Matt Furniss (right) was among those who turned out at last May’s protest.

In June 2021 both applications to build homes on the site (including the duplicate scheme) were removed suddenly from the planning committee agenda at the last minute.

The reason was that council officers had received additional information from their tree officer relating to the status of the old oak tree (known as T67) and its possible categorisation as a veteran tree. This new information classing it as a veteran offers it protection.

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Responses to Campaigners Jubilant as Ash Manor Housing Scheme is Rejected

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 14, 2021 at 6:19 am

    So Cllr Spooner proposed the motion to refuse this development, in his own manor. Why then was he so happy to vote in favour of a much larger development of 139 homes in West Horsley?

    Double standards perhaps?

  2. Guy Murray Reply

    September 17, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Cllr Spooner was extremely passionate about preserving this site; the listed building and the pond were of particular importance when debating his motion for refusal.

    As Jules Cranwell has mentioned, his attitude concerning the Manor Farm development in West Horsley was somewhat different, albeit a larger plot of land and more houses planned but a similar listed building, a vast array of wildlife and indeed ponds that are of serious concern to residents.

    Double standards indeed. I would seriously question Cllr Paul Spooner’s judgement when carrying out such vital council work.

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