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Campaigners Rush To Preserve Pewley Down Fields From Developers

Published on: 3 May, 2021
Updated on: 3 May, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Residents and conservation groups have rushed into action in a bid to save a 37.5 acre field next to the Pewley Down Nature Reserve from developers.

The newly formed Save Pewley Down Fields group is being backed by Guildford Environmental Forum, Pewley Down Conservation Volunteers, the Rosamund Trust, a local school and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Pewley Down Fields overlooking Guildford with Holy Trinity School in the foreground of the houses.

About 100 supporters met online on Friday night (April 30) to discuss buying Pewley Down Fields, part of New Warren Farm, for the community. They are now busy organising pledges for a war chest to maximise their chances of success should the sale go to auction as expected.

The asking price is reported as £800,000. This is roughly double the average price of Surrey agricultural land, usually ranging from £8,500 to £10,000 per acre.

Jonathan Mitchell and Ginny Cook on the historic footpath through Pewley Down Fields. “We need to preserve this area for future generations and for wildlife”.

Sales agent Knight Frank called the sale a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, adding: “There have been hundreds of enquiries and many bids from locals and others over a wide range of interests, including a vineyard and those who want it for conservation.

“The owner has farmed it since the Sixties and really wants the best outcome for the land. We will be assessing bids next week.”

Pewley Down Fields shown in orange with Pewley Down to the south and the Rosamund Trust area to the east.

David Stokes, chair of the Save Pewley Down Fields, said: “Part of our consortium, associated with the Rosamund Trust, has put in a bid and we are fundraising through pledges to be in the best position to get the land.”

Jonathan Mitchell, a local conservationist, said the field was precious and rare chalk downland. “The sweeping views and the rare wildlife form an integral part of this stunning landscape. We need to preserve it for future generations.”

The Rosamund Trust Community Gardens abuts Pewley Down Fields.

The land is in the green belt, rated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Campaigners want to link it with the 26-acre Pewley Down Nature Reserve, owned by the borough council, and the Rosamund Trust’s adjacent 19 acres, including their gardens, a wildlife haven and a community area for fruit and vegetables.

Mr Stokes did not believe the protected status of the land was sufficient. “We don’t have confidence in the future planning regulations,” he said. “Attempts have been made to develop this area in the past and it could happen again”.

Ginny Cook, also from Save Pewley Down Fields, warned of land-banking. “Developers are prepared to wait a long time to realise their investment,” she said. “We need people to pledge money now to save it for posterity. The pandemic has shown us how critical open space is for people.”

Mr Mitchell had the last word. “A century ago, some remarkable people secured Pewley Down for the people of Guildford. This is our chance to preserve this exceptional piece of land for future generations and wildlife too.”

The Story Of Pewley Down Gifted To Guildford 100 Years Ago

 

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test 4 Responses to Campaigners Rush To Preserve Pewley Down Fields From Developers

  1. David Smith Reply

    May 4, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Knight Frank state that “The vendors will be retaining a strip of land off Pewley Way but granting full access rights to the land”.

    This retention of what appears to be a ransom strip suggests the owner thinks that the site may be developed in the future and is therefore seeking to control any development or receive further income from it.

    If the owner wants the best outcome for the land, could they not hand this strip of land over to Pewley Down Fields group? This way if money cannot be raised to buy the field the owner can continue with their sale and the site will be protected from development as access will be limited to farming only.

  2. Ross Connell Reply

    May 4, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    The article refers to the owner, who presumably farms the land but does not say who the owner is.

    I would assume that once the land is bought it could ultimately be subject to a change of use e.g. housing.

    I would draw a comparison here with the Tyting Farm development by Rockwood Homes who are building five luxury homes. This land was originally occupied by old farm buildings and was subject to change of use ie housebuilding.

    Far be it from my being opposed to more housing in the Guildford area, what concerns me is the absence of the development of affordable homes. The Tyting Farm houses are being marketed as a unique development of five exclusive properties.

    Pewley Downs could also be described as an exclusive area. One would hope that the demise of Conservative control of Guildford Borough Council may give rise to fewer developments of the Tyting Farm type and to more developments that develop the community at large.

  3. Maddy Redpath Reply

    May 5, 2021 at 6:43 am

    Thank you to The Guildford Dragon for covering this important and incredibly impressive campaign. Anyone who would like to support or keep up to date can join the Facebook group which currently has over 460 members: https://www.facebook.com/groups/295903668816181/?ref=share

    Maddy Redpath, R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

  4. Ginny Cook Reply

    May 8, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Thank you to everyone who has pledged their support towards this project.

    We are really grateful for the local community and Holy Trinity Pewley Down School’s commitment to keeping the fields as a green open space to support rare species. It will also take some of the strain off Pewley Down Nature Reserve, so heavily used during the pandemic for much-needed escape to help well-being, in terms of biodiversity and conservation.

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