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As Insults Fly, Council Approves Plan For 400 New Houses in Ash

Published on: 24 Sep, 2013
Updated on: 25 Sep, 2013
One of the fields that would make up the area on which 400 houses will be built if the scheme is approved

One of the fields, in Ash, which will be part of the development of 400 houses

In a rancorous and lengthy meeting tonight (September 24), councillors voted, by a narrow margin, to approve outline planning permission for a major housing development on a green field site in Ash.

Also obtained, in the same decision, was full planning permission for a change of use of adjoining agricultural land to become a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG).

Stephen Mansbridge at Holy Trinity Hall to give his speech to the Guildford Society audience

Council leader Stephen Mansbridge was highly critical of the council’s planning department.

Emotions throughout the debate ran high. The proposed site lies within the ward of council leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, South Ash and Tongham). In an unprecedented public attack, he accused the council’s own planning department of producing a sub-standard report and not properly communicating with ward councillors. Some councillors were visibly incredulous.

But more was to come. The leader of the opposition, Cllr David Goodwin (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), obvious angry, made a personal accusation against the council leader, relating to his recent conviction for drink driving. He refused to withdraw his remark, even when pressed to do so by the interim head of legal services.

The packed public galleries, which had cheered and applauded those speaking against the application and met with disdainful silence those speaking in support, seemed unsure how to react.

The plan to be considered by Guildford Borough Council. Outlined area is where the 400 houses would go and the shaded area  would  cease being agricultural and be landscaped for amenity use

The plan considered tonight by Guildford Borough Council. Outlined area is where the 400 houses will be built. The shaded area would cease being agricultural and be landscaped for amenity use or “Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace”.

It was Cllr Paul Spooner (Con, South Ash and Tongham) who had proposed the motion to refuse the application. Several Tory councillors, including his ward colleague Cllr Mansbridge, spoke to support him. among the reasons he gave for objection were inadequate drainage, the change in character the development would cause, by removing the separation between the villages of Tongham, Ash and Ash Green, and the adverse impact on traffic congestion, particularly at the Greyhound roundabout.

But other Conservative councillors and several Lib Dems advised caution, agreeing with the planning officer’s recommendation to approve. There were, they said, few material reasons to allow refusal which, if overturned on appeal, could leave the council to pick up the bill for costs and risk losing advantageous, negotiated conditions attached to the application.

The meeting was reminded that in the absence of a recent Local Plan all applications in Guildford are to be judged mainly against the National Planning Policy Framework. This puts an onus on councils to approve applications unless material reasons for objection can be identified. None of the technical consultations that had been commissioned came up with evidence to support refusal but residents, familiar with the area, were vociferously sceptical, especially about the reported conclusions on drainage and traffic.

The motion to refuse the application was lost by just two votes. Votes cast were: 16 for refusal, 18 against refusal, 2 abstentions. A motion to approve the application was then passed.

The result was met with some cries of “shame” from the public gallery. One woman called out: “I hope you can sleep well tonight!” An experienced councillor was heard to comment on the conduct of the meeting: “I have never seen anything like, it in all my years. Shameful.”

Other applications for other substantial housing developments are in the planning pipeline and are expected to be equally controversial.

More to follow…

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test 7 Responses to As Insults Fly, Council Approves Plan For 400 New Houses in Ash

  1. Andrew Mitchell Reply

    September 25, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Where was the Chief Executive in all of this? Is David Hill still on gardening leave following the grievance by his Head of HR? If so, why? Has Cllr Mansbridge taken over? And does anyone seriously believe any of these proposed planning applications will actually proceed?

    They can’t agree on the North Street development. They talk about huge planning changes in the next 20 years but is that all it is? Just more talk? And now they are falling out with one another over the Ash planning application. There are serious issues underlying all of these matters and it would seem the councillors are leaderless and mutinous.

    Who is going to address these issues before Guildford people end up paying for this?

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    September 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I am sure that the people of Guildford have every sympathy with the people of Ash.

    Even here we understand that the University has earmarked land in the region of an area of outstanding beauty on the slopes of the iconic Hogs Back for as many as 2000 houses

    No doubt the residents of Ash and others will be inclined to sign the E Petition on the “SAVE THE HOGS BACK” website.

  3. Trevor Harris Reply

    September 25, 2013 at 10:35 am

    This was the first time I attended a council meeting. It was certainly an eye opener. Cllr David Goodwin’s personal attack on the leader of the council was appalling.

    It became clear that the plan for new houses on green fields broke numerous rules in Guildford’s own planning rules.

    It also was revealed that the developers were trying to bully one lady who into selling her home of many years. The threat of an expensive appeal if the council refused the application was an obvious factor in the decision. Unfortunately, the council gave in to the bullies.

  4. Ash Balachandran Reply

    September 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Another huge (2000 homes)development is being proposed on the Hogs Back (green belt land/AONB) which is equally distressing.

    Yes, we need new homes but not at the expense of green space, nature, history and culture. Space and place is important, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

    “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    savehogsback.co.uk

  5. Michael Norgate Reply

    September 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    It is obvious from what transpired at this meeting, that our representatives are more interested in pursuing personal vendettas than performing their duty. We rely upon them to defend us, the public, from the blackmail of corporates. They have failed.

    It would appear that in this day and age the vast majority of politicians are not fit for purpose.

  6. R Casadei Reply

    October 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Guildford Borough Council’s [majority] stance was: All members of the council must seriously consider, if they refuse this application, the cost of an appeal from the developer and also the loss of goodwill and negotiated benefits, promised by the developers, which form part of the application.

    But if the council base their planning decisions on fear what is the point of having any consultation or council meetings in the first place?

    This now sends out a very worrying message to other developers on how to get more applications approved.

  7. A Aspden Reply

    December 13, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I think this building is a great move forward to the future. Things are always modernised in this world to meet the needs of the fast growing population. The younger generation would like to stay in their own area, near their familes, so we need extra housing.

    If people want to live in the country all by themselves and look at green fields from their windows should invest in moving to the country, not in a town or villages where we need housing for families, probably even their own.

    We need to help the council house people. No one will worry when we are not here any more anyway. I say the modern way is needed. Move on.

    We only pass through this world. All those objecting will eventually pass away and the younger generation won’t know any different. All they will know is that they will have the opportunity to live in the area.

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