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Council Blocks Affordable Housing Development on Egham Green Belt

Published on: 22 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 25 Jan, 2022

By Julie Armstrong, local democracy reporter

and Martin Giles

A plan for a 100 per cent affordable housing development on Egham green belt has been blocked.

Nearly three-quarters of Runnymede Borough Council’s planning committee voted on Wednesday (January 19) in favour of refusing the homes at Padd Farm, Hurst Lane.

Members feared towns and villages were being allowed to run into each other, and that all 38 households would have needed cars.

Cllr Sylvia Whyte (Lib Dem, Longcross, Lyne and Chertsey South) said: “I’m really not comfortable with this. It feels like Virginia Water and Egham are getting closer and closer together.

“It’s in green belt and that really does upset me. I live in Lyne which is in green belt and people can’t even get a porch or a garage built, so why on Earth are we building 38 houses on a site that hasn’t been identified in the local plan?”

Members thought the remoteness of the location, west of Longside Lake, made it unsustainable.

Cllr Margaret Harnden (Runnymede Independent Residents’ Group, Thorpe) said: “There’s no way that anybody who lives there could exist without a car.

“We will be promoting the use of the car if we do let this site go forward.”

Officers had negotiated the number of homes down from 54 to 38 to lose less green belt land.

Half of the builds would have been affordable rent, in other words 80 per cent of market rent, and the other half shared ownership.

The mostly semi-detached and some terraced homes – 18 two-bedroom houses and 20 three-beds – were to be positioned around a central green and come with 68 car parking spaces.

Ashley Smith, corporate head of development management, told the committee: “We’re not under-delivering on houses, we’re at 109 per cent on the housing delivery test,” but added: “We do have a deficit of affordable housing in the borough.”

Cllr Jonathan Hulley (Con, Virginia Water) said: “As the vice-chair of the housing committee, I’m confident that the housing strategy is as we speak being delivered effectively, so we don’t have to look at this site.”

He thought there was a greater need for accommodation for older people.

Cllr Mark Nuti (Con, Chertsey St Ann’s), one of just three committee members in support of the development, thought it would be a “marked improvement”.

He said: “At the moment it’s no use to anybody. This is a far improved use of that bit of land.”

But Cllr Michael Kusneraitis (Runnymede Residents and Community Group, Englefield Green West) argued the appearance of the site was not a planning matter.

“It would not matter if that site were piled high with rubbish, it’s still green belt,” he said.

“Otherwise we’ll be encouraging every miscreant in the borough to ruin [build on] sites and say, ‘We’ll make it better.’ ”

The council consulted 81 neighbouring properties and received one letter in support and 16 objecting, mainly about the green belt impact and increased traffic on Hurst Lane.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

Asked if a similar risk existed of settlements merging under the Guildford Borough under the Local Plan, Ramsey Nagaty leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) said: “GGG does have concerns regarding our Local Plan policies.

“The  green belt must be maintained to:

  • check unrestricted sprawl;
  • prevent neighbouring towns merging;
  • safeguard the countryside from encroachment;
  • preserve the character of historic towns;
  • encourage the development of urban, brownfield land.

“Our current Local Plan policies give inadequate safeguards and planning officers do not give adequate weight to prevent villages and towns coalescing.

“We also seek stronger protection against infilling and for character preservation,  biodiversity, ancient woods and the green belt and have been pressing for the adoption of green belt Supplementary Planning Documents.

“GGG is trying to persuade GBC to provide more affordable and social housing, utilising brownfield and urban town-centre sites that don’t increase traffic.

“The existing Local Plan, with its car-dependent, huge strategic sites and substantial village developments will only add to congestion and pollution.”

Sallie Barker

Sallie Barker of the Guildford Conservative Association said: “In Guildford, we are fortunate that the Local Plan, adopted by the then Conservative-run council in 2019, offers protection against speculative development in the green belt here.

“There is also a robust five-year housing land supply, which protects us against inappropriate development.”

“However, it is disappointing to note that since 2019, the Lib Dem/R4GV coalition has only provided 36 new social housing units, despite promising 300 per year.

“The former Conservative administration had identified 10 council-owned suitable brownfield sites to provide social housing and it is disappointing that these haven’t been progressed by the current coalition council.“

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