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Councillors Describe Wisley Campaign Video as ‘Powerful’ – Developer Says It Is ‘Inaccurate’

Published on: 6 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 7 Oct, 2022

By Martin Giles

A campaign video, widely praised by those objecting to the proposed 2,000 home development of the former Wisley Airfield, has provoked an angry comment on the site’s continued inclusion in the Local Plan for Guildford.

The video has been produced by Villages Against Wisley New Town (VAWNT), one of two campaign groups fighting the Wisley planning proposal that has been submitted by developer Taylor Wimpey.

Cllr Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) the recent leader of Guildford Borough Council, but commenting as the leader of his party, said: “The decision to include Wisley Airfield in the Local Plan was to my mind shocking, compounded by the Conservatives adopting that plan a week before the last election, in the pre-election “purdah” period, a decision supported by votes from all three national parties council members.”

The lead councillor for Corporate Strategy and Strategic Planning has been criticised for not initiating a review of the Local Plan as his party said they would during their 2019 campaign. The change of mind came because of fears that a review would increase the housing number for Guildford borough.

Now, free of his leadership role, he is sounding more bullish, saying: “Despite repeated attempts by my administration we are yet to find a way to remove allocations from sites and return them to their previous green belt status.  That is the fault of Westminster Conservatives who have passed legislation that make Local Plans, when adopted, virtually impregnable.

While stressing that Guildford Borough Council will remain an “honest arbiter” of the application, which would be judged it on its merits against planning policies, he praised the video saying: “The challenges to developing this site highlighted by this powerful video and previous judgements from the Secretary of State make it hard for me to see how any application can prove benefits to outweigh these obvious harms.”

But a Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said that the video contained a number of inaccurate claims. “During the consultation process we offered to meet with VAWNT on a number of occasions to seek their feedback on our plans, and we remain very happy to do so.

“As well as delivering over 1,700 new homes, 40 per cent of which will be affordable housing, our proposals include a commitment to delivering a new local centre offering education and healthcare services, a mobility hub, an innovation centre, and shops and a café, all as part of a liveable and accessible neighbourhood. A new bus service has also been included in our proposal following engagement with the local community.

“A new green space with habitats for native wildlife will also contribute to a minimum of 20 per cent biodiversity net gain, and will be one of the largest contributions to the B-Lines project, responsible for increasing pollinator connectivity by piecing together ‘insect super highways’ across the country.”

Cllr Diana Jones

Diana Jones, the sole Green Party member at GBC, was not persuaded. Like Joss Bigmore, her erstwhile group leader, she found the video “powerful” adding: “I have never been in favour of inappropriate and disproportionate development in the countryside and was particularly dismayed by this threat to Ockham Common and other precious and vulnerable areas from this application, and the enormous pressure it would put on local roads and services.

“I am not at all convinced by the expensively produced and superficially reassuring glossy brochures put out by the developer; I would rather look at the evidence of their past activities.

”It is very misleading to claim that the site is brownfield just because a concrete landing strip was laid during a national emergency 80 years ago. It was always intended that such sites would be temporary and returned to farmland and countryside when the wartime need was over.

“The emergency we have now is the climate and biodiversity emergency, which demands us to protect nature and produce more food locally, not fill the fields needed to grow it with unwanted developments.

“I don’t buy into the so-called “housing crisis” and the targets imposed on Surrey. There is more than enough existing accommodation to meet the latest population projections but central government needs to adopt the policies necessary to make more homes available to those who really need them.

“I agree with all the points made in the video and by the many objectors who have contacted me directly.”

Mike Hurdle

And former borough councillor Mike Hurdle, commenting on behalf of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), said he felt the “impressive” video raised a number of serious issues relating to the planning application.

He continued: “There are over 230 letters of objection which have been lodged and GGG trusts that GBC planning officers will consider and give due weight to such a strong representation by local residents, the vast majority of whom are clearly opposed to this development at this important site.

“GGG policy is for due weight to be given to farmland and important habitats. Our members also have concerns about the transport implications of the site and its sustainability.

“A Climate Change Emergency has been declared by GBC since the passing of the Local Plan, and it is important that Climate Change is at the centre of all policies and decisions.

“The video raises important aspects that need to be considered in evaluating and deciding on the application. We trust that the Planning Officers will take on board the issues raised.”

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test 4 Responses to Councillors Describe Wisley Campaign Video as ‘Powerful’ – Developer Says It Is ‘Inaccurate’

  1. Helen Jefferies Reply

    October 6, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    Taylor Wimpey would say that, wouldn’t they. The video includes numerous quotes from residents of TW sites across the country where promises they’ve made have failed to materialise.

    It’s also time that everyone understands that “affordable housing” is priced at 80 per cent of open market value so hardly affordable for most.

    I hope that all councillors will take the time to view the video and visit the site.

    Helen Jefferies is a Wisley Action Group Campaigner

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 7, 2022 at 8:04 am

    It is a scandal that the tories forced through their despised Local Plan and included this valuable farmland.

    Whatever happened to their manifesto pledge “Greenbelt to stay under Tories”?

    We cannot continue to import 60 per cent of our food. Full Stop.

  3. Aliai Forte Reply

    October 8, 2022 at 1:42 am

    The video is very realistic and exposes the truth.

    It is shameful that this development hasn’t yet been stopped for good and it raises many questions on the integrity of the system.

    As a resident I am totally opposed to it.

  4. David Roberts Reply

    October 14, 2022 at 5:22 pm

    I hope Lady Forte has filed an objection with Guildford council and will encourage her husband and all members of her household to do so as well, by emailing planningenquiries@guildford.gov.uk, ref. 22/P/01175.

    I also look forward to seeing an objection from the local MP, Sir Paul Beresford, who says he is opposed to the Taylor Wimpey project. I cannot understand why he has not yet submitted one.

    There were 725 objections when I checked just now. This is probably an underestimate, as dozens of objections are being batched in the same document while planning staff catch up. To date, there have been just 10 letters of support.

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