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County Council Response a ‘Travesty of the Highest Order’ says Outgoing Councillor

Published on: 8 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 8 Sep, 2023

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A “travesty of the highest order” is how an outgoing councillor has described Surrey’s response to the planned Wisley Airfield development as he announced his resignation.

Plans for 1,730 homes on the land near the A3 are to be decided by government planning inspectors after the developer appealed a lack of decision from Guildford Borough Council.

See also: County Councillor Quits Saying SCC Agreement With Developer Was Final Straw

But one Surrey County Councillor said a document drawn up as part of the appeals process was “the final straw” and handed in his resignation.

Cllr Colin Cross

The former councillor, Colin Cross, Residents for Guildford and Villages, who represented The Horsleys division, said he had campaigned against the plans “for many years”.

Because of the appeal, Guildford’s Planning Committee debated the application and voted in line with officers’ recommendation to refuse the application, but they did not get the final say.

At the GBC planning meeting in July, one parish councillor compared the plans to “parachuting a slice of London into a quiet, rural area”.

Now a Surrey County Council document, called “a statement of common ground” which outlines parts of the application parties are agreed on, including travel plans and the impact of the development, ahead of the appeal hearings, has led Mr Cross to stand down.

Mr Cross described the statement as a “travesty of the true situation on the ground”. He announced his resignation “with immediate effect” on August 31.

The former councillor added: “I consider the SCC agreement to this statement of common ground to be a travesty of the highest order and an insult to the residents in the parishes of East and West Horsley, East Clandon, Effingham, Ripley, Ockham and Wisley, where there is long-standing and overwhelming opposition to this ill-conceived, isolated, over-development.”

He claimed the document contradicted “much of the previous constructive criticism” from the county council in recent years, which he claimed had “somehow been erased and replaced by a broad-based agreement”.

As the highways authority, the county council is consulted on planning applications, and can make recommendations for conditions or object to parts of applications.

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said the company was “committed to delivering much-needed housing” at the site, and developing a “vibrant community with increased biodiversity, new sporting and education facilities, and a range of sustainable transport options”.

They said they had worked with the local community to address residents’ concerns, including on traffic and transport issues.

The spokesperson added: “We have held several public consultations which have informed our proposals, and engaged with Surrey County Council and National Highways throughout the planning process.

“We look forward to continued engagement with the local authorities and the local community during the appeal process.”

Mr Cross said: “It has been a difficult decision to step down after all these years of working for our communities.

“I had been considering my position because of changing family circumstances and Guildford Borough Council’s unanimous support of the officers’ recommendation to refuse the Wisley New Town proposal, a development I have campaigned against for many years.

“However the revelation of this statement of common ground has made the decision for me and the time is now right for me to hand over to someone who has the time and determination to continue my campaign and the work I have been doing.”

Colin Cross with R4GV colleague Dennis Booth who intends to stand in the expected by-election.

A by-election is expected in October.

A Surrey County Council spokesperson said a statement of common ground was “standard practice” with planning inquiries, and would assist the planning inspector in focussing on areas of disagreement during the inquiry.

They added: “This does not equate to a full resolution or agreement, and the application remains subject to a full planning inquiry process.”

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Responses to County Council Response a ‘Travesty of the Highest Order’ says Outgoing Councillor

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 8, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    TW has definitely not listened to resident’s concerns. They were told by the majority of residents that we do not want, nor welcome, this blot on our landscape.

    No amount of spin can convince us otherwise.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    September 8, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    Why does the ‘management’ ignore the customers?

    The planning authorities ie the borough council and the county council just ignore the electorate, promote lies about the site and fall over backwards to assist the developer.

    This propensity for ignoring the people they are supposed to serve seems to be endemic. Doctors tell the NHS that things are amiss, victims provide the police evidence of crime and residents point out that a site contravenes all the principles of sustainable development – and they all get ignored.

    Objective truth exists. Why don’t planning authorities look for it?

    • Paul Daubney Reply

      September 9, 2023 at 2:27 pm

      If the council have given the go-ahead at Ripley for new housing what is the problem with Wisely. I suspect it’s the NIMBY clan.

      • Frances Porter Reply

        September 11, 2023 at 10:24 am

        To use such a derogatory name as NIMBY shows a lack of understanding.

        NIMBY actually means, Nature In My Back Yard.

        Guildford Borough Council voted unanimously to reject the planning application. Every local parish council and all the nearby others councils objected too.

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