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Developers Claim ‘Surging’ Support for Wisley Development

Published on: 21 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 24 Apr, 2017

Artist’s impression on what the development would look like. Image from the developer’s website.

Developers behind plans to build nearly 2,000 homes on the former Wisley Airfield claim that a recent telephone poll of 500 residents, aged 18-40, shows a surge in support for a new community to be constructed on a “strategic site” still ear-marked for development in the most recent draft Local Plan.

In a press release Wisley Property Investments Ltd (WPIL) state: “The latest results show a significant majority of those surveyed (57 per cent) are in favour of the proposals to redevelop the abandoned site.

But a spokesman for Wisley Action Group, which is objecting to the development proposals, criticised the scale of the survey and the claim that it would provide affordable houses.

The telephone survey, undertaken by market research agency Marketing Means on behalf of WPIL, interviewed 500 Guildford Borough residents aged 18-40 in February and March this year.

The press release continued: “The survey tested views on plans for a new community at the Wisley Airfield which can deliver up to 800 subsidised and 1200 market homes, community facilities, shops, sports facilities and a huge parkland area. The proposals make use of the abandoned airfield at Wisley which, featuring more than 70 acres of crumbling concrete and hardstanding, including a runway over a mile long, is an obvious choice for development.

“This backs up a recent surge in support for the application which has seen more than 500 emails of support sent to GBC since October 2016.”

Project director Mike Murray said:  “Younger people in the borough are frequently ignored when it comes to housing. This survey makes it clear just how many Guildford residents want to own their own home and how many are struggling to do so. That means many are having to live with their families or are being forced out of the area entirely.

“A significant majority of young people surveyed, 57%, support the proposals for a sustainable new community at Wisley Airfield which can provide up to 800 subsidised homes as part of a wider plan which includes market homes, shops, schools, commercial space, sport facilities and a vast parkland. 800 affordable homes equates to around 10% of Guildford Borough’s entire need for affordable homes until 2032.”

“Wisley Airfield was abandoned more than 30 years ago and has more than 70 acres of crumbling runway and hardstanding. It sits near the A3 and is within easy cycling distance of several railway stations. With house prices running at 14 times average earnings, and a majority of young people in support, surely now is the time for sites like Wisley to deliver.

One Guildford resident who was phoned in the survey said: “They were not interested in my view once I said gave my age as over 60. The girl was polite enough but I got the distinct impression she was conducting the survey for the council.”

Tony Edwards, Wisley Action Group spokesman

Tony Edwards of Wisley Action Group said: “In the real world, where facts always outweigh fantasies, a credible survey is usually a 2,000+ sample.  500 doesn’t really cut it for me, especially when over 2,000 people have already objected to the proposal.

“But then trying to link the ‘new town’ proposal to the fact that obviously people want affordable homes, is a nonsense.  £300k+ ain’t affordable by any stretch of the imagination – and that will be the cost, according to Mike Murray.”

Council leader Paul Spooner told The Dragon in a recent interview that he did not expect the developments included in the new draft Local Plan to significantly effect house prices in Guildford Borough.

Surrey has some of the highest rents and house prices in the country. The average monthly rent in Surrey is £1,859 – almost double the level in Sussex or Kent.

Rightmove gives the average house price in Surrey as £509,000 – 18 times the average Guildford salary 0f £28,000 (source The Guardian).

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Responses to Developers Claim ‘Surging’ Support for Wisley Development

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    April 21, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I suppose if they do build the housing estate it’ll stop the anti-social motorcycle problem on the site.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      April 22, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      It is worth asking what the consequences of creating the third largest new town in the borough on a site of about 40ha of Surrey at a housing density of around 56 dwellings per hectare may be, especially when no local infrastructure exists. That housing density is many times the highest density in this borough and is as high as the most densely populated parts of London.

      Surrey Police has submitted an ‘infrastructure request’ in relation to this new town. It can be found on the GBC planning website under the application no 15/P/00012. It states that Surrey Police requires additional resources to police the additional 2,068 dwellings: 6.5 additional uniformed officers and 1.8 additional support staff. It estimates an additional capital cost £191,326.40. This comprises, inter alia, the roll out of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) throughout the new development and Ripley etc, new office space, uniforms etc. This £191k is just the capital cost – not the annual running cost.

      With the new ANPR at least the Police will have less excuse for not knowing who the bikers are. But many or most of them currently ride without numberplates.

      The new town will introduce 5,000 extra cars at one of the two worst congestion points on the A3. It will also create a chronic threat to the endangered species on Ockham and Hatchford Commons. There are no precedents for introducing developments of this size immediately adjacent to a Special Protection Area. And there is no assurance that the purported mitigation measures will provide the necessary protection.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        April 24, 2017 at 5:35 pm

        I am extremely concerned that ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] is being rolled out without democratic consultation. Big brother is here. 1984 weep your heart out.

        At what point was any elected official elected on a mandate to track, or spy on, every single motorist journey across Surrey and across our country. Should this not be discussed in the forum of public concern before this “roll out” takes place?

      • Paul Bishop Reply

        April 25, 2017 at 7:17 am

        The Surrey average for car ownership is 1.5/household. So by my maths that’s 3102 extra cars for 2068 households, not 5000. Only 160% over-estimated. A small point, maybe, but when simple facts like this are so happily misrepresented it’s easy to cast doubts on both sides of this argument.

        Similarly, the argument that no infrastructure currently exists is pretty irrelevant. Look around you, hardly any of the infrastructure in this country existed a couple of hundred years ago. 2,000 houses is a piece of cake to sort out.
        I’m all for good debate, but let’s at least be honest and sensible.

        I look forward to seeing the results of the WAG survey of over 2,000 residents, it will be good to see any differing trends with their sample versus the developers sample.

        • Ben Paton Reply

          April 30, 2017 at 3:03 pm

          Mr Bishop should follow his own exhortation to be “honest and sensible”. It is a safe bet that more than 3,000 cars will be at this new town. The plans show that they expect to build over 4,000 residential car parking spaces alone.

          Since those figures were published, the developer has added plans for schools catering for ages zero to sixteen suggesting at least one thousand pupils and teachers on site excluding nursery.

          The 2011 census statistics for the numbers of cars per household are available in various places, including the website. The average number of cars per household for all of Surrey is indeed 1.5 cars. However, the statistics go into more detail. For ‘Rural:hamlets and isolated dwellings’ the statistics are that 17% of households have three cars/vans and 41% of dwellings have two cars/vans.

          It should also be noted that at least half the current traffic down Old Lane and all of the traffic down Ockham Lane (that will be closed completely) will be diverted through this new town.

          The figure of 5,000 additional cars is likely to be a significant under-estimate. And since there is no local employment a significant proportion of the additional cars will go onto the A3 (the main way in and out of the site) during the rush hour.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    April 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    As Churchill said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I think if you ask a question enough times, phrased in the a certain way, you are likely to get one answer, phrased differently, another.

    Wisley has not been demonstrated as viable or rational. There is a lack of infrastructure. The amount lacking is unknown. For example, a developer has to pay water suppliers for them to inform the developers of the cost of the necessary upgrade.

    Until this is done the question is it viable and rational cannot be answered.

  3. Paul Robinson Reply

    April 24, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    According to a history of Wisley Airfield “a large diameter water main” was “laid all the way from Ripley” in 1943 to feed an automatic watering system for the grass runway.

    I’m not suggesting it is still useable.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 24, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    What WPI doesn’t reveal is that the survey specifically excluded the residents of Ockham, and the surrounding villages, so this myth of overwhelming support is not credible.

  5. Colin Cross Reply

    April 25, 2017 at 12:32 am

    What about the NPPFs demand that such new developments demand sustainability?

    So where will the footpaths and cycle lanes fit on virtually single lane Ockham roads?

    We are supposed to be capable of walking to work, the shop, pub or church, so how is that going to be possible from a rural field?

    The Tories seem happy to allow an urban ghetto to appear in the middle of rural green belt, but that’s totally rejected in the town centre as the Wisley high rise blocks seem to be okay for Lovelace but not for Guildford, we are told. Actually they are suited for neither location.

    I am not trying to set town against countryside here, as I am accused by Cllr Spooner.

    I firmly believe there is a right and wrong way to develop in both areas and our Tory rulers are making a botch of both, whilst, in turn, crucifying our borough at the altar of development and expansion, from which there is no return.

    Add this to the latest Local Plan’s infrastructure and proportionality failings and we can start to see the beginning of the end for Guildford as we know it.

    Finally, where are the constraints so liberally applied by other Surrey boroughs? GBC have apllied zero. None. This town had a proud Tory heritage, those days are over, it’s a “rotten borough” now.

    Perhaps it’s finally time for some blue sky thinking in terms of who runs GBC?

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace

  6. Paul Bishop Reply

    April 30, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    Mr Paton is exaggerating to try and make the problem sound worse than it will be. A housing development of this size will not be a hamlet and pretending those numbers work is a folly.

    Maybe being realistic would help build support for his cause rather than wildly overestimating every number he can think of.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      May 3, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      The party that has been responsible for wild exaggeration is the property developer. Mr Bishop should state precisely what I have exaggerated. I can point him to the relevant documents if he would like chapter and verse for the number of car parking spaces in the new development. The precise figure is 4,200 and can be found in para 4.4.3 of the Illustrative Master Plan presented by the developer.

      If Mr Bishop wishes to dispute the proposal to close Ockham Lane and make Old Lane one way I can also point him to SCC’s proposals for accommodating this new development.

      GBC’s “Green Belt and Countryside Study” states that Ockham is the second least sustainable location in the entire borough. It states that there are almost no facilities in Ockham, not even a shop. None will be built for the new town for many years. And those that are will barely suffice for the new residents – let alone make up for the existing infrastructure shortfalls in terms of school places and transport.

      Ockham fits the description used in the census statistics.

  7. John Perkins Reply

    May 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Paul Bishop accuses Ben Paton of exaggeration, wild overestimation and folly by pretending that he describes this development as a hamlet. He does not; he simply makes the point that to use the Surrey average number of vehicles per household is likely an underestimate.

    The development would undoubtedly be rural and so it’s not unreasonable to use a higher than average figure. The developers themselves have obviously done so by including an expectation of 4,000 residential parking spaces.

    Car ownership increases each year and will be higher in the next few years. It should be remembered that the average includes major towns where it’s possible for commuters to walk, cycle to or be dropped off at a station thus reducing their need for a extra vehicle. Such options are not always open to those living in rural areas.

    According to the 2011 census the average for Surrey was 1.51 cars per household (21 cars more than the maths quoted above), whereas for Surrey Heath it was 1.68 (372 more than the figure given). Which is the better figure to use is debatable, but both are six years out of date and so will be higher now, higher still in 2021 and probably higher again due to the rural nature of the site.

    Even if it is an exaggeration to claim 5,000 cars, it’s a much more reasonable estimate than 3,102.

    Of course, even 3,000 extra cars is an awful lot for such a place. Not to mention all the transient delivery and tradesman’s vans, service vehicles, school runners and the like.

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