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Developer’s Wisley Planning Appeal Leaves Residents ‘Angry & Concerned’

Published on: 25 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 10 May, 2023

By Martin Giles

Taylor Wimpey the developer behind a bid to build 1,730 homes on the former Wisley Airfield, near Junction 10 of the M25, has submitted an appeal direct to the government without waiting for Guildford Borough Council’s decision.

They have done so, they say, because GBC has not determined the application within the allocated timing laid out in the Planning Performance Agreement (PPA).

But the lead councillor for Planning Development, Tom Hunt (Lib Dem), told The Dragon that a request by GBC to Taylor Wimpey requesting additional information was only answered once the appeal had been lodged.

Cllr Tom Hunt

He said: “GBC asked Taylor Wimpey for further information to enable consultees, including SCC and Highways England, to fully consider the impact of their proposal.  This information was requested in good time but was only provided when Taylor Wimpey confirmed that they had lodged an appeal.

“The further information is now being considered.   GBC’s planning team will be working with consultees on all the additional information to reduce the number of matters outstanding between the Local Planning Authority and the applicant.

“This is more evidence – if more were needed – of a broken, developer-led planning system that allows Taylor Wimpey to prevaricate and then short-cut process, with a view to avoiding local scrutiny.”

Local campaigners were disappointed in 2019 when GBC planners included the site in the Local Plan despite an application in 2016 being refused by GBC and losing on appeal.

In a press release yesterday Taylor Wimpey said: “Following extensive council and community engagement over the past two years, Taylor Wimpey plans to transform the former Wisley Airfield site, which was allocated for residential development in Guildford Borough Council’s Local Plan, into three carefully designed distinct sustainable neighborhoods with a vast Country Park which will feature more than 6,700 new trees and shrubs, native scrubland and wildlife habitat, and a Visitor Centre.

“The planning application features 1,730 homes, including 692 Affordable Homes. Residents will be able to use a wide range of onsite community facilities including healthcare, education and sporting facilities. The development will also include shops and cafes, in the new Local Centre which will serve both the new and existing community. Delivering the new neighbourhoods will create 417 permanent jobs on site and £52.8m residents spend in local shops and services.”

Local campaigners the Wisley Action Group (WAG) are also critical of the developer’s move. The group’s spokesperson Tony Edwards said: “The timing of Taylor Wimpey’s appeal for non-determination is both surprising and confusing for a number of reasons.

“They have refused to respond to legitimate questions on the traffic model from both residents and expert consultants instructed by parish councils.  They have also refused to share the traffic model.

“National Highways have an objection in place which means that the GBC’s Planning Committee could not approve any application at this point.

“We have also noted that thousands of pages of additional evidence were loaded onto the GBC site immediately before Easter – just days before the notice of appeal was posted in the local media.   At least some of these pages are dated March ’23.

“Residents and campaigners are angry and concerned that the company’s ‘drip feeding’ of documents is substantially increasing the costs of their expert advice consultants – and, it must be assumed, the council’s own advisors – funded by the taxpayer.”

A spokesperson for Affordable Housing provider VIVID, who will oversee the delivery of the Affordable Housing provision at the former Wisley Airfield, said: “Guildford, like most areas across the country, is grappling with an affordable home shortage with many young people and families unable to afford to own their own home in the borough.

“The former Wisley Airfield site provides us with an opportunity to bridge this gap and make a positive impact to the community, as well as providing residents with a safe and secure place to live and prosper.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Asked for his view, the R4GV leader and former council leader Joss Bigmore said: “It is my understanding – although admittedly I haven’t had an update for a couple of weeks – that we are still awaiting information from the developer, and that we were also advising them of a potential need for further consultation.

“It’s disappointing that they are choosing to ignore this advice and try their luck with a government-appointed inspector rather than letting local decision-makers decide.

“I would assume their application is weak and doesn’t address the issues raised by the community and our officers, although that is speculation on my part as I have not been party to any discussions about the application with our team.”

Cllr Paul Spooner

And Conservative leader Paul Spooner, council leader when the previous application was rejected and the Local Plan approved in 2019, added: “Clearly it is disappointing that yet again GBC loses the ability to self-determine a key planning application.

“As there is no openness and transparency I cannot comment objectively on the reasons for the latest failure in Development Management because no information has been passed to the Conservative group.”


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Responses to Developer’s Wisley Planning Appeal Leaves Residents ‘Angry & Concerned’

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 26, 2023 at 8:57 am

    No doubt the 1,304 objections to this application will be ignored. All the time and effort of local residents will have been pointless as, it seems, the ability to protest against inappropriate developments is seen by the council as simply a legal obligation they have to endure, not the expression of opinion it will take seriously.

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