Fringe Box



Five Areas of Concern on Former Wisley Airfield Plan

Published on: 20 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 24 Oct, 2023

Wisley Airfield plans. Image: Taylor Wimpey and Vivid.

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A proposed 1,700 home development on the former Wisley Airfield has residents worrying about sewage, roads, wildlife and the impact on doctors and schools in the area.

A planning application for the site, which was turned into an airfield during the Second World War but is now largely farmland, is currently going through an appeal after the developers said Guildford Borough Council took too long to make a decision on it.

Taylor Wimpey’s plans, which also include a country park, shops and schools, have led residents to raise concerns about several issues, which were brought to a hearing of the appeal on Wednesday (October 18).

So many residents wanted to speak about the application that another day has been set aside for residents’ views to be heard, while the inquiry has also heard from speakers on planning, ecology and highways.

The inspector reminded speakers to be respectful of others at the hearing, and said: “I understand that everybody feels very strongly about this, it’s very obvious.”

She also reminded residents she could not take into consideration concerns about the borough council’s Local Plan, which allocated the site for up to 2,000 homes and removed it from the green belt.

The appeal hearings are due to finish on November 28.

Antonis Pazourou, community and green infrastructure manager for Taylor Wimpey, previously told the LDRS the company had worked “openly and transparently” with the council and residents at various meetings and events.

He added: “We are confident that our proposals will transform the former airfield into a vibrant and connected community where people can live, relax, work, learn and enjoy nature – in line with the council’s policies.”

Below the LDRS rounds up five of the key concerns raised by residents at the hearing.

Sewage and flooding

Residents said an “antiquated, neglected and not fit for purpose” sewage system would not be able to cope with the demand placed on it by the additional homes.

Ockham resident Euan Harkness said many houses in Ockham had now been deemed to be in a flood zone, adding £1,000 per year to their insurance.

He also raised concerns about the work being done to expand junction 10 of the M25 and the A3, saying: “It looks as though Bolsonaro has been up there” because so many trees had been “ripped out”.

A Ripley resident said she had seen 50kg manhole covers lifted up by sewage underneath in heavy rains, and pointed to spillage from the Ripley water treatment works in nearby fields.

Sally Erhardt said: “Heaven help the village if Taylor Wimpey think they can also use the Ripley water sewage treatment works.

“In previous floods, raw sewage has even been forced up out of the lavatories in some of the houses in the village.”

While Mary Pargeter said: “The whole sewage infrastructure is antiquated, neglected and not fit for purpose, being unable to cope with the present minimal number of houses.”

She said during cold spells sewage spillage would freeze on the roads, which became “particularly dangerous” and where accidents had occurred.


The inspector also heard about how the development may impact on local business and residents, including concerns about the impact on the road network in an area with limited public transport.

Taylor Wimpey’s plans include a bus service, car clubs and new cycle routes, while the company providing affordable homes on the planned development also pointed to the local centre that would be on site, with shops and medical facilities.

John Waterfield, land and planning manager for Vivid, said the organisation had worked with Taylor Wimpey to integrate the affordable housing into the development and would be “tenure blind”, meaning all houses would be designed the same.

He told the hearing he believed the benefits of the proposal’s affordable housing would outweigh some of the harm and said the site would be “well-connected by public transport, active travel and a car club”.

A local business owner, Nick Hourhan of Spring Reach Nursery, in Long Reach, said he found the plans for traffic calming measures “completely incomprehensible”.

With a business reliant on large lorries, he said he did not think they would be able to negotiate the “chicane network” planned for the road.

“If we can’t grow plants, then I would not really have a viable business,” he told the hearing.

Another mother said she’s had a “near-death experience” on Ockham Lane, which she described as “a sheet of ice” in the winter months.

She said her son was now “absolutely terrified” and on icy mornings when they left the driveway now, her son would be saying: “Please don’t go that way, don’t go that way.”

Trevor Orpwood pointed to a population increase in the villages surrounding the planned development of nearly 5,000 people, based on current approved planning applications.

He said 120 traffic calming measures on six local roads would cause delays, congestion and pollution.

Mr Orpwood said: “Instead of being country lanes, the roads will now look like London streets with their signage, chicanes and lighting.”

James Maurici KC, Taylor Wimpey’s representative, highlighted during the hearing that plans for the site included “extensive road infrastructure for speed reduction”.

He said though residents had expressed concerns about the measures, for various reasons, the solution for roads, already being used by cyclists and cars speeding where they shouldn’t, was to introduce things like speed bumps and chicanes.


A 20-year-old spoke at the hearing, saying she had been on the airfield most days of her life.

Isabella Porter said “Even before I could walk, my family regularly went on dog walks and my brother and I were pushed in our buggies.

“I feel privileged to have grown up in such a beautiful setting.”

She said increasing numbers of dog walkers on the site and the neighbouring commons meant an increase in dog poo and having to remind some of the need to pick it up.

Ms Porter also said her hopes of owning her own home were “dwindling” and she would not be able to afford a house in the area due to the high prices.

She added: “I have already witnessed highways destroy the woodland and I would be heartbroken to see any more go.”

Concerns were also heard at the inquiry about the impact on ground nesting skylarks, and other birds including nightjars, woodlarks, and Dartford warblers.

The plans for the site include the development of a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace which the developers say will “help to contribute to a minimum Biodiversity Net Gain of 20 per cent”.

Schools and doctors

While the parish of Effingham is around four miles away from the airfield site, its parish council chairman said the community there would still “suffer problems” from the planned development.

Effingham Parish Council chairman Ian Symes

Ian Symes said parish council objections related to the “absolute and cumulative strain” on rural roads, road safety, parking and “overstretched local infrastructure, especially medical facilities and schools”.

With a primary and a secondary state school in Effingham, Mr Symes said there would be “few if any spare places” for new residents and feared “huge pressure” on places at the Howard of Effingham School.

He said it was “essential” if the plans were allowed to go ahead that a primary and secondary school were built early on in the development.

Taylor Wimpey’s plans include a primary and a secondary school as well as nurseries in the new town, but previous borough council meetings have heard that a new secondary school would need to be supported by Surrey County Council.

Regarding GP surgeries, Mr Symes said Effingham residents went either to East Horsley Medical Centre or to surgeries in Bookham.

He added: “All these surgeries are feeling the effects of increased patient numbers and that is before the local planning approvals are built out.

“It is therefore essential that there is a medical centre built at this development site in a timely manner at the earliest possible stage of the development.”

Cost of appeals

The inquiry also heard that residents in the area were used to fighting against planning applications.

One resident said villagers continued to fundraise for such inquiries to the tune of £500,000.

Janet Lofthouse said: “Our village has been fighting planning for many, many years.

“We are a very small number in our village and we all support each other.

“We have to keep fighting these applications and we have been very successful, but it’s due to very dedicated people and very, very generous people giving their time and their money and we have lots of fundraising events.”

Others raised concerns about the isolated nature of the site, and its “unsustainable position”.

Despite community engagement events carried out by Taylor Wimpey, and planning consultations carried out as part of Guildford Borough Council’s processes, one resident said residents’ “democratic voice had been washed down the gutter”.

Barnaby Lawrence: “None of us should have to be here. The money for all of this should not need to have been spent.

He said borough residents had been forced into a position of having to fund a “mega-expensive rebuttal of the unsustainable plans”.

“Barristers do not come cheap, whether from London or the provinces,” he told the inspector.

The appeal continues.

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Responses to Five Areas of Concern on Former Wisley Airfield Plan

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    October 24, 2023 at 7:15 pm

    I have lived in the area since the 60’s and well remember Wisley aircraft flying over my house in Send. When BAC pulled out one of the airfield proposals was to turn it into a Biz Jet airfield. I just wonder how many of the local residents who objected to that idea would now prefer it to a housing development?

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