Fringe Box



Landfill Site Popular with Dog Walkers to be Sold by GBC Despite Local Opposition

Published on: 10 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2024

Send Hill. Image Google Streetview

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

A popular dog-walking spot on former green belt land will be sold to make way for 40 permanent homes and two traveller pitches.

Land on Send Hill will be sold – for an undisclosed amount and to a specific unnamed buyer – despite Guildford Borough Council receiving dozens of letters opposing the move.

Known as the Send Hill Disused Sandpit, it is described as an old landfill site that has become used increasingly for recreation.

The pit was allocated for housing in Guildford Borough Council ’s 2019 Local Plan but the options for it were limited due to heavy contamination from fibrous asbestos, council officers told the Executive meeting on Thursday, January 4.

The cost of decontaminating the land was considered prohibitive to any hopes of using it for council housing stock but, if sold, would allow the authority to seek up to 40 per cent of new homes to be made “affordable”.

Previous attempts to sell were delayed over questions the council had about getting best value for the land.

Cllr George Potter

Cllr George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham) said the deal should go ahead despite widespread opposition from those who said it was inappropriate development for Send, particularly as there had been a significant increase in building in the area since the village was removed from the green belt.

He said: “It’s worth noting, though, that a number of concerns raised such as the loss of wildlife space and issues around access would be dealt with via the planning system – should a planning application come forward for this pieces of land.”

Send map with plot to be sold outlined. Image GBC

Cllr Potter reminded the meeting that local planning laws meant any development would need to generate a 20 per cent increase in biodiversity – which should protect the site’s wildlife, while the public’s right of way behind the site would remain.

He added: “While I appreciate that some people will be unhappy that this site was allocated for development in the Local Plan and removed from the green belt – that was the decision taken at that time, and we have to deal with this piece of land as we find it.

“Evidence is quite clear – it’s not a piece of land that we could develop in our own right, given access issues. It’s not something where it’s desired to have amenity land on top of a contaminated landfill site. Money brought in would help reduce spending cuts elsewhere and would be better used for maintaining more suitable spaces.”

Not selling the land for decontamination and development would expose the council to financial risk. If asbestos escaped into neighbouring land there was the potential for claims to be filed against the authority, according to papers.

The report read: “The council has an opportunity to realise a significant one-off financial receipt by making the best use of its land holdings to generate an income.

“A disposal would mean a contaminated site would be regenerated and deliver corporate priorities in providing and facilitating housing that people can afford, subject to the necessary planning consents.”

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Responses to Landfill Site Popular with Dog Walkers to be Sold by GBC Despite Local Opposition

  1. Valerie Fance Reply

    January 10, 2024 at 7:48 pm

    Where is the transparency in selling the land for an undisclosed amount to an unnamed buyer?

  2. George Potter Reply

    January 11, 2024 at 9:08 am

    The transparency is that this potential decision was advertised for two weeks in a local newspaper and that any member of the public can read the meeting papers on the council website.

    The reason the amount is undisclosed is because there isn’t an amount yet. The decision made by the Executive was to authorise negotiations for selling the land, so therefore there isn’t a sale price yet or, indeed, a confirmed buyer.

    Once a sale is negotiated the decision to sell and for what price will be visible to councillors who will have the opportunity to call-in the decision to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee if they’re unhappy with it.

    George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham) was the lead councillor for planning until January 8.

    • Valerie Fance Reply

      January 11, 2024 at 5:59 pm

      Due to the current financial position at GBC, would we be correct in assuming that the land will be widely advertised to obtain the best possible price?

  3. Daniel Hill Reply

    January 11, 2024 at 9:45 am

    GBC needs to be reminded they are stewards looking after the land they own on behalf of all Guildford residents. And if the land is to be sold then we should know to the full details.

    Are residents aware they could make an application for the land to be registered as an ACV – Asset of Community Value.

    • Valerie Fance Reply

      January 11, 2024 at 5:45 pm

      We did apply for this land to be made an ACV but we’re turned down.

  4. David Smith Reply

    January 11, 2024 at 12:23 pm

    How confident is Cllr Potter that 40 per cent affordable will be provided here? Most developers are successfully demonstrating it’s not viable to provide such a high number and I think the council need to be realistic and clear about this when promoting it as a possible positive outcome.

    Given the expensive contamination clean up which seems to have made it unviable for GBC it will be interesting to see what, if any, affordable housing is provided.

  5. James Wild Reply

    January 16, 2024 at 1:08 pm

    Please edit as appropriate
    This site has always been about money to GBC and its ability to allocate some Traveller pitches on its own land to satisfy a quota. It was not a site chosen on its sustainability, environmental of ecological credentials but purely financial by the commercially headed councillors of the day.(Spooner & Furniss)

    Now after 4 years of deliberations it seems that the council are worried about being held to ransom by the adjoining land owners over access and therefore should consider a closed market sale to the adjoining developers probably for a knocked down price of its real open market value. Oh dear not so commercial then and by the time site investigations had thrown buried fibrous asbestos into the mix even less so.

    The Council is obligated to receive best value for this site UNLESS the nature of the Council’s land ownership and that of the surrounding land ownership is such that the land MUST be sold to adjoining or surrounding landowners if best consideration is to be obtained.

    The Officers report to the executive on the 4th January makes very interesting reading. From pg 21 of the attached report

    The report seem to have a predetermined agenda to sell it to the adjoining developer in a closed sale without having explored the possibility of purchasing a tiny strip of land from Homestead or other landowners backing onto the land. The Council is obliged to seek best consideration for its land and these avenues should be explored either directly by the Council or indirectly through opening the process up to a wider market to explore these options. This should be obvious to any commercial minds on the Executive today.

    The Councillors on the Executive should not be rushed into a decision based on this report. Senior Council Planning officers have advised that the Local Plan site allocation is for the whole site and that the site needs to be developed comprehensively as a whole and not subdivided so the ball seems firmly in the Council’s court as to timetable.

    I am sure this site will be developed some day simply as its an allocated site in the local plan. It would be a shame for all Council tax payers if the Council let this land go for less than it’s full market value.

    on the other hand they are saying that planning policy dictates that both parcels need to be developed comprehensively as a whole.

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