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Last Minute Normandy Amendment to the Local Plan – Reaction

Published on: 29 May, 2016
Updated on: 31 May, 2016

Normandy Village SignThe amendment to the draft Local Plan, due go out for public consultation next month (June 2016), that will allow a strategic site at Normandy to be excluded if it can be shown that a proposed new school is not required, has received a varied reaction from councillors and a local campaign group.

Before last Tuesday’s (May 24) stormy council meeting, Cllr Keith Witham (a county councillor who represents Normandy as part of the Worplesdon Division) said that he wrote to Cllr Paul Spooner, leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC), with information about local secondary schools being under-subscribed.

He gave, as an example, Kings College in Guildford, one of the nearest secondary schools to Normandy which, he said, was under-subscribed by 57%, only 43% of its places are filled.

Worplesdon county councillor Keith Witham.

Worplesdon county councillor Keith Witham.

With that evidence he asked for “Site 46”, Normandy/Flexford, to be withdraw from the draft Local Plan.

Cllr Witham said: “That request was not agreed by Cllr Spooner, his view being  that the information should be considered as part of a consultation.

“However as a result, an important proviso was included, through an amendment proposed at the council meeting by Cllr David Bilbe (Con, Normandy).”

At the full council meeting the amendment was seconded by the council leader and agreed by common consent of the council without debate, so it has full council support and is now on the record.

Cllr David Bilbe

Cllr David Bilbe

Cllr David Bilbe added: “The decision has been made to place the draft plan into public consultation. This is a vital and required part of the democratic process. The removal of sensitive green belt land is not a matter which can, or will be, dealt with lightly or frivolously.

“The decision to link the potential development of the site (A46) in Normandy with exceptional circumstances including the provision of a secondary school is agreed and demonstrates the sensible approach which underpins this component of the plan.

“It is a further example of support from Cllr Spooner as lead member for planning and leader of the council.”

Nick Norton, Normandy Action Group

Nick Norton, Normandy Action Group

Nick Norton speaking on behalf of the Normandy Action Group said: “This amendment comes out of the blue. The community is left hanging.

“Cllr Bilbe appears to have persuaded Cllr Spooner to put his name to an amendment that says the site will be removed from the draft local plan if the evidence for new secondary school places doesn’t stand up.

“But Cllr Spooner was heard to say he thinks it will. On the other hand, Cllr Witham’s evidence is compelling. We shall see who blinks first.”

“According to Cllr Witham, it appears Surrey Education department have unfilled secondary places in the west of the borough in the medium term to cater for over 700 children and other schools are willing to expand.

“Should the Blackwell Farm site be developed for 1,800 homes, this capacity would likely cater for demand from there. In which case, where is the evidence ‘need’, there are no ‘exceptional’ or ‘very special circumstances’ generated to justify any school being built in the green belt.

“Neither can the associated housing be proposed without ‘need’ for school places being proved.”

“The attendance at our recent public meeting of 230+ residents from the 900 or so households in Flexford and Normandy indicated a major concern with the [Local Plan] proposals .”

Cllr Witham concluded: “The formal public consultation starts on 6th June, for a period of six weeks, so we hope that by the closing date as many as possible individual residents in Normandy will respond to the consultation.

“Cllr Bilbe and I will continue to work with  Normandy Action Group (NAG), Normandy Parish Council and residents on this vital local issue.”

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Responses to Last Minute Normandy Amendment to the Local Plan – Reaction

  1. Katie Tomkins Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I have a problem with the planning strategy pursued by the council with regards to what is being called “enabling developments” where house builders get permission for hundreds of houses on the back of supplying a school or a slip road etc.

    In the past, the land for infrastructure has been compulsory purchased and sewerage treatment plants, slip roads, schools etc have been built in the best locations identified at the time. Equally in the past, housing sites have been chosen on their merits.

    Before I go on I would like to state that I am not against building on all green belt whatsoever, in my opinion it has been the most restrictive policy that has resulted in poor planning outcomes such as backland development that has changed certain suburbs of Guildford for ever.

    I do however question whether the school locations chosen at Wisley and Normandy are the right locations. Wisley seems too far to the north of the borough to be a natural choice and too far away from any railway station to be considered sustainable.

    I know the area well and cannot see school children cycling safely to school. With the rush hour congestion around Wisley it is the last place you would want to be driving at that time if you didn’t have to. I am afraid I do not know enough about Normandy and Flexford to comment about its location and demand but have read the comments on The Dragon and really feel that the case for a new school should be proven beyond doubt.

    With regards to the Garlicks Arch Site. (400 houses and 7000 sq metres of industry). This again seems to be termed an enabling development because it is proposing slip roads onto and off the A3. I think the A3 Slip roads are a good idea but have no idea why they seem to have been conceived at the 11th hour? Why was this vital infrastructure project not identified earlier?

    Again in the past the land for the slip roads would just have been compulsory purchased. Are the 400 houses also proposed really in the best location, right next to the A3 with all the noise and fumes from the rush hour? There are no facilities in Send Marsh and everyone will have to get in a car to go anywhere.

    The New Draft has swapped the Burnt Common triangle industrial site in favour of the Garlick Arch site. This doesn’t make any sense as the Burnt Common triangle site is already an industrial site with plenty of room to expand and is the most sensible choice. The coalesence argument for excluding this site doesn’t wash and seems to have come a bit late in the day. It could equally be used to exclude the Gosden Hill Farm site as well.

    I just wish that our council would grow a backbone, tear up its flawed green belt sensitivity assessments, use its powers to acquire the best located sites for infrastructure (regardless of what land parcel they are in) and cease to be driven by what the housebuilders are offering because as it stands the plan seems a very poor compromise.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    A well argued point.

    We need: a sewage works remaining in an ideal location since 1890’s, schools close to public transport hubs, homes (not houses) and an infrastructure policy which starts with meeting future requirements then building the homes at the number required by the government calculated on a spread sheet available for public scrutiny (not a hidden calculation).

    My worry about this school is the problem if it is not built but the homes are. What happens to the school site then? There will be even more houses and a subsequent need for more school places. Where will they all go?

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