Fringe Box



Letter: St Johns Churchyard Is Not A Brownfield Site

Published on: 4 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 4 Jun, 2016
St John's Church, pictured from the west churchyard.

St John’s Church, pictured from the west churchyard.

From Donna Collinson

In response to George Potter’s comment on the opinion piece: Opinion: The Local Plan Is Not Fit For Purpose

The tranquil oasis that is St.Johns churchyard is not and never has been a brownfield site.

The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) supported the campaign to Save St. John’s Churchyard from development and keep it an important historic public green space, with full knowledge that the setting of historic assets are protected by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The higher the significance of the asset the greater the protection, St.Johns church is one of only 5.5% buildings in England listed Grade 2*.

emails letterThe Church of England at the oral hearing in Westminster, also aware of the NPPF, dismissed St. Johns church’s plans to develop both east and west churchyards, in part for failing to consult with Historic England.

It should be noted that the 2012 proposal for flats on the old fire station site was withdrawn and the 2015 application for a detached house and detached garage at Lido Lodge was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate. Both proposals for housing were, as the churchyards, setting for St.Johns church.

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Responses to Letter: St Johns Churchyard Is Not A Brownfield Site

  1. George Potter Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I’m afraid Donna Collinson is mistaken. The churchyard is not in the green belt and within the urban boundaries of Guildford. While the church is a listed building, the churchyard is not.

    It is certainly a green space but a green space can also legally count as a brownfield site.

    I certainly don’t necessarily think it should be built on but as an example it certainly illustrates the rank hypocrisy of some GGG politicians.

    They insist that not a blade of green belt grass should be built on under any circumstances on the basis that they claim there’s enough brownfield land in the existing urban areas.

    However, the only possible way there can be enough brownfield land for the housing which needs to be built is if you include all the areas legally defined as brownfield without making any exceptions for places like St John’s churchyard.

    I wouldn’t find this objectionable if they were honest about it and admitted that their policies would mean concreting over green spaces in the town. As it is their attempts to ride two horses at once are risible and all too transparent.

    It’s also worth noting, incidentally, that a significant amount of the land in the green belt is actually built upon and yet still counts as green belt. A village in the green belt technically counts as green belt land in the same way that a green field in a town counts as brownfield land.

    As such it’s also rather perverse that GGG are opposing the insetting of villages from the green belt (the practice of saying that land within the boundaries of existing settlements should be taken out of the green belt). You would think that’s a sensible change but it’s still denounced by GGG as development on the green belt even though it wouldn’t involve building a single new house.

    But I suppose consistency between rhetoric and policy is too much to expect from GGG.

    I don’t object to them from wishing there were easy answers, mind you. I just object to the way in which they pretend there are easy answers to complicated problems and then denounce anyone at all who attempts to inject a dose of reality into discussions.

  2. A Atkinson Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    I’m afraid George Potter is wrong. The definition of brownfield is here:

    Brownfield’ (previously developed) land is defined in Annex 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework as:
    Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. This excludes:
    • land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings;
    • land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill
    purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development
    control procedures;
    • land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation
    grounds and allotments; and
    • land that was previously-developed, but where the remains of the permanent
    structure have blended into the landscape in the process of time.

    Green spaces in urban areas are not brownfield. And certainly it is perverse to suggest a graveyard is previously developed with a structure. I think they are left off the list of exclusions such as allotments as it is so reduculous to think that they could be classified as brownfield.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Mr Potter repeats his calumnious statement that the Guildford Greenbelt Group believes “that not a blade of green belt grass should be built on under any circumstances”.

    That is wholly untrue. GGG stands for maintaining the quality of the built and natural environment in the borough of Guildford. It seeks to defend our quality of life from the assaults of deep pocketed, profit motivated, non resident developers who appear to be assisted in their plans by the planning department and the Conservative Party.

    It is disappointing that he should continue to repeat the usual Conservative Party propaganda when the facts have been pointed out – as for example in my letter to the Dragon: No one is arguing that the Green Belt is sacrosanct.

    If Mr Potter wishes to trade caricatures then he might consider if he wishes to be portrayed as someone with so little loyalty to the past that he wishes to concrete over the gravestones of our ancestors.

  4. Peter Shaw Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    This whole ‘no building on a single blade of grass’ quote, is time and time again misrepresented.

    In the early days of GGG, a couple of years ago, it formed a petition opposing the SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Assesment), in which as a public speaker I spoke.

    In my speech, I made the comment along the lines that… if the SHMA had been calculated correctly and was not based on inaccurate 10 year forecast figures by the Office of National Statistics (a point the ONS acknowledged and redressed), then the new homes per year target would be much lower and so no blade of grass in the green belt would need to be built upon (as housing could be sited on existing brownfield sites)…

    A statement I still believe in and although the SHMA was altered eventually, spurious growth factors were introduced (without explanation) to maintain a similar high number than in the last SHAM sorry … SHMA.

    Also, to equate this quote with the view that it’s OK to build on a graveyard, is very upsetting on several fronts.

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