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Letter: Inspector’s Decision to Allow Worplesdon SANG Appeal Is Flawed

Published on: 6 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 6 Nov, 2017

From Bob McShee

Conservative borough councillor for Worplesdon

See also: Permission to Create a Wood Street Village ‘SANG’ Refused Again

I was extremely disappointed to receive the planning inspector’s appeal decision which is to allow a Sustainable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) to be developed at Frog Grove Lane, Wood Street.

When I was on the borough council’s Planning Committee I had twice been able to have the application turned down despite the planning officers recommendation to approve the SANG.

Now that the applicant has appealed the refusal of the second planning application, we are faced with the loss of 34 hectares of valuable farmland. The inspector stated, ‘The loss of grazing land would have limited effect’. How could she ignore the fact that the grazing land provides an income for a farmer and his son and that now 100 cattle may have to be destroyed?

The inspector mentions that the SANG would enable approximately 1,835 three bedroom residential units to be built. She also states that, “a considerable number of dwellings are likely to be built in the western part of the Borough, this being based on the evidence presented”. However, she had already said in her report, “that there is considerable uncertainty about where additional housing will be delivered as the emerging Local Plan has yet to be tested”.

There is no mention in her report of the nine existing commons in Worplesdon where local residents regularly use the public open spaces for recreational purposes.

When I spoke at the GBC Planning Committee meeting on the 25th January 2017, two of the points of objection I raised were the effect on a local farmer and his cattle. I also referred to BREXIT and the need for all possible agricultural land to provide food for ourselves and to export to other countries.

The inspector’s report does not refer to these matters other than repeating,  ‘The loss of grazing land would have a very limited effect on the rural economy”.

At the 2017 Oxford Farming Conference, the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs re-stated her long-term ambition of creating a world leading food and farming industry by providing more and exporting more great British food.

Regrettably, this will not be applicable in Worplesdon.

In the Schedule of Conditions accompanying the report reference is made to a “SANG Management Plan”. This means that no work can commence until this plan, which is in perpetuity (125 years), has been issued to the Local Planning Authority (GBC). I shall be requesting the Planning Department at GBC to make the Management Plan available for public consultation.

I also question her statement that the SANG would improve biodiversity and minimise the harm to protected species. There are protected species on the land in Frog Grove Lane, which will be affected by the SANG, ie nesting skylarks, and badger setts.

The inspector has done the “Green Belt Balance” and said she has not found any material factors which weigh against the scheme.

Where is the value of the Localism Act 2011, which is meant to facilitate the devolution of decision making powers from central Government to individuals and committees?

The first Planning Application for the SANG was made in 2013 and it was not processed by the Planning Officers and submitted to the Planning Committee until July 2015, nearly three years later. There were 334 letters of objection to the first application.

One has to question why it took that long to determine the application.

The second application attracted 115 letters of objections and concerns, but these have carried little weight with the inspector.

I think that the inspector, who made a site visit on the 9th October, has totally disregarded the views of Worplesdon residents and the GBC Planning Committee. She has, in my personal opinion, made a flawed decision.

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Responses to Letter: Inspector’s Decision to Allow Worplesdon SANG Appeal Is Flawed

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    November 7, 2017 at 10:17 am

    A decision that will lead to loss of jobs in the rural economy, loss of agricultural production and harm to existing biodiversity.

    Surely the government should act, without delay, to reverse this appalling decision.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    November 7, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    “Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace”. It sounds so benign, doesn’t it? Indeed it should be: SANG was invented to offset the harmful effects of new development, mainly in urban areas.

    Unfortunately, SANG has been perverted from an urban offset into a pre-emptive strike against virgin countryside. Like at Long Reach, West Horsley, an inspector has approved the new SANG at Wood Green not to offset any agreed development but to promote it. This usurps local democracy which, to put it mildly, is still undecided on the subject of putting new housing estates on Guildford’s green fields.

    This may suit council leaders, who can now weep crocodile tears over these decisions while pushing ahead with their “hard” Local Plan and its inflated figures for housing need.

    One thing is certain: if, as most residents hope, the “Wisley airfield” appeal is dismissed, Wood Green and the Horsleys will stand next in the firing line for massive housebuilding on the green belt.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    November 8, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I am getting seriously concerned that the body politic known as the Planning Inspectorate is fast becoming the ‘planning process overruling body’. So many of the inspectorate’s decisions seem to be based on simply ignoring local peoples legitimate technical concerns, driving a coach and horses through what should be an unbiased approach to contentious issues.

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