Fringe Box



Letter: Plans to Develop Normandy Would Destroy Its Character

Published on: 7 May, 2016
Updated on: 7 May, 2016

Revised Local Plan Jun 2016From Michael Aaronson

The exchange in response to Roland McKinney’s letter: Congestion Is A Major Constraint To The Local Economy, is very interesting, and I too applaud council leader Paul Spooner for being willing to engage with it. However we have to distinguish rhetoric from reality.

I speak as a resident of Normandy, which is targeted in the Local Plan for an 1,100 home housing development on the back of a promise from a developer to build – or allow to be built, it is not yet clear which – a secondary school that Cllr Spooner claims is “much needed”, although research carried out by our county councillor and by local residents fails to unearth any evidence to this effect.

Leaving aside the arguments about whether the school is really needed – or whether it simply provides a means for Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to build more houses – there is a huge issue of local transport infrastructure that the Local Plan fails to address.

emails letterAnyone who knows the area proposed for this massive development – incidentally in the most open part of Normandy, which makes a significant contribution to the openness of the green belt – is aware that it is bounded by a C road and a D road, both of which include dangerous narrow bridges over and under the railway (one single line traffic and one a blind summit) and both of which exit onto the A323 at one end and the A31, Hog’s Back at the other.

The A323 itself is, at rush hour, already congested (it was identified in the referenced OGSTAR [Options Growth Scenarios Transport Assessment Report] study as being at full capacity already) and the access up Wanborough Hill to the Hog’s Back is also a major bottleneck.

It is very hard to see how this fragile transport infrastructure could support the additional 1,650 cars that would accompany the 1100 homes in GBC’s proposal, let alone the massive disruption from construction traffic over a period of years that such an enormous building project would entail.

To be clear, what is proposed in Normandy is the merging by the creation of a new housing estate of two settlements that are currently separated by 73 hectares of green belt.

This will completely destroy the character of our community. But it will also grossly overburden an already overstretched transport infrastructure and add to congestion in the area west of Guildford. There is no way round this – the possibility of new roads simply does not exist.

Given this, how can Cllr Spooner possibly claim that he is simply waiting for assurances about infrastructure to justify the development proposals in his plan? It sounds perfectly reasonable, but the reality is very different.

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Responses to Letter: Plans to Develop Normandy Would Destroy Its Character

  1. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I read in an interview with Cllr Spooner (GBC council leader) in the Surrey Advertiser that he believes the proposed school is needed for pupils travelling from his own ward in Ash.

    The logic of transferring so many pupils and staff (nearly 2,000)to the school cannot be supported in light of the comments made by Michael Aaronson.

    They cannot all be transported by train. There is no bus and because of the bridges there would be difficulties in using even this mode of transport in rush hour.

    If the pupils of Ash need a school it should be in Ash. I have pointed out before that there are a number of potential building sites available in Ash and Tongham all which are marked for development in the present plan. For some reason the borough wishes to create new green belt in Ash and has set aside an area twice the size of the land they seek to use in Normandy.

    There is plenty of room for a secondary school with good transport connections and infrastructure, and loads left over. You cannot argue that exceptional circumstances arise on the basis of school need for children in Ash when you refuse to develop land available to you on their doorstep.

    I do not deny the people of Ash their desire for green space but they have the infrastructure in place already. The residents of Normandy spoke very clearly about why they moved here. It was to give their children the opportunity of growing up in the green belt.

    I am not a Nimby. We built 10 per cent additional homes in Normandy during the last plan. Affordable homes for people with connections to our area and others by using infill sites sensitively. I am happy for that to go on and believe all are, who live here. We want homes for our elderley and our children, the same as everyone.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Isn’t it about time Guildford Borough Council set out the “exceptional circumstances” which would justify creating new green belt exclusively for Ash & Tongham?

    Isn’t it necessary to be consistent – to apply policy rationally? How can green belt be destroyed in other parts of the borough on the basis of housing need (which is not even supported by a disclosed and objective demographic model) while it can be created in Ash? Is the housing need any less in Ash than elsewhere? Have the landowners who are to be deprived of their sustainable development rights in Ash been consulted about this?

  3. John Ferns Reply

    May 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    In response to Peta Malthouse, I am delighted she does not deny us ‘Ash/Tonghamites’ our desire for green space; what little we had that defined our two communities, has already been claimed in the course of the last 2 years.

    What I would take issue with, is her assertion that we ‘have the infrastructure in place already’. We haven’t.

    We are right on a county/local authority boundary and will be directly affected by Rushmoor borough’s development on surplus army land less than two miles away in Aldershot. This is well underway and will add 4,500 homes and which can only only add to the pressures on the local road network.

    As for housing allocations, 1,326 homes are allotted to Ash/Tongham under the revised plan. What may not widely be appreciated is that 634 of them have already received planning permission and are in the process of construction, with another 55 under decision of an appeal inquiry in 10 days time. A further 265 homes are in the process of ‘determination’ with our local planning authority.

    I would also add that all this has been committed, before even the revised Local Plan has been adopted. The residents of Normandy and Flexford do at least still have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the continuing debate on the revised plan.

    Michael Aaronson’s point about the road infrastructure in the western part of the borough being inadequate will be echoed by everyone who attempts to join the M3, A31, A323 and A331 at the both ends of their working day.

    The road improvements, itemised in the Infrastructure document, are required now, even before the committed building programme both here and in Aldershot starts in earnest. That should be enough to halt all further development in the western part of the borough. But pigs might learn to fly before that happens.

    I would add that SCC Highways have done us all no favours in raising no objection to the traffic density implications of the 10 planning applications that make up the 954 homes already in the ‘planning pot’ for Ash/Tongham.

    As for secondary schools, there are two in the immediate area, separated by some 1200 metres… Ash Manor, rated by Ofsted as ‘good’ with a current school roll of 947 (capacity 1050), which is Surrey LEA and Connaught, just across the county boundary in Hampshire, rated as ‘requires improvement’ with a current roll of 537 (capacity of 850). (Source LEA data March 2016).

    There is therefore limited spare capacity at Ash Manor but this might be increased slightly if the number of Aldershot based students, who can be observed crossing back into Hampshire at the end of the school day, are reassigned back to Connaught. It will not alter the fact extra capacity will need to be found for the 1326 families due to added to the Ash/Tongham parishes, of which 634 are very shortly, if not already, here.

    In conclusion we all do ourselves no favours if we fight amongst ourselves. Our collective energies should be targeted on the SHMA.

    We should however all be heartened by the Council Leader’s public declaration that if the infrastructure aspects of the revised local plan cannot be fulfilled, he will have no compunction in applying constraints on housing targets. He has a lot to live up to.

    And having witnessed the workings of the planning committee in the last 18 months, I am sure that our representatives on that committee will continue to take an increasingly steely and common sense approach on all planning applications, from which ever part of the borough they are from, with, or without a local plan in place.

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    My comment about having infrastructure in place is simply this – because Ash and Tongham have always been marked for future development on previous Local Plans, ie not green belt but greenfield; and because the strategic plans for development around the M3 and M4 including the A331, large amounts of Governmentt money were expended in order to facilitate that.

    They have shops, pubs and very few single track roads such as we have in Normandy which suffers massive flooding issues with sewerage backflush and raw sewerage discharging into local steams etc to contend with. The scale of provision of infrastructure problems are a long way apart.

    I wholly accept that in Ash they are not enough. There are flood issues etc but we in Normandy are in the top spot for flood/drainage issues already and the land concerned is heavy clay with huge amounts of surface water. We think of it as a flood plain.

    However we are dealing with an argument that says that children from all the new housing in Ash and Aldershot need to travel to Normandy for a school to be built on green belt land (an ‘exceptional’ reason sufficient to take the land out of green belt) because the builder is trying to persuade Guildford Borough Council to use the rest of the site to build 1,100 homes.

    As well as the school, a huge car park will be needed at the railway station where we presently have just eight parking spaces. Access to the station created from the land itself and so on.

    ‘Greater’ Normandy will be doubled in size and joined up to the next settlement, Flexford. I have no fight with Ash. They should have their green space. Their school however needs to be near to where your children live. I wholly agree with you entirely about the SMHA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment]. The next demonstration those in Ash need to make – I am with them.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    If the people of Ash are upset that the revised Local Plan allocates 1,326 new homes to them, consider how the parish of Ockham feels about being allocated 55 per cent more houses than all of Ash & Tongham together or some 13x more houses than currently exist in the whole of the existing village of Ockham.

    Ockham, by the way, has the second worst sustainability score in the whole borough. Ash has the second best – and that’s probably not taking full account of the facilities in Aldershot.

    I would not for a moment argue that Ash residents do not have every right to their Green Space. They do. They are also entitled to have the congestion on their local roads improved. But their congestion is hardly worse than that on the A3 in Guildford and at the M25 intersection. So why should Ash get the special treatment it is accorded in the Local Plan (an entire new policy devoted exclusively to it)?

    It’s time residents across the whole borough woke up to what is being done in their name.

    The councillors from Ash who were disproportionately represented on the council’s Executive, and who have made its policy, have a responsibility to protect the existing infrastructure – whether roads, schools or green space – across the whole borough not just in their own backyard.

    It is time that the people of Ash held their councillors to account and asked them why they have not applied any constraints to the housing need projections. Our collective energies should be focused on the SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment].

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