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Letter: Taylor Wimpey Promises the World at Wisley – But Will They Ever Deliver?

Published on: 28 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 28 Oct, 2023

Wisley Airfield plans. Image: Taylor Wimpey and Vivid.

From: Catherine Young

R4GV borough councillor for Clandon & Horsley

We are three weeks into the Taylor Wimpey (TW) Appeal of the Former Wisley Airfield proposed development, with another four to go. Many readers will recall that this appeal was started by TW who claimed non-determination by Guildford Borough Council.

See: Five Areas of Concern on Former Wisley Airfield Plan

Yet it was the very lack of submission of key documents by TW that meant the application could not be determined by GBC Planning Officers.  This has continued to be the case during the run-up to the appeal with documents submitted in July and virtually every week since, including during the appeal.

Even the Inspector has commented on this in the early stages, and in my view, this behaviour from TW is the very reason the appeal should be dismissed.

Many residents and groups (with a particular mention of the incredible work that VAWNT [Villages Against Wisley New Town], WAG [Wisley Action Group], and our parish councils are undertaking) have described and evidenced the significant harm that this development will bring to our local road network, our air quality, our environment and our local community.

Having also spoken at the appeal, I can vouch that this was some achievement and must be highly commended, especially when facing possible cross-examination from TW’s King’s Counsel.  We all sincerely hope that the Inspector has listened to these and taken note.

However, of greater concern are the promises that the developer is making should the appeal be allowed. These include new schools, medical facilities, affordable housing, a country park, community facilities, its own energy centre, no traffic congestion as everyone will be cycling, the list is endless.

Will they deliver? I have no confidence that they will, given the examples that are circulating of sites and facilities across the UK that have not been completed, and that the legal agreement of what they must provide to mitigate the effects of the development has not been agreed with Guildford Council.

So it was no surprise that I received this letter from a local resident who has been attending and watching the appeal closely.  Credit goes to its author a resident of West Horsley, who sums up what it might be like to live on the new Taylor Wimpey development if it is allowed…

A Glimpse into the Future – the reality of life in Wisley New Town

From: Tony Rogers

Mr and Mrs Average are very excited by the prospect of the new Wisley development and put down an early deposit to secure one of the best houses. They are moving to Taylor Wimpey’s new town, and TW’s brochure advertises “excellent schools in the vicinity” (which there are) and local shops in the nearby villages, as well as an on-site convenience store.

A “medical facility” is also advertised, with the promise of a primary school “in due course”, and TW assures them that by the time the development is open, everything will be in place.

Mr Average works in London and commutes four days a week and has to be at work at 8.30am every day, entailing a train journey that starts at 7am. Mrs Average works part-time in a care home. They have two young children, one needing a secondary school, one a primary school, and a pet dog. They cannot afford private education or private health and have to rely on state-funded facilities. They can’t wait to start their new life in the country.

However… when they move into their recently completed house in 2027, as one of the first occupants, the first thing they find out is that the 700 houses built in the area in the interim have taken up all the spare capacity from an already overloaded infrastructure.

The local primary schools have a two-year waiting list (there is in fact only one, the Raleigh School in West Horsley ) and finding a place at a local secondary school is an even bigger problem.

So Mrs Average has to drive to Woking and back – twice a day, a round trip of over an hour until the on-site primary school is up and running. The local medical centres can’t take any more NHS patients, and there is no room at either the local dentists or vets.

The convenience shop in the new town lies empty as the retailers won’t open until it becomes economically viable, ie until about 500 new homes have been sold, and there is still no sign of the ‘medical facility ‘.

Mrs Average can’t find anywhere to park in either East Horsley or Ripley for local shopping so has to go to Guildford or Cobham. TW gives assurance that on-site facilities will be opened ‘in due course’.

However, Taylor Wimpey has a well-documented history of only providing these facilities at the latest possible opportunity, and sometimes not at all. TW like most developers are not philanthropists and are purely motivated by greed and profit, at whatever cost. They will only build the social facilities (that don’t make them money) at the last possible moment in their development programme.

In terms of commuting, there are no extra car parking spaces at either Horsley or Effingham Junction stations. Mr Average is a reluctant average cyclist and doesn’t want to risk his life – 40 per cent of the year he will be cycling in the dark – among fast-moving traffic using Ockham Road or Old Lane which is just too dangerous.

His only realistic option for cycling to get to Horsley station is via the Long Reach route, a circuitous journey with about 30 chicanes, subsidence, and numerous potholes which takes him over 25 minutes each way and involves crossing three major roads, as well as using a narrow footpath by the woods.

His only other option for commuting is to rely on the WACT bus, which is infrequent and unreliable and doesn’t make provision for travel outside peak hours.

So inevitably Mrs Average will have to drive him to one of the stations and pick him up in the evenings, entailing four journeys every day along either Ockham Road or Old Lane before she takes the children to their respective schools.

What will they do when all 2,100 new homes are built and there are likely 4,000 new residents all in the same boat?


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Responses to Letter: Taylor Wimpey Promises the World at Wisley – But Will They Ever Deliver?

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 28, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    I would be surprised if the late presentation of documents by Taylor Wimpey is legal. It is certainly not moral. TW have abused the system by refusing to send GBC essential documents in good time for them to consider, and to then commence an appeal claiming it is GBC’s fault is shocking.

    The inspector should insist that the appeal is abandoned while all relevant documents that TW wish to be included are delivered to GBC with suitable time for them to look at and discuss the issues.

    Tony Rogers’ comments are probably very true in predicting the future of this development if it gets permission.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    October 28, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    Mr & Mrs Average will learn the hard way, if not in advance, that TW’s promises are all smoke and mirrors designed to fool the planning inspector and prospective purchasers.
    Wisley Investment Properties Ltd (WIPL) (that TW has bought into) promises that it will fund a bus service to East Horsley and Effingham Junction train stations that will run every ten minutes. They say they will provide this service ‘in perpetuity’. However their idea of ‘in perpetuity’ is not the same as most people’s. They will pay for the bus service until the last dwelling is sold and then responsibility for funding it will pass to the ‘Community Trust’. Their idea of funding this Community Trust is to gift it a village hall and some shops beside it. Trouble is there’s no assurance that these assets will generate sufficient income to fund the obligations of the Community Trust. It is unlikely that the rent from a shop or two will amount to much – even supposing that those shops will be built or remain viable.
    WIPL promises to protect the wildlife in the Special Protection Area (SPA) on Ockham & Wisley Commons. They plan to do that by employing special wardens to patrol the Site of Alternative Natural Green Space (SANG) they propose to create as a buffer zone between the new town and the SPA. How will the wardens deter marauding cats and dogs owned by the new residents of the 2000 or so new houses?
    Who will pay for these wardens? The residents (Mr & Mrs Average) of course.
    Mr & Mrs Average will not spend their hard earned money in the local shop – except for the odd emergency purchase of a pint of milk. They’ll do what everyone else in this neighbourhood does. They’ll drive to Sainsburys and Waitrose in Cobham or Budgens in East Horsley or to Tesco at Brooklands or Sainsburys in Burpham where they can do a weekly shop and carry it back in their car.
    Mr & Mrs Average will discover that Surrey County Council has no intention of building schools on this site – just to mitigate the unsustainability of the location. SCC has just approved a new (replacement) school in Effingham to be funded by Berkeley Homes. And there are plenty of school places in Cobham.
    Will Thames Water build the necessary sewer to Wisley sewage works at which there is insufficient spare capacity? After years of extracting capital from its balance sheet, Thames Water’s shareholder(s) have left the company seriously under-capitalised. Who will pay for the engineering works?
    Mr & Mrs Average will work out that this site is as remote from jobs and from public transport as it is possible to get in Surrey. They’ll learn from experience that they will be better of living in a genuinely sustainable location – like North Street in Guildford where they wont be expected to cycle everywhere on narrow unlit country lanes in competition with speeding commuter traffic and where their children can genuinely walk to school or get on an existing bus service.

    2,000 dwellings will generate around 2,000 new cars. The new town will only have two exits: one onto the Ockham Park Roundabout and the other onto Old Lane. If Mr & Mrs Average hang around until the last house is built they will find themselves waiting at the new traffic lights at the Ockham Park Roundabout to exit their estate. Then they’ll have to run the gauntlet of the increased congestion in Ripley High Street or on the Northbound carriage way of the A3. Alternatively they’ll be waiting to get out onto Old Lane.
    TW will have to offer incentives to housebuyers on its new housing estate. But the discounts will not make the properties a good investment. In fact TW’s agent stated in August 2017 (when it was promoting its own site in Flexford) and before it bought into WIPL:-
    ‘What is apparent is that the promoters of Wisley are trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot. Although the site totals 114.7 ha, only 43 ha remains after making allowance for SANG (49.9 ha); formal and informal open space (12.65 ha); schools, employment and community facilities (circa 8.15 ha). 2,068 homes on 43 ha works at 48.09/ha (19.46/acre) which is extremely high for a greenfield site and out of context with the surrounding area. The promoters of Wisley are envisaging development of up to 5 storeys in height on parts of the site which seems completely wrong. To my mind, the site can only support at most 1,750 homes, which is not really large enough to sustain a new settlement.’
    Mr & Mrs Average should believe what TW’s agent was saying in 2017 before it bought into the site – not what it says now.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 29, 2023 at 7:11 am

    Everything Cllr Catherine Young and Tony Green have written should be self-evident to anybody.

    At the last attempt the Wisley Garden City was rejected on 10 strong grounds. Nothing has changed since to mitigate those grounds.

    TW is definitely trying to pull the wool over residents’ and the inspector’s eyes, with promises of infrastructure they have no authority to deliver.

    Let’s hope the inspector sees through their very slick subterfuge.

  4. Peter Bennett-Davies Reply

    October 29, 2023 at 6:07 pm

    “Mr & Mrs Average”, having received, from a friend in Effingham, a link to the many letters and email objections to the Taylor-Wimpey Wisley New Town planning application and subsequent Appeal Inquiry, are seriously considering cancelling their new home reservation, having realised the “dream home at Wisley” was more likely to be a nightmare for the whole family.

    As potential early occupants of the new estate, the thought of being part of a building site for possibly 12 years or more and lack of local school places for their children was of very real concern.

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