Fringe Box



Letter: There Are Many Reasons To Refuse The Application To Build On Wisley Airfield

Published on: 20 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 13.40.11From Ben Paton

The Caymans property developer submitted planning application 15/P/00012 to Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in December, 2014. That followed two years of consultation with GBC.

There were two Planning Performance Agreements between the applicant and GBC first initiated in February, 2013. GBC wrote to residents and interested parties stating that comments on the application must be received before 3 March, 2015.

Subsequently GBC informed residents that it would decide the application by 7 August, 2015.

Why has GBC now announced that it has agreed that application will remain open until December 2015 – a whole year after it was submitted and just under three full years since the applicant and GBC together entered into a Planning Performance Agreement?

In my view, the application breaches multiple aspects of local and national planning policy and the 2003 Guildford Local Plan.

The application contravenes Policy RE2 (Development in the Green Belt), Policy NE1 (Adverse effect on Special Protection Area) and NE3 (Harm to Nature Conservation Interest), Policy G12 (Location of Development), Policy G1 (5) (Crime Prevention), Policy G1 (8) (Light Pollution), Policy G1(7) (Public Utility Infrastructure), Policy G5(6) (Important public views), Policy HE4 (listed buildings).

It also, I believe, breaches the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Including breaches under Chapter 9 (Protecting Green Belt Land), in particular paras 83, 87 and 89, Chapter 3 (Supporting a prosperous rural economy), Chapter 4 Promoting sustainable transport), Chapter 11 (Conserving and enhancing the natural environment), and Chapter 13 (Conserving and enhancing the historic environment).

Given that this application is plainly in breach of national and local planning policy why does GBC now need a whole year to make a decision? What changed?

The officers at Elmbridge Borough Council responded to the application on 12 March this year. Their appraisal can be read here.

If Elmbridge can make up its mind in less than three months, why does GBC need seven months, let alone a whole year?

GBC has stated to me in response to a Freedom of Information request that it took no minutes of the meetings between WPI [Wisley Property Investments] and GBC – despite a clear commitment in its Probity in Planning Code.

Subsequently in response to a different FOI request it disclosed some (but not all) of the minutes, in redacted form, taken by Savills. The minutes dated 17 June, 2013 state: ‘there was clear political will to look pro-actively at potential development opportunities at Wisley’.

The minutes for 3 September 2013 cite Carol Humphrey (head of planning): “CH outlined that a contemporary scheme, whilst of interest, may meet with objections from locals and possibly some elected officials.

“In respect of consultation it was suggested that this be undertaken in Guildford town rather than Ockham. CH suggested that the team does not stage public consultation on Wisley Airfield until after the Borough has commenced the Issues and Options consultation process in order to minimise objections.”

The minutes show GBC advising on how to minimise objections and how to time the submission of the application in relation to the progression of the draft local plan.

Extraordinarily the application states that the inclusion of the site in the Draft Local Plan in and of itself constitutes an ‘exceptional circumstance’.

Is the further delay in a decision on this application further evidence of collusion between WPI and GBC in relation to this application? Can the public be confident that GBC is exercising its regulatory function properly?

Or is this an example of ‘regulatory capture’? Does GBC apply different standards when regulating applications from householders and applications from property developers? Does the concerted effort to put this site into the Draft Local Plan show that GBC is seeking to predetermine the outcome?

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: There Are Many Reasons To Refuse The Application To Build On Wisley Airfield

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 9:58 am

    A well constructed letter covering all aspects of concern at Wisley; noting the intention to have hearing away from the site and the wording “consultation process in order to minimise objections”.

    They could well be applied with the same questions to the way the Slyfield link road project is being handled – pre-determination, secrecy, and refusal to tell the full truth – like the possible A3 slip road onto Clay lane, north bound.

    There is plan, I believe but they refuse to release it on the grounds that it is “not in the wider public interest to disclose”.

    Clearly they don’t want it in the public domain until after they have the link road passed.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    August 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Cllr Mansbridge has written in an official letter to the Wisley Action Group: “The developer is seeking to address the outstanding matters and is being given an extension of time to undertake this.”

    But a released email exchange between a GBC planning officer and agents Savills shows that it was the council that needed more time to consider the application and stated that the developer had been asked to give the council more time.

    Which version of events is correct?

    Why would the council be giving the offshore developer more time?

    Surely after considering the matter with the developer for at least three years the authorities have leant over backwards to provide every conceivable assistance? Why should they be given special treatment?

    How many GBC residents are given extensions of time in which to alter their planning applications after they have been submitted?

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 2, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    The important question here is why does GBC appear to be closer to, and more compliant to the wishes of, WPI [Wisley Property Investments] than their well informed and concerned electorate?

    When will we be given answers?

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *