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Letter: This is the ‘Usual Twaddle’ From Wisley Airfield Promoters

Published on: 18 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 18 Feb, 2023

From Ben Paton

In response to Opinion: Our Development will Provide an Affordable Housing Choice

This is the usual twaddle from the promoters of this unsustainable site.

1. Housing Waiting List. The reference to the housing waiting list in Guildford is misleading. Mr Pazourou seeks to imply that the people on the waiting list are queuing up to buy a brand-new house from Taylor Wimpey. He’s trying to insinuate that they are really queuing up to buy a house in the “new town” that he is paid to promote.

This sort of confabulation and obfuscation is standard practice for Taylor Wimpey’s public relations team.

The reality is very different from what Mr Pazourou appears to imply. Those on the housing waiting list need a house to rent at an affordable price. They are queuing to rent what everyone understands as a council house. If they had the resources to buy a brand new Taylor Wimpey house they would not be on the waiting list in the first place.

Is Taylor Wimpey’s new town, the third largest settlement in the borough after Guildford itself and Ash & Tongham, going to solve Guildford’s waiting list for council houses (aka social housing)? Not likely.

The new town is in an unsustainable location ten miles from Guildford. It is completely inaccessible to anyone who does not have a car.

The housing shortage in Guildford is a shortage of council houses. The cause of that shortage is obvious: like most councils, Guildford has been selling off council houses every year for decades.

To be crystal clear: Taylor Wimpey is not building any council houses on this site. Why is that? Because they would not deliver its 30 per cent pretax profit margin.

2. Price of houses in neighboring areas. Mr Pazourou makes another insinuation designed to stir up housing envy. He writes that “members of the community …can’t at present afford to live in Guildford or Ockham”. This too is a confabulation of unrelated issues.

He appears to imply that there is massive unmet demand for houses in Ockham. This unevidenced and self-serving insinuation is groundless. Ockham was recorded as the second least sustainable settlement in the entire borough in the Settlement Hierarchy that the council commissioned for its disastrous Local Plan. It does not even have a shop or a pub. Even the village hall has since been sold to a developer!

Mr Pazourou implies that house prices are a proxy for demand for houses. This is simplistic propaganda not rational economics. House prices in parts of Kensington are very high. That’s because the houses are very big and they are centrally located on multiple mass transit networks next to some of the most sought-after amenities in the world. Demand for such houses comes from Russian Oligarchs, not from people queuing to rent a council flat.

The average price of a house in Ockham is not a proxy for the price of a brand new house in a brand new settlement. For example, there are only about 250 houses in the parish and most of those are detached houses, many of which were formerly farmhouses.

There are and probably never have been any council houses in Ockham. Why? because the parish is not even on a bus route.

A more relevant fact is that Wisley Investment Properties purchased the land at Three Farms Meadow (aka land at the former Wisley airfield) for £7 miilion and Taylor Wimpey now seeks to build over 1,700 houses there. That’s a price paid per dwelling/plot of about £4,000. What is paying the salaries of the people at Taylor Wimpey is the opportunity to convert building plots that cost on average about £4,000 into dwellings which will likely have an average price of nearer £400,000.

3. The meaning of “affordable”. Affordable is just a slogan. It is Orwellian double-speak. Just as peace means war, affordable means unaffordable.

The government devised the concept of “affordable” housing at the behest of the housing lobby. All that affordable means is that the person who first buys a brand new house from a developer gets it at a discount to some deemed average market price. Later on, the first buyer can sell the house on and realise a one-time profit. Is this a social good or a one-off subsidy by developers to people who buy houses on their estates?

Most people can see that the building lobby has been contributing to Conservative Party funds for years and that government has not regulated the industry adequately or at all. Take a look at how building standards are applied to tower blocks like Grenfell Tower. Or how developers sell long leases to new buyers to extort extra economic benefits from new buyers.

Taylor Wimpey’s propaganda cannot conceal the relevant facts about this site:

1) it is in an unsustainable location – totally dependent on car transport;
2) National Highways refused to grant the site access to the A3 in 2016 when Wisley Investment Properties applied for planning permission. Nothing has changed since then. If anything the traffic situation is materially worse;
3) the entire site was for many years designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. Guildford Borough Council’s planning department unilaterally removed that designation against the advice of Surrey Nature Partnership/Surrey County Council/Surrey Wildlife Trust in circumstances that can, at best, be described as bizarre and, at worst, as corrupt;
4) Building the highest-density new town in Surrey within 400m of a Special Protection Area and Site of Scientific Interest is the opposite of protecting the Green Environment;
5) the site in not on a water supply network or a sewage network and has no electricity supply.

It is a travesty that such a site should even be in the Local Plan. It is a scandal that such a site could be developed before brownfield sites in the middle of Guildford, such as North Street.

After the Local Plan trajectory devised by former councillors Mansbridge and Juneja, planning policy in Guildford could not stand lower in the estimation of residents and voters.

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Responses to Letter: This is the ‘Usual Twaddle’ From Wisley Airfield Promoters

  1. S Callanan Reply

    February 19, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    In the article which Mr Paton describes as the “usual twaddle”, Taylor Wimpey claims to have “a long and proud record of delivering new homes across the UK”.

    It’s hard to see what Taylor Wimpey has to be proud of in the sale of properties on a leasehold basis and, in some cases, the rapid onward sale of the freeholds to third parties. Most people will know that while flats are often sold on leases houses are not.

    Individuals had to fight long and hard to get things put right. Lives were almost destroyed. This link will take readers to an open letter to Taylor Wimpey by one of the most determined campaigners:

    So when someone who was working for Taylor Wimpey when the firm was operating in this way says that they just want to help out those who can’t afford property prices in Surrey, the claim warrants the kind of scrutiny Mr Paton gives it.

  2. David Smith Reply

    February 23, 2023 at 6:58 am

    Does anyone know when this application will be determined? I’m sure the campaigners are exhausted and could do with some certainty either way.

    Is it conveniently planned for determination after the elections in May?

  3. A Walker Reply

    February 24, 2023 at 1:27 pm

    I love the maths here. The land was bought for £4k per plot and will sell for £400k a plot. If only it was that simple.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      February 24, 2023 at 9:15 pm

      If Mr Walker likes maths he should ask Taylor Wimpey to disclose its viability calculations.

      In 2017 it estimated total sales value at £763 million, which was an average sales value per dwelling of £374k.

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