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Letter: University Still Claims Proposed Development Is Not On The Hog’s Back

Published on: 29 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 29 Dec, 2013

Hogs Back LetterFrom Lisa Wright

Save Hogs Back Campai gn

On Thursday, December 12 I attended (well ‘gatecrashed’ as I later realised) one of the University of Surrey’s ‘Bite­sized briefings’ on the subject of its proposed development at Blackwell Farm.

Having seen the talk advertised in the university magazine, Surrey Life, I mistakenly thought that the briefing was open to the public, so I was surprised to be told afterwards, in no uncertain terms, that I was not welcome.

Of course, I was already familiar with some of the university’s arguments: the ‘walkable neighbourhood’, which at the centre is three miles (one hour’s walk) from Guildford High Street and requires an uphill trek back; and the new access road, which will miraculously ‘reduce’ traffic on the A3, despite adding another 4,000 cars to the road network in the area.

However, it was truly astounding to hear first hand, Greg Melly, vice president of corporate services, state baldly that the land he proposes to develop at Blackwell and Chalk Pit farms is not, in fact, on the Hog’s Back; and that this development will ‘protect and enhance’ the Hog’s Back and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

How can replacing the Hog’s Back’s vast panorama of fields and trees with suburban sprawl be considered an enhancement? And how can building a roundabout and a park and ride facility on the AONB protect it? I thought the primary purpose of AONB is to conserve natural beauty.

When someone pointed out the blight that building a ‘new town’ on the slopes of the Hogs Back would cause to the AONB, Mr Melly justified the scheme on the grounds that London is visible from the top of the ridge.

I’m sure that on a clear day, with a good pair of binoculars, you might see distant views of London from the Hogs Back if you look across in the right direction; and London can also be seen from the top of Leith Hill and the Devil’s Punchbowl. Should we build all over these too?

Mr Melly confirmed in answer to another question that the university would have no qualms about building on an Area of Great Landscape Value if it had planning permission to do so ­ let’s hope the University of Surrey doesn’t look to invest in land elsewhere ­ as there may be a new development winging its way there too.

Everything the university says can be delivered through the Blackwell Farm scheme could also be delivered by regenerating parts of Guildford and using the university’s campus more efficiently.

There are 17 hectares of surface­ level car parking on its land which could be redeveloped to provide housing and there are more than 3,000 student residences waiting to be built at the Manor Park site.

We welcome new homes, new schools and new facilities. But, we welcome them in the right place and not on green belt land, and certainly not where they will destroy an AONB and Guildford’s most iconic landmark feature.

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test 7 Responses to Letter: University Still Claims Proposed Development Is Not On The Hog’s Back

  1. Pete Knight Reply

    December 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    What a load of nonsense. How on earth can low lying farm land sided by the A3 constitute the Hog’s Back? Surely the name ‘back’ indicates a high up ridge. And if the above reader thinks that this area represents Guildford’s most iconic landmark they need to get up and start exploring the town.

    When will people realise there is no land left other than green belt to build schools and housing on? Guildford town centre can only now accommodate flats and we need houses. Furthermore, this site is surrounded by infrastructure which would support any scheme and could in turn provide funding through S106 contributions for a new railway station.

    I fully support the university and hope they progress quickly with a scheme. As for the Save Hogs Back campaign it’s like GVG [Guildford Vision Group] all over again.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    December 30, 2013 at 6:49 am

    My recollection of attending the campus both on business and to attend evening lecture meetings is that the car parks are well used. If as suggested they are built on, what happens to provide alternatives?

    I wonder how much other information and arguments are correctly and truthfully reported?

    There are more than 20 different categories of protected land, much registered with little discussion. With current demands of life, it is unfortunately becoming more difficult to sustain this luxury.

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    December 31, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    The university car parks are all surface level. This is an extraordinarily wasteful, luxurious even, use of land. The users of these car parks are a small group; the users of the green belt are all members of the community.

    It would obviously be possible to build on these car parks, and put underground car parks in the basements of these buildings. This is normal practice in most new developments. Students are not normally permitted (by most universities) to bring their own cars on to the campus, so the current users of these car parks could use any underground parking built under new buildings.

    Concerns about flooding in the Guildford area are real, although not a major concern on the university car parks. It should be noted that underground car parks have been used in other areas prone to flooding (especially in Bath adjacent to the Avon, and in Oxford) in order to reduce flood risk to buildings, since, with good design, car parks can offer a flood catchment/protection zone protecting domestic and commercial property.

    I don’t understand why there is so much antagonism to the idea of protecting green open spaces. I would argue that they are not a luxury but a necessity. I do understand that it is cheaper to build on green fields so developers are eager to do so, but I don’t see why we should accommodate this.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    December 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    From the eastern end of town, in the flood plain of the Wey, the Hog’s Back is a distant memory (I don’t go that way much) and definitely not a distant view. I think the biggest problem we have is understanding if we need these houses in the first place.

    There is still no real and statistically sustainable proof provided, despite all the claims in the national press

    The SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment] has not been released because of the seven formulae none are statistically sustainable in calculation or humanitarian terms. All could be challenged.

    Low cost housing is a nonsense. Which reader is going to buy a high-cost house in Guildford and when departing this mortal coil going to leave a will telling his executors sell it to the lowest bidder? Which parent is going to give up their home and use the plot to build three smaller homes for themselves and their two children? Highly unlikely.

    So before we get into arguments where additional homes are going to go either in AONBs on the hills or in flood plains in the Wey valley (for that is the choice) we must actually decide if we need them in the first place.

  5. Mary Bedforth Reply

    December 31, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    All I have to say about a university, a seat of learning but aspiring to be a property developer, is to quote Theodore Roosevelt. I do not know its context but it seems apt:

    “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

    The green belt should be inviolate. It does not belong to politicians, councils, or developers. It was created for us and belongs to us, the people.

    And well done to Lisa Wright for entering the ‘lions’ den’, so to speak, sticking to her guns and telling us what was going on. Who were the audience? It would be interesting to know.

  6. Michael Mortimer Reply

    January 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    If Mr Melly, vice-president of Surrey University, says that Chalkpit and Blackwell Farms are not on The Hogs Back, I would like to know where he thinks this beautiful landscape is located, the A31 dual carriageway?

  7. Peter Turner Reply

    July 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I have been privileged to live on the Hog’s Back, within Compton and Wanborough parishes, since 1936.

    My father’s farm, which he developed from nothing, included large areas south of the A31 and about 200 acres of land which included Down Place and Blackwell Farms on the north.

    They are all very much part of the Hog’s Back and the lungs of encroaching conurbations. Do not let the University of Surrey try to make more money just because the Vice Chancellor does no longer want Blackwell House as his residence.

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