Fringe Box



Opinion: Open Access at Blackwell Farm – Only 12 Years Too Late

Published on: 30 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 4 May, 2015

By Karen Stevens

Karen Stevens is a Save the Hogs Back campaigner.

Walkers approaching Blackwell Farm, on the slopes of the Hog’s Back, might be pleasantly surprised to find they are no longer greeted with signs barring access:

Blackwell Farm signs 1a

Instead new notices have appeared:

Blackwell Farm signs 2a I suspect most people just want to go for a walk, or at most a bit of mountain biking, but it seems we can do anything “lawful”. But before we get ahead of ourselves we are reminded that: “The landowner does not intend to dedicate the land as a town or village green.”

“A town or a village green”?

Opinion Logo 2Hmm… “Curiouser and curiouser,” might Lewis Carrol have mused on one of his walks from Guildford to Farnham. Why specify those two? Does that mean anything else might be on the cards, perhaps a space centre to cut down on transport costs for Surrey Satellites?

No, no, after all, the university long ago promised that this land would be opened up to the people of Guildford.

Back in 1997, when the university was pushing to have its land at Manor Farm taken out of green belt to allow for its own future expansion, it reassured residents that there were no aspirations to develop Blackwell Farm. Instead they talked of plans to open up the farm for “informal recreation”.

But far from making this land accessible, the university erected signs that prohibited access to the area.  For twelve years the area remained off limits and walkers were frequently approached by security staff and told that the area is private.

So why the new policy? Why the sudden change of heart?

I believe that the university is now bending over to meet its obligations – albeit late in the day – in order to find favour with councillors and the Planning Inspectorate so that it can push through its plans for 3,250 houses on the site.

Guildford’s current Local Plan, the 2003 one that is still in effect because of the council’s inability to produce a new one, states: “The borough council and the university are committed to providing a development that maximises the benefits to the community as well as directly to the university itself. The university has indicated that they… would like to explore how best appropriate parts of its Blackwell Farm lands might be further opened up to the community (including the possibility of a country park).”

Good idea. Shame it didn’t happen. Forgive me if I think hard before trusting the university any more. Twelve years bitten – more than twice shy.

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Responses to Opinion: Open Access at Blackwell Farm – Only 12 Years Too Late

  1. Sue Chadwick Reply

    April 30, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Interestingly the field in front of Beechcroft Drive, which also displays these signs, was included in the 2003 area for development. And the public right of way which goes past Manor Farm is littered with ‘permissive path’ signs.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 1, 2015 at 8:46 am

    To me this sums up all four developers: Slyfield(GBC) Gosden Hill(MG) Wisley (Unknown) and Blackwell farm (University). A little honesty to the community is always appreciated.

    At least it might take some of the bitter taste away.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I took a walk around at the weekend and it’s absolutely stunning.

    Please go and see for yourselves.

    Lisa Wright is a GGG candidate in Normandy ward.

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