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Opinion: Planning is Still Not Joined Up

Published on: 23 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 24 Sep, 2021

Julie Iles

By Julie Iles

former Conservative county councillor for The Horsleys

There’s still a lack of cohesion and consistency on planning.

Last week’s newsletter from East Horsley Parish Council gave an update on the planning application for the former Wisley airfield which is being targeted for submission before the end of this year.

Following meetings with the developer, Taylor Wimpey, representatives of East and West Horsley had nothing further to report on cycle route connections and they were disappointed by news on schools and healthcare.

They reported that an on-site medical centre had been declined by the Clinical Commissioning Group who want patients to use nearby medical centres. Further, Taylor Wimpey (TW) indicated that they had planned an “all-through” school but the Education Authority wants only a primary school, while secondary school pupils would be taught elsewhere.

The paragraph which stood out read as follows: “It is ironic that, whilst the site developer is ready to provide land and funding for new facilities, our health and education authorities are not interested.”

I can’t speak to health commissioning, although I do know that it is already difficult enough to see a doctor and that the CCG turned away a similar request to provide GP services in Effingham despite the potential for another 300 houses being built in the village to enable the redevelopment of the Howard of Effingham school. But as the former cabinet member for education at Surrey County Council, I can provide insight as to why a “through school” is not needed on the former Wisley airfield site.

When the housing mix is not known, the developer guide (published in 2018) specifies the expected number of pupils as: “Primary – yield factor of 0.25 equating to 25 primary age children per 100 dwellings and secondary – yield factor of 0.18 equating to 18 secondary age children per 100 dwellings.” The highest it gets to for secondary is .36 on 4-bed housing. These numbers (even for a 2,000+) development will not sustain a secondary school with a wide enough curriculum offering or indeed 6th form provision.

East Horsley Parish Council has regularly reviewed the Wisley project during the last six years with both developers (Wisley Property Investments Ltd and subsequently Taylor Woodrow) and I’m told that Guildford Borough Council has affirmed there would be a medical centre and secondary school on site.

The Parish Council take the view that without having these facilities it would have been hard for GBC/WPIL/TW to argue for site sustainability with any credibility. They also felt that Horsley residents would need to travel further to secondary school if places were not provided at Wisley. But from the maps I was looking at, pupils on site will be allocated to other catchment areas where there is capacity, so it won’t result in additional travelling times for Horsley pupils and parents.

All this leaves me wondering why GBC have indicated these facilities would be required? At the very least it seems they haven’t taken input from SCC as the statutory authority for education provision and it’s proof positive that there is no joined-up approach on development.

I specifically advised TW that a through school was not needed for several reasons including:

  • birth rates have fallen since the peak in 2012 and whilst those children will transition to secondary “bulge classes” will suffice and investment in permanent accommodation would be unwarranted
  • schools in the surrounding area have spaces and providing additional places would destabilise them (potentially leading to closure)
  • this site is difficult to access and spare capacity in a school would be hard to justify in terms of transporting children in

Finally, and perhaps most relevant locally, look what happened when a somewhat flimsy case for “education need” was put for the Howard of Effingham application. It resulted in the Secretary of State finding for the appeal and another 300 houses (at least and possibly now 400) will be built in the village with minimal contribution to any other resulting infrastructure pressures.

The cynic in me says that pushing for an all through school, even if it’s not required, would, at face value, bolster the case for site sustainability. Perhaps that’s why GBC was saying it was needed?

With all the planned developments in the Horsleys, and a failure to deliver on the R4GV election pledge to amend the Local Plan, surely the least residents can expect is a cohesive approach at the borough and county levels.

 

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test 2 Responses to Opinion: Planning is Still Not Joined Up

  1. David Roberts Reply

    September 24, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    Is Mrs Iles saying that GBC is objecting to the development on spurious grounds? If so, Taylor Wimpey will be delighted by her support and for the infighting she seems to be promoting between our Tory-led county council and our resident-led borough one – re-fighting, it seems, last May’s county council election.

    It would be more useful to focus on the many non-spurious objections to this dreadful and destructive project. The Wisely Action Group is the best authority on these.

  2. Julie Iles Reply

    September 26, 2021 at 11:08 am

    To Mr Roberts question, nowhere in this article do I say that Guildford is objecting to the development. I did however point out that they suggested an all through school when one is not required. Neither have I indicated my support for the development. My opposition to building on the former airfield is well documented as is my support for the Wisley Action Group.

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