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Outcry Over Housing Scheme Footpath Threat to 400m Hedge in Ash Green

Published on: 19 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 19 Mar, 2021

The threatened hedge in Ash Green.

By David Reading

Residents in Ash Green are still angered by plans to destroy a 400-metre hedge as part of a new housing development.

Bloor Homes has outline consent to build 100 homes at May and Juniper Cottages, Ash Green Road.

That allows the developer to construct a new footpath down the northern side of the road, although a Guildford Borough Council statement said: “It hasn’t been confirmed whether the new path would result in the removal of the entire hedgerow or just part of it.”

Any hedgerow removal is not thought to be imminent, so the current nesting season should not be threatened.

The planned developments associated with the planned hedge removal.

The Ash Green Residents Association (Agra) opposed the destruction of the hedgerow in September and meetings on-site and virtual have been held involving the various parties, but the issue has still not been resolved.

Agra claims the planning committee was not in possession of the full facts when they granted outline consent. A joint statement said: “The threat to the hedgerow was not explained to the committee and residents have since discovered that a set of unpublished documents submitted by the developer still remain unpublished.

“These include not just the hedgerow, but also documents relating to traffic analysis, changes to Harpers Bridge, anticipated increase in traffic volumes in Wyke Lane and Harper Road, and provision of a community bus service.

“None of this was brought to the attention of the planning committee despite officers knowing about it for at least seven months before the planning committee meeting.”

Surrey County Council is assessing an option to bring the footpath to the southern side of Ash Green Road from the new development at Juniper Cottage up to a point where it will then cross to the northern side. “But we can’t provide a footpath completely on the southern side due to there being insufficient highway land available,” a spokesperson said.

Theoretically, the access problem could be solved without removal of the hedge if Bewley Homes obtains permission to build a separate development on the site of the ancient moated Ash Manor. Pedestrian access could then be provided through there.

In December 2020, a High Court judge quashed planning permission for 73 homes on the Ash Manor site because a planning officer’s reports “seriously and materially” misled GBC’s planning committee. Now Bewley has submitted a fresh application.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

The original application is still live and a new decision needs to be made. A GBC statement said: “At this stage, we are not able to confirm when the new application will be considered by the planning committee. The application is still being assessed by officers.”

Council leader Cllr Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), said: “Discussions are ongoing with developers, ward councillors and residents’ groups to find a solution all parties are happy with and which retains the majority of the hedgerow.”

Paul Spooner

Ash South & Tongham Conservative Cllr Paul Spooner said: “I am very supportive of local residents and Agra and appreciate the efforts of all involved to find a satisfactory resolution.”

A county spokesperson said timing was an issue over whether the Ash Manor application could provide a solution. “Bloor Homes are required to have the footway (or an alternative pedestrian route through Ash Manor) implemented prior to occupation.

“For the alternative pedestrian route to be an option for Bloor Homes, the Ash Manor development would first need to be approved, an agreement between Bewley Homes and Bloor Homes would need to be reached, and the pedestrian connection through the Ash Manor site to Foreman Road would have to be constructed and available for use before Bloor Homes occupied any of their dwellings.”

On March 5, the Dragon asked Bloor Homes for a statement but so far has not received one.

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test 2 Responses to Outcry Over Housing Scheme Footpath Threat to 400m Hedge in Ash Green

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 8:39 am

    Is it not possible to put the path on the other side of the hedge?

  2. Sue Wyeth-Price Reply

    March 20, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    The answer to Mr Allen’s question is “No”. The land on the other side of the hedge is not owned by the developer or by Surrey Highways (on whose insistence the footpath route was agreed).

    AGRA would have raised this land ownership/hedgerow destruction issue had we known of the plan when the application was approved. The hedgerow itself is in the “buffer zone” described in the Local Plan Policy A31 and should have been protected.

    The only published plan at the time was for a short 20-metre footpath at the new site entrance. Despite having no idea at that time what was in the missing drawing, we raised it at the meeting, and in writing with the officers prior to the meeting, as we have encountered the non-publication of documents on a few other occasions.

    The missing drawing turns out to be at least one completely new document, eventually published this week, which includes the drawing showing the hedgerow destruction, changes to the “challenging” Harpers Bridge, revised traffic counts (failing to take into account other approved road layout changes) and the promise of a community bus service, none of which were mentioned in the presentation or the officer report other than a brief line in the proposed conditions.

    We complain about the decisions councillors make, but how can they be expected to make sound decisions to protect our environment when the information they need to do so is simply withheld from them?

    Sue Wyeth-Price is a member of Ash Green Residents’ Association

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