Fringe Box



Parish Fears Creation of Official Green Space Will Give Green Light to Thousands of Houses

Published on: 5 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 5 Apr, 2016

Worplesdon Parish Council is challenging Guildford Borough Council (GBC) over an unresolved planning application that it fears could lead to thousands of homes being built nearby.

An application is being made to create a “site of alternative green space” (or “SANG”) but the parish council says if it is passed it will stop farming on the re-designated land and make development of other green field sites in the area more likely. It also claims that the borough council seems to have predetermined the issue, a claim GBC has rejected.

Beef cattle currently being raised at Russel Place Farm in Wood Street Village.

Beef cattle currently being raised at Russell Place Farm in Wood Street Village.

The complicated saga is centered on the 82-acre Russell Place Farm, off Frog Grove Lane in Wood Street Village.

In August 2013 a developer lodged a planning application (13/P/01453) with GBC to change the land use from agricultural to a SANG. The plan includes fencing, access works, highways access and car parking.

If passed, and the developer gets ownership, the parish council points out that would mean the area could not be built on but the change of use would prohibit farming.

Worplesdon Parish Council feels strongly about this aspect and a spokesperson has said: “The tenant farmer at Russell Place Farm has, for the past 25 years, been providing high quality beef. It is the last working beef farm in the parish of Worplesdon where farming has gone on since Roman times.

“Farmers, who care for our precious countryside and their livestock, are being ruthlessly pursued by greedy developers. The National Farming Union (NFU) has confirmed that agricultural land for development in the South East is now fetching £1 million per acre.”

The parish council has also been questioning the borough council on why a decision on the application, lodged some two and half years ago, has been delayed.

It has written to the borough council, referring to the National Planning Guidance for determining planning applications, pointing out the government’s policy is that no application should spend more than a year with decision-makers, including any appeal.

One of the fields at Russel Place Farm adjoining Frog Grove Lane, Wood Street Village.

One of the fields at Russel Place Farm adjoining Frog Grove Lane, Wood Street Village.

The parish council also believes the borough’s planning department has already been informing developers and their associates that the Russell Place Farm site will become a SANG.

On March 3 the parish council clerk wrote to GBC: “It has been alleged that the Borough Council’s Planning Department is advising developers, who are keen to submit major planning applications in Worplesdon within the next few weeks, that they can quote the Russell Place Farm SANG within their applications.

“Given that the planning application has been left undetermined for two and a half years this appears to constitute pre-determination by council officers and/or councillors to enable proposed development within the Local Plan in north west Guildford to take place.”

There is specific concern that if Russell Place Farm becomes a SANG it will allow further planning applications for large-scale developments in the Worplesdon area that will require accessible green space, within five kilometres, to be allowed.

Such housing developments could help GBC meet high housing targets which many expect to be part of the forthcoming Local Plan.

The entrance to Merrist Wood.

The entrance to Merrist Wood.

Worplesdon Parish Council understands that planning consultants are currently working on the following sites in the area:  Merrist Wood College – 120 homes and increased facilities, Rokers – 1,000-place secondary school and 370 homes, Hunts Farm/Hook Farm – 250 homes, Tangley Place – 350 homes, Carter’s Yard – 40 houses.

Roker's Farm at Fairlands.

Rokers Farm at Fairlands.

Whitmoor Common, also nearby, is a designated European Special Protection Area (SPA) and a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). Housing development within 5km of a SPA is subject to stringent tests and impact assessments.

A GBC spokesperson stated yesterday (April 4), in an official response: “The proposals raise complex considerations around legal and valuation matters, amongst other issues, which has led to an extended period for determination.

“Nevertheless, positive discussions are ongoing between officers and the applicant and we are confident that we are nearing a conclusion on this matter.

“The proposals have attracted significant public interest and it will need to be referred to the Planning Committee for determination. The decision on this application will therefore be made by elected councillors, rather than at the officer level. Accordingly, the Parish Council’s suggestion of there being pre-determination is misplaced and unfounded.

“Any future planning applications for housing within the locality as may be submitted will be the subject of public consultation and will be determined on their own merits against the provisions of the development plan and all other material considerations.”

Meanwhile, in a further statement on the issue, Worplesdon Parish Council has pointed out that from May to September this year the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) will being having a “Cow Parade”.

The Cow Parade, involving life size painted cow models, is billed as the world’s largest public art event and will round up the support of celebrities and community groups and raise money for local community projects and enterprise schemes that benefit and enhance the Surrey Hills landscape.

The parish council statement added: “We acknowledge and accept that more housing is required, but it is the parish council’s opinion that brownfield sites should be used in the first instance. Working farmland situated within the green belt should be exempt to enable the country to feed itself. Ultimately, without food we will not require housing.

The Cow Parade is billed as the world’s largest public art event and will round up the support of celebrities and community groups and raise money for local community projects and enterprise schemes that benefit and enhance the Surrey Hills landscape.

And the parish council continued: “We would urge our councils to consider the potentially catastrophic impact their decisions will have on the rural community. Once our farm land is gone, it is gone forever.

“Cow Parades, or real cows in our countryside, which would you prefer?”

Footnote: as this story was about to be published, it was announced that Guildford Borough Council’s revised Draft Local Plan has been published. It is understood that sites of the proposed developments listed above, namely at Rokers, Merrist Wood, Hunts Farm and Tangley Place Farm, are not included in it.


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Responses to Parish Fears Creation of Official Green Space Will Give Green Light to Thousands of Houses

  1. Jonathan Atkins Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Worplesdon Parish council have every right to worry because Guildford Borough Council have just issued the committee papers for their long awaited revised Local Plan and guess what? The land between Normandy and Flexford is allocated for 1,100 new homes, many in the next five years, and other uses which will all be made possible by the Frog Lane SANG.

  2. Robert Smith Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    As already stated Russell Place Farm is not land lying dormant. It is a working farm rearing and breeding quality beef cattle for the nations ever increasing need for food.

    The most important requisite of a SANG is that it must be more attractive than the neighbouring Special Protection Areas (SPAs). For all the obvious reasons highlighted by the hundreds of objections submitted, this proposed SANG site will fail miserably in drawing visitors away from the local SPAs which are, and always will be, more attractive.

    Any future housing development permitted will certainly increase recreation pressure on the local SPA’S which is the exact opposite to what SANGs are designated to do.

    Just as important is a SANGs location. The proposed SANG is definitely in the wrong place. The site is surrounded by significant open space, recreational facilities and amenities for visitors to the area to enjoy and this site offers no additional potential.

    Therefore the SANG will not be viable or effective and will not serve the purpose for which SANGs are designed. This productive farmland will be sacrificed for a scheme that will serve no purpose other than to line people’s pockets.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    April 6, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Just because those sites are not listed in the revised Guildford Local Plan does not mean that they will not be delivered. As I understand it, any landowner can still submit a planning application for development to GBC and it will be dealt with separately.

    Regarding Russell Place Farm, the whole saga has been going on for years now and I agree wholehearted with Worplesdon and other Parish Councils who are trying to protect our farmland from development.

    You can’t eat money!

  4. Sue Fox Reply

    April 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Yesterday Guildford held another successful Farmers’ Market, albeit in a restricted space due to the High Street works.

    Much of the value of the Farmers’ Market is that the produce is local from local farms, the Farmers’ Market is one of the best things we have – I thought the council was a great supporter of this asset to the town and surrounding villages – yet another example of lack of joined up thinking.

    If they build all these houses on farmland who is going to provide the fresh local food to feed the expanded population provided they can get there with the increased traffic?

  5. Nick Norton Reply

    April 6, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    While Worplesdon sites might no longer appear in the revised draft Guildford Local Plan, regrettably 72.4 hectares of farmland in the green belt situated between the settlements of Flexford and Normandy has been earmarked for 1,100 homes and a secondary school with up to 1,000 places.

    The Flexford/Normandy green belt land is within 5km of Russell Place Farm and within the 400m-5km zone of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area; without Russell Place Farm land defined as SANG to provide SPA mitigation for the proposed housing development, it might not be viable.

    Checking the GBC planning pages shows that Natural England, who arbitrate on what constitutes SANG and also then approve what land is to become SANG, submitted a letter in May 2014 indicating that unless a suitably funded management plan was in place, they could not support the Russell Place Farm submission. No further communication from Natural England is posted against the planning application 13/P/01453.

    Worplesdon Parish Council should be congratulated on their efforts to lift the lid on the goings on at GBC in regard of Russell Place Farm.

  6. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 7, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Not only are brownfield sites being suggested for retail and businesses, rather than housing, and the green belt around 14 villages is to be abandoned, but proposals in the revised Local Plan also list, notably in West Horsley, a development in a conservation area, with double the density of the existing housing.

    Nowhere is safe from the land-grab.

  7. Jim Allen Reply

    April 10, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Perhaps if Worplesdon Parish had consider the merits of a Neighbourhood (Parish) Plan, as requested by Fairlands Residents’ Association, this question would not have arisen?

    The 912 page document: Public reports pack: 13042016 1900 Borough Economy and Infrastructure Executive Advisory Board.pdf” here, on the GBC web site, explains, somewhere in the middle the reason why Neighbourhood Plans are a good idea.

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