Fringe Box



Permission to Create a Wood Street Village ‘SANG’ Refused Again

Published on: 27 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 28 Jan, 2017

Planning permission has been refused for farmland at Wood Street Village, to the northwest of Guildford, to become a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). SANGs are created to offset or compensate for building developments elsewhere within the borough.

The vote on the application, which went against a recommendation by council officers, took some by surprise. Only two members of the planning committee, both members of the Executive, supported the application.

The planning application, from a Mr Evans of Wokingham, sought a change of use of 34.5 hectares of land, situated within the green belt, from agricultural land, currently used for grazing cattle, to public open space and nature reserve with associated fencing, access works, car park and highways access to facilitate a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG).

Although there was no objection from the government’s adviser for the natural environment, Natural England, the role of which is to protect England’s nature and landscapes, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and Worplesdon and Normandy Parish Councils raised several concerns.

Planning permission to designate this farmland at Wood Street Village has been refused for the second time.

CPRE objected as it considered it inappropriate development in the green belt and was not satisfied that the SANG would function correctly. Grounds for the parish councils’ objections included: inappropriate development in the green belt, no very special circumstances; loss of agricultural land; no requirement in existing local plan; and public open space and a nature reserve are incompatible.

The council report on the application stated: “The 5km catchment of the application site would enable further development in the west of the borough as well as parts of Guildford town centre in sustainable locations. The granting of this application would therefore help facilitate the provision of housing across a significant proportion of the borough for which there is an unmet need.

“However, it should be noted that this application does not allow any specific housing development schemes. Any future developments would still need to be assessed as part of a planning application and be acceptable on their own merit.”

Robert Chichester

Speaking in support of the application Robert Chichester, the agent for the applicant, reminded the planning committee that a similar application had been refused, against planning officer advice, last July (2016).  The new application, he said, had been revised to address the previous reasons for refusal.

He continued: “Protecting the green belt is of considerable importance to this application… The fundamental aim of the green belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the characteristics of the green belt are their openness and their permanence…”

“It is crucial members justify why the proposed recreational use … would be considered inappropriate.”

Then, in what at least one councillor took to be a threat, Mr Chichester added: “Members should be reminded that there is currently a live planning appeal submitted to the inspectorate in relation to the previous refusal. The deadline for submission of the statement of case for full costs is the 27 January….

“If members are again minded to dismiss the professional advice of the officers and refuse the application contrary to the recommendation we will have no other option than to pursue the appeal and costs application…”

Cllr Bob McShee

Cllr Bob McShee, (Con, Worplesdon), a ward councillor for the area in question and known for his independent thinking within the council, proposed a motion to refuse the application.

He said: “Why could it be that this SANG has been allocated to 1200 houses at Ash and Tongham plus 70 in Normandy? Looking at this report … the officer states: ‘There is no objection to the loss of agricultural land.’ This is incorrect, because if you look … Worplesdon Parish Council, Normandy Parish Council and many of the third party comments all objected to the loss of agricultural land.

“I thought Guildford Borough Council had a policy to support the rural economy yet this application will destroy 82 acres of farmland, together with the jobs of a farmer, his son and three casual labourers. With Brexit in mind surely we need all possible land to be used to provide food for ourselves and to export to other countries.

“Natural England have stated that they have not assessed this application for the impact on protected species and I have been advised by the owners of the adjoining farm, Bales Farm, that they have identified two badger setts. …this development will have an adverse affect on ground nesting birds, the badgers and the SNCI [Site of Nature Conservation Interest] located directly south of the development site. The farm has grade 2 and 3 land, currently in use, with 100 cattle grazing on it and it has, in recent years, been used for growing crops…

So I think the application should be regarded again as inappropriate development  in the green belt which we are meant to protect and special circumstances do not exist…

Supporting comments for his motion to refuse the application were made by Cllrs: David Bilbe (Con, Normandy); Jenny Wicks (Con, Clandon and Horsley); Susan Parker (GGG, Send); Liz Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham); and Sheila Kirkland (Con, Westborough).

Cllr Matt Furniss.

In the almost complete absence of any member speaking against the motion to refuse the deputy council leader, Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch) stepped in to make a comment. He said: “The proposal would not conflict with the purposes of land within the green belt, it would result with the provision of a large public open space within the green belt.

“The intended function of the land would result in this being held in perpetuity thereby preventing encroachment of further development in the countryside and fulfilling key purposes of the green belt. The ecological value of the site and its visual amenity would be significantly enhanced.

“I would like to point out on farming that we have not been able to feed ourselves in this country for quite a number of years so that is an irrelevant argument. But what I will say is that SANGS can continue to be used for grazing. We use it on our own council owned ones and that can still maintain and enhance a SANG.

“Natural England and Surrey Wildlife Trust have raised no objections and considering the experts have raised no objections I find it quite incredible that certain members are coming up with reasons why the experts are wrong.

“Cllr McShee has said one correct thing and that is that there are no policies for him to hang a refusal on, on this.

“I think the officers have done a very thorough job on this report and whilst I was disappointed with the applicants speech, I particularly don’t like being threatened with costs, I am sure this council doesn’t either,… I do think that members should be approving this because it will enhance the green belt and this particular area.”

Summing up the debate Cllr McShee added: The planners have called this a balancing exercise so I will follow their example. What are the benefits of this application to Worplesdon? Nil. What are the benefits to a developer and this council? A lot.

Only two councillors voted against the motion to refuse, Cllr Furniss and Cllr Rooth, who had spoken in the debate as if he might abstain. A small number of councillors did appear to abstain but they were not called to raise their hands.

Following the meeting Cllr McShee said: “I am delighted that this planning application, which was recommended for approval, has again been refused by the planning committee.

“The residents of Worplesdon have, for a long time, opposed the SANG, the original application was submitted in 2013.  Now the residents of Wood Street can celebrate the refusal and the farmer can continue to graze his cattle on the land and produce beef for market.

“Let us now hope that there will be no further attempt to carry out inappropriate development in the green belt.”

Share This Post

Responses to Permission to Create a Wood Street Village ‘SANG’ Refused Again

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Well done Cllr Mc Shee. I will also be delighted to see the land continued to be farmed and local people enjoy the countryside they have.

  2. Neville Bryan Reply

    January 27, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Yes a battle won. For the first time since the shadow of the Local Plan, and the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] overcame Guildford, I felt most councillors (with two notable exceptions Rooth, and Furniss – when has Britain not feeding itself for 500 years been a reason for building on agricultural land?) are starting to reflect residents views. This can only be good news, and long may it continue.

    It appears however the war goes on, and it is a war.

    On the way out of the council chamber the agent stated that the game continues, and he now had to submit the paperwork for the original application appeal. This stupidity is not over it seems.

    Once there was a time high quality agriculture, where the farmer wants to farm would not have to have is livelihood questioned.

    The NPPF, and direction of government to build at all costs have changed all that. To the next round then…

  3. Linda Cooper Reply

    January 28, 2017 at 9:03 am

    We should protect our agricultural land and we should be feeding ourselves.

  4. M Murphy Reply

    January 28, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    As usual Cllr Furniss is in favour of the developer.

  5. David Roberts Reply

    January 29, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    The pro-developer, anti-resident votes cast by Cllrs Furniss and Rooth are beyond outrageous.

    I hope voters will not forget and will punish them politically for putting the interests of private speculators before the public good.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *