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Planning Committee Unanimously ‘Refuses’ Plan for 1,700 Homes at Wisley

Published on: 11 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 11 Jul, 2023

Villages Against Wisley New Town have been campaigning against the proposed development of 1,700 homes at the former Wisley Airfield.

By Emily Coady-Stemp local democracy reporter

and Martin Giles

Taylor Wimpey’s plans for 1,700 homes on the former Wisley Airfield would be like “parachuting a slice of London into a quiet, rural area”, according to one councillor.

The comment was made at a Guildford planning meeting where members agreed with the planning officers’ recommendation to refuse the plans for the land, some of which is currently used as farmland.

But the council was not making a decision on the application, which instead will be taken on by a government inspector after an appeal was lodged by Taylor Wimpey because the council took too long to make a decision.

GBC Planning Committee debates the Wisley proposal.

The debate held by councillors at a meeting on Monday (July 10), where the airfield application was the only item discussed, will be used as part of the council’s submission to the appeal inquiry.

Reasons outlined by officers for refusing the application included the impact on wildlife and the natural environment surrounding the site, including the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area.

Officers said there had not been enough information given on the impact on bats and invertebrate species in the area, and raised concerns about the biodiversity net gain at the site, which is a council policy.

Councillors unanimously agreed with officers that the application should be refused, though given that the site was removed from the green belt to be included in the borough council’s Local Plan, it is likely that homes will be built there at some stage.

CGI of the proposed Stratford View, Wisley Airfield from the Design and Access statement. Image: Taylor Wimpey

One public speaker estimated the application breached at least 29 of the council’s planning policies.

Cllr Robert Taylor, chairman of East Horsley Parish Council, spoke on behalf of the two parish councils of East and West Horsley to object to the plans.

Cllr Robert Taylor addressing the meeting

He told the meeting that the idea of developing the airfield had been around for a while but that: “It’s not a fine wine and it doesn’t improve with age. Quite the contrary.”

He pointed to previous plans to include a GP surgery in the development, a through school, and a cycle route to Effingham Junction, as the nearest railway station, all of which were not included in the application at committee.

Of the application, Cllr Taylor said: “It is proposing to parachute a slice of London into the heart of a quiet rural area and that will create a whole mess of problems.

“The destruction of local character, massive environmental impacts, huge added pressure on our creaking rural road network, the elimination of centuries of heritage.

“These are just some of the consequences. And of course this site is fundamentally unsustainable.”

Meeting documents show that the plans could include a secondary school, a primary school, and up to two nurseries but officers told the meeting that a secondary school would be dependent on the county council establishing if there was a need for one on the site.

A cycle route to Effingham Junction was not considered necessary by the applicant, because of another route being available to Horsley station, on the same line.

The officers’ report said: “[Taylor Wimpey] also consider that the level of local facilities available at East Horsley also favours it as a destination over Effingham Junction.”

The meeting heard that a cycle route down Old Lane, leading to Effingham Junction, could not be made suitable for the average cyclist, taken as those over 12 years old and according to Department for Transport guidelines.

Plans were shown of cycle routes to Ripley, Byfleet, Stoke D’Abernon and East Horsley but Surrey County Council raised concerns, as the highways authority, that plans did not demonstrate that “appropriate opportunities” to promote sustainable transport had been taken up.

As well as traffic concerns, the meeting heard about the protection of skylarks at the site and the change of use of the land from farmland.

Cllr Pat Oven

Cllr Patrick Oven (Guildford Greenbelt Group, Send & Lovelace) said around 87 hectares of the site was agricultural land, some of it of a high quality that was “not common in Surrey”.

On a site visit, councillors had seen that the land was being used for growing wheat and barley, and Cllr Oven drew attention to a 2018 appeal on the land in which the inspector commented on its agricultural use.

Cllr Oven said: “It would seem to me that that land should remain agricultural because things have changed since 2018.

“We now know the nature of Brexit. We also have a war in the Ukraine which is the breadbasket of Europe.

“It makes no economic sense that that agricultural land should disappear.”

In a statement issued this afternoon the prospective Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Guildford, Zöe Franklin, said: “I am pleased that the Guildford Borough Council Planning Committee refused the Wisley application.

“It is clear that we need homes across our borough but it is my firm view that these homes need to be sustainable, meet the needs of our communities and either work within existing infrastructure or provide that infrastructure.

“Having worked in East Horsley, and spoken to local residents and local councillors, it is clear that the Wisley application taken to the committee particularly fell short of what is needed. Local roads would simply be unable to cope with the increased traffic flow of a development of this scale, even with improvements.

“It is also highly unlikely that public transport options would be able to meet the increased need either in their existing or with improvement. I also have concerns in terms of the education and healthcare provision, plus biodiversity and loss of habitats linked to the development.

“I will continue to keep a close eye on any future Wisley proposals.

Frances Porter, Imogen Jamieson And Chris Campbell of Villages Against Wisley New Town. Photo Emily Coady-Stemp

And Chris Campbell of the Villagers Against Wisley New Town commented: “Great to hear GBC finally say what VAWNT has said from the start , “NO to Wisley New Town!”

Developers Taylor Wimpey did not send anyone to speak at the planning meeting but The Dragon has invited them to comment.

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Responses to Planning Committee Unanimously ‘Refuses’ Plan for 1,700 Homes at Wisley

  1. Frances Porter Reply

    July 11, 2023 at 5:31 pm

    Both the local ward councillors Catherine Young (R4GV, Clandon & Horsley) and Pat Oven (Send & Lovelace), did an amazing job but I am very concerned about the negotiations that will continue. Let’s be honest, Taylor Wimpey will promise that the sun will shine on their development every day to get it approved and agree planning conditions on everything so they can comeback at a later stage to get them overturned.

    We need the government to stand up for the environment as they promised us and get this application refused and taken out of the Local Plan. It is the second least sustainable site they could find but GBC still put in the plan and relied on out-of-date ONS housing need stats to justify it.

    If this should get approved nowhere in the country is safe.

    Frances Porter is a Villages Against Wisley New Town (VAWNT) campaigner

  2. Helena Townsend Reply

    July 11, 2023 at 6:38 pm

    I think people against this scheme may have won the battle but I have no doubt they will lose the war. This site has been bought unconditionally by TW – I am sure they have had worse fights on their hands and they certainly won’t give up.

    Good luck – you’ll need it.

  3. Keith Francis Reply

    July 11, 2023 at 8:35 pm

    It may be quiet now at Wisley airfield but how many of those objecting lived like I did at Kingfield under the flight path with all the Vickers planes, when test flying, going over your home and as they went from turbo-prop to the jet-engined VC10 the noisier they, including some military planes, got?

    There was a nearby dual-carriageway road on a housing estate and in either direction, the pilots could use it to line up on especially when coming in from the west and having to fly over a hill before levelling up. They used a reverse route when going out as all the houses on the hill were large and privately owned.

    As the saying goes “you gain some and lose some” so were objectors aware that to get planning approval for Ada Gardens in East Horsley Taylor Wimpey had to satisfy the Guildford Borough Council and residents demands by including a high number of affordable housing properties to the exclusion of other prospective purchasers?

    Where is Ada Gardens I hear you ask? Its being built now and is diagonally opposite Horsley railway station.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      July 13, 2023 at 5:53 am

      I have asked TW on several occasions to reveal the proposed prices of their so called affordable homes. This data must be included in their business plan, but they are keeping this secret.

      “Affordable” is defined by the council as 80 per cent of prevailing prices in an area. There is currently a semi-detached house in West Horsley on the market for £1,650,000. 80 per cent of this would be £1,330,000! Can a key-worker afford that?

  4. David Smith Reply

    July 14, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    I have no idea why Jules Cranwell seems to ask questions when he should know the answer.

    I’m no expert in development but it wasn’t difficult to find examples of affordable housing within the local area. Abri homes are selling 25 per cent shares of a mixture of homes at their Manorwood development in West Horsley – the full price of a two-bed appears to be £545k making a 25 per cent share £136k.

    Bearing in mind you pay a subsidised rent on the unsold equity it is affordable. I have no idea why he has sought to use a ridiculous example of a semi in Horsley priced at £1.65 million. That house is over 3000 sqft and refurbished to a high standard if I have identified it correctly.

    By all means, be against the Wisley development but let’s stop with all the fake news in comments. People are clearly getting wise to it.

    Also who releases prices until a scheme is ready to be launched?

  5. Ian Parker Reply

    August 22, 2023 at 9:24 pm

    With this going to a “government inspector”, good luck. Since when did they serve the interests of the people.

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