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Residents Tell Wisley Airfield Development Appeal their Fears over Road Safety

Published on: 19 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2023

By Emily Coady Stemp

Local democracy reporter

Residents are “genuinely scared” of the impact a 1,700-home development could have on road safety in the area, an appeal has heard.

Taylor Wimpey submitted plans for the land, near to the A3 and M25 junction works, and close to the villages of Ripley and Ockham to Guildford Borough Council for a decision.

But while the borough council’s planning committee said in July it would reject the plans, the decision was taken out of its hands by an appeal to central government by the developer because Guildford had taken too long to come to a decision.

The ongoing appeal into the application heard from residents on Wednesday (October 18) about their concerns regarding the impact of the proposed development on the surrounding area.

These included worries about the sewage system, the wildlife in the area, traffic on the roads and the impact on local services such as healthcare and schools.

Ockham Lane, heading towards Cobham. From Google Street View.

Ockham resident Richard Neish said villagers were “genuinely scared of the impact of the proposed development on local road safety”.

He described Ockham Lane, which runs to the south of the site, as a “narrow, winding country lane, enclosed by hedgerows, with no streetlights”.

He said there were “frequent blind spots and infrequent pavements” and described attending an accident when a truck had overturned having lost control on a “tight, icy bend in the road” before hitting a hedgerow and flipping.

While he helped the driver from the truck’s cab, Mr Neish said he was conscious of the blind corner and large lorries that may come around it, with several other vehicles in fact crashing into the truck and each other.

Mr Neish told the hearing: “On this occasion, it was cars and vans that rounded the blind corner and crashed into the overturned truck.

“I consider myself hugely lucky that this was the only outcome. Regrettably incidents like this are a regular feature in the winter months.”

He also highlighted the impact of cyclists on the road, citing stats from the cycling app Strava, with a stretch of Ockham Lane part of a segment called the “Ockham Lane Kicker” on the app.

With data showing the section had been completed 473,485 times by 36,741 people, Mr Neish said “insight was lacking” if developers thought this “volume and mindset” of cyclist would be “funnelled into a cycle lane” as proposed in the plans.

Calling Ockham a “gateway to the Surrey Hills for the cycling community”, he said the speeds clocked up by some cyclists on the stretch, according to Strava, were 40.5 km/hour.

He told the appeal: “These are not urban commuters with coffee mugs on Boris or Brompton bikes.

“These are consistent large volume and competitive, organised groups and individuals who cycle in the centre of the carriageway to avoid close hedgerows and roadside gullies.”

Time ran out on the appeal day to hear from all the residents who wished to speak, so the inspector added another date for them to talk, on Tuesday, October 31.

Frances Porter, Imogen Jamieson and Chris Campbell of Villages Against Wisley New Town. Picture: Emily Coady-Stemp.

The appeal is taking place throughout October and November, and has looked at issues including highways, planning, air quality and ecology.

Following another resident’s speech, Taylor Wimpey’s representative, James Maurici KC said the plans for the site included “extensive road infrastructure for speed reduction”.

He told the inquiry: “What we’ve heard today is a large number of local people objecting to that for various reasons, aesthetic or perceived issues about noise or air quality, whatever it may be.

“If you have roads that are already being used by cyclists, where cars speed when they shouldn’t, then the solution is road speed reduction infrastructure. No wonder the county council supports it.”

The county council’s statement of common ground submitted for the appeal was given as the reason for a county councillor standing down in August, leading to a by-election on October 19.

Ripley resident Sally Erhardt said she did not know where proposed residents on the “disastrous site” would go to shop.

She raised concerns about Taylor Wimpey’s suggestion that residents would cycle.

Asking how children from the development would get to school, she said: “Has anyone tried to ride a bike on these narrow, winding local lanes?

“About 20 years ago, I took my daughter on a new bike that we had bought to try and keep fit, but one journey we made was so terrifying that the bike was never used again.

“I certainly wouldn’t let my then 12-year-old ride on the roads after that.”

Plans for the site could include a secondary school, a primary school, and up to two nurseries, but July’s planning committee meeting heard that a secondary school would be dependent on the county council establishing if there was a need for one on the site.

Wisley Airfield plans. Image: Taylor Wimpey and Vivid.

Taylor Wimpey has also drawn up cycles routes to Ripley, Byfleet, Stoke D’Abernon and East Horsley.

One cyclist at the meeting, who described himself as “not the drop handlebar, lycra-clad type”, said he had been cycling since the age of four.

Clive Long, a West Horsley resident, said he now cycled for pleasure, and had seen “an increase in dangerous driving and overtaking”.

He raised concerns about the potentially fatal risk to cyclists of overtaking on blind bends, but also the “significant danger” to oncoming motorists and traffic.

Mr Long told the inquiry: “That section of Ockham Road North gets very badly potholed.

“We’re lucky enough to live in leafy Surrey. By definition, the trees overhanging, with dripping water and so on will continue to generate those potholes and rough surfaces.”

And another resident said the proposed traffic calming measures “must be the most impenetrable set of barriers ever devised for a country road”.

Jon Dobinson said: “They want residents to endure a series of obstacles that will force everyone to drive something akin to a tank, a veritable assault course of road tables, speed bumps, chicanes, barbed wire trenches, tank tracks. I exaggerate but only a little.

He said he was worried about the amount of time it may take children to get to the Royal Surrey Hospital in the case of an accident or illness, and said a speed bump right outside his door was “enough to make him want to move”.

Mr Dobinson told the inquiry: “This has very real consequences. Worst of all, for me and my neighbours.”

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Responses to Residents Tell Wisley Airfield Development Appeal their Fears over Road Safety

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 19, 2023 at 11:03 pm

    Safety who needs safety? We are told by supporters of London active travel scheme Safety knowledge is of no concern!

    We are scare mongers and worriers.

    Or do we accept there are those amongst us like Niels Laud, Terry Nemwan, Andy Clapham, Tony Mallard and now clive long who have the whole populations Safety at heart not just specific individuals or groups.

  2. S Collins Reply

    October 20, 2023 at 12:23 pm

    Disused car parks and airfields. Just the sort of “grey belt” areas Labour are promising to build on.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 20, 2023 at 6:03 pm

    Perhaps S Collins does not realise just how small a proportion of the whole Wisley site is under the wartime airstrip. Most of the land is still prime farmland.

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