Fringe Box



South Guildford Residents Up In Arms Over Planning Applications

Published on: 19 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 28 Apr, 2012

Two planning applications in south Guildford have got neighbours up in arms. One is in Fort Road, just south of the town centre, the second in Guildown Road, St Catherine’s, off the A3100 Portsmouth Road.

A Fort Road resident, who does not wish to be named, writes: “Some six months ago Elsmore Developments eviscerated every mature tree shrub and plant in the garden of  17 Fort Road and erected a fence along the entire boundary separating the house from the garden. The house was then sold but the plot was left so to any newcomer it has the appearance of a building plot but with no direct vehicular access to the street.’

The new plot created from the garden of 17 Fort Road

“A planning application (ref. 12/P/00515) has now been submitted for a six bedroom house on the garden.  There are 19 objections from residents in Fort Road concerned about this ‘garden grabbing’ changing the whole character of the road. Such over development would impact on the amenity of adjoining owners. Interestingly, planning consultants I have approached in Guildford seem reluctant to act for residents in lodging an objection.”

Last year GBC were left to pick up thousands of pounds worth of costs following one successful appeal against refusal of planning permission in a similar case in the Green Lane, at the top of The Mount. The appeals were allowed by a planning inspector from Bristol despite the council’s planning committee voting against them unanimously.

The Conservative party, in their 2010 manifesto, pledged to prevent the practice of garden grabbing and locally, in an article on the Guildford Conservatives website entitled: ‘Action pledged on ‘garden grabbing’ in Guildford’, Tony Rooth, GBC Council Leader said: “Conservatives on the Borough Council are committed to protecting the features of Guildford’s various neighbourhoods…”.

Since the last general election the reduction in the amount of planning regulation and guidance has been well publicised. The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), comprising just over fifty pages, states as a guiding principle that the reuse of previously developed land should be encouraged but, in the glossary of the framework document, private gardens are specifically excluded from the definition of ‘previously developed land’.

Keith Taylor, Chairman of the GBC Planning Committee said: “We welcome the fact that the new NPPF restates the policy previously announced by the new Government in 2010 that the gardens of residential properties should no longer be treated as “already developed land” with a presumption in favour of development.

“However, even over the last year or so, Planning Inspectors have still allowed many appeals against ‘garden grabbing’ applications that have been refused locally. In at least one instance, costs were even awarded against the Council. Under these circumstances, the Council are inclined to monitor the situation over the next year or so following the publication of the NPPF. In particular, we will obviously monitor the decisions by Inspectors on any appeals against the refusal of such applications.”

The old coach house which would be demolished if an application to build a three bedroomed house is approved

In Guildown Road, a conservation area, a nearby resident has alerted the local St Catherine’s Village Website to two new planning applications (refs. 12/P 00580 and 12/P00581) relating to a proposed development at 26 Guildown Road. The resident writes: “The applicant wishes to demolish the old coach house at that address and replace it with a three bedroom house…  the coach house is a very charming building in a deplorably ruined state behind behind a very high old stone wall … which is obviously older than the large Victorian mansion, of which it is the boundary…

“The  planning applications perform a useful purpose in drawing public attention to the threat to what is obviously a historic wall even if the application to build is refused.  And refused it must be:  if it is granted the developer would have to use Beech Lane to work from… this means an intention to penetrate or knock down this wall, a wall which defines the character of the lane itself and is a feature of this conservation area.”

Letter from the leaseholder/occupants of 26 Guildown, urging neighbours to join then in objecting to the application

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Responses to South Guildford Residents Up In Arms Over Planning Applications

  1. Anne Robson

    April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    The letter from the residents was helpful in drawing the application to our attention however there is no phone number or single point of contact mentioned in the letter.
    How do you want us to help? Write a letter to the council but what are the points that the council will take into consideration? What will make a difference?
    A few years ago we successfully defended an application to build a cottage between Unicorns and the house next door, we developed a website, put up banners and ultimately hired a planning consultant to defend our position as it was escalated to the department of the environment.
    As I recall, the decision ultimately turned on some wild bird preservation order which meant building couldn’t take place within a certain radius of the bird…who knew?! My point is make it easy for people to object, template letters, suggested wording etc. although I fully appreciate the council like individual objections.
    If I can help let me know.I will of course send in a letter.

    • Martin Giles

      April 20, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Dear Anne,
      Just to clarify, The Guildford Dragon is not asking for any help with this issue it is the residents of No 26 Guildown Road. As you say, no contact details were given on the distributed note so I can only suggest that you call on them if you wish to.

  2. Anne Whitley

    April 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

    As a further comment on your article, I would just like to point out that this is an issue that will affect everyone in Guildford as, if permission is granted for this garden grabbing, it will set a precedent for every garden in the area.
    Bearing in mind that the Fort Road plot is not a particularly large one but the proposed house is enormous, it will lead to a serious loss of trees and vegetation which could in turn have a very serious ecological effect on the area.
    I think it is a great shame that our Councillors are more worried about the possible financial impact of going to appeal than the future of the borough.

  3. David Smith

    April 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    In reply to the comment by Anne Whitely:

    Firstly there is no such thing as precedent with so called ‘garden grabbing’ each application is judged on its own merits. Fort Road in particular is made up of infill development with architecture from 1900, 1920s, 1960s, 1990s and more recently 2010 with three new houses being given permission – 2 at no 25 and a replacement at no 16.

    Secondly councillors should be mindful of appeal costs – it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and plenty of us are feeling the pinch!

    Thirdly where do you propose we build? Greenbelt is restricted, there is little to no brownfield sites so not building on sites such as this would mean no new houses at all which in turn will lead to higher houseprices and no where for our children to live.

    I don’t agree with Guildown Road but the Fort Road site clearly lends itself to a house perhaps not as big as the one planned but it is bigger than most plots.

  4. Tony Walker

    April 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for your article publicising the planning application to build in Fort Road. Garden-grabbing [the term used by another Fort Road resident] seems a very fair description of what has occurred – the annexation of a portion of the garden that surrounded No 17, the clearance and bull-dozing of the land and its attempted re-designation by the applicant as “redundant residential curtilage”.

    It is difficult to see this as anything other than a cynical attempt to present the local community and the Council with fait accompli – to circumvent planning policy and its presumption against the development of private gardens by turning this one into a piece of detached wasteland before seeking anyone’s opinion or consent. It would have been hard to argue for building consent when the house and garden remained one, surrounded by similar properties, so separation and clearance looked a better bet!

    The Council should, as Mr Smith suggests, judge this application on its merits and refuse it outright.

    Mr Smith may also be correct in writing that precedent plays no part in individual planning decisions, but if this application is allowed, one cannot help thinking it will encourage similar scorched-earth tactics elsewhere in the borough before long.