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Tory Councillors In Revolt Against Ash Green Planning Decision

Published on: 19 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 21 Jun, 2020

Ash Parish Council has voted to match-fund a judicial review into a decision by Guildford Borough Council to allow a 73-home development to go ahead near Ash Manor, the ancient moated manor house in Ash Green.

Ash Manor House is listed by Historic England as a Grade II* building.

The Ash Green resident who initiated the review claims that the borough council’s planning process was not followed and that approval for the homes was wrongly given.

The maximum £5,000 awarded by the parish council will help to fund the judicial review launched by Sue Wyeth-Price, former chairman of the Ash Green Residents’ Association (AGRA).  The parish councillors supporting the review include Conservative members of the borough council.

The application for a review into the approved application was accepted by the courts as being sufficiently arguable on all grounds to proceed to a hearing.

Ms Wyeth-Price said she expected the review to be heard in September.

The controversial development was first submitted in 2017 for 95 homes. It was sent to appeal because the council had not made a decision within the required timescales.  The developer, Bewley Homes, subsequently withdrew their appeal and resubmitted a revised application for 73 homes in December 2018.

Cllr Marsha Moseley chairing the December 2019 meeting of the Guildford planning committee at which the application was approved.

The application was finally approved by the borough planning committee in December 2019 with Cllr Ramsey Nagaty (Shalford, GGG) voting against and abstentions by (Cllr Paul Spooner (Ash South & Tongham, Cons) and Cllr Fiona White (Westborough, Lib Dem). The decision letter was issued on January 16, 2020.

Judicial reviews against planning approvals are rare. The last example in Guildford was the unsuccessful review against the unpopular Guildford Local Plan, which had been rushed through council approval a week before the local elections in May 2019.

There are five Conservative borough councillors backing the review into the Ash Manor decision. All five sit on both the parish and borough council and include Councillor Marsha Moseley, who chaired the borough planning committee meeting which approved the application in December 2019. The other four are Graham Eyre, Nigel Manning, Andrew Gomm and Jo Randall.

Paul Spooner, who recently resigned as the leader of the Guildford Borough Council Conservative group and was an Ash Parish councillor, was not recorded as attending the online meeting on May 11 which voted for the funding support. He is understood to have resigned from Ash Parish Council although no announcement has been made and the resignation is not minuted.

In part-funding the judicial review in their capacity as parish councillors, the five borough councillors, including the chair of the planning committee, have effectively given a vote of no confidence against their own planning department.

The judicial review will investigate the following claims:

  •  Borough council officers misdirected the councillors with regard to the level of protection afforded by law to Ash Manor’s Grade II listed buildings.
  • The officers wrongly implied that veteran oak tree did not have ‘veteran’ status and failed to sufficiently consider the condition of the tree and address the concerns raised by Surrey Wildlife Trust in their role as the Ecology Planning Advisory Service.
  • The borough council failed to have regard to the risk of flooding from groundwater at the site and acted irrationally by ignoring expert
    evidence on this matter and failed to instruct an independent expert to consider it.
  • The borough council failed to adequately consult on the application. Following the final consultation notice, a further 45 application documents were submitted and no consultation was carried out on these documents.

Any delay to the judicial review decision that takes the legal process past the one year mark could mean that the project applicants will have to re-apply for planning permission.

The builder is currently working to discharge the application’s pre-conditions in preparation for the start of construction.

A spokesperson for Guildford Borough Council said: “This matter is subject to ongoing litigation so it would not be appropriate to respond at this time.”

Andrew Morris, Strategic Land Director for Bewley Homes, said: “Bewley Homes regret the action of Sue Wyeth Price and the Ash Green Residents Association to challenge the decision of Guildford Borough Council. This site is allocated in the local plan under policy A31 for residential development and Bewley have worked with the Council in preparing a scheme taking into account the sensitivities of the listed buildings at Ash Manor, including the revised Grade 2* listing.

“We understand that the council will be vigorously defending their decision in the High Court and we will support them in this action.  We would clearly like to be on site as soon as possible providing the much-needed housing, including 29 affordable homes which we will be constructing on behalf of one of our Housing Association partners.  We will, however, have to wait for the due process of law to take its course.”

We asked Conservative councillors Marsha Moseley and Nigel Manning, chairman of Ash Parish Council, to comment but to date, we have received no response.

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Responses to Tory Councillors In Revolt Against Ash Green Planning Decision

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 19, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    It’s funny that these same councillors were so in favour of thousands of homes to the east of the borough, around the Horsleys and Ockham. Parochial thinking perhaps?

  2. Sue Wyeth-Price Reply

    June 19, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    I would like to clarify the position on the funding. Ash Green Residents’ Association is unable to bring a JR in their own right as they are not a legal entity (person, business or charity). AGRA agreed that it made sense for one of the residents to bring this on their behalf and I volunteered. AGRA has been fundraising and accepting donations to help cover the legal costs and any possible costs award if we lose, and will be returning any unused funds.

    Ash Parish Council were approached for a grant by AGRA, not me personally, and their very welcome contribution will be made directly to the barristers, according to the APC rules.

    Sue Wyeth-Price is a member of the Ash Green Residents’ Association

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