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University Has ‘Garden Neighbourhood’ Vision – Campaigners Remain Unimpressed

Published on: 3 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 3 Dec, 2013
A map of the proposed "Garden Neighbourhood" in the University's brochure.

A map of the proposed “Garden Neighbourhood” in the University’s brochure.

The University of Surrey has submitted ideas for a new “Garden Neighbourhood” for west Guildford to coincide with the completion of Guildford Borough Council’s Local Plan consultation.

But the Save Hogs Back campaign remains unimpressed and accuses the university, which has said that it intend to build ‘close to the Hog’s Back’, of a disingenuous use of language.

The university has for the first time publicly articulated proposals for a major, mixed use scheme on part of its landholdings on Blackwell Farm and what remains of Manor Farm in ‘west Guildford’. But in its press release it carefully avoids any mention of the Hog’s Back, a local landmark that those who object to development proposals in the area say deserves protection.

The university’s proposal incorporates plans for an expansion of the Surrey Research Park, improved transport links, new schools, community facilities and mixed housing surrounded by significant green spaces. The university says that it is seeking to show that the land within its ownership presents the best option for Guildford’s continued growth and development.

A view across fields in the development area. In the distance, Surrey Sports Park.

A view across fields in the development area. In the distance, Surrey Sports Park.

Speaking about the proposals, Greg Melly, the vice-president of corporate services at the University of Surrey, said: “We are convinced that creating a new neighbourhood that connects with existing employment areas, the town centre and other neighbourhoods is the right approach to managing much-needed growth in Guildford borough. Our site could accommodate a significant number of new homes which, in turn, could create the critical mass that would be needed to provide the supporting infrastructure for the area.

“There can be no doubt that Guildford’s existing roads, networks and facilities are straining to cope with the amount of people that are living in and around the borough. Work around the Local Plan has already highlighted that growth is inevitable and we believe that our proposal is the most sustainable way of delivering employment opportunities, homes and facilities to meet the levels of need.

“Indeed, our proposals could help to relieve some of the existing congestion by creating a new walkable neighbourhood, providing improved public transport links and cycle pathways, and creating a new access route to west Guildford from the A31.

“We totally understand some people’s concerns about the council’s proposal to consider releasing green belt land for development. However, with the exception of the Manor Park release for university purposes, the green belt has not been reviewed for over 30 years and Guildford’s acute housing need provides the exceptional circumstances to justify this decision.

“We would like to reassure local residents that our development would: reach high standards of sustainability, be carefully designed to create a high quality garden neighbourhood, incorporate substantial areas of green space and protect the area of outstanding natural beauty that falls within the southern part of the site.”

Another view acroos the potential development site with Guildford Cathedral visible on the horizon.

Another view across the potential development site with Guildford Cathedral visible on the horizon.

“We are very keen to work with our neighbours to ensure that they fully understand what is being explored with the council and other key stakeholders, and we will take time over the next twelve months to explain our intentions and listen to concerns.”

But  Mike Mortimer speaking on behalf of the Save Hogs Back campaign said: “We are aghast by the proposals being tabled and the spin which the university is putting on a development for 2,000 executive homes that will ruin one of the most beautiful parts of Guildford.I am amazed that the university should call its plan a ‘garden neighbourhood’ and use an icon of birds flying to denote a ‘country park’ as if they were introducing the wildlife to the area when the opposite will be true.

“They suggest that they’ll be creating green spaces, when they are proposing to build on beautiful open countryside covering nearly 300 hectares,  an area of green belt equivalent to about 15 per cent of the existing footprint of Guildford town.

“They discuss how they’ll be easing traffic congestion, but they’ll be adding nearly 4,000 new cars onto the A31 and A3 at the busiest points.

“They even describe in their brochure how the proposal will ‘avoid urban sprawl’ when the very thing this proposal does is to continue the spread of Guildford towards Farnham.

“The university has the audacity to say that the green belt hasn’t been reviewed for 30 years. It seems that they’ve forgotten that the boundary was shifted just 10 years ago to allow for the growth of the university when they stated that ‘there should be a presumption against frequent changes affecting the approved green belt’ and that the university does not advocate ‘frequent changes and fully supports the borough council’s proposals …’. Those proposing this must have short memories.

Atists impression of some of the "significant number of homes" that the scheme would create.

Artist’s impression of some of the ‘significant number of homes’ that the scheme would create.

“Just compare what was promised in the glossy brochures for Manor Park with how it looks 10 years on and you can bet your bottom dollar that it isn’t just the words that are disingenuous but the images and the vision too.”

The University of Surrey’s initial information document is now available for people to view on the website .

Information on the Save Hogs Back Campaign can be found here: .

See also: Letter: The University Needs to Learn Where the Hog’s Back Is

Do you live in the development area? Are you someone who supports the university’s proposal and, perhaps, would like to live in the “Garden Neighbourhood”? Or do you think that green belt land should not be used in this way? Please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below to have your say.

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Responses to University Has ‘Garden Neighbourhood’ Vision – Campaigners Remain Unimpressed

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I seem to remember that similar platitudes were made at the time when the present development that extended the campus along the A3 was planned.

    It was said at the time it would blend in with this area of outstanding natural beauty.

    However, when viewed from the Hogs Back now it is more reminiscent of Bracknell new town.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Since when did universities become property developers? They were intended to be seats of learning.

  3. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Where I live is currently AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and AGLV (Area of Great Landscape Value). It is also all green belt but I would end up being encircled by roads and development if the university proposal was put into effect. Beautiful areas on AONB land would become park and ride car-parks.

    Despite being a close neighbour, the vice chancellor, Sir Christopher Snowden, cancelled the regular neighbour get-togethers his predecessor organised after only one such gathering.

    Further, although Greg Melly (vice president, corporate services) of the university has claimed to be keen to work with the university’s neighbours, we, their closest neighbours, have been ignored and have only now learned, following exhaustive research, that the university prepared a smaller development plan in 2006. 

    The proposal in the Local Plan (Issues and Options) has already been opposed by thousands of people who have responded to the ‘Save Hogs Back’ campaign. The campaign specifically relates to the Blackwell Farm and remaining Manor Farm green belt areas. This new proposal, doubles the proposed development area.

    The university attempt to pull wool over peoples eyes by claiming they are not building on the Hog’s Back fails against a simple check on the postal address of the university buildings, Blackwell House and Blackwell farm cottages. Even on the university website the address is given as: “Blackwell Farm Cottages, Hogs Back, Guildford”.

  4. R McLoram Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    1 The university have not consulted with their neighbours and residents living within or adjacent to Blackwell Farm. I know of one very long term resident at the proposed site who nothing about the proposed development until a neighbour, who himself had learnt of it in the local press, told them they may well have a road and park and ride by their dwelling in place of beautiful fields, copses and woods.

    2 How do the UniS proposals ease congestion? If they do it will mean more than a rat run through Blackwell Farm to the Hospital Research Park and to rejoin the A3. Thousands of cars will be cutting through, what is at the moment, green belt land.

    3 Having seen the promised low level development at Manor Farm the university have built I would not leave them in charge of any development. If they think their previous efforts were attractive and blended in they should go to Specsavers.

  5. Brian Miller Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    As academics tend to have their heads in the clouds, let this risky proposal of theirs be put where it deserves to be, that is ‘in cloud-cuckoo land’ and permanently left there.

  6. Jim Allen Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I see no location for the 4,000 car car-park dug into the side of the Hogs Back with access onto the A31 and A3. Or is that in the 2nd draft plan?

    Sorry, not convinced on this paper’s arguments.

    I can only award an E-

    Please resit at the next sumester, preferably at another seat of learning.

  7. Roland McKinney Reply

    December 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    From university literature it would seem their motive for this development is entirely altruistic. That being so, can we expect the university to donate a substantial parcel of land to a self build group, to encourage the construction of affordable homes? And that all profits will be donated to local charities?

    Maybe they could also donate some of the land that they own for development. Maybe some of the 17ha (42 acres) of car parks, say for social housing, so that green belt in other parts of the borough can be spared.

  8. Andy Lowther Reply

    December 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I have been walking the Hog’s Back woodland for years and I think the plans to build on a large part of it are absolutely disgraceful.
    It’s a beautiful part of Guildford and it’s also green belt.

    I pray this wont happen and the countryside will be left as nature intended.

    This isn’t just about housing, its about money, and lining certain peoples’ pockets.

    Those who are for building on the hogs back don’t live around here, so it’s not going to affect them.

    This is a beautiful part of Guildford, and should be left that way.

  9. Mary Bedforth Reply

    December 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Off topic but relating to the Hog’s Back.

    I drove home from Farnham this morning in bright sunlight. Nearing Guildford, and below on the left, there were rolling clouds of brilliant white mist that completely covered the arable land. The outline of the Cathedral could be seen in the distance.

    Magic and quite beautiful. I wish that I had had a camera with me.

  10. Anna-Marie Davis Reply

    December 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    In my view, the university is interested in money and nothing more. The council the same. If the university cared about Guildford it would stop trying to join it to Farnham.

    More troubling than its plans is the impotent council that will be considering them. I think a complete set of new councillors in Guildford is now the only way to protect the green belt, and I don’t intend to be quiet about it.

    The council should be resolute that our countryside isn’t up for development and should be seeking to strengthen its protection, rather than challenging it. What the hell was the point of the green belt anyway if you can just revoke or ignore it?

    Given all recent personal correspondence with the council I have no faith in either the officers or the councillors to look after Guildford for future generations. At present we look at North Street and wonder how the Town Planners were allowed to get away with it, then drive out of the town into the countryside and think how lucky we are.

    I don’t want the Hog’s Back to make me tut and shake my head like some of the architecture on North Street.

    Lots of people want to live in Guildford, but sadly it is only so big. As Eric Parker is quoted on a plaque bought by a former council: “Guildford is a beautiful city. Let us keep it so”.

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