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Victory for Residents at Ash Green Inquiry – But Concern Over GBC’s Future Intentions

Published on: 9 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2022

Ash Manor Protest in May 2021 Photo Carla Morson

By David Reading

Ash Green residents are hoping that the campaign to prevent housing from being built on the historic Ash Manor House site may finally be over following their victory at an appeal hearing held during January and March.

But Guildford Borough Council says it will welcome discussions with developers on the future of the site – a statement that has angered campaigners.

Although GBC joined residents in opposing the appeal by Bewley Homes, council leader Joss Bigmore has pointed out that the land at Ash Manor – the ancient moated manor house – is allocated for development in the Local Plan. 

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Bigmore, said:  “We can work with any developer through pre-application discussions if they would like to. Through these discussions we guide developers on their plans helping them to submit an application that meets the requirements of the local and national policies.” 

His statement in The Dragon in mid-May welcoming further discussions with the developer drew an angry response from Ash Green Residents Association (AGRA). 

AGRA said: “We have finally achieved the success we wanted – a sensible decision, considering all the facts, from an independent inspector with no political, financial, or other motivation. 

“However, it was grossly disappointing to see the leader of the council say ‘We welcome further discussions with the developer.’ This felt like a slap in the face from the council, given the seemingly endless battles we have had to fight with the council officers and through the courts over the last five years.” 

Gill Squibb, chair of AGRA, said this week: “We hope that the council will be willing to work with us to protect the site in the longer term.”

Bewley Homes said they are now discussing what steps to take. Their case at the appeal involved the building of 69 homes on the land.

Andy Morris, the company’s strategic land director, said: “We are obviously disappointed to be refused planning on a site which is allocated in the local plan and one which would provide an opportunity for early delivery of quality new homes, as well as affordable, in the area. We will carefully review our options with all members of our team before looking at next steps.” 

The appeal inspector, Christina Downes, rejected Bewley’s appeal on numerous grounds, principally the historic value of the site, the loss of the buffer zone between Ash and Ash Green, and the lack of conformity with the Local Plan. 

She said in her decision notice: “The appeal site is as important to the setting of the heritage assets as the other land surrounding them. Overall, the wider setting of the listed buildings contributes to their special interest both individually and as a group.” 

The ruling addressed the cumulative impacts of the proposed developments surrounding the manor house, May and Juniper Cottage and the Ash Station Bridge. 

Residents had fought long and hard to prevent the housing from going ahead. Bewley were granted approval in 2020 but local campaigner Sue Wyeth-Price applied for a Judicial Review on behalf of AGRA.

In December 2020 a High Court judge overruled the council’s permission. A duplicate application had been submitted by Bewley at the time of the Judicial Review, but that application was not considered by GBC’s planning committee within a 13-week determination period. So Bewley went to appeal.

This week’s statement from Gill Squibb of AGRA said: “Our committee are truly grateful to Ash Green residents and others living locally who have supported us, either morally or with financial contributions, to enable us to attend the appeal as a ‘Rule Six party’.”

 

 

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