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Wanborough Residents Lobby GBC Over Tree Nursery Threat to Green Belt 

Published on: 14 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 16 Jun, 2020

Alarmed residents in Wanborough fear that planning permission will soon be granted for a development on nearby fields.

Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee decides on June 17 whether to approve a tree nursery in the protected Wanborough Fields landscape which lies within the Surrey Hills.

The Area of Great Landscape Value designated field, as it was in 2017, in which the development is proposed.

Residents and Wanborough Parish Council are concerned that GBC planning officers are recommending acceptance of the application. The officer’s report acknowledges inappropriate development is harmful to the green belt and construction of new buildings should be regarded as inappropriate except buildings for agriculture and forestry.

The report concludes: “The proposed development is defined as horticulture and as such falls within the definition of agriculture… No adverse impact on neighbouring amenity would occur… No objection has been raised by the County Highway Authority…”

But the objectors believe the level of development proposed, a plot of less than three acres, is entirely unsuitable in the Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV). They fear approval would create a precedent, making it impossible to refuse similar applications to erect buildings on Wanborough Fields plots.

The nursery owner, Cupids Green Ltd, has applied to build a large barn, two shade tunnels, an internal road, parking for four cars, storage tanks for 72,000 litres of water and a pump house. In addition, it proposes to create an area of drip lines involving stakes and rails to support trees.

The proposed nursery plot within the AGLV field, as it is now, for which planning permission is being sought.

Local people say the developed area would be visible from the Hog’s Back and from within the Wanborough Fields area. Semi-Industrial lighting, planned all round the site, would be seen from the Hog’s Back in the open field setting that is now a Dark Sky Area.

“The level of built development proposed is completely out of scale with this small site,” said Wanborough Parish Councillor Stephen Callender. “!Horticulture is not a traditional use in the highly prized and protected Wanborough Fields landscape. If approved, this application will open the floodgates to similar applications from other small plot owners, destroying for good the beautiful vista now seen from the Hog’s Back.”

In objecting to the nursery application, the planning officer for the Surrey Hills AONB stated: “Development of the application site in the way proposed, and were it to happen similarly on other adjacent land, would impact upon views into and out of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I consider, to an extent that would spoil its setting.”

The Planning meeting on June 17 will be the third at which the tree nursery is on the agenda. At the February meeting, a site visit was proposed by ward councillor Tony Rooth (R4GV) and agreed for April 21 but this was impossible under lockdown. The application went on the agenda for the committee’s virtual meeting in May but the meeting ran out of time, so it is now up for a decision at the June meeting.

Wanborough Fields comprise some 250 acres of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) within the Green Belt. Their open landscape provides an uninterrupted view sweeping down from the Hog’s Back.

The field where the tree nursery is proposed is additionally bordered by Sites of Nature Conservation at Wanborough Wood and Broadmead Row.

Agriculture is the only designated use for the whole area of Wanborough Fields, where sheep have grazed and crops have grown since ancient times.

For the past three years, residents have been battling to protect their special, unenclosed landscape after Wanborough Fields were sold and then divided into small plots for onward sale. A local campaign persuaded Guildford Borough Council to impose an Article 4 Direction on Wanborough Fields, removing permitted development rights and requiring plot owners to apply for planning permission.

To date, unauthorised activity, and failure to seek planning permission, have led to the serving of enforcement notices on occupied plots, and denial of retrospective applications for change of use and erection of fences.

As recently as May 20, tipper lorries and a large digger entered one of the two Wanborough Fields designated as AGLV to begin constructing an access track without first applying for planning permission. The council was able to serve a Temporary Stop Notice on May 29 and work has ceased for the moment.

Denying an appeal for change of use to equestrian, the Planning Inspectorate stated: “The development also harms the open field pattern of the area and as such is detrimental to the landscape value of the area, irrespective of whether horses are a traditional feature of the landscape in the locality.”

While enforcement and refusal of retrospective applications have controlled unauthorised activity to date, the tree nursery application is different because horticulture is a permitted agricultural use, a fact which has led planning officers to recommend accepting the application.

Residents see the June meeting as a last-ditch opportunity to persuade councillors that voting to refuse the application is crucial to maintaining this protected landscape. With as many as 25 small plots now purchased, it is likely that owners will seek to use their land in a variety of ways detrimental to the open vista provided by Wanborough Fields, including the building of more structures.

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Responses to Wanborough Residents Lobby GBC Over Tree Nursery Threat to Green Belt 

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    June 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    This should be opposed. At first I wondered if planting trees was such a bad idea but then realised that the planting of non-native trees would lead to disruption of the local woodland and animals that currently reside.

    There is no excuse to build a man-made object on AGLV Land regardless of its agricultural use. This is another application where council officers are interpreting rules to suit someone else’s needs.

    I applaud the Surrey Hills’ planning officer for objecting to the application on grounds of AGLV and AONB but do find it strange they didn’t object to the proposed 1,800 homes on Blackwell Farm, which is a stone’s throw to the east of Wanborough, on the same grounds.

  2. Jean Mills Reply

    June 15, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Already the Wanborough landscape is changing unacceptably.

    First, Marks Meadow, where a beautiful ancient meadow has become lost to a scruffy wood when what seems, in effect, to be a drive for a house was allowed to be constructed and the planning department refused to do anything about it.

    Also, the strip of land alongside Wanborough Hill has been allowed to become overgrown, presumably, someone thinks they will get permission to do something with that.

    As for the eyesore that is the converted old barn, now four properties, what was Guildford’s planning department thinking? It screams at you for miles around as being out of place and the parcels of land that have been sold off and are used for equestrian purposes are fast becoming the unacceptable face of the countryside.

    There is a gentleman who for years has cycled Wanborough Hill (and surrounding areas) keeping it litter-free, contributing to a corner of Surrey that is beautiful. In contrast, the actions of the Guildford planning department are allowing the area, after centuries, to be spoiled.

    Shame on you Guildford planners. Further development should be halted.

  3. Christopher Dalby Reply

    June 16, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    I wholeheartedly support development at this site.

    The area is in dire need of housing as the population continues to rise at high levels.

    Perhaps the people fighting against this should look at the bigger picture rather than continue to live in the past without a thought of the rights and opportunities of future generations, especially those living locally as it seems that they are happy to have a home there themselves but don’t believe others deserve such a right. That kind of hypocrisy is simply not good enough.

    This is a relatively small development in terms of area in a part of Surrey with a relatively low urban landscape.

    Nimbyism is not an excuse to fight against progression and the rights of others in times where housing is desperately needed.

    I live locally and want to live in an area of opportunity and progression and not the other way round.

  4. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    June 17, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    The Wanborough fields are protected from development for housing. There are over 4,000 additional houses on top of the calculated housing need in our GBC Local Plan so Christopher Dalby is not correct in his assertions.

    I hope he was not gullible enough to fall for the sales pitch when these fields were sold in small parcels. Why is he referring to housing in connection with an application for horticultural use?

    Ramsey Nagaty is a GGG borough councillor for Shalford

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