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Wisley Action Group Preparing Costly Legal Action To Support Planning Refusal

Published on: 3 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 4 Apr, 2017

Aerial photograph of the site marked in red of the proposed development on the former Wisley Airfield

Wisley Action Group (WAG) is preparing costly legal action in support of Guildford Borough Council when the decision to refuse a planning application for the former Wisley Airfield is defended at an appeal hearing in September .

To gather further support for its campaign the group is to hold an open meeting in East Horsley on Wednesday, April 12.

Tony Edwards, Wisley Action Group spokesman

WAG spokesman Tony Edwards said: “Our message to Guildford residents is, quite simple, that the proposals for the former Wisley airfield – Three Farms Meadows – will directly impact on your life.

“If this scheme is ever approved there would be 15 to 20 years of building with associated HGVs on narrow lanes, pile driving, noise nuisance etc. Once the 2,000 houses were occupied there would be an additional 5,000 people and cars using local roads in and around Ockham, Cobham, Ripley, the Horsleys, Wisley and Send.

Richard Harwood QC

“There would be even fewer available seats on trains, spaces in car parks, appointments at doctors and dentists etc. WAG is briefing lawyers, a leading planning barrister, Richard Harwood OBE, QC, planning experts, ecology and other specialists – anticipating costs in the order of £125,000.”

Barrister Harwood maintains that this is: “…the wrong project in the wrong place”. He has cited 14 planning reasons why it should be refused, reasons accepted by GBC when it unanimously refused the planning application in April last year (2016).

Cllr Paul Spooner

GBC’s own planning officer said that the scheme proposed by Wisley Property Investments Limited (WPIL) represented: “…inappropriate development in the green belt” and that it would have a “clear and substantial impact on its openness.”  He also said it failed to provide an “appropriate provision of affordable housing”.

But council leader Paul Spooner told the Surrey Advertiser in May (2016): “I am convinced, subject to a whole lot of things coming together, we should be able to deliver a sustainable community at that site to assist in terms of the objectively assessed need.”

Cllr Colin Cross

The ward councillor for Wisley, Colin Cross, complained that by refusing the application but keeping Wisley Airfield as a strategic site for housing within the draft Local Plan the council was being two faced.

He said at the time: “Surely the open and honest approach should be for the council to immediately recognise the clear decision made by its own planners and Planning Committee and stop this ridiculous urban ghetto concept threatening our green belt.”

Wisley Action Group was formed in 1995 and has 622 members but many more supporters. Tony Edwards said: “Our support comes from all parts of the borough but mainly Ockham, Wisley, Ripley, the Horsleys, Clandon, Send but also Cobham, which is outside the borough.”

Asked: “Even if the appeal is lost won’t there simply be further applications which eventually the council will find irresistible to meet the housing target?” Edwards replied: “We don’t know if there will be further planning applications by WPIL or others into the future, but WAG has been defending this green belt, farmland location for over 20 years and will continue to do so.”

Mike Murray, a Conservative councillor, and the portfolio holder for regeneration, economic development, and property, in the Vale of White Horse, in Oxfordshire, is managing the scheme for WPIL, a company registered in the Cayman Islands. Despite rumours of involvement by well known figures, he has refused to divulge the investors’ identities.

Last year he told the Surrey Advertiser: “I’m not going to talk about who the investors are. It’s not David Cameron. I can guarantee the only person involved in the business, who is a politician is me.”

The planning appeal hearing is due to commence on September 19 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. It is thought likely that it will last for up to 20 days.

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test 5 Responses to Wisley Action Group Preparing Costly Legal Action To Support Planning Refusal

  1. Mike Murray Reply

    April 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Surrey has an acute housing shortage with more than 60,000 new homes needed over the next 10 years. However, over the last five years an average of just 2,658 homes have been completed each year.

    Guildford Borough is in the same position. The borough’s own reports say it needs more than 650 new homes a year but from 2006 to 2016 an average of just 263 homes a year have been built.

    Homes have to go somewhere and Wisley Airfield is an obvious choice. The airfield has been abandoned for more than three decades and features a runway more than a mile long, which together with old hard standing areas equates to an expanse of crumbling concrete covering more than 70 acres.

    The proposed new community at the airfield could deliver up to 2,000 new homes, including up to 800 subsidised homes, schools, shops, a café, commercial spaces and a huge new parkland with direct, consented access from the A3.

    It is also increasingly seen as a positive option by local residents with 500 signing up in support since October alone.

    The new community could provide around 10% of all the affordable housing needed in Guildford (2013-33), helping local people to remain in the area. If we don’t build homes at places like Wisley Airfield, where can we build them?”

    Mike Murray represents Wisley Property Investments

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    This area is not an airfield. It is farmland that was taken by the government for a wartime airstrip. The government then reneged on the promise to return it to farmland after the war. Surrounding this derelict airstrip and redundant hard-standing is a very large area of productive farmland.

    We are all aware of the need for more housing around Guildford but since the local residents are against this proposition, as were the borough councillors, who unanimously refused the last application, why is Mr Spooner so in favour? What interest has he in the success of this venture?

    It is the wrong development in the wrong place. The infrastructure is incapable of supporting this size of new town. Also, the proposal to close certain local roads would cause huge disruption to people living nearby.

    GBC should still be looking to fulfil its obligations by building on brownfield sites, instead of setting up useless, “Pop-up Villages”, and reserving the brownfield land for yet more retail outlets, in spite of the many empty shops in the area, or industry, which Guildford does not need.

    If GBC had the courage to refuse the university any further permissions for development, other than the erection of student accommodation, many houses now in student occupation could be released for local workers.

    Three Farms Meadows at Wisley should be left alone.

  3. Tony Edwards Reply

    April 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    With an apparent disregard for the available facts, Mr Murray claims that the former Wisley airfield, Three Farms Meadows, has been “abandoned” for decades. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over 300 acres of high grade farm land, set in the green belt, have been producing bumper crops for centuries and continue to do so. Perhaps he should have a chat with his tenant farmer(s)?

    And at stated prices matching the average cost of a house today, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could possibly consider them to be “affordable”.

    As for local residents “signing up” in support of this scheme, I think someone is mistaking an on-line, single question tick box for an in-depth survey of local opinion. It most certainly isn’t.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 4, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Mr. Murray’s promise of a school on this site, should the application ever be approved, is misleading.

    With the current spotlight on air quality in the borough, he has less than a snowball’s chance in hell of building a school on one of the most critical air quality hotspots in the country, at the confluence of the A3 and M25.

    It is simply proscribed under EU law and will continue to be, when the UK adopts those laws, post-Brexit.

    As for the council leader’s continuing, and wholly misguided, support for this scheme, he should now wake up and smell the coffee.

  5. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 7, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Even if a school is built, the developers have only promised to build one when 500 houses have already been constructed. So the jam-packed local schools will have to find places for about 800 more children. How?

    They are also not going to build a surgery until these 500 houses are erected. So the local, over-subscribed surgeries will have to find capacity for over 1500 more people. How?

    And if they decide to stop for 10 years, or so, at 499 houses, no new facilities will be built at all.

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