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Wisley Campaigners Grab National Press Headlines

Published on: 23 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 24 Jan, 2023

The Daily Express article.

By Martin Giles

The planning proposals for a controversial “new town”  on the site of the former Wisley airfield has featured in the national press.

A two-page spread titled: “2,000-home town will be ‘blot on the landscape’ “, in the news pages of Saturday’s Daily Express [January 21] turned the national media spotlight on the Wisley Action Group (WAG) and its ongoing campaign to defend the land from plans to build up to 2,000 houses on high-grade farmland by developers Taylor Wimpey.

A national press photographer focuses on (left) Ingrid Tarrant and (right) Helen Jefferies of WAG

The story, with pictures, also appeared in an online version and followed a similar editorial spread in the Mail Online a few weeks earlier. There had also been a previous news item in the Daily Express.

Tony Edwards

Tony Edwards, a spokesperson for WAG, said: “One of WAG’s key messages, at a national level, is that a similar proposal was roundly rejected on appeal just four years ago, when the Secretary of State spotlighted 14 reasons why it should not proceed.

“All but one of those reasons remain valid so that, if we lose this fight, it follows that green fields and farmland across the country are vulnerable too. A negative outcome would have truly national implications as nowhere would be safe from unwanted development.”

But a spokesperson for developer Taylor Wimpey responded: “Our proposals will turn around 70 acres of concrete runway and hardstanding into a vibrant community with a 20 per cent increase in biodiversity through the creation of new wildlife habitats, open spaces and parks as well as new schools, sports facilities and play areas, and a new bus service to surrounding railway stations.

“This will be one of our most environmentally friendly sites to-date and will bring significant positive benefits to residents and the wider community, including permanent job creation and a forecasted over £100 million contribution to the economy.

“We are delighted to support Guildford Borough Council by delivering much-needed housing as part of a new sustainable community.”

Images of Stratford View in the proposed Wisley Airfield development, from the plan’s Design and Access statement. Image: Taylor Wimpey

The national press coverage featured TV presenter and local resident Ingrid Tarrant (former wife of TV presenter Chris Tarrant) who, together with WAG members Helen Jefferies and Frances Porter, set out the case against Taylor Wimpey’s “new town” proposal to reporters.

The early results of the current PR campaign have also included a national TV interview on GB News along with various radio slots.

“The lack of infrastructure in the area was described as a “fatal flaw” in the scheme by the SoS following the previous appeal who referred to “substantial harm to both the character and appearance of a rural area,” said Edwards.

WAG’s PR campaign refers to the estimated 4,000 to 5,000 additional cars the development could bring to the area which campaigners say could gridlock narrow country lanes in the area, and damage vital air quality – already below legal requirements at nearby Junction 10 of the M25 with the A3.

See other Wisley articles here.

A previous planning application by a Cayman Islands-based developer was rejected by the Secretary of State in 2018 on 14 grounds after the planning inspector ruled that the failure to provide adequate infrastructure was a major failing.

In 2019, the former Wisley Airfield site, which adjoins the historic village of Ockham, was stripped of green belt status in Guildford’s Local Plan at an emergency council meeting just a week before the Conservatives lost power in the local elections.

Controversially, the Local Plan assessed Guildford’s housing need at 10,678 homes between 2015 and 2034 but allocated enough sites for 14,602 homes. The Office for Statistics and Regulations [OSR] found that population estimates for Guildford “seem to be inconsistent with and potentially higher than local evidence would suggest”.

Earlier this month, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove told MPs the government was abandoning top-down targets, saying there was no objective way to calculate how many new homes are needed.

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Responses to Wisley Campaigners Grab National Press Headlines

  1. RWL Davies Reply

    January 24, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    So, Wisley airfield as it stands isn’t “a blot on the landscape”?

    Not in my backyard anyone?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 24, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    Can Taylor Wimpey really believe residents are so monumentally stupid that they will believe they can achieve a “20 per cent increase in biodiversity”, by concreting over highly fertile farmland, while devastating local hedgerows, wildlife, protected species, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)?

  3. David Roberts Reply

    January 25, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    Mr Davies is wrong. Wisley airfield as it stands is not “a blot on the landscape”. There are no buildings and the old runway, which covers only a small part of the site, is invisible (unless you’re on it) except from the air. That’s not my idea of a “blot”.

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