Fringe Box



Wisley Walkers Protest Against Development Plans

Published on: 20 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 24 Feb, 2022

Cllr Catherine Young and Helen Jefferies of Wisley Action Group walking to protest against the planned development of the former Wisley Airfield.

By Martin Giles

The well-supported campaign hoping to prevent or limit development of the former Wisley Airfield continues despite its inclusion in Guildford’s Local Plan as a strategic development site.

The site has been purchased by developers Taylor Woodrow who have been consulting with local residents on their plans.

The protesting walkers set off, braving the wet weather to make their feelings known on development plans.

Last Sunday (February 13), organisers say about 100 protestors braved one of the wettest days of the winter to campaign against the possibility of over 2,000 houses being built on the site.

The event was part of the national day of protest walks organised to “Halt Harmful Housing” a sentiment which has been held by many residents near this area of open countryside for years if not decades.

Sir Paul Beresford, local Conservative MP, (holding up a sign) was one of those participating. Former county councillor Julie Iles is in the red jacket on the left.

MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, the leader of the Guildford Green Group, Cllr Ramsey Nagaty (Shalford) and his party colleague Catherine Young (Clandon & Horsley) braved the weather to show their support for VAWNT (Villages Against Wisley New Town). The county and borough councillor for the area, Colin Cross (R4GV), had a previous commitment but his wife and son took part to show their support.

Helen Jefferies, of another campaign organisation Wisley Action Group (WAG), said: “Taylor Wimpey in their haste to scrape away any trace of greenery gave no regard to the fact they were destroying habitats and thereby negatively impacting on the nationally protected local wildlife areas. A tractor spent hours scraping tarmac ignoring Sunday working hours and dangerous machinery with no regard to safety across the Public Right Of Ways.

Ockham Parish Council’s Imogen Jamieson said: “If two car parks were full in such awful weather this suggests that hundreds of local people would be there if it was a warm spring day.”

Frances Porter of the Ockham and Hatchford Residents Association added: “The interest we had for this walk was huge, the weather put some people off but we have had requests for the walk map so people can come and see the beauty of the area for themselves.

According to Chris Campbell of VAWNT: “The decimation of this Site of National Conservation Interest of around 300 acres lying alongside SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) of rare heathlands at a time of climate emergency would be a biodiversity disaster; the developers Taylor Wimpey have no planning permission and it should remain that way, for the sake of all our futures.”

Julie Iles, formerly the Conservative county councillor for the Horsleys made a political point: “This was a great turnout in awful weather but the R4GV councillors were conspicuous by their absence. They were elected on a promise to fight to amend the local plan. I see nothing to show they’ve started that fight.”

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Responses to Wisley Walkers Protest Against Development Plans

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 20, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    If HM government is serious about “levelling up”, the environment, and combatting climate change, it cannot allow this development to go ahead.

  2. Keith Francis Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 9:54 am

    Were those protesting walkers regular users of the footpaths across Wisley airfield in the past or did they come out for the occasion?

    • Adam Aaronson Reply

      February 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

      Why should that be an issue? I don’t walk round Stonehenge, but I would be against a planning application to build houses around it. Not much difference really. Is Mr Francis in favour of building on Stonehenge? If not, why not?

      • Keith Francis Reply

        February 25, 2022 at 3:34 am

        There is a massive difference as Stonehenge is of National importance and apart from one other commentator Wisley certainly brought out the “Nimbies!”

        Is Adam Aaronson one of those that have been delaying the Howard of Effingham school proposal where two of the protestors there, I know, received private education have no children?

  3. Jan Lofthouse Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 10:40 am

    Save all green spaces. Build on derelict land around Guildford and provide the required infrastructure.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Good on Sir Paul Beresford for supporting this protest. He has been stalwart in his opposition throughout the adoption of the disastrous Tory Local Plan, although a Tory himself.

    Hopefully, he will now lobby central government to allow councils to cancel Local Plans which are no longer compatible with national policies, such as those on the environment and “levelling up”.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    February 21, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Sir Paul follows in a line of Dorking MPs who have stood up for the Green Belt. Keith Wickenden opposed development at a Public Inquiry in 1981.

    This area was in the green belt before WW2 when London County Council put up part of the money that purchased Ockham & Wisley Commons to provide amenity land for the public.

  6. Martin Stringfellow Reply

    February 22, 2022 at 9:05 am

    In answer to the question above about regular use of the footpaths on the airfield: yes, we use them several times a month.

  7. Kate Hounsom Reply

    February 22, 2022 at 10:33 am

    I use the airfield for walking five times a week. It would be more but I’m nine months pregnant, so my partner is walking our dog the other days. It’s one of our favourite spots as there is lots of space and so much wildlife living amongst the farmland.

  8. Christopher Campbell Reply

    February 22, 2022 at 11:14 am

    One of the finest walks around this area of Surrey is from the Pond Car Park in Old Lane, heading south across the amphibian wetlands and into the lovely mature pine woods, through the open grass and scrub of Snakes Field (a reserve of lizard and snake habitat), then up onto the open skies of the former airfield and the surrounding farmland with views to the South Downs.

    Somehow I don’t think it would be the same to encounter a town of 2,000 houses.

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