The University of Surrey is proposing to build 3000 houses on Blackwell Farm. This is part of the Hog’s Back, and Guildford Greenbelt Group and Save Hog’s Back are campaigning vigorously to protest that this is not appropriate. The University of Surrey is not seeking this permission to provide student accommodation on site (in fact, it has not built approximately 2000 units of student accommodation for which it already has planning permission). This is commercial building, with the University acting as a developer.
The University of Surrey describes the area like this:
“Blackwell Farm lies immediately to the west of the university of Surrey’s Manor Park campus and covers over 300 ha of farmland framed by significant areas of woodland and tree belts. The site can broadly be divided into three main areas. To the south, the site occupies the northern slopes of part of the Hog’s Back.
The focus of the central area are the buildings around Blackwell Farm and to the north there are a number of woodland areas and tree belts which lead up to the railway line which bounds the north western edge of the site.”
This is land – on the slopes of the nationally important Hog’s Back – which the University of Surrey wants to develop for more than 3000 homes.
There is a lot of brownfield land in Guildford. The area adjacent to North Street, which runs parallel with the historic High Street, is currently being demolished and there are hectares of scrappy surface car parks and boarded up buildings. But most of the brownfield land in Guildford is being designated for offices, commercial activity and more shops and supermarkets. Some land is being earmarked for warehouses, despite the congestion within Guildford and along the A3 and A31. Much of this land is more suitable for housing. Some was previously designated as being suitable for housing. In addition to the North Street redevelopment land there is substantial land which is currently empty on existing industrial and commercial sites throughout the borough.
It is only the extremely high figures for the combined West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) that suggests the existing brownfield land within the borough of Guildford will not be sufficient to meet our deemed housing need. These figures are being used to justify very high development, and despite the commitment of the Leader of the Council, there will be no formal consultation on the housing numbers. The numbers are almost unchanged from the previous Guildford SHMA – which was criticised by the community, by experts and by the Office of National Statistics who wrote to Guildford Borough Council to tell them that the parameters were wrong.
If the housing numbers were more realistic, and if the extensive brownfield land in the town were to be used for housing rather than more offices and shops (when we already have high employment) then the housing need would be lower, and there would be no need for greenfield land to be a development target.
More information on the University plans is given here: