GGG objection letter to former Wisley airfield

March 24, 2015

Planning Department

Guildford Borough Council

Millmead House

Millmead

Guildford

Surrey GU2 4BB

 

Dear Planning Officer

Planning application REFERENCE 15/P/00012

Location: Former Wisley Airfield

GGG objects to this application reference 15/P/00012 re the former Wisley Airfield. This is a massive encroachment into the Green Belt.

This is land in the Green Belt outside the settlement boundary. Under NPPF80 Green Belt should protect countryside from encroachment, under NPPF79 the fundamental aim of Green Belt is to prevent sprawl by keeping land permanently open; essential characteristics of Green Belt are openness and permanence. This building/development would fail all these tests. It is inappropriate development in the Green Belt. No exceptional circumstances have been demonstrated in order to waive the status of Green Belt and so by default this application must be rejected.

Under NPPF87 inappropriate development is by definition harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances which have not been demonstrated in this case.

Under NPPF 89 a local planning authority should regard constuction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt – this does not meet any of the permitted exceptions.

The land in the area meets all the five purposes of Green Belt as set out in NPPF 80.  To build on this land would be to encroach onto countryside included within Green Belt.

Guildford Borough Council has announced that “we have decided to adopt a policy approach which will exclude all development in the green belt, unless it can be demonstrated that the list of constraints in the revised planning practice guidance (including green belt, AONB, flood risk, green space and heritage) can be overcome”. (GBC press announcement published 12 January 2015). We hope that Guildford will implement this policy, exclude this development from the Green Belt and so reject this proposal.

As noted by NPPF 83, once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. The site is not listed for development under the existing 2003 Local Plan and remains in the Green Belt, so its Green Belt status is clearly determined.

Under NPPF 88 “When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. “Very special circumstances” will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.”  No very special or exceptional circumstances exist or have been demonstrated. It has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Hunston v St Albans, and by the Secretary of State, that housing need (even if demonstrated) does not pf itself constitute a very special circumstance. No housing need has yet been determined for the borough.

This site will be visible from the AONB and so will affect views into and of the Surrey Hills AONB, in contravention of NPPF. The resulting impact on light pollution, traffic and infrastructure has been gravely underestimated and proposed mitigation measures are totally inadequate.

The impact of 2,100 houses on the environmentally sensitive TBHSPA cannot be mitigated.  Damage will occur to the habitats of the protected and endangered rare species in contravention of the EU Birds Directives and Habitats Regulations. The siting of the proposed Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space adjacent to the SPA will only increase visitor numbers causing further damage to the protected area. Para 119 of the NPPF “presumption in favour of sustainable development” does not apply where development requires assessment under the Birds or Habitat Directives and this fact has been totally ignored by the applicant.

This proposal will substantially increase traffic congestion in an area already subject to serious congestion. It will also seriously increase the flood risk, which should lead to a presumption of rejection.   The infrastructure cannot cope with the proposed development.

The prospect of causing serious pollution should be considered as part of the environmental assessment of this project, including its impact on human health.

The cumulative impact of development in the borough and in the neighbouring boroughs of Woking, Waverley and Elmbridge has not been taken into account. The additional 5,000 residents is the equivalent of doubling the population of East and West Horsley combined. The proposed housing density is completely out of keeping with the surrounding rural area – five storey buildings are not appropriate in a rural environment. The development will impact the listed buildings adjacent to it such as Yarne, Bridge End House and Upton Farm. There is not enough land to provide a sustainable community based on GBC’s own parameters.

Infrastructure for this project is inadequate. There is no provision for secondary school places – the Howard of Effingham is full and the headteacher has noted that even if the Howard is expanded, there will be no places for children of this development. Medical services will not be provided on site and the concept that sick residents should cycle along narrow, busy roads to a doctor’s surgery is ludicrous.

Any site that is dependent on the increased use of private motor cars cannot be considered sustainable. The proposed public transport provision is unrealistic given the nature of the roads in question and the level of congestion in the neighbourhood

The thought that residents will walk or cycle to a rail station on narrow, winding, unlit roads without pavements or cycle lanes is frankly ridiculous, as is the idea that nursery school children should be transported by bike. Parking at the nearest two stations is at capacity. Additional traffic will have a negative impact and cause irreparable damage to historic houses and other buildings in Ockham, Ripley, Downside and further afield.   The closure of a number of local roads coupled with a massive increase in traffic will impact a large number of road users from Cranleigh to Cobham and everywhere in between. This site is not deliverable within 5 years due to problems with sewerage and water capacity as outlined by Thames Water. There is insufficient information on the impact on the water table and flooding in the area.

Not only is infrastructure inadequate, but it will have an adverse impact on existing infrastructure which is already stretched. The proposal includes the site safeguarded for waste under the Surrey Waste Plan which Surrey County Council refused to give up in their response to the Draft Local Plan in September. Thames Water have written to express concerns about the capacity of the existing systems to deal with drainage both from surface water and sewage. . The OCK DVOR air traffic control beacon situated onsite limits development and is still operational.

The air quality surrounding the site gives grave cause for concern as levels of NO2 already exceed the EU limit.

There are a number of factual errors in the documentation – for example Natural England has not agreed SANG provision. There are a number of misrepresentations in the paperwork e.g. nine stations within 5 miles – this is however “as the crow” flies – only Horsley and Effingham Junction are within 5 miles by usable road from the middle of the development.

As a result this should not be given planning permission. GGG considers that no special circumstances apply which should lead to permission being given.

Yours sincerely

Susan Parker

Chair

Guildford Greenbelt Group

 

 

 

 

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Guildford Greenbelt Group asked to comment on Wisley airfield

Guildford Greenbelt Group and a group of local residents have been interviewed on ITV’s “Tonight” programme, aired at 7.30pm tonight ( 5/3/15).  We’ve been asked to comment on the proposed development at Wisley airfield.  That interview will be apparently set against the Adam Smith Institute which has a habit of advocating development on green belt.

Wisley Airfield proposals – WAG objections

Wisley Action Group have published a list of possible objections to the Wisley Airfield development.

If you wish to object to this, do feel free to use this list as a prompt for any objections.

WAG’s note is here:

Please OBJECT now – DEADLINE 31st March 2015
The proposed development on Three Farms Meadows, the former Wisley airfield is for 2,100 houses, a primary school, public green space and a local community centre.
If approved by Guildford Borough Council the development would effectively double the population of East and West Horsley to say nothing of the additional 4,000 or more cars on our overstretched local roads.
To clarify, unless you have written since January 2015 you must write again now. Any previous objections (e.g. to the consultations run by GBC) will not be considered as part of this process.
You can cut and paste from the list below but if possible please alter the list or make additional comments. You must say “I object”. Please ask your neighbours to write too. We need hundreds more letters.

YOU NEED TO EMAIL planningenquiries@guildford.gov.uk , please copy wisleyactiongroup@gmail.com
OR YOU CAN WRITE TO
Guildford Borough Council, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4BB

I write to OBJECT to planning application 15/P/00012 for the following reasons:
Green Belt:
– This is a massive encroachment of the Metropolitan Green Belt
– the proposal is inappropriate development in the Green Belt as defined by the NPPF paras 88 and 89
– the site is clearly visible from the Surrey Hill AONB and it will therefore have a negative impact on views to and from the AONB
– development of this site will result in harm to rural landscape character of the area and the openness of the green belt
– The protection of the green belt is this generation’s responsibility.
Thames Basin Heath SPA/SSSI/SNCI
– The impact of 2,100 houses on the environmentally sensitive TBHSPA cannot be mitigated. Damage will occur to the habitats of the protected and endangered rare species in contravention of the EU Birds Directives and Habitats Regulations
– The siting of the proposed Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space adjacent to the SPA will only increase visitor numbers causing further damage to the protected area
– Para 119 of the NPPF “presumption in favour of sustainable development” does not apply where development requires assessment under the Birds or Habitat Directives and this fact has been totally ignored by the applicant
Impact on the local area
– The additional 5,000 residents is the equivalent of doubling the population of East and West Horsley combined
– The proposed housing density is completely out of keeping with the surrounding rural area – five storey buildings are not appropriate in a rural environment
– The resulting impact on light pollution, traffic and infrastructure has been gravely underestimated and proposed mitigation measures are totally inadequate
– The cumulative impact of development in the borough and in the neighbouring boroughs of Woking, Waverley and Elmbridge has not been taken into account
– There is no provision for secondary school places – the Howard of Effingham is full and the headteacher has noted that even if the Howard is expanded, there will be no places for children of this development
– The air quality surrounding the site gives grave cause for concern as levels of NO2 already exceed the EU limit
– There is insufficient information on the impact on the water table and flooding in the area
– Additional traffic will have a negative impact and cause irreparable damage to historic houses and other buildings in Ockham, Ripley, Downside and further afield.
– The development will impact the listed buildings adjacent to it such as Yarne, Bridge End House and Upton Farm
– The closure of a number of local roads coupled with a massive increase in traffic will impact a large number of road users from Cranleigh to Cobham and everywhere in between
Sustainability
– Any site that is dependent on the use of private motor car cannot be considered sustainable
– The proposed public transport provision is unrealistic given the nature of the roads in question and the level of congestion in the neighbourhood
– The thought that residents will walk or cycle to a rail station on narrow, winding, unlit roads without pavements or cycle lanes is frankly ridiculous
– Parking at the nearest two stations is at capacity

Inaccuracy of the documentation
– There are a number of factual errors in the documentation – for example Natural England has not agreed SANG provision
– There are a number of misrepresentations in the paperwork e.g. nine stations within 5 miles – this is however “as the crow” flies – only Horsley and Effingham Junction are within 5 miles by usable road from the middle of the development
Other
– The housing need in the borough is yet to be determined
– This site is not deliverable within 5 years due to problems with sewerage and water capacity as outlined by Thames Water and the OCK DVOR air traffic control beacon situated onsite which limits development and is still operating
– No very special or exceptional circumstances exist
– Alternative sites exist
– The proposal includes the site safeguarded for waste under the Surrey Waste Plan which Surrey County Council refused to give up in their response to the Draft Local Plan in September
– The site is not listed for development under the existing 2003 Local Plan
– There is not enough land to provide a sustainable community based on GBC’s own parameters
– Surrey Police have concerns on their ability to manage the proposed population density

What is “pre-determination” in relation to planning?

Some other candidates for some other parties are suggesting that it isn’t worth voting for GGG because of “predetermination”.

They have suggested the fact that we have manifesto commitments, or that we have campaigned in relation to various matters, might mean that GGG candidates would not be able to vote on planning issues if elected.

Frankly, this isn’t true.  Is this dirty tricks? It might seem so.

As a result, it seems worth exploring what the law actually says here and what political candidates are allowed to say, and the views that they are allowed to hold, in relation to planning matters.

There are some useful extracts which is relevant in this context:

http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s84153/Appendix%201%20-%20Draft%20briefing%20note%20on%20bias%20and%20predetermination.pdf

This is from another local authority and gives guidance to actual councillors.  Once a councillor is elected, it is important to be sure that the councillor can demonstrate that they have an open mind on a particular planning proposal, and will weigh that issue in the light of the evidence shown to them, especially the evidence that will be disclosed and discussed at the meeting where decisions are taken.

In particular, note the following extract here:

“Section 25 Localism Act 2011

Section 25(2) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that a decision maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making a decision just because –

  1. (a)  the decision maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision maker took, or would or might take in relation to a matter, and
  2. (b)  the matter was relevant to the decision.

The section makes it clear that if a councillor has given a view on an issue, this, considered in isolation, does not show that the councillor has a closed mind on that issue. So, the mere fact that a councillor has campaigned on an issue or made public statements about their approach to an item of council business does not prevent that councillor from being able to participate in discussion of that issue and to vote on it.”

It also notes:

“The leading case on local authority bias and predetermination ((R(Lewis)v Persimmon Homes Teeside Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 746)  acknowledges the difference between judges sitting judicially and councillors making decisions in a democratic environment.”

It’s also worth noting the specific advice given by Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, in  a letter discussing pre-determination. This noted that the previous administration had fettered freedom of speech in local government but that has now changed.  The letter may be read in full here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/200496/Letter-Predetermination-March2013.pdf

This reiterates the substance of the advice in relation to Section 25, noting

a councillor is not to be regarded as being unable to act fairly or without bias if they participate in a decision on a matter simply because they have previously expressed a view or campaigned on it. The effect is that councillors may campaign and represent their constituents – and then speak and vote on those issues – without fear of breaking the rules on pre-determination

“However, before the meeting, councillors may legitimately be publicly pre-disposed to take a particular stance. This can include, for example, previously stated political views or manifesto commitments.

This is detailed advice from a QC on this matter:

http://www.11kbw.com/uploads/files/LocalismActSection25PredJS.pdf

“How does section 25 compare with the approach that the courts have taken without Parliamentary assistance? In fact, the comparison is a pretty close one. The general trend of court decisions in this area has been to recognise that local councillors really are politicians, and that they are required and expected to hold political opinions, particularly on matters of local controversy. The courts have also recognised the potential for rough and tumble in local politics, and to try where possible to distinguish this from genuine predetemination…

For example, the judgment of Collins J in R v (Island Farm Development Limited ) v Bridgend CBC ([2006] EWHC 2189 (Admin), [2007] BLGR 60). This concerned a refusal by a local authority to sell land to the claimant, who wished to develop it. There was strong local opposition to the claimant’s proposal. There had been a local election in which some members who were subsequently elected, and who decided not to sell the land to the claimant, had made the land sale a manifesto issue. Other  members had campaigned against it. The Judge was clear that members are entitled to take into account policies they believe in especially if they were part of a manifesto.

Here is another legal opinion:

http://www.39essex.com/docs/articles/biaspaperapril2010.pdf

which quotes a judge’s comments:

elected members who would be entitled, and indeed expected, to have and to have expressed views on planning issues. When taking a decision councillors must have regard to material considerations, and only to material considerations, and to give fair consideration to points raised… They are not, however, required to cast aside views on planning policy they will have formed when seeking election or when acting as councillors. The test is a very different one from that to be applied to those in a judicial or quasi-judicial position.”

 

Here are other blogs discussing the issue:

http://www.localism-agenda.com/2012/01/abolishing-predetermination-what-it-really-means/