By Alexander Robertson firstname.lastname@example.org
very PLEASED: Anne Berry and Tony Mann, who opposed the plans, pictured last month in the field that the proposed campsite would have occupied
Embers Camping had applied for planning permission to install 35 to 40 pitches in a field on the National Trust’s land, complete with a toilet and shower block, a reception hut and a shop.
However, members sitting on Mole Valley District Council’s development control committee voted nine to five in favour of rejecting the proposals, much to the glee of several residents sitting in the public gallery.
Councillors argued the proposals would have an inappropriate effect on the site, which is in the green belt and an Area of Great Landscape Value, due to “the intensity of use”.
During the meeting on March 4, committee member John Northcott (Ind, Ashtead Common) said he was alarmed that up to 240 people could be using the site at any one time.
He said: “I think it is appropriate to have a campsite in this location but unless we can put a restriction on the number of people, maybe up to 100, I’m afraid I cannot support the application.”
There were also concerns that the design of the buildings failed to conserve or enhance the environment and the lack of car parking and passing bays on the access road to the site.
The site has a shed, a toilet block and a storage facility which would all be demolished as part of the proposals as they have become dilapidated over time.
The 1.8-hectare field was occasionally used several years ago for camping by Girl Guides, but the lack of facilities has limited its use.
Councillor Howard Jones (Con, Leatherhead North) said: “This is about taking the land out of agricultural use and making it a permanent commercial campsite with much heavier use.
“The fact that people could camp on it 28 days a year is neither here nor there.”
Planning officer Gary Rhoades-Brown called councillors’ reasons for objection “very weak” and said the decision to refuse permission could be subject to an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
However, Tony Mann, who lives near the site, expressed his delight over the vote, which included five abstentions.
“I’m happy with the result,” he said. “Nowhere in the National Trust’s mandate does it say it should rent out a beauty spot to a commercial venture. The worry was if this was permitted, it won’t be long until they start applying for infrastructure like a car park and a road to support it.”