In letter to Guildford Dragon, Ben Paton claims Borough Council has unfairly delayed planning decisions about Wisley
Ben Paton stood for the Conservative Party in the Lovelace Ward in May 2015. Whilst unsuccessful he still actively campaigns against plans to develop Wisley Airfield. In another letter to the Guildford Dragon News he writes about the planning application to build a new town in Ockham (15/p/ 00012) which was submitted by Savills on behalf of Caymans company Wisley Property Investments (WPI) on 16 December 2014. Guildford Borough Council had stated that it expected to determine the application by 7 August 2015. It then put back the date to 24 December 2015.
Ben wrote: And now Guildford Borough council has stated in a press release: “The applicant has been reviewing the comments received, in particular the concerns expressed by statutory consultees, and is likely to submit further information to support their application.
“This is likely to require further consultation with stakeholders and interested parties. The council will therefore seek to agree a further extension of time – it is currently estimated that the application will be presented to the committee in spring 2016.”
I believe GBC is putting back and putting back the date of the hearing expressly to allow the applicant to alter its case to address arguments which it has been put on notice will be made against it. Savills is making new representations to GBC which are not being made public.
Applicants are not normally given an extra 15 months to alter their proposals. Why should WPI?
Planning is a quasi-judicial process. It should be transparent and fair.
Instead of extending the time for a decision the council should make its decision now and allow resulting procedures, whether by way of a fresh application or appeal to take their course. By continually deferring a decision it is implying the development is agreed already.
It is likely that over 2,000 people in Ripley, Cobham, Ockham and the Horsleys have made written objection to this application, including Elmbridge Borough Council, Ockham, Ripley, Cobham and East Horsley Parish Councils, Thames Water and Surrey Highways. Will they be given 15 months to find further reasons to object to whatever Savills come up with next?
To most readers it is plain that this proposal is contrary to multiple elements of the current 2003 Local Plan.
It is positioned in one of the least sustainable places in the borough – according to the Settlement Hierarchy.
It is right next to a special protection area. It has no direct road access to the A3, contrary to the applicant’s repeated and misleading claim that access for a waste composting facility which has never been built (and which it states in writing that it does not intend to build) constitutes access to the A3.
It is positioned next to one of the two worst congestion zones on the A3 between London and Portsmouth. It is a proposal to build three times more houses than exist in Ripley – without any infrastructure.
Despite this, GBC needs 15 months to make up its mind? Why? Is there an ulterior motive?
Is it because it wants to keep this site in the draft Local Plan?
Is it because it wants this application to be determined under some prospective future local plan rather than the existing one?
Or because it intends that the applicant should refer this matter to the Secretary of State?
Is this a case of ‘regulatory capture’?
If not, why is it so difficult to determine this application?
An application to put up onenew house next door was refused in short order. Is there one rule when you apply for one house and another when you apply for a whole new town?
How does GBC manage the inherent conflicts of interest involved in advising WPI about its planning application and in fulfilling its duty to apply the planning rules?
Is this the way to run a planning system?
Does it give everyone confidence in the system and its ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’?