Locals furious as Guildford Borough councillors support proposal to build over 2000 new homes on Green Belt land Three Farms Meadows in Ockham, the former site of Wisley airfield. Alice Dunn reports
Green Belt land in Surrey could be under threat after plans to build a ‘new town’ were unveiled.
The proposal for a development of over 2000 new homes and a school by a company based in the Cayman Islands on Green Belt land Three Farms Meadows in Ockham, the former site of Wisley airfield, were revealed in May.
It coincides with news from think tank The Adam Smith Institute, who suggest that the time has come to start thinking about building on Green Belt land to aid the housing crisis.
Sam Bowman wrote a blog post on The Adam Smith Institute website entitled Goodbye, Green Belt! in which he states: “We should allow construction on the Green Belt around London to increase the supply of developable land […] I usually think of people who want to preserve the Green Belt as being motivated by financial considerations. If you own your house, you don’t want its value to fall, so you have a strong incentive to oppose any measure that will increase supply. Perhaps a large proportion of people involved in campaigns to ‘protect the Green Belt’ own their own homes.”
If the Cayman Islands company, Wisley Property Investments should succeed, then it would set a very concerning precedent regarding development on Green Belt land in Surrey.
Wisley Action Group (WAG) against the development says: “It is clear to WAG that both the leader of the Guildford Borough council, Stephen Mansbridge, and the councillor responsible for overseeing the local plan, Monika Juneja, hope to build on Guildford’s Green Belt – destroying vast swathes of countryside and the protection which Green Belt traditionally demands.
“Mansbridge has said: ‘Some parts of the Green Belt are not great and could be used for building’. Juneja has said ‘There are some areas of the green belt which are not very nice and maybe we could roll back the boundaries.’”
Crucially, however, there has been no formal planning application for the project, but the idea is proposed in the draft Local Plan discussion documents that have been issued by Guildford Borough Council. Plans have changed too: the idea for a new school appears to have been deleted from the proposal.
The Council has been challenged to produce evidence that sufficient land does indeed exist for the site. Wisley Action Group says: “The reality is that insufficient available land on which to establish a ‘sustainable’ new settlement [town] at Three Farm Meadows clearly disqualifies any such proposal from inclusion in the draft Local Plan.”
Yet despite the unequivocal written opinion of leading counsel Peter Village QC who says that the land in question does not meet the definition of ‘available’ – in that much of it is privately owned and is not controlled by Wisley Property Investments – Guildford Borough Council persists in including it for ‘discussion’.
Wisley Action Group state: “The Council is making a proposal in the Local Plan discussion documents to build a new town when they know very well that the site owners have insufficient land on which to do so. It’s wasting tax payers’ time and money.”
Three Farm Meadows is a Green Belt site of more than 60% agricultural land, alongside meadows which are natural habitat for badgers, bats and protected species. It is also a Site of Natural Conservation Interest and home to three species of RSPB ‘red list’ birds which are on the ‘at risk’ register.
Air quality would significantly change for the worse. WAG confirms: “Dangerous levels of air pollution already exist at the A3 near Junction 10 with the M25. These already exceed EU levels in the summer months and more cars at a new settlement would compound the problem.”
For more information as the case continues, visit the Wisley Action Group website