Campaigners given new hope in battle against Taylor Wimpey development | Local News | News

Campaigners given new hope in battle against Taylor Wimpey development | Local News | News

Campaigners fighting against proposals for a new Surrey town say the Government’s abandonment of top-down housing targets has given them an indisputable argument against developing 1,730 homes.

The Wisley Action Group (WAG) is leading the campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s controversial Wisley motion, which has raised more than 1,200 objections. The development would cover more than 150 acres of prime agricultural land and would have a devastating impact on the Thames Basin Heath, endangering rare birds and other protected species.

A previous planning application from a Cayman Islands-based developer was rejected by the Secretary of State on 14 grounds in 2018 after the planning inspector ruled that failure to provide adequate infrastructure was a serious error.

In 2019, the former Wisley Airfield site, which borders the historic village of Ockham, was stripped of greenbelt status in the Guildford Local Plan at an emergency council meeting just a week before the Conservatives lost power in local elections.

Controversially, the local plan put Guildford’s housing needs at 10,678 dwellings between 2015 and 2034, but allocated enough sites for 14,602 dwellings. The Bureau of Statistics and Regulation [OSR] noted that the population estimates for Guildford “appear to be inconsistent with, and possibly higher than, local evidence suggests”.

Earlier this month, Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove told MPs the government was abandoning top-down targets, saying there was no objective way to calculate how many new homes are needed in an area.

Now campaigners, which include local resident and television personality Ingrid Tarrant, believe Mr Gove’s intervention could prove crucial when Taylor Wimpey’s planning application is considered by the planning committee next March. They argue that 13 of the 14 reasons the original rejection was rejected remain valid, including:

  • The impact on local schools, medical facilities, water, sewerage and other infrastructure
  • The impact of thousands of extra cars on country roads causing congestion and affecting air quality by generating an additional 15,000 tons of CO emissions per year
  • The impact on an internationally sensitive heathland site is threatening protected species such as woodlark, nightjar and dartford warbler, as well as other native wildlife
  • The impact on Ockham, which dates back to the Domesday Book and has 29 listed buildings and one listed church

The WAG campaign is being closely monitored by the Community Planning Alliance, a national umbrella campaign working with more than 500 groups fighting against developments across the UK. Taylor Wimpey’s application was rejected by dozens of companies and organizations including: The Royal Horticultural Society, Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, Surrey County Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust and several local councils.

Tony Edwards, WAG spokesman, said: “Taylor Wimpey’s development would result in green fields being concreted over, up to 5,000 more cars on already paved roads and a new city in the middle of nowhere without proper facilities. Valid planning problems disqualify the country for large-scale development.

“We believe we have a winning hand in defending this former green belt country, particularly given the government’s abandonment of top-down housing targets. Our fight is of national importance because if we are defeated, it would set a precedent for developers to build on green spaces nationwide.”

Ingrid Tarrant, a WAG supporter, said: “A housing development this massive would destroy historic Ockham and the surrounding area. It’s pure environmental vandalism and a rape of the country. This part of rural Surrey has always been a farming community and home to generations of farmers dating back to the Domesday Book.

Once the land is developed it can never be used for agriculture again and we need native farmland more than ever with so much turmoil going on in the world. The development was rejected by the Secretary of State in 2018 and that should have been the end. However, the fight continues and I am confident that we will defeat this scheme again.”

Rosie Pearson, Chair of the Community Planning Alliance, said: “There are very good reasons why a planning application at Wisley Airfield was previously denied. Locations like this can never be sustainable as the very large majority of residents have to get there and from home by car. In this case much of the traffic is forced onto narrow country roads.

The development endangers the sensitive habitat of the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area. Guildford Borough Council has declared a climate emergency and development of isolated sites like the former Wisley Airfield should always be discouraged in favor of compact, transit-oriented and walkable developments that meet local needs close to local jobs.

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