RESIDENTS and kids brandishing banners were jubilant on Monday night when plans for the old factory site in Bisley were thrown out.
The vote to reject the proposals was passed at Surrey Heath Borough Council’s Planning Committee meeting by an overwhelming majority of 11 to two.
Last week’s News & Mail reported how, despite passionate objections and a petition from residents and the parish council, Planning Officer Aneta Mantio recommended granting Redrow Homes permission to go ahead with their proposed development.
While residents have never objected to new housing on the old Bisley FC Brown office furniture factory land, they were horrified in February to learn of plans to convert their safe, close-knit family-friendly cul-de-sac – Snowdrop Way – into the main access to the site serving more than 100 homes.
In May, a bunch of anxious children ditched their bikes, toys and games to hold their own ‘Snow Way’ protest. And on Monday they and their parents packed into the council offices to hear the verdict of the Planning Committee.
Snowdrop Way resident and mother of two, Jo Merrett said: “We could not have asked for a better outcome.”
However, it was touch and go throughout the two-hour ordeal. To start with a councillor proposed to accept the plans, which was seconded by another member of the committee. Then another committee member proposed to reject the application, which was also seconded.
Official speakers joining the objections included resident of neighbouring Chatton Row, Brian Smith, Norman Holden of the Bisley Residents’ Association, Beth James on behalf of Snowdrop Way Residents’ Association, and Bisley Councillor Wynne Price.
Representing Redrow Homes, Donald Hutchinson from Pegasus, spoke in favour of the application. Jo said: “The developers didn’t have a lot of answers. They were pushing to get the committee to agree and to defer – but it was too little, too late.”
The terms of such a deferral would be complex since, should the access route be amended, the plans would also need to change. Beth pointed out how it was fortunate that a lot of the committee had visited Snowdrop Way the previous Friday and Saturday, so they were aware of its unsuitability for access – a point that many of them made to Mr Hutchinson and Ms Mantio.
Bisley Councillor David Mansfield, sitting on the committee, made it clear that the proposals weren’t feasible, a point he reiterated a number of times. The vote to reject the proposals was passed by a majority based on the reason that traffic implications had not been thoroughly calculated.
Although, for technical reasons, the committee couldn’t reject the plans on Highways issues alone, loss of amenities for children to play out was a major factor. Redrow had earmarked Snowdrop Way to accommodate extra parking to the development, even though it is at its limit with current residents’ cars.
It was established that if the access were to go ahead there, double-yellow lines would have to be enforced anyway, in which case no residents would be able to park.
Discussion followed regarding the existing entrance to the site route via Queens Road, about which last week the planning officer stated: “Redrow Homes consider they have done all that can be considered reasonably possible in this account to explore alternative options.”
Bisley Parish Council begged to differ and said that residents had felt all along that the issue had never been properly addressed.
It could just be a temporary relief for residents, however, because Redrow have the right to appeal. But, given the reasons for rejection, this seems unlikely unless developers gain the rights from Surrey County Council to use the Queens Road entrance for residential access.