NEARLY 90 per cent of the 300 villagers who pitched up at a recent pre-planning consultation objected to proposals to build a housing estate on a ‘reserve’ greenfield site.
At West End Sports Pavilion earlier this month, Southern Heritage Developments exhibited their proposals for 95 houses surrounding three sides of Malthouse Farm, bounded on the north by Fairfield Lane and to the south by Holy Trinity School.
Bids by developers Taylor Wimpey for 85 homes on woodland north of Beldam Bridge Road, and by William Lacey for 84 on Hay Meadows to the south of Kings Road, are already at the planning application stage.
So when residents heard about the recent Malthouse Farm plans, they contacted the News & Mail expressing deep concern about how they felt ‘under siege’ by developers.
As testament to their strength of feeling, the West End Action Group conducted an exit poll at the consultation on February 3, asking those present whether they supported or opposed Southern Heritage’s proposals, and whether they live in the village.
Of the 300 who went, 282 were interviewed by the action group, 277 of whom are West End residents. The results were that 89 per cent objected. Only four per cent supported the plans, while the remaining seven didn’t know or couldn’t say.
West End Action Group Secretary, Guy Consterdine, who lives in Fairfield Lane, said the turnout was exceptional considering so many residents are supposed to be at work on a Tuesday afternoon.
He explained: “Since the exhibition hours were from 2.30pm to 6.30pm – with another hour subsequently tacked on at short notice – the majority of working people were unable to attend, but the number who did represents a remarkably high turnout.”
That week Surrey Heath Borough Council published their new Housing Land Supply report for 2015-2020.
According to the council’s Core Strategy, reserve land (countryside beyond the green belt) should not be put forward for development until after 2025, and then only if the council cannot meet their targets with more suitable sites.
The National Planning Policy Framework requires local authorities to assess a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. The council’s report shows it has an eight-and-a-half-year supply of deliverable sites earmarked to meet its 191-unit annual target.
Mr Consterdine added: “That’s without using any of the four ‘reserve’ sites in West End. It means the applications currently submitted by Taylor Wimpey, William Lacey and Redrow should be rejected as premature and contrary to the Core Strategy when they go for consideration by the borough Planning Committee on March 9.
“It also means the pre-application proposals for 95 houses in the fields at Malthouse Farm – as shown at the public consultation on February 3 – should be thrown out.”
West End Action Group’s Diane Doney, of Kings Road, told the News & Mail: “It is with great relief and joy that Surrey Heath’s long-awaited housing supply document shows clearly that not only is the council able to meet its targets, but also that it can actually exceed its new allocation for the next five years at least, without the need for any development on the ‘reserve’ sites around West End.
“As the developers knew full well when they decided to swoop on the greenfield and woodland sites at West End, the main reason for the low rates of new house building in recent years had been due to the lack of available Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space to permit development of any kind, not due to a lack of brownfield, sustainable sites.
“Now that SANGS is being bought and agreements for its ongoing management are being drawn up, brownfield sites (such as the Bisley Office Furniture factory land for 110 homes) are coming forward.
“As clearly demonstrated by the new, up-to-date Housing Supply document to supplement the Surrey Heath Local Plan, there remains no need to sacrifice green fields and woodland for these unsustainable housing estates.”