Hope for green belt

VILLAGERS opposed to homes being built on their community’s green belt are relieved that an alternative site is being considered for development.

Woking councillors have agreed to consult the public on using land next to the amenity tip at Martyrs Lane instead of six other areas.

This could lead to what amounts to a new village being built on the Horsell-Ottershaw border but pressure will be taken off cherished open space elsewhere in the borough.

A full council meeting on Thursday last week agreed that the land, to the east of Martyrs Lane and alongside the A320 Guildford Road should be assessed for meeting housing needs between 2027 and 2040.

Pyrford Green Belt Petition
Pyrford Green Belt Petition

The public will now be asked for its views on the suitability of this land as an alternative to the six “safeguarded sites” set out in the borough’s draft Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD).

It was previously proposed that the six sites, in Byfleet, Mayford and Pyrford, be taken out of the green belt for housing, causing outrage in those communities.

Opposition has been particularly strong in Pyrford, where a petition of more than 700 signatures was raised against building on two fields, east of Upshot Lane and south of Aviary Road, and at the rear of 79-95 Lovelace Drive, Teggs Lane,

This entitled a representative of Pyrford Neighbourhood Forum and of the Pyrford Green Belt Action Group to have three minutes to put their case to last Thursday’s meeting.

Views expressed during the Martyrs Lane consultation will influence Woking Borough Council’s decision on the preferred sites to be safeguarded in the next version of the site allocations document. This will be formally published for consultation in early 2017.

The borough’s portfolio holder for planning services and chairman of the local development framework working group, Cllr Ashley Bowes, commented: “After thorough debate in the council chamber, I am pleased that council has agreed to consult members of the public on an alternative ‘safeguarded’ site for future development.

“By offering residents an alternative strategy, it leaves all reasonable options open to council to make the right decision for the borough’s future, whilst ensuring confidence in the process.

“This decision demonstrates that where concerns are raised by the public, which are justified on the evidence, the council will listen and proactively present an alternative to the public for their views.”

The proposal to take the land out of the green belt drew 32,712 separate responses from 1,692 individuals and organisations during a consultation in the summer. Many were objections to taking the six safeguarded sites out of the green belt.

These responses persuaded the cross-party local development framework working group, to recommend the Martyrs Lane land be considered as an alternative housing site.

A council spokesman said: “The public consultation on Martyrs Lane will commence as soon as possible. The outcome of the consultation will be discussed at a future council meeting before a final decision on the borough’s ‘safeguarded’ sites is made.

The other four sites that were suggested for removal from the green belt were south of High Road, Byfleet; South of Murray’s Lane, Byfleet; Land to the north east of Saunders Lane, between Saunders Lane and Hook Hill Lane, Mayford; and land to the north west of Saunders Lane, Mayford.

The council’s decision was given a cautious welcome by Geoff Geaves, chairman of Pyrford Neighbourhood Forum. He said the earmarked land in Pyrford was important for the preservation of the village’s heritage and rural character.

“It is on a walking route from Ripley to Woking which you can follow without realising you are in an urban area,” he said. “You can get as far as East Hill at Maybury before you reach a built-up area.”

People came from across the borough and beyond to enjoy walking and cycling in this area, enjoying rural views across to the North Downs which would be spoiled by development.

“We appreciate that people need somewhere to live, but building on the fields is totally inappropriate,” Mr Geaves added. “The big story is that the council is now going to consult on an alternative to sacrificing our valuable green belt land.”

He pointed out that the Pyrford fields were not allocated for housing in the draft Pyrford Neighbourhood Plan, which will influence future develop in the village. This is expected to go to a local referendum in December.

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