Councils co-operated on garden village bids

SURREY Heath and Runnymede councils supported each other’s applications to be included on the Government’s garden villages list, it has emerged.

While the communities near Fairoaks Airport and the former military land at Longcross were unaware of the bids for nearby huge housing developments, the two authorities were co-operating on their ‘expressions of interest’.

On 28 July last year, three days before the Government deadline for garden village bids, the councils’ chief executives exchanged similarly worded letters saying they will work with each other on the developments.

Both bids cover a small part of each of the neighbouring boroughs, so it would natural for the two councils to co-operate on the potential developments.

But they were doing this at a time when the communities that would be affected had not been consulted and had no idea that garden villages were being proposed on their doorsteps.

The former DERA, or Chobham Tank Factory land at Longcross has long been designated in Runnymede’s local plan for a new ‘village’ in the Green Belt. It is jointly owned by developers Crest Nicholson and the Aviva insurance conglomerate, which had an existing plan for 1,300 homes on the military test track land.

The Fairoaks garden village bid, however, came as a complete surprise to the Chobham community, including the parish council. It was made public only after Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove asked the parish in November for its views on a potential garden village at the airport.

This week, Mr Gove was ignoring further requests from the News & Mail for comments on why he got involved and for his views on the garden village bids.

While Runnymede has made its application freely available on its website, Surrey Heath is refusing to release its bid, saying it is an ‘exempt’ document.

Surrey Heath also declined to comment further on the failed Fairoaks bid, saying only that it will consider a planning application for housing on the airport land if one is made.

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