Campaigners hail ‘victory for local democracy’ as Wisley Airfield homes appeal is rejected

June 13, 2018
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Plans to build a “new town” of 2,000 homes on the former Wisley Airfield have been rejected by the secretary of state.

Developer Wisley Property Investments Ltd (WPIL) had appealed to the Planning Inspectorate after Guildford Borough Council rejected its initial application in April 2016.

But on Wednesday (June 13), more than two years later, secretary of state James Brokenshire upheld the council’s decision.

A report compiled by planning inspector Clive Hughes, who held public hearings on the proposals in late 2017, cited harm to the green belt and a lack of suitable infrastructure as the key reasons for refusing the appeal.

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Battle over Wisley Airfield

In his report, Mr Hughes said the proposals would be harmful to the green belt and to the character and appearance of the area.

He said: “Such a scheme, in a rural setting, is almost bound to result in harm to the character of the area in which it is located.

“By being located in the midst of a cluster of hamlets the harm caused by the new settlement would be particularly noticeable and severe.”

He added that both local roads and the A3 between Ockham and the M25 would not be able to cope with traffic from the new town, saying: “The failure to provide adequate infrastructure is a major, and fatal, failing of the scheme.”

Campaigners Wisley Action Group (WAG) celebrated the decision, calling it “a victory for local democracy”.

Helen Jeffries, WAG committee member, said: “We are delighted to have received such a power refusal, on numerous grounds, from the secretary of state – endorsing so many of the planning arguments presented by WAG and other campaigners during this protracted battle with Cayman Island investors.”

Councillor Susan Parker, of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, echoed this point, saying: “This is a triumph for local people against offshore developers seeking to destroy our countryside.”

Members of the Wisley Action Group at the airfield following the council’s initial refusal of planning permission in 2016
(Image: Steve Porter/Surrey Advertiser)

The decision raises questions for Guildford’s draft Local Plan , which is under examination.

The plan allocates a site at Wisley Airfield for 2,000 homes and additional community buildings, similar to that proposed by WPIL but on a slightly larger site.

The allocation is due to be discussed at a public hearing on July 5 but both Ms Jeffries and Cllr Parker have called for the site to be removed from the plan in light of the secretary of state’s decision.

Cllr Parker said: “The grounds for refusal will apply to almost all green belt sites allocated for development in Guildford’s Local Plan.”

Protestors outside the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on the first day of public hearings during the appeal in September 2017
(Image: Grahame Larter)

But both WPIL and council leader Paul Spooner emphasised that this decision related only to the specific plans rejected by the council in 2016 and did not impact the allocation of the site in the Local Plan.

WPIL project director Mike Murray said: “We are obviously disappointed by the result of the public inquiry. It’s a complicated decision and we will need to consider it in some detail before announcing our next steps.

“However, it is worth noting that the decision on this application does not prejudice the allocation of the site in the draft Local Plan which is currently undergoing examination in public.”

Cllr Spooner said: “We are very pleased that the appeal about land at Wisley Airfield has been dismissed by the secretary of state. This supports the council’s view that the application that was submitted and subsequently refused by the council’s planning committee was unacceptable.

“This decision relates solely to the appeal proposal and the council’s decision to refuse that specific planning application.

“The site remains part of a proposed allocation in our emerging Local Plan, which is currently subject to examination. Many of the issues raised in the decision letter are likely to be discussed at the public hearing sessions currently underway.

“The council remains of the view that including a new settlement at the former Wisley Airfield forms part of the best strategy for delivering the housing needed in our borough.”

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/campaigners-hail-victory-local-democracy-14779707


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