Happy New Year to everyone – I hope you’ve all had a relaxing break.
Local Plan update
In March, we are due to see yet another iteration of Guildford’s Local Plan and my guess is that the proposed development site at Normandy may be removed (which is good news), but that the Blackwell Farm, along with the other strategic sites, will be put forward again.
In December, The Times reported that GBC would gain £68m (in new homes bonus payments) for building 8,200 homes on the green belt. This incentive is probably the Council’s driver – along with pressure from the University, which seeks to secure its financial future, and from the Local Enterprise Partnership.
The only obstacle to the Council’s development plans is the lack of infrastructure. The Council is now looking at a tunnelled A3 bypass, but such a scheme would be costly and take years to deliver (if ever). In the meantime, if mass development goes ahead, Guildford will probably become like central London, with average speeds on its main roads of 17mph.
University application (02/P/02505/S106/01)
Just before Christmas, the University submitted planning application 02/P/02505/S106/01, which seeks to remove the conditions imposed it when Manor Farm was taken out of green belt to facilitate the University’s expansion.
This application includes its request to overturn Clause 15 of the S106, which relates to Hazel Farm. Under this clause, the University was required to relocate students living on the Hazel Farm campus to Manor Park once 2,500 students residences had been built, and to release the 132 residential units at Hazel Farm onto the housing market for refurbishment or redevelopment.
The University is now arguing that this obligation is no longer deliverable because of the change in policy relating to the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area (SPA), which does not allow residential development within 400m of the SPA. This is only partially true; whilst the Hazel Farm site would not be suitable for general residential development (presumably because of the impact of family pets on protected bird species) Natural England would allow the site to be used as a care home or home for the elderly.
If Hazel Farm were put to this use, it would reduce some of the housing need in Guildford by providing much needed accommodation for the borough’s ageing population. Given Guildford’s ‘acute’ housing need, and particularly the need for affordable housing, I would expect GBC to ensure that this S106 clause was enforced.
I have contacted the Lib Dem ward councillors for Onslow and requested that they call in this application, but have not yet received a response. Therefore, it would be great if Save Hogs Back supporters could object to this application by emailing email@example.com, ideally citing your address, before January 17. If the Council refuses this application, it will mean 132 residences that don’t have to be built in the countryside or crammed into the town centre.
This application is of particular concern to residents at Beechcroft Drive as it also includes a clause to waive the requirement for a visitor centre at Manor Farm, but to retain a car park (for disabled visitors). The car park would be adjacent to the ancient woodland at Manor Copse. The homes at Beechcroft will overlook this car park. It seems unnecessary to tarmac over part of a field to provide disabled parking for a visitor centre that doesn’t exist and a belt of ancient woodland that is poorly maintained and inaccessible to wheelchair users.
Public Rights of Way
Blackwell Farm Developments (a subsidiary of the University of Surrey) has submitted a deposit relating to the public and permissive rights of way across its estate at Blackwell, Chalkpit, Wildfield and Manor farms. I suspect that this is to lock down the land ready for development.
The new deposits can be viewed here:
Tim Harrold (Chairman of CPRE Guildford) has alerted the Open Spaces Society to this deposit and will keep us posted.