An area of the Green Belt, Wisley Airfield, is under threat as property developers attempt to create a new town of 2068 homes.
There has been an ongoing battle between Wisley Property Investment (WPI) and conservationists Wisley Action Group (WIG) over the fate of Wisley Airfield/Three Farms Meadows.
The outcome of the upcoming proposal will dramatically shape the landscape and lives of residents in the surrounding area. Locals have only a month left to sign petitions and make objections if they are against the new settlement.
Things aren’t made easier for locals looking to inform themselves, as each side’s report contradicts the other, making it tough to figure out what’s actually going on and the affect it will all have.
If it goes ahead then along with new housing, the town will have a village centre with sports facilities, elderly care facilities, a health centre and shops, which WPI claim will help offset the need for its residents to travel out of town.
If residents need to travel out of town then WPI claims: “The Airfield is very well connected. It’s got a direct, consented connection to the A3 and is within five miles of nine mainline railway stations. Effingham Junction is just a six minute cycle away.”
However a quick check of the fastest cycling route between Wisley Airfield and Effingham Junction on Google Maps suggests that the 2.5 mile cycle would take 15 minutes, not six.
WPI says that: “Our proposals make the best use of the 70 acres of concrete runways and hardstanding at the former Wisley Airfield to provide 2,068 much needed new homes, up to 800 of which will be affordable.
“The site has been allocated in the Council’s emerging Local Plan as a Potential Major Development Area. Their study of the Green Belt identifies Wisley Airfield as a site suitable for development.”
Wisley Airfield was created and used as part of the wartime effort, but the buildings were stripped away and the runway long in disuse, all that remains is a concrete strip along the land.
Guildford needs more homes, especially ones for first time buyers, with WPI claiming that:
“Evidence shows that homes in Guildford are now 14 times annual incomes, making Guildford one of the least affordable places to live in the UK.
“Only 781 affordable homes have been delivered in Guildford over the last decade. Just 17 in 2013/14.”
The proposal put forward by WPI makes a fairly convincing case for the benefits of such a large-scale development and where it is situated. However, Wisley Action Group have many concerns over the settlement, the strain it will put on traffic and infrastructure, and the dangerous precedent it may set for property development on the Green Belt.
The action group claims that the developers have made several misleading statements about the land that they will build on and claims that aren’t true. Helen Jefferies of the Wisley Action Group says:
‘Three Farms Meadows’ has been described by Wisley Property Investments (WPI) as lowest Grade 4 land when, in reality, the majority is Grade 3 prime agricultural land – as advertised by Knight Frank in 2014. And it has not “been removed from the Green Belt within the emerging GBC Local Plan” as WPI has repeatedly claimed.
“WPI has specifically stated that the land has been taken out of the Green Belt as part of the Guildford Greenbelt Review and this is simply not so”
WAG maintains that in addition to this are: “claims to already have direct access onto the A3 at Ockham Interchange; an existing daily bus service; areas of land which it does not own and which are unavailable to them; and a statement that it is the only assembled site available for development now as part of the 5 year housing supply.”
So what has Guildford Borough Council said on the matter? A report on the potential creation of a new settlement at Wisley Airfield from April 2014 concluded:
“Does Wisley Airfield offer an appropriate location for the introduction of a new settlement? Yes.
“Development of the site would not conflict with the majority of Green Belt purposes, indicating it does not lie in the more sensitive parts of the Green Belt in this respect. When combined with the previously developed nature of much of the site, and partly enclosed nature of it, this is considered to justify the loss in openness that will inevitably occur with this site”
In the end locals should do what they feel is right for the borough. If the idea of a new settlement sounds good, then all you must do is to wait and see if it passes. If you are staunchly against it then you have till the end of February to make your objections.
If you want more information from WPI on their plans is available at http://wisleyairfield.com/