2,100 homes will be ‘No harm to the green belt’. Really?

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From this week’s Surrey Advertiser: Wisley Airfield campaigners label green belt claims a ‘fantasy’

Campaigners have expressed their outrage after it was claimed that a development of more than 2,000 homes at the former Wisley Airfield site ‘will not cause harm to the green belt’.

The Wisley Action Group [WAG] is casting its collective eyes over the documentation submitted with a planning application which was lodged with Guildford Borough Council earlier this month.

The application, by the Cayman Islands-registered Wisley Property Investments, to build up to 2,100 properties, as well as a school, care home and shops, is now with the council’s planning officers for consideration.

The plans have been described by WAG as a ‘massive assault on Guildford’s green belt’ and the group argues that the very special circumstances which could justify development do not exist.

This week, campaigners discovered an appendix of the application’s planning statement, drawn up by Savills, entitled Green Belt: Very Special Circumstances Statement.

It reads: “The development by virtue of the mix of use proposed, and mitigation measures forwarded, will not cause harm to the Green Belt, or any other harm.”

A spokesman for WAG said: “We are ploughing through the mountains of documentation which constitute this proposed assault on the borough’s green belt and believe it would be inappropriate to make any formal comment until we have a more fully formulated picture of both of the application and its implications, together with the likely impact on the borough.

“The highly contradictory ‘no harm to the green belt’ statement is, unfortunately, just one of many claims which appear to be fundamentally at variance with reality.

“Its author demonstrates a vivid imagination and could undoubtedly look forward to a promising career in literary fiction – albeit in the fantasy genre.

“WAG is discussing the application with legal representatives and will be staging a public meeting during February.”

WPI argues that the former airfield, which is outside the area of outstanding natural beauty, contributes less to the purposes of the green belt than other areas identified as potential sites for major house building projects in the borough.

The company has claimed that more than 60% of feedback at public consultation events in East Horsley, Ripley and Guildford, was either positive or neutral.

Mike Murray, of Causeway Land, the project co-ordinator, said: “With around 70 acres of concrete runway and hardstanding, Wisley Airfield site contains the largest area of previously developed site in the Guildford green belt.

“The new community will combine the best of modern services and countryside living and will feature shops, a school, two nurseries, sports facilities, medical provision, employment areas and a care home.

“Wisley Airfield is the only strategic site in the borough that can realistically deliver significant housing within five years and is one of the best connected strategic sites in the borough.

“There are nine railway stations, including Woking and Effingham Junction, within five miles of the site and consent has already been granted for direct access from the A3 at the Ockham Interchange.”

A spokesman for the project added: “Development is possible in the green belt where justified against very special circumstances, as outlined in our proposal.”

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