How to CHEAT in Guildford’s sustainability examination

The Settlement Hierarchy, Three Farms Meadow (Former Wisley Airfield), Ockham and ‘sustainability’.

The consultant at the WPI Exhibition told visitors, ‘We say that Wisley Airifield is the most sustainable site in Surrey’.

 What does GBC say? What does the Local Plan Evidence base say? 

 The key relevant document released on this question so far is the ‘Settlement Hierarchy’. This is dated May, 2014. Its authors are the planning consultants Pegasus Group. It directly addresses the question of the relative sustainability of different settlements across Guildford Borough. Everyone who lives in Ockham and /or has an interest in Three Farms Meadow should read this document – released in May 2014.

What does the Settlement Hierarchy aim to achieve?

It states that the largest settlements with the best infrastructure are the most sustainable.

  • The idea behind the hierarchy is to direct incoming growth to sustainable areas.
  • Sustainable settlements are defined as settlements which can support additional growth and are the easiest to get to.

How does it score settlements?

The scoring criteria are set out in para 3.2. The key elements are:

  Criterion Sub criterion
1 Shops No of shops in  bands
2 Schools Elementary, Primary, Secondary
3 Community facilities A long list of items including libraries, places of worship etc etc
4 Transport Buses, railways, roads
5 Employment Local and wider

How do different settlements score on these criteria?

 This is how some relevant settlements have been scored:


Total points Community Facilities points Rank
Guildford Urban Area




Ash and Tongham




East  Horsley




West Horsley




East & West Horsley together
















Send Marsh/Burnt Common












Wood St Village









Note that

1)     Ockham gets 4 points and ranks at no 32 in the settlement hierarchy ie at second last in the entire borough.

2)     Ockham gets ONE point for EACH these factors:

  1. Place of worship
  2. Open space
  3. Restaurant/café/take-away
  4. Village community hall

3)     Guildford Urban Area gets just ONE point for EACH of these factors:

  1. Place of worship
  2. Restaurant/café/take-away
  3. Village/community hall

[This implies that these facilities in Ockham are somehow equivalent to those in Guildford Urban Area. They get an identical score. Don’t believe me that that is possible? Then look on page 27 and see for yourself.]

What do we deduce from the sustainability scores for the different settlements?

As a rule of thumb it looks like:

 1)     settlements with scores above 20, especially above 23 points, are considered suitable for growth

2)     settlements with scores below 20 are not considered suitable for growth UNLESS sufficient houses are built to justify new facilities

Note that they fudge the Horsleys. East Horsley is scored very highly on these critera. West Horsley scores rather low. So they lump the two settlements together. (I thought the Green Belt was to stop urban sprawl and the merging of settlements – but not according to Pegasus/GBC. But then they are planning consultants after all)

See that East Horsley’s shops get a score of 4 for ‘convenience and comparison’ whilst Guildford Urban Area gets a score of 6. [Is that your assessment of the relative convenience and comparison of shops available in each settlement? Its not mine.]

So how can WPI claim that Wisley Airfield is the ‘most sustainable site in Surrey’?

This is how it can be done:

Score today Potential/pie in the sky









Community Facilities



   Post Office









   Place of worship



   Open space



  Children’s play area






   Community hall






   Railway (within a mile)















The method is to ‘tick the boxes’. Look at what the Pegasus methodology awards points for and then put them into your plan. What do points mean? Development! (Millions in the bank for WPI).

Take Transport. They will never be able to claim that TFM is within a mile of a railway station. But the consultants do make the claim that there will be buses every 15 minutes. [Don’t believe me? Go to their exhibition and ask them.  Its up to you if you want to believe that any unsubsidised bus operator would provide such a service.]

Take schools. The scoring system blindly gives points for the mere existence of a school in the settlement. It takes no account of whether there is any spare capacity at the school. So the developer can get points for building a school (which should be the responsibility of the local government – except they wish to buy it with soft commission from the developer) – even though we all know that any school capacity they build will do little more than fill the existing deficit rather than meet the needs of the new settlement.

Conclusion: some planner with the ability to ‘tick the boxes’ can create the ‘most sustainable site in the whole of Surrey’ without having ANY local knowledge or leaving his desk to go further than the coffee machine.

Does this mean that Former Wisley Airfied would make a genuinely sustainable settlement? Of course not. To make such a claim is a travesty. It is intellectually dishonest. Only someone corrupted by the prospect of a huge financial profit could make such a preposterous claim.  In other words only a hired lackey at a firm of consultants could make the claim –because they don’t have to live with the consequences. So much for ‘Localism’!

Does the methodology show a genuine understanding of the concept of economic, environmental and ecological sustainability? No! It is a facile overlay of some basic criteria which creates a scoring system which any developer can ‘game’ in order to demonstrate sustainability.

And all of this is overseen by a ‘Lead Councillor’ who has misrepresented her professional qualifications. Can someone who has casually lied about their qualifications be trusted to oversee a process which relies on scoring systems which depend on highly subjective judgements about subjective data? Form your own view.

In fact it is worse than that. This whole process is overseen by a Council which does not think that lying about your professional qualifications is a breach of the Nolan Principles. It commissioned an ‘investigation’ by a tame solicitor which held that no criminal offence had been committed. And the Council now considers the matter closed.  Would you buy a second hand car from these people? Or let them shape your town or village for the next 20 years?

4 facts everyone should know about Three Farms Meadow

4 things everyone should know about Three Farms Meadow

1.  What is Three Farms Meadow?

Ans. It is agricultural land – much of which was commandeered during WW2 in order to create a grass airstrip which was later used by Vickers to fly out planes built at its Brookland factories.

See Wikipedia for the history of this former wartime grass airstrip:

‘Wisley Airfield is a former wartime airfield located in the Parish of Ockham near Wisley in Surrey. Originally a grass airstrip, the runway was converted to tarmac in 1952 and used to test aircraft built at Weybridge by Vickers. All flying ceased in 1973 because the runway was too short for large aircraft and was too close to Heathrow. All the structures on the site were removed at the time the land was sold back to its principal former owner in 1980 for agricultural use. The site now mainly comprises arable fields,grassland and woods. Although there are no structures on the site the tarmac runway and apron remains because the government reneged on its wartime promise to restore the land.’


2.  Isn’t the Former Wisley Airfield the ‘largest previously developed site in Surrey’?

Ans. That’s what its owners claim. The owners, Wisley Property Investments (WPI) set out the categorisation of the land on their website:

‘The site’s existing land uses are as follows:

Concrete                     74 acres           25.7%

Intensive arable          157 acres         54.5%

Farmed pasture           12 acres           4.2%

Woodland/grassland   45                    15.6%’

So you can see that almost 75% of the land is agricultural. You might imagine that the 74 acres described as ‘concrete’ had some sort of structures on it. But in fact there are no structures at all anywhere on the site. Most of the ‘concrete’ is the former runway. By definition a runway has no structures on it. The rest of the concrete is the apron and standing for the former hangars. All the hangars were removed prior to the sale of the land back to the former freeholder – the Ockham Park Estate/Lord Lytton as agricultural land.

 You might also imagine that a runway might be useful in some way, that it might be possible to ‘re-use’ it in some way. In fact the most likely destiny of the runway is that it will be pulled up and used as hardcore. The reasons are that a) you cannot build directly on the runway – because buildings need new foundations and b) most of the runway falls inside a Special Protection Area exclusion zone.

 3. Is it an appropriate site for a new town?

 Ans. No for very many reasons, but because, in brief:

i)  it is land put into the Metropolitan Green Belt in the public interest. The law says the Green Belt should be permanent and that its boundaries should not be altered except in exceptional circumstances.

ii)   the entire site also lies within 800 metres of the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area (TBHSPA)*.  In fact, 40% of the site sits within the 400 metre “exclusion zone”, where the building of housing is strictly prohibited.  This SPA is protected by EU and UK legislation. Its purpose is to protect endangered species and their habitats. This heathland is one of the last vestiges of heath which used to cover much of Surrey but nearly all of which has been lost to development. If the habitat is lost then several endangered species of bird may be lost to the English countryside and may even become extinct.

iii)  GBC published a ‘Settlement Hierarchy’ in May 2014. It is available on its website:

This site falls entirely within the parish of Ockham. GBC gives Ockham a sustainability score of 4. That makes it the second least sustainable site in GBC.

iv)     GBC has published an assessment of the site which it commissioned from Pegasus Consultants. It is disclosed as part of the Green Belt and Countryside Study – and is in Appendix V at section 22. It can be found on its website:

Pegasus states that the part of 3FM owned by WPI is too small to make a sustainable development because although WPI owns 117 ha only 60ha is available for development. In other words at least 50ha must be excluded as part of the SPA and at least 17ha must be excluded as set aside for a waste processing planning permission.

v) GBC has published The Options Growth Scenarios Transport Assessment Report (Surrey County Council, January 2014. This was undertaken by Surrey County Council, the statutory Local Transport Authority and Local Highway Authority, and was based on planning data provided by Guildford Borough Council in October 2013. It is available at

This shows that the road traffic network near Junction 10 between the M25 and the A3 is already fragile and at or near breaking point. It is not plausible that a new town can be created at this point in the network – injecting another 5000 cars into the system – without risking creating traffic chaos at this critical part of the network between London, Heathrow and Gatwick – and thereby jeopardising Guildford’s present infrastructure advantages.

4. Can’t WPI overcome these objections?

Ans. WPI make light of all the objections. Individually any one of the obstacles is likely to be a show stopper. But collectively they make the odds of developing this site extremely long.  Just take a few of the problems. Green Belt. Exceptional circumstances are a matter of national law. They are not something that GBC is at liberty to interpret at its own whim. Take the Special Protection Area. This is a matter of EU law. Serious commentators like the NSPCC state that it is highly unlikely that using half the site as a ‘park’ for the residents of a new town would satisfy the requirements of the law to safeguard the endangered wildlife. Take sustainability. Serious commentators like the Council for the Protection of Rural England point out that no account is taken of the fact that the land is actively farmed and that the effects on the Ockham conservation area and the rest of Ockham have not been properly evaluated.

Ockham and WW2. 5 interesting facts

1. The Blitz.

Ockham played its full part in WW2. Many families from London were evacuated during the Blitz.  Ockham took its fair share with families billeted in May’s Green, Martyr’s Green, Bridge End and Church End.

2. Bombs and V2 rockets

Several families in Ockham and Hatchford suffered tragic civilian deaths when Hitler launched his V2 rockets towards the end of the war. One mother in Pointer’s Road arranged her daughter’s birthday party but the night before a V2 bomb landed nearby. It blew in the windows and  sent a shard of glass into her thigh. She bled to death. The community rallied round and took in her children.

A bomb which landed near the school in School Lane failed to explode. The army detonated it and it was thought safe. A crowd of children gathered around to examine the site when it went off. One lad was buried alive and was fortunately dug out unharmed.

3. Land commandeered for the war effort

Many tenants of the Ockham Park Estate surrendered the leases on their land in order to permit the grass airstrip to be built. Several families had to move out of their homes which were demolished to make the runway and control tower. The government said it would take the land for the duration with an option to retain it for five years after the war. It gave an assurance that the land would be restored to its pre-war condition and returned after the war. After the war Vickers asked to retain the runway so that it could fly out the planes it was building in its factories in Brooklands and Weybridge. When finally the land was offered back to the former owner of the freehold under the Crichel Down Code it went back to the freeholder. The leaseholders never got their leases back.

4. Wartime sacrifices and broken promises

Because of WW2 and Ockham’s contribution to the war effort land which had formed several different farms and smallholdings was consolidated into one holding. The government only partially honoured its wartime promise. It removed all the buildings. But it failed to pull up the runway.

5. Green Belt

The land is now known as Three Farms Meadow.  It has always been agricultural land and it has always been actively farmed. It forms a sandy plateau between Ockham, Hatchford and Wisley Heaths which are special wildlife habitats. To the south the geology turns to clay before reaching the chalk of the north downs south of the Horsleys. Farming over the past thousand years has formed a beautiful and irreplaceable landscape.

The land has formed part of the Metropolitan Green Belt for many decades. This has protected it from development on several occasions. A proposal to create a commercial airport was thrown out after a lengthy enquiry by the Conservative government in the early 1980s. That was considered a major endorsement of the Metropolitan Green Belt.  Any buyer of the land has purchased it in the full knowledge that it is Green Belt land and subject to the limitations which the Green Belt imposes. Green Belt status is conceptually similar to a restrictive covenant which runs with the land. The Metropolitan Green Belt is and was intended to be permanent and to protect London.

The land is now known as Three Farms Meadows. It  is no different from the other agricultural land on either side of the A3 except that about 25% of its area is still covered in concrete. There is no reason why Ockham’s wartime sacrifices should be used as a pretext for development and for destroying the legacy of a thousand years of history.

For the history of this former wartime airstrip readers might consult Wikipedia (click to link) or paste this link into their browser


This is the ‘Masterplan’ : 2,500 houses and traffic hell


I had the delight on Saturday of going to one of Wisley Property Investments ‘Exhibitions’ where they showed their plans for the new town on Three Farms Meadows. Oh the joy of having people from the project team selling me the benefits of having 2,500 houses built. [one admitted this was likely to take 10 years to complete]

My favourite bit was one of the ‘project team’ saying: ‘You’ll have a shop in walking distance’  . As if that would compensate for everything.

Anyway, the image above is their Masterplan. And God it’s horrible. But the thing that really really stood out is just how bad, how unbelievably, shockingly bad this will be for local traffic. This is what I picked up, and some of the comments I got from their ‘traffic expert’.

So, the main entrance/ exit is supposedly on the A3 roundabout. Excellent, so every morning we’ll have a thousand cars heading onto that roundabout onto an already rammed A3 or into Ripley.

At this point I was told they’d be  sorting out a widening of the A3/ M25 junction. and building  a slip road from the roundabout to get cars straight onto the southbound A3 to keep the traffic from going through Ripley. If they’re acknowledging they have to do that, then they know it’s going to be trouble.

But of course, we know that this end will get busy and that people will really come out at the other end – either onto Ockham Lane and/or Old Lane. So they’ve said they’ll put in some ‘traffic calming’ on Ockham Lane. Aaaaagh. Excellent, so we go from having a small country lane that already has too much traffic on it, to a small country lane that has too much traffic on it and traffic lights. Oh, and if you’re a cyclist, that’s just great.

I started asking how many cars they would expect during rush hour. She said their estimate was 1,000. She then said that the normal commuters might actually cut through the New Town to get to the A3 taking traffic away from Ockham Lane. Basically making the new town a massive rat run. Nice.

Of course, there’s no knowing where the traffic will be heading. The people who live their could all just as easily be going off to work in Kingston as Guildford or heading off to the station.

I dread to think what it will be like the weekend.

Oh, and there’s the bus…but we can go into that another time.

This is before we start to look in detail at the actual proposals, but regardless of the vandalism to the Greenbelt from the new town, this is a traffic nightmare in the making.


WAG Response to GBC Green Belt and Countryside study


GBC have released the latest part of their Green Belt and Countryside study. 

It Includes a 7 page analysis [7mb .pdf download] of whether Three Farms Meadows (the former Wisley Airfield) is suitable as a Potential Major Development Area (PMDA) of around 4,000 people.

Their conclusion is that it does – if they use the limits set out in the map above. This means they will absorb Bridge End Farm and all properties down onto that part of Ockham Lane – which will require the purchase of additional land.

WAG has a number of objections to the conclusions here. Most notably..

1. The air quality is already so poor that the nearest sensor to the site is in breach of EU limits which not only affects human health but also affects the SPA protected heathland and the plants at the RHS.

2. The development is not sustainable because the roads are already clogged up so the idea of providing buses to jobs in Guildford  an unrealistic option, and narrow local roads can’t handle more cars

More broadly, there’s a huge effort in this document to argue that a settlement would not interfere with a number of the purposes of the Green Belt. Which misses the point. It is Green Belt. Buildling on it, is taking away the Green Belt. There is plenty of land in the urban area which can accommodate large numbers of dwellings,  but despite the city centre being in desperate need to regeneration GBC continues to want to ruin the countryside.

Tell the developers what you think – live

Part of the glossy promotional activity intended to win over hearts and minds is a set of ‘workshops’ being held by Wisley Property Investments in the coming weeks. If you support our campaign, please attend and make your opinions known.

• Friday 9th May 4.30pm – 7.30pm: Guildford YMCA, Bridge St, Guildford, GU1 4SB
• Saturday 10th May 11.00am – 3.30pm (Workshop sessions 12pm-2pm): Guildford YMCA, Bridge St, Guildford, GU1 4SB
• Friday 16th May 4.30pm-7.30pm: The Talbot, High St, Ripley, GU23 6BB
• Saturday 17th May 11.00am-3.30pm: Marquee at Wisley Airfield, Ockham Lane, Surrey GU23 6NT
• Monday 19th May 4.30pm-7.30pm: Village Hall, Kingston Avenue, East Horsley, KT24 6QT

The Developers vs The Truth

brochure_grabWisley Property have hired some consultants, PPS Group, who specialise in ‘engaging with communities and politicians to help gain planning consent on complex development matters’. PPS have produced a lovely brochure (pictured) and website, full of library photos of happy families and farmers markets, but strangely no pictures of a new town with 2,500 houses , congested local roads and transport facilities bursting at the seams.

They have also mailed this brochure to lots of councils around Guildford saying that if they support this proposal, it will ‘solve their development problem’ – in other words, save them from having to build houses in their own area. It’s just the sort of divide and conquer tactics we’d expect from a consultancy who prides themselves on their website as “old hands at the essential task of presenting schemes to councillors and understanding the local agendas that affect their views.“.

They’re also the sort of tactics we’d expect when there’s a Cayman registered, hedge-fund-backed company hoping to make hundreds of millions from this development.

Still, for the purpose of accuracy we’d like to point out a few choice deviations from the truth in some of the claims the developers and their consultants are making.

They say: We’ll create areas to encourage wildlife to flourish.
The Reality: Wildlife is already flourishing. It’s a Site of Nature Conservation Importance – SNCI. The area is home to Badgers, Bats, Adders, and other protected species. It is also home to 3 species of RSPB ‘Red List’ birds “at risk”. Building houses, commercial premises, schools and traveller sites will have a disastrous effect on wildlife.

They say:  We will make improvements to the A3.
The Reality The A3 is already highly congested – sited opposite the RHS Gardens at  Wisley, one of the most visited tourist sites in Surrey. Air quality at its  junction with the M25 [10] is known to be at the limits of acceptability and there are recorded days when it has exceeded those limits. The  introduction of additional private transport for 2,500 homes and a new  ‘town’ would create traffic chaos and Add to the existing traffic chaos and further impact the poor air quality

They say: The site is disused and derelict. A 70 acre concrete legacy.
The Reality:  No it isn’t. It boasts over 300 acres of fertile farmland, criss-crossed with  well-established and well used footpaths and bridleways. But don’t take our word for it, take a look, instead, at the photographs of this beautiful area on this website.

They say:  The site is an obvious location for growth.
The Reality:  No it isn’t. This is nothing more than an opportunity for an off-shore, Cayman  Islands-based company to attempt destroy a unique area of Green Belt land  and make a great deal of money in the process.

The Claim It’s within 5 miles of 9 main railway stations.
The Reality Yes – As the crow flies, but, the commuter rail network in the region is already over-crowded at  peak times and car parks over-flow into neighbouring residential streets.  South West Trains is clearly unable to cope with existing rail traffic.

The Claim This is an assembled site, available for immediate development.
The Reality No it isn’t. Not if we can help it. The land is designated Green Belt with all the protection this implies.

The erosion of the Green Belt – and the Surrey ‘corridor’

These two images from the Telegraph’s Interactive Green Belt Map show the overall state of the Green Belt around London – and in particular how there is effectively a corridor being carved out from London through Surrey.

First – the view of the Green Belt around London as a whole.





and if we zoom in around Surrey you can see the ‘corridor’ that’s being cleared from Kingston to Woking – this is exactly the area where Three Fields Meaows lies.