A Surrey council resists green-belt housing

Bagshot planning (image SBC planning portal)

A contentious plan to build dozens of affordable homes in Surrey was rejected by councillors who prioritized protecting greenbelt land over addressing the area’s housing shortage.

Developers had wanted to build up to 135 homes, of which at least half would have been sold at affordable rates, at Grove End between the A30 and A322, in Bagshot.

The outline planning application was rejected by Surrey Heath Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday May 23.

Early indications suggested there would have been at least 68 affordable homes, including 17 set aside as affordable first homes and 51 social affordable or intermediate rented properties. The developers said they would be willing to increase those numbers but the application itself had to be determined on those figures.

The committee was advised that permitting the plans would be a departure from its developing local plan and undermine the council’s aim of only developing on brownfield sites in the near future – these are abandoned or underused former industrial land.

Councillor Kevin Thompson (Liberal Democrat, Lightwater) said: “Often we talk about this need for affordable housing and we talk about numbers and we talk about statistics, but I think it’s important that we think about what that actually means.

“We have a situation where the people that teach our kids, who look after us in hospital, can’t afford to live in this borough and they have to commute in, because we don’t have the affordable housing we need. We need to look at this very carefully because [this proposal] does provide us with a significant amount of affordable housing.”

The land, between the A322 dual carriageway linking the M3 with Bracknell and Windlesham Golf Club had been considered for redevelopment as the council looked for sites as part of its local plan. It “discontinued” the idea however as the borough could demonstrate it had enough brownfield land to meet its housing targets.

Developers tried to argue the land, next to the A30, was not the idyllic rolling Surrey countryside that people think of as greenbelt because the main road had an “urbanising” affect on the site. Speaking on behalf of the application, the agent added: “The borough unfortunately has a major and sustained issue with failing to meet affordable housing needs as demonstrated.”

Cllr Shaun MacDonald, said: “We need to be extremely careful before we give up any green belt. I do accept the comments that this is not the most unique piece of green belt we have but it does form a barrier to the other areas adjacent and if we start allowing creep we will soon have all of the Green Belt gobbled up between Bagshot and north Windlesham. If this space was on the other side of the A322 I suspect we would be having a very different conservation about the feasibility and viability.”

Access was another issue raised during the meeting with one Bagshot resident, who had lived in the area for 56 years raising safety issues for any young families would could move there. He said: “This particular site to my mind has a very serious problem attached to it with regards to access.”

He said in recent years there there had been a need to build 1,752 affordable homes, and so far it’s delivering just 39 a year. This development, he argued, would provide two years of affordable housing on a single site.

He added that they needed to look at the quality of green belt in the borough as otherwise there would never been any development.

Image: Bagshot planning ( SBC planning portal)