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Miniature railway set to get bigger

SSME rail at work

There will be a new train line coming to Surrey – for enthusiasts, engineers and eager families looking for a day out.

The Surrey Society of Model Engineers has been given planning permission for a revised inner track complete with a new bridge across a man made pond.

The site, in green belt on Fetcham Springs, Mill Lane, just outside Leatherhead, has long been established as a model railway.

It was considered acceptable for development because it was being used for outdoor recreation and the pond would add to the biodiversity of the area.

Councillor Chris Hunt said: “I think this is an excellent proposal and the policy grounds for approving it are very clear.

“My hope will be that the pond is maintained.

“As you might know we’ve had some issues with the main pond in Ashtead in terms of some of the species were too aggressively growing and led to a loss of biodiversity in the end until it was cleaned out.

“Perhaps if there were to be an extra informative about the maintenance of the pond would be just as important?

“Planting is a condition already – but obviously the engineers might not be biodiversity experts and maybe they could approach the council for some hints on long-term care for the pond. – or Surrey Wildlife Trust?”

Leatherhead Miniature Railway is run as a non-profit, members’ club, and “unites those with interests in model and miniature engineering, particularly but not exclusively trains” planning documents presented to Mole Valley District Council’s Wednesday June 5 planning committee read.

The club has about 11 open days this year usually falling on Sundays and Bank Holidays, including a Santa weekend in December.

One of the open days is in association with the fire station open day. The fire station is adjacent to the site, and train rides take visitors to and from the fire station open day.

Tickets are sold for rides on the miniature trains at £2 per ride.




Guildford cathedral appeal dismissed

Indicative Cgi Of Planning Application For Homes Near Guildford Cathedral. (Image: VIVID Homes)

Plans to build 124 new homes around Guildford Cathedral have been thrown out by an inspector as the proposal would cause a negative impact on the distinct character and history of the building. Developers Vivid appealed after Guildford Borough Council refused the application in March 2023. 

The government’s planning inspectorate has dismissed the plans, which was said would financially support the cathedral. Tom Bristow, the inspector, concluded the proposal would result in a “clear adverse effect” to the historical and natural setting and significance of the Cathedral’s “lofty, dominance” and “imposing” character. 

Concerns were raised that of the 124 new homes, including 94 flats, Vivid intended to build, they “would have little affinity with the prevailing characteristics of the area”.

Mr Bristow gave great benefit to the community value of the Grade II listed grounds as locals said it was a “well-used public space”. He added that the “semi-natural and rugged state” of the cathedral grounds was “distinct and rare” in comparison with more formally landscaped, maintained land in the area.

Tristen Samuels, Group Development and New Business Director at Vivid Homes, said: “We remain proud of the proposals we put forward to deliver highly-sustainable new homes in Guildford – including 40% affordable which is so desperately needed. We will consider the findings of the Inspector’s report in the coming days.”

The inspector also found the money generated from the development would bring in just over a third of the £3,570,000 the cathedral needs for building repairs. Mr Bristow said: “Irrespective of the outcome of the scheme, the Cathedral will continue to be predominantly reliant on other sources of funding for upkeep.”

Interim Dean, the Venerable Stuart Beake, said the way forward is “challenging” and cast doubt on if the cathedral would be able to “operate in the same way”. He said an additional £150,000 was needed each year to cover the shortfall in day-to-day costs at the cathedral.

Mr Beake added: “Whilst naturally disappointed by the outcome, the cathedral chapter is determined to carry on delivering the mission of the cathedral in the community.”

Related reports:

New housing around Surrey’s cathedral in contention

Surrey County’s Cathedral citadel conserved…

Indicative Cgi Of Planning Application For Homes Near Guildford Cathedral. (Image: VIVID Homes)




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)




Every dog must have their day care centre

Dogs Playing In The Woodland Area. (Credit: Duncan\'S Doggy Day Care Centre)

A dog day care centre ‘vital for the community’ has been approved for retrospective planning permission despite officers recommending it for refusal. The application was judged by officers as inappropriate development as it would fail to preserve the openness of the Green Belt which prevents urban sprawl. 

Duncan’s Doggy Daycare, on Pointers Road in Cobham, was granted retrospective planning permission by a unanimous vote from Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) on Wednesday night (May 22). Cheers erupted from the gallery from Duncan’s family, friends and customers as the decision was confirmed, marking the end of an almost five year battle and three planning permission attempts.

Operating on the site since 2012, the centre is a family-run business which caters for approximately 120 dogs daily (licensed for up to 150 dogs). Employing 20 full and part time members of staff, the centre runs 24 hours a day and 360 days a year. Rather than renting a field like other dog day care centres, Duncan owns the land and facilities his business is built upon.

In a supporting statement to EBC, owner of the centre, Duncan MacBryde said planning approval is “critical”. He added his family’s “entire livelihoods are hinged on this planning decision” as they would be left without a home or income.

In the recommendation for denial, planning officials determined that fencing, exercise pens and the activity at the day care from dogs, staff and vehicles amounted to harm to the open Green Belt.

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Andrew Burley (Conservative/ Oxshott and Stoke D’Abernon) said there were a “raft of special circumstances” which could outweigh harm to the Green Belt. He commented on the economic benefit the business provided as well as the social service the popular day care was providing. 

Speaking to the committee, the applicant’s representative Hugh Sowerby, said that Duncan had “done everything possible whilst maintaining a viable business” since the 2019 application. This included halving the size of the site, taking away two exercise pens, removing five unlawful buildings, removing all dog paraphernalia, and reprofiling and replanting part of the site. 

Cllr Alistair Mann (Conservative/Cobham) said he was “struggling to find a better location” than on the site. He reasoned: “if this [business] does not exist here it will exist somewhere else […] if it doesn’t exist on Green Belt, it will exist on Brownfield.” Moving the dog centre to Brownfield sites would prevent building “needed” houses. 

The application marks the company’s third attempt for retrospective planning approval. Differences between the 2024 application and the 2023 refusal are that two containers, wooden pen structures and associated waste have all now been removed from the site. 

The company has also reduced the site from 1.32 hectares to 0.6, as well as decreasing the number of pens from three to two. Officers acknowledged the impact had been reduced since the last proposal but it would still cause harm and restrict openness

Over 90 letters of support have been submitted to Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC), detailing why it should support a local business which is an “asset to the community”. No objections were received from the public, Surrey Wildlife Trust or Natural England. 

Faithful customers of up to 10 years have praised the professionalism and care the company provides for their pets. Ms Tsvetanova said the dog daycare centre has “changed her [daily] life” and her dogs are so excited to come back to the centre.

Mrs Crosse said it would be “absolutely devastating” to her and her family if Duncan’s doggy daycare was no longer allowed to operate. Others commented that they may have to give up their pets if they could not find care for them. 

One small business owner said the centre enables her to generate local income for Elmbridge. Another resident, Mrs Sheehan, said: “Duncans Dog Co provides a vital service to local working people to enable us to combine a hybrid working and dog ownership lifestyle…enabling [her] to go back to work and contribute to a wider society.”

Not only local residents, but patrons from South West London have also commented to support the application. Some expressed they “cannot do their job” without the daycare centre as it allows them to work full-time in central London.




Doubtful Henry VIII would have permitted

Hampton development.

The decades-long planning battle to build almost 100 homes and a hotel opposite Hampton Court Palace will soon be decided with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport set to rule on the matter once and for all.

The government department is calling for new information and evidence over proposals from Network Rail Infrastructure and Alexpo to build 97 homes and an 84-bed hotel, together with shops and new access space around Hampton Court station in East Molesey.

The former Jolly Boatman site lies next to the River Thames and overlooks the palace. Elmbridge Borough Council originally rejected the plans but their decision was later overturned on appeal.

The original application  received more than 1,800 objections and 131 letters of support  and was refused due to “excessive height and bulk” and “harm to numerous heritage assets”.

Hampton Court Rescue Campaign (HCRC) argued it would spoil views across the river of Hampton Court Palace.

It is now in the hands of the Secretary of State because the law states developments within half a mile of the historic home of King Henry must be approved by the senior minister.

A spokesperson for HCRC wrote: “For over 100 years, Hampton Court Palace has benefited from the unique protection of the Act, which has successfully restricted developments over 50 ft in height in the environs of the Palace.

“In the Council’s Development Brief for the site there is a requirement that any scheme must categorically be below 50 feet.”

Permission was granted after the planning inspector  ruled it would fit with the surroundings while the hotel, retail units and riverside restaurant would make life better for visitors. 

Furthermore, the inspector said the plans would support the rest of the town.

People using the station, the inspector added, would have improved access to the bridge.

They said: “Taken together, these features of the design would result in a place that would be accessible and easy to move around.”

On height, the inspector said: “The distinctive treatment of the upper level, together with the depth and width of the podium gardens, would break up the mass of the built form. 

“Whilst they would clearly be seen as part of a larger scheme, I do not think that they would be perceived as a single mass, either in views from the park or in longer views from the north bank of the River Thames.”

They added:”Some parties sought to criticise the design on the basis that it would not be sufficiently eye-catching or innovative.

“I agree that this is not a design that seeks to make an assertive architectural statement. However, in this case I do not regard that as a negative.

“I consider that the design would result in a calm, well-ordered scheme with sufficient presence to hold its own in the street scene.”

The consultation includes an open text box for people’s views and space to attach documents and is available via the department’s website or by searching Hampton Court consultation.

Image: Jolly Boatman development viewed from across River Thames. Credit Alexpo. Henry VIII clipart cactus cowboy




Not loving it in Cobham

MacDonalds meal.

A proposed new McDonald’s is “the last thing Surrey needs”; that’s according to residents living near the proposed site.

The fast-food giant has published plans to takeover the former Loch Fyne restaurant in Portsmouth Road, Cobham, but some people living nearby are not loving it – and want it turned into a community hub instead.

The vacant Locally Listed Building has fallen into a state of disrepair with McDonald’s saying a Cobham branch would “bring it back into active use as a restaurant to ensure its long-term viability.”

While the village of Cobham was recently named one of the most affluent communities in Surrey, residents have said that the Northfield Estate, where the restaurant is proposed, is one the lowest socio-economic area in the county.

Residents said they were “concerned” over the impact a fast food restaurant could have on people’s social, mental and emotional wellbeing – and have started a petition calling for a rethink.

“The area needs a community hub, promoting social, mental and emotional wellbeing for residents, McDonald’s is the direct contrast of that,” the petition read, adding ‘ the Northfield Estate is the lowest socio economic demographic in Cobham, and one of the lowest in Surrey.” The petition pointed to research which highlights a strong link between obesity and deprivation.

Burger giant has said it has received relatively balanced feedback with people welcoming new job opportunities

Other residents concerns include the site’s proximity to schools and the number of students who would be passing it on a daily basis. Many of the 391 signatories fear the restaurant, which would have space for 60 diners and car parking for 33 vehicles, would have on a significant impact on what was already a traffic hotspot.

The Portsmouth Road site is near the roundabout and Sainsbury’s petrol station, shortly before the road leads on to the A3. The petition says: “The Painshill roundabout is already extremely busy, with queues forming regularly to enter or leave Cobham; additionally it can be challenging to enter or leave the petrol station.”

One person wrote: “The last thing Surrey needs is another McDonald’s.” Another added: “I feel a McDonald’s would be detrimental to the village of Cobham.”

Plans for the site, which would be the group’s 15th branch in the county, are still in consultation stage ahead of being submitted to Elmbridge Borough Council for consideration.

McDonald’s has said it would “sensitively restore” the disused site and create “at least 120 new jobs”. The Cobham branch would also “address an identified demand”. A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: “We are encouraged that nearly 500 people have engaged with our consultation so far for a new McDonald’s in Cobham.

“To date, we have received relatively balanced feedback in response to the proposals, with local people welcoming the creation of new job opportunities, the diversified food choice in Cobham and the sensitive restoration of the vacant and under-utilised site.”

Image: harry_nl CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED




Umpire pulls up stumps on cricket plan

Banstead-pavilion-old-and-new

A long-standing Surrey cricket club’s ambitious plans to construct modern facilities has sparked controversy in the local community, leading to a tense planning decision.

Banstead Cricket Club’s plans to modernise its ground have been rejected, by the narrowest of margins. The club, which has been in the village for more than a century and a half, had hoped to update its dilapidated changing rooms and clubhouse to give it a home ground fit for the 21st century.

Residents living near the ground objected over the harm it would do to the character of the green belt. In a nail-biting finish it hinged on whether there were exceptional circumstances to build on the green belt. In the end it came down to the chairman to cast the deciding vote after members were split down the middle.

In an unusual turn of events the planning chair voted against officer recommendations and the cricket club’s plans were refused. Councillor Simon Parnall said: “I knew this was going to happen. You have your name on the block sometimes.”

He added: “Given the weight of the meeting, and the way that people have their feelings quite openly expressed, I, contrary to my normal position which is to support officers, I think now I ought to stand and vote for the reason for refusal because this is so controversial and it would need another go.”

Reasons the club had wanted new facilities included money gained by renting out the space for events. It was also in part due to the massive growth of the game among girls and women, and therefore the need for changing rooms for women.

Martin Long said he was representing the 107 objectors who had written in against the development, where he claims the vast majority live in Banstead Village. He said: “The report does not mention that of the 157 letters of support only 10 per cent are from addresses within the borough.

He said there are three other community venues in the borough, all with better access, and questioned why a fourth was needed. He told the meeting that the Lady Neville park was given to the people of Banstead, not the Banstead Cricket Club.

Opposition focused on the scale of the development and not the club’s need to modernise. He added: “A vast two-storey development would be an appalling blot on the green belt, the surrounding treeline and the view from the park itself.

“A single storey cricket club house is all that is needed not a vast function venue with an all round terrace. The impact of noise and traffic that this new facility will have on residents is unimaginable.”

The Thursday, April 24, meeting of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s planning committee heard the primary focus of the club was the provision of cricket but it needed revenue for other activities to survive financially. The club wanted to demolish its current clubhouse and replace it with a new modern facility to conform with “Sport England and the sports governing body standards”.

It also wanted to refurbish its pavilion to create a dedicated changing space for women and girls. The plans had been recommended for approval and received more letters of support than opposition during the consultation stage, although it was argued the majority if this came from outside the borough.

Ray Smythe, a resident of De Burgh Park which backs on to the grounds, spoke against the plans. He said they were inappropriate for the green belt and should only be approved if there were very special circumstances.

He said: “The positioning of the new premises will eliminate the only distinct view from the recreation ground that is not currently obscured by buildings in the area.” He added that clubhouse’s second floor was not needed for cricket and the financial implications were not a planning matter. He said they could also reduce the cost of the project by scaling back the clubhouse.

Arguing for the plans was Ian Thorpe who told the meeting the club had been in Banstead since 1850 and that its facilities were no longer fit for purpose. The new proposals, which had already been scaled back and revised, was needed to fit in with the latest guidelines for sport.

He said the clubhouse was no longer compliant for all players regardless of gender or age and that the site would operate under its current licensing hours with no desire to extend them further. He said: “Its hoped that the facility will be more than just a cricket club to the local community. With this proposal Banstead Cricket Club is seeking to offer its members and the local community a clubhouse to be proud of.”

Related reports:

Just not cricket to replace Banstead pavilion?

Image – visualisation of new pavilion and current inset.




Prairie dogs ‘cock a snoop’ at planning

Prairie dogs

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Planning Committee grappled 18th April with the prairie dogs enclosure at Hobbledown Farm in Epsom.

The proprietors of this animal amusement park had established the enclosure without prior permission and were seeking retrospective permission from the Council.

There were several other developments on the site for which retrospective permission was being sought. A number of residents of the adjacent Clarendon Park housing estate objected, being particularly fearful of an increased risk of flooding arising from these unauthorised developments.

The debate began with Councillors complaining of insufficient time to process numerous emails supplied to the committee just minutes before the meeting started.

Cllr Kate Chinn (Labour Court) protested “I really wouldn’t want to consider these applications this evening. I can’t even say if the information is relevant to the application or not. It was too much information and it came too late.” Later she accepted assurances that the emails did not materially change the application.

Cllr Julian Freeman (Lib Dem College) declined to read the emails in question stating: “I made a specific point of not going through all the email exchange, because it doesn’t form part of the papers for this meeting. I can understand that there is ambiguity, and there are questions to be asked and answered, and the place to do that is here and now, not by an email exchange.”

Cllr Jan Mason (RA Ruxley) gave her opinion “I’ve got a question. And probably everyone sitting here will agree, I hope, but I’m heartily fed up. I want to know how many retrospective blooming applications we’ve had to sit here and go through, only to be told “it’s already there, they’ve done it”. So why do we bother to have a planning committee?”

The Chairman, Cllr Humphrey Reynolds (RA West Ewell) responded that her question was not a matter for the Planning Committee.

Later in a further forthright statement Councillor Mason said: “I don’t think there’s anything we can do. This firm knew perfectly well what they were going to do. And they’ve cocked a snook at us. It’s our land. It is on the green belt. They’ve made it like Disney World. That’s what they want. And I’m just angry that we keep doing these little bits of drip, drip, drip. So in the end they get what they want. We’ll all say, “Oh we can’t pull it down”. Me, I’d pull everything down that they’ve put in.” 

The applications had come before the committee in February and been deferred for more information about flood risks. The ward Councillor for Horton, Cllr Kieran Persand (Conservative) was invited to speak. He argued: “I do not believe any substantial additional information or clarity has been provided. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out strict tests to protect people and property from flooding, which all local planning authorities are expected to follow. Where these tests are not met new developments should not be allowed. One of these tests the NPPF requires is the application of a “sequential test”. Where the test is not performed or not met, development should not be allowed.”

A local resident, Alexander Duval, was invited to address the meeting and he said: “As the majority of committee members and planning officers will be aware, the residents of Clarendon Park have objected to a significant number of the planning applications submitted by Hobbledown over recent years. The majority of these have been retrospective: build first, get permission later. Numerous compelling planning reasons have been put forward by residents for refusing planning permission. Where the developments have not complied with national planning guidance, local planning policies and precedents set by case law. Despite this, all planning applications have been recommended for approval by officers. The residents, those directly affected by the applications, are at a loss as to why this should be the case. Hobbledown is located within the green belt. According to national planning guidance and local development policies, this is supposed to afford protection against development and seems to elsewhere, but not on this site.”

There was controversy as to whether Mr Duval’s several other written objections had been made available to Councillors to consider. Cllr Bernie Muir (Conservative Horton) “The planning committee should, when considering an application, take into account all views on material and planning considerations that are expressed in a way that is openly heard and fairly considered. I’m really worried about this process. This happened last time. Mr. Duval repeatedly asked where his comments were on the website, and they weren’t there. They were posted by the council on the day of the meeting. Twelve minutes [the time allotted to Mr Duval to speak at the meeting] is not the same as articulating point by point. You’ve presumed that every councillor here has received something from Alex Duval.”

She added: “To be told something is being received, but it is not uploaded to the website, so we can’t see it. That’s not acceptable.”

Discussions continued long into the night with references to planning policies, flood risk assessments, conditions and other details.

The marathon three and a half hour meeting concluded with a series of votes. Generally, permissions were granted across the board of hitherto unauthorised changes at Hobbledown, some on the casting vote of the Chair.

Image: PictureWendy




The Bucknill plan stops here….

Aerial view of Bucknills plan for 5 houses

A plan to cram 5 three-bedroomed houses on a single bungalow plot in Bucknills Close, Epsom did not meet Councillors’ approval.

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s Planning Committee met 18th April and refused an application by Nuro Homes Ltd despite their agent’s plea to the meeting to allow it.

Plain speaking Cllr Jan Mason (RA Ruxley) gave her reasons for refusal and her own strong sentiments on the application in saying to her committee colleagues: “Right, here we go again. Same old “Back Land”. Call it what you like: “Development”. And as my grandma would say, trying to put a pint into a half pint pot….    They could have designed it so that they weren’t in Outer Hebrides with their bins to try and take to the front. Ridiculous.” [A reference to challenges to the Council collection of domestic refuse.]

She added: “I think this is not well thought out, any of this. And I put it down to the fact that you’re trying to cram too much in. It makes money. We all know the story. I’m not convinced about the flooding, ……, if there’s slight flooding around, this will get it. It’s just all too much. So I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, this is ill designed. …. So for my part, I’m not happy.” 

During the meeting it was argued that children would use the short-cut the development would create. Cllr Neil Dallen (RA Town) was for refusal on the grounds of highway safety and the distance that residents would have to take their bins for collection. Commenting on a varied application he said “It’s fine moving the bins another few yards towards the road, but there is still a huge distance for those to go. The waste manager has said it’s unacceptable.”

Cllr. Clive Woodbridge (RA Ewell Village) observed: “If we were proposing a refusal on highways grounds, we have to take into account that we’re flying solo because Surrey County Council aren’t behind us on this, and they are the highway authority.”

Cllr. Kate Chinn (Labour Court) was concerned about routine refusal of new housing developments and said: “It is providing for homes for people in Epsom and Ewell and we know how dire the housing situation is in the borough. I don’t think any committee with a response to its residents can continue to refuse every single application that comes in front of it.”

The application was refused by five votes to four, the Chair Cllr. Humphrey Reynolds (RA West Ewell) not voting.




Getting teed off by golf club’s landfill designs

Entrance to Merrist Wood Golf Club. (Credit: Google Street View)

A Surrey golf club has been accused of being a “landfill site in disguise” after anger at the sheer volume of heavy lorries that could be needed to drop waste off at the site. 

The owners of Merrist Wood Golf Club, off Holly Lane, are hoping to redesign and reconstruct the existing course including water features and the creation of a heathland and wetland habitat.
 
The remodelling would include making use of nearly 600k tonnes of recovered ‘inert materials’ across the 55-hectare site. ‘Inert waste’ is discarded materials that do not biodegrade or chemically react with other substances.
 
These plans, which are currently under consideration, could see around 141 Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) movements at the sites for up to 256 days a year across the possible two years of the renovation project. A six-hour period is proposed for these movements meaning at peak times there could be one HGV movement every 2.5 minutes.
 
The planning application has received 55 objections and only one letter of support. Opposing the application, locals have raised concerns the HGVs would exacerbate an already congested road and increase wear and tear. One resident said: “Everything is just a constant worry. We moved here for peace and now it feels like it has been taken away.”
 
Road safety issues were highlighted by some residents, suggesting footpaths will be “destroyed” and there will be “no safe place” for students and parents to cross the road for Merrist Wood College and Fairlands School. Locals expressed fears about how the HGV movement would impact on ‘school run’ times and rush hour, citing the narrow lanes as already dangerous. 
 
Despite residents’ anxieties about the development’s impact on the road, Surrey County Council (SCC) officers have concluded that “there are no unacceptable highway and transport impacts”. 
 
The applicant argues the many road journeys over the construction period will be less disruptive than traffic caused by piece-meal course maintenance. As the source of the inert soils is still unknown, it is likely routes from both the north and the south will be used to access the site. 
 
Comments asked what ‘inert materials’ will consist of, with some dubious of where the matter will be sourced. Sceptical commentators have described it as a “landfill scheme in disguise” with the amount of material suggesting it is being “dumped on the site”. 
 
Rather than ‘borrowing’ existing soil on the course, inert waste is described as the ‘best way’ to create new terrain. Planning documents state if inert waste material was not used in the project, ‘virgin’ soil would have to be used. 
 
Constructed in 1996, the applicant argues the 18-hole golf course has ‘deteriorated’ and “suffers from a number of underlying design defects”. Taking over the course in 2020, Lavershots Oaks Ltd complained the club has a “poor reputation’ and is ‘failing’ as a sports club and as a business. 
 
The Guildford MP Angela Richardson has written to residents affected by the Merrist Wood Golf Club planning application to alert them to the proposals and the consultation. She raised concerns about the traffic disturbance, congestion caused and whether detritus will be left on the ground.
 
The Wooldridge Group (formerly known as Lavershot Oaks), which specialises in civil and contract build projects, filed for administration on February 5 this year. The Wooldridge Group has been approached for comment. 
 
Consultation on the application ends April 16.

Image: Entrance to Merrist Wood Golf Club. (Credit: Google Street View)