Weylands & Drake Park – A view from Cllr Christine Elmer
The Elmbridge Borough Council Planning Officer’s Report on 2015/0433 Weylands Treatment Works, Lyon Road, Walton-on-Thames, was published online on 2 April as link below. I am pleased to say the Recommendation by Elmbridge Borough Council to Object to Surrey County Council’s Planning Department was upheld by Elmbridge Borough Councillors last night (13th April) at the meeting of North Area Planning sub-committee.
The reasons for objection were agreed as stated below, namely Green Belt, traffic, and air quality. The air Quality reason was strengthened as new information on emissions has come to Elmbridge Council which gives them great cause for concern. Elmbridge Officers were scathing of the SCC Report on odour which they feel has not done Surrey County Council any favours.
That Report has been sent to SCC and will now need to be considered by SCC Officers. We have asked to see this report. This does now mean that the earliest date this application could have come to SCC’s Planning & Regulatory Committee which was 20 May is not now possible. Once there is further information on dates/deadlines SCC will update us.
The Elmbridge Council Planning Officer’s Recommendation is to Object. The reasons for refusal are given as follows:
1 The proposed development represents inappropriate development within the Green Belt for which an insufficient case of very special circumstances to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt has been provided. The proposed development would therefore be contrary to the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 in relation to the Green Belt.
2 Insufficient information has been provided in relation to the potential impacts of emissions from the proposed anaerobic digestion plant on surrounding residential areas. On this basis, the proposed development is considered to be contrary to the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 in relation to air quality as well as policy DM5 of the Elmbridge Development Management Plan (2015) (pre adoption).
3 The proposed development would result in a detrimental impact on traffic levels in the surrounding area and local infrastructure due to the lack of suitability of the local road network, contrary to the provisions of saved Policies MOV4 and MOV15 of the Replacement Elmbridge Borough Local Plan 2000 and Policy CS25 of the Core Strategy 2011 as well as policy DM7 of the Elmbridge Development Management Plan (2015) (pre adoption) which will soon supersede Replacement Plan policies.
Bonnar Allen are applying to build 1024 new homes in Walton. The homes would be built on a 147-acre piece of Green Belt land between Molesey Road and the River Mole, between Fieldcommon Lane and the Lyon Road industrial estate. Bonnar Allen say they would also build a medical centre, primary school, public park, supermarket and pub. We understand an application has now been received by Elmbridge Borough Council.
My personal view on Drake Park is it will not get past the Green Belt argument. The Green Belt in this area between Walton, Molesey and Esher separates those communities. Elmbridge is now reviewing the Green Belt Policy as it is required to do. But the feeling is that the Council does not need 1024 new houses built on Green Belt to reach the numbers of new homes in Walton to fulfil it’s housing requirements. To get round the fact the land is Green Belt the development company would need to prove that ‘Special Circumstances’ were met, and my feeling is that that is not the case.
Bonnar Allen have given a number of presentations to Councillors and at Public Exhibitions. They had said it was their intention, should approval be granted by the Council, to build it out themselves. If they were unable to they would need to bring in a larger house builder, which they had previously said they would not do. I feel that the homes they build as ‘Affordable’ will not actually be affordable in the true sense, the prices being based on Elmbridge ‘inflated’ prices, not Walton prices.
The ‘risk’ is if it was refused the company might go to appeal. If the Government Inspector allowed any appeal the concerns put to me by residents are of a larger housing provider, once the precedent is set to build there, will come back for double the number of homes. The density of 1024 is very low, there is no way we would end up with 1024 homes in the Rydens area. More like double, so calculate how many traffic movements that would be. The area would be gridlocked.
I do agree with the concerns about very large applications being considered in the round, and many Councillors make this point on Planning committees. However we are always advised on Planning committees by the Council’s Planning Officers that only the application being considered at that point in time can be considered and that we cannot bring any other planning applications to bear on the decision making process. Surrey County Council also say they can only determine the application being considered.
As I understand both Councils do have a duty to consider infrastructure in the round and traffic and highways concerns are paramount in my view. The best way forward is for Residents and Councillors to lobby/write in respect of each application the appropriate time, during the planning process/consultation stages. However the Planning Officer’s reports will only ever be based on National Planning Guidance and as we know committees are often worried about refusing an application if the reasons are not watertight, as the applicant may go to Appeal and a lost Appeal can then cost the Local Authority money in costs awarded against it. Like you I find this extremely frustrating, but we do make all the points at the meetings and sometimes we are successful.