Woking Council is just not listening

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On 30 May the Residents Association received a letter from WBC stating that amended plans for Brookwood Farm would be going on line within 3 working days. When the Planning Website was updated it was disappointing to see how little had been changed and it would appear that neither WBC nor the developer, Cala Homes, was listening to the views of so many of the local residents or organisations like ours.

The first point to note with the amended plans is that there was no letter from the developer outlining the amendments and why they had been submitted. Tthe amendments include changes to the design and layout of some of the plots. The total development remains 297 dwellings and the split of private an affordable housing remains the same. There is also a pattern for a proposed network of footpaths, the amendment does not state if these have been approved by Natural England given that this development is close to areas of special importance. Finally there is the air quality assessment report from the developer’s consultants, more of that later.

The main issues not addressed;

  1. The impact on traffic especially the congestion on the A322 (Bagshot Road).
  2. The protection of the Green Belt that surrounds the proposed development.
  3. Provision of sufficient primary school places within easy reach of the development site and GP coverage.

Roads

The plan remains to have one vehicle access to the farm development. SCC have raised concerns with this decision especially on the ability for emergency vehicles gaining speedy access to the far end of the site.

In 2005, in response to an earlier application to build on Brookwood Farm, Surrey County Council stated very clearly that single point of access via the creation of a crossroad junction at Redding Way could accommodate traffic from around 200 dwellings.

Cala Homes and WBC want to build 297 dwellings when previously SCC said the junction could accommodate traffic from 200 dwellings. What has changed?

Given that WBC is working closely with Cala Homes on this development has SCC, or other independent body, been asked to verify that a single junction can cope with a 50% increase in dwellings and the associated additional traffic?

In 2006 SCC stated that with 200 dwellings the junction at Redding Way would just be within the roads capacity.

This means that Cala Homes and WBC are planning a development that will take the traffic at the Redding Way junction over its capacity thus resulting in more congestion. How can this be considered sound planning and is it acceptable?

Bellamy Roberts, consultants to Cala Homes on transport issues, stated that they only expected around 96 cars to leave the estate during the morning two hour busy period. Three hundred dwellings and only 96 vehicles taking people to work or parents taking children to school!!!

Has WBC or SCC challenged the data from Bellamy Roberts? If they have why isn’t there an amended Transport Assessment on line? More secrecy.

Footpaths

The amended plans show a number of new proposed footpaths but it is unclear if the plans have been approved by SCC or Natural England. The amendment includes a footpath that runs from the lower half of the estate and joins the Basingstoke Canal just below the current allotments.

The amended plans say the changes have been made following consultation with the local authority and in accordance with requests from SCC Highways. The points made by the local authority and SCC Highways are not on the web site, why not? What have WBC go to hide?

On one of the plans Cala Homes are proposing a new footpath close to where the development site meets Grindstone Handle Corner. One of the notes on the diagram states ‘Footpath link is requested by SCC Highways. Controlled access gate to be provided.

Who has been formally consulted on the formation of a new footpath over private land?

Controlled access gate to be provided, who will have the right to use this footpath or is this reference to a controlled gate another piece of PR nonsense?

Air Quality

WBC is required to monitor the level of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) in the atmosphere and one of their monitoring points is the junction of Redding Way and Bagshot Road. We recommend that you read the full reports from WBC’s Environmental Officer. They can be found on the WBC web site.

The main cause of poor air quality from NO2 is exhaust fumes from stationary or slow moving vehicles. In 2010 the level of NO2 at the Redding Way junction was above the national annual mean NO2 objective and that is worrying. It did fall back in 2011 but this was due to changes in the weather and not changes in the number of vehicles using the road. A point not included in the report published by Cala Homes consultants (RSK). The conclusion reached by RSK is that air quality is considered to be a low priority concern for the proposed development scheme.

However if you go into the detail of the report they actually state that the level of NO2 will increase by just over 7% when the development is operational. This figure is based on a model using Cala’s own traffic figures, figures that are questionable.

WBC has now received the developers own air quality report, who will independently check this report and verify its accuracy, especially on the traffic data used in their modelling?

Schools

The Government recently stated that with any substantial new development services, including primary education should be within walking distance of the development. The nearest schools to the site are Knaphill Junior and Lower schools. Both these schools have been oversubscribed for at least the last four years and in a planning application for a development at another school in the area SCC have stated that there is insufficient space to add new classrooms at either Knaphill Junior or Lower schools at an acceptable cost.

Given the lack of space and no plans to expand either Knaphill Lower or Knaphill Junior schools a great number of the families who move onto the new development will find that they do not have a school within walking distance and this will lead to more traffic trying to navigate the Bagshot Road during the peak hours.

Health Cover

Brookwood does not have a GP surgery within the village and many of the current residents use the surgery in Pirbright. Knaphill has a one surgery which is part of a consortium and has on average three doctors covering the Knaphill practice. There is no evidence to show that either the PCT or the relevant GP group has considered the implications of the Brookwood Farm development.

Does WBC believe that the current GP coverage is sufficient for their proposed development? If the answer is no what work has been put in hand to gain additional GP coverage and where the additional resources will be based

Green Belt

Thames Basin Heaths was classified as a Special Protected Area (SPA) in March 2005 for its internationally important breeding populations of Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler. It comprises approximately 8400ha of heathland habitat around Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey border. One of the main issues as housing developments get closer to the boundaries of the SPA affecting the designation is recreational disturbance, potentially resulting in adverse effects on the bird species for which the SPA is designated due to nest predation as adult birds are flushed from the nest, chicks or eggs dying of exposure, accidental trampling, increased stress levels or predation by domestic dogs.

It would appear from the amended plans that the developer, with agreement from WBC, has published opens up large sections of Zone A of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA for public recreation.

Natural England has advised that to effectively mitigate the impacts of residential development on the SPA, a three pronged approach is necessary:

        1. The provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Green space (SANG) to attract people away from the SPA.
        2. Access management to monitor and manage the impact of people using the SPA; and
        3. Habitat management of the SPA to improve the habitats of the protected birds.

It is unclear where the boundaries of the SANG will be drawn and if Natural England and the Thames Basin Heaths Joint Strategic Partnership Board have signed off the plan for the SANG and the proposed network of footpaths.

In additional to Thames Basin Heaths you have a Site of Nature Conservation Importance which is land at the north of Sheets Heath, Bisley Common (SNCI) and a replanted ancient woodland.

 

The Wall of Secrecy

We have not used the word conclusion because this proposed development should be some distance from reaching a conclusion. Given all the outstanding issues around roads, traffic, school places, health cover and protection of the Green Belt it is difficult to see how a Councillor could state that he is confident that the 297 dwellings will be built.

 

One of the major difficulties that bodies like ours (Knaphill Residents Association) face is a wall of silence to any question we put to any of the Officers working for WBC and to a lesser extent the silence of local Councillors.

 

One of the aims of recent enacted legislation was to involve local communities in decision making. The Localism Act was intended to give power to local communities by introducing rights like the right to challenge.

 

Local Communities have been given the right to challenge but we can only challenge when the authority shares the information.

 

WBC limits the amount of information they publish until the Planning Officer has written his report and published his recommendation. This will be less than a week before the Councillors meet in the Planning Committee to review the Planning Officers report and recommendation.

 

From our observations of the working of the Planning Committee they are put under considerable pressure to only consider what is in the Planning Officers report.

 

Knaphill Residents Association will continue to raise issues and as far as possible keep residents fully informed as the plans develop.

 

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About Author

Andy is a business systems and operations consultant for The Business Delicatessen and has helped the KRA over several years. He is former editor of the magazine and also runs Fat Crow Design.

3 Comments

  1. An excellent review. Already the heavy plant is operating! This week in field adjacent to Grindstone Handle Corner, last week in the field bounding Corresbrook Way. W.B.C.’s planning website not accessible to Apple users, the available site at the Council Offices provides an indistinct and faint view reminiscent of Coronation TV pictures, and a choice of over 200 views described in jargon!!! Viewed(sic) this week even the assistant had to request a paper copy to be made and brought down!!! This seems now to be developing into yet another Morgan-Kingsbury Bulldozer plundering through the Borough fueled with secrecy,egoism and deception.

  2. I agree with Bentley, a very good review of the current position. There are several issues yet to be satisfactorily addressed in this project. Firstly, I cannot accept SCC position on traffic. Once again their ability to understand or manage the traffic on the A322 is close to wet finger calculations and again their stance is going to create more than that road can cope with during peak times. The cross roads at Brookwood are a bottleneck but during morning peak time the queues can stretch back to stafford lake road. How do SCC plan to manage the extra traffic wishing to join this road?
    I understand that Carla homes are now planning to provide access from the estate via Grindstone Handle Corner across what I understand to be common land. Has there been an environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out on this route, or for that matter Brookwood Farm. Does any work over common land not require permission from the secretary of state? Where are these permissions?
    Surely much of this should be part of the planning application and not conditions of the already granted planning permission. Can anyone tell me that these issues have been addressed because all I get from WBC is an automated response letter.

  3. It is very difficult to get answers from WBC. The decision to start work on the proposed 4th arm on the junction between Redding Way and Bagshot road was agreed when they approved the building of the Eco houses on the edge of the Farm. The other work, well the timing of the start of this work is questionable. A dig of this nature usually is a condition to build after being granted planning permission, so has the devloper been given a green light?

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