NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM UPDATE 24
The past few months have flown by. It is a sobering thought that within a few weeks we will be ticking off Midsummer’s Day on our calendars. Much has happened over the past few months since the last Update was distributed in February and you may have wondered why you have heard nothing since.
I explained in the December Update that members should expect the frequency of this publication to move to alternate months but that I would write with news of significant developments when it seemed appropriate.
Several of the topics that I would have focused upon since February, however, were covered in the excellent annual Newsletter of the Hook Heath Residents’ Association (HHRA) which was distributed in April. You will also have received the comprehensive minutes of the Forum meeting which was held at Gorse Hill on 23 April.
The next few months promise to be equally busy. The major issue for residents will be Woking Borough Council’s (WBC) plan for removing land from the Green Belt between Hook Heath and Mayford to meet the Borough’s short and medium term housing requirements. This promises to have a profound and far-reaching impact on the area. I refer to this controversial subject later.
Sincere thanks to everyone who responded to the appeal to make their views known to WBC during the six week-long public consultation on the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Plan. In all, there were 120 representations submitted, the vast majority from local residents. Only three expressed concerns and criticisms about the Plan and its policies and predictably two were made by planning consultants retained by Messrs Martin Grant Homes and Taylor Wimpey.
A month later than originally scheduled, the draft Plan and supporting documents were considered at a meeting of WBC on 21 May which approved their submission to the independent Plan Examiner, Chris Collison, for his scrutiny. Our Neighbourhood Plan is the first in the Borough to have reached this stage. It was disappointing, therefore, that the Lib Dem representatives on the Council felt unable to give it their support. Two Lib Dem councillors voted against and five others abstained but the recommendation was carried handsomely enough by 26 votes.
lan’s top marks
Mr Collison, one of the country’s most experienced and respected planning experts who has examined a number of neighbourhood plans nationally, completed his examination at the end of May. Recommending that the Plan should proceed to a local referendum - subject to eight modifications he recommended being incorporated - he noted: ‘The Neighbourhood Plan has been produced to a very high standard.’
Examiners have three options when considering a neighbourhood plan. They can approve the draft plan as submitted; reject it on the grounds that it fails to meet the requirements of the legislation; or recommend that it can proceed subject to modification. This was the outcome that we had hoped for. Mr Collison’s final report can be accessed on the HHRA website at: www.hhra.co.uk/hookheathforum.
The plan documentation, together with Mr Collison’s report, is now with WBC to consider the Examiner’s recommendations. The next stage will be for WBC to publish a ‘decision statement’. Once it is satisfied that the modified Plan meets the basic conditions, the Council must proceed to a local referendum as soon as reasonably possible.
The referendum will be conducted by WBC and will enable residents and businesses located within the designated Neighbourhood Area to vote. Provided the Plan receives majority support from those taking part in the referendum, WBC will accord the Plan full legal status within the planning system.
Keep an eye on www.hhra.co.uk/hookheathforum for developments.
Pub with no beer
Since its closure and sale by Punch Taverns nine months ago, the Star on Wych Hill has become an unwelcome blot on our local landscape. It remains a pub with no beer just a few yards outside our designated Neighbourhood Area boundary.
But it shares with the nineteen pubs - with beer - in the west Yorkshire town of Otley the distinction of being listed as an Asset of Community Value ( ACV). Thanks to the timely nomination by the HHRA (using section 89 of the Localism Act 2011), it became the first ACV to be listed within the Borough.
This is an important development. The Co-op, which owns the lease on the property, is still awaiting a decision on its second application to build an extension as part of its plan to re-open the building as a mini-supermarket. Its first application was rejected by WBC and it, like the second attempt, faced strong opposition from local residents.
The freeholder and leaseholder are entitled to request a review of the listing decision but that must be made by 13 July this year. The owner/leaseholder will be required to set out their grounds for a review and that would normally take place within 8 weeks of WBC receiving the review request.
Prior to the ACV listing, several expressions of interest were received from third parties. They included developing the property as a bar/bistro, while a restaurateur was interested in transferring his business to the site. Who knows, the ACV listing may attract renewed interest.
It is also worth noting that recent research by Barclays revealed that 42% of pub businesses were established in the last three years and average pub turnover has increased by almost a quarter (23%) up from 2012.
There is more information on the ACV listing which can be accessed at: www.hhra.co.uk.
Transforming the local landscape
Over the next few years, the area around Hook Heath and Mayford looks set to undergo dramatic change with Green Belt land being lost to enable development to take place. Members of the WBC Executive met on 4 June and considered a mountain of documentation - the blueprint - for the Borough’s development through to 2040.
These documents will lead eventually to the production and adoption of the Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD) and follow in the wake of the Green Belt Review carried out by consultants at the behest of WBC and published last year.
WBC’s Core Strategy document sets a housing target of 4,964 dwelling to be built between 2010 and 2027, or an average of 292 new homes per year up to 2027. The Council has identified sufficient land within the urban area to meet the target up to 2022 but for the balance of the period to 2027, there is a shortfall of 550 homes. Hence the need for a review of the Green Belt and the updating of preferred and possible future sites.
It will come as no surprise that the SADPD paperwork, which will be the subject of public consultation for six weeks from 18 June to 31 July, reflects in large measure the recommendations made in the consultants’ review published a year ago. Full details will be found on the WBC website (www.woking.gov.uk) or via www.hhra.co.uk/hookheathforum.
Where and when
The documentation is so extensive that it is impossible in this bulletin to provide more than a few snapshots to provide some illustration of the scale of the exercise. In all, 14 areas of land are to be removed from the Borough’s Green Belt amounting to some 2% of the total Green Belt area.
Areas designated as ‘preferred options’ and recommended for allocation include Ten Acre Farm, Smart’s Heath Road, Mayford (GB7 in the documentation) where WBC is looking to provide 12 additional permanent pitches for travellers to the existing three pitches in the period 2016-2027. This land will remain within the Green Belt.
The first significant site likely to be developed is the nursery land adjacent to Egley Road, Mayford (listed as GB8). This is the area where, subject to planning permission being given, the new Hoe Valley Secondary School is to be built and which will also incorporate recreational open space and an athletics track. Between 2022 and 2027, however, a mixture of 188 residential and affordable homes is pencilled in for development.
Looking further ahead to the period 2027-2040, the adjacent land at Woking Garden Centre (GB9) has been identified as a site for a mixture of 50 residential and affordable homes with retail and community facilities.
The escarpment’s integrity
Interestingly, WBC states that in relation to both the GB8 and GB9 sites: ‘Development of this site(s) would not adversely affect the integrity of the (Hook Heath) escarpment.’
Similar comforting words are expressed in relation to site GB10, the area to the north east of Saunders Lane and between Saunders Lane and Hook Hill Lane, Mayford. It is proposed that this site should be ‘safeguarded’ to meet the long term housing needs between 2027and 2040. It is projected to accommodate 171 residential and affordable homes together with an area of open space.
An even larger area destined for safeguarding for the later period is land which lies to the north west of Saunders Lane (site GB11) where up to 210 residential and affordable homes look set to be built at a density of 30 dwelling per hectare.
WBC notes: ‘The location is within the designated escarpment and rising ground of landscape importance, however it lies on the lower levels which are relatively shallow sloping, such that it could be developed without compromising the integrity of the escarpment.’
In total these sites are likely to lead to the construction of more than 600 new homes over the plan period. Worryingly, there is rather less detail throughout the SADPD paperwork on the infrastructure that is to accompany these developments. Given the pressure from central Government to increase the rate of house building nationally and lobbying by developers, we should not be too surprised if these longer term plans were to manifest themselves somewhat earlier.
Residents will have an opportunity to express their views to WBC over the next few weeks in the course of the public consultation exercise. Please keep an eye on our website for details and updates.
I hope that the next stage of the Neighbourhood Plan’s progress through the local government machinery will be the referendum for which a date has yet to be set. We will hold a meeting of the Forum ahead of that event, so do please keep a careful eye on the Forum website.
Many thanks for your continued interest and support which is very much appreciated.
Chairman, Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum
Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum
an initiative of the Hook Heath Residents' Association
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