It seems that there is soon to be an application for the development of 1,024 homes on Green Belt land bounded by Fieldcommon, Molesey Road and Lower Green (just north-east of Hersham Station).
The proposed development is set out over 147 acres, including 75 acres of new public space and would be called ‘Drake Park’.
To give you an idea of the location and what’s proposed, I have included the latest masterplan (published on the Get Surrey website) and a zoomed out aerial photograph with the site identified below.
The development of Green Belt land is generally very contentious, emotive, and a bit of political hot potato. The Council’s latest Land Availability Assessment (February 2015) states that the Council has no intention to allow development on the Green Belt for Housing. This document concludes that there is sufficient urban areas of Elmbridge available to meet the Council’s 5 year target for housing, and therefore ‘the Council will continue to prioritise development within the urban area and reject sites on the Green Belt.’
That being said, there is a significant amount of green belt land in Surrey, much of it on private land which is not available for the public to enjoy or even visible to the public. The release of 75 acres of publically accessible green space is therefore a significant planning benefit, subject to the impact on any existing wildlife.
Although the Council has identified sufficient land for housing, the latest Annual Monitoring Report (2013-2014) shows that the Council is consistently falling below on providing sufficient new ‘affordable houses’. If there is a large proportion of affordable housing proposed (which I understand may be the case), the Council could potentially use this to justify an exception to their normal approach to such development.
According to the ‘Get Surrey’ website the development will also include a primary school, a pub, a casual restaurant like Pizza Express, a small supermarket, a doctors’ surgery and a pharmacy, plus outdoor facilities including a fitness circuit.
Without having seen detailed proposals / supporting evidence for this development I have not formed a view at this stage. Unlike many, I don’t necessarily think that the Green Belt is wholly sacrosanct, when it differs significantly in quality and contribution to openness and preventing urban sprawl (the original purpose of Green Belt land). However I am very concerned that it is only released under very special circumstances, in the right locations and when the planning benefits are significant enough to warrant an exception. I am also very wary about the impact on any existing wildlife.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave any comments.
I will keep an eye out for the formal planning application submission and keep you updated.
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