In surveying the attendance at the Normandy Parish Council public meeting to consider the impact of the draft Local Plan proposal to build 1,150 homes across two sites, Normandy's borough councillor David Bilbe estimated in excess of 300 residents present, of whom approximately 50% claimed to have not attended the previous meeting organised by Normandy Action Group. Perhaps the presence of Jonathan Lord MP, our local representative in Parliament was an added attraction.

The opening statement by the chair of Normandy Parish Council, Alan Cheeseman, set the scene. He was followed by Surrey County Councillor for Worplesdon division (including Pirbright, Normandy and Worplesdon) Keith Witham who succinctly summarised the three keys issues within the control of Surrey County Council [SCC] that will determine the content of residents' objections; the proposed 7FE secondary school; the impact on highways; the impact on the environment.

In spite of the leader of Guildford Borough Council [GBC], Cllr Spooner, commenting that the school would be an 'enabling development', Cllr Witham proposed that the 'need' is 'not proven'. He went on to described how, currently, all neighbouring secondary schools are under-subscribed, particularly Kings College, Park Barn (57% under-utilised). Add to this a falling birth rate in Guildford and the arguments begin to look weaker. In response to visits by Cllr Witham, the head teachers of Ash Manor School and Kings College have expressed a willingness to expand once fully utilised; Ash Manor School already has an expansion plan in place. Critically, Surrey County Council needs to prove an undisputed 'need' for a 7FE secondary school and the availability of financing to make it a reality. With no proven 'need' there will be no development.

The school is proposed in a location beyond urban transport services. With one C and one D class road the stress on the local system will be severe. No highways improvement will be possible on such roads to cope with the housing development. Possible improvements to the A323 are limited e.g. Frog Grove Lane junction passing lane proposals. Travel to and from the school for children using the preferred method of cycling raises significant questions of safety. The railway bridges in Westwood Land and Glaziers Lane are hazardous and bottlenecks for traffic. GBC has a 'track record' of rejecting housing proposals in Rushmoor Borough at the ex-Wellesly Garrison, Aldershot for highways reasons under the Duty to Co-operate. When faced with a plan for 3,850 homes 4 miles away from Normandy, plus two schools and SANG, GBC objected to the plan as they claimed "insufficient information to evaluate the highways impact".

The potential environmental impact of the proposed Normandy/Flexford development could be significant. The site is in close proximity to the European Natura 2000 area of Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area [TBHSPA], that hosts three rare ground-nesting bird species in a rare heathland habitat. The "openness" of the Green Belt land between Normandy and Flexford recognised in the Green Belt & Countryside Study [GBCS] evidence documents is being ignored by GBC Planning Policy team. Such a large development will be strongly lit, generating significant light pollution that will be easily visible from the Surrey Hills AONB. However, Cllr Witham further remarked that the reason for such large sites for housing being proposed by GBC Planning Policy was that it was "easier for them to administer the planning applications of a few large sites rather than many smaller sites". He left the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Finally, Cllr Witham pointed out that SCC "at its meeting on 19 March 2013, the County Council unanimously resolved to use its power to protect Surrey’s Green Belt, support the National Planning Policy Framework (section 9 – paragraphs 79 to 92) and the Government’s policy of protecting the Green Belt, to make Surrey’s MPs and the County’s Districts and Boroughs aware of this resolution and for any Green Belt development in the County to be in line with the needs and wishes of Surrey residents."

Further contributions were made by Cllr Bilbe and Jonathan Lord MP, who quoted exclusively from the Normandy Action Group press release 7 April 2016 that appeared in the Surrey Advertiser that week. The meeting was then opened for questions from and statements by residents to which the panel responded.

Monday the 25th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template