Introduction

Surrey County Councillor for Normandy, Pirbright and Worplesdon, Keith Witham, has worked hard on behalf of his constituents in Normandy and Flexford to reveal the information that lies behind the apparent educational need that would justify the proposal to build a large secondary school on the same site as the 'developer-led' proposal for 1,100 homes in the Green Belt. He has brought together a number of key points in his submission.


Secondary school at Normandy (Site A46, GBC draft Local Plan)

The proposed site of Normandy/Flexford for a new Secondary School should be rejected as the need for such a school in that location has not been proven.
 
In its last submission to GBC (July 2014)  Surrey County Council, in its official response, said:  "A site within the proposed urban extension at Blackwell Farm, with all necessary access infrastructure built in and a catchment surrounding the site, would be a more sustainable location in transport terms for a new secondary school to serve the western side of Guildford."   Why has GBC not heeded this advice?

I have highlighted that every neighbouring secondary school is currently undersubscribed, Kings Manor in particular with 57% of its school places currently unoccupied. The birth rate which rose in 2011 and 2012 has reduced for the last two years,  so building new schools now seems very foolhardy.
 
The addition of forms of entry to current schools will be much more cost effective and of courses sustainable in the long term if there is a reduction in need – an empty classroom is cost neutral in terms of annual budgets,  but an empty or only part subscribed school is unsustainable, having spent £millions on creating it would be  a huge waste of money
 
Adding forms of entry to several existing schools will see the costs absorbed after the initial capital cost needed to create a few extra rooms – but they still only require one headteacher, one set of staff etc The Head Teacher and Chairman of Governors at Ash Manor School have offered to co-operate with a programme to expand that school.
 
If SCC Education Officers support the proposal, Surrey County Council needs to demonstrate a clear, and undisputed need for such a school at this location, given the current under-subscription of all neighbouring local secondary schools surrounding Normandy. It should also set out how such a school will be financed. If not, the site should be rejected.


Transport & Roads

In terms of transport, site 46 is located well beyond the existing confines of any urban area restricting the potential for sustainable travel. The existence of Wanborough Railway Station is only of a marginal benefit.
 
The area  is bounded by the D60 (Glaziers Lane); the C16 (Wanborough Hill and Westwood Lane) and the A323 (Guildford/Aldershot Road).
 
I cannot envisage any so called "highways improvements" that could be undertaken, particularly on the C16 or D60 that would enable those roads to cope with the increased traffic from 1,100 homes and a Secondary School.
 
The A323 is already a busy major route, and scope for "improvements" to this road are also limited.
 
Although I suggest that in any case  Highways should consider installing a  passing lane, Guildford bound at the junction with Frog Grove Lane, Wood Street Village, to ease the congestion caused by commuter traffic turning right and causing considerable tailbacks. But that is a current, existing problem.
There would be access issues relating to visibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists, which could be difficult to resolve given that the roads are fundamentally rural roads, and the existing structures of the Westwood Lane Railway bridge and the Glaziers Lane railway Road bridge. The restricted headroom of the Westwood Lane bridge would also prohibit double decker buses from accessing the proposed school.


Rushmore Borough Council - Aldershot development

Local Authorities have a duty to co-operate in making their local plans and I do not believe this has happened.  In 2013 the development of 3,850 dwellings (population of approx. 9,000) in Aldershot was approved by Rushmoor Bourough Council and is situated about 4 miles from Normandy. The development, over a 15 year period, includes two primary schools, and the provision of a SANG and many other provisions.

The first  of these new houses, part of the first phase of 228 dwellings, are now on sale. The land belonged to the Ministry of Defence's former Aldershot Garrison known as Wellesley, Aldershot Urban Extension.  Guildford BC responded to the plan in 2013 (ref: 13/P/00108) and in that said that GBC objected to the application on the grounds that insufficient information had been provided to allow a full assessment on the impact of that development on the highways network and said "the impact on Surrey's network and mitigation required has not been established" It its response to that planning application, Hampshire County Council, dealing with Highways and Transport issues, hardly referred to the A323.  Copies of those responses are attached for reference.


Environmental Considerations

A development of this scale, in such proximity to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, should not be supported.
 
This is an environmentally sensitive location next to  one of the component SSSIs of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area for birds. The Thames Basin Heaths mitigation plan seeks to zone development away from these sites. This results in a 400m buffer zone where no residential development is permitted.

A developer-led proposal driven by commercial considerations does not take account of the damage it would cause to the local environment and the strain it will place on the local infrastructure.
 
The Green Belt and Countryside Study referring to the importance of the openness of the land between Normandy and Flexford, has been ignored.  The current version of the Plan treats Normandy and Flexford as separate settlements for the purposes of Green Belt ‘sensitivity’ but as one settlement for the purposes of ‘sustainability’. This is a double standard
 
There are many vitally important ecological networks (green infrastructure corridors) that surround the proposed development area (namely Ancient and Semi-natural Woodland, Veteran Trees,  Hedgerows, Semi-improved Grassland, Farmland and a Stream) and connect to other important and protected sites within Normandy Parish and the wider countryside (namely Wanborough and Normandy Woods Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), Normandy Pond SNCI, Normandy Common SNCI (put forward by the Surrey Local Nature Partnership in 2015), Wyke Churchyard SNCI, Little Flexford SNCI, and even more importantly Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBH SPA)).
 
This proposed development would destroy a number of these habitats including Semi-natural Woodland, Veteran and Mature Trees, Hedgerows, Farmland and Semi-improved Grassland, plus would have indirect affects on Ancient Woodland habitat and the Stream through pollution (light, noise, litter and diffuse land and road runoff), predation and disturbance by increased number of cats and dogs (187 cats (cat ownership being 17/100 households) and 264 dogs (dog ownership being 24/100 households) and by people (potential fires and vandalism of trees).
 
The proposed SANG is only 10ha and will be on land that will be muddy in wet weather and during the winter. Whereas the TBH SPA of Ash Ranges is dry during wet weather and during the winter, plus is either 5 minutes away by car or 20 minutes by foot.
 
All the habitats within or adjoining the proposed development site are Priority Habitats of Principal Importance under the NERC Act, plus a number of protected species (European Protected Species, Species of Principal Importance and those protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) as amended) have been recorded within either the proposed development site or 500m to 1km of the proposed development site. These include Hedgehogs, Dormice, Great Crested Newts, Barn Owls, Stag Beetles, Skylarks, Common Toads, Common Lizards, Grass Snakes, Adders, Slow worms, Badgers and Bats (including potential roosts within a number of veteran and mature oaks and other trees across the proposed development site and within the woodland blocks).
 
Light pollution from this proposed development on this scale would be starkly visible from Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
 
Effect on surrounding woodland and stream habitats that adjoin these roads including the SNCI's of Normandy Common, Normandy Pond and Wyke Churchyard.

Potential adverse impacts on the SPA could result from noise and disturbance during construction and through usage of the playing fields when, in addition, external lighting could cause disturbance to the feeding and roosting patterns of the SPA bird species. There could also be impacts on hydrology affecting the open water and wet heathland of the SPA/SSSI and from increased traffic on Westwood Lane, Glaziers Lane and Guildford Road. Traffic pollution is a major source of nitrogen pollution that changes heathland into grassland and many journeys to a new Secondary School could be expected to be by car.
 
Prior to any allocation of the site it will be necessary for the borough council to be able to conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that there would be no adverse impact on the integrity of the SPA as a consequence of the proposed development of the site.
 
Further work is needed by the borough council to provide the evidence needed to be able to reach that conclusion in respect of the use of the site as a secondary school. The site will require archaeological assessment in advance of any application for development being submitted. I am grateful to Danial Winchester, a professional ecologist who lives in Normandy/Flexford, for much of the above information.


SCC Policy

It is Surrey County Council policy (March 2013) by a Motion agreed at a Full Council meeting of Surrey County Council about the Green Belt:
 
Surrey County Council , March 2013
RESOLVED (unanimously):

Council notes:

1. Surrey County Council has a proud history as the creator of the Green Belt. The County’s Countryside Estate founded by the Surrey County Council Act of 1931 was the basis of the London County Council's Green Belt Act of 1938.

2. The Coalition Agreement states:

‘We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and other environmental protections, and create a new designation – similar to SSSIs –to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities.’

Council believes:

Surrey’s Green Belt, Countryside Estate, SSSIs and other green spaces are vital, not only for the county’s environment but also for maintaining a “green lung” around London.

Council resolves:
1. To use its power to protect Surrey’s Green Belt.
2. To support the National Planning Policy Framework (section 9 – paragraphs 79 to 92) and the Government’s policy of protecting the Green Belt.
3. To make Surrey’s MPs and the County’s Districts and Boroughs aware of this resolution.
4. That any Green Belt development in the County is in line with the needs and wishes of Surrey residents

 

Sunday the 28th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template