Local residents have been horrified to see the sudden appearance of a pitch for two caravans in the field by the Westwood Lane bend (the ‘lower AGLV field’), with associated hard standing laid over a plastic membrane following levelling of the field, and concreted-in fencing marking the site. This article sets out the background to this unhappy situation.

The land falls within the Green Belt and is also part of the Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) that is currently being considered for inclusion in an extended Surrey Hills Area of Natural Beauty (AONB). Formerly part of the Hampton Estate, it was sold about five years ago to a land banker, who divided it up into smaller plots and sold it on to multiple owners. The same agent also subdivided and sold on the land that runs down from the Hog’s Back to Westwood Lane, some of which falls within the AONB and some the AGLV.

When fencing and other structures started appearing in what had previously been a pristine open landscape (whence the AONB and AGLV designations), and planning applications were received for even larger structures, local residents raised the alarm, and in 2018 Guildford Borough Council (GBC) imposed an Article 4 Direction. This removes what are known as ‘permitted development rights’ and means that development of any kind has to be subject to a planning application.

There then followed a long period of attrition, with GBC attempting to oblige plot-owners to remove unauthorised structures. Some did as they were asked, but others prevaricated, including making appeals to the Planning Inspectorate. Every single one of these appeals has been lost, and GBC has also turned down almost all the applications that have come its way, the only exception being for water pipes and taps in one or two of the higher plots. Nothing at all has been approved in the lower AGLV field where the caravans now sit.

In September 2020 GBC issued an Enforcement Notice and Stop Order in respect of an area known as Lot A1, running for a good distance from the gate into the lower AGLV field along the edge of the hedge to the left – including where the caravans now sit. This required the plot owner to remove all structures, hard core, etc. and to restore the land to its original state. This went to appeal, but as we have previously reported, the appeal was thrown out in September 2021.

What happened next is unclear, but it is possible that the land was – or perhaps already had been - further subdivided, with precise ownership unclear. This naturally makes GBC’s task much more difficult. But in any event, far from the Notice’s being complied with, there has been additional unauthorised activity on the site, including the burning of large quantities of - potentially hazardous – waste in a skip in a sub-plot (?) just behind where the caravans have now appeared.

Wanborough Parish Council, supported by local residents and NAG, have all been working hard to alert GBC to this situation and to support them in their enforcement efforts. But their task is not an easy one. The enforcement team is under-resourced and lacks the tools needed to do the job. The planning system assumes that people are, by and large, law-abiding, and it copes only with difficulty when people choose to flout the law; the reality is that miscreants are able to run rings around the authorities with apparent impunity. And then the planning system as a whole falls into disrepute. A lot is at stake in Wanborough Fields.  

Wednesday the 17th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template