Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Burpham Community Association (SHC 50)

  The community of Burpham is located to the north east of Guildford, adjacent to the A3. The Burpham Community Association (BCA) has an interest in the above Inquiry as a consequence of our concerns in respect of the recent Surrey County Council Draft Spatial Strategy and the proposal to build 6,000 additional new homes in the Guildford locality. It is our understanding that this housing comprises part of a requirement by the Deputy Prime Minister that Surrey must build 35,400 new homes (13,000 more than the County considers it can reasonably accommodate) by 2016.

  The local community is opposed to the provision of 6,000 homes on three new sites around Guildford in the manner being proposed by Surrey County Council and is particularly concerned about the proposal to build 2,000 new homes in the vicinity of Gosden Hill, Burpham, which is seen as wholly inappropriate.

  The reasons for objection include:

    —  Such a massive building requirement is unnecessary. Drawing upon an article at page P2 of the Daily Telegraph, Saturday, 3rd August 2002, ". . . the Government estimated in 2000 that 763,900 homes are empty nationally, surprisingly many, 327,100 were in the flourishing South-East, South-West and East." 6,000 new homes in and around Guildford is a mere flea bite against this huge number and yet such development would have a massive and totally disproportionate impact upon all aspects of our community and town life. Urgent efforts must be made to return this empty housing stock back into use to provide homes and regenerate run down areas.

    —  Towns across Britain are becoming retail and commercial deserts, dominated by a few major companies, with little or no provision for residential occupation or opportunity for the small business. More must be done to regenerate run down areas, stimulate housing provision to restore a "living heart" to our towns and cities and encourage smaller and more diverse retail and commercial enterprise.

    —  Further, significant and prompt action must be taken to utilise brown field sites for residential use.

    —  In our particular case, Guildford is already large and densely populated enough. Whilst the town must evolve to meet the needs of a changing society, it is bounded and constrained by geographic features, supported by the Green Belt. Further significant development in the manner envisaged would irrevocably change and damage the very nature of our town, which is already under acute stress.

    —  Any erosion of the Green Belt and consequent intrusion into the countryside will have a significant impact upon local amenity and the enjoyment of our green space. It will weaken the separation of our various communities and result in an amorphous urban sprawl—death by "Croydonisation"!

    —  The recent "clarification" provided by the Deputy Prime Minister that housing densities must be increased to preserve the Green Belt would have a very different but equally destructive outcome as our attractive and desirable town would be slowly strangled and suffocated if each available space was to be infilled with high density housing. Clearly such housing would be appropriate and desirable in certain developments within the town to meet specific local needs but not as a general rule to cram in the massive housing allocation that Government and County seek to impose on Guildford.

    —  Clearly the proposals to build 6,000 new homes in the locality would have tremendous implications for traffic volumes. In Burpham we already suffer the consequences of shortsighted planning when a partial movements junction onto the A3 was permitted at Clay Lane in preference to an all movements junction further north. The consequence being that high volumes of traffic are forced to cross in the centre of our community with the resultant congestion and pollution. A further 2,000 new homes at Gosden Hill with the inevitable increase in vehicle numbers would be the last straw with vehicle "movement" all but impossible at peak times.

    —  There can be no doubt that these developments would have a profound and negative impact upon a whole range of existing facilities and services. The Royal Surrey hospital and local schools can scarcely cope today and a whole range of community provision will be placed under enormous stress, reducing availability and undermining the quality of life for all.

    —  Despite reassurances to the contrary, members of the Burpham Community Association have grave reservations about the ability of Surrey County Council or its developers to finance and provide the necessary infrastructure to support the proposed developments in our locality.

  The Burpham Community Association and all those we represent are totally opposed to the proposals of the Deputy Prime Minister and Surrey County Council to build an additional 6,000 new homes between Guildford and Woking. Clearly we accept that Guildford, as with all towns and cities throughout Britain, must evolve and develop to meet changing needs but this must be done in sympathy with the existing environment and in accord with the aspirations of local government to meet the needs of the resident community.

  It is a reality, recognised by those who established the Green Belt, that demand for property in the South East of England is insatiable, irrespective of provision. The proposals presently under consideration will do nothing to constrain house prices or address the urgent need for affordable or "key worker" housing. Alternative and quite separate strategies are needed to address this issue.

  A critical juncture has been reached in this part of Surrey (and elsewhere I suspect). Our essential services, education, health, police, transport, etc., are subject to the most stringent and worsening financial constraints, whilst demand increases unabated. We teeter on crises in all areas of social provision yet plans envisage ever increasing numbers of houses, whether by urban sprawl or increased density. There is simply not the resilience in the local infrastructure to cope with the population explosion that will result and assurances that such will be provided with the development are fallacious as those proposed, including possibly new shops, primary school and doctors' surgery, are geared to meet only the proximate needs of the new population and not the consequences for Guildford as a whole.

Graham Hardy


Burpham Community Association

4 November 2002

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