First Published: 21/12/2020
The application for development of the Merrileas site (2020/0308) mentioned in previous FEDORA communications was regrettably approved by the full Elmbridge Planning Committee on 14 December, 2020, without amendment or any new conditions. Further details are given below.
Whilst it was always likely that the application would not be refused, given the pressure Elmbridge is now under to increase the pace of new development, there are a number of aspects of this application and its approval that are of concern. In particular we consider we have been let down by the approach of Surrey Highways and the complete lack of coordination between Surrey and Elmbridge.
For those not familiar with the application it is for a development of 67 residential units, including provision for affordable housing, on a site of 2.4 Ha which until recently was occupied by just one house (Merrileas) to the south of Oxshott just off the main A244.
The application was first submitted in February 2020, was amended in August and attracted 183 objections. The scale of the development and the number of objections meant this was heard directly by the main Elmbridge Planning Committee. Andrew Burley is our only local councillor on this committee although David Lewis attended as a replacement for another member.
Planning Committee Meeting
The amended application contained one change requested by the local community, namely the removal on security grounds, as recommended by Surrey Police, of a footpath through to Old Farmhouse Drive, but neither Elmbridge officers, nor the majority of the councillors on the Planning Committee, nor the applicant were sympathetic to further views and concerns of local residents.
As reported previously, of particular concern to FEDORA is the increased risk to both road users and pedestrians of a development of this scale joining the busy A244 and the absence of continuous pavements from the site to the centre of the village. This means that a pedestrian travelling from Merrileas to the village must cross the A244 twice to reach the village and three times to reach the station. FEDORA had been active in discussions with several relevant parties, had commissioned expert technical advice which supported our views, and had met with representatives of the developers. Whilst most of our views were accepted, or at least not rejected, the applicant’s default position was that it was doing what Surrey Highways had requested
In the meeting Dr John Yates spoke well on behalf of the objectors. Andrew Burley and David Lewis raised a number of concerns about the development and non-compliance with policy. In particular they drew attention to the safety concerns of making residents of Merrileas cross a busy and dangerous road in order to take children to school or reach the village. Andrew Burley proposed that it should be a condition of approval that the developer should construct a pavement giving safe pedestrian access to the village. Regretably, this was not accepted by fellow Committee members on the grounds that, even though it might be a good idea, Surrey Highways had not requested it - even though Andrew Burley reported (correctly) that following an earlier meeting with senior Surrey representatives, this proposal would now be supported by Surrey.
It is galling that although a pavement will need to be built at some stage this will now be at tax-payers’ expense. The opportunity to seek a contribution from a developer which will make a profit of more than £5 million from this development has been lost.
In one farcical discussion, worthy of Alice in Wonderland, credit was given to the applicant for improving access to a bus stop even though it was acknowledged that there is no useful bus service.
Two key points emerged from the Committee discussion which will be of interest and concern to Oxshott residents:
- The majority of councillors at this Committee level have no sympathy for the concerns of residents in the less-densely populated parts of the borough. As one councillor noted “Oxshott will have to get used to higher density development in order to preserve the Green Belt”. That appeared to be the only.
- There is a complete absence of joined-up thinking between Surrey (particularly Surrey Highways) and Elmbridge officers; the narrow views of Surrey Highways have let Oxshott residents down badly.
FEDORA will be responding in three ways.
- We will raise this lack of coordination between councils with both our Elmbridge and Surrey councillors;
- The safety concerns of the A244 and the inadequate provision for pedestrians is part of the ongoing discussions with Surrey following our A244 petition, which we will report on in the near future;
- We will continue to make the point to all relevant parties, based on advice, that more consideration must be given to the safety impact of this development.