New 25 affordable homes development approved by Guildford Borough Council on Green Belt

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Plans for 25 affordable homes have been approved on the empty site of the former Highlands Nurseries, in Portsmouth Road.

An application for the site, submitted by PA Housing, was approved by a Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) planning committee on May 22.

Despite receiving zero letters of public support for the application, councillors accepted the proposal for its contribution to meeting the affordable housing need in the local area of Ripley.

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Self-proclaimed Green Belt advocate, Cllr Stephen Hives (Lib Dem/Stoke) said: “Access to affordable housing trumps the Green Belt in this case. It’s a shame, I never thought I would say it.”

Cgi Entrance To The Former Highlands Nursery Development (Credit: PA Housing Documents)Cgi Entrance To The Former Highlands Nursery Development (Credit: PA Housing Documents)
Cgi Entrance To The Former Highlands Nursery Development (Credit: PA Housing Documents)

Meeting documents state that “any inappropriate developments” are judged to be “harmful to the Green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances”. Officers recommended the development was acceptable because it would be 100 per cent affordable housing.

Located within the Green Belt in Ripley, the proposed development will comprise 18 semi-detached houses, one semi detached bungalow and six apartments (one bed). Conditions for the development require the homes to be affordable rent permanently to those with a local link to Ripley Parish.

Speaking in support at the meeting, Cllr Roland Cornell of Ripley Town Parish council said: “The benefit this development brings outweighs the harm caused to this site on the edge of the settlement.” He added the development will “ensure Ripley will have an eclectic mix of all demographics, remaining an active and vibrant community, and does not only move to an area of the more affluent in our society.”

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Affordable rents are set at up to 80 per cent of open market rents, providing opportunities for those who would struggle to rent or buy a property. Unlike social housing, these properties are not council-owned.

Plan Of Former Highlands Nursery Housing Development (Credit: Guildford Borough Council Documents)Plan Of Former Highlands Nursery Housing Development (Credit: Guildford Borough Council Documents)
Plan Of Former Highlands Nursery Housing Development (Credit: Guildford Borough Council Documents)

A Housing Need Survey (dated 2020) identified 32 households on the housing register for Ripley, plus at least three who were yet to register with the local authority. “This directly responds to meeting the needs of those in greatest local housing need,” the report noted.

Each home will be provided with a private garden space- with the exception of first floor flats. However, a separate public central green space with a play area is also planned for the back of the site.

Nearly 50 letters of objection were submitted to GBC, raising concerns the development will have “an urbanising effect” and is out of character with the surroundings.

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Speaking at the meeting, resident Frederick Trodd said the proposal made him “so angry” due to the risk of harming the ecology and wildlife in the area, as well as the potential impacts on an area already vulnerable to flooding. He pleaded with the committee to “protect” the the animal habitats in the last wildlife corridor between Ripley and Send Marsh.

Attention was drawn to how affordable housing needs were being met elsewhere in the borough by councillors and the public alike. For instance, the approved Garlick’s Arch development is set to provide a minimum of 200 homes, and the proposed former Wisley Airfield development could supply 692 properties.

Officers pointed out the approval of this application was based on supporting the local need in Ripley rather than the Guildford borough as a whole. Around 1,910 households are on the waiting list for a property in GBC’s latest report.

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