The Coblands site is still bogged down in the planning process and I’m still wary of giving any dates as to when things may change. The site is in the Green Belt. To us in Brookwood it’s brown field, but to the Local Planning Authority (LPA), the land cannot be built on without special circumstances, and the owner of the site, Thameswey (A WBC housing company) has not been able to convince the LPA to let it develop the site. The LPA has doggedly resisted developing here.
In defence of the LPA, their view is that if they were to grant building there then it would potentially open the flood gates to other land owners that are itching to develop in the Green Belt. That means the correct process needs to be followed. The process to start developing this site begun around 2012/2013 with a Green Belt review that recommended it as a potential development site. In the 2015 Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD) it was listed as a development site, and it went to public consultation where there were mainly favourable views on developing the site. Not so other sites around the borough, and the SADPD process is still lumbering along with the most recent consultation by a Government appointed Inspector ending just before Christmas.
The Inspector basically has the final say on the SADPD and I see no reason why he won’t recommend the site comes out of the Green Belt which will mean that Thameswey no longer needs to demonstrate special circumstances. The land is due to come out of the Green Belt in 2022, so I am confident that by attrition, the LPA will get its way and delay any development until then at the earliest.
Personally, having seen my children forced to leave the borough due to a lack of housing, it’s a failure that the young adults in Brookwood that wish to stay in Brookwood have been denied that opportunity over the past decade due to planning rules created in the 1950s that need reform. On the plus side, over half the dwellings will be affordable, and there will be a policy on those dwellings that at least gives people with a clear connection to Brookwood a shot at living there when a dwelling becomes available.
The Traveller site also needs regularising and a planning application was submitted in 2017 to do just that. That application is still pending consideration whilst waiting for the planets to align.
In my opinion, it’s all been held up due to officer time being focussed elsewhere. This has bothered me for ages as it really has been an impossible task to try and get the senior officers of the Council to focus on this site. We had an elected leadership change last October and the new leader Cllr Azad is as keen to see this site developed as I am and, as soon as possible. In November her words to me were ‘Watch this space’. Cllr Azad is also one of the Councillors for Brookwood so there is a good chance something will happen over the course of the next 18 months. She and I visited the site immediately after the first lock down over the summer and I gave her chapter and verse on the situation and history.
This leads me to the rubbish being dumped there. Simply put, there is no point in clearing the fly-tipped waste until development starts as it will just attract new fly-tipped waste and the costs to dispose of it will be racked up again. It’s an eye sore certainly, but Environmental Health do keep an eye on it and if there were concerns they would force Thameswey to clear it.
Basically, we need to be patient, the Traveller site will be regularised, the waste will be disposed of, the housing will be built, and the road and crossroads will be modified to ease network pressure. We might get some progress later this year, we certainly will over the next two.