THE STORY SO FAR...
Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) launch ‘A New Local Plan’ Consultation
One of the primary aims is to get residents’ views, on the best way to meet housing targets across Elmbridge. 3 options are proposed:
Option 1: Build up in urban areas e.g more high-rise development.
Option 2: Build up in urban areas and open up three, large parcels of Green Belt for development. One of these parcels is the Hinchley Wood/Long Ditton Green Belt; a green space that includes Stokes Field Nature Reserve, One Tree Hill, the hockey club, cricket club and allotments, as well as the Rose Nursery and Squires Garden Centre.
Option 3: Build on any Green Belt including recreational areas e.g. playgrounds.
The Council state that their ‘preferred option is Option 2.
Hinchley Wood and Long Ditton residents form a group, to save the Green Belt
Our primary aim is to encourage all local residents to respond to the Consultation and make their views known. Long Ditton Residents’ Association offers support and the groups work together to generate awareness across all local neighbourhoods.
Consultation results show that 91% respondents oppose Option 2
‘7.13 Responses clearly focused on the impact of losing Green Belt on the three areas identified in the preferred option and these concerns will be addressed in more detail under the relevant question. However, there were major concerns that the loss of Green Belt at this time would lead to further erosion over time resulting in unacceptable levels of coalescence and the loss of geographically distinct communities, encroachment into the countryside and the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas. Additional concerns included the loss of the Borough’s “green lungs”, wildlife and open spaces for recreation and dog walking, leading to the creation of a more urbanised environment, all of which were raised as priorities.’
The London Plan is published for consultation
In it, the Mayor, says he will build all the housing it needs within its boundaries, and will not need to build on Green Belt (redefined as Green Infrastructure) to do so.
In their draft response his plan, EBC encourage the Mayor to review Green Belt
Under pressure from bodies, including the Long Ditton Residents’ Association, this was removed.
Taylor Wimpey become the Freehold owner of a parcel of the Green Belt
The area purchased includes the Rose Nursery and One Tree Hill/Stokes Field Hill as far down as the track bordering the nature reserve.
First Village Green Application submitted to Surrey County Council
A Long Ditton resident applies for Village Green (VG) status on parts of the Green Belt – One Tree Hill, Stokes Field and the Nature Reserve. The VG application is supported by 100 questionnaires from local residents; evidence and detail about how they have been using the area for leisure activities – in some cases for more than 20 years.
Village Green status would protect the land from development and allow future generations to enjoy the green space at the heart of our community, even if Green Belt status is removed.
It’s important to note that a Village Green is not an archetypal piece of lush grass, used for fêtes. It’s an area of open, accessible land, that has been used freely, by a significant number of people for 20+ years for a variety of pastimes; exactly what One Tree Hill, Stokes Field and the Nature Reserve are used for, by local residents and families.
Many legal arguments and written submissions commence. Specialist legal advice is sought.
The VG application is ultimately amended to remove One Tree Hill, after SCC decided (following arguments by EBC and TW) that the Consultation in 2016/2017 constitutes a legal bar to VG status for this part of the land.
EBC leaflet residents asking for their preferences on its priorities going forward
On the environment, the top response from residents, is ‘to preserve green spaces’ (74%). - In the next 5 years, residents want EBC to be known for ‘protecting the Green Belt’.
Second Village Green Application submitted to Surrey County Council
A Hinchley Wood resident makes another Village Green (VG) application. The purpose of this second application is to overcome the previous challenge to part of the land after a specified period of time has passed. This means the second application can legally cover One Tree Hill, as well as Stokes Field and the Nature Reserve. This is done to ensure that all of the publicly accessible Green Belt is capable of being awarded VG status.
Surrey County Council Registration Authority confirm the second VG application is valid
EBC launch another Consultation, for Elmbridge residents
This Consultation outlines 5 options to help meet housing targets, across the borough. Option 3 identifies the Hinchley Wood/Long Ditton Green Belt as land to be ‘released’ for development.
The questionnaire responses show that respondents are overwhelmingly in favour of Option 4 (optimising urban area). Option 3 being the least favoured option.
Surrey County Council confirm they will be advertising the second VG application
Elmbridge Borough Council sought views on a further Local Plan consultation
This was called ‘Creating our vision, objectives and the direction for development management policies 2020’. In addition to housing, the Local Plan needed to address other issues: employment, town and village centres, approach to tackling climate change and conserving our environment, open spaces and heritage assets. The consultation had five proposed objectives grouped into three key themes. There were many positive elements, but THERE WAS NO MENTION OF PROTECTING OUR EXISTING GREEN BELT IN ANY OF THE FIVE KEY OBJECTIVES.
COVID lockdowns begin and our green space becomes a vital well-being asset
The availability of accessible, open, green space right on our doorstep, gives residents the opportunity to get outside, without breaching lockdown rules.
On the back of the pandemic, the importance of green spaces on our physical and mental health gains momentum. In 2021, nature is the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week.
APRIL – JULY 2021
Both VG applications advertised and objection period open
Surrey County Council confirms its plan to appoint Counsel to sit as Independent Inspector at a conjoined non-statutory Public Inquiry - estimating it will take 5 days
Village Green designation of Stokes Field Nature Reserve
Following several hearings/committee meetings, the Cabinet of Elmbridge Borough Council unanimously agree to designate the Nature Reserve as a Village Green. This is fantastic news and was achieved through the hard work of Long Ditton Councillors and the Open Spaces Society.
This leaves us fighting only Taylor Wimpey in the upcoming Public Inquiry.
We hit our £50,000 fundraising target
With huge support from our communities, as well as local businesses and organisations we exceed our £50K fundraising target. We now have the funds needed, to cover the required legal and specialist Village Green experts, at the upcoming Public Inquiry – our legal battle – with Taylor Wimpey.
Public Inquiry starts
A five-day Public Inquiry commences, at Long Ditton Village Hall. This is essentially legal proceedings, where ‘residents V Taylor Wimpey’ and is overseen by an independent Inspector, assigned by Surrey County Council.
During the Inquiry, evidence, arguments, and witness statements are given, as presented by legal teams representing both ‘sides’; 25 residents give evidence in person.
The Inquiry is then adjourned, with a site visit by the Inspector, legal representatives and the applicants scheduled for May.
Public Inquiry – last day postponed
The last day of the Inquiry – which includes a site visit to the Green Belt and final arguments – is postponed due to illness.
Public Inquiry concludes
The last day of the Inquiry involves a morning site visit, where the Inspector, legal representatives, and Village Green (VG) applicants tour the Green Belt (areas that fall under the VG applications).
This is followed by a final, public session at Long Ditton Hall, where both legal teams present their final arguments.
Decision on Village Green designation of Taylor Wimpey land - pending
Following the Public Inquiry, the Inspector will write a report with his recommendation, which could take anywhere from 1-6 months to produce, given the volume of evidence.
The Inspector’s report is submitted to the registration authority, which in our case is Surrey County Council. The report will then go before the Planning and Regulatory committee, which is comprised of Surrey County Councillors, for a decision on Village Green designation.
For the latest updates on the Village Green campaign and outcome of the Public Inquiry, please go to our News page.