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Two planning applications in south Guildford have got neighbours up in arms. One is in Fort Road, just south of the town centre, the second in Guildown Road, St Catherine’s, off the A3100 Portsmouth Road.
A Fort Road resident, who does not wish to be named, writes: “Some six months ago Elsmore Developments eviscerated every mature tree shrub and plant in the garden of 17 Fort Road and erected a fence along the entire boundary separating the house from the garden. The house was then sold but the plot was left so to any newcomer it has the appearance of a building plot but with no direct vehicular access to the street.’
“A planning application (ref. 12/P/00515) has now been submitted for a six bedroom house on the garden. There are 19 objections from residents in Fort Road concerned about this ‘garden grabbing’ changing the whole character of the road. Such over development would impact on the amenity of adjoining owners. Interestingly, planning consultants I have approached in Guildford seem reluctant to act for residents in lodging an objection.”
Last year GBC were left to pick up thousands of pounds worth of costs following one successful appeal against refusal of planning permission in a similar case in the Green Lane, at the top of The Mount. The appeals were allowed by a planning inspector from Bristol despite the council’s planning committee voting against them unanimously.
The Conservative party, in their 2010 manifesto, pledged to prevent the practice of garden grabbing and locally, in an article on the Guildford Conservatives website entitled: ‘Action pledged on ‘garden grabbing’ in Guildford’, Tony Rooth, GBC Council Leader said: “Conservatives on the Borough Council are committed to protecting the features of Guildford’s various neighbourhoods…”.
Since the last general election the reduction in the amount of planning regulation and guidance has been well publicised. The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), comprising just over fifty pages, states as a guiding principle that the reuse of previously developed land should be encouraged but, in the glossary of the framework document, private gardens are specifically excluded from the definition of ‘previously developed land’.
Keith Taylor, Chairman of the GBC Planning Committee said: “We welcome the fact that the new NPPF restates the policy previously announced by the new Government in 2010 that the gardens of residential properties should no longer be treated as “already developed land” with a presumption in favour of development.
“However, even over the last year or so, Planning Inspectors have still allowed many appeals against ‘garden grabbing’ applications that have been refused locally. In at least one instance, costs were even awarded against the Council. Under these circumstances, the Council are inclined to monitor the situation over the next year or so following the publication of the NPPF. In particular, we will obviously monitor the decisions by Inspectors on any appeals against the refusal of such applications.”
In Guildown Road, a conservation area, a nearby resident has alerted the local St Catherine’s Village Website to two new planning applications (refs. 12/P 00580 and 12/P00581) relating to a proposed development at 26 Guildown Road. The resident writes: “The applicant wishes to demolish the old coach house at that address and replace it with a three bedroom house… the coach house is a very charming building in a deplorably ruined state behind behind a very high old stone wall … which is obviously older than the large Victorian mansion, of which it is the boundary…
“The planning applications perform a useful purpose in drawing public attention to the threat to what is obviously a historic wall even if the application to build is refused. And refused it must be: if it is granted the developer would have to use Beech Lane to work from… this means an intention to penetrate or knock down this wall, a wall which defines the character of the lane itself and is a feature of this conservation area.”