Anne Milton MP chaired a meeting of developers in Cranleigh Village Hall on Saturday 24 January 2015 attended by over 150 residents.  Representatives from Crest Nicholson (149 dwellings Horsham Road site), Berkeley Homes (425 dwellings recently refused Knowle Lane and Alfold Road site), Knowle Park Initiative (265 dwellings West Cranleigh Nurseries) and Threadneedle Investments (120 dwellings Hewitts Industrial Estate) were on the panel.

(Representatives of the Amlets Lane development, which has outline planning approval for 125 dwellings, declined the invitation and said they would be consulting further with the village over the next couple of months)

The meeting had been called in response to repeated requests from developers to meet the MP.  Anne Milton felt that a public forum would be more appropriate, where the community could ask direct questions and voice their concerns, particularly on the areas of infrastructure and flooding.

It soon became clear that other than the existing light touch proposals suggested by Surrey Highways and the developers, there were to be no improvements to mitigate the effect of any large scale development on our rural road network.  Residents stressed the fact that this development would not only affect Cranleigh but would have a severe impact on Bramley, Shalford, Shamley Green and Guildford and that this had not been taken into account whatsoever.

As was pointed out by Parish Councillor Rosemary Burbridge; the main roads around Cranleigh have evolved from cart tracks and it is impossible to see how these, single track in places, could accommodate the amount of traffic generated by these developments.  Inadequate infrastructure can be a material constraint for development and a reason for refusal.

Cranleigh Society spokesperson Liz Townsend pointed out Waverley Borough Council’s Sustainability Appraisal of the Waverley Local Plan Part 1 stated that:

“Cranleigh is relatively unconstrained environmentally” and because of this “’very high’ growth” should be considered (roughly translates as Cranleigh has no green belt so dump the majority of Waverley’s housing allocation there).  However the report goes on to highlight that there are:

“No major socio-economic arguments in favour of this option. Cranleigh has more of a ‘village feel’ than is the case for the other main settlements, and it is the case that housing need is not focused in this part of the Borough. Also, recent speculative (i.e. non-plan led) applications for housing schemes have served to highlight concerns over infrastructure.”

When asked at the meeting if this was the sort of growth that the residents wanted with no socio-economic benefits to the community, the overwhelming response was NO!

Flooding issues remain a huge concern.  Cranleigh Society member Richard Bryant, an insurance broker, asked Crest Nicholson if they could guarantee that their Horsham Road development would not exacerbate flooding for the adjacent houses in Nightingales.  They confirmed that they could.

He then went on to ask the Crest representative what had happened in their development at Leverstock Green, where new residents, some of whom had only been in their homes a matter of weeks, suffered two feet of flooding and raw sewage after heavy rain.  Previously Crest Nicholson had been warned by local residents of the serious flood risk.

Limited accessibility to flood insurance was again highlighted by Richard Bryant.  He confirmed that although residents might be lucky enough to get insurance for their new home for a period of 12 months, when flooding did occur the insurance company could withdraw  its cover completely, substantially increase the premiums and impose a high excess.  The residents of these new homes could find themselves without any flood cover at all.  Homes built after January 2009 are not included under the FloodRe scheme and we need to continue to highlight this issue.

We cannot ignore the devastating effect of flooding on people’s lives.  The Cranleigh Society has spoken to residents that were flooded in December 2013, some of whom were out of their homes for nearly a year.  We have seen at first-hand how upsetting this has been for them and the worry that is ever present at times of heavy rainfall.  It is not simply flood water that enters peoples’ homes but raw sewage as well seeping up from sewers overwhelmed by the flow of surface water.

The representative of Berkeley Homes stated once again that the Environment Agency had not objected to their application. However the Cranleigh Society pointed out that the Environment Agency’s remit only covers flooding from rivers and seas and therefore it can only object to planning applications on these grounds.  But as we know Cranleigh regularly suffers from surface water flooding and residents’ photos continue to document this.  The Environment Agency strongly recommended on the Berkeley Homes application that surface water flooding be investigated thoroughly.  This has not been done.

The fact was commented on that none of the drainage systems proposed to cope with the surface water run-off on the building sites, have been subject to an independent assessment.  Surrey County Council;  our Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), will not be consulted on this issue until after 6 April 2015.  This was outlined in the recent statement by the Secretary of State in order to further protect people and property from flood risk.  After April this year it will be Surrey’s responsibility to ensure that any drainage system meets the required standards of operation and that there are clear arrangements in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development.  Without this in place Waverley Borough Council and that means us the tax payers would have to foot the bill when the drainage systems fail in Cranleigh.

The Cranleigh Society was encouraged to hear the Knowle Park Initiative state at the meeting that their drainage system would be inspected by the Lead Local Flood Authority for Surface Water Flooding (Surrey County Council), however we have been in contact with the planning department and have not been able to find any evidence of this.  We do hope that they will stand by this statement and we will let you know if this does, or does not, happen.

As a community we must ensure that houses are not built on green fields at high risk of flooding.  The Cranleigh Society has spoken to the Environment Agency who have confirmed that flood records for green fields (agricultural land) are very patchy. In many cases they are never advised when this type of land suffers from a flood event.  It is therefore up to the community with local knowledge to highlight historic and ongoing flood issues and to protect residents from the very real and devastating effect of flooding.

Parish Councillor Ken Reed circulated a key facts sheet, alongside the developers’ promotional material.  He highlighted that in Waverley’s consultation Sept 2014 80% of the residents that took part selected the option for 650 dwellings in Cranleigh (350 on brownfield sites and 300 on green fields) to be built from 2013 to 2031.  This is an increase in housing stock of 14%; “equivalent to three Summerlands Estates).

The Waverley Borough Council 2014 consultation shows that people in Cranleigh were not against new housing, but housing measured against objective need.  Not a disproportionate amount forced upon inadequate infrastructure.

In summarising the meeting Anne Milton MP observed that no new information had come to light and residents’ major concerns had not been addressed.  She praised the Cranleigh Society for their efforts and for the thoroughness of their approach.

As one resident said after the meeting “there is a real need for the Cranleigh Society to exist, be vigilant, pool views and be heard.”

And that’s what we intend to continue to do.