Westcott Meadow Action Group

Opposing development on a greenfield site

HELP SAVE WESTCOTT VILLAGE GREEN


Taylor Wimpey are planning to make a bad situation much, much worse.


Their scheme for a 40-unit housing estate on the Westcott Meadow flood plain  has received a resounding thumbs-down from Westcott’s residents. Taylor Wimpey have had to admit that the proposed estate would bring traffic chaos to narrow roads that are already over-congested.  Their solution to this is to shatter the tranquillity of Westcott’s cherished Village Green.  They would widen the roads around the green, destroy its
traditional triangular layout and, of course, bring yet more traffic to such a sensitive area.


The Westcott Meadow Action Group will resist any such changes.  Not only will they fail to solve the traffic problem, they will at the same time cause unwarranted damage to the single most precious village amenity, one enjoyed by the people of Westcott for generations.


A protest is being held on the Green on Saturday 3rd April at 11 am.  Please join us if you can.


Help us save our Village Green.  We would like to know what you think.  Please click vote in our poll on our home page and let us know if you support our campaign.  Thank you.

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As a Resident of Westcott for more than 20 years and being apart of my wife’s family, which goes back many generations in Westcott, I felt it a great honour and a pleasure to stand along side so many people who really care about our beautiful Village, and its surrounding area.
Many of our friends from the Village could not attend, due to the Easter Holiday, but I know they were with us in spirit.
Standing in the middle of our village Green I felt a sense of sadness, a lump in my throat, knowing the devastation that this Proposed Taylor Wimpey Development will cause to the whole area, if it goes ahead.
I think you should all be extremely proud of yourselves for being part of this very community spirited Demonstration.
The Holding of hands forming a circle around the Green was a special moment, bringing residents from all ages and backgrounds together.
I hope you will forgive me commenting upon this proposed development, my only excuse is that I lived in Furlong Road for the first 25 years of my life and since then have always lived close to the village. I still use the newsagents and Balchin's store/post office regularly. In short I'm fond of the village and possess many happy memories of living in Westcott and the villagers - who have of course changed substantially over the course of time.

While there may be good reasons why this development should not go ahead, the manner in which many of the objections are being articulated at the moment have an awful whiff of 'nimbyism' about them. Let me hasten to add at this point that this comes from someone who has been vocal on the need for more controlled development in Abinger Hammer where I live.

When housing was built in Springfield Road (destroying the best tobogganing slope in the village in the process) I confess that I had always assumed the remaining part of the field would be built upon at some future date and it looks as though that assumption was not too far wide of the mark.

In the past Westcott has, in real terms, seen a lot of development which is obvious from the differing architectural periods in the village: many of the houses in Furlong, Bailey, Watson, Ashley and St John's Road did not exist in the eary 1900s and of course later still came Deerleap Road, Milton Avenue, The Paddock and Broomfield, etc. Has all of this detracted from the charm of Westcott? My guess is that there will be a small rump of people who say that it has, but the reality is of course that it has not and it is this very development that has enabled Westcott to thrive and retain a modest, but valuable, shopping centre, an outstanding school that at this very moment is being expanded (without objections), two village pubs and one of the few genuine village clubs left in this part of the district.

I know that Westcott Meadow Action Group (WMAG) wants to stop the development, but what do you want to use the meadow for? In recent years on the occassional visits I've made I have never seen anyone on it, not even children. Now I see that WMAG also wants to save the village green which is very desireable; though a little widening or a passing place would not go amiss in the very narrow access road from by the Reading Room to Westcott Street. I do start to wonder whether the messages are becoming somewhat confusing.

Like all action groups WMAG with its 60+ members actually speaks for a very small percentage of the 2000 plus population in the village so I really feel you need to get a far bigger membership in order to realistically become the 'Voice of Westcott' and I also hope you will not attempt to preserve everything in the village in aspic - you can't do it and it's not how Westcott became what it is today - and what you cherish!

I hope I have not offended too many people by my comments, that was not the intention: but I do believe in the adage "be very careful what you wish for because you just may get it".

Peter Ruck
There appears to be some misunderstanding in Abinger Hammer. WMAG is indeed spearheading the protest against Mole Valley's refusal to consult and against Taylor Wimpey's development plans. It speaks for far more than the 50 indicated by Mr Ruck. 250 villagers attended a public meeting called at short notice. The overwhelming majority supported the WMAG position. Since then some 600 people have signed a petition against the development. Our
numbers are growing by the day. Not bad for a village of some 2,000 people.

Peter Ruck enquires what we want the meadow to be "used" for. Must all meadows be developed and used for some non-meadow purpose? If so, then goodbye green belts, farewell Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. No, I don't think this meadow should be developed. It should remain, as it has always been, a quiet peaceful area, a valued village amenity, a home to wildlife including threatened species, a place where people can walk and exercise their dogs. Sometimes walking is a bit of a challenge because it regularly floods. Hardly suitable for housing.

Now Taylor Wimpey reveal their view that any development will require destruction of the Village Green. Yet another price the village is expected to pay.

Calling us nimbies does not advance the argument. Of course new houses must be built. Of course change is inevitable and is often to be welcomed. But surely not change for the sake of change, change whatever the price and
change that destroys far more than it creates. It is for those seeking change to justify their plans, something we have not seen here.

Alex Segal
Dear Peter,
Thank you for contributing to our website with your views. You are quite right when you say that we should not always stand in the way of change. Our real concern is that those changes have been decided upon entirely unilaterally. Yes, we have always known that that meadow was in the district housing reserve. But the information on which this new development isbased, in terms of access, wildlife, usage and housing density in the immediate area, is 28 years old. In the last 15 years to my personal knowledge, over 60 housing units have been built in the immediate vicinity of this development. Westcott Street and Balchins Lane are already busy enough with trafffic, and even more importantly, with pedestrians, cyclists and small people in pushchairs. And yet, this isn't important enough for the MVDC to put forward any consultation process. They have simply implemented a provision made in the last century. I looked very different in 1982 - I bet you did too, and so does Westcott. Let's have an up to date consultation process.
Andrea Gabb
Balchins Lane

Peter Ruck said:
I hope you will forgive me commenting upon this proposed development, my only excuse is that I lived in Furlong Road for the first 25 years of my life and since then have always lived close to the village. I still use the newsagents and Balchin's store/post office regularly. In short I'm fond of the village and possess many happy memories of living in Westcott and the villagers - who have of course changed substantially over the course of time.

While there may be good reasons why this development should not go ahead, the manner in which many of the objections are being articulated at the moment have an awful whiff of 'nimbyism' about them. Let me hasten to add at this point that this comes from someone who has been vocal on the need for more controlled development in Abinger Hammer where I live.

When housing was built in Springfield Road (destroying the best tobogganing slope in the village in the process) I confess that I had always assumed the remaining part of the field would be built upon at some future date and it looks as though that assumption was not too far wide of the mark.

In the past Westcott has, in real terms, seen a lot of development which is obvious from the differing architectural periods in the village: many of the houses in Furlong, Bailey, Watson, Ashley and St John's Road did not exist in the eary 1900s and of course later still came Deerleap Road, Milton Avenue, The Paddock and Broomfield, etc. Has all of this detracted from the charm of Westcott? My guess is that there will be a small rump of people who say that it has, but the reality is of course that it has not and it is this very development that has enabled Westcott to thrive and retain a modest, but valuable, shopping centre, an outstanding school that at this very moment is being expanded (without objections), two village pubs and one of the few genuine village clubs left in this part of the district.

I know that Westcott Meadow Action Group (WMAG) wants to stop the development, but what do you want to use the meadow for? In recent years on the occassional visits I've made I have never seen anyone on it, not even children. Now I see that WMAG also wants to save the village green which is very desireable; though a little widening or a passing place would not go amiss in the very narrow access road from by the Reading Room to Westcott Street. I do start to wonder whether the messages are becoming somewhat confusing.

Like all action groups WMAG with its 60+ members actually speaks for a very small percentage of the 2000 plus population in the village so I really feel you need to get a far bigger membership in order to realistically become the 'Voice of Westcott' and I also hope you will not attempt to preserve everything in the village in aspic - you can't do it and it's not how Westcott became what it is today - and what you cherish!

I hope I have not offended too many people by my comments, that was not the intention: but I do believe in the adage "be very careful what you wish for because you just may get it".

Peter Ruck
Andrea, thank you for your clear and articulate response I think you have understood that I was not saying I favoured the proposal - clearly that is for the people of Westcott and MVDC to decide. The point I was trying to make, perhaps not very clearly or elegantly, is that it's very important not to make some of the mistakes that have occured in Abinger Hammer and I hope you will not mind if I provide one or two examples of how Abinger has changed over the last 40+ years to explain this.

While it is still an exceptionally pretty village that must have thousands of photographs taken every year, the reality is quite different. Today you can count on the fingers of both hands the number of children waiting to catch the bus to school: the village has no playgroup, nursery or junior school; it has lost its butcher, post office, builders yard and garage with a couple of petrol pumps outside. The newest house built in Abinger Hammer is more than 60 year-old and if you sought to build a house anywhere within the environs of the village there would be an outcry from people who even objected to the construction of a couple of tennis courts at the sports club - these courts cannot be seen from the road and only a single house can view them from one bedroom window, and that's about two hundred metres away. While I have never attempted to build in Abinger Hammer I am very concious that we possess at least a batallion of NIMBYs who have created a situation where as every child approaches adulthood they effectively have to leave the village.

The American Joel Barker one commented: "No one will thank you for taking care of the present if you have neglected the future." In many ways he aptly sums up my own concerns about so many of the positions adopted by what I can best describe as 'Preservation Groups'. Too many of these groups are besotted by the concept of maintaining the status quo to serve their specific interests while ignoring the greater interests of the community.

If the village (Westcott) does not want the proposed development it needs to marshall better arguments than those advanced so far. It's pretty pointless, for example, to suggest development can't proceed because the site is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a huge 'corridor' miles wide in places runs from Oxted through to Farnham which is all designated as an AONB, equally the suggestion that a further 40 homes would place an unberable strain upon Westcott Street is unlikely to be regarded as an effective argument - they run buses and coaches through Hollow Lane (which I expect you are aware of) every day and the road is virtually one car width for large stretches. Alex Segal asks whether the meadow needs to be used for some purpose, strictly speaking the answer is no, but that does not mean that it does not need to be managed - even glorious stretches such as Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest are heavily managed to retain both their wildlife and 'natural look'. Currently the proposed site in Westcott looks, unfortunately, to be what it actually is - agricultural waste land with plenty of docks and nettles: in short the perfect development site.

If the village really wants to avoid this development then look to the possible impact 40 new homes will have. Can the excellent Dr Guilder accept the increased demand upon the practice? Will the school, which is in the process of merging with Abinger Common, cope - even with the addition of the new extension? Will the existing sewerage system cope with the development? WMAG claims the development will impact upon wildlife, good point, has there been a study by Natural England and have they identified the species? If there is such a study it could be a powerful tool. Has any approach been made to CPRE for support? Forget about objections based upon flooding problems (a) from the developer's position he has the perfect drain for surface water running close by and (b) the entire site upon which the Millennium Dome is built is actually marshland - it's not a problem today on such a small site.

Vocal protests are fine, but reasoned arguments based upon strong evidence are far better. I'm pretty sure MVDC will 'grant' further consultation but unless you have good solid evidence to counter the existing 'housing reserve' status they will be bogus consultations.

Most of all please don't forget the words of Joel Barker and do try and avoid Abinger's mistakes.

I wish you well, but proceed with caution.
Taylor Wimpey cannot be trusted, they bought a landmark The Royal Alexander Hospital in Brighton and said they would turn develop it sympathetically, they then "changed" their minds and put in an application to demolish it and build flats in their usual nasty designs. There was an uproar by local residents and fortunately the plans were thrown out but whatever they say they just want to make money and don't care about the environment or the people who will have to put up with ugly buildings in their midst while they pocket the cash and go on to try and ruin someone else's environment. However they can't build without the support of the council so shame on both of them. This proposed development at Westcott is unsuitable as access is the real problem and if Taylor Wimpey think they can just carve up an ancient village green for their profits they've got another think coming and for them to say they weren't going try to touch it was a lie. Alterations to the green are clearly marked on their plans. People power is everything and developers and the council should be aware that they will not ride roughshod over the concerns of local people, keep up the good work.
With regard to the CPRE, I contacted them a little while ago and have been put in touch with the Surrey Group. Unfortunately their office is not manned a lot of the time but I have been told they will contact me by telephone.I await their response.

Peter Ruck said:
Andrea, thank you for your clear and articulate response I think you have understood that I was not saying I favoured the proposal - clearly that is for the people of Westcott and MVDC to decide. The point I was trying to make, perhaps not very clearly or elegantly, is that it's very important not to make some of the mistakes that have occured in Abinger Hammer and I hope you will not mind if I provide one or two examples of how Abinger has changed over the last 40+ years to explain this.

While it is still an exceptionally pretty village that must have thousands of photographs taken every year, the reality is quite different. Today you can count on the fingers of both hands the number of children waiting to catch the bus to school: the village has no playgroup, nursery or junior school; it has lost its butcher, post office, builders yard and garage with a couple of petrol pumps outside. The newest house built in Abinger Hammer is more than 60 year-old and if you sought to build a house anywhere within the environs of the village there would be an outcry from people who even objected to the construction of a couple of tennis courts at the sports club - these courts cannot be seen from the road and only a single house can view them from one bedroom window, and that's about two hundred metres away. While I have never attempted to build in Abinger Hammer I am very concious that we possess at least a batallion of NIMBYs who have created a situation where as every child approaches adulthood they effectively have to leave the village.

The American Joel Barker one commented: "No one will thank you for taking care of the present if you have neglected the future." In many ways he aptly sums up my own concerns about so many of the positions adopted by what I can best describe as 'Preservation Groups'. Too many of these groups are besotted by the concept of maintaining the status quo to serve their specific interests while ignoring the greater interests of the community.

If the village (Westcott) does not want the proposed development it needs to marshall better arguments than those advanced so far. It's pretty pointless, for example, to suggest development can't proceed because the site is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a huge 'corridor' miles wide in places runs from Oxted through to Farnham which is all designated as an AONB, equally the suggestion that a further 40 homes would place an unberable strain upon Westcott Street is unlikely to be regarded as an effective argument - they run buses and coaches through Hollow Lane (which I expect you are aware of) every day and the road is virtually one car width for large stretches. Alex Segal asks whether the meadow needs to be used for some purpose, strictly speaking the answer is no, but that does not mean that it does not need to be managed - even glorious stretches such as Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest are heavily managed to retain both their wildlife and 'natural look'. Currently the proposed site in Westcott looks, unfortunately, to be what it actually is - agricultural waste land with plenty of docks and nettles: in short the perfect development site.

If the village really wants to avoid this development then look to the possible impact 40 new homes will have. Can the excellent Dr Guilder accept the increased demand upon the practice? Will the school, which is in the process of merging with Abinger Common, cope - even with the addition of the new extension? Will the existing sewerage system cope with the development? WMAG claims the development will impact upon wildlife, good point, has there been a study by Natural England and have they identified the species? If there is such a study it could be a powerful tool. Has any approach been made to CPRE for support? Forget about objections based upon flooding problems (a) from the developer's position he has the perfect drain for surface water running close by and (b) the entire site upon which the Millennium Dome is built is actually marshland - it's not a problem today on such a small site.

Vocal protests are fine, but reasoned arguments based upon strong evidence are far better. I'm pretty sure MVDC will 'grant' further consultation but unless you have good solid evidence to counter the existing 'housing reserve' status they will be bogus consultations.

Most of all please don't forget the words of Joel Barker and do try and avoid Abinger's mistakes.

I wish you well, but proceed with caution.

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