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Merrywood development

Merrywood development - Update

All RA Councillors were firmly opposed to the application, based on poor design, scale, height, loss of trees, and insufficient separation of buildings resulting in a cramped development; also amenity, i.e. parking layout, pedestrian safety, storage and collection of refuse bins. They were not however, opposed to the principle of development on the site. This was comprehensively presented and debated at the Planning Committee on 12th January. In order to fully understand the reasoning behind their opposition, it is important to hear the arguments put forward to the Committee, and the final decision. Unfortunately, a majority voted to approve the application.

As the development requires access across existing Common Land (owned by the council), a further application dealing with this was considered at the Individual Cabinet Member Decision Making (ICMDM) on 17th March. The relevant Portfolio Holders responsible for this decision were the Portfolio Holder for Resources (Cllr Chris Sadler) and the Portfolio Holder for Leisure (Cllr Janet Turner). As there is currently a Residents Group/Lib Dem coalition in control at Elmbridge Borough Council, both of these Cabinet members are Residents Group councillors. Having heard the points put forward by several councillors who were attending the meeting, the Portfolio Holders agreed that they could not support the removal of the proposed area from Common Land; this would have involved the clearance of natural flora including grass verge, hedgerow and the removal of mature trees and would set a precedent for releasing Common Land, which for very many years had been consistently resisted by the council. Click here to view the ICMDM meeting on the Elmbridge Borough Council website.

That decision was 'called in' on the 30th March by a number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors who disagreed with the ICMDM decision . The local elections in May means the decision is unlikely to be reviewed until the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee which will be after the local elections. Should the decision be changed to allow this use of Elmbridge’s Common Land, this variation would have to go to the Secretary of State for confirmation of the decision.

In the event that after 6th May there is no Residents’ Group/Liberal Democrat coalition forming the Administration and that therefore the Conservatives form the Administration at Elmbridge, the Portfolio holders (Cabinet members) would come from the Conservatives. The current shadow (Conservative) portfolio holder for Leisure Services, Cllr Andrew Burley, was one of the main supporters of the application at the Planning Committee, spoke at the ICMDM in favour of removing this area from common land and is a signatory to the ‘call-in’ of the decision. Clearly from the views expressed in this case, regardless of what they say publicly, in practice the Conservatives do not place the same priority on protecting our Common Land and publicly accessible open spaces (much of which is also in the Green Belt) as the Residents Group councillors. The benefits common land provides to biodiversity and the environment generally as well as the value of such land as an amenity for our increasing local population would clearly be at risk in their hands.