Chapel Lane development Bagshot – Public Enquiry
Last week (20-22 Oct 2020) saw residents and Councillors of all political persuasions take part in the Public Inquiry known as the Chapel Lane Inquiry. Only about 2% of appeals go to Public Inquiry, so the Residents Network followed proceedings closely.
Chapel Lane is a tranquil, narrow, windy lane in Bagshot set back from the hassle and bustle of the A30.
CALA Homes want to develop the water meadow at Woodside Cottage and turn it into a 44 homes development. It is worth noting that there are currently only 12 homes on Chapel Lane.
When Surrey Heath Borough Council received a planning application by CALA Homes, residents objected in the strongest possible terms. It galvanised members of the community to form Chapel Lane Action Group (CLAG).
CLAG lobbied hard and gained cross-party support among local activists and Councillors, many of which spoke up in support of the campaign objectives.
As the inquiry closed, Clare Davis, Chairman of CLAG said: “For those that were unable to attend the inquiry, we wanted to reassure you all that both parties were given a very fair hearing. We had some very helpful statements made by Cllr Katia Malcaus Cooper, Cllr Valerie White, Cllr Tim Fitzgerald, Cllr Sharon Galliford, Cllr Cliff Betton and Cllr Victoria Wheeler.
MP for Surrey Heath Michael Gove also attended on day one of the inquiry and made a statement on behalf of residents to oppose the development.”
Claire continued, “Our Barrister and witnesses were magnificent and put a very robust case together to demonstrate the much-appreciated outweighed the benefits of the scheme.
We wanted to thank you all again for your help and support with the funding, for this, along with the much-appreciated grant from Windlesham Parish Council.
Had we not formed a Rule 6 party, the inquiry would not have taken place, and our important views would not have been heard. Something we can all be proud of. “
CALA’s main point of argument in respect of Chapel Lane development Bagshot has been throughout the inquiry that SHBC cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply, which slipped to 4.85 in June of this year, and therefore the development should be granted.
While this fact is undeniable, developers should engage with the community in a meaningful way to deliver appropriate developments. The fact that almost 500 residents objected to this application goes to show that the developer did not do so.
We are not arguing about the need for housing, of course, people need somewhere to live, but continuing to destroy the natural environment to build houses is not the answer.
The planning applications committee unanimously turned down the Chapel Lane development Bagshot, so there is something fundamentally wrong if a non-elected member can overturn the democratic process by simply filling in a form. How does this satisfy the democratic process?
Councillors and Surrey Heath the MP felt strongly that the Chapel Lane development Bagshot is inappropriate for the location and argued this point passionately.
Michael Gove MP came to the defence of residents by asserting, as constituency MP, that the development is inappropriate and should not go ahead. As a Cabinet Minister, Mr Gove is, of course, responsible for defining housing policy. Still, he felt that this development, in this location, would not deliver a benefit, but instead would deliver harm.
Worthy of note were the depositions made by Frimley Green Cllr Cliff Betton, who argued against the development in a professional capacity as a Zoologist, and Chairman of Windlesham Parish Council, Lightwater Cllr Katia Malcaus Cooper who argued technical points on density, housing allocation and access.
The question the appellant’s advocate, Charlie Banner QC asked time and again, was; “If not here, where?”.
CLAG’s advocate, Dr Ashley Bowes, proved unflappable, and his closing argument made all those who watched stand proud to have been part of such a special inquiry and have given Chapel Lane the best chance.
We now await the Inspector’s verdict, due within six weeks.