Today Guildford. Tomorrow Cranleigh? As wannabe developers buy-up ancient woodland plots.

The recent Government White Paper on reforming the planning system, although a mixed blessing, includes a welcome emphasis on “protection” for green belt and other sensitive landscapes.

But it fails to address planning enforcement.

Is there any point in having a planning system if it can be flouted with impunity? Wannabe developers need to understand that if they break the rules they will be penalised, and swiftly.

Yet the disaster that is presently being inflicted on Wanborough Fields in the green belt north of the Hogs Back in Guildford – may now have arrived in Cranleigh. The beleaguered eastern part of Waverley earmarked as a new Waverley town. Developers have moved in and are building – north-south-east and west of the former village.

Cranleigh is Full Come back in 2033

Cranleigh’s village leaders heard concerned residents say that London developers had bought five plots in Cranfold Wood – an area of woodland off the Ewhurst Road between Cranleigh & Ewhurst. One said: 

“Another chap turned up and bought another few plots and started work there over the weekend. “What exactly are the rules over development in ancient woodland? What happens if they start pulling caravans onto the land?

Chairman Liz Townsend said if anyone did start felling trees they (the public) should contact the parish council and her personally. They should ring Waverley Borough Council’s Planning Enforcement Dept. , “I have all the emergency numbers,”  she said.

If they are clearing woodland their actions would be subject to enforcement action. If they have bought the land they will need planning permission before anything can take place there.” She believed that any development would be highly unlikely that planning permission would be granted in ancient woodland.

It is believed the owner of the former owner of the land is Ewhurst resident – Sue Hayes.

Yet the disaster now being inflicted on Wanborough Fields in the green belt north of the Hog’s Back and to the west of Guildford suggests there is little prospect of protection or enforcement. Residents are fuming at the inaction of Guildford Borough Council.

The upper portion of this site is within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and qualifies for a degree of national protection. The lower portion has the local designation of Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).

Wanborough fields designated an Area of Great Landscape Value (viewed from the west).

Since 2013, planners have been waiting for the government’s environmental adviser, Natural England, to perform a boundary review that should lead to AGLV’s incorporation in the AONB. This under-resourced adviser moves painfully slowly; if at all, and an online petition is calling for it to move more quickly, and with very good reason.

The Wanborough crisis started with the sale of the land by a large estate and its subdivision into individual plots of varying sizes by the land agent who bought it. These have been marketed with the suggestion that they may be suitable for residential development, subject to securing “appropriate planning consent”.

That such consent is highly unlikely in such an environmentally sensitive area has not deterred the agent nor, it would seem, the buyers of the Guildford plots.

Could this be now be happening in Cranleigh’s Cranfold Wood?

Any development in Cranfold Wood would fundamentally threaten the character of this precious ancient woodland. Let us all hope for the locals’ sake Waverley’s Enforcement Officers are onto it!


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