The possible development for housing at Ermyn Way Fields is proving highly controversial. Ashtead Independent Councillor David Hawksworth provides some insight into the history of opposition to the development
An Ashtead Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), prepared by the Ashtead Neighbourhood Forum in 2016, was adopted by Mole Valley District Council on 23 May 2017; several Ashtead Independent Councillors were members of that Forum. The area covered by the NDP included Ermyn Way Fields and concluded “there are no identifiable larger development areas within Ashtead other than the land at Murreys Court”.
The Green Belt Boundary Review of 2013 did not question the retention of Ermyn Way Fields in the Metropolitan Green Belt, but a re-examination as part of the work towards the preparation of the new Future Mole Valley Local Plan in 2018 did not find significant reasons for its retention as Green Belt. As a consequence, the Council’s Planning Policy Working Group (PPWG), chaired by Cllr David Harper in 2018/19 when he was the Cabinet Member responsible for planning, included it as a site for development in the draft for the new local plan. Cllr Margaret Cooksey, who took over Cllr Harper’s role when the Liberal Democrats formed the new Administration in May 2019, made clear on several occasions that the plan they put out for consultation in 2020 was essentially that inherited from the previous Administration. As Members of the Cabinet prior to the Liberal Democrats becoming the majority party in Mole Valley, Cllrs Hawksworth and Wiltshire point out that the inherited draft had never been agreed by the Cabinet as a whole.
Aware of the historical importance of Ermyn Way as a former main route from Stane Street to Leatherhead, and the rich biodiversity of the ancient wooded areas along the north side of the site, Cllrs Hawksworth and Wiltshire secured a blanket woodland Tree Preservation Order (TPO) for the area to the east of the entrance gate that previously had no such protection. Earlier this year, Cllr Hawksworth also proposed that the area be included, along with other parts of the southern edge of Ashtead’s built-up area, in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the boundaries of which are currently under review by Natural England. The result of that review is not expected until next year.
Be assured that the Ashtead Independent Councillors remain opposed to this development for reasons including proximity to the M25, distance from public amenities and public transport, and impact on traffic flow in the area – as well as the loss of previously designated Green Belt.
The matter is, however, now in the hands of the Planning Inspector currently examining the Future Mole Valley 2018-2033 Draft Local Plan. The Inspector, has, however, already raised questions regarding this site which echo the concerns of the Ashtead Councillors; these are listed at
https://futuremolevalley.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/ED25-Inspectors-Note-10-Stage-3-Matters-Issues-and-Questions.pdf. Further updates are being issued, so do look at the website to monitor developments. The Ashtead sites are currently scheduled for consideration at the public hearings in Pippbrook for 14.00 on 14 October 2022, which will also be available to watch live (Home - Mole Valley Webcasting (public-i.tv).