Text of my letter published in The Haslemere Herald this week:
If your readers love Haslemere’s beautiful countryside, now is the time to speak up against its destruction!
Like so many, I moved with my young family to Haslemere nearly 20 years ago, attracted by its unique setting in the beautiful Surrey Hills countryside. We share in the wonder of former resident Robert Hunter, who co-founded the National Trust here in 1895, with a mission to protect this special landscape for future generations.
For the last forty years, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has shared Hunter’s vision; its AONB in Haslemere is a legally designated exceptional landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are precious enough to be safeguarded in the national interest against large scale development.
It is absolutely shocking that the AONB land at the Red Court estate between Scotland Lane and the Midhurst Road is now under threat of destruction by a property developer who wants to build over 110 new homes, claiming this major building project is in the ‘public interest’ (and so should be permitted despite AONB status). It would irreversibly damage the character of what should be protected landscape. As part of the proposal, much of the avenue of mature trees on the Midhurst Road approach to Haslemere will be felled to create a new junction and access to the housing estate, forever changing the character of southern Haslemere.
Your readers will be excused for being unaware how imminent the threat is. The developer has appealed against Waverley’s rejection of “outline” planning permission that was submitted alongside actual planning permission for an initial two buildings and new access road (also rejected). Even though no plans or details for the “outline” plan for 111 dwellings were available or open to proper public scrutiny at the first stage, if the developer is successful on appeal to the Planning Inspector and “outline” planning permission is granted, it means that the destruction of AONB is guaranteed, and the principle of development there granted.
If residents of Haslemere and its surrounding villages do not want to see the character of our protected landscape and biodiverse countryside destroyed, then they should make their views known as a matter of urgency – the window for sending comments to the Planning Inspector closes next Friday, 13th October at https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk case reference number 3327643. More information at Haslemere South Residents Association www.haslemeresouth.com
Preservation of our countryside is in the public interest – and therefore all the more critical that the public’s voice be heard loud and clear by the Planning Inspector!
Nikki Barton , Former Independent Surrey County Councillor for Haslemere and Grayswood, Independent Town Councillor, Haslemere South