Heather Farm Dumped from the Surrey Waste Plan?
There has been a major development in the long-running saga of Heather Farm (The Mushroom Farm) and its inclusion in the Surrey Waste Plan. An appeal under section 78 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 had been lodged by the site owners, Blue Prince Mushrooms Ltd, against the refusal to grant planning permission at the former mushroom farm site in Chobham Road. A two day hearing presided by David Richards, an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was held in Woking on 29 and 30 September. In his report, the Inspector overturned the planning application refusal by Woking Borough Council and allowed the appeal. This decision almost certainly removes the threat of a waste plant being developed on the 15 acre site adjacent to Horsell Common.
The Inspector’s report, which was published on 3 November, considered whether the use of the site for B1(c) (light industrial) and B8 (storage or distribution) use would prejudice implementation of the Surrey Waste Plan, and whether air quality emissions from traffic associated with the change of use would be harmful to Horsell Common, which is part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
At the Hearing, Paul Uttley, representing HCPS, informed the Inspector that access to the site at Heather Farm is over a track controlled by HCPS, and that the Society had entered into an agreement with the appellant, Blue Prince Mushrooms, to allow the site to be used for limited commercial use. However, Mr. Uttley made it quite clear to the enquiry that HCPS representatives had no remit to negotiate in respect of a potential waste use. In his report the Inspector accepted that without compulsory purchase, the site would be undeliverable as a site for handling waste. Access to the site was a major consideration in making his decision.
Horsell Common Preservation Society has worked closely with Blue Prince Mushrooms Ltd in producing a Unilateral Obligation that is acceptable to the Local Planning Authority and to Natural England on the future use of the site. A key feature of the agreement will be to restrict the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles entering the site to 115 per week. In the event of this figure being breached, the site operator would incur a penalty payment of £500 per vehicle, which will go towards habitat restoration on the Common.
Preservation Society Chairman, David Robbins, said: “Having beaten our heads against a brick wall at the Surrey Waste Plan Examination it was reassuring that our implacable opposition to Heather Farm becoming a waste site was heeded. The Inspector rightly accepted that there was no realistic prospect of HCPS agreeing to the use of the access track for waste purposes and this was a formidable obstacle to a waste use being delivered at Heather Farm. We are happy with the appeal result but must now move forward to find a buyer or occupier for the site who will accept the constraints imposed on Heather Farm by its juxtaposition with the Common – which is an internationally protected wildlife habitat – and a number of residential properties”.