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ASHRA's Response - Infrastructure

Infrastructure

The current provision of hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, public transport, infants & junior schools is insufficient to service a development of this scale.

The Stuart Michael Associates Limited Transport Assessment states that “the proposed development may include a community facility, possibly a doctors' surgery or local convenience store”. “May” being the important word here. The same wording was used when the Outline Planning Application was approved by Guildford Borough Council for the Quadrant in Ash Vale. Nothing was ultimately provided.

Hospitals

The local hospital is Frimley Park. This hospital is running at capacity and a visit to Accident & Emergency can be an “all-day” outing. Other hospitals have been closed down or made more specialised resulting in a huge dependence on Frimley Park Hospital for many services. In the rush hours or at visiting times negotiating Frimley town to get to the Hospital can be an extremely slow and frustrating journey as the surrounding road infrastructure cannot cope with the volumes of traffic. Car parking in the hospital is totally insufficient to cope with the number of patients and visitors and just to get into the Hospital car park, one can be in a queue of traffic going almost back to the town centre.

Doctors Surgeries

This is maybe the area where the proposed developers and their “professional” consultants, have deliberately tried to mislead everyone.

Although each Planning Application has to be examined on its own merits and evidence presented, it has not gone unnoticed that within one mile of this new application, another 4 applications have either recently been approved or are under consideration by GBC, totalling 172 dwellings.

All have been vigorously contested by the people who live in the local area. A common theme to all the objections has been the detrimental effect to the character of the area, the increased demands on local health and education resources, drainage and traffic issues. All these objections are particularly relevant to this new application.

The assertion in the Barton Willmore Non Technical Summary 12.3 is that “The Proposed Development will provide up to 400 residential units with a mix of sizes and types of dwellings providing accommodation for up to 940 people by completion. This will contribute to housing needs established by planning policy resulting in a minor beneficial effect. There will be negligible effects to population, education, health care and libraries”.

Their conclusion is drawn from their Environmental Statement:

14.72 Within 1km of the Application Site there is one GP Practice. The Border Practice is located within Aldershot, within the administrative area of Hampshire PCT (see Figure 14.5). It caters for a total of 8,624 patients and has five GPs (Ref 14.11). This results in a GP to patient ratio of 1:1705. The average GP to patient ratio across England is 1:1561. In comparison there are currently 66 GP Practices within Surrey and 39 across Hampshire that operate with higher GP to patient ratios than the Border Practice.

14.7 The Ash Vale Health Centre is the second nearest GP Surgery to the Application Site; it is located 1.6km from the Application Site. The surgery is part of a larger practice, the Frimley Green Practice. Whilst not being within the 1km search radius defined within Approaching Urban Design: The Design Process (Ref 14.7) consultation with the practice has confirmed that they do accept patients from the Ash and Tongham Area. The Surgery has a total of 17 GPs and 27,355 Patients, resulting in a GP to patient ratio of 1:1609.

We have examined the source data, and found inaccuracies in the developers’ conclusions, which are detailed below (DEVELOPER VIEW). (We have been unable to find the source data pertaining to regional etc. ratios to check them for accuracy.)

With regard to the Border Practice, there are only 4 GPs (confirmed by the Practice web site) and 8,526 patients, whilst the Ash Vale Practice has 10 GPs (one female GP has been double counted), with a claimed 15,500 patients (the balance assumed to be Frimley Green based). (REALITY)

Applying the Developers own methodology that the 400 dwellings will generate 940 new people/patients, a further 376 new people/patients will be generated from the 160 dwellings under sanction, totalling 1,316. Not all will gravitate to the Border practice, but assuming an arbitrary split of 2/3rds 1/3rd the illustrative effect is shown in the right hand columns, headed PROJECTED TOTALS.

 Developer ViewRealityProjected Totals
SurgeryGP'sPatientsRatioGP'sPatientsRatioGP'sPatientsAddTotalRatio
Border 5 8,624 1.725 4 8,526 2.132 4 8,526 878 9,404 2.351
Ash Vale 17 27,355 1.609 10 15,500 1.550 10 15,500 438 15,938 1.594
Totals 22 35,979 1.635 14 24,026 1.716 14 24,026 1,316 25,342 1.810

An altogether different picture, which we would suggest is NOT negligible.

As previously mentioned the Environmental Statement says “Consultation with the Practice Manager of Ash Vale Health Centre has confirmed that they do accept patients from Ash Vale & Tongham”. This really gives the impression to the reader that they have had meetings with this Centre, and all has been resolved.

However, the Practice Manager has stated in writing that, "We did have a short meeting and nothing was concluded. The developers’ proposals only went as far as potentially allocating a plot of land that the surgery would have to purchase and develop / fund. There is no appetite from this end to go down this route and we've not done or heard of anything else since. We did confirm that the Health Centre at present could not accommodate more patients."

Ash and Tongham are within 2 miles of Aldershot, where a significant demographic shift is occurring, with the arrival of Gurkha immigrants (who are already spilling over into Ash, Tongham and Farnborough). Rushmoor Borough Council have estimated around 10,000 people of Nepalese origin live in the area; the official population of the council area is just over 90,000. This group has an unusual demographic, with large proportions of older people and children. This has increased pressure on social, health and education services (over 7 per cent of school children have Nepali as their first language). There remain approximately 25,000 additional retired Gurkha’s eligible to apply for settlement in the UK.
Source https://www.gov.uk/government/news/1-5-million-fund-to-help-the-gurkha-community-settle-in-the-uk announcement 15 Nov 2011

Additionally 4,500 new dwellings are earmarked to be built on former army land, less than 3 kms away; the extra 11,500 inhabitants will all add to pressure on the local infrastructure... doctors surgeries, hospitals, schools, the already inadequate local road networks, water supplies etc, which when aggregated with this application, make a mockery of conclusions drawn from the statistical models presented by the developer, showing the “negligible effects” of this application, 12/P/01973.

In summary, there needs to be a much more detailed and searching examination than hitherto, to any development in this part of GBC. Ash and Tongham have more in common with Aldershot and Hampshire than they have with Guildford and Surrey. This is recognised by the South East plan (SEP) 2009 which defined the western part of the Borough covering Ash and Tongham within the ‘Western Corridor Blackwater Valley (WCBV)’ sub-region and the remainder of the borough in the ‘London Fringe’, with differential new homes targets in each. GBC have subsequently been allowed to aggregate the new homes demands of the SEP and in the absence of any formulated Local Plan, are now seemingly proceeding to burden WCBV with an unsustainable proportion, to the detriment of local inhabitants, both of the here and now, and the future.

It is heartening to see that Rushmoor and Waverley councils have been included in the current list of Consultees, but as they were not consulted about the 172 dwellings under sanction in the 4 earlier applications, they will be unaware of the whole picture.

In the meantime we would suggest a moratorium be called on all developments approved and under approval in the WCBV, until a 'joined up' strategic plan is formulated for this part of Surrey, embracing Aldershot, Ash and Tongham. Including taking into account the terrible flooding issues in the area.

Schools

Barton Willmore’s Environmental Statement under Table 14.8 shows a table of Primary/Junior Schools. It shows that there is no availability of places in all schools except Ash Grange, where it shows 136 places available. Ash Walsh Infants and Junior Schools are over-subscribed together with St. Paul’s School in Tongham.

The reason that Ash Grange is the exception is that it has just recently come out of OFSTED special measures. According to the latest OFSTED inspectors report at the end of 2012, pupils come from a diverse range of backgrounds but a high proportion come from socially disadvantaged homes. Around half the pupils are from families of, mostly settled, travellers.

Table 14.11 purports to show Secondary School available places. These numbers cannot be validated as Barton Willmore's quoted source website is non-existent. However, we do know that the figure of 23 available places for Ash Manor is dubious as the Ash Manor School website says they are over-subscribed.

An objection letter has been placed on the GBC Website against this Planning Application which was written by an ex-Govenor of Ash Manor School and a person who is currently sitting on the appeals panels for the Surrey Schools Admission Appeals Service, and as such is aware of which Surrey schools are oversubscribed. He highlights that lack of capacity of Ash Manor School to accept further pupils, and the inability to expand the site of the school in the future to create additional outdoor playing field areas, if the development of 400 houses is approved. He says that if the proposed development is approved, the Ash Manor School site will be almost completely surrounded with developed land, with no future possibility of extending the site. The outside playing field area is less than that provided at many secondary schools with a similar number of pupils. He goes on to say that when the school was created in 1986 from the merger of Yeomans Bridge School (formerly on this site) and the Robert Haining School at Mytchett, which was closed, the pupil numbers were around 500-600. Part of the school site was sold for housing development (the area which is now Bateman Grove), a decision which many now realise was somewhat short sighted, as the school has since expanded and many additional buildings have been added to cope with the current pupil numbers of around 1100. The previous Head-teacher of Ash Manor School (Mr R M Linnell, who was in post from 1992 until 2009) had said the decision to sell the land for Bateman Grove is now regretted. He also said that he and the Governors wanted to extend the school playing fields into part of Parcel 1 of proposed development land, and there were funds available for the land purchase at the then current valuations. The owner of land was unwilling to sell the land to the school. Playing fields for outdoor sports and physical education activities are an important part of the school curriculum.

He says there is now no opportunity to expand the school playing fields on to the land to the south of Ash Green Lane West, following the recent approval for 60 houses on this site (Planning ref: 12/P/00645). If more houses are built in the area there will be increased demand for places at what is now an oversubscribed 1,100 pupil school, but there will be no opportunity in the future to expand the site of the school. The demand for secondary school spaces in Ash and in neighbouring Aldershot (Rushmoor) will increase due to current and future house building. Project Connaught in the Aldershot military town area will see several thousand new houses built, for which no additional secondary schools are planned. This alone will increase demand on spaces at Ash Manor School, as more children from the Aldershot area seek places at this school. There is already a significant number of Aldershot pupils who attend Ash Manor School, as it is the nearest school for many Aldershot children. The admission policy of Ash Manor School does not have a defined catchment area (neither do most other Surrey schools), and straight line distance from the child’s home to the school is one of the criteria used in the decisions to offer places. It is not possible under previous legal judgments to use county or district council boundaries as the criteria for defining a school’s catchment area, if one applies.

He finishes by saying that as Ash Manor School is already full and at its published admission number for places, it is unable to admit additional pupils except by successful appeals. Any additional pupils from Ash and the surrounding area will have to go to schools elsewhere, where places are available. Currently within Surrey, the nearest schools with available places are at either Kings College at Park Barn, Guildford or Broadwater School at Farncombe, near Godalming. There are no direct buses from Ash to either of these schools, and it is likely that pupils going to these schools will be taken to and from school by parents in their cars, adding to traffic congestion on local roads and the main roads towards Guildford. Therefore approval of 400 additional houses on this site would create problems in accommodating the children from the new houses at Ash Manor School, the only secondary school in Ash, and I would ask that the Planning Committee reject the plans.

Employment

Stuart Michael Associates - Design & Access Statement states that “Employment opportunities are located west of the A331 in the Aldershot Industrial Park. Further opportunities are also located in central Aldershot”. This is absolutely not true. There are almost no opportunities for employment in the Aldershot area, and because of the recent intake of over 10,000 Nepalese, who are willing to work for very little, the jobs market is stagnant. This can be confirmed by Rushmoor Borough Council. In addition, the Planning Application has recently been approved by Rushmoor BC to build over 4,000 new homes in Aldershot within 3 km of Ash. This is going to put tremendous strain on the employment situation within a 15 – 20 km radius. The writers daughter has been looking for a job for a considerable time, and she has been told by the Job Centre that there are up to 50 applicants going after every job in Aldershot and the surrounding areas.

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