Proposed development of land at Fetcham Springs as playing fields, with a clubhouse and parking, has been given a resounding thumbs down by Fetcham residents.
Speaker after speaker at a packed Village Hall meeting on March 1st condemned the scheme which is outlined in Mole Valley’s Draft Local Plan.
The barrage of criticism was led by Linda Tippelt, the founder of the Leatherhead and Fetcham Flood Action Group. She challenged the Councillor in charge of the Local Plan process, Margaret Cooksey, to explain whether a proper flood risk assessment of the playing fields proposal had been carried out.
In reply, Cllr Cooksey stressed that the site had been earmarked not for housing but for recreational use. “We do need space in the district for those things,” she said. And Cllr Cooksey denied the claim that Fetcham Springs was included in the plan only after the council received a proposal from Effingham and Leatherhead Rugby Club.
One resident described the 20 acres of low-lying land next to Raymead Way as a “window of nature”. And another resident living close to the site said his garden had recently been under two feet of water. “We cannot possibly tolerate Fetcham Springs being built on,” he said.
Fetcham Residents Association Chairman Tim Waller assured residents that he would be vigorously opposing the playing fields plan, but it was essential that all residents make individual responses to the council.
Jack Straw, the senior Mole Valley council official present at the meeting, acknowledged that residents’ views would be “weighed in the balance”.
“My take away point tonight is your views on Fetcham Springs,” he said. And he suggested that elements of the Plan would change, as they had in the past with previous Local Plans. “Some sites are going to be winnowed out, others will come in.” But there were “no easy answers or simple fixes,” he added.
The meeting began with a 20 minute presentation on the Draft Local Plan, and its potential impact on Fetcham, by the FRA’s Vice-Chairman Ian Anderson.
Cllr Cooksey appealed to residents to take part in the consultation, which closes on March 23rd. “There are a lot of things we need to know. Not just what you don’t like, but the things in the plan which you do like. So please tell us.”
Residents repeatedly voiced their concerns over the lack of detail on new infrastructure to support extra housing in the area. There was also criticism that the option of building more homes in relatively undeveloped areas in the south of the district, closer to Gatwick Airport, had been ruled out.
Fetcham West Councillor Paul Kennedy said the decision, in 2017-18, to exclude the option of more homes in the south of the district had been taken “behind closed doors”.
And he revealed that at one stage in the draft plan process Fetcham Springs was considered as a possible site for housing. “When I first read the plan last May I wanted to tear it up and start again,” he said.
In closing comments, Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford confirmed that he had asked housing ministers to meet Mole Valley councillors to discuss the plan, and he too urged residents to take part in the consultation.
He hoped the number of homes allocated to Mole Valley could be reduced, but he also argued that councillors should consider taller and higher density buildings in urban areas to preserve Green Belt land.
The Draft Local Plan can be viewed in full, and comments submitted at futuremolevalley.org with public consultation closing on March 23rd.