Mole Valley Council’s golf course vote “sets a dangerous precedent”

Mole Valley Council’s golf course vote “sets a dangerous precedent”
CPRE Surrey Branch has expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the vote by Mole Valley District Council’s Development Control Committee to allow the development of a golf and leisure complex at Cherkley Court, Leatherhead, the former home of Lord Beaverbrook.
During the 2-hour debate at the Committee’s meeting on May 2, a succession of Councillors had cited the opposition of CPRE and other conservation groups to the proposals for the golf and leisure development at Cherkley. CPRE had argued that the scheme – by London-based developers Longshot – was contrary to the Mole Valley Local Plan and would be an inappropriate development for Cherkley’s highly sensitive chalk downland. CPRE had also warned that allowing the golf course to go ahead in this location, against local planning policies, would set a dangerous precedent which it would be difficult for Councillors to resist when other similar applications arise in the future for leisure developments in the Green Belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey Branch Director, who watched the debate at Mole Valley Council together with colleagues from CPRE and the Cherkley Campaign, commented afterwards: “The arguments put forward by those Councillors opposed to the scheme were extremely compelling – I would say overwhelming – and should in my view have been decisive, especially when it was reiterated that the Council’s own planning officers had recommended refusal on the grounds that the scheme ran counter to the Local Plan. But, amazingly, by the narrowest of margins – just one vote in fact – the Committee disregarded these arguments and voted to put the claimed but unproven economic benefit of the golf course over and above their duty to protect the countryside and Green Belt. This is both disappointing and alarming because of the damage I believe the scheme will do to Cherkley, and the dangerous precedent that it sets for other Green Belt and AONB sites in Surrey.
“I feel that we won the arguments but lost the vote.”
CPRE will now be examining options and will be looking to get the Committee’s decision overturned on the grounds that it contravenes agreed planning policy.

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