Planning

wisley airfield

Response to Wisley Airfield - Taylor Wimpey

 

Planning Scrutiny Group, Guildford, Surrey 


 

Green space and urban design

 

Climate change adaptation must be an essential part of the planning process for any new building or development, with the UK climate set to become more like southern Europe in the next 30-40 years. During heatwaves, poorly-designed residential blocks have been at best uncomfortable, and at worst dangerously overheated. Green infrastructure, as well as other natural features can help lower urban environments by a considerable amount (https://theconversation.com/after-another-hot-summer-here-are-6-ways-to-cool-our-cities-in-future-110817). 

 

While we note that there are village greens and wide verges planned, we also would like to add the following recommendations: 

 

  • There should be trees in the villages triangles/squares to provide shade, as well as lining every street. Trees have been shown to cool urban areas quite substantially - by a minimum of 6C and up to 20C in some cases. They are also crucial to prevent flooding, improve air quality (particularly important at a site so close to a major road),  as well as significantly increase biodiversity, improve property values, and more (https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.39).

  • Waterways, fountains, ponds or other water features could be used to help cool the environment, increase biodiversity, and improve amenity spaces for residents, as well as providing overspill in case of potential flooding/heavy rain.

  • Atriums/central courtyards with pillared walkways could help improve cooling, provide shade, and create attractive spaces.

  • Orientation of blocks, window size and placement, positioning and species of trees (evergreen/deciduous), and other solar shading should seek to prevent overheating in summer while allowing maximum light into buildings in winter.

  • Living walls can also help provide insulation and cooling, whether relatively high-tech (shrubbery frames, etc) or low-tech (moss walls).

  • Lighter-coloured pathways and roads can significantly cool the surrounding areas. Footpaths, particularly those in natural/green areas, could be raised and made of wood rather than asphalt/tarmac/etc to minimise the amount of land covered, maximise biodiversity, and have the least impact in terms of materials used.


 

Building design and materials

 

Individual building design and materials should also aim to minimise energy use, embedded carbon, plastic and other environmentally-/ecologically-damaging materials, while promoting physical and mental health where possible.

  • Wherever practical, building methods and materials should be employed to allow materials and elements to be recyclable or reusable.

  • Building materials should be sourced as locally as possible, and be chosen for their environmental and ecological credentials. Ideally, wood from sustainable forestry can be used over concrete, brick or steel for structural elements, particularly with the relatively low building heights proposed. Cross-laminated engineered wood would comfortably meet load requirements for buildings of this size, for example, although would likely be overkill for this development. Similarly, wherever wood can replace plastic - for example, in window framing - this would significantly reduce environmental and ecological impact, as well as off-gassing which contributes heavily to poor interior air quality.

  • Will whole-life carbon calculations be carried out for all aspects of the site at scales from individual buildings to the entire development?

  • Shared spaces are the most efficient use of resources and help engender community spirit. For this development, that will mean more co-living spaces (appendix F) e.g. roof spaces to hang out laundry, laundry rooms, shared leisure areas, or possibly also cooking areas, to combine with smaller private studios/flats.

 

Consideration should be given to heating and cooling naturally aside from through orientation and shading. Thermal mass and natural ventilation (or mechanical ventilation combined with high levels of air tightness, such as in Passivhaus design) could be considered.

  • A comprehensive natural ventilation plan for each building must be completed, aimed at maximising the potential for natural ventilation (unless a Passivhaus-style mechanical ventilation system will be used).

    • Unless an airtight, mechanical ventilation system is in use, windows should be capable of being opened wherever possible, particularly in residential buildings.

    • Customisable internal and external shading should be considered - for example, blinds internally or shutters externally - to enable residents to best meet their lighting and temperature-control needs.

  • For elements of high thermal mass placed to retain heat during cold weather and remain cool during hot weather, stone would be preferred to more environmentally-damaging and less attractive materials such as concrete.

  • Any temperature control mechanisms for individual dwellings or buildings must be capable of heating/cooling specific areas or rooms, to avoid heating/cooling a whole dwelling/building needlessly.

    • Air conditioning units should be avoided as they are highly energy-intensive (and also unsightly and loud), and should not be required on a project of this type and scale unless as part of a Passivhaus system of mechanical airflow. In this case they should be capable of being powered by on-site renewable electricity generation.

  • Has there been any consideration of ground/air source heat pumps for this development?

    • ‘Waste’ heat from appliances and machinery should also be recaptured wherever possible, particularly from communal buildings if applicable.

 

Concrete slab foundations are far more environmentally- and ecologically-damaging than pile foundations, and increase flooding risk. However, if slab foundations are proposed for this development:

  • Concrete with a high proportion of fly ash or ground granulated blastfurnace slag (GGBS) should be used as this reduces carbon content by up to 74%.

  • Novel mixes including hempcrete should also be considered.


 

Biodiversity

 

As a green site near woodland and bordered by the motorway, there are many considerations for biodiversity.

  • A biodiversity net gain of 10% has been promised, but how will this be achieved?

  • Replacing mature trees with saplings cannot be considered anything but a biodiversity loss. The ecosystems and habitats mature trees sustain cannot be replicated over the reliable lifespan of any new planting.

  • Any trees or other plants planted should be carefully considered by an expert in order to ensure biodiversity is maximised, native species are prioritised, and plants have the best possible chance of surviving to maturity. Provisions must be in place for regular inspection and care of new planting, including regular independent ecological surveys to assess whether sites could be better managed or identify species of particular interest.

 

We are encouraged to hear about the large park being planned - however, with the motorway adjacent, there is a significant risk of animals being killed or involved in collisions.

 

  • What consideration is being given to manage this risk? Wildlife tunnels or bridges, traffic-calming measures (which would also reduce air and noise pollution on-site), and other means of reducing the impact of the road on wildlife and residents should be implemented. If this is not within the remit, then this should be discussed as part of the wider implications of the project. 

 

Other considerations for biodiversity on-site include:

  • The possibility for mixed hedges as part of the landscaping design, which afford food and habitat for countless species and particularly for small birds. Birdsong has been definitively linked to improved mental health and is an excellent proxy for biodiversity as a whole (https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax0903).

  • Integrating greenery into building envelopes (such as green walls like that recently installed in Woking, green roofs where solar panels are not practical or feasible, or even vertical forests implemented by Stafano Boeri Architects in Milan) can not only increase biodiversity, but also improve living experience for residents and increase property value (along with potential temperature regulation benefits as previously mentioned).

  • Areas of grass planned as ‘street greenery’ should be replaced by wildflower planting to improve plant and insect biodiversity (particularly for pollinators). A small strip of mown grass around the borders of such areas is sufficient to maintain ‘neatness’. Signs indicating that particular areas have not been mown to improve biodiversity and support pollinators can help alleviate any concerns for residents.

    • One caveat to this is where visibility at road junctions could be impacted by tall grass or plants.

    • Wherever possible, wildflower meadows and spaces dedicated to nature (without regular mowing) should be planned for larger green spaces too, balanced with the need for mown grass areas for leisure and recreation.


 

Energy and water

 

We welcome plans for renewable electricity generation on-site. The development should also aim to be as energy-efficient as possible, with all buildings capable of meeting EPC ratings of A.

 

Lighting

  • All buildings should aim to maximise natural lighting (bearing in mind natural or other solar shading as necessary to prevent overheating on hot days). This will not only minimise use of artificial lighting, but also has physical and mental health benefits.That said, care must be taken not to build greenhouses. Often new developments pay little attention to the heating effect of a lot of glass. 

  • Outdoor lighting should be sensitive so as not to disturb wildlife or sleep patterns. LED lights can be customised so that less blue light is emitted, which is particularly damaging to nocturnal creatures (see recent BBC article about moths) and also interrupts sleep patterns in humans. Movement sensors would be our preferred means of ensuring that lights are only on when necessary.

  • Lighter-coloured pathways would also minimise the intensity of light needed. 

 

There has been talk of a solar energy hub and we agree that rooftops in this development are an ideal place to install solar panels. When planned before development, panels can be designed for more streamlined fit and to be less noticeable for those who prefer traditional roofing materials.

  • Could the development also consider photovoltaic windows, particularly for communal buildings? We recognise that these are not routinely commercially available.

 

Heating

Aside from orientation, shading and other large-scale methods of temperature regulation, buildings should be insulated to enable an EPC rating of A.

  • For communal buildings or those with shared access, particular care should be taken to minimise heat loss when external doors are opened. This can be achieved through the use of multiple doors and avoiding pressure differentials that force warmer air out of buildings wherever possible.

  • Insulation materials should be reusable. There is now a wide range of environmentally-friendly insulation material available and this should be preferred both for environmental and for health reasons, for residents and contractors. These materials are also more commonly able to be recycled or reused. One example is wool. It can be sourced without toxic chemicals. 

  • Even relatively small solar hot water panels can provide sufficient hot water for buildings to only require additional water heating for a few months of the year. Particularly if waste heat is recaptured, and given that water heating is a significant cause of emissions from residential buildings, we believe the strategy for water heating should primarily focus on solar hot water.

    • Systems installed in houses to manage heating and cooling should be simple and intuitive.

    • Smart meters should be installed in all dwellings to enable residents to view and manage their energy use and bills effectively.

 

Water

Minimising water use, and reuse of grey water wherever possible, should be key considerations for this development.

  • Will wastewater be captured for reuse on-site?

  • Will rainwater be captured for use on-site?

  • How will water use be minimised through the use of low-flow fittings and in-built reuse (for example, sinks draining directly to toilet cisterns)?

 

Embedded energy in manufacture

 

We encourage shared spaces as a way to lower the ecological footprint of this development. The proposals should consider shared laundry rooms and kitchens which could be shared between households. The embedded energy is also a key consideration. Reducing the need for say 2500 washing machines, to say 1000 would have a positive bearing on this. 

 

Sustainable Travel

 

Cycling

While the internal travel of the village looks positive, including the five-minute walk to a shop and internal cycle routes, we are concerned that the routes proposed to access other travel hubs are not fit for purpose. When using their bikes as transport as opposed to recreation, cyclists will generally take the shortest route.

 

  • Road layout and junction design can be altered to give clear and intuitive priority to pedestrians and cyclists, as is being increasingly done in some urban areas in Europe where cycling rates are significantly higher. For example, as seen in the image below, it is the cycle lane that continues unbroken, while the road changes colour and features a traffic-calming change of materiality along with speed bumps (image from https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/a-common-urban-intersection-in-the-netherlands/).






 

In the example below, the pavement and cycling lane both continue unbroken, and again drivers must make a small level change to go from a larger to a smaller road (image from https://departmentfortransport.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/continuous-paths-across-minor-junctions/, which includes diagrams).

 

In this manner, it is clear to all users that pedestrians and cyclists have priority, and that car users must slow down and approach the junction with care as they are encroaching on a space where they do not have priority. Less confident cyclists, slow walkers or those with disabilities can be assured that they will have an unbroken and more accessible surface on which to ride or walk, free of level changes and with greatly reduced risk of collision with vehicles, which can dramatically increase cycling and walking rates.

  • New cycle paths should be designed to be both quick and safe - ideally separate from cars which pose a considerable risk to cyclists, especially on smaller roads where drivers are impatient to overtake.

    • Alternatively, there should be consideration given to making some roads cycle-priority (i.e. cars cannot overtake cyclists).

  • Routes into and out of the site, including connections to nearby facilities and other towns/villages, should follow routes that are intuitive and that would be most likely to be used. Deviation from such simple routes will only reduce their use by residents and visitors, particularly if shorter routes are possible (e.g. across fields, along pavements, or on dedicated footpaths).

  • Street clutter should be avoided if at all possible, and instead intuitive design used to make priority and intended purpose clear.

 

Buses

We are pleased that there is an aim to reduce car use at the proposed development and that improved bus services are promised. However, the source of funding for the new service to Horsley and Effingham Stations in perpetuity is a cause for great concern. It relies on TW setting up a Charitable Trust to fund and operate the bus service, partnering with SCC ‘as necessary’.

  • Does that mean the council has to pay if the TW fund dries up?

We are pleased to see that the buses for routes H1 and H2 would be electric.

  • Could we have more information about the other extra buses you are promising? These too should be electric (or potentially hydrogen, depending on the source of energy used in generation) if you are hoping to meet your zero-carbon promise.

  • The roads on the H1 and H2 routes are also quite narrow for buses to pass, and there would be a danger for cyclists who need to go the same way unless cycle paths are separated from roads.

Given the likelihood that many residents of the development will commute to work by train:

  • Will connectivity with nearby stations be sufficient to enable the majority of these commuters to reach them by bus or cycle? There will be no extra parking provided at either station, both of which were already full in pre-Covid times, and so any additional cars parked at local stations will be forced out onto nearby roads, worsening traffic and air pollution, or leave commuters without legal spaces.

 

Cars

We have heard lots of buzzwords about reducing car use, but were concerned to also hear talk of “in the future converting one of the vehicle spaces into something else”.

  • Does that mean that each dwelling will have more than one private car parking space? This group submitted some questions regarding this during the last consultation, but they were not answered.


 

  • Could you clarify what the provision for cars will be at the site, and what the estimated total numbers of vehicles on-site will be? Surrey’s roads are already much more crowded than most of the rest of the country, and an additional 4000-5000 vehicles would be considerable.

 

On average, a third of a Surrey resident’s carbon footprint is generated from car use, and overall, transport makes up almost half of all of Surrey’s emissions. As such, reducing cars and car use is critical to emissions targets. Guildford Borough Council has declared a Climate Emergency, and every effort possible must be made to address this. 

 

EV charging points

Private cars are a very inefficient way of transporting people - and are parked for over 90% of the time, taking up precious space which needs to be paved over. EVs may reduce tailpipe emissions from the tailpipe, but they involve a large carbon footprint to produce, as well as damage to ecosystems for mining, and perpetuate the car paradigm that has caused so much damage. While we support some EV charging points being installed, we must stress that simply switching out all combustion engine vehicles for EVs is not a solution to the climate  and ecological crisis. Every effort must be made to encourage active travel and public transport over private car use.