Village Design Statement

Red deer on pirbright rangesWest End’s Village Design Statement (VDS)

Broad StreetDetails here are provided by the Village Design Steering Group which is independent from West End Village Society (WEVS). WEVS undertook to investigate the feasibility of a Village Design Statement being produced by the community of West End.

What is a village design statement?
•  It is a document which describes the qualities and characteristics local people value in their village and its surroundings
•  It sets out clear and simple guidance for the design of all developments in the village
•  The resulting report will become a Supplementary Planning Document, providing a set of design and planning principles which Surrey Heath Borough Council will consult when considering housing and other developments in West End.

Considerations would include
Preservation of open spacesBrentmoor Heath
Loss of small dwellings
Protection of trees and hedgerows
Types of housing/buildings
Flood control
Preservation of the green belt
Maintenance of a village character

The key questions to be addressed by the VDS
• What will this document say about the character of our village?
• Will this help to inform the design decisions of designers and developers?
• Will this be compatible with local planning policies?
WEVS stand The Final VDS can be found here

Timeline of West End's Village Design Statement (VDS)

2008

At the 2008 Summer Fete, WEVS members engaged with residents to gauge interest in the VDS project. The 2008 Agriculture and Horticulture Show gave an opportunity to further publicise the project and get more tangible opinions from residents.

Details of local businesses, organisations and individuals were collated and invitations sent out for the December Open meeting.


Nursery EstateThe Open meeting held on 1st December 2008 in the Sports Pavilion with over 80 attendees, was addressed by Jenny Rickard (Local plan manager for Surrey Heath BC), Paul Barrow (Lightwater VDS Steering Committee) and Councillor Margaret Melrose (Chobham Parish Council and Chairman of VDS Chobham).  This concluded with residents being invited to assist with the project.

At the March 18th 2009 meeting the Steering Group and officers were elected and sub-committee members identified. The Steering Group Terms of Reference (ToR) were drawn up.


The Steering Group held monthly meetings between April and June 2009 and at the Village Fete on 13th June, an
open questionnaire was provided to seek residents' views.  Following the July meeting the open questionnaire was again provided for attendees at the Village BBQ in September 2009. Further meetings of Steering Group were held between July and November 2009.

The public consultation with residents took place between June and September 2009, topics raised by villagers were collated and the results of the open questionnaire were analysed. In November the report on the outcome of the qualitative questionnaire was produced which helped to inform the design and content of further research.

In order to progress the project funds had to be raised. Over 80 companies in Towards Chobham RidgesWest End were contacted by letter asking for their contribution, as was the Parish Council, WEVS, the Borough Council and the Mayor’s charitable fund.  Meetings of the steering group held between December 2009 and January 2010 focused primarily on finalising the main questionnaire, seeking residents' views and arranging for distribution and return of the questionnaires.

On 9th February 2010, a team met at Gordon's school to collate and fill the envelopes with the questionnaire, a freepost envelope and a flyer advertising WEVS. By the end of the weekend every household in West End Parish had received a hand delivered, envelope through their letterbox.

Further meetings of the steering group were held between March and October 2010. The initial findings from the survey of residents was circulated at the Summer Fete and the Agriculture and Horticulture show. An Open event for residents, including a formal presentation on the findings and the progress of the VDS, was held on 13th September 2010 in the Sports Pavilion.

After consultation in September 2010, at an Open Day exhibition and meeting, an Interim Report has been created.  This is available to download from our
Publications Page .


2013

After the General Election in 2010 the South East Plan, with all its housing requirements, was abandoned but swiftly re-instated on appeal. With the introduction of the Localism Bill with Community and Neighbourhood Plans the future for the VDS was uncertain. We were reassured by SHBC thaHigh Street [Y Jones]t, as they had no funds to support such projects, we should continue, although with minimal support that financial year.

In November 2010 representatives from Chobham and West End (as observer) met with the Plan Manager (Jenny Rickard) at SHBC to discuss Chobham’s draft VDS submission. It became very evident from these talks and comments that a VDS was at a very low level in the planning consultation process and could only offer guidance on design features, could not dictate policy and aspirations had to be muted.

The VDS Steering Group, on receipt of the feed-back, had no option but to alter course. The document that was in advanced stages of preparation could not be submitted to SHBC as it stood. This document was produced therefore as an interim item, published on the WEVS website in February 2011 as “Guidelines: The Residents’ Viewpoint”.

Advice was given from SHBC that we needed to do a Character Area Assessment of the streetscape of West End in order to determine what were the features of design, (good or bad) in the village, what one would like to see preserved and what guidance could be given for future development. (The Localism Bill states that development cannot be gainsaid, this was an unwelcome Nursery Estate [Y Jones]statement for West End, with its Housing Reserve sites). From January 2011 work began to design the form and implement the Character Assessment for West End: this was carried out by some members of the Steering Group with help of other WEVS Committee members and two helpers from the village. Fourteen possible Character Areas (CAs) were identified, data collected (including a random ‘on the doorstep’ interview with approximately 10% of residents in each CA), and a draft report on two of the CAs was submitted to the Plan Manager for comment. Work on refining the main body of the VDS ran concurrently with the CA work.

At that time there was immense pressure on the Borough Council to finalise its Core Policy document so we were directed to see Helen Murch, a senior Planning Officer who had experience of preparing such assessments for the Borough Council. We were told by Helen that we needed much more data in order to prepare a thorough assessment of each CA – this included street furniture, window types, utilities, environmental impact of driveways, solar panels but to name a few.

The implementation of such a request took us another eight months and our final draft CA was submitted to Helen Murch in April 2012. We were then directed another Officer, Nick Irvine, and we had our first meeting with him in June 2012. (He commented that our submission was more like a surveyor’s report, with perhaps too much detail for a VDWalnut tree cottage (nr pond) [Y Jones]S. Since then we have been given much more help from the Borough Council with honing our Character Areas so that they, and the ensuing guidelines, are compliant with SHBC Core Policy, likewise for other issues such as traffic with SCC Policies. This has involved hours and hours of work by the editorial team (Beulah Kingston, Yvette Jones, Jeff LLewelyn and Judy Douch), but especially Beulah. Just when we had almost reached our goal we were very sorry indeed to learn that Nick was leaving to join Rushmoor BC at the end of January 2013!!

We hope that the momentum of the past few weeks’ hectic activities will not be lost and that we will soon be given a new contact at SHBC.

Post consultation (see consultation page) and subsequent amendment the VDS Document was submitted to SHBC on 10th June 2013.

The VDS was presented to the SHBC on the deadline date, but planners dissapointingly did not submit it to the Executive Committee on 30th July 2013 as planned. It appears they considered the document too long at 98 pages. A meeting with Jane  Ireland (Head of Forward Planning) at SHBC, to discuss the way forward, was held on 24th October 2013. A further meeting is planned for the first week of December 2013.

2014

After discussion with Planners the VDS document has been significantly slimmed down and revised. The latest news is that the Planning Department have at last accepted the document and have stated, “the draft VDS may go to either a late January or a February Executive. This would be to obtain agreement to consult on the document for a 4-6 week period

2016

Very little was done in 2015 by the Borough Council to further the progress of the VDS until well after the local elections and formation of a new Executive.

Another bombshell then fell on the doormat!! Contrary to our belief that the VDS was in the pipeline to an Executive meeting further drastic pruning was taking place within the Planning Department to remove anything from the document that was "not planning". Gone were references to "aspirations", adverse negative comments, transport issues etc. When the rage had calmed down we did meet with the Borough Council to seek clarification and to debate our objections.

Whilst all heated discussions involving the planning applications for houses in West End have dominated our attention the VDS has taken a back seat. However, I am pleased to report that we have agreed a final version with most of our suggestions being accepted.

The last pruning has caused a lot of upset to the formatting of the Document but the Borough's IT Department have agreed to take that over and re-present the document in an unified format with our text and photographs intact. We have now been given a target date of April/May for the presentation to the Executive. There will be further consultation thereafter but we are more hopeful that our VDS document will be adopted in 2016.

The VDS was finally accepted at an Executive Meeting in August 2016: the final twist to this lengthy saga was the failure to communicate the result to the Steering Committee or to send us a hard copy (if one was ever produced). The VDS should be  Supplementary Planning Document. To see the final document click here