Godalming Healthcheck Report

3 Environment

Setting

Lammas Lands

View across the Lammas Lands

3.1 Godalming straddles the River Wey and the town is virtually surrounded by wooded hills save where the river flows northeast towards Guildford and London. The town's most important distinguishing feature is probably the large meadow area known as the Lammas Lands that is very close to the town centre. During the summer months this still has animals grazing on it, usually cattle. The Lammas Lands is an important feature of the approach to Godalming from the north by car and by train. It is also an important backdrop to the historic town centre.

River Wey

River Wey

Other notable features of the setting are the River Wey itself; the partially wooded hills to the north (Frith Hill), south (South Hill, Holloway Hill) west (Ockford Ridge and Westbrook), and north east (Farley Hill and Unsted); Broadwater Park on the northern outskirts; and Busbridge Lakes to the south. In general development on the riverside and especially on the Lammas Lands is strictly limited.

3.2 Godalming has no central open space of any sort making it fairly unusual amongst English country towns [76]. Three narrow curved streets meet at the old Town Hall (known locally as the "Pepperpot") at the top of the High Street.

Pump at Pepperpot

Underneath the Pepperpot

In the centre of Godalming (around the High Street) there is relatively dense, closely clustered, residential, retail and commercial development. Moving out of the centre, there is extensive residential development, at varying density, throughout the town, with a second retail centre in Farncombe. There is also important commercial and industrial development along Catteshall Lane running parallel to the River Wey. Further out the town is surrounded on three sides by villages with a mixture, often quite scattered, of farms, houses, shops and churches etc within the Metropolitan Green Belt. To the northeast the town borders Guildford and significant new commercial development in that town comes almost to the borders of Godalming.

3.3 The town has a long history and the built environment reflects that heritage. There are five conservation areas in and around Godalming and more than 350 listed buildings [77].

Building in Bridge Street

Architecture in Bridge Street

These conservation areas are the Town Centre; the Lammas Lands; Crownpits Lane; the area around the Inn on the Lake; and Munstead Wood. Godalming also has two Scheduled Ancient Monuments (including the ancient religious site near Ladywell Convent); and one site of special archaeological interest (on Holloway Hill).

3.4 Godalming and Farncombe have too many distinctive buildings to name them all but they include, for example: The Parish Church of SS Peter and Paul Church visible across the Lammas Lands; the Pepperpot; the 16th Century Wyatt Almshouses on Meadrow and the buildings of Charterhouse School to the north above the town.

1663 Sign

3.5 The centre of Godalming around the High Street and in Church Street contains a mixture of 16C and 17C secular buildings, a number of which started life as hostelries or public houses on the original route of the main London to Portsmouth road, which used to run through the centre of the town. Many have interesting architectural features; and the blend and diversity of styles combined with the human scale and uniform height give a visually attractive and distinctive character to the town centre.

Skinners Arms sign

These have been recorded on a photographic database available to the public at Godalming Museum.

3.6 On the outskirts of the town are a number of notable houses designed by prominent architects of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and early 20th century - including Lutyens, Voysey and Thackeray Turner - and of gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll, notably at Orchards and Munstead Wood [78].

Wey Navigation

3.7 The quality of the surrounding countryside is evidenced by the extent of National Trust ownership in the immediate area such as Hydon's Ball, Witley Common, the Wey Navigation, Eashing and Winkworth Arboretum. There is historic parkland at Peperharow, Witley Park and Busbridge. Some 30% of the Borough of Waverley is wooded; there are large tracts of lowland heath; and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) extends over much of the area around Godalming. This protection is extended further by the areas designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) on the fringes of the AONB. Around Godalming there are also areas designated by Waverley Borough Council (Waverley) as being of Strategic Visual Importance (ASVI) to prevent open land and countryside between urban settlements from being eroded [79].

Development

3.8 Two important development sites in and around Godalming were identified in the 2002 Local Plan prepared by Waverley Borough Council. The first, the "Godalming Key Site" on Flambard Way, comprises the current Godalming Police Station, the Wharf Nursery School and a number of empty buildings being defunct business premises - empty largely as a result of land assembly for the proposed development on the site. Current proposals to develop the site for very high density, mainly residential accommodation, were refused by the planning authority. The outcome (in the form of a decision by the Secretary of State following a planning inquiry subsequent to an appeal by the developer) was announced on 31 October 2008 with, unusually, the Planning Inspector recommending approval (with conditions) and the Secretary of State opting to refuse planning permission - but on design ground only - the principle of high density residential accommodation on the site being accepted.

3.9 The second site is formed by part of the grounds at Milford Hospital just outside the town's boundary to the west. Planning guidelines for the mainly residential development of this site were approved by Waverley Borough Council in February 2003 and the redundant section of the site was transferred to English Partnerships and a developer appointed [80] but no firm proposals or planning application have yet been submitted.

3.10 A third significant potential development in the area is the outline application for a new settlement at Dunsfold Park (formerly the Dunsfold Aerodrome), some seven miles south of Godalming, comprising 2,601 new dwellings; associated buildings such as schools and shops; and buildings for commercial use and to provide employment including offices, light & general industrial use and storage & distribution use. The Joint Planning Committee of Waverley Borough Council rejected this application in September 2008 but the developer has appealed and ultimately this will be a decision made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following a public inquiry.

3.11 In 2006 land adjoining the A3 at Eashing was put forward as a 'preferred minerals zone' or PMZ for the excavation of soft sand in the draft Surrey Minerals Plan. Local residents are very concerned about the impact of a large quarry in the area and do not accept that extraction will be limited to soft sand. They have been arguing that there will be a commercial incentive to quarry other materials which will be more damaging and disruptive to extract, in particular the local stone (Bargate stone) which has been used in many of the historic buildings in the Godalming area and which is not currently being quarried. The residents have formed themselves into a group to campaign against the inclusion of the site at Eashing in the next Minerals Plan [81]. Surrey County Council has now accepted that Bargate stone is also likely to be extracted at the site [82]. Godalming Town Council has registered a strong objection to the proposal for a quarry at Eashing, reflecting the considerable local concern. In addition English Nature has recently indicated its opposition to the site due to the presence of a SSSI on the boundary of the site. The process of selection of sites is ongoing and the estimated final adoption date for the Minerals Plan is currently September 2010 [83].

3.12 There is constant pressure on "brownfield land" within the town to provide infill development or the replacement of dwellings with residential properties at a higher density. This leads to vigorous objections from local residents often concerned with the potential problems caused by additional car parking and congestion. Successive planning applications for development in Peperharow Road are an example [84].

Waste and Recycling

3.13 Waverley Borough Council has, in recent years, achieved a significant improvement in recycling rates [85]. Across the borough there is fortnightly kerbside collection of glass, metals, paper and plastic bottles. Waverley Borough Council also offers various schemes to encourage the home composting of food waste [86].

3.14 Disposal of food waste is an unresolved issue. Trials for collection of food waste run in 3 areas outside Waverley by Surrey County Council last year did result in high levels of participation. Waverley Councilors say that the costs of introducing a similar system to all households in Waverley are too great at the moment [87]. WBC is not directly responsible for collection and disposal of the substantial amounts of food waste created by businesses [88].

3.15 Waste and recycling issues for residents emerged as a major issue for the Borough during the 2005 elections to Waverley Borough Council. This followed the publication of proposals to introduce the system known as Alternate Weekly Collection in 2006/7. As part of this healthcheck over 220 local families took part in a survey [89] conducted with assistance from pupils at Rodborough Technology College and Broadwater School, to elicit views about the new waste collection arrangements.

3.16 The survey found that over 90% of households took full advantage of kerbside collection to send their glass, newspaper and plastic bottles for recycling; but more than a third of households found their wheelie bins could not contain all the non-recyclable waste accumulated over a fortnight. More than 80% of households indicated that they would like to see cardboard waste added to the items included in kerbside recycling. 70% of households said that they have to take cardboard waste to the recycling points at Sainsbury's and Crown Court. It is therefore evident that the inclusion of cardboard waste in the kerbside collection of recyclables would save a substantial number of journeys to recycling points.

3.17 However, Waverley Borough Council has recently concluded that kerbside collection of cardboard would not be economic for the foreseeable future; and has instead introduced more frequent collection of cardboard from the 'tanks' at the two recycling centres in Godalming [90]. This may go some way to improving the readiness of households to take cardboard to these centres; but the absence of kerbside collection for cardboard combined with the very limited number of recycling points will mean that for the time being much cardboard will continue to be put in wheelie-bins and sent to landfill.

3.18 A separate survey of some 50 local businesses (half of them retail businesses, and half employing fewer than 15 staff) was undertaken for the Healthcheck by staff and pupils of Priors Field School to establish what these businesses did with their waste [91]. Twenty-two of these organisations said that they did no recycling - though in some cases their waste may subsequently be sorted by the company that collects the commercial waste in the area into recyclable and non-recyclable waste before final disposal. More generally, it was apparent from responses to this survey that many, especially the smaller businesses, had limited appreciation of waste issues; and had no considered policy to reduce the waste they created or to increase the amount sent for recycling.

Bring your own shopping bag

Over 50% of businesses complained of the excessive packaging and wrapping in which goods were supplied to them.

3.19 By contrast with the small businesses, one of the largest commercial operations in the town, which belongs to a national chain of supermarkets, has comprehensive recycling policies in operation; but these are organised centrally from their head office [92].

Other Environmental Issues Affecting the Town

3.20 It is clear that many of the issues influencing and threatening the quality of Godalming's and Farncombe's environment relate to transport. These are dealt with in the Transport chapter of this report, and the recommendations for action in that chapter are designed as much to improve the town's environment as to facilitate the mobility of its people. We deal here with other issues that require attention, if the local environment is to be safeguarded and improved.

3.21 Limited information is provided to enable visitors, particularly those arriving by car, to find some of the town's main attractions [93]. There are many signs indicating where parking is available but no information is given to indicate the better car parks for longer stays for tourists or day-trippers. There is moreover no indication of the number of parking places available in each car park; information that many towns provide [94].

3.22 Signs directing motorist to the other local historic towns are limited; as an example drivers, particularly those who are not local residents, trying to reach Farnham from Godalming, struggle. [95].

3.23 There are aspects of Godalming's appearance that are not satisfactory, for instance:

3.24 The town's environment in the form of its air quality is also a cause for serious concern.

Air quality monitor

Air quality monitor

Slow moving traffic creates unacceptable levels of environmental pollution particularly Nitrogen Dioxide levels which have been recorded in Godalming on Flambard Way in excess of the annual mean permitted standards. Flambard Way is one of 3 air quality management areas in Waverley. However the Borough Council regards this as outside its control because transport issues are dealt with by Surrey County Council. Surrey County Council says it requires an urban traffic control (UTC) to be carried out to establish the remedial action that can be taken. In a recent report to the Environment & Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Waverley Surrey County Council said, "We hope that the review of UTC for Godalming can be completed in the 2008/11 timescale but this cannot be guaranteed and it is most unlikely that any actual changes to the system could be introduced before 2011." [103]

3.25 There are elements of the environment that are more satisfactory. For instance, since April 2007 Waverley Borough Council has been responsible for on-street parking enforcement in the town centre. Badly parked cars used to cause frequent and sometimes prolonged delays to buses using the High Street. There are now fewer badly and/or illegally parked cars on the High Street.

3.26 The ambience of the High Street is improved for the public by a pedestrian priority scheme that operates on Saturdays.

3.27 At night most routes in the town centre of Godalming for vehicles and pedestrians are well lit. In Church Street a new low-energy street lighting scheme has recently been introduced; however in the centre of Farncombe lighting is poor.

Climate Change

3.28 Godalming has no independent assessment of the impact of climate change on the town and carrying one out was well beyond the scope and resources of this Healthcheck. Assessments have been carried out at regional level. Climate South East (a partnership of organisations which is examining the anticipated impact of climate change in the South East) states:

"In the South East of England we expect climate change to lead to hotter drier summers, warmer wetter winters, higher sea levels and an increase in extreme events such as heat-waves, droughts and flooding. For instance, the heat-wave of 2003 is predicted to become the norm by the summers of the 2050s and to be considered relatively cool by the 2080s"

3.29 The Climate Change Bill has completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent on 1 December 2008. It places a statutory obligation on government to reduce the nation's carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

3.30 To date there have only been a handful of actions in the town to reduce carbon emissions e.g. the low energy lighting scheme for Church Street. However a group of residents has recently formed itself into "Transition Godalming" which it says "is a local response to the major threats of depleting oil reserves and climate change by acquiring information and sharing it within the Godalming community, and encouraging and seeing through the changes needed to lessen the impact of these threats" [104].

Biodiversity

3.31 Threats to the biodiversity of the natural environment of Godalming are visible and were identified by this Healthcheck. These include certain invasive species, in particular some of those that are known threats to wetland areas such as foreign crayfish and mink as identified in the Wetland Habitat Action Plan for Surrey [105].

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam

In addition Himalayan Balsam is establishing itself on the banks of the Wey and its tributaries and is posing a potentially serious threat to the areas of the Lammas Lands that are not grazed [106].

3.32 A new concern is the spread of leaf miner moth on horse-chestnut trees, which has become very apparent this year (2008).

Effects of Leaf Miner moth

Effects of Leaf Miner Moth

This has now spread through the horse chestnuts in the town and surrounding area and it leads to premature leaf fall. Although in the short term it is not expected to kill trees it will recur year after year and over time will lead to a serious weakening in this species of tree leaving them more susceptible to other problems [107] [108].

3.33 The threat of the quarry at Eashing poses a potential threat to the biodiversity of the most important ecological site in the area - the nationally recognised Charterhouse to Eashing SSSI [109].

Summary

3.34 We have referred above to proposed major residential schemes that are already known about. These developments, and others yet to be identified, have the potential, collectively, to put additional pressures on the local infrastructure, increase traffic congestion and alter the character of the town and surrounding area. It is right that the schemes should be subjected to rigorous examination and public scrutiny before approval. We look to the local authorities to ensure this happens.

3.35 As we indicate above, the central issue we identified in relation to waste appears to be about the recycling of

Each of these requires specific, targeted actions that will lift the proportion of recycled waste so Surrey meets its 60% target. We believe that this can be achieved, under the active and committed leadership of Waverley, through a combination of local authority and voluntary initiatives.

Action Points

Waste Management

EN.1. Increase the recycling of cardboard either by providing a door-to-door collection service or by increasing the number of bring points in the Town to include at least one in Farncombe/Binscombe and one on Ockford Ridge

EN.2. Provide additional support to the Plastic Bag Free Godalming campaign

EN.3. Install bins to enable shoppers to deposit of plastic packaging with the retailer

EN.4. Encourage businesses to prioritise the recycling of their waste.

Town Scene

EN.5. Tackle broken/worn street furniture and signage throughout the town

EN.6. Review the signage for visitors to the town

EN.7. Tackle litter and graffiti hot-spots

EN.8. Extend Pedestrian Priority scheme in Godalming High Street (see Transport Chapter T.27 above)

Biodiversity

EN.9. Draw up a containment and management plan for the Himalayan Balsam on the Lammas Lands


This page updated on 6 Jul 2009