Cobham M25 services plan will cause disruption
CONSTRUCTION details for the motorway service station on land near Cobham have been approved despite fears it could lead to months of disruption for people living nearby.
Shouts of ‘this is a stitch-up’ and ‘it’s a real disgrace’ were heard from the public gallery as Elmbridge Councillors approved the plans during a four-hour meeting on Wednesday evening.
Councillors for Cobham and Downside, John Butcher and Dorothy Mitchell fought to have the plans thrown out but they were outnumbered by councillors who followed officers’ recommendations to approve them.
Developer Swayfields has already secured permission to build the service station near junction 10 of the M25, which will include a petrol station, hotel, shops and 721 parking spaces.
The plans were formally approved by the then Secretary of State John Prescott in 2005 in the face of stiff opposition from Elmbridge Borough Council and residents living nearby.
At Wednesday’s west area planning sub-committee, councillors were tasked with deciding whether or not to approve the developer’s construction methods, including how it planned to transport materials to the site.
The most controversial aspect of the scheme was the proposal to use Horsley Road for six weeks as the site is prepared for the construction project. A row broke out when Cllr Butcher argued that use of local roads had been refused in the secretary of state’s decision.
Committee chairman Ben White told members to consider the planning officers’ interpretation of the decision – that use of local roads was only prohibited once the motorway service station was built.
Ian Cave, who lives in Horsley Road, said he was extremely worried by the decision to approve the plan. He said children who were pupils at St Matthew’s Infant School in Horsley Road would be put at risk because of the lorries. They are talking about a constant stream of lorries. If you go down there in the morning at 9am, the road is chock-a-block with cars and, of course, once you get the lorries down there, anything could happen.”
Two further applications relating to the site were discussed during the meeting on Wednesday.
Councillors considered the plans submitted to Surrey County Council to move 700,000 tonnes of soil from the site to nearby Chasemore Farm, in Cobham. The group also looked at another application which had been submitted to the Highways Agency, showing that the site developer planned to realign the M25 for the duration of the construction.
Cllr Butcher said he believed this could lead to lane closures and traffic congestion, which would push M25 users onto local roads. Although it was unable to refuse the plans, Elmbridge was allowed to make suggestions for any improvements that councillors would like.
Cllr Butcher, who wrote a 27-page report detailing several problems with the applications, was applauded when he suggested the whole thing should be sent to the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, for review.
He said: “Unless a public inquiry is held, there will remain concern that insufficient regard is being given to the interests of local residents and road users who would be inconvenienced if the M25 is closed entirely at any time, or any part or it is closed other than between 10pm and 5.30am.”
David Tipping, who recently stepped down from the council, said the decision should not have been made without a further site visit.
He said two of the councillors voting on the application were new to the council, Keith Egan and Kay Hughes, and that they had never seen the site. Mr Tipping and Cllr Butcher had asked for a site visit in April but it was never arranged. He said: “I think the whole thing has gone really sour.”
The resident's argument sounds really thin to me. Apparently the local roads are "chock-a-block", so putting construction lorries on them would be bad for the children. Erm...