Ashford Hill celebrates double victory against housing developers
The residents of Ashford Hill have been rejoicing after an appeal to overturn the refusal of controversial housing plans was dismissed.
Housing developer JPP Land Ltd put forward plans to build 36 dwellings on land south of Holt Cottages in August 2021.
It began the appeal process in June of this year following its initial refusal in December 2022.
The appeal was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate on October 18, much to the delight of the Residents Against Ashford Hill Development (RAAD) action group which formed in opposition to the high volume of residential development plans being put forward in the village.
RAAD chairman Patrick Taylor said: “I am feeling overjoyed and very relieved. Now I can get on with my life. We are all absolutely thrilled.
“Had it not been for our intervention, I don’t think the appeal would have been overturned.
“The message I would give to any other local resident organisations is don’t give up at the outset. Argue your case.”
Mr Taylor acknowledged that the difficult part of running groups like RAAD is funding the professional advice it needed.
“For any residents’ group, the cards are stacked against them because you have to get that professional advice if they want to fight it effectively,” he said.
He stated that the group, which numbered more than 320 residents, was “lucky” to have several members that contributed financially. He also praised planning consultant Mike de Courcy for his assistance throughout their campaign.
He added: “With so many speculative developments happening in and around the area, I would just encourage local people to have confidence, to have determination and not to give up at the first hurdle. If you have those, you can succeed.”
Mr Taylor set up RAAD with his daughter Melissa Tayabali and neighbour Christian Bearman in late 2021.
The group’s key concerns were the lack of public transport in the village and the negative effect increased housing could have on local infrastructure, particularly sewage and drainage.
The appeal dismissal gave RAAD and Ashford Hill two reasons to celebrate as it led to another housing developer withdrawing its appeal as well.
Sigma Strategic Land withdrew its appeal to overturn the refusal of plans to build 47 houses on land to the south west of Ashford Hill Road on October 18, the same day as JPP’s appeal was dismissed.
Borough councillor and Ashford Hill resident Ken Rhatigan was “delighted” to see the one appeal dismissed and the other withdrawn, and he praised the efforts of RAAD and the villagers of Ashford Hill.
He said: “It was an excellent piece of work. I was just lucky that I was a councillor and I live in Ashford Hill so I could help the team in the work that they were doing, but it wasn’t my work or any individual’s work; it was a team effort.”
Mr Rhatigan stated that he and Mr Taylor “were in tears” after they discovered the dismissal, and that the plans were “an attempt to make money on the back of a small community without any infrastructure”.
“It was an emotional release,” he said. “And then to have the other appeal withdrawn meant that we had two victories in the space of two days. What a marvellous feeling that is.
“It’s a lesson for a number of small communities to do what you think is right although the odds are against you.”
The village is planning to celebrate with a party in St Paul's Church on November 26.