It’s a wonderfully scenic and beautiful piece of landscape, right next to the heart of Guildford.
The land was given to the town by the Friary Brewery after World War I, so that the hillside could be protected from development and enjoyed by local people in perpetuity.
I strolled up here one lunchtime soon after starting a new job in 1995, and the outlook which greeted me that day is certainly the reason I moved to Guildford a few years later. I’ve enjoyed walking and running here ever since. With time, this place has become a part of me, and even of who I am.
The views from here, both over the Weald Basin and the Surrey Hills to the south and towards London to the north, are outstanding, as is the green prospect of the Chalk ridgeline from the fields and countryside around the town.
And so it’s disappointing to recount that Orange has long been intent on erecting a massive telephone mast high on Pewley Down.
The company has made repeated planning applications here in the face of enormously strong opposition from all those who love and use this landscape – opposition which has consistently, and rightly, led Guildford Borough Council always to refuse permission for a telephone mast here.
Despite this, Orange seem more than determined still to press ahead.
As I recall, the original request was for a 20 m high mast. The second attempt was at 15 m, but that was turned down, too, following a campaign co-ordinated through one of the local schools.
So did Orange give up, and respect the views of the local people ?
They prepared a new application for a 12 m mast, of a different design. They submitted it during the first week of the 2005 school summer holidays, perhaps hoping that no one would be around to complain. And to make it appear that they had re-sited the mast, Orange cunningly wrote their application for ‘land adjoining South Warren Farm’.
Actually, it’s directly next to the hedge on the very crest of Pewley Down.
You might think that a cynical manipulation of the procedures, but hey – that’s how planning regulation so often is. Developers routinely submit slightly modified applications until the objectors finally give up. That’s what is called ‘due process’, but it’s clearly not how it was meant to run.
But despite the season, and fortunately, many more objections were received, and that application was turned down as well.
It was becoming abundantly clear that applications on this site were unlikely ever to be approved.
Rather belatedly, then, Orange consulted with local residents about the siting of some smaller masts within residential streets nearby instead. Most people didn’t want even those to be put up. The company seemed to listen.
But now Orange has entered an appeal, attempting once again to erect a 12 m telephone mast onto the very top of Pewley Down. 12 m doesn’t sound that tall, but it’s 40′, more or less.
Today’s letter says that the First Secretary of State will consider the appeal. That’s a shame, since nearly ninety years after the gift of Pewley Down, its value is even greater today.
We need to protect the public amenity and natural environment of one of Guildford’s most special places – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, right on our doorstep and within walking distance of our town.
The end of this sorry saga is now surely in sight, and the beauty of Pewley Down may yet be preserved for future generations.
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/26 Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6PN
Thanks for listening.