What a way to treat our wounded troops.

  Cannuck 00:19 02 Aug 2007

A friend of my wife, whose son served in Iraq, sent her this e-mail I've copied below.

Dear all,
The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, have applied to Mole Valley Council for change of use to the property at 36 Grays Lane, Ashtead. The development is close to Headley court, a military rehabilitation centre used to treat personnel who may have lost limbs or suffered severe trauma serving their country. Many of these armed forces personnel spend months rebuilding their lives at Headley Court and need the support of their families whilst going through this difficult process.
The proposed development is to provide short term accommodation to the families, giving them the opportunity to support their injured relatives. The plan also includes some alterations at the property, including installing a wheelchair ramp. The property is situated within an area of high value properties, and unfortunately there is a very negative response from the neighbours mostly objecting that the change of use will negatively affect their property prices and spoil the neighbourhood.
It seems the inhabitants of Surrey don't think much of injured soldiers 'lowering' the tone of their area. So please get onto the Government site and vote for this to go ahead. SSAFA are buying a house close to Headley Court so that the relatives of the wounded and injured servicemen and women being treated there will have somewhere to stay, making it easier to visit and support them through their recovery. Unfortunately, around 100 local residents have submitted strong objections. The planning application can be read here, as can the ludicrous objections submitted by some local residents: (an article in the Daily Mail)

There is a petition on the Downing St. web-site.

There has been over 44,000 people signed it already, and as they say "Every little bit helps".

What's your feelings? Will you sign?


  Cannuck 00:29 02 Aug 2007

From the Daily Mail:
'The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, which has applied to the local council to make some alterations at the property, including installing a wheelchair ramp, had been hoping for no objections. After all, Headley Court had been part of the area for more than 60 years. But residents apparently do mind. They have flooded the council with almost 100 letters of protest, raising every conceivable objection to the new property being used to house families visiting soldiers. They claimed 'additional noise' and 'huge amount of additional traffic' would ruin the peace of the private lane and warned that the value of their multi-million-pound properties would plummet. The families 'would not be welcome', they said, and their arrival could 'destroy the character' of the area.
One resident even objected on security grounds, claiming the house could become a terrorist target, while another suggested wheelchairs would present a fire hazard. Planners at Mole Valley District Council will consider the case on August 1 but last night serving soldiers made their views clear. One Army officer recently returned from Iraq told the Mail: 'They make me sick. It's just staggeringly selfish. 'Perhaps these people would care to come out to the field hospital in Basra and tell some young soldier having his leg amputated after a [bomb] attack exactly why his family isn't worthy to rub shoulders with this bunch in their Surrey village. 'Who do they think they are? Do they have the slightest clue about the sacrifices-young soldiers make on their behalf every day? Shame on them.'
SSAFA spokesman Athol Hendry said: 'These people should be ashamed of themselves. This level of hostility is incredibly disappointing and frankly astonishing. 'If you've just got back from risking your life in Iraq, you've lost two legs and you learn your young family are not welcome near the hospital where you're being treated - what kind of a message is that?' When the Mail tried to speak to residents, none would be quoted'


  WhiteTruckMan 00:35 02 Aug 2007

cannot adequately express my feelings for these 'residents'.

I would be proud to have such a place next door to me.



  Forum Editor 01:19 02 Aug 2007

and like all emotive subjects it's bound to attracvt its share of misinformation and over-reaction.

It's extremely easy to make high-flown comments about what your reaction might be, secure in the knowledge that you're unlikely to be asked to deliver on them. Some people have expressed concern about their property values, as is their right, it's why we have planning laws in the first place. Planners will decide whether or not their objections are groundless, and the decision will be made - as are all planning decisions - on the basis of the impact the proposal would have on the local community and its amenities. Trying to make it into some sort of test of patriotic and/or humanitarian feelings is to devalue the process.

Those who leap to the 'what are things coming to these days?' argument might like to consider that in the first world war there were very serious objections from local residents in more than one case when rehabilitation centres for traumatised soldiers were proposed by the Salvation Army, on the basis that the presence of cowards would lower the tone of the neighbourhood, and thus lower property values.

I have a feeling that in this case the application will be approved.

  Totally-braindead 01:58 02 Aug 2007

Wrote a big bit and thought better of it on reflection.

I hope that the application gets passed thats all I'm going to say on the subject. And I'll be signing the petition just now.

  Jak_1 02:07 02 Aug 2007

It will be approved I'm sure. Being an ex serviceman I will refrain from comment about objections etc as obviously my view is biased towards the servicemen and women. But the local residents do have a right to voice their opinions and fears, that is why there is a procedure set in place to do so.

  Monument 07:06 02 Aug 2007

Sense prevailed and approval was given. click here

  Bingalau 08:42 02 Aug 2007

No comment except to say I signed this petition weeks ago. Didn't think petitions were allowed on here any more.

  Cannuck 09:19 02 Aug 2007

Glad to see that it has been approved.

I didn't really post it as a petition, but more as statement to the way people react to others who give their all for their country.

In Canada, there is massive public support for the troops serving in Afghanistan, including emergency vehicles sporting yellow ribbons.

A touching practice has thousands of ordinary people lining the routes and waving Canadian flags from bridges etc, whenever a fallen soldier is brought home, and the hearse, with a police escort, is driven along the highway from the Forces base to Toronto, where the autopsy is performed. The newspapers announce the arrival times and the route is lined with Firefighters, Police, and Ambulance personnel, as well as the public, to salute and honour the fallen "hero".

Just reading the above e-mail, and knowing what Canadians do for there soldiers, kind of irked me as to why these people reacted to the few people who would want to be with their loved ones for a time. After all it is not the Holiday Inn they wanted to open.


  The Brigadier 09:44 02 Aug 2007

I know the area in question well as my in-laws live there.
The people who objected are mostly NIMBY's who live in leafy suburbia.
The fact the local Tory MP has said little just shows the view some people have on returning injured service men & women.

Headley Court (ex-RAF) has done a fine job over the news & Simon Weston went there for a time after the Falklands.

If it was next to my in-laws they would be proud top be next to it.

  anskyber 10:12 02 Aug 2007

Oh dear.

First of all the genuine value of the scheme for service personnel is not a planning consideration when dealing with the application. It would only have some weight if, and only if, the location was the only location that this use could take place. Frankly that is unlikely to to point of being never.

What saddens me is the planning analysis of the application in the Officers report, it is lacking and misdirected. I accept fully that I do not know the site but there are some interesting misinterpretations of planning guidance in the report. For those of you who have the time the report can be read here click here_(4th_July_2007)__Pages_1_-_34.pdf you will need to scroll to item 1 on the agenda at page 54.

The Officers recommended that the application should be refused and did so on the basis of the extra noise and general disturbance compared with a large family living there from those on the driveway and using the garden, it's the only sustainable objection the Officers claim. The use in that location and traffic generation is not objected to by the Officers.

It's the key paragraph which balances the arguments beginning "Many factors are capable....." which misses the planning point. Firstly the number of people opposing the application is not relevant to the planning decision if the matters raised are not planning matters; that should have been said clearly at this part of the report. Secondly if the Officer is allowing the "need" argument to influence the decision (the national importance point) then the analysis should include my point above about whether this is the only property which will satisfy the requirement.

The planning analysis is weak and flawed in my view and I feel embarrassed for the planning profession. Based on the evidence in the officers report an approval would have been the right advice. The key point here is a large property could have housed a large family, what the Officers are required to show is that the EXTRA noise from 14 people living there is so serious that it is beyond what say a family of 7-8 would create. They did not do that.

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