Two years ago hundreds of residents from both sides of the Kent-Surrey border turned up at Moorhouse on the A25 between Westerham and Limpsfield to show their opposition to a controversial planning application to create a parcel distribution depot at the Redland Tiles.
The protest featured protest groups, councillors and East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah and then Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the MP for neighbouring Sevenoaks.
Roxhill Developments withdrew its application on to Tandridge District Council just days before the Council planning committee was to discuss the project and Surrey County Council Highways Service’s decision to recognise that the DPD super depot on the site would not sustainable. It had recommended that the plans are rejected.
Then Sally-Ann Maine-Tucker of Limpsfield Chart who orchestrated much of the protest on the Surrey side of the border with SORE (Save Oxted’s Roads and Environment) and Westerham Parish Council were delighted at the result.
However, two years later Tandridge District Council has received another planning application Moorhouse Tile Works – thought to be for the parcel distribution centre but not confirmed. The application is for the demolition of the existing buildings and the erection of a commercial building.
Sally-Ann Maine Tucker said: “ It looks to be the same thing! Again a huge depot but they are calling it a distribution centre this time? I’m trying to figure out what is different this time around?
“Unfortunately I haven’t got the time to get involved so I am grateful to have Westerham Town Council and the OLRG(Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group also looking into this application.
“The draft of the Tandridge local plan shows that Moorhouse (as well as a couple of other sites) is to be taken out of the Green Belt and is designated as a key area for local employment. Tandridge District Council claims this has been done to clarify its policies on strategic employment and economic need – and not in anticipation of specific applications.
“However, we all know that once out of the Green Belt the exceptional circumstances that have to be satisfied for development no longer apply and the probability that this application is approved could increase considerably.”
While SORE has ruled out once again organising a large scale protest, the OLRG’s Tandridge District Councillor for Limpsfield, Phil Davies – he attended the protest two years ago- said: “ The OLRG is considering the latest planning application for Moorhouse. We will be consulting our members about it.
“We are also liaising with Westerham Town Council about drawing up a response and about the highways implications.
“In its Local Plan, Tandridge District Council wants to take the Moorhouse site out of the Green Belt – OLRG has submitted a detailed objection to this as part of our response to the recent consultation.”
Jenny Cowan , chairman of the Keep Westerham Green Residents Group said : “The ink isn’t even dry on the Tandridge Local Plan, and developers have lined up yet another parcel depot for the Moorhouse site .
“This time it’s a distribution centre – one of DPD’s largest type. Initially, the 25,000 parcels a day would generate about 1,000 extra daily vehicle movements. The result: a severe adverse effect on A25 traffic between Oxted and Sevenoaks. Do you want to see a 22%-30% increase in rush hour hold-ups? It doesn’t stop there. The unit would expand, possibly to 30,000 parcels a day.
“Tandridge District Council’s Moorhouse consultation has only just opened, but already Keep Westerham Green members are saying how worried they are about safety and road congestion. The proposers admit that they’d recruit drivers mainly from Croydon and Bromley, so we wouldn’t even be looking at jobs for local people.
“Having read the new proposals, the Keep Westerham Green Residents Group will be making a strong objection.”
Photo by kevin black shows the protest at Moorhouse in 2016 with OLRG Councillors Jackie Wren and Phil Davies.