Video: Woman rows across flooded farm

Joanna Barnett
Joanna Barnett

A woman has rowed across a flooded farm to highlight fears over council plans to build a 172 acre business park there.

Joanna Barnett, of Smallfield, rowed across the field in Fishers Farm, Limes Avenue, Horley after heavy rain fell on Sunday (January 3).

More than 3,100 people have signed a petition by Keep Horley Green opposing Reigate and Banstead Council’s plans to develop the site.

Joanna, who runs the campaign with her cousin, Aneliese Whittaker, of Ifield, said the development would mean nearby homes would flood.

She added: “That’s public money and that should not be spent trying to pave over a flood plain.

“It’s absolutely obscene.”

Aneliese, an events and community fundraiser for the charity Home-Start CHAMS in Broadfield Barton, created a Facebook page called Keep Horley Green and the online petition: after the council agreed to work with landowners on the project at a meeting on October 15 2015.

She said: “Horley was, and has been my family home for generations, and I hoped to return there to bring up my son too but at this rate Horley will be changed greatly, and not for the best.

“I have received an overwhelming response from local residents which spurred me onto creating ‘Keep Horley Green’ and an online petition – the community want to preserve the countryside and its heritage - keeping the small town rural feel rather than bulldozing all of the green open spaces we have and replacing them with yet more concrete!”

A council spokesman said the development would be delivered over a ten years subject to planning permission.

The local authority agreed to use compulsory purchase orders if negotiations failed.

Cllr Natalie Bramhall, executive member for Property and Regeneration, said: “We have a significant opportunity for the council to secure the delivery of what could potentially be a leading business park in the south east and a strategically important employment site nationally.

“If given the go ahead, it would create thousands of new jobs and attract significant inward investment, which will massively boost the borough’s local economy, particularly in and around Horley.

“We have already undertaken a variety of studies that indicate that the venture is viable and its success does not depend upon any expansion of Gatwick.”

Green party councillors and Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) have opposed the plan. Gatwick Airport Limited, which has been campaigning for a second runway at its airport, declined to comment at the time.

GACC Chairman Brendon Sewill said it would make the area ‘an amorphous mess of offices, factories and traffic lights’.

He said: “We are shocked by this decision. This land is pleasant countryside which serves to separate Horley from the airport. It used to be Green Belt, and it was a proud boast of Gatwick Airport that they were the airport in the country.

“Now the council seems determined to make Gatwick a copy of Heathrow, an amorphous mess of offices, factories and traffic lights with not a blade of grass to be seen. Of course, a second runway with all the development that would go with it would be far, far worse, but there is no need to start destroying the area now.”

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