Surrey Heath Draft Local Plan Issues Options/Preferred Options, 2018

District Profile (or Portrait) of the Borough

2.12 Surrey Heath lies in the North West corner of Surrey and adjoins the counties of Berkshire and Hampshire. The western half of the Borough is mainly urban in character and comprises: Camberley and Frimley linked to the villages of Frimley Green, Mytchett and Deepcut. The majority of housing within the Borough is delivered within the western urban area. The former Princess Royal Barracks in Deepcut is the Borough's current strategic housing site with planning permission granted in 2013 for 1,200 dwellings and associated infrastructure. This site, known as Mindenhurst, and will be part of Deepcut. Camberley is the main centre within the Borough and is identified as a step up town by the EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership. The Council has identified the delivery of an improved Camberley Town Centre for the benefit of the Boroughs residents as a priority.

2.13 The eastern half of the Borough is mostly countryside and Green Belt. It includes the larger villages of Bisley, Bagshot, Lightwater, West End and Windlesham, (including Snows Ride) and the smaller village of Chobham.

2.14 In the east of the Borough, small early settlements such as Bagshot began to develop with the growth of the coaching routes from London. Other villages in the east of the Borough on better soils, e.g. Chobham, were farming hamlets. In the 19th century, horticulture developed on the well-drained soils in the east and south of the Borough.

2.15 Historically the area around Camberley was part of the open heathland surrounding the village of Frimley. In the 19th century the poor soils of the heathland were planted up for forestry, giving the Borough a wooded identity; this resulted in Surrey Heath being identified by the Bluesky National Tree Map as having the highest density of tree cover in England and Wales in 2014. These areas have also been used for military training. With the establishment of the Royal Military College in 1812, the areas of Cambridge Town and Yorktown grew up to serve it. These service areas became Camberley.

2.16 Camberley is therefore a relatively recent settlement. The scale and character of the town and its buildings reflect its Victorian origins. Many of the Victorian terraced houses of "Cambridge Town" were lost during the redevelopment of the town centre in the 1960's. Most of the housing in Camberley now left from this period reflects the pattern of development established by retired army officers who moved to the south of the town. Much of the housing now seen in the town is a product of the 1960's and 1970's. Camberley and Frimley now form part of the larger urban area that has developed around the edges of the Blackwater Valley.

2.17 The first small-scale industrial areas moved to Camberley in the 1930's. Subsequently industrial development occurred at Yorktown and Frimley. Much of the housing development in the Camberley/ Frimley area occurred during the 1970's and 80's when this area was identified as part of a major growth area in the South East. This growth can be seen in areas such as Heatherside.

2.18 The traditional manufacturing industries have given way to Information and Technology based industries with strong linkages to the Thames Valley. Most of the former village of Frimley has now been redeveloped as has Frimley Green although at its centre there is still a village atmosphere around The Green. The villages in the east of the Borough, have largely retained their historic character although all took some growth during the 1970's and 80's.

2.19 Today, the built environment of Surrey Heath makes tangible the unique set of historical and modern influences that have shaped the Borough and together, these provide a distinctive identity for the Borough that is unique to Surrey Heath.

2.20 The River Blackwater forms the western boundary of the Borough. From here the land rises gradually to the north and east leading to the areas of heathland which give the Borough its name. The River Bourne (also known as the Addlestone Bourne) flows through the east of the Borough and out toward the River Wey. The other important waterway is the Basingstoke Canal that flows through the southern part of the Borough. The heathland areas are recognised as being of national and international importance and form part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham Common Special Areas of Conservation. Biodiversity is a key issue within the Borough. The Borough contains four extensive Sites of Special Scientific Interest; Ash to Brookwood Heaths; Broadmoor to Bagshot Woods and Heaths; Chobham Common; and Colony Bog to Bagshot Heaths. These four areas between them cover approximately 23% of the Borough. These areas have been designated as sites of international importance for biodiversity under the European Habitats Regulations. The Basingstoke Canal is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are also a number of sites of Nature Conservation Importance within the Borough.

2.21 The Borough has large amounts of green infrastructure much of it in the east of Borough where there are extensive areas of common land across the heathland and permitted public access on parts of the military training areas and a country park. In addition across the Borough there are parks, playing fields and other public open spaces.

2.22 The diverse countryside of Surrey Heath plays a key role in defining the borough's character and unique identity and is an important part of what makes the borough an attractive place to live, work in and visit. The countryside within the Borough also performs a number of other roles, with 44% of land within the Borough forming part of the metropolitan Green Belt and as an area of importance for biodiversity in the central heathland areas, much of it being military training area. These countryside areas also have a major role to play as a leisure resource for the Borough and contribute to the defence of the nation as a location for army barracks, military ranges, training areas and test tracks.

2.23 Surrey Heath's economic strength arises from a diverse economic base, with businesses ranging from of international organisations to small and medium sized local enterprises. Surrey Heath contains several high profile businesses and corporations across a broad range of sectors including: Merrill Lynch, Siemens, Frazer Nash (Chobham), Novartis, Unisys, and Eli Lilly. Frimley Park Hospital, which is rated 'outstanding', is the Borough's largest employer. The Sandhurst Royal Military Academy is also partly located within the Borough. The majority of employment floorspace is located in Camberley and Frimley at three large business parks and five industrial estates that make a significant contribution to the employment land supply. There are also four single occupancy sites housing major businesses; one located in Frimley, one near Mytchett, and two near the rural settlement of Windlesham, Fairoaks Airport in Chobham provides employment use within the local area.

2.24 The main retail centre in the borough is Camberley, which provides shopping, business, leisure, cultural and community activities. It has been identified as a Step-up Town by the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Bagshot and Frimley are identified as District Centres; both these centres function well as district centres and provide a wide range of services and have a number of independent retailers. There are also a number of Local Centres and Neighbourhood parades in the borough.

2.25 Accessibility to public transport varies across the Borough with Camberley Frimley and Bagshot having accessibility to a variety of transport opportunities (rail, bus, and cycling), while other areas of the Borough having limited or no access to alternatives other than the car.

2.26 In total the Borough covers an area of some 9,507 hectares and has a population of 88,387.

2.27 Major towns surrounding the Borough include Bracknell, Guildford, Reading and Woking.