No heroes in my backyard

Neighbours have launched an offensive over proposals to convert a £1.7million property in Ashtead into a guest house for relatives of servicemen wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Battle lines have been drawn since the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) sought planning consent to adapt the six-bedroom home in Grays Lane.

The charity thought residents would look kindly on its application because of the sacrifices made by soldiers recovering at the nearby Headley Court military rehabilitation centre.

For 60 years the flagship centre has supported reservists whose injuries require more dedicated care than NHS hospitals can offer.

But that failed to stop about 100 local people objecting to the proposed alterations, which include fitting a wheelchair ramp.

Their main complaint was that increased noise and traffic would "ruin the special character and appeal" of the private lane.

Other criticisms were that the families "would not be welcome" and that their arrival could destroy the "unique charm" of multi-million pound properties.

One letter writer even objected on security grounds, suggesting the hostel could become a terrorist target.

The "nimbyism" stunned the SSAFA, which is waiting for Mole Valley District Council to consider the case on August 1.

Spokesman Athol Hendry said: "We were genuinely taken aback and hugely disappointed by the amount of hostility. It has been proven that having family support is an important part of the healing process, and there is a huge need for a facility such as this.

"The objectors clearly don't understand what it feels like to have your life changed in a second by a bomb blowing up in Basra."

Roger Bennett, planning officer for Ashtead Residents' Association, insisted villagers were sympathetic to the case and supportive of how Headley Court rebuilds lives.

He said: "The actual house is situated in a very narrow lane, and we are just worried about traffic congestion because access is not suitable."

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