WAVERLEY Borough Council has been identified as one of 21 local authorities most “at risk” of a Government call-in early next year due to its lack of a Local Plan.
This article is taken from the Farnham Herald.
Nearly half of local authorities have had to increase their housing requirement to get their Local Plans adopted and comply with the national planning policy framework (NPPF) which aims to boost housing supply in England.
Waverley withdrew its new Local Plan in 2013 after the Government inspector warned its housing target of 250 new homes a year was too low. An updated housing assessment subsequently found 470 homes should be built annually.
Without a Local Plan in place and currently unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply, Waverley – particularly Farnham and Cranleigh – is open to exploitation by developers.
A major housing development of 425 new homes in Cranleigh was recently granted on appeal due to the lack of a five-year housing supply in order to meet increased Government targets.
And Waverley’s lack of a Local Plan has also been cited by developers as reasons to allow a raft of large planning applications across Farnham, most notably:
• Taylor Wimpey’s 140 home development in Crondall Lane granted permission last September,
• Bewley Homes’ bid for 140 homes in Lower Weybourne Lane currently pending an appeal,
• Wates’ 157 home scheme in Waverley Lane also currently pending an appeal,
• Focus Homes’ 43 homes in Gardener’s Hill Road allowed on appeal last November,
• PLOT (Farnham) LLP’s application for 189 homes at Farnham Park Hotel pending a decision by Waverley Borough Council, and
• Bewley Homes’ 65 home development in Wrecclesham Hill also pending a decision by Waverley.
A high-profile review of Local Plan progress and housing requirements published in April by planning consultants Nathanial Lichfield warns it is likely the Government, which has imposed a deadline of March 2017, could take over the process in Waverley in order to speed up progress.
WW says – Bring it on – before we are all buried under concrete!
Highlighting the borough council’s vulnerability this week, Guildford, Woking and Waverley Friends of the Earth legal expert Kathy Smyth said: “I would agree with Nathaniel Lichfield that lack of political will is largely responsible for the failure of Waverley Borough Council to produce a Local Plan.
“Since the 2010 General Election the council has totally misjudged the Government’s determination to see an increase in the amount of new housing in the Waverley and the wider area.
“The council seems to have been hoping that somebody in Government will wave a magic wand and make the problem go away because Waverley is ‘too special’ to have to meet its housing need but in my view that has always been a totally unrealistic expectation.
“The lack of strategic direction and leadership is now resulting in a large amount of new housing development being given consent either by the council or on appeal particularly in those areas falling outside Green Belt. This ad hoc approach to development is also resulting in the loss of huge amounts of developer contributions to vital supporting infrastructure.”
The Lichfield report notes Waverley has a deficit of 210 homes a year in its five-year housing supply and Guildford, also one of the 21 at risk of being called in, has a deficit of 232.
It is not clear yet what form Government intervention would take, it could be the Planning Inspectorate or the private sector would take over Local Plans.
Waverley has just announced a further delay of at least three months before its Local Plan it is able to approve its new Local Plan but hopes to submit it for examination in November.
Responding to the report’s findings, a council spokesman said: “Waverley is making good progress on the new Local Plan and is confident of meeting the Government’s deadline. The council has had positive discussions with the Government regarding the plan’s development and no specific concerns have been raised.
“The Local Plan is a vital piece of work that will shape the future of the borough and needs to be based on evidence while also taking account of the views and needs of our communities.
“There has been a slight change in timescales as the council feels it is important to have an up-to-date transport assessment in the light of public concerns about infrastructure. This work is being progressed by Surrey County Council and Highways England.”
The full timetable is available on Waverley’s website available at http://www.waverley.gov.uk/localplan
• Members of Waverley’s opposition Farnham Residents group have also warned the council is in danger of repeating a mistake that contributed to the failure of its Core Strategy in 2013, by failing to prove the effectiveness of its Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) avoidance strategy.
The council recently consulted the public on plans to increase the Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space capacity of Farnham Park to attract new homeowners away from the SPA, in a move that has doubled the number of homes able to be built currently in Farnham from 307 to 1,462.
However, speaking at last week’s meeting of the full council, opposition councillors John Fraser and John Williamson dismissed the recent consultation as a “charade”, arguing that since Waverley adopted its avoidance strategy visitor numbers to the SPA they have increased – the exact opposite effect desired by the council.