WAVERLEY’S Tory administration has been accused of denying residents “proper scrutiny” after a bid by the council’s watchdog committee to call-in controversial modifications to the borough’s emerging Local Plan was scuppered at the 11th hour this week.
According to this article taken from The Farnham Herald an un-named Conservative councillor initially proposed the call-in to the September 18 meeting of the environment overview and scrutiny (O&S) committee, after Waverley’s executive signed off plans to share an uplift in housing across the borough’s existing settlements rather than raise the allocation at Dunsfold Park.
It was hoped this would allow backbenchers to review the modifications to ‘part one’ of the Local Plan prior to a public consultation, and the call-in was supported by Farnham Residents councillors Jerry Hyman and John Williamson, who had hoped that councillors other than the Executive would have their say.
However, just hours before the deadline to initiate the call-in on Tuesday afternoon, the aforementioned Conservative councillor allegedly withdrew the request having received “reassurances” from council leaders over Waverley’s housing allocations.
It comes after Waverley leader Julia Potts reassured the chairman of the environment O&S committee, Mr Hyman, at the August 22 executive meeting that “there is no whip here, we are not talking about party politics, we’re talking about having a sound Local Plan”.
Waverley’s opposition Farnham Residents group holds the chairmanship of all four of the council’s O&S committees, but relies on Tory members to provide the three votes required to ‘call-in’ a decision by the council’s executive.
Opposition party leader, Mr Hyman said: “The residents of Waverley have been denied the opportunity to scrutinise the Local Plan modifications before they all have to comment on the consultation document. It’s wasting everybody’s time and money yet again.
“The value of that scrutiny would have been to ensure that what is being put forward for consultation is lawful and reasonable and the best option for the borough, and a chance to question other options they haven’t considered – such as, do we have the option of questioning the overall numbers and the distribution of the numbers?
“Our own officers tried to question the inspector, Jonathan Bore, at July’s examination hearings when he stated that Woking and Guildford have greater environmental constraints, and yet now we’re being told by the Conservatives we have no choice but to accept the numbers.
“I think any councillor would have to question whether that is true.”
Mr Hyman confirmed that the environment O&S committee is set to receive an update on the Local Plan on September 18, and he hoped to raise the issue of housing allocations then.
Responding, council leader Miss Potts said: “Councillor Hyman’s accusations are unfounded. I did not send letters to individual Conservative councillors in regard to this issue. On the contrary I made it very clear at the Executive Committee that there was no whip or party politics involved and therefore any councillor could call in the decision about Local Plan modifications.”
That’s funny – according to the rules that we at the Waverley Web have seen; only members of the council”s Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee can call it in.
Call-In for scrutiny should not be confused with PoW’s request
Waverley has since confirmed a public consultation on the proposed modifications will commence to-day (Friday).
As part of the ongoing examination, the council has prepared modifications to the plan in liaison with the Planning Inspector conducting the examination. These include increasing housing numbers from 519 to 590 new homes per year and some changes to the Green Belt.
The consultation also includes details about how the council proposes to distribute these homes in accordance with the spatial strategy set out in the plan.
Brian Adams, Waverley’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “We have to make the modifications for the Inspector to find the plan sound and to enable the plan to be adopted.
“The six-week consultation is part of the examination process and is an opportunity for towns, parishes, local people and businesses to have their say on the proposed main modifications.
“We absolutely have to make sure our plan is sound and deliverable. Without an adopted plan, Waverley will not have a policy framework setting out how future developments are delivered.
“Instead we will end up back at the drawing board, with inappropriate developments across the borough. We want plan led development, not appeal led development.”
• Emailing your comments to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The consultation document is also available from the planning reception of the Waverley Borough Council offices, The Burys, Godalming, GU7 1HR, and at locality offices and public libraries within the borough.
The deadline for responses is 5pm on Friday, October 20.